American Nazis celebrate Hitler’s birthday: 1978
Matt Koehl leads a celebration of German Third Reich leader Adolph Hitler’s birthday by about 20 American Nazis in an Arlington motel April 23, 1978. Hitler was actually born on April 20th.
Note the “Hitler Lives” banner, a portrait of Hitler, swastika flag and Koehl’s “Sieg Heil” salute.
Koehl’s group, the National Socialist White People’s Party, was marking what would have been the 89th birthday of Hitler. Koehl was also commander of the World Union of National Socialists.
Fearful of public reaction, the Nazis conducted their remembrance in secret, despite their public abandonment of Nazi symbols.
Longtime American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell began re-structuring the party to de-emphasize the swastika, and its accompanying “Heil Hitler” chants and salutes in favor of softer white supremacist appeals to white Protestants.
Rockwell was assassinated by a dissatisfied party member in 1967 before he finished carrying out the “reforms” that believed would recruit more members and gain more influence, but his successor Koehl continued in this direction, renaming the party the National Socialist White Peoples Party.
The group experienced a number of splits in the 1970s, but the Koehl group survived and renamed itself the New Order in 1983 after the IRS moved to seize the party headquarters in Arlington and other property.
The group continues to exist as of 2020 in the Wisconsin and Michigan area of the country, but is a shadow of its former self.
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The photographer is unknown. The image is an Associated Press photograph housed in the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.