Anatomy of a neo-Nazi

November 17, 2013 by Henry Benjamin
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J-Wire talks with Robert Orell, a 33-yr-old Stockholm-based advocate who deals with the problems of supremacists…a subject he knows well as in his youth he himself was a neo-Nazi.

Robert Orell   photo: Henry Benjamin

Robert Orell photo: Henry Benjamin

JW: The obvious question Robert. Take me through the process that led you to become a neo-Nazi.

RO: I had a happy childhood and good parents who were very tolerant and I never heard anything bad said about Jews in my own home. But things started to turn sour for me when I was forced to repeat year 5 at school.  I could not handle the shame. It turned out much later that the root cause of my trouble was bad eyesight and that had I had glasses, studying would have been easier and more fulfilling. I had become as a 12-yr-old very angry. The nine years I spent a school were very hard. I found it difficult to read. I had a lot of friends but I felt I wasn’t achieving.

JW: Was there a multicultural element in your school?

RO:  We had quite a lot of different nationalities. I had a Jewish friend for the first three years of my schooling but I didn’t understand what it meant to be Jewish. He had a different style and wore different clothes to me. He was religious. He moved to a different school so I lost contact.

JW: As a young adolescent you experienced low self-esteem and a by-product of that was anger. Were you consciously aware of that anger turning to hatred.

RO: Not at all. I didn’t realise what was happening to me. The move towards the supremacist groups started off with me listening to very aggressive death metal and black metal music. I could relate to the tempo and style…it was really angry music, It was about evil so I thought I was making contact with an aspect of life with which I could identify.

JW: Were they well known bands?

RO: They were local Swedish bands like Entoned and Unleashed. Sweden had a lot of death metal music on the scene at that time. I went to concerts and shops where they sold that sort of music and that’s where I met the neo-Nazis. I was 12 when I bought the Satanic Bible. I didn’t get much out of it. It was a mixture of curiosity and feeling quite afraid…but that was the beginning. But I felt attracted to it…but it was a way of channeling my feelings.

JW:  Did you get involved in any neo-Nazi activities at that early age?

RO: No. It was a matter of attending the concerts. I met many of them  as they were big fans and the next step was to get into the football culture. The neo-Nazis were big supporters of the Swedish side AIK. I was drawn into this. I didn’t become a skinhead…I transformed from black metal into soccer swapping my black clothing for supporters’ strips. I changed from being xenophobic to becoming more politically aware and racially idealogical.  I felt attracted to the different messages. The Satanic movement had been all about anger and hate but the football culture was more about us against them. This brought racial identity into my life. It fostered the belief of the chosen elite which was superior to others in Sweden. It was a really good way of compensating the feelings I had about my low self-esteem. This all happened between the ages of 13 and 15. My schooldays had become chaotic,

JW: Where did it progress to from there?

RO: I started to get more and more involved. My parents sent me to special classes and this is where I learned I needed glasses…and that’s when I learned that my difficulties at school had not been because I was stupid or  dumb. It had been a physical problem.. Nine years of failure had been a disaster because of a pair of glasses and my perception was that society had not helped me with that. At the same time I had the White Power movement tell me it doesn’t matter. They told me I was important and and that I was part of a chosen movement and that the cause was more important than schooling.

JW: So your group is developing through football and you are at home with fellow supremacists. How did your parents react to this?

RO:  They were not happy about it. We discussed all the groups I had been engaged with and at 14 I had started to become a very heavy drinker. I was in constant trouble with the police and got prosecuted a couple of times. I had an air gun and used to shoot at cars from roof tops. I didn’t understand that I could have killed someone. It was more of a game. So I spent about two years being involved in football brawls and being a public nuisance.

JW:  Did you carry a weapon…a knife for instance?

RO: No knife but we did carry sprays which were a bit like teargas. We did have a code of honour which dictated that we would not carry knives…because the immigrants carried knives and we wouldn’t identify with them. Even if knives had been on the agenda, I don’t know that at that young age I would have been prepared to hurt someone as much as you could with a knife. I thought I was…I told myself I was…but I don’t think I really was.

JW: Were you representing the Sweden that your group perceived is should be?

RO: Well the hatred was very central. To hate and to dump all of the hatred I had inside myself on to other people…that was so essential.

JW: How low did you go?

RO:  I left school when I was 15 and home shortly afterwards.  When I was 17 or 18 I was working as a store man. All the money I made went in to alcohol and propoganda. As strange as it may sound, in the White Power movement it is not seen as OK to do narcotics or drugs. I was feeling full of hatred and frustration. I could see only bad but I was not bad. Everything that was bad was somebody else’s fault.  I got very involved in rallies, demonstrations  and attended a lot of concerts…and I got into a lot of trouble with the police. They knew me well. I was 17 in 1997 when I became involved in the first anti-Jewish demonstration in Stockholm since World War 2. It had been arranged by National Socialist Stockholm and I was leading in front with the Swedish flag. That was my highlight as a supremacist…being so involved in what I thought was a very important struggle.

JW: What did you understand about Jews at that time?

RO: If I look back in time, the only thing I knew about Jews was focused on the boy I had known in school. I never understood what it meant to be a Jew.The ideology of the National Socialist environment is that the root to all the evil in the world lies with the Jews…including the devastation of the White Race.

JW: Did this happen before the growth of the Muslim community in Sweden?

RO: Yes. It was around the time of the millennium shift. The truth of the matter is that I don’t think we got involved in fights with Jews. It was mostly brawling with counter-protesters and left-wingers. There were plenty of people who didn’t like neo-Nazis.

JW: So by this time, you saw yourself as a true neo-Nazi?

RO: Oh yes. I definitely I was. We were into all the codes…14, 88. My mobile number was 14 88 18. 14 words of American Nazi David Lane who said: “We Must Secure The Existence Of Our PEOPLE And A Future For White Children.” 88 is “Heil Hitler” h being letter 8 of the alphabet and 18 representing ah…Adolf Hitler. So symbolism was very important and I subscribed to it.

JW:  Were there any arrests at the 1997 anti-Jewish march?

RO: There were many. But there were many arrests at all the events we attended. I got frequently arrested but not charged. When there are over 200 people involved it’s hard to prove who did what. Today would be different with all the CCTV cameras.

JW: So this march was the lowest point in your life?

RO: Well at the time, I thought it was the highest. I was 17 and all my anger was channeled into the supremacist activities. But then things started to change. I had been drinking so much my memory started to fail me. This frightened me. My perception at the time was that I was a part of a chosen elite and a chosen elite does not have memory issues. I was super strong and I didn’t want anyone to know I had any weakness. However, I put up with this for two years.

JW: So what happened then?

RO: I realised that I had to stop drinking and I had read more and more about the Party and the basics dictated that the members should have a healthy body and mind and drinking is not conducive to this. We had been partying regularly…yes we had neo-Nazi girls, too.

JW: Were you ever offered help from the authorities?

RO: I remember one. I had been in custody in a police cell overnight. The morning after a policewoman pressed her telephone number into my hand and told me if I ever wanted to talk just call her. But I never did. She was the enemy. That was the only person who said “I am here for you”. We were on our own. Nobody ever wanted to meet with us.

JW:  So what happened next?

RO: I decided I have to really live the Nazi way and I stopped drinking and went for pureness of body and mind to match my emotional commitment. I trained every day and learned kick-boxing. But it created a chasm between me and my comrades. They continued with their style of living. They did not want to go into the healthy lifestyle. I thought if this is the group I am prepared to die for why are they not embracing the proper ideology. Can this be right? In fact, one of them said he would be prepared to die for his football team and this has nothing to do with our cause.

JW: So you are starting to see flaws?

RO: I saw people taking steroids and I started thinking about my friends’ drinking habits. It caused national socialists to rob other white Swedes to get money for booze. This did not fit in with the image of us being superior!

JW: So the purity of Nazism has revealed the flaws in your co-supremacists and is about to turn you round?

RO: Definitely. I started to wonder about my friends and to think “Is this the best it gets? Is this the elite?”  And the time is approaching when I have to register for compulsory military service. I am 18 and I am looking forward to this because I think it is going to enhance my position as a neo-Nazi. But the seeds of doubt have been planted and there are no Nazis to talk with in the army. I had to keep a low profile as the Swedish army would not want to train me if they knew my background.

JW: So you were not identifiable as a neo-Nazi?

RO: I never became a skinhead. I wore black uniforms and Nazi insignia. That was about it.

JW: Were people afraid of you?

RO: Of course. When I felt people were afraid of me I felt I owned them. It was a very powerful sensation.

JW: What happened in the army?

RO:  I feel I was a fairly good soldier. My way of thinking was militarised. I felt competent and that this is something I am good at.  But I now know that when I am finished in the army, I will not be going back to the movement.

JW: Did you maintain any contact with the group when you were in the army?

RO: No. You keep a low profile. You certainly don’t want the army to know about your background. In May of 1999 a small group of three Swedish neo-Nazis inspired by The Order in the U.S., started to rob banks. There was a police chase which ended up in gunfire and the death of two police officers. This naturally caused the whole of Swedish society to focus on neo-Nazis and people tried to identify them wherever they could and of course one of the most important places to look was the military.

JW: So you were in the army when these killings took place?

RO: Yes. Six months in. The police caught the neo-Nazis and they were sentenced to life imprisonment. The authorities found me and took my weapons off me and I was isolated from my army colleagues and not allowed near weapons. I spent the rest of my service assigned to cleaning work on a command vessel. I felt the anger and hatred rise again but after a while I realised that I only had myself to blame. So now I had the chance to clean my mind out. What have I done with my life? What have I achieved? Where do I go now?

JW: So you leave the army and the only friends you have in Stockholm are neo-Nazis. What did you do next?

RO: I didn’t want to make contact with them. A former neo-Nazi introduced me to Exit, an organisation which helps to rehabilitate people like myself.

JW: Was it difficult to get out?

RO: It is a slow process getting in. I never met anyone who read Mein Kampf and went looking for a group. It’s a gradual process…and getting out was too. I had been feeling special and elitist..and now I was heading away from that.

JW:  Did you have options?

RO: Sure…join a bikie gang or a drug gang. That was all I knew. Normal society had no place for me. But Exit was there and understood my problems.

JW: Not only did Exit help you but you went to work for them. How long have you been with them?

RO: Almost 12 years. They employed me after two months of working with them

JW: Tell me about the work you do today.

RO:  For over I decade I have been working with people who want to disengage from neo-Nazism and through another organisation called Passus we also help those who want to disengage from gangs.  I am a member of the steering committee of the European Commission’s organisation which addresses these problems. I am in Australia to work with All Together Now and to help them with their exit programs.

JW: Have you ever come across any of the neo-Nazis you hung out with?

RO: I spotted some on a cruise and I told my new friends and they told me not to worry and that they would stick by me. I bumped into a couple of them. By nature they are aggressive. They called me a traitor. There was no physical fight but they were hostile…and drunk. We just went our separate ways.

JW: Do you communicate with neo-Nazi groups?

RO: No. But I am available through Exit to help them. I define the threat against them and show them how to get leave. All Together Now is an Australian NGO which targets extremists and White Power. We show those in society from teachers to police and to all aspects of society who have to deal with the extremists the best way to do so.

Robert Orell is visiting Australia to work with All Together Now a national anti-racism award-winning charity. He works with Exit Sweden, an organisation which encourages members of the public to question racist ideology  and not to accept racial stereotypes.

His visit to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth will aid All Together Now in their work tackling the recruitment programs of Australian white supremacist groups. All Together Now are working in partnership with the federal attorney-general’s office and People Against Violent Extremism.

All Together Now’s Priscilla Brice said: “One in ten Australians believes that there are people who don’t belong in Australia because of their culture or ethnicity.”

Robert Orell is married with two children and lives in Stockholm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

One Response to “Anatomy of a neo-Nazi”
  1. Zsuzsanna says:

    Dear Sirs,
    Dear Mr. Henry Benjamin,

    It was a pleasure to read your article with Robert Örell who I have the privilege to know him personally. I really liked the questions put and the attitude of the interviewer, pleasant but curious enough to tackle this delicate problem which was not very difficult with Robert’s outspoken and honest style.
    I actually decided to use this article in my Social Psychology classes so I ask students to read it. This is why I would be so grateful if you managed to somehow eliminate the technical problem as the end of the article simply does not appear. I made sure that it was not only the problem of my computer or browser. I also feel that this way the article remains a little imbalanced as we learn a lot about Robert’s past but little about his present.
    I would be grateful if you managed to fix this.

    Thank you,
    Zsuzsanna Papp
    Hungary

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