NAZI – The Choice of a New Generation
By Harvey Solomon
Neo-Nazi skinhead defiantly carry flags emblazoned with swastikas, chanting “Sieg Heil” and demonstrating stiff-armed Nazi salutes? Is this strife-torn modern day Germany? No it’s Birmingham, Ala., U.S.A.
Adolescent Aryan advocates of white power tell their startling story in “Skinheads USA: Soldiers of the Race War,” debuting on HBO on Tuesday, May 4, at 10 pm (ET/PT).
Filmed over several months last summer this “verite” documentary chronicles the operations and personalities of the white supremacy Aryan National Front.
“I believe we were flies on the walls,” said producer/editor (sic) Shari Cookson. “We were there so much, day after day for four or five weeks … You bond with your subject – it doesn’t matter if they’re nuns or neo-Nazi skinheads.
Defining the day-to-day existence of the young members is 36-year-old Bill Riccio (“Send us your broken toys, “ he says, “and we ill fix them for you”), a three-time felon who has since be jailed on weapons charges.
“He’s a can-do kind of guy – he went out and made things happen,” said Cookson. “Bill was a kind of Peter Pan and these were his lost boys. He had an amazing capacity to reach these kids. He knew how to get down to their level. Bill shaved his head, listened to their music, got tattooed. A lot of these Aryan leaders like Tom Metzger wear suits and ties. They’re businessmen who do not get down in the trenches like Bill did.”
From White Power rallies and recruitment drives to cookouts at their ramshackle rural headquarters to a cross-burning ceremony with the Ku Klux Klan, the documentary offers a vivid portrait of racist youth who unapologetically idolize Adolf Hilter.
As they march down the streets of Birmingham chanting racist slogans, uneasy black and white policemen and women provide protection. The incongruity of the scene leave an indelible image.
“It’s very radical because it is so shocking,” said Cookson. “I thin they’re just kids who are searching for something.”
“A lot of them seem to have missing fathers. They’re very disenfranchised and don’t have an identity for one reason or another or this just fit.”
One of their favorite activities involves repeatedly watching Leni Riefenstahl’s controversial 1934 German documentary, “Triumph of the Will.”
“That film gave me part of my access to them because she was a woman filmmakers who’d done a film about Hitler, and that was part of the myth,” said Cookson. “Here I came to do a film about Bill and it fed into the legend.”
Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin
May 2, 1993
Transcribed By: S Cookson