The neo-Nazi movement in the United States is characterized by two outstanding traits: small size and large capacity to generate media coverage. Estimates vary, but it's unlikely that at any time the various post-World War II "Nazi" parties ever exceeded two thousand members aggregate, and a more reasonable figure is half of that. According to Irwin Suall and David Lowe of the Anti-Defamation League: "Hard-core membership in the avowedly neo-Nazi groups in the U.S. has declined steadily over the past decade, from a peak of 1,000-1,200 in 1978 to no more than 400-500 in 1987." 1 A substantial percentage of these were informants from various government and private agencies, probably exceeding the 6 percent figure attributed to informants in the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s. (It's worth noting, incidentally, that 450 neo-Nazis amount to one for every half million Americans.)
The term "neo-Nazi" is probably used too freely and quite often merely as an epithet. In some cases it is used as a synonym for anti-Semite and racist. However, not all anti-Semitic or racist groups affect the recognizable Nazi style and symbolism, nor do they necessarily identify with Nazism per se. Such indiscriminate usage is irresponsible and only distorts an already murky and difficult problem of definition. For our purposes "neo-Nazi" means an organization or party that generally adopts or advocates traditional Nazi symbolism, including the swastika or approximate equivalent; the wearing of uniforms or other paraphernalia, the use of the terms "Nazi," "Nationalist Socialist," or some variation in its name; and a demonstrated reverence for or appreciation of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. (Two rather unique groups—the National States Rights party and National Christian Publishers—are discussed in separate chapters.)
Post- World War II revelations about the nature of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust dramatically erased any possibility of a significant American Nazi movement. Uniform hostility to Nazi values in the culture, a wholly unsympathetic news media, the gradually increasing participation of minorities in the politics of the nation, and many other factors have virtually assured that any neo-Nazi movement would remain highly marginalized. Nevertheless, several small groups have formed. Their history tends to consist of two elements: a biography of their leaders (since virtually all of them have revolved around the personality of a single individual), and an account of their troubles (with infiltrators, FBI informants, local law enforcement, and one another). Successes, if one could call them that, have been trivial and fleeting.
In December 1954 the House Committee on Un-American Activities issued its Preliminary Report on Neo-Fascist and Hate Groups