Back in 1992-1993, when I was a teenager in the punk rock and hardcore subculture in Pula (Croatia), a guy that used to be a punk rocker once came back from Florence with a complete new look. He became a Nazi skinhead. People laughed at him because he was the only one in town, and pretty dumb already as a punk and even more as a newborn Nazi skinhead. People were talking about his metamorphosis as probably generated by a bad trip on LSD or something of that kind of experience. After a year or two, he had a pretty big collection of Nazi paraphernalia, fanzines, records and he got even two very young followers. The rest became the history of the Nazi skinhead movement in my small hometown. The guy that was a funny lone skinhead was rejected by the skinhead scene after having told every detail to the police after the stabbing of two people from the anarchist/ punk scene in front of the social center Karlo Rojc in Pula in 2005  . One of his followers became some kind of a leader of the skinhead scene in town, and made it a strong scene with international connections.
First of all, it must be stressed that the skinhead subculture and movement wasn't a Nazist movement at the very beginnings. As a matter of fact the movement started as a subculture based on the Rude Boy subculture mainly imported from Jamaica by the immigrants in the 1960s in Great Britain, and the British Mod subculture (Hebdgige 2005 [orig. 1979]). The skinhead subculture had absolutely nothing to do with politics, but it carried the working class attitudes from the London suburbs. Basically, it had something to do with having fun among friends and listening to the music which was mainly ska, rocksteady, reggae, and Northern Soul. "In order to express a more stringent 'lumpen' identity, the skinheads drew on two ostensibly incompatible sources: the cultures of the West Indian immigrants and the white working class. [...] Superimposed one on the top of the other, these two very different traditions coalesced round the skinheads' visual style which simultaneously embodied both: the clean-cut, neatly pressed delinquent look owed at least as much to the rude boys as it did to the 'formalised and very "hard" stereotypes of the white lumpen males'" (Hebdige 2005:55-56). In fact, "[T]he skinhead style originally grew out of the need to recover a positive symbolic value as a member of the working-class" (Fangen 1998:33).
"In order to be considered a 'real' skinhead in the right-wing underground, one must not only wear the proper clothes, one must also have the correct sense of the history of the skinhead subculture" (Fangen 1998:34). From my experience with skinheads I can agree with the observations of Fangen. When I had a chance I had listened to skinheads and they were very often discussing about "the movement", the gatherings for the Rudolf Hess Memorial March, and so on.
It was just at the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s that the movement started to get involved in a more political scene. Today if we hear the word "skinhead" we think right away about an extremist right wing movement. The fact is that today there are many different factions that are called skinheads, from the far right to the far left  , passing through the apolitical ones. However, the neo-Nazi "branch" is the strongest and the most notorious.
"Classical" Nazi skinheads are pretty easy to spot in the streets, not just because of their haircut, but also from their clothing. They usually wear a pilot jacket, the so called bomber (the brand is usually Alpha Industries), a pair of jeans, usually Lee, and a pair of boots of many brands, but mostly Dr. Martens and similar shaped models from other producers, or ordinary military combat boots. Maybe I should be more precise: it was easy to spot a new neo-Nazi. Nowadays it is more and more difficult to spot one because they are constantly searching for new kinds of symbols to wear in order to be recognized by their peers, but not from the larger public. In order to do that they wear brands that in some way have hidden symbolics, like the "NS" or "NSDA" in the logo of the sportswear Lonsdale  when the jacket is half-unzipped, or the New Balance sport shoes which have an "N" on the sides as the logo of the brand  . There are more brands used by skinheads, and in particular by Nazi skinheads, an ever more non-skinhead neo-Nazis. Maybe the best known brand is Thor Steinar which produces jackets, t-shirts, shirts, trousers and other kinds of clothes that really don't look like skinhead fashion or right wing uniforms of any kind. Even though the clothing seems pretty normal and fashionable, there are protests of left wing activists when a shop of that a particular brand gets open somewhere in Germany  .
There are also the hidden symbols of the movement usually concealed in numbers like "88" which represents two times the 8th letter of the English alphabet - the letter H - in order to get HH which stands for "Heil Hitler", the Nazi salute. Another number - number "14" - signifies the "Fourteen Words" of the sentence "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children" attributed to David Lane, an American White Supremacist who died in prison in 2007. Usually the "88" and the "14" are used together as in "14/88." There are also other numbers as "18", again representing letters from the alphabet, or AH - Adolf Hitler. In addition to numbers it is possible to find milder versions of Nazi symbols on clothings, runes, and tattooed swastikas on the body, because it is not so easy to remove them from there. The reason why there is so much hidden symbolics is because of the paranoia of law enforcing organs, then to be recognized by fellow comrades and because in the majority of Western countries it is forbidden to spot Nazi symbols in broad daylight. Well, in the United States of America it is not forbidden and that's why we can find there a lot of mail order Nazi paraphernalia distributions, as "Thight Rope  ."
Extremist right wing groups are also very active on the Internet. There are many Internet portals and forums where people belonging to that kind of subculture can discuss various matters, organize protests, exchange experiences, find out where is it possible to by World War II Nazi paraphernalia, knives, brass-knuckles, etc. The most famous sites are Stormfront  , Hammerskin Nation, and others. Those sites are very dangerous because there can happen more "extremization" of attitudes as a result of cyberbalkanization (Brynjolfsson, Van Alstyne 1997) and group polarization (Sunstein 2009). Usually forums are closed to visitors, mostly because of the paranoia in their lines that I already mentioned. The Internet is a perfect means to foster hate among the younger population (see Lee, Leets 2002).
There are substantial differences between the European neo-Nazis and the American ones. In the USA there are even churches devoted to the racist ideology with a very well developed mythology, that is at moments pretty imaginative, but nevertheless there are people who actually believe in that kind of stuff. To have a grasp in one kind of their mythology we can take the example of the mythology of the Christian Identity denominations.
The ideology of the Christian Identity consists of beliefs that don't have foundations in science, there is a whole mythology built around an in the movement. For them, people of White race  are those who have built civilization and culture, and all the others are seen as a kind of parasites. There is also a complete theology mixed with mythology in the Christian Identity denominations which profess a doctrine that says that non-Caucasian people are soulless, and therefore cannot be saved. They believe that God is White and he created the White people (in sense of Caucasians), the people of color are for them the "mud races", and they were created by the mating of Whites with animals. The Jews are the product of the mating of Eve with the Serpent. In short, Whites are human, people of color are semihuman, Jews are non-human and children of Satan (see Ezekiel 2002:53).
Ezekiel says that "[T]he organized White racist movement rests on the following four axioms: that race is real, that White is best, that the language of human interactions is power, and that society's surface conceals conspiracy." (Ezekiel 2002:67). So, two thoughts are at the core of the movement in the USA: the race is real and those that are in th movement are God's elect.
An interesting fact is that there are not many women in the movement. The few women in the movement are usually girlfriends or wives of the members. Nazi skinheads even blame sometimes women to drag members out of the movement (for what I have heard from some skinheads  ), but they do not have a negative stand towards women. It is often the case that they put pictures of young beautiful blond women in their fanzines in order to represent the perfect Aryan woman. Of course, there isn't such a thing in nature or society, but it is easy to construct that. An interesting situation was when a skinhead fanzine published a picture of a beautiful Czech porn star as a model for the perfect Aryan. She wasn't German (in fact, according to their beliefs she belongs to an "inferior race"), she wasn't the perfect example of morality, and yet she ended in the fanzine  .
Katrine Fangen (1998) compared the neo-Nazi skinhead movement and the historical Nazis, and she found out that there are some similarities, but there are more big differences between those two manifestations of Nazism. First of all, the nazi soldiers believed in authority, but that is not the case with Nazi skinheads. Nazi skinheads, as Fangen discovered, are more "a bricolage consisting of elements with contrasting connotations" (1998:33).
Similitudes with Nazism are in that there is a similar amount of aggression towards the enemy, there is a binary opposition between them and all the others.
Nazi Skinheads look more like football supporters in that they worship traditional forms of group solidarity. There is not a leader, and solidarity among the members and loyalty to the group are prized above all. The Nordic skinheads worship working-class and the Viking codes of honor. In a way, they are mythologizing the working-class values. Also idealized images of the past communities is a strong component of the social identity of the skinheads.
The skinhead community is based on face-to-face contact. In that it resembles the football supporters subculture. They gather on marches, on concerts which are organized mostly in remote places, and in secret because of the attacks from the left-wing activists and the police presence.
Even though Nazi skinheads are against the plural model of modern, some would say postmodern, societies - they in fact are imitating the British 1960s style, no matter if they are from Russia, Finland, USA, Croatia or Serbia. There are many international relations among nazi groups. This year Goran DavidoviÄâ€¡  , the leader of the Serbian "Nacionalni Stroj" was arrested in Trieste, Italy, where his wife lived. It seems he got local contacts, even though he was a foreigner.
The skinheads attitudes resemble what Ziehe calls neo-conservativism (cited in Fangen 1998:36). They are oriented towards the realization of the collective rather than the realization of the self. Even though they are oriented towards traditional values, they usually come from broken homes, they live in single-parent families, they have no education, their prents are often alcoholics or drug abusers, many of them were born as feeble children full of diseases (Ezekiel 2002:57-59). They also make that kind of families. A really paradoxical situation.
They share the characteristic feature of almost all subcultures, that is, they oppose their lifestyle with the lifestyles of all the other subcultures and individuals. But the peculiarity of racist groups is not this ingroup-outgroup differentiation. The difference is in that they think that some human beings cannot ever be incorporated into the rational order (as Bauman says, cited by Fangen), and that category of people "should be removed from the territory occupied by the group it offends" (Fangen 1998:37). To many skinheads "[t]his fantasy world with its warrior-like images and proletarian style, seems for some members to be more important than the political standpoints or the ideology" (Fangen 1998:35). Because of their image, the swastikas, the tattoos and the attitude they have diminished possibilities of succeeding in the educational system and labor market. They go in that situation many times full conscious, but that is a feature of all lifestyle subcultures.
Even though such groups reclaim a Nazi past, as a matter of fact they do not have the same features of the historical Nazi German soldiers or the same ideology as they had in World War II. Their kind of behavior is closer to anarchists in any sense, except for the nationalist and racist worldviews. They even start to get organized as anarchist groups  (see Fangen 1998). Nazi skinheads are against authority and movement leaders, and that is the main difference between the real World War II Nazis and them. They are in similar to anarchist groups in their talking about revolt, insubordination to the system which is, in their opinion, run by the ZOG - the Zionist Occupation Government  .
If we take into consideration that there are also squats, illegally occupied houses, run by neo-Nazis, which is a really new and strange phenomenon if we have in mind that the squatters movement was born mostly in the 1960s and 1970s from far left movements. Maybe the only situation that is similar is the squatting that happened in Great Britain in the 1940s after the soldiers came home from the war and found a demolished England (see Bailey 1973). This kind of phenomenon, Nazi squatting (as I would call it), is present strongly in Italy, especially in Rome (see Rao 2006). The most famous is Casa Pound  . Basically, they are anti-authoritarians. In fact, an American group of skinheads called Hammerskin Nation define themselves as "a leaderless group of men and women who have adopted the White Power Skinhead lifestyle. We are blue collar workers, white collar professionals, college students, entrepreneurs, fathers and mothers  ."
It is always puzzling to see Nazi skinheads of different nations to meet on various gatherings around Europe, often they visit each others, as is the case with my hometown which is a touristic town, and there come German and English skinheads sometimes in summer. The fact is that a "foreigner who comes as a visitor and then leaves is easier to relate to than the foreigner who comes in order to stay" (Fangen 1998:36). The fright of strangers comes out of the fear produced by the difficulty to categorize the stranger, because s/he destroys the order of everyday life of the community. The complexity of modern societies produces many ambivalences, and that ambivalence produces indeterminacy. The polarization in friends and enemies is an easy way to reduce complexity of modern times by going back, or dreaming about a better and more homogeneous past (see Fangen 1998:38). "For right-wing skinheads anti-racism and its ideal, multiculturalism, represent chaos" (Fangen 1998:39), so they want to bring back order, their version of an idealized order. According to Zygmund Bauman that is the very quest of modernity (cited by Fangen 1998).
Fangen says that the extreme way Nazi skinheads want to appear in public is a way to shock the general public. This kind of behavior reminds me of the early punk movement where a lot of Nazi symbols in order to shock the general public, "to wake up" the ordinary people, to show them that the real Nazis are them - the ordinary people, not the mohawk punks (see Robb 2006).
There is also a cult of martyrs in neo-Nazi movements. The principal martyrs are Rudolf Hess and Ian Stuart Donaldson, the singer of the notorious R. A. C.  band Skrewdriver. They are martyrs because of the mystery surrounding their deaths, and because of their dedication to "The Cause" (whatever it is). Every year there is the Rudolf Hess Memorial March in a different country. This year the march was held in Budapest  .
The other martyr, Ian Stuart Donaldson, the charismatic singer of the band Skrewdriver, died in mysterious car accident. For the neo-Nazis he was the starter of the R. A. C. music style and the whole White Power movement. When worshiping martyrs they get a feeling of being part of something much bigger than themselves.
So, what can we say? Are they dangerous? Well, they might be in special occasions, probably not more than other subcultures, as gangsta rappers. In fact there are not very much studies about them, mostly because the membership in a neo-Nazi group is many times secret, they are closed even if they are visible in public as the skinheads because any kind of research could only benefit the law enforcement organs and opponent groups. Secret researches are maybe ethical in journalism, but not any more in the social sciences. There are good ethnographic researches as Ezekiel's one (2002), but we have to wait for more, especially from the former Eastern Block countries where the phenomenon is apparently on the rise, and from other Eastern European countries. It would be also interesting to see the spread of the phenomenon is Asia and South America. For example, it is interesting that there are many neo-Nazi groups in Brazil and other South American countries.
In regards of the causes of the rise of the phenomenon we have not that much data. It seems that economic status is not an important factor (Ezekiel 2002:61). We can speculate that it is because of the fragmentation of society, the rise of consumerism where traditional values are getting lost, etc., but those answers are really not satisfying, especially because there are no researches.