Matthias Koehl, Jr. was born in Milwaukee, the son of ethnic German parents (his father an immigrant from Hungary). Although his family seems to have been devoutly Christian (his mother being a Sunday-school teacher and his siblings both having Biblical names) he stopped attending church at age 16. As a young man he was involved with the National Renaissance Party, then the National States' Rights Party, before joining George Lincoln Rockwell's organization in 1960. He became the leader of the Chicago unit, then was transferred to headquarters in Arlington, where he was Rockwell's research-director. It was Koehl who uncovered the fact that some ostensible images of gassed Jews really showed German victims of Allied bombing, as Rockwell indicated in his interview for Playboy in 1966. Koehl was then appointed Deputy-Commander, and upon Rockwell's death in 1967 Koehl assumed the position of Commander of the National-Socialist White People's Party, but was openly diffident about being able to fill Rockwell's shoes: "I don't know of anyone who can fill his shoes. We cannot talk in terms of a successor to Commander Rockwell. But we'll all do everything we can to carry on."
|Matt Koehl, on the verge of being arrested while giving a speech in Boston, October 1974|
I became aware of Matt Koehl about 1984 when he appeared on a syndicated interview-show called Face to Face with Martin Caidin.
At the time, I claimed libertarianism as my ideology, because libertarianism seemed to me at the time the best option for opposing racial problems that had been created by the government. Part of libertarianism, however, is the idea of the free marketplace of ideas. Let all ideas be heard and the good ideas will defeat the bad ones.
I was eager to hear Matt Koehl explain how he could be a "Nazi," which is how Martin Caidin had labeled him. I wanted to know how Koehl came to such a position, which seemed incomprehensible according to everything that I knew at the time.
The problem was, Martin Caidin would not let Matt Koehl speak. The whole show consisted of Caidin berating Koehl. This bothered me so much that I wrote a letter to the production company and complained about it. I said that Caidin had made me feel sorry for the "Nazi."
The show made a permanent impression on me that changed the course of my life. According to libertarian thinking, if an idea like Koehl's has to be suppressed -- if the people can't be allowed to hear it -- then there must be something good about it. And those who are so determined to suppress that idea must have something to hide.
Gradually I noticed that the suppression of Matt Koehl's idea on that show was not unique. I noticed that the available information about national-socialist ideas and history always included hostile moralizing, similar to Martin Caidin's berating of Matt Koehl, with the obvious purpose of making sure that nobody would consider that there might be something good about it. I also noticed that criticism of Jews from whatever source was aggressively suppressed, which made me wonder if Jews really did exercise greater power in the USA than most people were willing to say. I already had an explanation for why they would be unwilling to say it -- because they would get the same kind of nasty treatment as Martin Caidin gave to Matt Koehl, or worse. The treatment of Matt Koehl in that so-called interview made me aware that there must be a whole other side of the story that I wasn't supposed to get.
I understand that there are legitimate criticisms of Koehl as George Lincoln Rockwell's successor. Koehl did not continue to advance the NSWPP on the course that Rockwell had projected. Instead, as Dr. William Pierce complained, the NSWPP under Matt Koehl lapsed back into phase I of Rockwell's four-phase plan, which consisted of uniformed public appearances for the purpose of attracting the attention of mass-media, in keeping with Koehl's martial background as a Marine and trainer of the National Renaissance Party's security force before he met Rockwell. Then in the early 1980s, Koehl changed the name of the National-Socialist White People's Party to the New Order, and changed its orientation to Hitlerism as a religion, reflecting an impulse that Koehl had inherited as the scion of a strongly religious family. It is evident that Koehl did not have the right kind of personality to continue what Rockwell had started, on the course that Rockwell had intended.
Nonetheless, Matt Koehl is a significant figure for me, because of that one TV appearance circa 1984. Matt Koehl's exposure of the fact that national-socialism was the one ideology that was not allowed free expression started me on the course that led to my being a national-socialist today (without the uniformed theatrics).
For refutation of some nasty rumors about Koehl, see my article, "Rick Cooper's 'Brief History' and the Defamation of Matt Koehl."