Words: Hugh Kaye
It was the start of a Bank Holiday weekend. It was warm and sunny. People had left work and were already celebrating in pubs on Old Compton Street and on the streets throughout Soho.
Shortly after 6.35pm, in the Admiral Duncan, someone spotted an unattended holdall and – given that there had been two bombings in London during the past fortnight – became suspicious. But before anything could be done an explosion ripped through the pub. The bomb contained 1,500 four-inch nails.
Three people - John Light, 32, Nik Moore, 31, and Andrea Dykes, 27, (who was four months pregnant) died - while another 79 were hurt, some of them suffering life-changing injuries.
That was 20 years ago.
The other bombs, in Brick Lane and Brixton, had injured another 61. Those devices had been aimed at areas with predominately Black and Asian communities. The Admiral Duncan atrocity hit LGBTQ people, although one of those killed was a pregnant woman who was having a drink with her husband, who was seriously injured. They were having a night out with two gay friends, both of whom also died.
But this isn’t a so much a history lesson as a warning from history.
Within days of the Admiral Duncan bombing, a 22-year-old Londoner had been arrested and charged. He was David James Copeland, who had been a member of the far-right British National Party then, disillusioned by their lack of paramilitary action, joined the more hard-line National Socialist Movement.
From left to right: Andrea Dykes, John Light and Nik Moore lost their lives in the attack on the Admiral Duncan
Even before the arrest, other right-wing factions had gleefully claimed responsibility for the attacks. A group calling themselves the White Wolves phoned the BBC saying they had bombed the Admiral Duncan.
Even the briefest of searches on the internet today reveals the names of more than 100 neo-Nazi organisations – 15 of them in the UK. And the frightening thing is they seem to both take inspiration from each other and challenge them to be more right wing and more extreme.
Just last year, Ethan Stables was sentenced to an indefinite hospital order for planning to carry out an attack at a pub's gay pride night in Cumbria.
The 20-year-old was was found guilty of preparing an act of terrorism, threats to kill and possessing explosives, after making threats on a neo-Nazi facebook group the 'National Socialists Union standing against New World Order'.
Of course, Nazism is traced back to Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, with fascism pre-dating them in Italy by a few years. Hitler planned a thousand-year Reich. It lasted just 12, but in that time some 60 million people died.
You’d have hope that the horrors of the Third Reich and, to a lesser extent those of militarists in Japan, uncovered after the end of WWII in 1945 would mean this scourge would never be seen again. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In the late 1950s, former American navy pilot George Lincoln Rockwell founded the American Nazi Party. He was influenced by both Adolf Hitler and senator Joseph McCarthy, who had shot to fame with his anti-communist witch hunt – and lesser-known 'Lavender Scare' which saw scores of gay men and lesbians fired form their government jobs.
Rockwell, who didn’t think the Ku Klux Klan were radical enough, had a shrine to Hitler at his headquarters, with a huge swastika flag. His character appears in the Amazon Prime show The Man in the High Castle, and New York’s main airport in the drama is named in his 'honour'.
George Lincoln Rockwell, founder of the American Nazi Party
One of Rockwell’s disciples was James Nolan Mason. According to German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, he joined the American Nazi Party as a teenager in the late 1960s or early 1970s when he also became involved with a group called the National Socialist Liberation Front. When police searched his home, they found photos of Hitler and twisted Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
In the 1980s, the magazine adds, Mason published a book called Siege, which talks about attacks on homosexuals and Jews, as well as denying the Holocaust. In it, Mason claims that Hitler and crazed cult leader Charles Manson were reincarnations of Jesus.
Siege is available to buy thanks to a group called Atomwafffen Division, another neo-Nazi group, based in the US as well as in the UK, Canada and Germany.
When members heard that one of their number, Samuel Woodward, had been charged with the murder of a gay Jewish student, they celebrated. According to encrypted online chats obtained by the ProPublica website, one person wrote: “I love this” while another described the alleged killer as a “one man gay Jew wrecking crew.”
Woodward has denied the charge, which include hate crimes, but Atomwaffen members are known to embrace the ideology of Nazi Germany and preach hatred of minorities, including LGBTQ people.
ProPublica claims the group has 20 cells around the US, with members, who are armed with assault rifles, glorifying all sorts of right-wing extremist terror as well as mass murderers such as Timothy McVeigh, who was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 which left 168 people dead, and Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in 2011. He gave a Nazi salute when he appeared in court charged with murder.
Members of the 'alt-right' with a Nazi flag at a 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017
In 2016, Atomwaffen members even protested against a vigil being held in San Antonia, Texas, for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings, and the group’s website is said to have had messages of hate posted regularly, including “Pro faggot propaganda is working! AIDS is spreading like wildfire. Dead faggots could make us happier! Hail AIDS!”
And, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and other extremists throughout America, the 'Join Us' section of the website has compiled a reading list which includes Adolf Hitler’s bible of hate Mein Kampf.
The history of right-wing hatred goes on and on. Although some far-right politicians are clearly not terrorists or violent themselves, their stand encourages those who are. And they do support more virulent individuals.
In 2002, Channel 4’s Young, Nazi and Proud featured British BNP activist Mark Collett. Unaware that he was being recorded, he said Aids was “a friendly disease because blacks… and gays have it.”
He also declared his admiration for Hitler before appearing on RE:Brand where he referred to LGBTQ people as “Aids monkeys, bum bandits and faggots.” Although he was sacked from the British National Party, where he had previously been chairman of Young BNP, he was allowed to rejoin just a few days later.
Then, one of his anti-immigrant postings was retweeted by American congressman Steve King. The New Statesman reported that the eight-term Republican politician, who represents Iowa, added: “Europe is waking up… Will America… in time?”
In 2009, King called for members of Iowa’s Supreme Court, who had unanimously ruled that a state ban on gay marriage violated Iowa’s constitution, to resign. He also demanded that the state legislature "must enact marriage licence residency requirements so that Iowa does not become the gay-marriage Mecca.”
He mounted a campaign against three of the Justices who were up for retention. All three lost. And after the historic Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell vs Hodges in 2015, which stated that same-sex marriage is a constitutionally protected right, King – a member of Human Rights Campaign’s Hall of Shame since 2014 – says states should be allowed to refuse to recognise the decision.
Again, one extremist following another, upping the stakes and perpetuating hatred. It’s a vicious circle in the truest sense of the phrase.
A report published by the Anti-Defamation League reveals that every extremist murder in the USA last year - there were at least 50 - had links to far-right ideology, although in one incidence, the killer had switched to support Islamic extremism. In 2017, 62 per cent of extremist murders were committed by ring-wing killers. That figure was up from 21 per cent in 2016, according to the ADL, which said the increase reflected a long-term trend.
That rise means nearly three-quarters of extremist murders in America in the past decade can be linked to right-wing domestic terrorism, more than three times as many as those committed by Islamists, says The Independent.
In Germany, where the high priest of right-wing violence took the world into the most destructive war of all time almost 80 years ago, a newish face on the political landscape is Alternative fur Deutschland.
You’d think people learnt from history – the Nazis didn’t seize power, they won it - but in 2013 the AfD narrowly missed out on being able to sit in the Bundestag, the federal parliament. By 2017, they were the largest opposition party in Germany. Can they be ignored? Well, Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg recently tweeted a speech by the party’s co-leader Alice Weidel.
Although not overtly anti-LGBTQ, AfD have lots of the hallmarks of other fascist groups.
In America, those groups have names such as the Aryan Brotherhood, White Aryan Resistance, led by a former Grand Dragon of the KKK, and the alt-right message board The Daily Stormer (Julius Streicher’s Thirties hate sheet Der Sturmer, anyone?).
In Europe, we have Serbian Action, Danish Front, and Format 18 in Russia – A is the first, and H the eighth letter of the Latin alphabet. A.H. As in Adolf Hitler. Here in the UK, it’s Combat 18.
Neo-Nazi demonstration in Leipzig, Germany in October 2009
German groups, in addition to AfD, have included Wiken-Jugend, modelled on the Hitler Youth. Even seemingly liberal countries such as Norway (Vigrid), Sweden and Finland (both have the Nordic Resistance Movement) don’t escape the Neo-nazi scourge.
On the other side of the world, we’ve had the United Patriots Front, in Australia, and the National Socialist Japanese Workers’ Party (the Nazis’ full name was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party). Taiwan has the National Socialism Association. In Brazil, there’s even a Far Right president.
Not all far-right groups advocate violence but most, if not all, idolise Hitler. Most direct their hate towards Jews, Muslims and immigrants. But it’s a small step to homophobia when scapegoats are needed.
Back in Britain, the off-shoot of Atomwaffen calls itself Sonnenkrieg Division. Members branded Prince Harry a race traitor for marrying Meghan Markle. In one post, a picture of the Duke of Sussex is set against a swastika with a gun pointing at his head. Just a few days ago two neo-Nazi members of the group were convicted of terrorism offences and face the possibility of being jailed when they are sentenced in June.
But that hasn’t stopped right-wing groups doing well at the polls. In 1993, the BNP won its first seat in a local election, in Millwall, South East London. Ten years later, they won a council seat in West Yorkshire and another in Essex, giving them 18 councillors in England. For a while, they were the official opposition party in Burnley after winning seven new seats.
In 2004, they recorded another victory in London when Daniel Kelley won in Barking and Dagenham Council's Goresbrook ward, and two years later they won three seats in both Epping Forest and Stoke on Trent. By 2009, they had two MEPs, including then party leader Nick Griffin.
Deputy assistant commissioner Alan Fry, the head of the Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch, said that when officers arrived at the Admiral Duncan, they were confronted by a scene of horror. “It was horrendous… it was a complete wreck,” he explained.
A report in The Observer two days later had quotes from a member of staff at the Admiral Duncan. She said: “There were bodies and blood everywhere. I crawled over them. I remember touching one man who wasn't moving. Another had his foot blown off. There was blood all over my face and cuts on my hands so I couldn't help anyone.”
A victim of the Admiral Duncan bombing in the aftermath of the attack, which was carried out by a British neo-Nazi
Others compared the scene to that or a Vietnam War film while a paramedic was quoted in the newspaper as saying: “Bodies were twisted and limbs were in places you would not expect them to be. It was something I hope I don't see again.”
And 10pm on 30 April, the head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Paul Condon, made his first appearance at a news conference following the bombings. “This is an attack on all of us,” he said. “It's time for the community to work together to defeat these cowards.”
After his arrest, David Copeland was interviewed by psychiatrists at Broadmoor Hospital and found fit to stand trial. He was convicted of three counts of murder and planting bombs. He was given six life sentences and the trial judge said it was unlikely that it would ever be safe to release him. In 2007, the High Court ruled he should serve a minimum of 50 years. In 2015, he admitted wounding a fellow inmate with a razor blade and was sentenced to another three years (he’s likely to serve about half of that).
One bomb, 20 years ago. But a long, long history of hatred and bigotry.
But still the message doesn’t seem to have hit home.
Recently, Premier League goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was seen in a picture posted on German teammate Max Meyer’s Instagram feed, seemingly giving a Nazi salute and holding his hand where a Hitler-style moustache would be. Charged by the Football Association, the 32-year-old Crystal Palace and Wales stopper claimed he didn’t know what a Nazi salute was and the case was found not proven.
A Russian man gives a Nazi salute at an anti-gay demonstration in Moscow in October 2010
Giving him the benefit of the doubt and believing that he was simply shouting to someone at the party, you have to conclude that it’s very frightening that he knows nothing about the Nazis and hasn’t ever seen a war film in his life. But he’s not the only one.
Earlier this year, a poll for Holocaust Memorial Day revealed that one in every 20 British adults do not believe the Holocaust happened while eight per cent said that although it occurred, the scale has been exaggerated. Almost half of those questioned didn’t not know how many people murdered while, on average, one in every five grossly underestimated the number.
In the rest Europe, 34 per cent of people questioned in a CNN/ComRes survey said they knew nothing or very little about the Holocaust. In France, 20 per cent or those aged between 18 and 34 had not heard anything about it.
And this time last year, The Washington Post reported that two-thirds of American millennials surveyed could not identify what Auschwitz was while 22 per cent of them weren’t even sure they had heard about the Holocaust.
And that’s what those on the Far Right are hoping for - that we forget that there are very real, very human victims of their hateful ideologies.
Which is why today we remember the lives of Nick Moore, John Light, Andrew Dykes, and her unborn baby.
An Act of Remembrance for the victims of the Admiral Duncan bombing will take place on Old Compton Street and in St. Anne's Gardens from 6pm on Tuesday 30 April. For more information click here.