The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Skinhead International: Sweden

In the past 10 years, Swedish Skinheads have become an important part of the broader Swedish racist movement. They have served as bodyguards and security forces for various neo-Nazi organizations, and in the name of Aryan supremacy, Skinheads have beaten, robbed and even killed perceived enemies.

Experts in Sweden currently put the number of skinheads at well over 1,000, of whom some 100 to 200 are considered "especially dangerous." The overall figure includes a large number of so-called "Babyskins," a term coined by police in 1994 to refer to the rising number of very young Skinheads recruited from schools in several communities.

The major populations centers - Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmo - contain the largest concerntrations of Skins. Smaller numbers are active in Norrkping, Linkoping, Karlstad, Sodertalje, Vaxjo, Saffle and Uddevalle.


Swedish Skinheads have been heavily influenced by Storm, a neo-Nazi magazine that was launched in 1990 as the successor to an earlier racist publication, Vit Rebell (White Rebel).[1] Storm mixes classic Nazi anti-Semitism with other anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. The magazine singles out the Jews as the main cause of Sweden's political and economic difficulties. The battle against immigration has failed, according to Storm, on account of Jewish domination of the media, the banks and the government. Hence, says the magazine, the battle against Jewry is paramount, and must be waged through armed stuggle. No new issues of Storm have been published since fall 1994.

With Storm apparently publishing intermittently, three new magazines have begun to fill the void: Nordland; Blod och Ara (Blood and Honor), last published in October 1994; and Gryning (Dawn), published by and for Skinheads in prison.

Storm has become the single most important expression of Skinhead "philosophy" in Sweden. The magazine offers broad political direction to Swedish Skinheads - and has given rise to the "Storm Network," an informal structure of cooperation and political unity among several neo-Nazi Skinhead organizations. The most important groups in the Network are:

Vitt Ariskt Motstand (VAM, White Aryan Resistance), formed in 1991 as "a vehicle for racial war" along the lines of the American far-right terrorist group, The Order. At its peak, VAM consisted of at least 150 hard-core activists and perhaps twice as many supporters. Its structure, like that of most Skinhead gangs, is loose and informal; there are no membership cards, elected officials or formal gatherings. VAM activists have been convicted of a number of violent crimes, including several armed robberies and gun thefts. In the recent year, VAM has gone through a political reorientation, attempting to transform itself from an underground militant group to a semi-legal street organization.

Riksfronten (The Reich Front), now led by Torulf Magnusson. The group has emerged as the political face of Skinhead militancy. It is believed to have at least a few hundred members.

The Church of the Creator (COTC), led by "Reverend" Tommy Ryden and Skinhead David Twaland (a.k.a Emilsson). This is the Swedish branch of the now-inactive American neo-Nazi mother church. Although the Swedish group has only a handful of members, it is believed to have a large influence on the Storm Network.

While the Storm Network was formed outside the control of the traditional extreme right parties in Sweden, the Skinhead movement is linked with the two principal racist parties: the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats, and the traditionally Hitlerite Nordic Reich Party (NRP), which has a few hundred supporters.

Armed Struggle

Swedish Skinheads have committed a great many crimes over the past four years, more than can be listed here. Among the most notorious ones have been the following:

In April 1991, four masked men raided a police station in a Stockholm suburb and made off with 40 handguns. Two of the culprits, both VAM activists, were subsequently arrested and are presently serving jail time.

In May 1991, seven Skinheads were arrested during an attempted burglary at a military arms depot in northern Sweden. One of the group, John-Christopher Rangne, is believed to be a leading member of VAM.

Two Skinheads were captured following an armed bank robbery in 1991. One was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison; the other was released for lack of evidence.

In January 1992, former Reich Front leader Leif Larsson was convicted of assault, and sentenced to a year in prison.

Also in January 1992, three Skinheads were arrested for possession of army materiel stolen from a military arms depot. One of those arrested was David Twaland, deputy leader of the Church of the Creator.

In May 1992, in Uppsala, four Skinheads were arrested and subsequently convicted of illegal possession of weapons in connection with a plot to rob a bank.

In August 1992, six Skinheads were arrested in a VAM safehous containing arms, ammunition and other stolen military hardware. Two were subsequently convicted, but the charges against the remaining four were dropped.

In November 1992, VAM activist Stefan Lund was captured and sentenced to five years in prison for his role in an armed bank robbery. His partners-in-crime are still missing, as are the 1.5 million Kronor in stolen loot.

Skinhead crimes against Jews have, until now, consisted mainly of desecrations of graves and threats against individuals.

International Ties

The Swedish Skinhead movement has forged extensive links with hate movements in other countries, especially Britain and the United States. Skinheads first appeared in the streets of Sweden in the mid to late 1970's, when they were viewed as simply another fringe youth cult - like the punks or rockers - whith their own style of dress and brand of music. However, they shortly developed a distinctly fascist outlook. Swedish Nazi groups had influenced them somewhat, but from England came the very potent impact of a full-blown Skinhead movement replete with racial ideology and music. Britain's leading Skinhead band, Skrewdriver, twice played in Sweden, in 1987 and 1989. During the first visit, Skrewdriver's leader, Ian Stuart, met with the Swedish Skins and made arrangements to help them publish a newspaper, the aforementioned Vit Rebell. During the same period, and English Skinhead, Tommy Edwards, became active in the leadership of the Swedish movement and served as liaison with its British comrades.

There have also been links to the American hate movement - for example, the formation in Sweden of a unit of the Church of the Creator. The Swedish branch, like the American, actively sought Skinhead recruits, with some measure of success.

The pages of Storm magazine also reflect considerable contact with American neo-Nazis, particularly the imprisoned members of The Order, the terrorist organization that murdered Denver talk radio host Alan Berg in 1984, and committed other serious crimes. From their prison cells, Order members David Lane, Frank Silva, Bruce Carroll Pierce, and Gary Yarbrough have been in correspondence with the publishers of Storm. They are, in effect, serving as advisors to the Swedish Skinhead movement, thereby intensifying its anti-Semitism and proclivity to terrorism.

Much American printed hate material circulates among the Swedish Skinheads. "The Turner Diaries," a novel by William Pierce, leader of the National Alliance, a West Virginia-based Nazi group, is a particular favorite. The book, which served as the bible of The Order, offers a blueprint on how to conduct a violent Aryan revolution. Printed materials also come from the American Nazi Gary Lauck, who publishes the organ Sveriges Nationella Fo"rgund (Swedish National League) for the neo-Nazi organization of the same name. The League's Malmo unit, headed by 35-year-old Lars-Go"ran Hedengard, is affiliated with Lauck's Nebraska-based NSDAP-AO (National Socialist German Wrokers Party-Overseas Organization). Lauck linked up with Hedengard during a trip to Sweden in 1990. The name of the Skinhead group White Aryan Resistance (Vitt Ariskt Motstand, VAM) is identical with that of the American Nazi organization, WAR, headed by Tom Metzger, which was the first to use it. However, VAM's attitudes more closely resemled those of The Order and Aryan Nations.

The Music Scene

Sweden's Skinheads are also linked to their counterparts abroad through their bands. Direlewanger, a leading Swedish Skinhead band, played at an Aryan fest in southern California in September 1992. The band also has close ties to the German Skinhead scene. (Dirlewanger was the name of a German SS officer, Oskar Dirlewanger, who commanded an Einsatzkommando unit on the easter front in World War II.) The traffic runs both ways, with foreign Skinhead bands - among them the British bands No Remorse and Bully Boys - appearing in Sweden as well.

There have been several other bands active in the Swedish Skinhead musical scene, including Vit Aggression (White Aggression), Division S, Agent Bulldog, Midgard Soner, Svastika and Ultima Thule (which has successfully entered the mainstream).

On February 4, 1995, several hundred Skinheads turned out for a white power concert in Stockholm that featured Division S, Midgard Soner and Svastika. According to the California-based zine Blood and Honor, the American band Bound for Glory also made an appearance.

Since about 1993, Skinhead music - compact discs as well as videos - has become a principal source of income for individual Skinheads and Skinhead political organizations. A number of Nazi mail order outlets have sprung up, providing a substantial revenue. Few, if any, major record shops in Sweden sell Skinhead recordings, but during 1194, several Skinhead-owned shops opened in Stockholm and Gothenburg.

The Icehouse

A popular Skinhead hangout in Stockholm is Fryshuset (the Icehouse), a youth club partly funded by local authorities in the (questionable) belief that it would "keep them off the streets." The Skins formerly had their own (partly state-subsidized) headquarters, located alongside Fryshuset. Piles of copies of the British Skinhead magazine Blood and Honor and the American Nazi publication Racial Loyalty and "The Turner Diaries" were seen in the headquarters.

Finally, as stated earlier, Swedish Skinheads are part of the broader Swedish hate movement, although their relationship is sometimes strained. That was the case in 1988, when the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) party was launched. The party was formed by persons long steeped in racism, who decided to clean up their public image in the hope that it would broaden their appeal, in the style of the French Front National. Since Skinheads hardly fit the desired new image, they were disavowed.

The SD strategy paid off. The party's membership grew; it got 4,900 votes in the 1991 parliamentary elections and 14,000 votes in 1994 (much higher numbers than usual for an ultra-right party in Sweden). The SD now has five seats in local assemblies. Nevertheless, there has been growing evidence that despite its protestations to the contrary, the SD's back-door links with the Skinheads were never actually broken, or, if broken, have been restored. (Anti-Defamation League, 67-72)

[1] Vit Rebell was founded in 1988 with the help of British Skinhead leader Ian Stuart. It folded after its publishers were charged (they were later convicted) with violating Sweden's anti-racist laws.

Work Cited

Anti-Defamation League. The Skinhead International: A Worldwide Survey of Neo-Nazi Skinheads. New York: Anti-Defamation League, 1995. Anti-Defamation League, 823 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017.

See also The story of John Hron

Disclaimer: not all skinheads are neo-nazis or white supremacists. There are many skinheads who are non- or anti-racist, and who come from a variety of different religious and cultural backgrounds. Nizkor recognizes their achievements in anti-racism: they are part of the traditional, non-racist skinhead subculture and are not the perpetrators of the hate crimes discussed here.

Unless otherwise specified, the word "skinhead" within these pages refers only to neo-Nazi and white supremacist skinheads, the perpetrators of hate crimes and participants in racist organizations. We cannot edit the body of the text above, because it was not written by Nizkor, and to change the wording would be fraudulent. Please keep in mind that not all skinheads are racist.

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