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My 16 months as a Nazi

From the archives in 1966: When a private investigator infiltrated the recently founded Canadian Nazi Party, he discovered an embarrassingly threadbare and delusional organization


 

From The Maclean’s Archives.
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I AM A LICENSED private investigator who, more than a year ago, was employed by the Canadian Jewish Congress to infiltrate the Canadian Nazi Party. I was more successful than I expected. I became a trusted officer of the party—its local Heinrich Himmler—though I've managed to avoid being linked with the nationwide publicity that has made the name of John Beattie, the unemployed clerk who is the party's leader, familiar to most Canadians. And now I think my job is done.

I have provided the Congress with the names of most known Canadian Nazis; with tape recordings of Nazi meetings I've bugged through tiny radio transmitters; with detailed accounts of Beattie's movements and plans. A few weeks ago, in what should be a coup de grâce, I handed over copies of all Beattie's party records, which included members' and supporters' names and addresses, and copies of all his correspondence. The Congress now even has a list of those who contribute to party funds: the shadowy supporters who keep Beattie going but haven't the guts to acknowledge publicly that they are Nazis.

The Jewish Congress wants to nullify Beattie's potential effectiveness as a political force by using the laws of the land, and even now it is pressuring Parliament to outlaw the kind of hate literature Beattie is distributing (though he's not the only one doing so). There are others who would use more violent means to remove Beattie from the scene. Some of these either are or were among the lunatic fringe of an organization, largely Jewish, called N3 (after Newton's third law: “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”). And while, in recent weeks, there has been a change in the N3 leadership, these fanatics are still active and still represent a physical threat to Beattie.

It is these anti-Nazi commandos—a Toronto police inspector has called them “the Jewish Mafia"—who besieged a house Beattie once used as a headquarters; who have vainly chased him after each of his public meetings; who have beaten his associates, including one elderly man; who have pestered his blond, 20-year-old wife Carol, following her home from the office where she works to help support Beattie, herself and their two-year-old daughter Melissa. It is this group that twice tried to bribe me to “set Beattie up” for them, and which has sworn to prevent Beattie from speaking in his chosen forum, the park called Allan Gardens in Toronto.

Beattie still hopes to hold another meeting in Toronto this fall. Toronto city council and the courts refused permission in August but, as I write, Beattie is looking for loopholes that would allow the meeting to take place. If he's successful, these anti-Nazis might well resort to violence.


Indirectly, I met Beattie as a result of the first of his park speeches. It was held in May last year, and, predictably, it sparked a riot among a crowd that the newspapers later estimated to be about 4,000 strong. The police rescued Beattie before he received more than a bloodied nose, but they also arrested several N3 adherents and charged them with causing a disturbance. This pattern was to be repeated on three subsequent occasions on which Beattie appeared in the downtown park. But on this occasion the lawyer for the arrested N3 men employed me to subpoena Beattie as a witness at their trial, and at the same time told me N3 might employ me as an undercover agent if I could win Beattie's confidence.

That night I called at Beattie's apartment in mid-Toronto, but even then he was running scared. “What do you want?” he yelled through the closed door. I told him. “Who are you?” he yelled back. I told him. And then, for 10 minutes, we talked through the door while I tried to persuade him that it would prevent him being plagued by me or my assistants if he opened the door now and received the subpoena. Finally, he let me in.

Until that moment I, like most people whose knowledge of the man is culled from newspapers, had an image of Beattie as a spellbinder: a fanatic perhaps, but an impressive one. The reality was disappointing. He is almost six feet tall, and gangling. He is 24 years old. He has a sort of death's-head face: hollowed cheeks, with sallow skin stretched tight across prominent bones and mousy hair combed, Hitlerian style, across his forehead. He's hardly an impressive figure, but the fact doesn't bother him: after all, neither was Hitler. I served the subpoena and asked how his party was progressing. He was suspicious and noncommittal, but did lend me some hate literature, all published by the U.S. Nazis.

A couple of days later, I returned the literature—and this time carried with me a bottle of rum. I offered him a drink (I later found he never refuses) and we sat and he talked. Hitler, he said, was the greatest man in history next to Christ. Hitler never exterminated six million Jews, he said; that was a “Jew-communist” lie. Next to the New Testament, he said, Mein Kampf was the greatest book ever written. I sat and I listened—and I shivered.

When I had undertaken to try to befriend Beattie, I regarded it as a job—a situation in which I could no more afford emotional involvement than if I had been investigating, say, a case of industrial espionage, or a divorce. But from the start I began getting emotionally involved. My wife is German, and her family suffered under the Gestapo. Our sense of outrage has been dulled by overexposure to the sins of Nazi Germany, and it's too convenient to dismiss Beattie and his henchmen—only a dozen active members, plus perhaps 100 unseen supporters—as a bunch of vicious, but harmless, misfits. Misfits they are, but they are also the most visible part of a growing right-wing movement in Canada which, I have come to believe, could represent a threat to our national stability.

I have seen old people, survivors of Hitler's extermination camps, reduced to near-hysteria by hate literature. I met one lady on the fringe of the rioting crowd at a Beattie meeting who sobbed so deeply I almost wept with her, and she told me that she hadn't slept since “the Nazis followed me to Canada." After every fresh wave of publicity, more sympathizers come crawling out of the woodwork to offer Beattie money and encouragement. Beattie himself has said, "I'm just the man who stands up and says what I am. You wait—when there’s a depression and the masses are looking for a scapegoat, that's when thousands will declare themselves for us.” U.S. Nazi “commander" George Lincoln Rockwell has told Beattie he has a substantial list of Canadian contacts, and in August he sent Beattie a list of 279 people in Ontario who have contributed money to the U.S. party or have written to Rockwell for information and “literature.”

But that night I first met Beattie and listened to him spew his own brand of perverted reasoning, I knew nothing of the effect and the possible dangers of Nazism in Canada. All I felt then was an emotional revulsion. I managed to blurt out that it was time someone like him showed up the Jews for what they really were. My conscience wouldn't let me say more, but I felt that statement was ambiguous enough to feed his conceit.

Now I had an excuse for maintaining a relationship with Beattie. As a result of that first public meeting of his, he faced a charge of causing a public disturbance. I offered him the benefit of the legal knowledge I have gained from eight years working as a peace officer for the county of York and as a private detective. I helped him prepare his defence, and although he was convicted and fined $150, he began to trust me. I helped him in the same way later when he was charged with unlawful assembly, and he came to regard me as his closest friend.

Beattie is strangely likable at times, particularly when he and his party are not flourishing; when he feels successful he grows more arrogant. Superficially, Beattie can be charming, but I have seen his less attractive characteristics. I've heard him lie to his wife Carol over something as trivial as whether he'd stopped on the way home for a glass of beer. In public he is a doting father to his daughter, but I've seen him spank the child for an offence as trivial as upsetting an ashtray. As a conspirator he's a joke: he once met a Toronto geologist and his wife who gave him $75, offered him support and even employed him at $60 a week for a month during which he labelled rock specimens. Their identity was supposed to be a strict secret, but within three days he’d told me their name and address.

While he will arrogantly face a rioting mob at one of his public meetings—“There’s no glory in it unless the Jews draw blood,” he once told me—he will cross the street to avoid a man who he thinks gave him “a queer look.” Once, when we parked my car in a downtown lot, a man passing by recognized Beattie, ran off and, before we could leave, returned with two other men. Beattie ran like a scared rabbit, and we escaped through a bowling alley and out onto Yonge Street. And yet three middle-aged men are hardly a lethal threat to two younger ones—Beattie 24, and myself. 37.

Perhaps this wariness has helped him survive, though. I personally wonder how the anti-Nazi commandos have failed so often. Once he left his apartment to go to his “public speakin’ ” at Allan Gardens and found seven men standing in two groups, waiting for him. Somehow he dodged between the groups and, with the would-be attackers in pursuit, ran to a neighbour's house. From there he called the police, who took him to Allan Gardens in a police car. After one meeting, a group of anti-Nazi commandos trailed him to the home of a supporter on Admiral Road. There Beattie cowered behind the closed door while two carloads of men waited outside and a third car prowled the area. I drove to Admiral Road and spotted the stake-out. The attackers' prowl car got on my tail. I lost the tail by driving back downtown before returning to pick up Beattie, who escaped by sneaking out the back door of the house and crawling over the garden fence.

He also believes I helped save him when N3 staked out a hall in which he had planned to hold a supporters’ meeting. I had been tipped off that N3 planned to break up the meeting with stink bombs, and I told my Jewish Congress contact. When I drove Beattie past the hall and he saw about 15 cars full of N3 people, plus about a score of police cars posted there on the advice of the Jewish Congress, he quickly cancelled the meeting—and thanked me. “You probably saved my life again,” he said.

There is a part of Beattie that enjoys the danger, the threats. They make him feel important—and it is the need to feel important that to a large extent sustains his enthusiasm for Nazism. He is hugely delighted with the fuss he has caused. Early in 1965, when there were just Beattie and a couple of teenagers. Jack DeCock and Peter Riedel, in the Nazi business, they—incredibly, it seems now—caused riots and demonstrations just by declaring themselves Nazis. Newspapers across the country ran stories about their activities. "Just think," Beattie once told me, “three or four kids, that's all we were, and we had the country up in arms.”

But that, I discovered, is the tactic of the tiny Nazi groups in a dozen countries. They send one another newspaper clippings, and congratulate one another by mail. I once secretly taped a telephone conversation between Beattie and Lincoln Rockwell. Beattie greeted Rockwell: “Hello commander. We got some good front-page publicity about my speakin' this Sunday. The Jews were screaming their heads off from every synagogue in the city."

“Wonderful," said Rockwell. "I sure will be happy to see that."

Sadly, it is the N3 organization and the anti-Nazi extremists who, in their attempts to destroy Beattie, provide him with most of the publicity he craves. If it weren’t for the riots and the assaults and the public protest meetings they hold, there'd be no real news in Beattie. Charles Wittenberg, the leader of N3 until he resigned in July, never fully appreciated this fact.

Wittenberg never did offer to employ me professionally, and for a while it seemed I had become embroiled in what I considered an odious mess for no good professional reason. In September 1965, however, Sydney Harris, Ben Kayfetz and Sydney Midanik of the Canadian Jewish Congress engaged me to continue spying on Beattie. From then I reported almost daily to Kayfetz, always phoning in the name "Mr. Harold" for the sake of secrecy. It was not a profitable arrangement for me—the most I ever charged the Congress was $200 for a month's work—but by now my emotional involvement was total.

I was as alarmed about Beattie as were the Congress and N3. It's not Beattie himself I fear: it's the uncounted Nazi sympathizers, and the growing number of anti-communist, right-wing organizations that display neo-Nazi symptoms. It leads me to fear a situation in which the Nazi Party might fall into the hands of an intelligent demagogue and gain financial support from wealthy but misguided right-wing sympathizers.

When I first met Beattie, his Nazis were not a formally constituted party but consisted of fewer than a dozen young misfits. However, there were about a dozen older men, mostly middle-aged German immigrants, waiting in the shadows. Beattie, who was once active in the Social Credit Party, had met most of these people in 1964 through the breakaway Social Credit movement of Neil Carmichael, a Toronto stamp dealer who has been disowned by the national Social Credit Party, and who has since himself disowned Beattie and his Nazis. It was, I gathered, these immigrant Nazis who fed Beattie’s interest with stories of the glorious Third Reich, but they were too cautious to declare themselves openly when Beattie first hoisted his swastika in 1964.

Beattie seemed to regard me as the first of a new and more desirable type of Nazi. Anyway, at about the time we met he purged the group of its violent teenagers and began the campaign he is still running to present the Nazis as a well-financed, well-organized, “respectable” group. To this end he ordained that the Canadian Nazi “uniform” should be dark suit, dark tie and white shirt. This may have been making necessity a virtue, for he only owns one suit—a dark one. Some of his older, casual clothes are mine, cut down to size. Along with his image-building goes a dream to forge a grand alliance of the right-wing anti-communist organizations which are proportionately as numerous in Canada as they are in the U.S., though here they're less well-publicized.

Beattie needs this dream of a grand alliance which, he believes, would make him powerful and affluent. The prospect of affluence is particularly attractive. He is no longer eligible for unemployment insurance and now lives on his wife’s salary as a clerk, and whatever he can collect from supporters. I believe he'd work if he could—he was a clerk until about 15months ago—and he was probably truthful when he told the Unemployment Insurance Commission he is refused jobs because of his political beliefs.

For some months last year he lived partly by peddling a magazine of a reputable religious charitable order from door to door. One of his close cronies, Hendrick VanDerwindt—he's called “the general” because he always wears a ragged, pseudo-military uniform to party meetings—is Ontario representative of the order, and he appointed Beattie a collector under the name of John Baker, an alias he often uses.

But canvassing was, I suspect, too much like hard work: now he supplements his wife’s income with gifts from supporters. Once he collected $17 from six people at a party meeting, then took his wife out drinking.

I spent months cultivating Beattie before he trusted me completely and I could obtain this kind of information to pass on to the Congress. Mostly, however, the Congress wanted names, names, names—the names of anyone and everyone connected with Beattie, and how much money they gave him. They have most of them now, from my reports and from Beattie’s files, which he handed over to me in July when he was evicted from his fifth apartment in a year for not paying his rent.

When I handed copies of the files to the Congress, I felt pangs of remorse, for Beattie had come to regard me as something of a father substitute. His father and mother parted when Beattie and his younger brother—now a university student, who disapproves of John’s activities—were teenagers. She remarried, but that marriage failed, too, and she was found dead, apparently of pneumonia, in her Toronto apartment last January. Beattie is not given to self-analysis, but he told me he believes his anti-Semitism dates from the time his mother lived poorly while he could see signs of wealth all around. He says that wealth was mostly displayed by Jews.

Beattie's Nazi activities must have dismayed his mother. A Toronto justice of the peace told me recently that she visited him three months before her death and asked whether she could commit her son to a mental institution. She cried when he told her there was no evidence that Beattie was legally insane.

Most people are not aware that in the first year that Beattie was generating so much publicity as a Nazi, he was, in fact, not accepted as such by the World Union of National Socialists, the international Nazi movement dominated by George Lincoln Rockwell, of the U.S., and Colin Jordan, of Britain. One reason for Beattie's campaign for “respectability" was to secure their acceptance of him and his group, and so—after N3 extremists had unsuccessfully plotted to break up Beattie's supporters' meeting in August of last year—the Canadian Nazis went underground for a period of reorganization.

It was at this time that some of the Nazi supporters, whom Beattie told me he had first met through Neil Carmichael's group, began to accept him as a leader and to acknowledge their own sympathies. Beattie's meetings began to assume super-secret proportions. Supporters—even the known faithful—would never be told where a meeting would take place: only when. Then they'd be picked up, often by me at a street-corner rendezvous, and driven to the house or restaurant where that night's meeting was to be held.

Among those around him at this time were Wolfgang Schilbach, a fairly well-known Toronto painter, and Stan Gabrovsky, a Bulgarian who has a small factory where, under the name Ab-Co, he repairs office equipment. He has duplicating equipment Beattie often uses to produce party literature. There was also Joe Bruy, a 35-year-old clerk, and Peter Lonsdale who, like most of Beattie's supporters, either is or was a member of at least one far-right-wing organization.

On Jan. 10 this year Beattie called the meeting at which a Nazi party was to be formally organized. We held it in the empty apartment below mine in an old three-story house opposite Toronto's High Park. The chairman was Peter Lonsdale. The others were Frank Farkas, Joe Bruy, Stan Gabrovsky, VanDerwindt, myself and, of course, Beattie. Farkas, Bruy and Gabrovsky were appointed supporter-recruiters among the Hungarian, German and Bulgarian communities respectively. Their job was to issue supporter cards to those who promised to donate regularly but who didn't want to be known publicly as Nazis. VanDerwindt was elected historian. A teenager called John Glowinski, who uses the name Richard Herring in the party, was elected in his absence to be Youth Corps leader. I was chosen secret-service chief, with the job of checking applicants for membership. Later, I did check about 15 prospective members, and turned down those who seemed intelligent and therefore dangerous.

I bugged that meeting with the same tiny radio transmitter I used at most of the Nazis' meetings. It transmits a signal for about two city blocks, and this time—as on other occasions—I had an assistant parked nearby in a car which held the receiver and a tape recorder. For most meetings I strapped the transmitter to my leg, but for this meeting I hid it inside my wife's carpet cleaner, which was left standing against the wall of the room in which the meeting was held. It worked well, and the Jewish Congress now has a recording of Beattie accepting the role of leader with a modest denunciation of the Jews and the communists and the negroes; of Lonsdale preaching the gospel of racial purity and Farkas, Bruy and Gabrovsky bragging about the number of their friends in the ethnic communities who would be proud to support the Nazi movement. I couldn't think of anything rousing to say about Nazism, so I simply told them that I would talk to them all later about security and report directly to Beattie.

We seven at that meeting, along with real estate dealer Kurt Weinberg, were to be the inner circle, or executive, of the party. Weinberg wasn't present at the founding meeting, but he did attend subsequent gatherings. Lonsdale didn't; something must have put him off. Our inner-circle meetings, which followed that inaugural meeting, were little different from the gatherings that had been held earlier, and only when we met at Beattie's house were there any Nazi trappings in evidence.

Once, for instance, we met in the basement of the house where Beattie rented an apartment. There were seven of us, and we sat around a card table at which Beattie, sitting beneath a gigantic swastika flag, presided. There weren’t enough chairs, so some of us sat on boxes and leaned against the rough cement walls of the basement. It was dank and there was a chill in the air, and the light from naked bulbs made our shadows dance huge against the walls. The whole thing looked properly conspiratorial.

Most of that meeting was taken up with laying elaborate plans to protect Beattie when he next spoke in Allan Gardens (they were never put into operation, because the police provided all the protection he needed), and with little Joe Bruy—he's about five foot six, and peers at you inquisitorially through horn-rimmed glasses—telling us about the wonderful life Germans led under Hitler.

It was at that meeting that I came closest to being unmasked. The transmitter bug was taped to the back of my leg in such a way that it was impossible for me to turn it off without pulling my trouser leg up and displaying the bug. Beattie’s wife Carol had been wandering the neighbourhood, walking baby Melissa, to make sure there were no men sitting ominously in cars, waiting. When she returned, she turned on an FM radio. My transmitter starts squealing when an FM waveband is being used nearby. And so, when Carol turned the set on, the bug started squealing and one or two of my Nazi friends began to get curious. I said it must be the radio making the noise, then dashed to the lavatory to turn off my transmitter. By the time I returned to the basement, the incident was forgotten. Carol had made tea and sandwiches for everybody, and Beattie sat beneath his swastika, saying, “The time will soon come when we’ll be able to march down Spadina Avenue [the centre of the Jewish garment district] with banners flying in such force no one will dare try to stop us.”

With the formal creation of a Canadian Nazi Party, Lincoln Rockwell unreservedly accepted Beattie as the Canadian Nazi leader with a party affiliated to the World Union of National Socialists. And I was its Heinrich Himmler. As such I'd often have to dash across to wherever Beattie was then living to inspect a caller he'd refused to admit to his apartment, to make sure the man wasn't a potential assassin. On other occasions I would have to drive him to secret assignations in the city, or to Oshawa, Ont., where we met his “Oshawa group"—three German-born immigrants whom Beattie admires for their blind fanaticism.

I also had to arrange for someone to drive him to the Niagara peninsula last March for his first meeting with Rockwell. Since neither is welcome in the other’s country, they met in the centre of the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, midway between Canadian and U.S. immigration posts. They discussed ways to improve the distribution of propaganda, and the possibility of calling a conference in Canada of the world's Nazi leaders.

Beattie had some months earlier refused to travel to a U.S. border city to meet Rockwell. He told Rockwell he was too busy. In fact, he couldn't go because he hadn’t the price of a bus ticket. But by the time of the Queenston Bridge meeting he was better off; he had become more expert at extracting money from his supporters. Even so, he has never been as successful as when he had to pay his $150 fine last year. He collected the fine three times over from his supporters, and when he came to pay the fine he cashed two unemployment insurance cheques, obtained 150 one-dollar bills and told reporters each came from a poor but dedicated supporter.

“That’s what makes good publicity,” he said. “Tell ’em anything if it’s going to get your name in the paper.”

I doubt whether most reporters believed him, but the N3-inspired riots have made John Beattie newsworthy. It's not surprising that in July newspapers published his claim that he and Lincoln Rockwell planned a Nazi leaders' convention in Toronto for November. But Beattie worried in case Rockwell was annoyed. I taped the phone conversation when he told a Rockwell aide, “I said it for publicity reasons. I hope the commander takes no offence.”

In fact, Beattie will say or do anything as long as it's legal; he knows that his position makes him vulnerable if he breaks the law, and he is careful to stay within it. The Jewish Congress would be delighted to see him put out of action by legal means, but neither they nor I have been able to provide the ammunition.

But though we have failed to stop Beattie in this manner, the Congress hopes that legislation outlawing hate literature will place severe limitations on Beattie's capacity to spread his propaganda. For my part, I hope this account of how I duped Beattie and became a Nazi leader for the Jewish Congress will discredit the party to the point where it will be forced out of business.

I have spent so much time with Beattie in the past 16 months that I've felt pangs of disloyalty during the preparation of this article. But he—or, rather, what he stands for—must be destroyed. To Beattie I can only say, “I'm sorry, John, but you deserve it.” 

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