Some pasts are too shameful to talk about.
Redditor u/JeaniousSpelur asked former Neo-Nazis and hate group members, "what was your "I need to get out of here" moment?" Former members, and their family and friends, share various stories of redemption, and opened up about how they've made amends with their past, misguided hatred.
20. "I was left for dead..."
"The long story short is that it was late September; I'd just gone back to university. It was evening, and I'd started a knife fight with native girls over something that I don't even remember. Street fighting was a thing for me at the time, I was in the best shape of my life, and I was fairly confident that this was a fight that I could win. The fight went well right up until the point that it didn't. Adults in the room, you've probably guessed where this is going...
I was stabbed fourteen times in the back and left for dead on a sidewalk. I can tell you what it feels like to lay there in a puddle of your own blood."
19. "One day a friend of his threw a molotov cocktail..."
"Not my story but my dads
He was a neo-naxi in his youth and teenage years and often would get Into fights with people (he used to be a man made of pure muscle, worked as a bouncer on the weekends) and had a real hate against immigrants and punks
Well one day a friend of his threw a molotov cocktail onto a trailer with people inside and told everyone, my dad quickly left his friends and found better ones"
18. "He fell in love..."Giphy "When I was younger I lived next to an ex kkk leader. One day I asked him what made him leave and he said he was online looking for more people to recruit when he met a woman he fell in love with and when he found out that she was a mixed race woman it completely changes his views."
17. "I used to justify this hate..."
"I was no where near a nazi but hating others only destroys yourself. I used to justify this hate by saying I hated an 'idea' and not the people who subscribed to this idea but it was just cover for hate and it ruined me all the same."
16. "I realized how real these guys were..."
"Was never part of a group officially but socially I was one of the gang. I was in a bad place mentally and they (the local Nazis) basically were nice to me and I got involved with them. I left when I got worried about where it would end.
I realised how real these guys were. I thought it was just the tattoos and the noise, but the guys I was close with were under investigation for supposed arms trafficking (Extra bad as this was the UK) and heard rumours about MI5 having files. Wasn't sure I bought it, but I wasn't taking the chance. Cut all contact over the space of like a week."
15. "I gradually killed off the conversation..."
"I never actually joined such a movement / mentality but there was a bit of an attempt to 'recruit' me...
I've always been a history enthusiast and WW2 has always especially been a topic I enjoyed researching. I went through a bit of a phase where I was focusing a lot on the German side of the war.
Anyway, I ended up talking to a German lad who seemed nice enough. His grandfather was in the SS and I was getting him to tell me his stories and such (purely for educational reasons on my part).
Gradually over time he started dropping little things in chat and communication which seemed a bit.. 'wow.. uhh..', started to show his views on immigration and all that sort of stuff and as the weeks went by darker and darker little scoops started coming out, at this point he was saying we should meet up and stuff. I gradually killed of the conversation and haven't spoken to him in a few years."
14. "They started buying guns..."
"My friend walked away from the skinheads when they started buying guns.
Or, that's what he told me 25 years ago.
Turns out he walked away after they murdered a random guy. He was probably a witness/accessory to the crime."
13. "I didn't want to be grouped in..."
"I used it to be a Nationalist, and while I was one of the Nationalists who weren't racist, the reputation of hate that came with the ideology alienated me from it. I didn't want to be grouped in with those awful people."
12. "He apologized and left very quickly"
"I had a crazy experience with a former Neo Nazi/KKK member.
For 2 years i worked with a guy who was very shy and timid, i felt i needed to take time with him to make him feel more at ease when at work. So over time he was a little more chatty with me and i could see he was enjoying work way more since i was getting him involved.
But something he always said no too was joining works weekly footy match, but finally after a few months of asking he said yes. So here we are in the changing rooms he comes very late so he is last in to get dressed as we head out to warm up.
I have forgetton my water bottle so i head back, knowing its only him in there. As i open the door he has his shirt off facing the wall and there it was the biggest Swastika symbol tattoo i have ever seen on this mans back. He panicks and throws me up the wall with his hands and my neck, he apologised and left very quickly. Never seen him again, he did not come back to work."
11. "She didn't have the same beliefs..."
"When I met my (now) wife. She didn't have the same beliefs as me. We started hanging out and talking more and I just stopped being as involved in the movement. Over time my beliefs started to change. I started to meet some of her friends who were not white and after having a fun night out, I realized not everybody in the world is bad.
Fast forward ten years, we're married now with a life of our own. We moved away from where we grew up. And I haven't spoken to any of my old contacts in years."
10. "He was jumped by members..."
"My uncle was part of the kkk. He was very poor and homeless and the kkk supplies you with housing and food and pays for things for you. But he tried quitting and one day as he left a bar, he was jumped by members and had his chest slit open. He had to get around 200 staples but he still quit. Thankfully"
9. "I was shedding my racism..."
"I started to get older and learn more compassion. I was a lonely kid and I didn't have many friends, and I already grew up in a racist household and many of my family members are neo nazis, covered with white supremacy tattoos. I discovered a group of older skin head kids and I fell into it pretty bad.
As I was learning more compassion and slowly was shedding my neo nazi beliefs, my buddies were bragging that they beat up another mutual friend of ours when he said he wasn't a nazi anymore and he was dating a black woman.
I was already thinking about leaving the group. It was basically a little gang.
Once I found out they were beating up people for leaving I realized it really was like a gang and I didn't want anything to do with it. I was shedding my racism and I didn't want to be involved."
8. "He became a born again Christian..."
"Not me, but my grandfather evidently was a member of either the Klan or associated hate group back in the 1960s. He became a born-again Christian and walked away from it. There was little evidence of his history as I grew up...I only found out after my mother told me about it after he passed away."
7. "That interaction completely changed my outlook on LGBTQ+ people..."Giphy
"I met a gay man.
I was raised in a very homophobic home in a rural area, and I always believed gays were bad people. I thought they were rude, self centered, and bullies. I distanced myself from them until one day I was assigned to work with a flamboyantly gay man. I was horrified.
He proved to be one of the nicest, most caring people I had ever met. He was a fantastic listener and good with melding ideas together. That interaction completely changes my outlook on LGBTQ+ people, much to the horror of my conservative family. They are quite uncomfortable that one of my best friends is a pansexual that uses they/them pronouns. I don't know why I didn't think people were decent humans just because of who they are attracted to, but opening my eyes allowed me to meet so many amazing people."
6. "My niece married a Neo-Nazi... or at least we thought...."
"My niece in Romania married a neo-nazi last year...or at least we thought he was because of his long Facebook history, racist tattoos, prior arrest for hooliganism, etc.
I had a 4 hour car ride with him and had a long chat. He quit because he left the Romania for a little while to work in Amsterdam. His co-workers were from all over the world, including African countries and Israel. He realized everyone was pretty much the same after drinking with them and smoking after work. There was nothing about them worth hating, they were doing the same thing he was.
He basically quit Facebook and started getting his tats modified, and hasn't touched politics at all since 3 or 4 years."
5. "He saved the guy's life..."
"Not a former neo Nazi, but I worked with a guy who's dad was in the Klan.
Brawl breaks out at the bar, and he's getting beat up. One of our few black bouncers jumped in and saved the guys life.
Dude disowned his dad, got his rebel pride flag tatooed over, and had the dude that saved his life as his best man in his wedding.
The feels from that moment were so. Strong"
4. "I was young and stupid..."
"I was a part of a political party with a heavy Anti-Immigrant stand who had a reputation of beating up immigrant workers, I was young and stupid, only later I realized if someone who couldn't even speak the language of the land can easily find a job and work here then something was wrong with me. I felt humbled and became an immigrant myself and emigrated the greatest immigrant country of all."
3. "We're all the same on the inside..."
"My moment was when I realized that the other neo Nazis who 'educated' me were not only exaggerating, but sometimes just straight up lied. I challenged one of them on this one idea and they just straight up insulted me for "having the audacity" to ask such a question. Then I got blocked cause they were afraid that I'd report their posts in retaliation.
After awhile I came to realize that people of all races and ethnicities; we're all the same on the inside. I did more research on the evidence I was shown and I used to justify my hatred and it turned out to be heavily exaggerated and sometimes just completely false."
2. "I got out of there..."Giphy
"Wasn't actually a member but when I saw that someone I used to be friends with trying to indoctrinate I got curious and asked for evidence, sources, etc. A lot of their sources for stuff like race = predisposed behaviour and holocaust denial are usually either related to statistics that are really easy to be faked. I got out of there but the psychology of how people get sucked into that type of stuff fascinates me."
1. "They were all ignorant..."
"They were all ignorant. Their entire body of knowledge was little more than passed down excuses and cliches. None of them were actually contributing anything to society. They weren't making the world a better place. They were doing nothing except figuring out how to keep someone under them so they didn't have to be the bottom of society. They were EXACTLY what they said every other race was."