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How a black activist managed to take over a neo-Nazi group

Katie Mettler unpacks the complicated life of black activist James Stern and how he came to take control of Jeff Schoep’s neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement.
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Post Reports is the premier daily podcast from The Washington Post. Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Every weekday afternoon.

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A black activist convinced a neo-Nazi he had save him from legal ruin. Then the real plan began.
Jeff Schoep was broke and exhausted. For a year, he had been fighting to remove his organization from a lawsuit alleging that he and two dozen other hate groups and their leaders had conspired to commit violence while organizing the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

The top leader of the National Socialist Movement, Schoep was worried that the organization he had led since his youth – known worldwide for wearing Nazi stormtrooper uniforms, waving swastika flags and celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday – would be blamed for the violence of others.

But just before Christmas in 2018, he found a confidant in James Stern. 

Stern, a black community activist who had befriended Schoep several years earlier, promised to help get him and his organization removed from the lawsuit – by taking over the group himself. 

“He told me many times: There is a difference between someone’s humanity and their morality,” reporter Katie Mettler says of Stern. “You can disagree with someone’s morality, but you can still respect their humanity. And, perhaps, if you are kind enough to them as a human, you can get their morality to change.”

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About Post Reports

Post Reports is the premier daily podcast from The Washington Post. Unparalleled reporting. Expert insight. Clear analysis. Every weekday afternoon.