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Extremism comes in many different forms.  Currently extremists are ripping our great Nation apart.

Yes, I know this is where you (the reader) thinks ‘why should I listen to this guy? Isn’t Jeff Schoep the guy who used to be the National Director of America’s Nazi Party (National Socialist Movement) for over two decades?’ Unfortunately, my experience in the realm of  extremism dates back to the early 1990’s.  I joined the National Socialist Movement (NSM) as a teenager quickly rising thru the ranks until I was appointed as National Director/Commander of the Party, a position I held until I left the Movement in March of 2019.

My past is not something I am proud of, but I do believe it is important to mention both in the spirit of full disclosure, and as an example that change is possible, even for someone who was once a notorious Nazi.

We as Americans all play a part in this ongoing saga and should all do our part to repair the divisions in society. Given what I’ve done, my part now needs to be bigger than most, and there are some lessons I’ve learned over the years, many of which have only become clear to me as I broke away from the movement I once helped lead.

Dialogue, understanding, and simply listening to another person’s viewpoint is important. Even those with whom you may disagree should never be met with screaming, profanities, violence, or other types of intolerance.

By simply listening to one another, or even engaging in a spirited debate, we often find more commonalities than expected. At times we will encounter those with whom we have very little in common and that is to be expected, but at least we gave the individual a chance to voice their viewpoint, and we walk away amicably, even if in disagreement. These lessons sound painfully simple, reminiscent of lessons we learned early in school. In modern day America, however, these basic concepts of treating one another as we would like to be treated have been conveniently forgotten in much of the present day political discourse.

I am often asked why did I leave my former position in the Movement? Why leave when you are in a National Leadership position, and running one the oldest and longest running groups in the American Far Right? The answer is both complicated and simple. The simple answer is that I changed. A myriad of life experiences, the kindness and compassion of others, loss of loved ones, and being open minded to  thoughts and opinions of others eventually helped me to de-radicalize and see life in a completely different way. During that process I was still leading the NSM, and trying to find a way out. As the Party Leader certain expectations and obligations needed to be met. I felt compelled, bound, and literally stuck in the position I had been in for over two decades. I had invested my entire life into building the NSM into what was often described by the mainstream press as the largest Hate group in America. In 2016 I started instituting changes to the group, such as removing the swastika from the public view, and referring to the group as a white civil rights organization, along with other changes in an attempt to make the group more palatable to my own changing worldview, and the public as well. By 2016 my past racism was erased through life experiences, like living in Detroit, and meeting some amazing people. Yet I remained, did my job, kept up appearances, and went thru the motions. All the while telling myself, “This is the life you created, this is your bed you made, so deal with it.”  I could not see the  beyond the barriers in my own mind, so there I remained.

All the while, violence was escalating.  Americans are at each others throats, Lines are being drawn, political differences, racial differences, intolerance, a powder keg about to explode seemingly all around the Nation. One after another there was incidents where extremists were murdering people. Many but not all of the culprits came from the far right. In good conscience I could no longer promote an ideology that fostered such anger, hate, and polarization between all of humanity. I was done publicly, March 2019.

It took months of deep self reflection and decompression in my mind after I finally left. Self isolation, and real world isolation from nearly everyone I knew, because like most extremists, a lot of my support network, friends, etc were all in the Movement, and they did not want me to leave. Those who had left before me and those who left after all know how difficult it can be to separate. It used to bother me when outsiders would compare being in the Movement to a Cult. I always believed they were purposely lying or wrong. It was not until months after I was out that I could clearly see how people could draw these conclusions, and how in many ways it was like a cult. Us versus them mentality, us versus the world even.

I am convinced by my own experience, and the experiences of other former extremists I’ve had the pleasure to meet, that walls are erected in the mind of anyone involved in extremism, preventing us from being part of the larger world around us. True freedom of self–body and mind–can only be obtained by reaching beyond the barriers of our self-made, mental prisons. Once I did this, I grew to see I no longer wanted to be part of an extremist group or ideology at all.

In leaving extremism, the easy course of action for me would have been to just quietly walk away. Would it be the right thing to do though? I brought countless people into the NSM over the years, and sewed seeds of intolerance and discontent. I have known so many people who have lost their lives, went to prison, or gave up family, friends, jobs, opportunities, and so much more. Worse yet, what about all the victims of extremism? Those innocent people who lost their lives when some mentally unhinged individual walks into a Church, Synagogue, Mosque, or other place of worship and starts killing random people thinking they are a Martyr for their cause. Killing the defenseless does not make a martyr. It does however make one a psychopath and a coward!

I feel that I have a responsibility to help others, and it is the best possible way for me to give back to society, and my country by putting my skill set to use for positive things, building bridges to peace and understanding. Being involved in extremism as the leader of the NSM for so many years gives me a very unique understanding of how people in extremist movements think, why they are there, what motivates them, and also how to speak to them in a way that can get beyond the barriers in their minds. The main goal being saving lives on all sides of the mess that is the current social and political landscape in our Nation and abroad. I hope to inspire others to have the courage to leave and for them to know and understand that they are not alone.

Those reading this from both the right and the left, and everyone in between who claims to be tolerant of others, yet engages in polarizing behavior like doxxing, violence, or other anti-social behaviors, should stop. There are issues that are effecting all of humanity such as Global warming, starvation in some parts of the world, pollution, etc. Dividing over trivial matters like Race, Religion, Ethnicity, is ridiculous and closed minded when you look at the real issues facing humanity as a whole.

Get beyond the barriers of your mental prison, so we can welcome you back. Your New Life is waiting for you. All you have to do is grasp for it.