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From Outcast to Martyr: The Memory of Rudolf Hess in Skinhead Culture

By Ryan Shaffer.


This article explores neo-Nazi skinhead culture by reviewing how the memory of Rudolf Hess is employed by extremists as a transnational icon. It highlights how Hess, an outcast in the Nazi party and imprisoned by the British, became a “martyr” to post-war fascists in Britain and Germany. This article reviews skinhead music, video and rare literature to show how diverse skinhead groups in many different countries emulated skinhead leaders in resurrecting Hess’ memory and propagating conspiracy. In offering a rare glimpse into skinhead culture, it draws from magazines that were illegally produced and circulated in Europe, which violate race relations laws, deny the Holocaust or contain fascist images or symbols that are banned. The illegal and clandestine nature of the fascist songs and literature reinforced the power of icons like Hess, which in turn fostered a special bond between skinheads in other countries.

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