From Swastikas to David Duke: Nazism and anti-Semitism Take Center Stage at Charlottesville Rally

The most commonly heard chants at a white supremacist rally in Virginia have origins in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and Nazi ideology

Members of the Ku Klux Klan rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017.
JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

The mass gathering of white supremacists and “alt-right” supporters in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday not only centered around a Civil War controversy and the historic racial tension in the south – anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi slogans and symbols were prominent as well, with flags depicting swastikas flying side-by-side with Confederate flags.

The most commonly heard chants at the “Unite the Right” events, the torch-bearing march on Friday night as well as the aborted rally on Saturday, were “You Will Not Replace Us!” (occasionally replaced with “Jews Will Not Replace Us!”) and “Blood and Soil.”

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“You Will Not Replace Us” has become a popular white supremacist catchphrase over the past six months. The slogan is used by white supremacists to communicate their intent to defend what they perceive as their white race and culture, and resist being “replaced” by minority groups who – they believe, if demographic trends continue – will turn them into a weak minority, leading to their defeat and eventual disappearance.  

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the slogan represents the view that unless immediate action is taken, “the white race is doomed to extinction by an alleged ‘rising tide of color’ purportedly controlled and manipulated by Jews.” The origin of the slogan was traced by the ADL to Identity Evropa, a white supremacist, “alt-right” group, who first used it at a protest last February. Over the course of the spring the slogan spread, showing up on white supremacist fliers posted at universities around the country “which depict a white family with a baby” resembling “fliers distributed in the 1990s and early 2000s by the neo-Nazi National Alliance.”

The chant “Blood and Soil” has even clearer historic ties to Nazi ideology. Its German version “Blut und Boden” was rooted in Hitler’s belief that so-called German Aryans were rural and tied to their soil through farming and agriculture. His manifestos preached that native Germans “came from the soil,” in contrast to the “cosmopolitan” industrialists, who Hitler associated with corruption, communism and Jews.

The “Blood and Soil” slogan has become a central point for the white supremacist group Vanguard America, which was highly visible at the Charlottesville rally. The group writes on its website that,

“a multicultural nation is no nation at all, but a collection of smaller ethnic nations ruled over by an overbearing tyrannical state. Our America is to be a nation exclusively for the White American peoples who out of the barren hills, empty plains, and vast mountains forged the most powerful nation to ever have existed. Vanguard America stands indomitably opposed to the tyranny of globalism and capitalism.”

Among those present in Charlottesville on Saturday was David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who said in an interview posted on Twitter that the event “represents a turning point for the people of this country,” and added that, “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s what we voted for, Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”

In a live video filmed while leaving the rally in a car full of his followers, Duke called the event “great fun” and said he and his friends were proud to be able to chant “The Goyim Know” – which is an “alt-right” catchphrase meant to indicate that they know about what they perceive as Jewish conspiracies – indicating a belief that the removal of the Confederate statues in Charlottesville was a Jewish plot. His companions called the rally’s counterprotesters “Jewish homosexual cat ladies” and “animals” and decried “American soldiers running white men out.” According to Duke’s followers, they had been denied freedom of speech and freedom of assembly when the rally was declared unlawful and forcibly disbanded.

Duke then posted a video on Twitter featuring a man dressed like an ultra-Orthodox Jew, with a black hat and sidecurls, chuckling and rubbing his hands together. “Do you doubt my power now?” the man asked, as if he were going to stop the broadcast, until he was dragged beyond the camera's view, screaming in the background, “Oy Vey!”

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Richard Spencer, who is credited with coining the expression “alt-right,” also participated on Saturday and spoke at the Friday night march. Spencer was sprayed with mace and wrestled to the ground by police after the orders went out to disperse the protests. “I have never been so outraged at the mayor,” said Spencer on a Twitter livestream, which, like Duke, he sent out repeatedly to his supporters over the course of the day.

In the past, Mike Signer, the Jewish mayor of Charlottesville, has been personally targeted in online anti-Semitic attacks from white nationalists, including Spencer and his followers, telling him to “go back to Israel” because he will “not stay in power here.”

Signer and the Charlottesville city council have been attacked by critics on the right for voting to remove the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park, and to remove a statue of Confederate General Stone. White nationalists protesting the move from around the country, including Spencer, have repeatedly returned to the city for protests over the past months, culminating in the unrest that took place there on Saturday.

“We’re going to be back and fight another day,” Spencer vowed on his livestream. Spencer, who famously celebrated U.S. President Donald Trump’s election victory with a Nazi salute and hailed Trump’s “de-Judaification” of the Holocaust, chose to interpret the president’s tweet condemning violence in Charlottesville as criticism of the white supremacist protestors.