On Sunday, June 25, 1961, ten members of the American Nazi Party arrived at a Nation of Islam rally in Washington, DC. The party’s founder, George Lincoln Rockwell, led them inside the Uline Arena, a quarter-million-square-foot stadium that would later host the Beatles’ first US concert. Ramrod-straight, square-jawed, and with a merciless, piercing gaze, Rockwell looked like a Hollywood villain straight out of central casting. (“How much taller he is than Hitler,” Esquire noted in an otherwise withering essay. “And how much better-looking.”) The Uline had nearly sold out. The Nazis were outnumbered 800 to one.
The fascists hadn’t come to make a bloody last stand. Instead, guards from the Fruit of Islam, the NOI’s paramilitary branch, frisked the men and ushered them to front-row-center seats. Their crisp brownshirt costumes and swastika armbands stood out against the suits and ties surrounding them. Despite the 90-degree heat, Rockwell and his men waited hours for the event’s main attraction. There is no record of anyone cracking a smile at the situation’s absurdity.