The week before Hitler’s birthday, Ron Furey and 4,000 of his Nazi comrades celebrated the anniversary of their hero’s birth with a raucous rally in honor of the F?hrer‘s success. Raving drunk, the swastika-covered tribe raged late into the night, praising themselves and dreaming of the future of the Rhineland. The soir?e was straight out of 1943, at the height of World War II, when the Nazis laid their bloody claim to the vast continent of Europe.
But it was 1993.
Ron Furey was the pseudonym of Yaron Svoray, an Israeli journalist and former police officer who infiltrated the German Neo-Nazi movement for 11 months, six years ago.
He spoke Tuesday night in the Marvin Center for Yom Hashoah, the day of Holocaust remembrance, in a program sponsored by Hillel at GW, Israel Bonds, the Program Board and several other organizations. Svoray’s book about his experiences, In Hitler’s Shadow, was made into an HBO movie, The Infiltrator.
The son of German Jews, Svoray was raised on an Israeli kibbutz founded by Holocaust survivors such as his parents.
“When I was 5 years old, my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I replied, `a tattoo with numbers like the ones everyone else had,'” he said. “For the first time, my parents told me of the Holocaust.”
Svoray, now middle-aged and stocky with a shadow of blond hair cropped close to his head, joined the Israeli police after serving in the army during the Yom Kippur War. He often lectured on his specialty – international terrorism. After one lecture, an elderly Jewish man pulled Svoray aside and spun a 12-hour tale of diamonds buried along the French-German border, worth millions of dollars. Within weeks, Svoray was on a plane bound for Germany.
His search led him to an aging local historian and former SS guard. He introduced Svoray, who was using a fake name to avoid anti-Semitism, to his son. The son invited Svoray to a “movie screening” at his house the next night. When Svoray arrived, he found a room packed with men clothed in the brown uniforms of Nazi stormtroopers.
Before fainting, Svoray saw the men enraptured by the vision of Hitler on the screen before them, which quickly cut to an action shot of four men raping and beating an 8-year-old girl. He collapsed as they masturbated in their chairs.
“I went home the next day shattered and disillusioned,” he said. “It was a week before I could touch my wife and kids.”
His experience made him vow to expose the Neo-Nazis he had seen. Without another thought, he headed for the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, figuring “the famous Nazi hunter would find a way to help me.”
The museum directors agreed to send Svoray back to Germany where, for one week, he would infiltrate the Neo-Nazi movement. Posing as an Australian journalist working for The Right Way, an imaginary Neo-Nazi magazine, Svoray spent the next 11 months befriending members of the Neo-Nazi hierarchy and uncovering some of its dirtiest secrets. The museum spent $300,000 on recording devices and other equipment for Svoray’s mission.
“I realized the Neo-Nazis are not a bunch of hooligans out stirring up trouble,” Svoray said. “They are doctors, lawyers, scientists and university professors. To get them out of the closet, I had to lie.”
And lie he did. Right into the hearts of the Neo-Nazis, convincing them not only of his determination to tell the world “their side” of the story in his article, but that he had links to wealthy American Nazis looking to invest in the German movements.
They were eager to embrace their new friend. By the end of his journey, Svoray earned their trust and gained valuable evidence to prosecute them under Germany’s strict anti-Nazi rules. After he went public with his findings, one week after the Hitler birthday rally, he returned to Germany to testify for three days.
But six years later, not a single person has been arrested. Svoray attributes the government’s inaction to a fear of reverting to its Nazi past.
“They were meticulous about the details,” he said. “If there was even a hint of doubt about my accuracy, they wouldn’t pursue it. They think that without perfect evidence, they are being like the Gestapo.”
Today, Neo-Nazi organizations around the world threaten the lives of Svoray and his family every day. He said it doesn’t phase him.
“In life, we get few chances to do the right thing,” he said. “When they come, it is always worth it to take the chance to do right. If I have changed one person because of what I have done, it was worth it.”