This dark chamber with little natural light is at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany. People come here every year to remember the horrors of the Holocaust. Tens of thousands were killed here. They were shot, burned, tortured, starved, hung or experimented on. It is place of solemn remembrance.
In 2016, Swansea man Alex Davies came here with a friend, unfurled a flag of his neo-Nazi group National Action and they posed for a picture giving the raised-armed Nazi salute on the spot where so many innocents had been murdered. It was intended to celebrate and glorify the evil which took place within its walls and it was also a publicity photo shoot to recruit for and publicise the band of far-right extremists he was cultivating from his bedroom in Wales.
Almost exactly six years after that shocking photo was taken, Davies found himself in the dock of a British crown court accused over his membership over that banned far-right group. During his trial the 27-year-old was described as being a “terrorist hiding in plain sight” – a former philosophy student and UKIP activist who harboured ambitions to become a councillor in Swansea and who was a committed to a race war. He believes fellow fascists have to be be smartly dressed and be able to blend in with the general population, have to be inside institutions so they could influence events. Yet in his mind, they also need to be “ready to use well-directed boots and fists”. Video clips shown to the jury show him among men in black wearing hoods and skull masks in demonstrations calling for race traitors to be gassed and shouting “Britain is ours”.
Video: See shocking footage shown to the jury of National Action in Liverpool
Davies now faces jail, the last member of the far-right National Action group to get his day in court.
Davies’ extreme ideology was recognised while he was still in school, and at the age of 15 he was referred to the UK government’s Prevent counter-terrorism programme. As a teenager he joined the far-right British National Party. He was by all accounts a bright youngster, and after school and college – both of which Davies would say at his trial he “survived” – the son of an engineer and a kitchen worker left home and went to Warwick University. It was while studying philosophy in 2013 that he established National Action or NA, an organisation which one of its co-founders described as being a “white jihad” group and one which had the same ethnic cleansing aims as the Nazi Party. When Davies’ far-right activities were exposed by an undercover reporter he left the university and returned to Swansea where he dedicated himself to starting a race war on the streets of the UK.
Davies set about utilising the internet and social media to spread neo-Nazi memes, and to organise and conduct stunts and demonstrations around the UK including in Liverpool, Newcastle, York, Swansea and Darlington. Though attracting relatively few participants, the NA rallies attracted a lot of attention.
The group had paramilitary aspirations with an emphasis on boxing, martial arts, and knife fighting. Many of the members seemed to have a fascination with weapons and collected knives, machetes, high-velocity crossbows, rifles, pump-action shotguns, knuckle dusters, CS spray, baseball bats, and even a longbow. Members also had bomb-making handbooks as well as a document created by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. A number of training camps were organised where members could learn how to use weapons, and at one such camp Davies was filmed practicing with a crossbow.
Video: This clip shows Davies at the National Action training camp in Wiltshire
The Welshman was the “planner, strategist and recruiter” for NA as well as being the group’s treasurer with control of its PayPal account. He attended meetings across the country and gave speeches at demonstrations, though it is not clear where the income to fund his activities was coming from. He was an active recruiter to the cause, identifying and grooming suitable youngsters who he would personally vet. From his Swansea bedroom he ran the western branch of NA, often welcoming members to the city and taking them for an ice cream in Mumbles. It is perhaps hard to reconcile something an innocent sounding as an ice cream by the seaside with the ugliness that lay behind those trips to the western tip of Swansea Bay.
National Action was one of the most extreme far-right terror groups seen in Britain since the Second World War. Its members openly called for a “race war”, and one expert said the group was so extreme “you can’t go any further”. When the Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered in the summer of 2016 members openly celebrated the killing, and it was this which led to be the group to being banned.
At Davies’ subsequent trial, prosecutor Barnaby Jameson QC would say: “This was a tiny and secretive group of white jihadists arming themselves for direct and violent confrontation. They were not armchair neo-Nazis. The ultimate aim of the group was to exploit racial tensions as a means to an all-out assault on the democratic order.
“National Action attained the dubious distinction of becoming the first Fascist group to be banned under the terrorist legislation since World War II. It joined a list of other terrorist groups including the IRA, al Qaida and Islamic State. Fitting, perhaps, the group should join a list of notorious Islamist terrorist groups intent on violent ‘jihad’ or holy war. This was a white jihadist group dedicated to its version of holy: all-out race war.”
Undeterred by the ban, Davies launched an off-shoot called NS131 – a reference to National Socialist anti-Capitalist Action – and began registering domain names. The aim of this new group was to continue the work of NA and in that capacity he continued to travel widely around the UK, though in court he would later say these were innocent trips – a shopping expedition, or a catch-up in a Wetherspoons pub with former members of a group which no longer existed. Davies also planned to stand as a far-right candidate in a Swansea Council election, and in 2017 attended National Front meetings in Bridgend.
The new group used encrypted message services such as Wire and Telegram, and Tutanota secure email to communicate with each other. On April 3, 2017, Davies sent a message on Wire where he talked about recruiting members and he stated: “Yorkshire seems like a great place for us. Like really we should be recruiting like mad.” On April 12, he posted a message on Wire stating: “I’m a little bit paranoid too. Seeing as I’m a known person, trying to use insecure methods to reach people is risky.”
Then on April 17, Davies sent another message to someone named Michael from the Southampton area who was inquiring about joining the group. Michael wrote to the Swansea man: “I heard that you are setting up an activist group in the south West.” Davies replied: “Alright mate, yes we’ve got something going in the south west.” He added: “We’re an informal group that has no specific name. I’ll explain more about how we’re structured when we meet. We have a revolutionary Nationalist Socialist ideology.”
To another potential recruit he was grooming Davies wrote: “The way I see it, our people need to be able to ‘swim’ among the general population without trouble. We need to be inside the institutions so that we can be in a position to influence things, and obviously you wont last long if you’re too blatant about being a Nazi. It’s what Adolf did. When at a formal meeting – smart wear. When on the street – SA wear. Except nowadays it’s suit and tie at the meeting and on the street it’s Stone Island and Fred Perry. I get that entirely. We need to be smart but ready to use well-directed boots and fists, if need be. No pacifist movement is going to go anywhere.”
He added: “One criticism I would have with what we were doing with NA is that it was all provocative stuff, which is great for getting the papers but little more than that. Little in the way of actually building our support or organising our people into communities that can resist the multiracial onslaught.”
In another message, this time to an associate in Scotland, Davies wrote: “I think that’s inevitable if they try and continue repressing us then we’ll simply give them the biggest game of whack-a-mole ever.”
Nine months after it was formed NS131 was also banned, and following an extensive investigation by counter-terrorism police Davies and two-dozen other activists would eventually find themselves in the dock. In April and May this year Davies stood trial for being a member of a banned terrorist organisation, and during the court proceedings the details of the ideology of NA and NS131 were brought to the public’s attention.
Prosecutor Mr Jameson told the jury: “For the defendant and his cohorts, the work of Adolf Hitler was, and remains, unfinished. The ‘Final Solution to the Jewish question’, to use Hitler’s words, remains to be answered by complete eradication.”
He said the group’s symbol was “a direct nod” to the symbol of the Sturmabteilung or SA, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party, and NA advocated the same Nazi aims and ideals, namely: “The ethnic cleansing of anyone who did not fit the Aryan Nazi mould: Jews (primarily), Muslims, people of colour, people of Asian descent, people of gay orientation and anyone remotely liberal.” The barrister added: “The group specifically targeted female Members of Parliament perceived to be pro-migrant.”
The court heard that NS131 was simply a continuation of NA, and the defendant was described as “probably the biggest Nazi of the lot” and “an extremist’s extremist”.
During the trial Davies told the court that he had previously been involved in several other organisations which included UKIP, the BNP, the Hunt Saboteur Association, and British Movement. He was also a member of Western Spring, which he described as an “organisation that aims to create white communities”. Describing himself as a national socialist he said: “I view the nation as a family – you can’t choose what family you belong to, you can’t choose what nation you belong to.” He added that he believed “workers should control the means of production, working class working for themselves rather than the greedy bosses”.
Davies said that it was his idea to set up NA in the summer of 2013 before he went to Warwick University. He said he established the group because as a “national socialist” he was “politically homeless” after the BNP had “imploded”. He said the aim of the group was to “bring young people into nationalism” and to create a “nationalist Britain which would be a white Britain”.
He told the court he left Warwick after one year after his link to an NA demonstration in Liverpool was exposed by an undercover reporter for the Sunday Mirror.
Davies said he was a Nazi follower but did not believe Hitler’s regime carried out the Holocaust, although it had committed “crimes against Jews”. He added: “No regime is perfect.”
He said: “I do not believe there was a systematic extermination of Jews. I can’t be a national socialist if the Holocaust occurred, I cannot support an ideology that supports genocide. I have the same moral compass as anyone else, I believe murder is wrong and I cannot support something that engaged in systematic genocide of people because they are Jewish.”
He admitted that he posed carrying out a Nazi salute for a photo in the execution chamber at Buchenwald concentration camp in May 2016, something he said he was now ashamed of. And he admitted he was photographed in York a month after the Germany visit, carrying a banner saying “Hitler was right”. He told the court: “Hitler was right about many things. As a national socialist I believe his principles, generally speaking, are in accord with my own.”
Davies also told the court he believed in the forced repatriation of ethnic minorities from the UK. He said: “It would be compulsory, I imagine. I imagine it would be run along the lines of the current Conservative Government and their sending asylum-seekers to Rwanda.”
He continued: “There are certain Jews that do essential jobs, just as there are black, Asian and ethnic minority people who do essential jobs, and to send them back would be doing harm to ourselves.”
He went on: “If we were to take power, our aim is to have an overwhelmingly white Britain as it more or less has been for centuries. It’s only in the past 50/60/70 years we have had mass immigration, it would be to return to the status quo of before the Second World War.” Asked if he would repatriate Jewish families with British heritage dating back “thousands of years”, he replied: “Yes, that’s how repatriation would work.”
Davies never disputed that he was a co-founder and a prominent member of National Action before the ban, but said the organisation ceased to exist in December 2016 when it was proscribed by the UK government. He claimed he was not a violent person but simply a “political activist” exercising his democratic rights, and was someone with an interest in immigration and in creating a “white Britain”.
When asked if he was neo-Nazi, the defendant replied: “Sure.”
Davies, of Mirador Crescent, Uplands, Swansea, will be sentenced at the Old Bailey in London on June 7.
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