Arno Michaelis is a son, a father, and a peace activist. But at an earlier point in his life, he was a devout member of the white power movement, and founded what eventually became the largest skinhead organization in the world. Since leaving the movement, Arno has written a book called ‘Life After Hate,’ in which he dissects his journey out of violent extremism with the hope of preventing young people from going down the path he once took.
Arno was affected by emotional abuse as a child, and his way of reacting to it was lashing out at school and drinking heavily. Rather than being bullied, he was the bully, and this trait continued into his adulthood. He took solace in his racial identity, and the more he identified as white, the more it made sense to him that race was the primary problem in his life.
In his teenage years he befriended local skin heads with the intention of stirring up trouble and making people angry. Arno took white extremist propaganda to heart and saw himself as a warrior tasked to save the white race from genocide by non-white conspirators. But the more he reacted with hatred to the world, the more that hatred was directed back to him, affirming his suspicions and fear of anyone who was not white. This sense of paranoia and belief in conspiracy theories is common among violent extremists.
At 24 Arno became a parent, and he started to distance himself from the white supremacist movement, becoming fearful that the violence would take him away from his daughter. From there he felt his true identity start to emerge, and he no longer felt the need to have all of his interests be sanctioned by the movement. Eventually, he became involved in the rave scene, and was taken under the wing of people who he was accustomed to attacking. By creating an open dialogue they were able to replace scorn with mutual understanding. Arno has since devoted his life to sharing his story and new-found compassion with the hope of preventing and diverting other violent extremists.