Pierce's Ex-Supporters Speak: Kirsten Kaiser
For four years, Kirsten Kaiser, 36, lived with her husband on or near the West Virginia compound of William Pierce, the leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and author of the racist fantasy novel The Turner Diaries. Kaiser was married to Kevin Alfred Strom, who co-hosts Pierceís racist and anti-Semitic radio show and is one of Pierceís closest associates. In that role, she got to know Pierceís inner circle and some of its membersí thinking. Over the nine years of her marriage, Kaiser came to question the violently racist views of the Alliance -- especially after the deaths of 19 children in the Oklahoma City bombing, which was patterned on an attack portrayed in The Turner Diaries. Today, she is living in Minnesota and going through a divorce from Strom. The Intelligence Report interviewed Kaiser about her life and acquaintances inside the Alliance, and how she came to leave.
INTELLIGENCE REPORT: How did you first hear of the National Alliance?
KAISER: I first heard about it in 1986 through reading magazines which my second husband, Joseph McLaughlin, had. I remember initially I was really shocked. I had noticed that Joseph didnít seem to like Democrats or Republicans, and I asked him, ĎWhat are you anyway?í He said he was a [white] nationalist, that when he was 17 years old he had run away from home and gone to Iceland so he could be around other nationalists.
IR: What was your first contact with William Pierce?
KAISER: Joseph had me call Dr. Pierce one day in the summer of 1987. It was the day that [former Nazi leader] Rudolph Hess died. Joseph was all excited about this and they were all saying that it was a plot, a murder conspiracy.
IR: What did you say to Pierce?
KAISER: I said that Iíd been reading his magazines. And he said, ĎYou know, Iím really going to have to have you meet Kevin Strom. I know youíll just love him.í I didnít meet Kevin until about four months later, on Nov. 7, 1987, when he came to our house in Arlington [Va.], but I really did like him a lot. I fell in love with him, but I didnít see him again until January 1988.
I was still married to Joseph at that time, but Kevin was starting to introduce me to people. I really wanted to meet people. I was very alone, very isolated.
They were all in this radical movement and they talked about radical things and it was very mysterious and fun and interesting. I had never met anybody like this. In the meantime, the situation with Joseph was getting worse. On March 15, 1988, I left. Kevin helped me move, and he moved into the apartment that I got.
IR: How had Kevin gotten into the movement?
KAISER: It turns out that Kevinís high school government teacher in Fairfax, Va., was a fascist who kind of recruited him into all this. He pointed him to the John Birch Society. Kevin was never involved in the Klan. He is the big intellectual -- we continuously made fun of the Klan. But he did read literature like Instauration [a relatively highbrow racist publication] and corresponded with people like Jared Taylor [who runs a magazine called American Renaissance and has argued that blacks are less intelligent than whites].
IR: When did you first meet Pierce in person?
KAISER: A little before that, at the very end of 1987. Joseph and Kevin and I all met Dr. Pierce at a restaurant in Arlington. I had just finished reading The Turner Diaries, which I thought was very poorly written, and I think I told him so, which may be part of the reason why he dislikes me so much. He said that he had written it very fast and that he was very surprised at how popular it had become. He said that he had always intended to rewrite it and make it better, but that he liked it real well.
IR: Do you think Pierce was serious about the message of the book [which depicts a race war set off by the protagonistís bombing of the FBI headquarters building]?
KAISER: Yes. That first night we met, I remember that he said that if they didnít blow up the FBI soon, it would become impossible because technology was getting better and better.
I used to drive past the Pentagon and other government buildings every day, and I never gave them a second thought until he started pointing out that there was this big sinister thing going on, that they were ultimately out to get me and Joseph personally, particularly because now we knew the truth that no one was supposed to know.
IR: How was Pierce treated that night?
KAISER: Everybody has always treated Dr. Pierce with tremendous reverence. Nobody calls Dr. Pierce "Bill." Even his wife calls him Dr. Pierce.
IR: And how did Pierce act toward you?
KAISER: Dr. Pierce said, "Youíre just a housewife," and I was so shocked and hurt. I had just got done reading his whole magazine, the National Vanguard magazine, which had a picture of Venus de Milo on the cover and went on and on about how women should be at home having children. I thought, "If thatís what they think, why did he just say that to me?" It really hurt and confused me. It never made any sense.
Dr. Pierce doesnít like women. He told me later that he likes them in a James Bond sense. Those were his favorite movies, James Bond movies. In those movies, women are just sort of fun toys, and that is really how he sees them.
Once, Dr. Pierce showed me some mail-order bride catalogs after his third wife, Olga, left him for three or four months. They were just unbelievable. You pick up a catalog thatís full of these women and almost every last one of them is named Eva. It was always eastern European women, from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Russia.
IR: After this initial meeting, I understand you stayed in touch with Pierce while you lived in Virginia and, later, in Maryland. When did you and Kevin finally move to Pierceís compound [on 346 acres outside Hillsboro, W. Va.]?
KAISER: We moved on to his land on Oct. 1, 1991, and stayed there in a little trailer until Sept. 3 of 1992. After that, we moved to an apartment above a truck garage in Hillsboro, and Kevin continued working for Dr. Pierce until 1995.
IR: What was it like living on Pierceís land?
KAISER: By the time we moved off the land, I had pretty much had it with the whole bunch of them. I listened to all these speeches about how this was a community and we were going to work together, and it wasnít that way at all. These people never even bothered to say hello and good-bye. They didnít have dinner together, hardly ever, and they didnít have any celebrations together.
There was no discussion between people about what they were doing and how it connected to what other people were doing. The only one who really knew what was going on was Dr. Pierce, and he wasnít telling anybody anything they didnít need to know.
Nobody drinks there. Drinking is absolutely forbidden. And watching television was not allowed -- even though Dr. Pierce watched the news every night, which I remember ended up getting some people angry.
It was a station you could hardly see. It was more like listening to the news. You know, Dr. Pierce has extremely poor eyesight because he once kept his contact lenses in for two solid weeks and that damaged his eyes. He is supposed to be such a smart man, but he doesnít have any common sense at all.
They never did really like me there, and I think another one of the reasons was because I said, "If Iím going to work, youíre going to have to pay me something because my time is valuable." They just thought that was unheard of. Everyone works for Dr. Pierce, if not for nothing, then virtually nothing. The people who were paid basically got about $300 a month. Dr. Pierce is very, very stingy in many ways.
IR: How seriously do you think Pierce took his own propaganda?
KAISER: Well, he told me that he had done his dissertation on how to build a nuclear bomb. And he made it very clear that when the time came, he would know what to do. He was really very serious about his desire to destroy Israel. Itís not so much that they want to destroy the American government; Israel is what they really hated.
They are waiting for when the economic system collapses because this will help instigate a race war. During this time of unrest, they would take over the armories, take control of the government and bomb Israel. I mean, this is what he plans to do. I guess heís going to rule the world once this happens.
I really do think itís a version of The Turner Diaries.
IR: What about Hunter [the novel that Pierce wrote in 1989, after The Turner Diaries, that describes a campaign of assassinations of interracial couples]?
KAISER: Whatever book he was working would be his enthusiasm of the moment. When Hunter came out, that was the way it was going to happen. If enough mixed-race couples were assassinated in a big flurry, that would be enough to wake people up to action.
That book disturbed me. How can you judge somebody else in matters of the heart? If you really did fall in love with somebody of another race, I donít know if I could judge you. This is something I had a real problem with.
IR: How did events in the outside world affect Pierceís people?
KAISER: They were just delighted that Saddam Hussein was attacking Israel. Another thing that delighted them was when they had those riots in Los Angeles. They want the white man to hate the black. They hoped that when social unrest got so bad that a race war started, that would give us the chance to blow up all these buildings and to get hold of an armory.
You know, wherever you went, you always knew where the armories were. Whenever we were traveling, it was like, "Well, where is the armory?"
IR: What kind of work did you do while you lived on Pierceís land?
KAISER: I did many mailings. I stuffed hundreds and hundreds of envelopes and inventoried books and did a number of other things. But I only did that for Kevinís benefit -- not Dr. Pierceís. As I said, Iíd told him that he had to pay me something.
Dr. Pierce also had us making burial tubes [to be used for caching weapons underground]. They were made out of big PVC [plastic] tubes and we would seal the ends with these caps and special tape so that they would be waterproof. As many as weíd make, theyíd sell. Weíd make 10 to 20 at a time, and they were already sold.
IR: So it was a moneymaking operation for the Alliance?
KAISER: Yes, it was almost pure profit.
IR: What was the reaction when the Southern Poverty Law Center sued Pierce? [Editorís note: After a black sailor was murdered in 1991 by a member of the neo-Nazi Church of the Creator (COTC), Center attorneys sued on behalf of the victimís family and won a $1 million judgment against the COTC. In 1995, after the COTC fraudulently transferred ownership of its North Carolina headquarters to Pierce to keep it from the murdered manís family, the Center sued Pierce personally and won an $85,000 judgment. That judgment was upheld in July by a federal appeals court. The Supreme Court refused to reconsider it.]
KAISER: I remember very well Dr. Pierce making many trips to North Carolina and originally it was a very mysterious thing. After a while, he said that it was very hush-hush, but that it had to do with Ben Klassen [the long-time COTC leader who committed suicide on Aug. 6, 1993].
This all started when [former COTC activist] Will Williams started getting involved. He was like a liaison. After some time, Kevin came to me and said, "Oh no, it is finally happening. [Center co-founder] Morris Dees is suing us." It was like the end of the world. He was terrified of Morris Dees. Kevin just hated him. He said, "Once Morris Dees has set his sights on you, thatís it, itís over." They were really upset.
IR: What was Williamsí role over the years he was in West Virginia?
KAISER: His title was recruiting coordinator. He came in late 1991 or early 1992, and I thought he was very friendly, really a nice guy, initially. He traveled a lot, and Dr. Pierce paid for his travel. He took over the farm house [on Pierceís land], and put a new roof on it and built a fence around it. He started raising German shepherds there. He had an obsession with German shepherds. By the time he left, he had 17 of them.
Six or eight months after Will arrived, he went to Russia and married a woman heíd been corresponding with and brought her back. She lasted just a few weeks and then she disappeared. Will was very upset. He just changed completely. This was at the same time that Harold Covington [leader of the National Socialist White Peopleís Party] started attacking Will Williams, saying he was an FBI agent and a homosexual.
All these people are really, really paranoid. They all watch each other, and theyíre all convinced that everybody else is an FBI agent. For a while, there was even talk that Dr. Pierce was an FBI agent. He just laughed about that.
Anyway, Will Williams left in 1993, or possibly 1994.
IR: How did the standoffs at Ruby Ridge and Waco [in 1992 and 1993] affect the National Alliance?
KAISER: We heard about Randy Weaver [the white supremacist whose wife and son were killed by federal agents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho] long before anybody else did. Kevin was telling me every day it is just a matter of time before they come to get us. We have to be ready. Weíre stockpiling food and Iím keeping distilled water hidden around the house, and Iím getting more and more afraid.
After Waco, Kevin was always forcing me to watch this [antigovernment] video called Waco: The Big Lie [by Indianapolis attorney and militia advocate Linda Thompson, who once threatened an armed march on Washington, D.C.]. I am so full of fear that I donít know what is going to happen, and I donít trust Dr. Pierce. I am beginning to realize that there is something wrong with everybody I know in the movement. Nobody has a regular job, nobody has a regular [non-mail-order] wife. They donít have girlfriends, they donít have cars that work, they donít have any health insurance. They donít have a real life.
I am beginning to say to Kevin, "We have just got to leave, we have got to have a normal life." And he says, "Whatís a normal life?"
IR: What about the Oklahoma City bombing?
KAISER: The day after the [April 19, 1995] bombing, Kevin got really nervous. He went through the house and found all his old Voice of Tomorrow stuff. [VOT was a mobile, far-right pirate radio station that Strom ran out of a specially equipped van before meeting Kaiser.] I had never seen him so scared. We put a box of the stuff in the back of the car and we drove to the back of a Wal-Mart in Virginia, I think, and dumped it.
Later, Kevin told me that Timothy McVeigh had called the Alliance five minutes before the bomb went off and that somehow the FBI knew. But he said McVeigh must have called a lot of other right-wing groups, too. He also said, "You know, the reason why they were all upset is because the bomb was just like the one talked about in the book." Everyone knew what book he was talking about [The Turner Diaries].
I had befriended a lot of local people in West Virginia, and after Oklahoma, a good friend came to me and said, "You know, Kirsten, you better watch your kids. If they get a chance the local people are going to kill your kids, because a lot of kids were killed in Oklahoma." I look outside my window and there are all these reporters. My heart is racing and I am just petrified. This is real. These are all real reporters, people dressed up in suits with cameras and microphones. Iím not making this up.
IR: How were you affected by all this personally?
KAISER: By this time, I had realized that the idea of a revolution was ridiculous. If these people canít hold down a regular job, what makes you think they can run a country?
Kevin told me that the bombing was a good thing, because it was a government building and that government employees had been killed. It was a part of the revolution. I called my brother and my brother said, "Yeah, well what about all those kids that were killed?" Kevin said to me, "Well, if there were children killed, they must have been the children of government employees and it will teach them all a lesson." This was retribution for what happened in Waco.
After I got through with this conversation with my brother, something began to grow in me. It was like this little seed. My brother works for the Coast Guard, which means the government, so Kevin was saying that he deserved to be killed. It took a little while for that to sink in on me.
I became so depressed after the bombing. The whole idea that they really think itís okay for children to be killed was starting to bother me.
IR: So you began to think about leaving West Virginia?
KAISER: At about this time, Kevin and Dr. Pierce were having a disagreement. I was happy because I was thinking Kevin was finally going to say we could leave. I wanted to go to Minnesota. One day, he came home with a magazine saying Rochester [Minn.] was supposed to be the best place in America to live. It was either 96 percent or 97 percent white, so it was acceptable for that reason. We moved there in November of 1995.
I donít know if anyone can relate to this except maybe a prisoner of war, but when we left I was able to listen to regular radio broadcasts. I hadnít heard Paul Harvey in years. I didnít know that O.J. Simpson had apparently killed his wife. Kevin hadnít allowed us to watch television or read the newspapers because they promote multiculturalism. Driving across country, we were stopping at gas stations and I could see newspapers with todayís date on them. There were TVs in the hotel rooms. It was really weird.
IR: How was Rochester once you got there?
KAISER: I got a job as a real estate salesperson. I had a lot of fun, but I felt a sense of shame for the first time because when people asked, I couldnít say what my husband did. At the same time, I couldnít go to office parties, various social things, because Kevin didnít like being around people. And I couldnít go alone because that would mean getting a baby-sitter, and we couldnít have a baby-sitter because theyíd be in the house and then they would know who we were.
The fact that I had to name my baby daughter Klara -- Klara was Hitlerís motherís name -- was also starting to bother me. This whole deal with Hitler was really starting to bother me.
IR: When did it all come to a head for you?
KAISER: On Nov. 13, 1996, we were listening to the radio to hear the weather report. They were talking about some young couple in New Jersey that had hidden the fact that the girl was pregnant. They killed their baby after she gave birth in a hotel room.
I just started crying, and Kevin got mad at me. He said, "Why are you crying?" And I said, "They killed a baby. They killed a baby." Iím looking at my own baby, who is three or four weeks old, and I am just freaking out. And then Kevin said that it was a good thing that it happened, because the woman was a Jew and the man was a Gentile.
I was thinking several thoughts at the same time. How could he know the woman was a Jew? And it occurred to me, for the first time, that it actually didnít matter what race the child was. It was a little baby. I just kept envisioning that happening to my baby, and I couldnít stop crying. I curled up into a ball in the corner and held on to the baby. I wouldnít let her go, and I couldnít stop crying.
Eventually, I went to see a counselor. He told me that it was a good thing that I was upset, that everyone should be upset when they hear things like that. He said that all children were all part of our family. That is what he said.
In his office, I picked up an old magazine with pictures of the Oklahoma bombing. I screwed up my courage and I read the articles and I looked at the pictures. I was thinking that this child being held by a fireman doesnít look any different than my son, Oskar, and itís covered with blood. And that whole idea, that there really isnít any difference, that children are children, all came to me. It all came together on that date.
originally published as:
Q&A;: Inside the Alliance: A former insider speaks
SPLC: Intelligence Report Winter 1999
Southern Poverty Law Center