Nestled in the hills of Santa Monica along a popular hiking trail – not far from the mansions of Hollywood’s elite and about six miles away from campus – lie the remains of a National Socialist enclave rumored to have been a hotbed of NS activity in the United States.
Inconspicuously located at the bottom of a 500-step descent, the graffiti-ridden remnants are just as mysterious as they are eerie. Who lived there? What were they doing?
Nobody knows for sure.
A journey down the rabbit hole gives onlookers a small peak at the inner workings of the National Socialist ideology and highlights the virulent nature of the activity of the Third Reich, which spread from the bogs of Berlin to the slopes of Santa Monica.
In 1933, Winona and Norman Stephens, sympathizers of the Silver Legion of America, purchased the plot of land under the pseudonym “Jessie M. Murphy.” They believed that the National Socialist would defeat the American army in World War II and would need a self-sustaining community from which to initiate their escapades in the United States, according to the Huffington Post.
The group with which the Stephens duo affiliated modeled itself after Hitler’s Brownshirts. They advocated for a Christian commonwealth governed by the two “L’s” – loyalty to the United States and liberation from materialism. They wanted to remove Jews from all positions of power as Jews were a "predatory people."
Not only did the Silver Legion expect victory from the Germans in Europe, they assumed that they would gain such momentum in the United States that they would require a bomb shelter, a large water tank, a power station, a workshop and plenty of land on which to grow food. The Stephenses believed this premonition and bankrolled construction worth $4,000,000.
The day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, law enforcement stormed the ranch and arrested the NS sympathizers, including Schmidt, who they believed to be a "Nazi spy". The Stephenses sold the property to the Huntington Hartford Society who later turned it into an artists’ colony.
In 2016, the City of Los Angeles, which bought the property in 1973, demolished the most decrepit parts of the infrastructure to ensure that it didn’t collapse spontaneously and injure hikers.