Known neo-Nazi building training ground in Springfield

12 months ago

SPRINGFIELD, Maine — A nationally known neo-Nazi is training his followers in militarized weapons and physical fitness at a site in Springfield.

Former U.S. Marine Christopher Pohlhaus, who gained notoriety online and in international neo-Nazi circles, began last year inviting white men drawn to his violent, neo-fascist ideology to come to Maine, the whitest state in the nation.

With land a half mile off Bottle Lake Road nearly cleared, Pohlhaus, the founder of Bluttstamm, or Blood Tribe, is preparing to build hemlock cabins to establish his base camp in Springfield, according to his livestream messages. 

“I am proud of my boys working till dusk at the camp and we are seeing results,” Pohlhaus said on Telegram, referring to intense physical fitness drills, weapons training and preparing the land for future use. 

Telegram is an alternative encrypted message board often used by white supremacists. 

On Wednesday, a Bangor Daily News reporter observed the Moores Road property and as Pohlhaus has said, they have been clearing portions of his 10.6-acre property that sits off a narrow dirt and stone road in this town of 409 people. 

Pohlhaus’ Springfield project is an example of organized extremism taking root in Maine.

“It should be a concern when neo-Nazis are effectively in your backyard setting up target practice and training with firearms,” said Jon Lewis, research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, on Thursday. “[Springfield] looks like it could be the early stages of something that could easily develop into a far more significant and prevalent threat to the community, and becoming keenly aware is essential.” 

The intelligence community has determined that the threat of racially motivated violent extremist attacks continues to be a concern, according to the Maine State Police. While there have been no high-profile attacks in Maine, the threat exists and will continue to exist, police said.  

But what Pohlhaus is doing is not unprecedented.

Christopher Pohlhaus, founder of the neo-nazi Blood Tribe, yells “Sieg Heil” with Blood Tribe members at a March protest in Ohio. (Courtesy Ford Fischer / News2Share

It is not uncommon for neo-Nazi groups to purchase rural land for compounds, training bases and strategizing violent acts while downplaying what they are doing as harmless, according to experts. 

Take Rinaldo Nazarro, the leader of the accelerationist — believe violence is the only way — neo-nazi group, The Base.  

Similar to Pohlhaus’ Maine purchase, Nazarro bought 30 acres of land in remote Washington state, about an hour south of the Canadian border, to train followers in 2018. This small group of neo-Nazi extremists was making bombs, ammunition and deadly gas from the rural Washington camp, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.  

Since last December, even in below-zero temperatures, Pohlhaus followers, blood initiated into the tribe, camped on the Moores Road property in small tents, Pohlhaus said on his Telegram livestream. 

“Yeah man, things have been awesome up here at the camp. Blood Tribe is currently in possession of over 120 acres of land north of Bangor,” Pohlhaus, more commonly known as Hammer, shared on his Telegram live stream in late January. “The Maine property just expanded 10 acres. We bought a neighboring property that comes with all the utilities we need.”

Jeff Tischauser, Southern Poverty Law Center research analyst, who has been extensively investigating Pohlhaus’ activity, said that he is searching for the additional acres Pohlhaus describes. It could be located in other counties, like Aroostook, under a different name or owned by other people, he said.  

It’s rare to see the 30-something heavily tattooed Pohlhaus in town. One woman, who asked not to be identified because it is a small community and she is fearful of retaliation, said she saw him once at Smith’s General Store in Springfield, but didn’t realize who he was until others started talking after he left.

Springfield town officials, local businesses and Maine State Police all say they are aware of Pohlhaus, but have had no contact. His tamed local presence is in stark contrast to his violent online vitriol and his deep-throated “Sieg Heil” bellows at recent LBGTQ+ protests in Ohio and other states. 

But some Mainers feel threatened by his presence, said Tischhauser.

“Someone called us about seeing him at Planet Fitness and that’s where I have gotten some of my leads,” he said.  

Pohlhaus was banned last month from the Bangor Planet Fitness, 72 miles south of his Springfield property, because of his clothing.  

Lewis said that the white supremacy movement has changed. The movement believes society is broken and a race war is coming, he said, adding that they are open about their violent beliefs and are preparing for a total collapse of society, making way for the white race.

“[Pohlhaus] is an individual who is not shy about his desire to commit violence against people who do not look like him,” Lewis said.

Pohlhaus co-owns the Moores Road property with Fred Boyd Ramey, according to the property’s deed and the town tax collector. There are no additional property records of land in Springfield owned by Pohlhaus, said Nicole Lee, tax collector and treasurer on Wednesday. 

Tischauser said that Pohlhaus told him Ramey is “one of the boys.”

The Moores Road property is about three miles from the center of Springfield in northern Penobscot County and 22 miles South of the Aroostook County line at Wytopitlock. The back end of his property borders Lakeville. 

Pohlhaus shared on Telegram that he has a sawmill onsite that can handle 16-foot timbers and with more and more people planning moves to Maine, the Blood Tribe will build cabins from hemlock logs.

“We will have a sawmill team and a construction team,” he said. “We can very quickly and easily put up structures as a team.”

Before erecting the cabins, Pohlhaus must secure a building permit to be in compliance with a town ordinance, Lee said. 

Code enforcement officer Dwight Tilton said he is aware they have a sawmill and are looking for lumber, but as far as he knows they have not started building and have not yet obtained a permit.

Tilton added that they also need to submit septic designs, although they legally can have outhouses.

“I will eventually go take a look at what they are doing,” he said. 

Efforts to reach Pohlhaus for comment were unsuccessful.

Pohlhaus, a Norse pagan and tattoo artist, has a drill sergeant sort of charisma and his aggressive, demeaning stance draws certain people to him, Tischauser said. 

In a recent online interview on Odysee, a far-right platform, Pohlhaus said training at the Maine camp is based on aggressive and ongoing bullying. There is no room for cry babies or weak men in the tribe, he said, adding that “girls” are not allowed in the tribe.  

“We are at war and they have to be able to withstand the pressure,” Pohlhaus said in the July interview, calling Adolf Hitler the greatest man in history.

For the few who make it to his inner circle initiation, piercing their palm with a Nordic-like spear to draw blood and wiping it on the spear handle over the blood of the others is the last step before becoming a member. Pohlhaus posts videos on his message board of all the initiation ceremonies. 

The armed tribe has recently traveled thousands of miles around the country to protest mostly at LGBTQ+ events. Their uniform is black when Pohlhaus is not present, and black with red shirts when he joins them, according to Blood Tribe chat rooms. 

The Maine Information and Analysis Center of the Maine State Police said that anytime groups with opposing ideological views are at the same event, there is always the potential for violence.

Community resilience is important and there need to be people willing to say, “this is not someone who represents our community and this is not someone who we feel safe having in our community,” according to Lewis.

“Blood Tribe has been very willing to cross state lines with firearms to show up to LGBTQ events, to march outside synagogues,” Lewis said. 

All 50 states have laws to prevent illegal militias, according to the George Washington University Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection. Maine law makes it a crime for groups of people to organize as private militias without permission from the state.

Maine does not have an explicit prohibition on running paramilitary training camps in particular, Lewis  said, unlike Vermont, which recently passed a bill that augments the state’s anti-militia laws to include a ban of this kind. 
“It’s not entirely clear what Pohlhaus intends to do on the land, but if he’s trying to operate any kind of private militia, it would likely hit up against Maine’s pretty strong prohibitions on private military units,” he said.