Monday, March 5, 2012

Getting Lost in the Santa Monica Mountains

TUCKED AWAY in the Santa Monica Mountains, off the Murphy Ranch hiking trail, are the remains of an unsuspected history from the 1930’s, a Nazi sympathizer campground. In 1933, Winona and Norman Stephens built the fifty-acre compound to be a self-sustaining Nazi community and a safe haven once America fell to Hitler. The Stephens and their followers believed Los Angeles would be where Hitler would rule the United States and restore order from anarchy. The Stephens and 15,000 other Californians believed in and supported Hitler, and thus there is a piece of deeply disturbing Nazi history attached to the city of Los Angeles, according to historian Randy Young in an article on Huffington Post.

 What seems like a never-ending staircase in between trees and shrubs leads down into the beautiful canyon with an ugly history. Once at the bottom the trail leads to a large building that was once used as a secret base for German spy, Herr Schmidt. The peaceful and tranquil atmosphere of the Santa Monica Mountains is replaced with an eerie feeling once the building comes into focus through the oak and sycamore trees, and Los Angeles’ startling Nazi past becomes real.

Today the base is covered with graffiti inside and out with empty beer cans and trash on the floor as Angeleno youth began using the secret Nazi base as a secret party base. Continuing along the trail there is a rusty red steel structure that has collapsed in several places. This structure too has been spray painted with a mixture of artwork and vulgar phrases across the standing sections of the steel structure.

To leave you have to go to back to the secret base to hike up more stairs. These stairs not only lead you back to your car, it also leads you to the large crumbling stone gate, which was the entrance to the ranch. Ironically, the Nazi sympathizer had the gate designed by prominent African-American architect Paul Revere Williams, also according to Young. The ruins of the Nazi campground are a piece of history hidden in the Santa Monica Mountains that is typically unknown to both Angelenos and tourists.
--Nastassja Habers
--Photo Credit: J.Jakobson, MagicRedShoes (Flickr)

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