Growing up in England, Kevin Wilshaw had no friends. As a teenager, he drifted to white supremacist circles, finding a sense of camaraderie among its tightly knit thugs. When he joined the National Front, an extreme far-right British party, he cited his hatred for Jews on his application form. He proceeded to have a storied career of bigotry, smashing a chair on an opponent’s head in Leeds and vandalizing a mosque in Aylesbury. And today, he disavowed his ties to his former neo-Nazi friends and came out as a gay Jew.
In an interview with Channel 4 News, Wilshaw admitted that coming to terms with his sexuality opened his eyes to the vileness of his views.
“On one or two occasions in the recent past I’ve actually been the recipient of the very hatred of the people I want to belong to,” he said. “If you’re gay it is acceptable in society but with these group of people it’s not acceptable, and I found on one or two occasions when I was suspected of being gay I was subjected to abuse. It’s a terribly selfish thing to say but it’s true, I saw people being abused, shouted at, spat at in the street–it’s not until it’s directed at you that you suddenly realize that what you’re doing is wrong.”
Embarking on a journey of personal discovery, Wilshaw made further startling discoveries: His mother’s maiden name was Benjamin, and she was at least part-Jewish.
“That term ‘the Jews’ is the global faceless mass of people you can’t personalize it, not individuals,” he said, reflecting on his past anti-Semitism. “That’s the generalization that leads to six million people being deliberately murdered.”
With his mind and his heart both opened, Wilshaw reached out to a group that specializes in helping members of hate groups start anew. He did so, he said, because he wanted to take the fight to his former comrades and “do some damage to the people who are propagating this kind of rubbish—want to hurt them, show what it’s like for those who are living a lie and be on the receiving end of this type of propaganda, I want to hurt them.”
You can watch Wilshaw’s interview here, as long as you don’t mind the occasional bit of strong language: