Francis Parker Yockey: International Man of Mystery

FROM THE LECTURE SERIES: THE REAL HISTORY OF SECRET SOCIETIES

By Richard B. Spence, Ph.D.University of Idaho

Francis Yockey was a very unusual person, and was associated with various secret societies. Yockey showed the strange amalgam of secret societies, political extremism, and occult philosophy. There was also a large element of espionage in Yockey’s adventures. But who was he, and what did he do?

The silhouette of a man on a street.
Yockey was a mysterious character, who traveled all over the world, encouraging anti-American sentiment. (Image: Alex Linch/Shutterstock)

Francis Yockey’s Hatred of America

Born in Chicago in 1917 to educated, well-to-do parents, Francis Yockey was, in most outward respects, a typical American boy. However, Yockey developed a deep hatred for his native country, and everything it stood for. In this particular aspect, Yockey’s life reflects something commonplace among secret societies, and those attracted to them.

There is a strong contrarianism in them; a festering dissatisfaction with the way things are, and a desire to change them. At its root is the feeling that the present order in society denies them the power or status they believe they deserve.

The Decline of the West, written by a German named Oswald Spengler, deeply influenced Francis Yockey. He was fascinated by Spengler’s contention that western civilization had entered a degenerate phase that would end in either its reformation or destruction. Yockey was also impressed by Spengler’s unabashed elitism, and the notion that race is more cultural than biological.

This is a transcript from the video series The Real History of Secret Societies. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Francis Yockey Joins a Secret Society

By the late 1930s, Yockey was drawn to Fascism and Nazism. By 1939, he’d joined the secret society known as the Silver Shirts. The FBI had evidence of Yockey addressing a meeting of this group in Chicago that year. It’s probably while he was in the ranks of the Silver Shirts that Yockey got his exposure to occult doctrines.  

For instance, FBI reports noted Yockey’s interest in Theosophy and in esoteric topics such as cosmic rays and astral projection. There’s even a suggestion that Yockey dabbled in ritual magic. At the very least, reports indicate that Yockey had a taste for bondage and discipline, with himself in the role of the dominator.

What most reports seem to agree on was that Yockey was highly intelligent. He studied law, and graduated cum laude from Notre Dame in 1941. Given his ideological stance, Yockey was not a supporter of America’s war with the Axis powers. He faked mental illness to avoid the draft. In 1946, Yockey went to work for the US War Department as an attorney involved in war-crimes prosecutions.

That took him to post-war Germany, where he was put to work reviewing materials used in the Nuremberg Trials. Yockey’s secret aim was to find errors in the prosecutions, and loopholes for the defense. It is possible that he might have fed such information to the underground of Nazi sympathizers in Occupied Germany. Yockey was soon fired from his post because he did not fulfil his job.

Learn more about American secret societies.

Francis Yockey in Europe

In 1948, Yockey resurfaced in Ireland where he wrote what is considered his magnum opus, Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics. In essence, Yockey echoed Spengler’s criticisms of rationalism, liberalism, and materialism. But Yockey believed that ‘Americanism’ embodied the worst aspects of all of these. He wanted to preserve and restore the supremacy of high European culture. The book got little attention outside of the post-war fascist underground. But to some there it became a kind of Bible.

A portrait of Oswald Mosley.
Oswald Mosley was the leader of the British Union of Fascists, and Francis Yockey became a European agent for the organization. (Image: Bassano Ltd/Public domain)

In the post-war years, Yockey threw himself into a variety of secret and open organizations. One of these organizations was the European Liberation Front that appeared in 1949. Yockey made contact with former members of the German SS, and with British fascist leader Oswald Mosley.

Mosley was trying to retool his old British Union of Fascists into a new Union Movement. Yockey signed on as a secret agent of Mosley’s European contact section. These sought to establish cooperation with neo-fascist cells across Europe. The problem was that many fascists distrusted Yockey, and for good reason. Besides being an American, Yockey also had contacts with communist agents.

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Francis Yokey’s Communist Leanings

Yockey had briefly flirted with Communism back in the 1930s. He now believed that Stalin had freed the Soviet Union from Jewish influence. During the ‘50s, Yockey traveled constantly and mysteriously. In 1952, he appeared behind the Iron Curtain to watch the purge trial of 11 Czech Jewish communists in Prague. Some agencies, including the FBI, suspected that he might have been recruited by Soviet intelligence.

Yockey envisioned a fascist-communist, or Black-Red, alliance against so-called Americanism. Only Soviet Russia, he claimed, had the power to combat the United States. Between 1953 and 1958, Yockey made trips to East Germany, and maybe even to Moscow.

In search of more allies, Yockey also went to the Middle East. In 1953, he appeared in Egypt, where Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser had just taken control. Yockey wrote anti-Israeli broadsides for Nasser’s propaganda ministry. While in Cairo, Yockey made contact with someone else: the pan-Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. They despised Jews and Americans, but also Nasser and high European culture.

The End of Francis Yockey

The FBI and other US agencies didn’t overlook Yockey, but, like everyone else, they had a hard time pinning him down. In 1960, Yockey’s luck finally ran out. Coming into San Francisco airport, his luggage was diverted. Officials discovered a trove of fake passports and other documents inside. The FBI nabbed Yockey.

While in lock-up, he was visited by another American rightist named Willis Carto. Carto was one of those inspired by Yockey’s Imperium. Carto ran a publishing house called Noontide Press that churned out white nationalist and Holocaust-denial literature. He also formed a group called Liberty Lobby.

Before he could be interrogated, Yockey killed himself with a cyanide capsule hidden in his shoe. Who gave it to him, we’ll never know. In a note, Yockey claimed he died to protect his brothers in the secret underground.

Yockey was one of the most colorful figures of his time, with his constant appearances and disappearances between countries and his dabbling between different movements and ideologies. Though he did not find any known organizations himself, he was associated with many underground societies, and remains an enigmatic character.

Common Questions about Francis Parker Yockey

Q: Which book influenced Francis Yockey in his youth?

A book that deeply influenced Francis Yockey in his youth was Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West.

Q: Why did many fascists distrust Francis Yockey?

Many fascists distrusted Francis Yockey because he was an American, and he also had contacts with communist agents.

Q: How did Francis Yockey die in the prison?

Francis Yockey killed himself in the prison with a cyanide capsule hidden in his shoe.

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