A former white supremacist is making amends for his past actions by removing more than 50 swastika tattoos from his body and working to help those indoctrinated into hate groups.
His T-shirt says “F RACISM,” but Thomas Engelmann was once a high-ranking member of the Aryan Brotherhood. The former white supremacist joined the gang in prison, where he covered his body in racist and anti-Semitic tattoos.
Now a free man, the 36-year-old, who was later shot and blinded by the Brotherhood, is dedicating his life to fighting racism through Life After Hate, a Chicago-based group founded by former white supremacists. Watch Engelmann’s journey as he tries to erase his hateful past, one tattoo at a time.
Thomas Engelmann was once a high-ranking member of the Aryan Brotherhood. He joined the group while serving an eight-year sentence for an armed robbery he committed at 19 years old.
He says he joined the gang not for protection but for family structure. Over the course of his prison sentence he covered his body in racist and anti-Semitic tattoos.
In a New York Post video he tells how he joined the group despite not being racist: ‘I took on the rhetoric. I was pretending to be this person.’
Engelmann explains the violent missions he undertook while in the Brotherhood comparing it to being a soldier in an army, ‘it’s just something he has to do, it’s his job’, he says.
On release from prison Engelmann hoped to fade away from the gang’s attention. However, he was shot in a drive-by attack leaving him with zero vision in his right eye and zero perception in peripheral of his left.
Now working with Life After Hate, a Chicago-based group founded by former white supremacists, Engelmann has built a forum where former members can come together to communicate and deal with disengaging and re-entering the community.
Explaining the removal of his racist tattoos, he said:
To cover all the racist tattoos that I have is hard to do because of what I sacrificed for ’em, and the stuff that I’ve had to do for ’em.
But it’s a thing of shame.
So I wanted them off, and I wanted to show on the outside what I was on the inside.
I refuse to live my life in terror or fear of anything.
If somebody kills me, fine they can kill me.
But everything I’ve said on-camera, they’re gonna put an exclamation mark behind that, and they’re gonna bring a lot of attention and a lot of stuff they don’t want down upon them.
I live a life free of hate and full of love and it’s great.
I hope what I’m doing now helps.