Reporting Stacey Butler
PACIFIC PALISADES (CBS) — Hidden deep in the hills above Pacific Palisades lie the remnants of a secret compound that housed Nazi sympathizers during World War II.
They envisioned a future where the Nazi’s would win the war and Hitler would move to Hollywood to run his Nazi empire from a bunker in the Santa Monica Mountains.
“We entered kind of a different world… This is the dark side of Los Angeles,” said historian Randy Young. “It’s like this haunted landscape.”
The compound is tucked behind a now rusted gate.
“This gate automatically opened through electronics,” Young said.
Through the gate you are met with 650 steps that wind down, hidden from the road.
“It was so they could secure the boundaries. It was very much for security reasons,” Young explained.
There Nazi sympathizers prepared for the end of the world. It was 1933.
The gatekeeper’s house was the very first line of defense.
“His only job was to be sure the right people came in through the gate,” Young said.
The way Young explains it, Hitler was looking for a foothold, not just for espionage, but to further his campaign against the Jews using Hollywood.
“The nightmare is the cool people did embrace it. And did lead people like Pied Pipers,” he said.
Young added that fascism in Hollywood gained such momentum, that a congressional subcommittee investigation in Los Angeles examined the pro-Nazi movement.
Even a well-known screenwriter formed an anti-Semitic organization called The Silver Shirts.
“They had shirts with big red ‘Ls’ for the legion of Christ,” he said.
Young said the Silver Shirts were convinced Hitler would win World War II and would need followers in the U.S.
Just four miles from downtown Pacific Palisades they helped a family of Nazi supporters build a $4 million safe haven, where they lived off the grid and conducted military drills.
“This building was built to almost like take a bomb blast,” Young said.
Eerie remnants of the compound remain intact — a 40,000-gallon gas tank and a home for the chauffer or at least what is left of it.
There is also a 350,000-gallon water tank and a substation that housed massive generators, built like a bunker and now all covered in graffiti.
“It just looks like something out of a military installation,” Young said.
The Silver Shirts planned on feeding themselves by planting vegetables in concrete beds and composted in separate beds. They had an intricate irrigation system. But all that remains are some rusted pipes.
“Why do all of this, just to withdraw from the world,” Young questioned?
But that was just the beginning. The architectural blue prints show plans for a four story mansion with 22 bedrooms. It was never built.
“The day after Pearl Harbor, the FBI rolled in and arrested them all,” Young said.
The charge was espionage.
“There was supposedly a radio system where they could code and send messages,” Young said.
It has been said, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. That is exactly why Young says the compound is so important all these decades later.
“I think it was a scary time. This place is a symbol of what could have happened,” he said.
Hitler of course never got to see his L.A. compound. The Nazis lost the war and the compound has sat empty and deteriorating for 80 years.