Skinhead with "White Power" written on back of his jacket
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
April 25, 2024 ·  5 min read

Neo-Nazi Who Inspired The Film American History X Discovers He’s Jewish After DNA Test

In 1998, American actor Edward Norton starred in American History X. The powerful movie sheds light on themes like racism and redemption. However, the character is based on a real person, who’s since changed paths, going in an opposite direction.

A Tumultuous Beginning

Neo-Nazi Frank Meenik was the inspiration behind American History X, the result of his time in leadership for a violent and far-right group. He was prominent in the early 1990s and devoted himself to forging a race war, torturing those who opposed him. He was an extremist who openly flaunted his antisemitism through tattoos as well as his actions.

Unsurprisingly, his childhood was tumultuous and Meeink had his fair share of encounters with the law, ultimately part of the inspiration behind Edward Norton’s character in American History X. The former antisemite grew up in an Irish-Catholic area in Southwest Philadelphia.

Hoping to escape the abuse of his stepfather, he paid a long visit to some family in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The impressionable 13-year-old became awe-struck by his Neo-Nazi cousin. Taking note of the Hitler mural, the young boy became enamored by a life of antisemitism. Young Meeink had already had several misconceptions regarding black people, which led to feelings of fear. As Meeink spent more time with his cousin and fellow skinheads, they “justified all my fears,” he explained.

Events that Inspired American History X

In the Summer of 1988, 13-year-old Frank Meeink set off on a journey so dark it not only led to the Blockbuster film American History X. It also brought about the pain and suffering of countless, waging an unimaginable violence on those he hated. Upon returning home, he made it his mission to travel the U.S. meeting as many neo-Nazis as possible. “I grabbed onto this information that was being fed to me,” he said. “I wanted to make this movement bigger.” 

By the age of 15, he’d been kicked out of the KKK and opted to start his own group, Strikeforce, with his cousin. He shared that they once set up a rival group member by inviting him to a Christmas Eve party. However, their plans were far more sinister than to celebrate together. “We had him stay in the apartment and tortured him for hours with no remorse, no empathy, no nothing,” he recalled.

At age 17, he was sentenced to three years for aggravated kidnapping. He then went to a corrections facility in Illinois where he joined an Aryan group of “farm boys and bikers.” Although he’d spent the last few years wreaking total havoc, his life would again take a new direction when he bonded with two black fellow inmates. Thus, beginning yet another transformation, post inspiring the movie American History X.

Before his time in jail, the Irish Catholic relied on the Bible to fuel his hate, “just like Hamas does with the Koran,” he said. Although his time served had changed his opinion of black people, he still hated Jews.

Heading Down a New Path

Although this went on for some time, the antisemite would find himself in yet another tough spot. At just 19 years old and out of jail with a drinking problem, Meeink needed some income. He was offered a job at an antique store in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The owner, Keith Brookstein, was Jewish. Despite the antisemite’s swastika tattoo, Brookstein hired him so long as he didn’t “break his furniture.”

Touched by the older man’s kindness Meeink began questioning own belief system. He questioned himself, “Who are you to judge the world, you’re a f—ing criminal, a drunk. That was the day I was like, ‘I’m done. I’m out.’” He disclosed. “In recovery, it says, ‘Find the God of your understanding.’ And that’s when I was like, ‘I’m really going to check into this.” He added, continuing, “The thing I loved about Judaism is that it says, ‘Love the Lord your God.’ And that you don’t need to force your God on nobody else. I wanna try and build this relationship with God.”

The following morning was the first time he hadn’t shaved his head for years. He eventually went on to have his tattoos removed and has become an active campaigner against neo-Nazism. He’s come a long way since inspiring the movie American History X. He now prays 3 times a day, owns a public-access cable TV show in Springfield, Illinois, and has overcome some incredibly dark periods including the loss of his son in 2019, his marriage falling apart, and the loss of his mother. He went to recovery for Alcohol and Substance Abuse where he met a Jewish sponsor who would yet again, change Meeink’s life for the better.

Discovering Jewish Roots

His sponsor, whom he calls his “recovery rabbi” gets an 8 am call from him every morning. “On my morning prayer walk, I keep saying the word stay. S-T-A-Y: stop thinking about yourself.” Explains Meeink.“I only do these things, not to just seem like a part of the Jews. I do it because it keeps God at the forefront of my mind. It’s His world, not mine.”

In contrast to his early years, hating Jews and Black people, Meeink has made strides to speak up against violence and the mistreatment of others. His new path was inspired by those he’s met along the way, and perhaps in part, because of his realization that he has Jewish ancestors. He took a 23andMe DNA test because his friend told him he “looked Jewish.” Much to his surprise, he does have Jewish roots. A discovery that he calls “a beautiful gift from God.”

American History X Remake

His next goal is to make a full-story film of his life, sort of a sequel to American History X. “Love is more powerful than hate” will be the movie’s message.

Although once incredibly hateful toward Jews, believing them to be “the root of all evil,” Meenik has since learned that he has Jewish blood flowing through his veins. As a result, he’s embracing his heritage and channeling his passion into learning more about his heritage. He is living proof that someone as horrific as the inspiration for a thought-provoking movie like American History X can change when given the right support and treated with kindness, compassion, and understanding. Additionally, his story highlights how racial misconceptions can lead to a dark, violent, and scary path.

Read More: Sarah Rector: The Black Girl So Wealthy She Was ‘Considered To Be White’


  1. Former neo-Nazi who inspired American History X reveals he’s now an observant Jew.” JC. Daniel Ben-David March 26, 2024.
  2. Neo-Nazi who inspired Edward Norton’s ‘American History X’ skinhead is now an observant Jew thanks to DNA discovery.” NY Post. James Liddell. March 26, 2024.