|Leader(s)||John Cameron Denton|
|Preceded by||Iron March|
|Major actions||Assassinations and bombing plots.|
|Headquarters||Florida, United States|
|Part of the Politics and elections and Politics series on|
The Atomwaffen Division ("Atomwaffen" meaning "Atomic weapons" in German) is a neo-Nazi terrorist organization based in the United States. Founded in 2013, the group's main base of operations is in Florida, but has members in other states such as Texas and Montana. The group is part of the alt-right, but is considered extreme even within that movement.
Atomwaffen encourages members to burn the United States flag and Constitution, and to attack the U.S. government and minorities (especially Jews). The group's membership is mostly young, and the Atomwaffen Division has been active on university campuses recruitment postering. The San Antonio, Texas, chapter is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Atomwaffen has engaged in plans to cripple public water systems and destroy parts of the American electric grid. Atomwaffen has also been accused of planning to blow up nuclear plants to cause meltdowns of American nuclear energy sites. The organization aims for a violent overthrow of the United States government by use of terrorism and guerrilla warfare tactics. Since 2017, the organization has been linked to five killings.
The group announced its creation on the neo-Nazi website IronMarch.org in October 2015. The website was also the predecessor of Vanguard America and National Action. According to the Chicago Maroon, the independent student newspaper of the University of Chicago, the Atomwaffen Division describe themselves as a "very fanatical, ideological band of comrades who do both activism and militant training. Hand to hand, arms training, and various other forms of training. As for activism, we spread awareness in the real world through unconventional means."
During 2016, the group gained attention on university campuses across the country due to its recruitment poster campaigns, urging students to "Join Your Local Nazis!" and saying "The Nazis Are Coming!" The Atomwaffen Division posted recruiting posters at the University of Chicago, the University of Central Florida, the Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and Boston University.
This campaign was noted by the Jewish watchdog group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who noted a wider alt-right focus on university recruitment. An Atomwaffen Division member protested outside the ADL's Houston, Texas office with a sign reading "Mary's Life Mattered", in reference to Mary Phagan.
On February 28, 2018, The Verge reported that Discord had banned a number of neo-Nazi and alt-right servers, including that of the Atomwaffen Division, from their private chat platform, for abuse of their Terms of Service. The same article reported that YouTube had shut down the Atomwaffen Division channel, due to the group being linked to five murders.
Beliefs and influences
The Atomwaffen Division explicitly advocates neo-Nazism, drawing significant influence from James Mason's Siege, a mid-1980s newsletter of the National Socialist Liberation Front later gathered into a book, and follows the ideology of Universal Order, a form of neo-Nazism partially devised by Charles Manson and Joseph Tommasi.
Culturally, the group advocates a revival of Italian Futurism, a pre-World War I avant-garde art movement which glorified "war – the world's only hygiene – militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman."
Some members of the group were sympathetic towards Salafi-jihadi Islam. The leader of Atomwaffen Division, Brandon Russell, is alleged to have described Omar Mateen, who pledged allegiance to ISIS and perpetrated the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, as "a hero." A member of Atomwaffen Division, Stephen Billingsley, was photographed at a vigil in San Antonio, Texas for the victims of the Orlando shooting, with a skull mask and a sign saying "God Hates Fags."
One 18-year-old member, Devon Arthurs, of Tampa Palms, Florida, converted to Islam and described himself as a "Salafist National Socialist." In May 2017 Arthurs allegedly killed two of his roommates and fellow Atomwaffen Division members in retaliation for ridiculing his conversion. Arthurs was arrested following a hostage situation, during which he told police he shot 22-year-old Jeremy Himmelman and 18-year-old Andrew Oneschuk earlier that day. In 2018, following competency evaluations by two court-appointed experts (a neuropsychologist and a psychologist), Arthurs was ruled incompetent to stand trial. He remains at the Florida State Hospital.
In May 2017, after Arthurs' arrest, his third roommate and fellow Atomwaffen Division member, a 21-year-old, Brandon Russell, was arrested by the FBI and Tampa Police Department, who found in Russell's garage explosive precursors ammonium nitrate and nitromethane, homemade fuses and an explosive compound hexamethylene triperoxide diamine. HMTD has been used by other groups in improvised explosive devices such as the 2016 New York and New Jersey bombings, and ammonium nitrate and nitromethane were used by Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing. The raid also found thorium and americium, radioactive substances, in Russell's bedroom. Russell, a former student at the University of South Florida and a Florida Army National Guardsman, had a framed photograph of Timothy McVeigh in his bedroom. The raid also discovered various Atomwaffen paraphernalia and other neo-Nazi propaganda.
In September 2017, Russell pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing an unregistered destructive device and to illegally storing explosives; in January 2018, he was sentenced to five years in prison for those crimes.
In January 2018, Samuel Woodward was charged in Orange County, California with killing Blaze Bernstein, an openly gay Jewish college student who went missing earlier in the month while visiting his family. Woodward is an avowed neo-Nazi and a member of the group who had attended Atomwaffen Division events and training camps, according to ProPublica. According to chat logs subsequently published by ProPublica, one member wrote of the killing "I love this," and another praised Woodward as a "one man gay Jew wrecking crew." The new logs suggest there are around 20 Atomwaffen cells across the U.S., that some members have taken part in weapons training, and show members praising Timothy McVeigh, responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, and Norwegian mass-murderer and white supremacist Anders Breivik. Bernstein’s was the fifth killing tied to the Atomwaffen group.
In August 2017, during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Vasillios Pistolis, a United States Marine who was a member of Atomwaffen, was recorded chanting "White Lives Matter" and "You Will Not Replace Us" with his fellow torch-bearing protestors on the first day. On the second day he beat up a transgender woman named Emily Gorcenski with a modified version of the Confederate flag which incorporated the neo-Nazi Schwarze Sonne (Black Sun) symbol in the center, even bragging about the beating in private chats under the alias of "VasillistheGreek": "So to sum it up what I did Friday, dropped kicked that tranny that made video crying", "Today cracked 3 skulls open with virtually no damage to myself", and "I drop kicked Emily gorcenski". Pistolis had promoted the Unite the Right rally on Twitter under the account @Gopnik_Gestapo, and posted an image of a car running over a left-winger with the caption "Good Night, Left Side". He also mocked the death of Heather Heyer, calling her "a fat cunt who died of a heart attack. She wasn't even in the way of the car". Although Pistolis denied that he participated in the rally or committed a violent act he was later investigated by the Marine Corps and court-martialed, then later imprisoned, in June 2018 for disobeying orders and making false statements.
- Antipodean Resistance, an Australian neo-Nazi group
- National Action, a banned British neo-Nazi group
- The Order (aka Bruder Schweigen), a neo-Nazi white supremacist group
- Aryan Republican Army, a neo-Nazi white supremacist group
- on YouTube published on Aug 10, 2018
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- "Who We Are" Atomwaffen Division website[dead link]
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Even within the alt-right — a loose association of white supremacists and fascists — the Atomwaffen Division is considered extreme.
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