Atomwaffen Division

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Atomwaffen Division
Leader(s) John Cameron Denton[1]
Foundation 2013[2]
Preceded by Iron March
  • Terror attacks against the United States, including: nuclear terrorism, the killing and murder of non-whites, the destruction of the United States electric grid, and the bombing of water treatment plants.
Political position Far-right
Third Position
Major actions Assassinations and bombing plots.
Notable attacks
Status active
Size 80+ (2018)
Headquarters Florida, United States

The Atomwaffen Division ("Atomwaffen" meaning "Atomic weapons" in German) is a neo-Nazi terrorist[3][4] 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,[5][6][7][8][9] but is considered extreme even within that movement.[6]

Atomwaffen encourages members to burn the United States flag and Constitution, and to attack the U.S. government and minorities (especially Jews).[10] 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).[11][12]

Atomwaffen has engaged in plans to cripple public water systems and destroy parts of the American electric grid.[10] Atomwaffen has also been accused of planning to blow up nuclear plants to cause meltdowns of American nuclear energy sites.[10] 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.[13][14][15]


The group announced its creation on the neo-Nazi website in October 2015.[16] The website was also the predecessor of Vanguard America and National Action.[17] 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."[16]

During 2016, the group gained attention on university campuses across the country due to its recruitment poster campaigns,[8][9] urging students to "Join Your Local Nazis!" and saying "The Nazis Are Coming!" The Atomwaffen Division posted recruiting posters at the University of Chicago,[18][16] the University of Central Florida,[19] the Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia,[20] and Boston University.[21]

This campaign was noted by the Jewish watchdog group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who noted a wider alt-right focus on university recruitment.[22] 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.[23]

As of early 2018, ProPublica estimated Atomwaffen had 80 members, while the ADL estimated it had 24 to 36 active members.[24][25]

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.[26]

Beliefs and influences[edit]

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.[17]

Culturally, the group advocates a revival of Italian Futurism,[17] 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."[27]

A key source on their beliefs are the 250,000 encrypted chat logs obtained by ProPublica.[1]

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."[28][23][29][30]

Some have tied Atomwaffen to the fascist Satanist group the Order of Nine Angles.[31][32]

Criminal charges[edit]

Devon Arthurs[edit]

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.[33][34][30] 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.[35][36]

Brandon Russell[edit]

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[37] 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.[38][39] The raid also discovered various Atomwaffen paraphernalia and other neo-Nazi propaganda.[40]

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.[40]

Samuel Woodward[edit]

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.[14] 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.[10]

Vasillios Pistolis[edit]

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".[41][42] 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[43], then later imprisoned, in June 2018 for disobeying orders and making false statements.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Thompson, A.C.; Winston, Ali; Hanrahan, Jake (February 23, 2018). "Inside Atomwaffen as it celebrates a member for allegedly killing a gay Jewish college student". 
  2. ^ "Who We Are" Atomwaffen Division website[dead link]
  3. ^ Lamoureux, Mack; Makuch, Ben (19 June 2018). "Atomwaffen, an American Neo-Nazi Terror Group, Is in Canada". Vice. Retrieved 30 July 2018. 
  4. ^ "Atomwaffen Division". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 27 August 2018. 
  5. ^ "Report: Suspect in Penn Student's Murder Has Neo-Nazi Ties". Philadelphia Magazine. 2018-01-29. Retrieved 2018-02-15. 
  6. ^ a b Mathias, Christopher. "The Maniac Neo-Nazis Keeping Charles Manson's Race War Alive". Even within the alt-right — a loose association of white supremacists and fascists — the Atomwaffen Division is considered extreme. 
  7. ^ Mathias, Christopher (2018-01-31). "1 Neo-Nazi Group. 5 Murders In 8 Months". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-02-15. 
  8. ^ a b Marilyn Mayo (December 7, 2016). "Alt Right Groups Target Campuses with Fliers". Anti-Defamation League. 
  9. ^ a b "ADL: White Supremacist Group Redoubling Hate Fliering Efforts on Campus" (Press release). Anti-Defamation League. September 11, 2017. 
  10. ^ a b c d Thompson, A.C.; Winston, Ali; Hanrahan, Jake (February 23, 2018). "Inside Atomwaffen As It Celebrates a Member for Allegedly Killing a Gay Jewish College Student". ProPublica. Retrieved February 23, 2018. 
  11. ^ "Active Hate Groups 2016". Intelligence Report. Southern Poverty Law Center. February 15, 2017. Retrieved August 8, 2017. 
  12. ^ Phillips, Kristine (June 11, 2017). "A neo-Nazi with explosives and a framed photo of Timothy McVeigh is not a threat, judge rules". Washington Post. Retrieved August 8, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Backgrounder: Atomwaffen Division (AWD)". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 2018-01-28. 
  14. ^ a b Thompson, A.C.; Winston, Ali; Hanrahan, Jake (26 January 2018). "California Murder Suspect Said to Have Trained With Extremist Hate Group — ProPublica". ProPublica. Retrieved 27 January 2018. 
  15. ^ Swenson, Kyle (January 29, 2018) "Suspects in five killings reportedly linked to macabre neo-Nazi group" The Washington Post
  16. ^ a b c Thorp, Adam (5 December 2016). "Militant Neo-Nazi Group Claims Credit for Hanging Hitler Portrait, Swastikas on Campus Building". Chicago Maroon. 
  17. ^ a b c "Atomwaffen and the SIEGE parallax: how one neo-Nazi's life's work is fueling a younger generation". Southern Poverty Law Center. 22 February 2018. Retrieved 26 February 2018. 
  18. ^ "Neo-Nazi group claims responsibility for Hitler poster on U of C campus". WGN-TV. December 6, 2016. Retrieved August 8, 2017. 
  19. ^ Lowe, Derek (17 November 2015). "UCFPD Investigating Multiple Nazi Symbols, Fliers at UCF". Knight News. 
  20. ^ "Campus Reacts After Fascist Group Fliers Posted at ODU Campus". Mace and Crown. 29 March 2016. 
  21. ^ Hemingway, Mariel (2 May 2016). "Nazi Organization Recruitment At Boston University? Poster Discovered Inside Campus [VIDEO]". University Herald. 
  22. ^ "Alt-Right Groups Target Campuses with Fliers". Anti-Defamation League Las Vegas. 7 December 2016. 
  23. ^ a b "Donning the Mask: Presenting 'The Face of 21st Century Fascism'". Southern Poverty Law Center. June 20, 2017. Retrieved August 8, 2017. 
  24. ^ Bromwich, Jonah (12 February 2018). "What Is Atomwaffen? A Neo-Nazi Group, Linked to Multiple Murders". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2018-03-02. 
  25. ^ Thompson, A.C.; Winston, Ali; Hanrahan, Jake (January 26, 2018). "California Murder Suspect Said to Have Trained With Extremist Hate Group — ProPublica". ProPublica. Retrieved July 21, 2018. 
  26. ^ Liao, Shannon (February 28, 2018) "Discord shuts down more neo-Nazi, alt-right servers" The Verge
  27. ^ "The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism". Retrieved 2011-06-11. 
  28. ^ Chasnoff, Brian (17 June 2016). "Racist at vigil sends online message". Express News. 
  29. ^ "Neo-Nazi Nerds Recruiting Students At Top Universities To Carry Out ISIS Attacks". Radar Online. 17 January 2017. 
  30. ^ a b Matthias, Christopher (26 May 2017). "The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend: What Neo-Nazis Like About ISIS". Huffington Post. 
  31. ^ "Atomwaffen and the SIEGE parallax". Southern Poverty Law Center. February 22, 2018. Retrieved April 26, 2018. 
  32. ^ "Satanism Drama Is Tearing Apart the Murderous Neo-NaziGroup". The Daily Beast. March 22, 2018. Retrieved April 26, 2018. 
  33. ^ Conti, Allie (25 May 2017). "Gruesome Florida Murders Show How Neo-Nazis Turn into Jihadists". VICE. 
  34. ^ Hall, Ellie (23 May 2017). "A Neo-Nazi Who Converted To Islam Allegedly Killed His Roommates Over Religion". BuzzFeed. 
  35. ^ Anastasia Dawson, Tampa Palms man charged in neo-Nazi double murder to stay in state mental hospital for treatment until competent to stand trial, Tampa Bay Times (February 28, 2018).
  36. ^ Jeff Patterson, Accused Tampa Palms killer ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial, WFLA (February 28, 2018).
  37. ^ "Neo-Nazi group founder pleads guilty to explosives charges". Times of Israel. 27 September 2017. 
  38. ^ Goodhue, David (May 22, 2017). "FBI busts 'Atomwaffen' Neo-Nazi in Florida for making explosives — and finds radiation materials". Miami Herald. 
  39. ^ Altman, Howard (23 May 2017). "How did Florida National Guard miss soldier's neo-Nazi leanings?". TBO. 
  40. ^ a b Niraj Chokshi, Neo-Nazi Leader in Florida Sentenced to 5 Years Over Homemade Explosives, New York Times (January 10, 2018).
  41. ^ [1]
  42. ^ "Ranks of Notorious Hate Group Include Active-Duty Military". Propublica. Retrieved June 22, 2018. 
  43. ^ A.C. Thompson and Ali Winston (May 22, 2018). "An Alarming Tip About a Neo-Nazi Marine, Then An Uncertain Response". Retrieved August 13, 2018. 
  44. ^ "U.S. Marine to Be Imprisoned Over Involvement With Hate Groups". Propublica. Retrieved June 22, 2018.