Atomwaffen Division

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Atomwaffen Division
CountryUnited States
Leader(s)John Cameron Denton[1]
Preceded byIron March
Active region(s)United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany
Political positionFar-right
Major actionsMurders of five people, including Blaze Bernstein
Size80+ (2018)
HeadquartersFlorida, United States

The Atomwaffen Division (Atomwaffen meaning "atomic weapons" in German) is a neo-Nazi terrorist[3] organization based in the United States and active in other countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany. Founded in 2013, the group's main base of operations is in Florida, but it has members in other states such as Texas and Montana. The group is part of the alt-right,[4][5][6] but is considered extreme even within that movement.[4]

Atomwaffen encourages members to burn the United States flag and Constitution, and to attack the U.S. government and minorities (especially Jews).[7] 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).[8][9][10]

Atomwaffen has engaged in plans to cripple public water systems and destroy parts of the American electric grid.[7] Atomwaffen has also been accused of planning to blow up nuclear plants to cause meltdowns of American nuclear energy sites.[7] 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 assaults and five killings.[11][12]


The group announced its creation on the neo-Nazi website in October 2015.[13] The website was also the predecessor of Vanguard America and National Action.[14] 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."[13]

During 2016, the group gained attention on university campuses across the country due to its recruitment poster campaigns,[5] urging students to "Join Your Local Nazis!" and saying "The Nazis Are Coming!". The Atomwaffen Division posted recruiting posters at the University of Chicago,[15][13] the University of Central Florida,[16] the Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia,[17] and Boston University.[18]

This campaign was noted by the Jewish watchdog group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), who noted a wider alt-right focus on university recruitment.[19] An Atomwaffen Division member protested outside the ADL's Houston office with a sign reading "Mary's Life Mattered", in reference to Mary Phagan.[20]

In early 2018, ProPublica estimated Atomwaffen had 80 members, while the ADL estimated it had 24 to 36 active members.[21]

On 28 February 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.[22]

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.[14]

Culturally, the group advocates a revival of Italian Futurism,[14] 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."[23]

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".[20][24][25]

Some have tied Atomwaffen to the fascist Satanist group the Order of Nine Angles.[26]

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.[25][27] In 2018, following competency evaluations by two court-appointed experts (a neuropsychologist and a psychologist), Arthurs was ruled incompetent to stand trial. He spent more than a year at the Florida State Hospital receiving treatment to make him competent to face trial. Arthurs is currently facing two counts of first-degree murder in addition to kidnapping and firearm charges.[28][29]

Brandon Russell[edit]

In May 2017, after Arthurs' arrest, his third roommate, a 21-year-old, Brandon Russell, was arrested by the FBI and Tampa Police Department along with a 20-year-old accompanying him, William Tschantre, both of them Atomwaffen members. The car they were driving included two rifles and hundreds of rounds of ammunition which they had bought after the shooting in Tampa Palms.[30] The authorities found in Russell's garage explosive precursors ammonium nitrate and nitromethane, homemade detonators[31][32] 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.[33] The raid also discovered various Atomwaffen paraphernalia and other neo-Nazi propaganda.[34]

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.[34]

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 assaulted a transgender woman named Emily Gorcenski[35] 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 was also part of a gang of neo-nazis assaulting an interracial couple at a restaurant in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee.[36] 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".[37]

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,[38] then later imprisoned, in June 2018 for disobeying orders and making false statements. He was officially separated from the Corps in August.[35]

Nicholas Giampa[edit]

On December 22, 2017, 17-year-old Nicholas Giampa allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend's parents in Reston, Virginia. They had forbidden their daughter from dating him because of his neo-Nazi extremist worldview. Giampa is open about both his admiration for James Mason, Siege, and his membership in Atomwaffen Division. After the killings, he shot himself.[39][40] Giampa is being held at a juvenile detention center in Fairfax after he was hospitalized from the self-inflicted gunshot wound. In August 2018 it was ruled that the damage caused by a self-inflicted gunshot wound had left him incompetent to stand trial. [41]

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.[11] 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.[7]

Benjamin Bogard[edit]

Twenty-year-old Benjamin Bogard was arrested by the FBI in February 2019 after receiving a tip that he might be planning a terrorist attack. According to an agent Bogard talked about wanting to go cross-country to find and kill minorities, Mexicans, and women, anyone who Bogard felt was "shit". He said on one video, which he ended with a Nazi salute, "Pull out your shotgun, get to the side of the road, pump that shit open, point it at them, and pull the trigger." On a Twitter account he admitted to running, he described himself as a "future mass shooter" and said that his favorite part of a gun is "the part that kills 30 babies per trigger pull." Bogard embraced white supremacist beliefs and discussed obtaining a chemical substance to make a bomb. Bogard had also searched online for targets to bomb and planned attacking the state capitol. According to federal authorities, Bogard claims to be a member of the Atomwaffen Division. He was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography after the authorities uncovered videos of young girls being raped on his phone during the investigation. The FBI decided to arrest him because it appeared that Bogard was "mobilizing for violence." [42][43]

Sonnenkrieg Division[edit]

The Sonnenkrieg Division ("Sonnenkrieg" is German for "Sun war") is a British neo-Nazi group that is the UK-branch of the Atomwaffen Division, linked to it by the BBC using e-mails and chat room discussions as well as similar names and propaganda. It came to light in December 2018, when it was revealed that members of the group had written on the group's Discord server that Prince Harry was a "race traitor" and should be shot for having married Meghan Markle, who is of mixed race; that police officers should be raped and killed; and that white women who date non-whites should be hanged. The group is thought to have 10-15 members in the UK and Europe, and some suspected members are thought to have been involved in a previous neo-Nazi group, the System Resistance Network (one of the aliases of National Action), which was linked at various acts of racial violence in the UK. The BBC named the leaders as Andrew Dymock, 21, and Oskar Dunn-Koczorowski, 17.[44]

Police arrested three suspected members of the Sonnenkrieg Division in early December 2018 as part of an "ongoing investigation into extreme right-wing activity". According to The Guardian, MI5, the British domestic intelligence agency, was taking the lead in the government's monitoring of far-right terrorism.[45]

At the Old Bailey on 20 December 2018, Dunn-Koczorowski pleaded guilty to two counts of encouraging terrorism. He will be sentenced in February 2019. Michael Szewczuk, 18, did not enter a plea and will tried at the Crown Court in Manchester on 13 May 2019.[46]

According to British anti-fascists Sonnenkrieg Division has been influenced by the Order of Nine Angles and is more extreme and potentially more violent than National Action. According to Hope not Hate's annual "State of Hate" report: "some members have also carried out some of these satanic fantasies and allegations of rape and imprisonment against their own members are circulating." Sonnenkrieg Division members had shared videos of one female supporter being tortured and scored with a knife by one of the group’s male members.[47]

The private messages belonging to Sonnenkrieg Division acquired by the police included footage of the members of the group verbally abusing women and mutilating them, such as a picture of a naked girl with a swastika and runic symbols cut into her body, allegedly shared by Andrew Dymock with his associates. Dymock has been questioned by police over sexual offences against a teenage girl. [48]

Foreign branches[edit]

On June 1, 2018, the Atomwaffen Division announced that it has established a cell/branch in Germany in a German and English language video titled "AWD DEUTSCHLAND: DIE MESSER WERDEN SCHON GEWETZET" (AWD GERMANY: THE KNIVES ARE ALREADY BEING SHARPENED) promising a "long fight". Flyers of the group were spotted in Berlin targeted towards students and the German government published an announcement about them.[49][50][51]

The group also has a presence in Canada with an affiliated organization called Northern Order of which one of its members under the alias "Dark Foreigner" who creates propaganda for Atomwaffen and a Canadian member named Brandon Cameron (aka "Alba Nuadh") was part of the Canadian Armed Forces although he denied the accusations.[52][53][54]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Thompson, A.C.; Winston, Ali; Hanrahan, Jake (23 February 2018). "Inside Atomwaffen as it celebrates a member for allegedly killing a gay Jewish college student".
  2. ^ "Who We Are"Atomwaffen Division website Archived 12 February 2018 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Lamoureux, Mack; Makuch, Ben (19 June 2018). "Atomwaffen, an American Neo-Nazi Terror Group, Is in Canada". Vice. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
    - "Atomwaffen Division". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b Marilyn Mayo (7 December 2016). "Alt Right Groups Target Campuses with Fliers". Anti-Defamation League.
    - "ADL: White Supremacist Group Redoubling Hate Fliering Efforts on Campus" (Press release). Anti-Defamation League. 11 September 2017.
  6. ^ Mathias, Christopher (31 January 2018). "1 Neo-Nazi Group. 5 Murders In 8 Months". Huffington Post. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
    - "Report: Suspect in Penn Student's Murder Has Neo-Nazi Ties". Philadelphia Magazine. 29 January 2018. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d Thompson, A.C.; Winston, Ali; Hanrahan, Jake (23 February 2018). "Inside Atomwaffen As It Celebrates a Member for Allegedly Killing a Gay Jewish College Student". ProPublica. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  8. ^ "Active Hate Groups 2016". Intelligence Report. Southern Poverty Law Center. 15 February 2018. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  9. ^ Phillips, Kristine (11 June 2017). "A neo-Nazi with explosives and a framed photo of Timothy McVeigh is not a threat, judge rules". Washington Post. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  10. ^ (May 22, 2018) [ "An Alarming Tip About a Neo-Nazi Marine, Then an Uncertain Response"], ProPublica. Accessed February 24, 2019
  11. ^ a b Thompson, A.C.; Winston, Ali; Hanrahan, Jake (26 January 2018). "California Murder Suspect Said to Have Trained With Extremist Hate Group". ProPublica. Retrieved 27 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Backgrounder: Atomwaffen Division (AWD)". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
    - Swenson, Kyle (29 January 2018) "Suspects in five killings reportedly linked to macabre neo-Nazi group" The Washington Post
  13. ^ a b c Thorp, Adam (5 December 2016). "Militant Neo-Nazi Group Claims Credit for Hanging Hitler Portrait, Swastikas on Campus Building". Chicago Maroon.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ "Neo-Nazi group claims responsibility for Hitler poster on U of C campus". WGN-TV. 6 December 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
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  17. ^ "Campus Reacts After Fascist Group Fliers Posted at ODU Campus". Mace and Crown. 29 March 2016.
  18. ^ Hemingway, Mariel (2 May 2016). "Nazi Organization Recruitment At Boston University? Poster Discovered Inside Campus [VIDEO]". University Herald.
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  20. ^ a b "Donning the Mask: Presenting 'The Face of 21st Century Fascism'". Southern Poverty Law Center. 20 June 2017. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  21. ^ Bromwich, Jonah (12 February 2018). "What Is Atomwaffen? A Neo-Nazi Group, Linked to Multiple Murders". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2 March 2018.
    - Thompson, A.C.; Winston, Ali; Hanrahan, Jake (26 January 2018). "California Murder Suspect Said to Have Trained With Extremist Hate Group". ProPublica. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  22. ^ Liao, Shannon (28 February 2018) "Discord shuts down more neo-Nazi, alt-right servers", The Verge
  23. ^ Marinetti, F. T. (5 February 1909). "The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism". Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  24. ^ Chasnoff, Brian (17 June 2016). "Racist at vigil sends online message". Express News.
    - "Neo-Nazi Nerds Recruiting Students At Top Universities To Carry Out ISIS Attacks". Radar Online. 17 January 2017.
  25. ^ a b Matthias, Christopher (26 May 2017). "The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend: What Neo-Nazis Like About ISIS". Huffington Post.
  26. ^ "Atomwaffen and the SIEGE parallax". Southern Poverty Law Center. 22 February 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
    - "Satanism Drama Is Tearing Apart the Murderous Neo-NaziGroup". The Daily Beast. 22 March 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  27. ^ Conti, Allie (25 May 2017). "Gruesome Florida Murders Show How Neo-Nazis Turn into Jihadists". VICE.
    - Hall, Ellie (23 May 2017). "A Neo-Nazi Who Converted To Islam Allegedly Killed His Roommates Over Religion". BuzzFeed.
  28. ^ Sullivan, Dan (26 March 2019). "Suspect in shooting death of two North Tampa roommates returns from state mental hospital". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  29. ^ Davis, Corey (3 April 2019). "More doctors to evaluate accused double-murderer with neo-Nazi ties in Tampa". WFLA. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
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    - Altman, Howard (23 May 2017). "How did Florida National Guard miss soldier's neo-Nazi leanings?". TBO.
  34. ^ a b Niraj Chokshi, Neo-Nazi Leader in Florida Sentenced to 5 Years Over Homemade Explosives, New York Times (10 January 2018).
  35. ^ a b Thompson, A. C. and Winston, Ali (June 20, 2018) "U.S. Marine to Be Imprisoned Over Involvement With Hate Groups", ProPublica. Accessed February 6, 2019
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  37. ^ ProPublica (May 11, 2018). "He's a proud neo-Nazi, Charlottesville attacker – and a U.S. Marine". Retrieved November 3, 2018 – via YouTube.
  38. ^ Thompson, A. C. and Winston, Ali (May 22, 2018). "An Alarming Tip About a Neo-Nazi Marine, Then An Uncertain Response". PBS. Retrieved August 13, 2018.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
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  40. ^ (8 August 2018) "The Hate Network", Spiegel. Retrieved: 20 February 2019.
  41. ^ (18 August 2018) "Teen Accused Of Murdering Reston Couple Ruled Incompetent", Retrieved: 20 February 2019.
  42. ^ Cleary, Tom (February 24, 2019) "Benjamin Bogard: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know", Retrieved: February 24, 2019.
  43. ^ Weill, Kelly (February 28, 2019) "Feds Feared Alleged ‘Neo-Nazi’ Benjamin Bogard Could Be Next Mass Shooter" The Daily Beast
  44. ^ Sanford, Daniel and DeSimone, Daniel (5 December 2018). "British Neo-Nazis suggest Prince Harry should be shot". BBC News. Retrieved 6 December 2018.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
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  46. ^ Staff (20 December 2018) "Boy, 17, pleads guilty to terror offences", BBC News. Retrieved: 22 December 2018.
  47. ^ Hope not Hate (17 February 2019) State of Hate 2019 Hope not Hate
  48. ^ BBC (5 December 2018) "British Neo-Nazis suggest Prince Harry should be shot British Broadcasting Company
  49. ^ "Atomwaffen Division - Germany Announces Preparations for "Last Long Fight' in Latest Video". Medium. June 2, 2018. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  50. ^ "The Hate Network: An Inside Look at a Global Extremist Group". Der Spiegel. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  51. ^ "Mogliche Aktivataten der neonazistchen Gruppierung "Atomwaffen Division" auch in Deutschland" (PDF) (in German). November 7, 2018. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  52. ^ "An American Neo-Nazi Group Has Dark Plans for Canada". Vice News. July 10, 2018. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  53. ^ Lamourex, Mark; Makuch, Ben (June 19, 2018). "Atomwaffen, an American Neo-Nazi Terror Group, Is In Canada". Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  54. ^ Lemourex, Mark; Makuch, Ben (August 2, 2018). "Member of Neo-Nazi Group Appears to be Former Canadian Soldier". Retrieved March 16, 2019.

External links[edit]