|Country||United States (Country of origin)|
|Leader(s)||James Nolan Mason (Advisor), multiple cell leaders|
|Preceded by||Iron March|
|Active region(s)||United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and the Baltic States|
|Major actions||Murders of eight people, including the murder of Blaze Bernstein|
|Part of the Politics and elections and Politics series on|
The Atomwaffen Division (Atomwaffen meaning "atomic weapons" in German) is a neo-Nazi terrorist network. Formed in 2015 and based in the Southern United States, it has since expanded across the United States and it has also expanded into the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and the Baltic states. The group is part of the alt-right, but is considered extreme even within that movement. It is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Members of the Atomwaffen Division have been held responsible for a number of murders, planned terrorist attacks, as well as other criminal actions.
In 2015, the group announced its creation on the neo-Nazi website IronMarch.org, that has been linked to several acts of neo-nazi terrorism and violent militant groups such as the Nordic Resistance Movement, National Action, and the Azov Battalion. In its initial posts, the group described itself 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."
Atomwaffen encourages flag desecration, the burning of the United States Constitution, and attacks on the federal government of the United States, minorities, gays, and Jews. Atomwaffen Division has engaged in plans to cripple public water systems and destroy parts of the Continental U.S. power transmission grid. Atomwaffen has also been accused of planning to blow up nuclear plants in order to cause nuclear meltdowns. The organization's aim is to violently overthrow the federal government of the United States via terrorism and guerrilla warfare tactics. Since 2017, the organization has been linked to eight killings and several violent hate crimes, including assaults, rape and multiple cases of kidnapping and torture.
The organization explicitly advocates Neo-Nazism, drawing a significant amount of influence from James Mason and his publication, Siege, a mid-1980s newsletter of the National Socialist Liberation Front that paid tribute to Adolf Hitler, Joseph Tommasi, Charles Manson, and Savitri Devi. It was published into a book that is required reading for all Atomwaffen Division members. Mason, a neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier who advocates murder and violence in order to create lawlessness, anarchy and destabilize the system, is the main advisor to the group.
Atomwaffen also draws influence from Nazi esotericism and the occult, and recommended reading material for aspiring initiates includes the works of Savitri Devi and Anton Long of the Order of Nine Angles, a notorious British neo-Nazi leader with a violent criminal history. Some members of the group also sympathize with the Salafi movement and jihadism, forms of Islam. Atomwaffen Division's founder, Brandon Russell, is alleged to have described Omar Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and perpetrated the Orlando nightclub shooting, as "a hero". The group also idolizes Osama bin Laden in its propaganda and consider "the culture of martyrdom and insurgency" within al Qaeda and Taliban something to be emulated. Samuel Woodward also articulated a positive view of Islam, saying he preferred ISIL to multiculturalism and liberalism and cited Julius Evola, Francis Parker Yockey and George Lincoln Rockwell as having been sympathetic towards Islam as well, and said Arthurs believed Islamophobia was being used by Neocons to promote White Genocide. 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".
The group's membership is mostly young, and it has also recruited new members on university campuses. Its campus recruitment poster campaigns urge students to "Join Your Local Nazis!" and say "The Nazis Are Coming!". It posted recruiting posters at the University of Chicago, the University of Central Florida, the Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and Boston University. Atomwaffen Division has recruited several veterans and current members of the U.S. Armed Forces who train the organization's members in the use of firearms and hand-to-hand combat. Atomwaffen members have also sought to train with the Azov Battalion in Ukraine. In addition to Azov, Atomwaffen has ties to various affiliated neo-Nazi groups and the fascist Satanist Order of Nine Angles group.
During an investigation, ProPublica obtained 250,000 encrypted chat logs written by members of the group. ProPublica, in early 2018, estimated that Atomwaffen had 80 members, while the Anti-Defamation League estimated that it had 24 to 36 active members. According to International Centre for Counter-Terrorism the group has a large number of “initiates” in addition to 60 to 80 full members.
The group is one of several neo-Nazi and alt-right organizations which have been banned by Discord and YouTube for violations of their Terms of Service. However, the group has since re-uploaded content to YouTube and YouTube has allowed the content to stay online.
An 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 after they ridiculed his conversion. Arthurs was arrested following a hostage situation, during which he told police that 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 spent more than a year at the Florida State Hospital where he received treatment to make him competent to stand trial. Arthurs is currently facing two counts of first-degree murder in addition to kidnapping and firearms charges.
In May 2017, the night of Arthurs' arrest, his third roommate, a 21-year-old, Brandon Russell was also arrested and questioned by local police and the FBI. He was released without charge and promptly disappeared. He met up with another Atomwaffen member, 20-year-old William Tschantre and began driving south. The FBI issued an arrest warrant for Russell on explosives charges and the FBI bulletin warned he might be planning a terrorist attack.
Russell and Tschantre were arrested in Monroe County. The car which they were driving included assault rifles, body armor and more than 1000 rounds of ammunition which they had acquired after the shooting. The authorities searched Russell's garage and found explosive precursors ammonium nitrate and nitromethane, homemade detonators and an explosive compound hexamethylene triperoxide diamine. HMTD has been used to make improvised explosive devices by other individuals and groups such as Ahmad Khan Rahimi, the perpetrator of the 2016 New York and New Jersey bombings, and ammonium nitrate and nitromethane were used by Timothy McVeigh, the perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing. The authorities also found thorium and americium, two radioactive substances, in Russell's bedroom. Russell, a former student of nuclear physics at the University of South Florida and a Florida Army National Guardsman, had a framed photograph of Timothy McVeigh in his bedroom. The authorities also discovered various Atomwaffen paraphernalia and neo-Nazi propaganda. Russell claimed the explosives were used to power model rockets, but according to an FBI bomb technician the explosives were powerful enough to destroy an airliner. The prosecutors concluded Russell “planned to use the explosives to harm civilians, nuclear facilities and synagogues.”
In September 2017, Russell pleaded guilty to possessing an unregistered destructive device and illegally storing explosives in federal court; in January 2018, he was sentenced to five years in prison for those crimes.
In August 2017, during the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Vasillios Pistolis, a member of the United States Marine Corps who was also a member of Atomwaffen Division, was recorded chanting "White Lives Matter" and "You Will Not Replace Us" with his fellow torch-bearing protestors on the first day of the rally. On the second day of the rally, he assaulted Emily Gorcenski, a transgender woman with a modified version of the Confederate flag which incorporated the neo-Nazi Black Sun symbol in its center, and he even bragged 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 a part of a gang of neo-nazis that assaulted an interracial couple at a restaurant in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. Pistolis had promoted the Unite the Right rally on Twitter 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 United States Marine Corps and court-martialed, and in June 2018, he was imprisoned for disobeying orders and making false statements. He was officially separated from the United States Marine Corps in August 2018.
On December 22, 2017, 17-year-old Nicholas Giampa allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend's parents in Reston, Virginia after they forbade her to date him because of his Neo-Nazi views. Giampa is open both about his admiration for James Mason, Siege, and his membership in Atomwaffen Division. After the killings, he shot himself but survived. Giampa is being held at a youth detention center in Fairfax, Virginia. In August 2018, it was ruled that the damage caused by the self-inflicted gunshot wound had left him incompetent to stand trial.
In January 2018, Samuel Woodward was charged in Orange County, California, with the murder of Blaze Bernstein, an openly gay Jewish college student. Woodward is an avowed neo-Nazi and a member of Atomwaffen Division who had attended events and training camps. Blaze Bernstein had texted a friend that he had run into Woodward and believed they were "going to hook up", telling his friend it would be "legendary". Bernstein's body was found later buried in a shallow grave, having been stabbed at least 20 times. When questioned, Woodward told that he had pushed Bernstein away as he tried to kiss him, but denied having harmed him. However, the investigators found Bernstein's blood on Woodward's knife and sleeping bag. The police went through his chat history and discovered messages from Woodward to his neo-nazi friends where he told he was baiting gay men and discussed a previous victim. In addition to this he posted a picture of a knife with the text “Texting is boring, but murder isn’t". 
According to chat logs subsequently published by ProPublica, one member of Atomwaffen Division wrote of the killing "I love this" and another praised Woodward as a "one man gay Jew wrecking crew". The logs suggested that there are around 20 Atomwaffen cells across the U.S., that some of the organization's members have taken part in weapons training, and they also show members praising Timothy McVeigh, the person who was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, and Norwegian mass-murderer and white supremacist Anders Breivik. The murder of Blaze Bernstein was the fifth killing that was tied to Atomwaffen Division.
In November 2018, authorities in Washington arrested a 30-year-old man named Jeffrey Clark on weapons charges after the FBI received a tip from his family members that he and his brother Edward Clark, 23, might be planning a massacre. It was revealed that the brothers were connected to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting suspect, Robert Bowers. In court, Federal prosecutors filings noted that the brothers may have known about the attack and that they openly admired McVeigh, Manson and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and wanted to kill Jews and other minorities. According to the family members the brothers wanted to hasten up the coming race war and revolution. Online, Jeffrey Clark described Bowers as a "hero" and called the massacre a “dry run for things to come". The authorities found guns, Atomwaffen propaganda, hollow-point bullets and ballistic vests and helmets in the apartment of the Clark brothers, and according to Propublica the brothers had communicated on the Atomwaffen chatroom for initiates and members.
Prosecutors urged the court to keep Clark in detention pending trial and take his threats seriously “in light of the defendant’s access to weapons, possession of body armor, possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines, glorification of acts of violence, and proclamations that he was ‘committed to the survival of the white race by any means necessary’”. Later, the authorities managed to track down the younger brother, who was discovered dead of a gunshot wound on Theodore Roosevelt Island.
Twenty-year-old Benjamin Bogard was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in February 2019 after the FBI received a tip that Bogard 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 Twitter, 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 to attack 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." 
In August of 2019 the FBI arrested twenty-three year old security guard Conor Climo on suspicion of possessing parts to make a bomb. According to the FBI, Climo wanted to contribute "his knowledge of constructing explosive devices toward a 'righteous' cause” and originally joined the Baltic branch of the Atomwaffen Division. Subsequently Climo joined the main Atomwaffen Division organization in Las Vegas, Nevada where he proceeded to plan an attack. Climo wanted to form a team of snipers who would bomb a Las Vegas synagogue and then shoot the surviving Jews. He also sketched a detailed plan to attack a gay bar from the inside and outside simultaneously, using two squads. Climo considered other targets, including police leadership and the headquarters for the Anti-Defamation League. "An AR-15 style" semiautomatic rifle, a bolt action rifle and various bomb-making components, circuits and chemicals were found in Climo's bedroom, as well as schematics of Improvised explosive devices. According to an FBI special bomb technician the materials were consistent with the items needed to function a timed explosive device. Like many other Atomwaffen members, Climo had been in the US Army in 2014 and 2015 as a combat engineer, and was trained in the use, construction, and demolition of explosives. The main leader of the Las Vegas cell of Atomwaffen Division had suggested blowing up natural gas pipe lines with thermite, and several jars of the substance were found in Climo's apartment during the raid.
On September 19, 2019, Andrew Thomasberg was arrested at his home in McLean, Virginia for selling guns illegally. FBI Special Agent Shawn Matthews, whose focus is on domestic terrorism, testified that after the Unite the Right rally Thomasberg, in which he participated with Vanguard America, he joined the Atomwaffen Division, that, in Matthews' words, is "distinct in that it advocates for violence or violent acts to start a racial war in the United States." Law enforcement found 20 guns in the house Thomasberg lives in with his mother, stepfather and sister. Six of the weapons were in Thomasberg's room, and a pistol was in his car. Most of the weapons were loaded.
In group chat text messages, Thomasberg talked about whether entheogen use was in line with his far-right political beliefs, as well as his desire to be involved in a racially motivated shooting. He also displayed "significant knowledge of gun manufacture" and obtained equipment for that purpose. He said that the Poway synagogue shooting "Coulda been so good" and called Robert Gregory Bowers and Brenton Tarrant saints. He also told a friend – who is now a cooperating witness – that he was "carrying enough gear and supplies to set the new high score and wouldn’t want to have to explain that to a cop"; Matthews testified that a "new high score" referred to the number of people killed in a mass shooting. It was also revealed that Thomasberg had trained in self-defense techniques the man who shot and killed Bao Hung Van in Fairfax County, Virginia in 2018. Judge Theresa Buchanan called the evidence "extremely concerning" and denied bail.
On September 23, 2019, Specialist Jarrett William Smith, 24, of Fort Riley, Kansas, was charged with distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction. Smith had joined the U.S. Army on June 12, 2017, and as an infantry soldier, he was trained in combat and tactical operations. In March 2019, the FBI had received a tip that Smith was talking about building bombs. According to a federal criminal complaint Smith planned building a bomb "powerful enough to damage or destroy US military vehicles and obliterate civilian vehicles and people nearby" to "cause chaos" and had considered Antifa, cell towers and local news station as potential targets. In the chat logs accessed by the FBI Smith gave his fellow neo-nazis very specific instructions on how to build IEDs, cellphone explosive devices ‘in the style of the Afghans', bombs out of household chemicals and devices and car bombs, which an FBI bomb technician confirmed were viable. He also talked about his desire to "kill...every last jew across the world" and go to Ukraine to fight with the Azov Battalion. He met with another man in the neo-nazi network named Craig Lang who had already fought with the local neo-nazi militias between 2015 and 2019. Lang, who currently lives in Ukraine, faces federal charges in the United States for the murder of Serafin Lorenzo and Deana Lorenzo during an armed robbery in Estero, Florida, selling weapons to fund his travels abroad and passport fraud. Smith was identified as a member of the Atomwaffen Division, and he had also been in contact with the Baltic branch Feuerkrieg Division. He used the pseudonym "Anti-Kosmik" on social media, a reference to "Anti-Cosmic" Satanism. Assistant US Attorney Anthony Mattivi alleged in federal court that bombing a news organization was just the first step in his plan to ultimately overthrow the federal government. He also claimed that Smith distributed explosives information and was planning on assassinating federal agents with three other people "for the glory of his Satanist religion".
The Sonnenkrieg Division ("Sonnenkrieg" German for "Sun war") is a neo-Nazi group that is the United Kingdom-based branch of the Atomwaffen Division, and it maintains its links to the Atomwaffen Division by e-mails and chat room discussions as well as by its use of similar names and its distribution of similar propaganda. It surfaced 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" who should be shot for marrying 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. At its formation in 2018 the group was thought to have had 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 to various acts of racial violence and arson in the UK. The BBC revealed that the leaders of the group were Andrew Dymock, 21, and Oskar Dunn-Koczorowski, 18.
Police arrested three suspected members of the Sonnenkrieg Division in early December 2018 as part of an "ongoing investigation into extreme right-wing activity". MI5, the British domestic intelligence agency, took the lead in the government's monitoring of far-right terrorism.
On June 18, 2019 Sonnenkrieg members Dunn-Koczorowski and Michal Szewczuk, 19, were jailed for terrorism offences. According to the prosecutor the men promoted "engaging in a "total attack" on the system", Dunn-Koczorowski having proclaimed "terror is the best political weapon for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death" and were intent on action. Furthermore the group was influenced by James Mason who "may well represent the most violent, revolutionary and potentially terroristic expression of right-wing extremism current today". Dunn-Koczorowski was sentenced to 18 months in detention for encouraging terrorism, and Szewczuk was sentenced to four years in prison for encouraging terrorism and possessing documents that are useful to a terrorist, such as bomb-making instructions.
According to British anti-fascists Sonnenkrieg Division has been influenced by the Order of Nine Angles and it is more extreme and potentially more violent than National Action. Hope not Hate's annual "State of Hate" report stated that: "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. The private messages which belonged to Sonnenkrieg Division and were 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.
On February 20, 2019 Jacek Tchorzewski, 18, was stopped by the counter terrorism unit at the Luton airport. He was arrested on suspicion of terror offences, and the police uncovered “an enormous amount” of manuals on how to make weapons and explosives and nazi propaganda. In court it was heard he had told it was “his dream” to commit a terrorist attack, and a notebook from his prison cell was presented where he had written: "Let's fill our hearts with terror and London's streets with blood." Commander Richard Smith, the head of the counter terrorism unit stated that Tchorzewski was connected to the Sonnenkrieg Division and was obsessed with nazism and violence. Judge Anuja Dhir said Tchorzewski was a "deeply entrenched neo-Nazi with an interest in Satanism and occult practices” and an “offender of particular concern" and on September 20, 2019 Tchorzewski was handed a sentence of four years for terrorism offences at the Old Bailey. 
On June 1, 2018, in a video in German and English titled AWD Deutschland: Die Messer werden schon gewetzet ("AWD Germany: The knives are already being sharpened"), the group announced the establishment of a cell or branch in Germany, followed by the promise of a "long fight". The group's flyers were spotted in Berlin, targeting students. In June 2019, Atomwaffen propaganda was discovered in a Turkish neighborhood in Cologne on the site of a nail bomb attack, threatening further similar attacks.
The group also has a presence in Canada via an affiliated organization called Northern Order that includes members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Members of the group have also been known to attend the Atomwaffen training camps in the United States. One of the pseudonymous individuals found to be part of the group was a 21-year-old "Dark Foreigner" who creates propaganda for Atomwaffen. The group celebrated the anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting by defacing Canadian mosques with neo-nazi slogans. Gunfire was also reported outside a defaced mosque in Ottawa. 
In October 2018, a group which is modeled after Atomwaffen and calls itself the Feuerkrieg Division (German for "Fire War Division") was established in the Baltic states, most likely in Estonia where its leadership resides. In mid-2019, the Feuerkrieg gained attention when it issued death threats against Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. It has previously praised the actions of Dylann Roof, Robert Bowers, Timothy McVeigh and Brenton Harrison Tarrant the perpetrator of the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand. Feuerkrieg Division has encouraged violence against government authorities, Jews, LGBTQ people, leftists, and feminists, and advocates the burning of synagogues. Propaganda videos produced by the group show its members building and detonating homemade explosive devices in Estonia. Feuerkrieg has also shared a video among its members that instructs how to make TATP bombs, used by ISIS in the Manchester Arena bombing. On June 13, 2019, Feuerkrieg Division announced their presence in Ireland and encouraged people in United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Germany to join the intercontinental network. The message was accompanied by violent propaganda posts such as "You can't spell Europe without ROPE" and "Only Bullets Will Stop Us Now" complete with a logo change.
According to Eesti Rahvusringhääling, an investigation revealed that newly elected Estonian MP from the governing far-right EKRE Ruuben Kaalep is connected to British neo-nazi terrorists. Among these a founding member of the former National Action whose followers went on to form the British branch of the Atomwaffen Division, which subsequently opened a branch in Kaalep's native Estonia in the form of the Feuerkrieg Division. ADL and Hope not Hate also confirmed that American and English nazis and Azov members have visited Tallinn multiple times, organizing events with Kaalep and Feuerkrieg “which began in early 2019, originally organized with Sonnenkrieg" before becoming a full-fledged branch. Kaalep was also found to have been organizing firearms training with pistols and assault rifles to groups of youths recruited from Blue Awakening, some of whom wore skull masks associated with Atomwaffen and were shown doing nazi salutes. Kaalep had stated that they are ready for armed combat and the collapse of law and order. The KaPo had earlier expressed its concern over his events.
On June of 2019, Chief Rabbi Shmuel Kot reported to the police that the Jewish graveyard of Tallinn had been vandalized, numerous gravestones were shattered and defaced with nazi symbols. The act was attributed to the "neo-Nazi elements" in EKRE.
On September 2, 2019, the British police arrested a 16 year old Feuerkrieg member for plotting a terror attack with a self built Submachine gun. The army cadet had professed his admiration for Adolf Hitler and James Mason. The group published the addresses of the force’s station buildings, custody suites and training centres in retaliation and encouraged its members and sympathizers to kill West Midlands Chief Constable Dave Thompson. It was added that all police are “race traitors” and that police stations should be "considered high value targets to any local NS [National Socialist]".  In early September Feuerkrieg also spread posters of the deputy mayor of Tallinn and the leader of the Estonian Greens Züleyxa Izmailova being strangled to death.
On October 8, Feuerkrieg Division took responsibility for the bombing of Technopolis on the Balčikonis street in Vilnius, posting footage of the bomb being constructed and stated that "Our threats are not empty". Nazi symbols were also spray painted on the building. The next day, a 21-year-old Luke Hunter appeared in court in London charged with terror offences for allegedly having supported the Feuerkrieg Division and encouraged the mass murder of Jews, non-white people and homosexuals. He entered no plea and was remanded in custody.
Even within the alt-right — a loose association of white supremacists and fascists — the Atomwaffen Division is considered extreme.