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Atomwaffen Division (AWD)


Overview & Ideology

The Atomwaffen Division (German for “Atomic Weapons”) is an international Neo Nazi accelerationist network. The group was founded by members of a now-defunct Neo Nazi internet forum, called the 'Iron March', which catered to younger Neo Nazis hoping to take to real life activism. Much of Atomwaffen’s ideology is derived from a Neo Nazi named James Mason and his newsletter called “SIEGE”. SIEGE heavily embraced the idea of going underground and creating small networks which would result in 'lone-wolf' style attacks (1). Members of the group are also strict followers of the ideology of the Order of Nine Angles -- an esoteric Satanic group with Neo Nazi ideologies. The group’s goal is to create an apocalyptic societal collapse which will result in a race war that would lay the foundation for a national socialist society (2).


Organisation Roots & Radicalisation


There has been much speculation on the exact date of the founding of the organization. Claims range from 2013 to 2017, although the organization itself can be traced from the now-defunct Iron March forum which began in 2011 and was later shut down in 2017. In fact, a post on the Iron March forum made by Brandon Clint Russell from Florida announced the formation of The Atomwaffen Division on October 12, 2015, in Tampa (1). Roughly around the same time, AWD literature started appearing on the University of Central Florida's campus. In 2016, the same literature appears on the Old Dominion University and then Boston University. After this, AWD members began making appearances in public.


Members were spotted protesting a vigil in San Antonio, Texas regarding the Pulse Nightclub shooting. After that, members were in Houston, Texas as part of a “White Lives Matter” rally. AWD propaganda was then spotted at eight different universities around the US (2). AWD had grown to 80 members with various “initiates” waiting to gain approval to become full members. These 80 individuals and initiates were spread across the United States in secretive cells which trained and planned for “lone wolf” style attacks. AWD even conducted various “hate camps” in Texas, Washington, Nevada, and Illinois. These “hate camps consisted of firearms training, explosives training, clearing houses, and production of propaganda videos (3).


Objectives


The objective of AWD is the collapse of modern civilization. Their belief is that various terror cells would be able to execute catastrophic “lone-wolf” attacks which would incite a race war and hence bring down the US government. The AWD's objectives are influenced by serial killer Charles Manson, as well as prominent white nationalists William Pierce and James Mason. AWD went as far as even establishing a relationship with James Manson. AWD made his Neo Nazi newsletter, SIEGE, a required reading for all members. SIEGE heavily promotes the idea of “leaderless resistance” in which an individuals would operate in secrecy and conduct “lone wolf” attacks. Examples of these types of actions which inspire AWD is the Oklahoma City Bombing and the shooting conducted by Dylann Roof (2). Another ideology

that became intertwined with AWD was Satanism. John Denton became leader of AWD after Brandon Russell was incarcerated for the possession of a high-powered firearm and explosives after being pulled over in 2018. Denton himself was heavily influenced by a British Satanic Neo Nazi organization -- The Order of Nine Angles (ONA). ONA writings then became required readings for members and the AWD began to take on many of their beliefs.


Approach to Resistance


The danger of the AWD comes from their propensity and desire for violence. They have been known to actively recruit military members; AWD founder Brandon Russell himself was a member of the Army National Guard. Members with military experience play an important role within the AWD as they share knowledge of firearms training, paramilitary structure within training, and explosives training. Various cells will conduct trainings on their own, sharing the knowledge that had been given from the military members within their ranks. Examples of these trainings are the “hate camps” that AWD was known to conduct (1).


The AWD has been involved in many violent incidents. For instance, in 2017, former AWD member Devon Arthurs killed his two roommates who were active AWD members, stating that they were plotting attacks and that he would not be able to live with the guilt if they were to follow through (1). The plot that Arthurs was referring to prompt the arrest of AWD founder, Brandon Russell. Russell had been stating on Neo Nazi online forums that he was going to blow up various infrastructure and kill random individuals. Police pulled over Russell and another AWD member and discovered explosives, bulletproof vests, and automatic rifles in their possession. In 2018, AWD member, Samuel Woodward murdered his former high school classmate, Blaze Bernstein, after attending an AWD “hate camp”. Bernstein was Jewish and part of the LGBT community. Many AWD members praised Woodward for his actions on online forms after his arrest (2).


The AWD has the propensity to be violent, as seen with the murders and assaults associated with the organization. However, law enforcement has been relatively effective in the prevention of any major threats; many leading AWD members have been incarcerated or put under scrutiny from law enforcement. This has consequently caused the organization to become more secretive. The organization is very savvy with encrypted communication and its distribution of propaganda. This is perhaps the real defining source of danger within the AWD’s promotion of “lone wolf”attacks that could be carried out by individuals who are simply inspired by AWD teachings. James Mason declared that AWD had to disband due to pressures from law enforcement, although many members remain active. The members that remained active rebranded themselves as the National Socialist Order (NSO) (3). The name has changed, but they essentially have the same beliefs and activities as the AWD, although

they are keeping a lower profile.


International Outreach


The AWD has been noted to have cells throughout the United States. By admission, Brandon Russell mentioned on his aforementioned Iron March post that proclaimed the formation of AWD included a “large concentration in Florida, various smaller chapters throughout the US, such as Chicago, Texas, and New England, Boston, New York, Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio, Missouri, Oregon, Virginia, and a few others.” (3). The AWD was also noted to have international links and affiliates. Affiliate groups have been discovered in the United

Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Russia and allegedly in Ukraine as well (2). The UK affiliate of the AWD -- The Sonnenkrieg Division (SKD) -- further blended tenants of Satanism along with ideas of pedophilia and rape. The SKD became an affiliate of the AWD in 2018 and it attracted attention all over the UK due to threats made against Prince Harry’s life for his marriage to Meghan Markle.


The AWD’s German affiliate, AWD Deutschland, emerged in 2018. They became known nationwide due to their threats against Muslim and Green Party politicians. In 2022, a cell connected to AWD was discovered in Quebec, Canada. The cell was eventually raided by authorities after a perspective member was arrested for defacing LGBT support centers throughout the area (3). Another incident involved the members of the Washington branch of the AWD and their connections to a far-right terrorist organization -- the Russia Imperialist Movement. The ties between these organizations were so deep that AWD members Aiden Bruce-Umbaugh and Kaleb Cole travelled to St. Petersburg, Russia to receive military training from them (4). The AWD affiliates were noted to be in Ukraine as a propaganda video emerged in 2019, although any further evidence to confirm the authenticity of this has not been found (2).


Many of these groups have been crippled due to law enforcement scrutiny but it proves that the reach of the AWD’s structure and propaganda is a new trend in white supremacy.


Works Cited (Chicago-style)

(1) - Thompson, A.C. “Documenting Hate: New American Nazis (Full Documentary) | Frontline.” Youtube, uploaded by Frontline PBS | Official, November 4, 2020, https://youtu.be/-XFBVAAzXjc


(2) - Fighting Hate/Extremist Files. “Atomwaffen Division.” Southern Poverty Law Center. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/atomwaffen-division


(3) - Mapping Militant Organizations. “Atomwaffen Division/National Socialist Order.” Stanford University. Last Modified August 2022. https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/mappingmilitants/profiles/atomwaffen-division


(4) - BIPOC. “Washington’s Defunct Atomwaffen Division had Deep Ties to the Terrorist Org, Russia Imperialist Movement.” Malcontent News. https://malcontent.com/washingtons-defunct-atomwaffen-division-had-deep-ties-to-the-terrorist-org-russia-imperialist-movement/

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