Inside ‘Atomwaffen,’ where Blaze Bernstein’s alleged killer trained for race war

Before he was charged with the murder of his former classmate, Samuel Woodward participated in ‘doomsday camp’ with one of America’s ‘most extreme’ hate groups

Reporter at The Times of Israel

Blaze Bernstein, center, with his parents, Jeanne Pepper and Gideon Bernstein. (Facebook via JTA)
Blaze Bernstein, center, with his parents, Jeanne Pepper and Gideon Bernstein. (Facebook via JTA)

The California man accused of killing 19-year-old US student Blaze Bernstein has ties to the neo-Nazi group “Atomwaffen,” news sources reported over the weekend. Bernstein, a gay Jew, was stabbed at least 20 times and buried in a shallow grave at the start of the year. His one-time classmate, 20-year old Samuel Woodward, was arrested on January 12 and charged with Bernstein’s murder.

Several who knew Woodward told the news outlet ProPublica about the alleged killer’s affiliation with Atomwaffen, known as “one of the most extreme” hate groups active in the US.

This Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 booking photo provided by the Orange County, Calif., Sheriff’s Department shows Samuel Lincoln Woodward who was arrested in the killing of Blaze Bernstein. (Orange County Sheriff’s Department via AP)

Since its formation in Florida about three years ago, the group’s estimated 80 members have been tied to five murders, numerous assaults, and several plots to commit terror attacks.

As “an armed fascist organization,” Atomwaffen — which roughly means “nuclear weapons” in German — strongly identifies with National Socialism, and Jews have been a primary target of the group.

Members value self-sufficiency, whether living autonomously or being ready to carry out “lone wolf” attacks, for which they are trained in hand-to-hand combat and firearms.

Woodward joined the hate group in early 2016, according to ProPublica. He participated in a three-day training camp in Texas, including combat simulations and practice with rifles. Photographs of Woodward at “hate camp” show him and other Atomwaffen members making the Nazi salute. On another occasion, Woodward filmed himself reenacting a neo-Nazi murder scene from the 1998 film “American History X.”

Bernstein, who attended the University of Pennsylvania, was home on winter break at the time of his murder. According to police, Woodward told them that Bernstein attempted to kiss him on the lips during a late-night encounter. The alleged killer is set to appear in court this week, and has yet to enter a plea. Prosecutors are examining the murder as a hate crime.

A step toward all-out race war

Of all the groups spawned by the alt-right wave, Atomwaffen has been deemed particularly dangerous by the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and other civil rights groups. In addition to providing combat training to members, the organization celebrates each act of violence as a step toward all-out race war.

Formally, Atomwaffen’s “resistance” is to “Jewish oligarchies and globalist bankers” who are causing “the white race’s displacement.” Blacks and LGBT individuals are also targeted for “ethnic cleansing.” The stated ultimate goal is to overthrow the US government and establish a National Socialist state, and the group is not shy about calling for its enemies’ annihilation.

According to sources who knew Woodward, the young man was a proud neo-Nazi and anti-Semite. Reportedly, he helped organize a California “cluster” of Atomwaffen activists in recent months.

In this August 12, 2017, photo, DeAndre Harris, bottom is assaulted in a parking garage beside the Charlottesville police station after a white nationalist rally was dispersed by police, in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Zach D. Roberts via AP)

For their inspiration, Woodward and other Atomwaffen members look to James Mason, a neo-Nazi who captured headlines in the 1970s and 1980s. After leaving the American Nazi Party, Mason founded the “Universal Order” movement with guidance from mass murderer Charles Manson, who designed the order’s logo of a swastika superimposed over scales of justice. Some of Mason’s readings are “required” for membership.

Last May, a former member of the Florida Atomwaffen chapter, Devon Arthurs, was charged with the murder of two young men, also members. In December, a 17-year-old connected to the group allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend’s parents in Virginia. Other incidents involving members have taken place in at least eight states, including planned attacks on a synagogue and a nuclear installation.

Papering with propaganda

A poster made by the hate group Atomwaffen (Reddit)

Before its name became associated with murder, Atomwaffen’s publicity was chiefly related to the dissemination of posters. In 2016, at least eight college campuses were plastered with posters and stickers calling for race war. Some pro-Hitler, swastika-laden materials were taped directly onto students’ doors, and other materials were handed out in person.

On the video-hosting service BitChute, several Atomwaffen propaganda videos are posted, including one about the “Doomsday Hate Camp” attended by Woodward. Among videos that celebrate the “productivity” of members who commit violence, a “Lessons of Charlottesville” tribute called on “the Right to unite.”

In the hate group’s messaging, gays and Jews are vehemently targeted. LGBT people are urged to commit suicide by hanging themselves, and AIDS is praised for “working” against its ostensible target. In a military-style training video posted earlier this month, members shout “gas the kikes” while firing guns, and Jews are the first enemy identified on the group’s homepage.

“We have a strong sense of comradery,” according to one of several “strict requirements for joining” listed on the Atomwaffen website. “You must be willing to participate and bring something to the table. Simply being white and existent, alone, is not enough,” according to the fourth requirement of the five listed, called “enthusiasm.”

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