Inside a Neo-Nazi Group With Members Tied to the U.S. Military

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November 20, 2018

On a Shabbat morning last month, a gunman stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh during services and carried out the deadliest known attack on the Jewish community in American history.

Armed with an AR-15 and three handguns, the gunman killed 11 Jewish worshippers, ranging in age from 54 to 97.

The violent, anti-Semitic attack stunned much of America. But at the same time, it’s part of a broader resurgence of white supremacist hatred in the U.S.: Just last week, the FBI released its documentation of hate crimes reported to the agency in 2017 — showing an increase for the third year running.

FRONTLINE and ProPublica have been investigating the resurgence of violent white supremacy in America for more than a year, in reporting that has helped lead to multiple arrests. That reporting continues on Nov. 20 with Documenting Hate: New American Nazis — a new documentary investigating Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group that calls for racially motivated, “lone wolf” terror attacks like the one in Pittsburgh.

Atomwaffen members or associates have been charged in five murders in the last two years — and the group has actively recruited inside the U.S. military. In the above excerpt from the documentary, correspondent A.C. Thompson and reporter Ali Winston talk with a former member of the group, who sheds light on its terrorist objectives.

Atomwaffen Division, it’s a Nazi extremist group seeking to spread terror. The main thing is lone wolf activity,” says the former Atomwaffen member, who asks Thompson to call him John and disguise his voice.

As the film explores, this sort of approach has helped the white power movement continue to exist under the radar over the years — since such attacks often present as random, isolated occurrences, rather than as outgrowths of an organized white power movement.

“They don’t see themselves as terrorists. Rather, they see the United States as the ultimate terrorist,” John tells FRONTLINE and ProPublica of Atomwaffen’s ideology. “Like what Adolf Hitler said, how do you meet terrorism? You meet it with stronger terrorism.”

The investigation goes on to show how the neo-Nazi group has sought to draw from the U.S. military, and how it has even run “hate camps” offering military-style training across the U.S.. It also explores the long history of white extremist groups with members linked to the U.S. military, and examines how civilian and military authorities have responded to Atomwaffen’s terrorist ambitions.

All told, the documentary is a chilling and eye-opening look at violent white supremacist groups in America: how they operate, what their aims are, and what’s being done to stop them.

Documenting Hate: New American Nazis premieres Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST on PBS stations (check local listings) and online. The first film in this series, Documenting Hate: Charlottesville, is streaming in full online. Read related reporting at


Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE



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