“He got into exile a lot,” said Ebony Humes, who first befriended him in 6th grade. “He was trying to make friends, but most of the time people would turn their backs on him or act like he wasn’t there. It kind of broke my heart. He tried, constantly, for years. You could see the pain on his face.
“He was a lovely kid,” echoed Epley. “But people weren’t very nice to him. He was bullied a lot. »
By 11th grade, Climo was almost overflowing with resentment. “Nobody likes me. I hate it here,” he sobbed in the cafeteria, at one point knocking on the table, Humes recalled. “I want out.”
It was after graduating that Climo, who lived with her family at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, found the community she was missing: a violent global movement hidden in the dark recesses of the internet determined to start a neo-Nazi race war. , according to public documents, court records, law enforcement officials and classmates.
For more than a year, reporters from POLITICO, Germany’s Welt and Insider newspaper, have uncovered the inner workings of this increasingly violent movement, drawn from nearly two dozen newsgroups, more than 98,000 posts text and discussion – including photos and videos – and interviews with members.
The data offers a rare glimpse into a burgeoning network of neo-Nazis threatening to kill politicians and journalists, providing instructions on how to make bombs and weapons with 3D printers and encouraging each other to attack locations of worship, the gay community and people of color. This is what extremism researchers call “militant accelerationism” – a movement to start a war for white power.
There are dozens of these groups on both sides of the Atlantic with martial names taken from Nazi propaganda. Many followers have been influenced by the writings of James Mason, the 69-year-old Coloradan who joined an American Nazi party at age 14 and whose books and newsletter are considered modern Mein Kampfs for adherents.
Climo was drawn to the Feuerkrieg division, which translates to “fire war,” a nickname inspired by torchlight marches at Nazi rallies in 1930s Germany.
FKD was reportedly established in 2018 in Estonia and quickly disappeared. But there has been a resurgence in recent years, according to law enforcement officials and experts from domestic extremist groups.
Involvement with the group resulted in Climo storing bomb-making materials in his bedroom. And as he increasingly embraced the cause of establishing a white ethno-state, he was arrested on suspicion of planning – and scouting for targets – to blow up a synagogue. and a gay bar, according to FBI and court documents.
Climo pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years on one count of possession of an unregistered firearm – specifically, components of a destructive device.
Climo, who court records show was released earlier this year from federal prison and is now on three years probation, did not respond to multiple interview requests. His family members also declined to speak on his behalf or did not respond to interview requests.
His journey from troubled American teenager to neo-Nazi warrior has been a wake-up call and highlights growing concerns about a new generation of vocal white supremacists emerging in America’s suburbs or even within the ranks of the armed forces.
While internet radicalization has been recognized in recent years as a persistent threat — a handful of American teenagers have been charged with crimes related to online extremism — the international nature of radicalization has been much less appreciated.
According to some estimates, FKD has only 100 members. But at a time when terrorism and mass violence are increasingly perpetrated by angry lone wolves, the group marks a dangerous development in a growing global network of groups plotting from the shadows to enlist followers with training. military personnel or firearms to carry out attacks alone or in small groups.
“FKD is particularly alarming right now because it’s so decentralized and really only present in online forums,” said Iris Malone, co-founder of the Mapping Activists Project and consultant to the Department of Homeland Security. “There is not a single point of vulnerability where you can eliminate them. They will have multiple channels on Telegram or other online services where they can communicate with each other and they will deliberately create redundant channels.
In the United States, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have uncovered numerous links to the online community in recent years, including a US Army soldier who was sentenced to two years in prison for broadcasting information on social media about the making of a bomb and the chemical agent. napalm.
It is a much more decentralized network compared to larger umbrella groups such as Atomwaffen, now known as the National Socialist Order. “Atomwaffen, originally when it was created, had members in Florida, or chapters in Washington,” Malone said. “Having a physical organization or a physical address allows law enforcement authorities to come in and be able to arrest or eliminate these groups.”
But what may be most disturbing about the latest spin is its heavy reliance on wayward teens.
“One of the main characteristics of the Feuerkrieg Division is the average age of the members, most of them minors, starting at 15,” concluded a 2021 study by the International Observatory for Studies on terrorism in Madrid, Spain.
The analysis also concluded that “the terrorist group Feuerkrieg Division is recruiting again after being disbanded”.
Malone explained that online recruiting makes it particularly difficult in the United States, where the FKD is not designated as a terrorist organization and where authorities face often competing demands to monitor potentially dangerous online activity without breaching civil liberties.
“I just don’t think the government has a good handle on extremism online yet because of the issues with free speech and access to social media,” she said.
‘I mean you no harm’
ABoror View High School, in the Centennial Hills community of Las Vegas, resembles an ordinary suburban American public school campus in a diverse, middle-class neighborhood.
Near the courtyard tables vandalized with sexually explicit graffiti, the main entrance is framed by a large mural quoting civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “There is always a time to do what is just.”
But while people of color make up nearly half of the student body, the school also has a history of racial tension.
“There was diversity there but it was still very clear in some situations the separations and tensions between different cultural backgrounds,” recalled Humes, who is black.
In 2019, two students were arrested and another cited after targeting black students with racial slurs on Instagram and threatening to attack them. An article said: “God only sees these n-ers [infuriates] me. I just wanna go Columbine…but only kill the f-king n—ers,” referencing the 1999 mass shooting at a Colorado high school.
Climo’s own journey into activism came to light in 2016, when he worked as a security guard.
A local news station featured him patrolling his neighborhood wearing a body armor and carrying an AR-15 automatic rifle and four magazines – each holding 30 rounds.
“I stay pretty much within constitutional limits doing this,” he said, insisting to a runaway family of neighbors, “I mean you no harm.”