Jewish groups say attack is a ‘wake-up call’

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Three Jewish watchdog groups say they’ve long had their sights set on the elderly man accused of storming the U.S. Holocaust Museum and killing a guard Wednesday afternoon.

The suspect, whom authorities have identified as James W. von Brunn, operated an anti-Semitic Web site pushing a book purporting to be an “expose of the Jew conspiracy to destroy the white gene-pool.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies in Los Angeles, said his group’s researchers have known of Mr. von Brunn’s site as one of “thousands” of anti-Semitic pages worldwide.

“It is a classic example of hatred,” the rabbi said. “It begins with speeches and writings and continues on from there. It’s a wake-up call to all of us, thinking this is America, and when we describe evil, we look for another country. But hatred exists in our own ranks and in our own country.”

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The assailant “never hid his hatred,” the rabbi added. “He had an active Web site, where he said the greatest mistake Hitler made was not to gas all the Jews.”

Myrna Shinbaum, director of media relations for the Anti-Defamation League, said Mr. von Brunn “is not unknown in the world of people we look at.”

“We knew him,” she said. “He has a long history of these things, and he’s a hater of Jews. A lot of these people are on the fringe. They may not be known to you guys [in the media], which is why we need to know who they are.”

Ken Stern, a specialist on anti-Semites and extremism for the American Jewish Committee, said Mr. von Brunn’s name was known but he was “not a mover and a shaker” or one of the better-known names in the white-supremacist movement.

Still, he said, a lone wolf like Mr. von Brunn was apparently able to kill someone without being any kind of leader or having a supportive infrastructure.

“This is just another example of how people steeped in ideology of white supremacy and anti-Semitism can end up giving vent to their ideas in terroristic acts,” he said.

Officials at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie beefed up their security Wednesday afternoon after the shooting in Washington.

The Wiesenthal Center already has extensive security. When white-supremacist Buford O. Furrow Jr. planned in summer 1999 to attack the museum, he was scared off by its security staff. He then went on a shooting rampage at a Los Angeles Jewish community center and killed a Filipino-American postal worker.

Mr. von Brunn’s site includes a quote from the Talmud, which is made up of second-century commentaries on Jewish scriptures, saying “Kill the Best Gentiles.”

Nathan Diament, policy director for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and a member of President Obama’s faith-based advisory council, said the passage was advice on how to defeat the Romans during a time when they heavily persecuted Jews.

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About the Author
Julia Duin

Julia Duin

Julia Duin is the Times’ religion editor. She has a master’s degree in religion from Trinity School for Ministry (an Episcopal seminary) and has covered the beat for three decades. Before coming to The Washington Times, she worked for five newspapers, including a stint as a religion writer for the Houston Chronicle and a year as city editor at the ...

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