Neo-Nazi Murderer Dies Before Trial

Extremist crimes

The long and bitter life of Holocaust Museum murderer James von Brunn came to an uneventful end in January, when he died in a federal prison while awaiting trial for the slaying of security guard Stephen T. Johns. Von Brunn, who was being treated for chronic medical problems, was 89.

In June of last year, the violently anti-Semitic, anti-black von Brunn double-parked his Hyundai in front of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., approached the crowded facility and shot Johns as he opened the door for him, authorities said. Two other guards returned fire, and von Brunn was wounded in one ear and immediately arrested.

Von Brunn’s neo-Nazi and antigovernment views dated back decades. He was arrested in the nation’s capital in December 1981 after carrying a sawed-off shotgun, a pistol and a hunting knife into the Federal Reserve, where he hoped to make a citizen’s arrest of the Board of Governors, whom he called “treasonous liars.” (Many on the radical right see the Fed as an evil entity.) He blamed a “Negro jury” and a “Jew judge” for his conviction in that case. He was released in 1989 after serving six years in prison. 

At the time of his arrest at the Holocaust Museum, von Brunn ran the website Holywesternempire.org, which was listed in 2008 as a hate site by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also had a long history of associations with prominent neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers. At one point, von Brunn worked briefly at Noontide Press, a part of the Holocaust-denying Institute of Historical Review then run by Willis Carto, one of America’s most prominent anti-Semites. More recently, he self-published an anti-Semitic book, Kill the Best Gentiles!

In the end, though, von Brunn was not a terribly influential figure in the white supremacist world. When he died, some people who posted on Stormfront.org, the leading white supremacist Web forum, hailed him as a hero. But others ridiculed his shooting of the black security guard, saying it hurt their cause.

“We have to find things for our old men to do that do not involve military invasions of museums!” one of them wrote. “Wow. Really pathetic, folks.”