Special to the JTA the Face of Violence
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Special to the JTA the Face of Violence

Ten members of The Order, a violent anti-Semitic Northwest-based sect are on trial at the federal courthouse here for carrying out 67 racketeering acts — including two murders, three armored car robberies, and counterfeiting — as part of their plot to kill Jews, deport non-whites, and overthrow the federal government. The trial, which began last month, is expected to conclude by the end of next month and a verdict handed down toward the end of December.

Prosecutors have chosen to charge the group with violating the broadly-written racketeering law, under which they must prove that each of the accused committed at least two crimes as part of the conspiracy. Charges for specific crimes may be filed later by state officials.

Former members of The Order have taken the witness stand under plea-bargain agreements. Eleven members have pleaded guilty, one faces murder charges in Missouri, and another is a fugitive who was recently placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. All the jurors are white and non-Jewish.


Alan Berg, a popular radio personality in Denver, was assassinated by The Order, government prosecutors allege, because he was Jewish and relished baiting anti-Semitic callers on his talk show program. The media star was executed in the driveway of his Denver home on June 18, 1984. An FBI agent testified that the murder weapon used to pump 12 bullets into Berg’s body has been converted to a fully automatic machine gun that was capable of firing 950 rounds a minute.

FBI agents testified they linked alleged triggerman Bruce Carroll Pierce to the murder by matching machine gun bullets found at the Berg murder scene with spent cartridges found at a home Pierce rented in Troy, Montana.

Although several of Berg’s neighbors said they had heard the deadly machine gun fire — including one woman who said it shook her apartment — there were no witnesses to the crime. Denver authorities have not filed murder charges.

The Berg murder was described in graphic detail by his widow Judith Berg, who had dinner with the victim the night of his death and had helped him prepare for the next day’s radio show. The topic: gun control.

Berg, a non-practicing lawyer who held liberal political views, was featured in a CBS-TV “60 Minutes” segment that was shown to jurors in which he acknowledged the danger of publicly taking on rightwing leaders. “Hopefully, my legal training will prevent me from saying the thing that will kill me, and I’ve come awfully close,” he told the interviewer.

Peter Boyles, a colleague of Berg’s for over five years, said the victim was a master at invective and the “acid-tongue” approach of creating controversy to attract listeners. He would interrupt controversial callers, hang up on them and then deride their views after they were off the air.

Government prosecutors have alleged that Berg was selected by The Order as a target for execution at the urging of defendant David Lane, accused of driving the getaway car. A friend testified that Lane who lived in Denver and disliked Berg’s political views, once played her a tape of the Berg show and called the radio star “a filthy Jew.” According to Elizabeth Dracon, Lane “said in one of his typical cliches: somebody ought to shoot that guy.”

Another motive was provided by a controversial show in 1983, during which Berg’s guest was Lane’s former employer, the publisher of a rightwing Colorado farm publication, prosecutors allege. The program publicizing a series of anti-Semitic articles published by the “Primrose and Cattlemen’s Gazette” resulted in a drop of advertising, which prompted the paper to cut jobs, including Lane’s position as a security guard.

Other witnesses — including former Order members — have testified that several neo-Nazis admitted involvement in the murder, citing their hatred for Berg because of his public derision toward callers who expressed anti-Semitic opinions.


The prosecution has argued that Berg was one of several well-known Jews targeted for possible assassination by The Order. On the hit list were “important figures in society, either Jews thought to be detrimental to our society or white traitors … those in power who went along with the destruction of the white race, “former Order member Denver Daw Parmenter testified at the start of the trial.

Among them were also former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, television producer Norman Lear, the three national TV network heads, and Morris Dees, a southern attorney involved in monitoring the Ku Klux Klan.

Several members of The Order had also considered bombing a Seattle hotel during a visit by French banker Baron de Rothschild, but discarded the plan because they lacked the time to acquire adequate explosives, Parmenter said.

According to six main goals of The Order, assassination of prominent Jews was necessary because of its perceived domination of the U.S. government, what members called ZOG, the Zionist Occupied Government. Order adherents believed in the Christian Identity movement theory, according to which “the Jews are the prophecy of the devil,” Parmenter said. “The responsibility of the white race is to destroy the race of the Jews.”

Former Order members testified that leader Robert Mathews recruited neo-Nazis who belonged to various groups across the country and shared his frustration about a lack of commitment to putting their radical beliefs into action. Mathews died in a shootout last year after a 36-hour standoff with FBI agents on Whidbey Island, Washington.


The Order envisioned itself as the financier of other rightwing groups, and made donations from counterfeiting operations and robberies, including a $3.6 million armored car heist in Ukiah, Calif. The money was also used to pay Order members a $20,000 yearly salary, and to purchase an arsenal of guns and explosives, many of which were stored at the group’s military training camp in northern Idaho, according to reports.

Parmenter testified that one former member was given $200,000 in a bizarre plan to contact scientists who could develop laser weapons and thought-control systems for an Aryan takeover.

At one point, witnesses testified, the group unsuccessfully sought outside funds from an Arab student group at the University of Washington, and discussed contacting the Syrian Embassy in Washington, D.C., because of a perceived sympathy to The Order’s anti-Semitic cause. Former members who have taken the stand have provided a variety of reasons for taking The Order oath vowing violence and hatred. For some, it was an easy way to earn money and to attain a purpose in life.

“I was a very unstable individual,” said Parmenter, who added he changed his views after reading the Bible in his jail cell. “I was looking for something to (give me) self-worth …. fighting for my race. It gave me something to blame my situation on.”

Defense attorneys contended in their opening arguments that their clients were political victims. The jurors were instructed to judge the defendants solely on the evidence without being influenced by their unpopular white supremacist views.

The expressed violence of The Order has prompted unprecedented security measures at the courthouse. Parking is banned around the downtown building, and streets are blocked when the shackled defendants are brought to and from the daily proceeding. Marshals keep vigil by sitting in two rows in front of the courtroom and standing guard near the witness stand.

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