A white supremacist and self-described neo-Nazi from Colorado has been sentenced to 235 months (around 19 and a half years) in prison for plotting to blow up a synagogue. Richard Holzer, who is 28 years old, told undercover FBI agents that he intended to show Jews they had to leave, and that if they didn’t ‘people will die’, the Justice Department has said. Fortunately, his sickening plot never came to fruition, and he will now spend almost two decades in prison. Holzer has also been sentenced to 15 years of supervised release.
The Temple Holzer had targeted was the Temple Emanuel Synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado. Holder admitted that he had worked with agents to obtain pipe bombs and other explosives. The agents gave him fabricated equipment, which included 2 pipe bombs, 14 sticks of dynamite, and other explosives. Holzer pulled Hitler’s infamous book ‘Mein Kampf’ out of his bag, before calling the fake explosives he had been given ‘absolutely beautiful’.
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Holzer disturbingly referred to the planned attack as ‘a move for our race’. The Justice Department said that he told FBI agents at the time he was arrested that he wanted “to do something that would tell Jewish people in the community that they are not welcome in Pueblo, and they should leave or they will die.”
Holzer had visited the Temple Emmanuel Synagogue to observe its congregants, and he had told his associates for months that he had wanted to attack it. He repeatedly told the agents that he hated Jews, and wanted to get the Synagogue ‘off the map’. He had also sent a picture of himself holding an automatic weapon to an undercover FBI agent, and had told the agent that he was preparing for ‘RAHOWA’, meaning racial holy war.
Holzer was arrested in 2019, and pled guilty to his charges in a plea agreement in October 2020. Federal officials said that his plot met the definition of domestic terrorism, though the fake explosives Holzer received from FBI agents could not have been detonated.
The planned attack comes amid worrying levels of support for racist and extremist viewpoints in the US. A Washington Post-ABC News poll, carried out after the racially-charged violence by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2017, even found that 9% of respondents believed it is acceptable to hold white supremacist and neo-Nazi views. If this figure was applied to the entire (current) population, it would equal over 29.5 million Americans, which is a worryingly high figure.
Whilst, according to Southern Poverty Law Centre, the number of white supremacist groups has decreased between 2019 and 2020, Anti-Semitic hate crimes reached a 40-year high in 2019, with the Jewish civil rights group recording 2,107 incidents, a shockingly high number. Anti-Semitic hate crimes have recently been fuelled by the spread of COVID-19 conspiracy theories, according to the group’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. Greenblatt attributes the high number of incidents in 2019 to ‘the normalization of Anti-Semitic tropes’, the ‘charged politics of the day’, and social media.
The US attorney for the US District of Colorado called Holzer’s sentencing “another step forward in our on-going fight against extremism.”