James von Brunn, who is accused of murdering security guard Stephen Johns in the course of a terrorist attack on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on June 10, had longstanding ties to far-right, racist groups. These connections are evident in his letters to retired Marine Corps General Pedro A. Del Valle, himself an activist of the racist far-right, who provided both material support and philosophical inspiration to von Brunn.
According to the memoir von Brunn published on his website (available here, in cached version), his connection to General Del Valle goes back at least to the mid-1960s. In fact, von Brunn credits Del Valle with inspiring his anti-Semitism by giving him a book.
"In 1964 Gen. Pedro del Valle gave me John O. Beaty's The Iron Curtain Over America. For the first time I learned how JEWS had destroyed Europe and were now destroying America."
This book, which Del Valle ardently promoted among his like-minded colleagues in the military, helped popularize among the radical right the myth that modern Jews are descended from a medieval Central Asian nation called the Khazars. It presents a paranoid version of modern history in which the Russian Revolution, the creation of the Federal Reserve system, and the founding of the State of Israel and the United Nations all derive from what it describes as a "Khazar Jewish" conspiracy. The book presents this conspiracy in Cold War terms as a communist plot threatening the survival of the United States.
In his online memoir, von Brunn also refers to the assistance he was given by General Del Valle, stating that Del Valle testified on his behalf at his trial for assaulting a police officer during a DWI arrest, and that Del Valle found him employment with a publisher of racist literature called Noontide Press.
I've had the opportunity to review three letters which von Brunn wrote to General Del Valle in the mid-1970s. These letters confirm the long-standing connections of both men to extremist, far-right racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, American Party and Liberty Lobby, and to neo-Nazis such as Willis Carto and David Duke. I have not yet had the opportunity to review General Del Valle's responses to these letters.
The first of the three letters I've reviewed is dated March 31, 1975. Von Brunn appears to be responding to Del Valle's praise of the American Party and the Liberty Lobby, organizations which von Brunn believed too moderate to be effective.
"Personally I see no significant accomplishments resultant of their efforts --Zionism-Communism control over America has never been so complete. Our country never in such peril. (sic)"
In a hand-written post script, von Brunn elaborates that he believes a more violent approach is needed.
"The AP [American Party] and LL [Liberty Lobby] are ok in most respects, their strategy is wrong (sic). A strike force at the "grass roots level" is called for."
Von Brunn indicates in the letter that he was enclosing a copy of an article he had submitted to Willis Carto's American Mercury magazine, although that article was not included in the file I reviewed.
The second letter is dated August 9, 1975. In it, Von Brunn indicates that several days earlier he had met with David Duke and what he describes as "leaders of the KKK". Von Brunn's letter states that the Klan was in the process of changing from a "vigilante - direct action methodology" to a political one. Von Brunn disapproved.
"Too bad I say. I asked them the rhetorical question, 'what good is a political approach when the machinery of government is controlled by the enemy' . . . All of Western Civilization hangs by a thread. At the mercy of the Zionists. (sic) "
Von Brunn makes clear that he believes in violent opposition to the government, and implies that Del Valle was in accord with this belief.
"You and I have agreed, always, that the time for playing political games has long past. But who will finance the man with a gun? I have found no one . . . I've talked to leaders of the Catholic Church (Monseigneurs) (sic) ... oil company presidents, leaders in industry ... they're all afraid! "
Von Brunn goes on to inform General Del Valle that he had left his job at Noontide Press. In his online memoir, von Brunn alleges that he was fired after discovering that the publisher's defacto CEO, Willis Carto, was publishing a new edition of Iron Curtain Over America without paying royalties to the estate of its author.
Interestingly, von Brunn concludes the letter by asserting to Del Valle that he is not a government agent:
"If you still believe that I was an agent of the FBI or any government agency at any time (other than the USNR [i.e. U.S. Naval Reserve]) give me a lie detector test. I'll gladly answer any question you put to me . . ."
A handwritten note on the bottom of the letter, presumably written by von Brunn himself as a post script, reads
"Wilmot Robertson's Dispossessed Majority says it all -- says it well."
The third letter is dated November 18, 1975. Von Brunn refers to meeting with David Duke, seemingly the same meeting referred to in his August letter. Again, von Brunn advocates that the Klan take a more violent approach. He also alludes to his belief that Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, General George Patton and Senator Joseph McCarthy were all victims of a Jewish conspiracy.
"David Duke, KKK, is a fine young man. Apparently, he is doing well with the movement. But, as you know, my advice to him was to form a strike-force. The Enemy will allow him so much rope - no more. When he becomes bothersome he will meet the same fate as Forrestal, Patton, McCarthy and the rest of the Patriots."
Von Brunn mentions his money and career troubles, and indicates that he is attempting to produce a film with an anti-Zionist theme. He writes that he has pitched the film to several unnamed "well-heeled individuals", and asks if Del Valle knows any "wealthy Arabs". He also states that he is waiting for a reply from "General Glubb". This reference to Sir John Bagot Glubb, Britain's last proconsul for the Middle East (read here and here and here) is explained in a movie pitch which von Brunn enclosed with the letter.
According to the pitch, the film was to be a fictional adaptation of Conquest through Immigration, an anti-Zionist book of non-fiction by George W. Robnett. Robnett was the founder in 1937 of the Church League of America, an anti-Semitic and anti-communist group known for publishing the names of individuals it identified as purported subversives. The single sentence of von Brunn's movie pitch which outlines the plot describes an implausible conspiracy theory regarding Israel's attack on the U.S.S. Liberty during the 1967 war. His gist was that the Israelis intended to sink the ship and pin responsibility on "the Palestinians". Von Brunn's proposed title for the project was "Blood Bath in Zion".
According to the proposal, General Glubb was to serve as "Chief Advisor to the story and film". Von Brunn apparently believed that Glubb was a friend of Robnett and had the pipe dream of using this connection to help fund his film.
At the time he was marketing his film idea, von Brunn had actually moved his family into the home of George W. Robnett's widow, Florence, a woman he describes on his website as
"83-yrs old, but possessed of a brilliant mind. She had been Dean of Women at Northwestern University. She was a fervent right-wing Aryan."
While living in her house, von Brunn had made republishing George Robnett's book and producing a film based on it a cottage industry, so to speak. Although von Brunn did assist Florence Robnett in privately publishing an edition of the book (under the title "Zionist Rape of the Holy Land!"), the film version, not surprisingly, was not to be. Within a year, von Brunn moved his family out of Florence Robnett's house because, according to him, his step-daughter was having difficulty dealing with going to an integrated high school. They moved to a virtually all white area of northern California.
Acknowledgement: Thanks to the librarians at the University of Oregon library for their assistance in providing copies of these letters.