Just weeks after an anti-Semitic attack killed two people at a synagogue in eastern Germany, an arrest was made in the United States for the plotting of a similar hate crime. Richard Holzer, 27, was arrested on Friday for planning to vandalize Temple Emanuel in Pueblo, Colorado using explosives provided to him by undercover FBI agents.
Temple Emanuel is cited on the synagogue’s official website as the second oldest synagogue in Colorado and it currently holds a congregation of 30 families. It was once described by local newspapers and its website at the time as the “little jewel box” of Pueblo. According to the New York Times, Holzer wanted to “vandalize the place beyond repair” at the night of his arrest.
The Denver Post reports that when asked by the agents posing as his accomplices whether it mattered if people were inside at the time of the vandalism, Holzer said that it wouldn’t have mattered because the people in the Temple would be Jews. Holzer’s supplies for his attack included a knife, a mask and a copy of Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf.”
Holzer’s social media activity has been under surveillance since September 2019 by the FBI. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), however, have kept watch on his activity since May 2016 and consistently reported evidence of possible threats with law enforcement. According to the New York Times, Holzer used multiple Facebook profiles to promote violence, hate and white supremacist pride. He also used social media to communicate with undercover agents who would ultimately lead him to his arrest.
The ADL stated in an article on their official website that Holzer’s arrest marks the 13th time since the deadly 2018 attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that “authorities have apprehended someone for allegedly plotting attacks or making threats against a Jewish community.” The domestic terrorist attack against the Tree of Life in October of last year killed at least 11 congregants and wounded four police officers and two others, according to a 2018 report by the New York Times. It’s described by the Denver Post as “the worst attack on American Jews in United States history.” Even before the Tree of Life attack, the ADL reported that anti-Semitic incidents spiked 57% in the U.S. in 2017.
Rabbi Becker of Temple Emanuel told the New York Times that even though attacks like the Pittsburgh terrorist act “rattled her congregation”, the temple and its people have no plans to discontinue services held at the temple after Holzer’s nearly-executed plan. “This is a blip. You just move on,” she said. The temple is set to congregate on Friday with Pueblo Police Chief Troy Davenport and District Attorney Jeff Chostner addressing its attendees, based on a report by The Pueblo Chieftain.
In police documents cited by CBS News, Holzer believed he was contributing to a “racial holy war” and that the plotted attack was a “move for our race.” Like in actual war, the peace of an innocent group of civilians was threatened and a culturally-significant piece to a community could have been destroyed. An irrational hatred for a group of people could have costed people’s lives and the community could have been permanently shaken. Those with an intention to erase a culture, a race or an ethnicity purely because of an unjustified ideology of vengeance are who cause such violations of human peace.
It should also be noted that most reports have not attempted to dissect Holzer, his upbringing or his mental state. Holzer and the many other white supremacists who’ve either threatened, attempted or executed attacks on random civilians shouldn’t then be granted a platform for their biographies to be told. The hatred these attackers portrayed is enough to define them because it was what allowed them to justify a horrendous disturbance of peace.
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