The Order

views updated

The Order

ALTERNATE NAME: Silent Brotherhood (Bruder Schweigen)

LEADER: Robert Jay Matthews


ESTIMATED SIZE: More than fifty



Robert Jay Matthews founded The Order, an ultraconservative right wing, neo-Nazi, white supremacist, anti-Semitic, racist extremist group in 1982. The group was coalesced as a result of the 1983 meeting of the Aryan Nations Congress: the most violent members of the organizations present at the Congress were recruited to form this group. The mission of The Order was to garner sufficient financial resources to support the revolution planned by the Aryan Nations Congress—in which the American government would be overthrown and a separatist Aryan Nation would be created.

The Order performed its original mission by counterfeiting money and by committing a series of robberies. Between December 1983 and July 1984, The Order's robberies netted the group in excess of $4 million.

The Order was active for a brief period, between 1982 and 1984, but has continued to be lauded by the white supremacist movement more than twenty years later, largely because it was an extremely successful criminal organization.


The Order, or Bruder Schweigen, was founded by Robert Jay Matthews, who had been previously active in the John Birch Society and the National Alliance. The National Alliance, a white supremacist group, was founded by William Pierce, a former physics professor and publicist for the American Nazi Party who became famous for authoring a book called The Turner Diaries. Pierce's book is a fictional account of a right-wing ultra-conservative group that catalyzes a white supremacist revolution; the group is called The Order.

Matthews was talking to his friend and fellow white supremacist Bruce Pierce (a member of the Christian Identity Aryan Nations group) about The Turner Diaries in late 1982 and suggested that they form a radical revolutionary group similar to The Order.

The 1983 meeting of the Aryan Nations Congress further fueled the group, and a number of the most violent members of the organizations present at the Congress were recruited into The Order. The primary mission of The Order was to gather the necessary financial resources to be able to fund the revolution planned by the Aryan Nations Congress—in which the American government would be overthrown and a separatist Aryan Nation would be created.

Initially, The Order set about securing legal funding for the revolution: they successfully bid on, and contracted for, a large trail-clearing contract—but the group found the intense physical labor both too difficult and too time-consuming. They quickly turned to robbery and counterfeiting in order to acquire financial resources.

In April 1983, the group committed its first criminal act by robbing a porn shop in Spokane and netting $369. They tried counterfeiting next and printed bills at the Aryan Nations' compound. Bruce Pierce was arrested for attempting to pass the bills. Rather than giving up, the group studied the process more carefully and adopted more sophisticated and more successful methods. They continued to hone their robbery skills as well. In December 1983, Robert Jay Matthews used a note in order to rob a Citibank branch and walked away with $29, 500. In March 1984, The Order began to hold up armored cars. A Brinks employee who was a white supremacist supporter gave the group some inside information regarding a route, and they held up a Brinks truck in a California redwood forest on July 19, 1984. That robbery was by far their most successful, and they garnered $3.6 million.

In addition to their financial dealings, The Order also engaged in violent terrorist activities. Bruce Pierce bombed a synagogue in Boise, Idaho; the group murdered Order member Walter West on the suspicion that West had been talking to "outsiders" about the group. In June 1984, Bruce Pierce and David Lane assassinated Jewish radio talk show host Alan Berg outside of his home in Denver, Colorado. Members of The Order had previously phoned in to his talk show and had reportedly gotten into an argument with Berg, who was deemed by listeners (and members of The Order themselves) to have had the upper hand in the debate.

The FBI had the group under surveillance and killed Robert Jay Matthews during an attempted capture on Whidbey Island in Oregon. The group continued; David Tate murdered a state trooper during a routine traffic stop in Arkansas. He was captured at the CSA compound a week later and was sentenced to life in prison.



Robert Jay Matthews was a member of the John Birch Society and a leader of the white supremacist group called the National Alliance before founding The Order in 1982. Prior to being drawn to racist extremist groups, Matthews was an active part of the tax protest movement and had been arrested for tax fraud.

Matthews had been inspired by the racist novel entitled The Turner Diaries and had suggested to his friend Bruce Pierce (a member of the Christian Identity white supremacist Aryan Nations) that they found a radical group based on the fictional white supremacist faction that directed the race war in The Turner Diaries, called The Order.

Matthews, and those he and others recruited from such white supremacist organizations as the Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord, the Aryan Nations, and the National Alliance, used The Turner Diaries as the framework upon which they created and built The Order.

The Order declared war on the U.S. government and created a document stating this as well as its plan to create an all-white homeland within the eventually government-less country.

In December 1984, Robert Jay Matthews was killed in a fire during a gun battle with law enforcement authorities at his cabin. Members of present-day white supremacist organizations consider Matthews a hero and a martyr to their cause.


Bruce Carroll Pierce, the friend and fellow white supremacist with whom Robert Jay Matthews founded The Order, is currently serving the longest sentence received by any member of the group: 255 years. In the early days of the organization, his specialty was the creation and dissemination of counterfeit money, for which he was arrested. He successfully jumped bond and remained underground until the FBI arrested the large group. He was also interested in explosives and was involved in the bombing of a synagogue in Boise, Idaho, as well as a Seattle theater. He is credited, by other members of the organization, with the death of Aryan Nations member Walter West. He was convicted of all of these crimes, as well as the murder of Jewish talk radio host Alan Berg.

Throughout most of its active phase, The Order was under FBI surveillance. During a robbery, Robert Jay Matthews dropped the gun that was in his pants; it was traced to Order member Tom Martinez, who opted to become a police informant.

The group was finally intercepted and halted by the FBI while in the final phases of planning to rob an armored car in St. Louis; assassinate the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center; poison a water reservoir; rob a bank; rob and murder a wealthy homosexual male; execute a person who had publicly denigrated the Aryan Nations; bomb the Simon D. Weisenthal Center; assassinate an African-American radio talk show host; and attack the New York office of the B'nai Brith, among other things.

Twenty-four members of the group were arrested and thirteen of those pled guilty and testified against other members. All were convicted of racketeering, some were convicted of murder. All received lengthy prison sentences, ranging from forty to several hundred (essentially, life without parole) years. The convictions signaled the effective end of The Order, although several members are still active in prison.


The Order was formed for several reasons: first, it was the goal of Robert Jay Matthews to create an ultra-conservative, right-wing, anti-Semitic, white supremacist group that would be capable of either fomenting or assisting in the overthrow of the U.S. government and the establishment of a separatist Aryan Nation within the northwest region of the United States. He had read, and been inspired by, William Pierce's novel, The Turner Diaries, so he decided to name his group The Order after the protagonist group in the book. Many of the terrorist acts committed by the group bear a striking similarity to those delineated in the book.

In addition, The Order was catalyzed by the 1983 Aryan Nations Congress, which added significantly to its membership and tasked the group with raising funds for their planned revolution.

The group began by attempting to earn money by fulfilling a trail-clearing contract, but soon found the lengthy and arduous physical labor both exasperating and too difficult—so the group turned to illegal means of money acquisition. One track chosen by the group was the manufacture of counterfeit money, which was carried out at the Aryan Nations' compound. Initial efforts were met with little success, and Bruce Pierce was arrested for trying to pass the poorly made bills. Over time, however, the operation became much more sophisticated and was fairly successful. In addition, the group engaged in bank and armored car robberies. This was quite a triumphant endeavor, and The Order garnered more than $4 million in total. Much of the largesse (several hundred thousand dollars) was shared among various white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups across the United States and, more than thirty years later, $2 million of the stolen money remains unaccounted for.


Robert Jay Matthews, inspired by the Turner Diaries, asks Bruce Pierce to help him found a white supremacist group based on the book; they decide to call the group The Order.
Aryan Nations Congress recruits members into The Order, and charges them with the mission of acquiring the financial means to fund the impending revolution and overthrow of the American government.
David Lane and Bruce Pierce assassinate Jewish radio talk show host Alan Berg outside of his home in Denver, Colorado.
The Order ambushes a Brinks armored truck and robs it of $3.6 million.
Robert Jay Matthews is killed in a shootout and fire with FBI during his attempted capture.
The Order members are captured, tried, convicted, and imprisoned. Several act as informants for an unsuccessful sedition trial of white supremacists in 1988.

The group also killed a number of individuals who were either deemed enemies or opponents to the white supremacist cause. Among the most notable was the Jewish radio talk show host Alan Berg, who was gunned down outside his home in Denver, Colorado, as a result of engaging in an on-air verbal sparring match with members of The Order who had called in to his show.

When twenty-four members of the group were arrested, they were reported to be in the final stages of planning to carry out a number of robberies and terrorist acts.


The Anti-Defamation League says the following about the founder of The Order: "We think that Robert Jay Matthews was a criminal of the worst kind. Not only was he guilty of bank and armored car robberies as well as complicity in murder, he was guilty of attempting to overthrow our government and building a paramilitary organization to that end. As to the reverence with which others of his ilk embrace him, we simply consider the source and watch them carefully."

Citizens Against Hate, in a review of the membership and actions of The Order, stated "… when the essence of being human becomes threatened within the person it becomes imperative to justify ones actions if only to oneself, and to legitimize ones very existence. Thus, the crisis of race extinction and the fantasy of a racial holy war thereby rendering them both necessary and just in their own minds … No man convicted of such abhorrent behaviors as those evidenced by the members of The Order should ever be allowed to recruit or to indoctrinate others within our society."


The Order, a white supremacist, ultra conservative, right-wing, anti-Semitic extremist group was active for a brief moment, historically speaking—the founding member, Robert Jay Matthews, has been dead for more than twenty years, and most of the group lives in the penal system and will do so for the rest of their lives. That being said, The Order continues to have a profound impact on the white supremacist movement in the United States. Matthews is lauded as a hero and a martyr, and the incarcerated members of the group are referred to by other racial extremists as "P.O.W.s (prisoners of war)." They have continued to write and publish separatist and anti-Semitic rhetoric under the guise of the 14 Words Press.


Web sites

Anti-Defamation League Law Enforcement Agency Resource Network. "Hate Symbols: The Order." 〈〉 (accessed October 5, 2005).

Anti-Defamation League. "The Order and Phineas Priesthood." 〈〉 (accessed October 5, 2005).

Eye on Hate, Seeking a Kinder and Gentler World. "Martyrs, Heroes, & Prisoners of War: The Order." 〈〉 (accessed October 5, 2005).

Eye on Hate, Seeking a Kinder and Gentler World. "Martyrs, Heroes, & Prisoners of War: The Order." 〈〉 (accessed October 5, 2005).

Eye on Hate, Seeking a Kinder and Gentler World. "Martyrs, Heroes, & Prisoners of War: The Order." 〈〉 (accessed October 5, 2005).

MILNET Domestic Terrorist Group Profiles. "The Order." 〈〉 (accessed October 5, 2005).


Aryan Nations

Covenant, The

National Alliance

About this article

The Order

Updated About content Print Article