The Associated Press
SPOKANE, Wash. - An Idaho native who made his fortune on the Internet has bought a neo-Nazi Aryan Nations' former headquarters and plans to turn it into a museum and human rights education center.
Greg Carr, founder and former chairman of the Internet service Prodigy, paid $250,000 for the 20-acre compound near Hayden Lake, Idaho, from a mother and son who were awarded it after winning a lawsuit against the white supremacist group.
"We need to know this exists, and we need to know these people advocate and engage in violence," Carr said of the compound's former occupants.
"There is an unbroken chain of this message all way back to 1930s from the American Nazi Party," he said in a telephone interview yesterday from his Cambridge, Mass., office. "Beyond that, we need people to know we are fighting against that message."
Carr said the small outbuildings where neo-Nazis once held annual tributes to Adolf Hitler will be torn down, but the main building, known as the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian, will be kept as a museum.
"We're going to build a classroom for human rights education," Carr said. "We're going to take something negative and tell a positive story of civil rights."
Nazi paraphernalia used by the Aryan Nations will be on display at the museum, which will be open by appointment only to chaperoned school groups and others, Carr said.
Carr purchased the Aryan Nations compound from its new owners, Victoria Keenan and her son, Jason.
They obtained the property after winning a $6.3 million lawsuit last year against Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and his organization, bankrupting the group.
The Keenans were chased, shot at and terrorized by Aryan Nations security guards in 1998.
The Keenans obtained the title to the property last month at a bankruptcy court auction and announced their wish to sell it to a group promoting human rights.
The compound contains numerous structures, including Butler's home, a bunkhouse, a guard tower and the chapel
Carr said he originally thought it would be best to raze all the buildings on the property, but was persuaded by Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center and others that it would present an opportunity for human rights education.
"Morris Dees said he really thought it would be good if there was some sort of permanent reminder of what had happened up there," he said.
Dees helped the Keenans bring the civil suit against the Aryan Nations.
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne said transforming the compound into a human rights center "continues to send the clearest of signals of what Idaho is truly about."
Carr, a 41-year-old Idaho native, paid for the property from his personal foundation at Harvard University. In 1999, Carr pledged $500,000 to the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in Boise and last summer donated another $500,000 to the Idaho Human Rights Education Center.
"Courageous people in northern Idaho have protested against Butler's message for 20 years," Carr said in a statement.
Butler remains in the area. Vincent Bertollini, a former Silicon Valley millionaire investor and one of Butler's biggest supporters, bought a small bungalow for Butler not far from the old compound.
Largely because of the actions of the Aryan Nations and others, Idaho has a reputation as a haven for racists, but Carr said the purchase was not an attempt to spruce up his home state's image.
"I really don't think of this in the context of image. I think of it in the context of reality," he said. "We have human rights issues throughout the United States and throughout the world."