February 20, 1918|
Rudnerweide, Ukrainian National Republic
|Died||August 6, 1993
Otto, North Carolina, United States
|Resting place||Otto, North Carolina, United States
|Period in office||1973–93|
|Predecessor||None (founded religion)|
|Occupation||Religious leader, writer|
|Language||Ukrainian, English, German|
|Education||Saskatoon Normal School, Superior First Class Teacher's Certificate;
University of Saskatchewan, B.A., 1943;
University of Manitoba, B.Sc.E.E., 1943, Canada ROTC;
Rosthern Junior College
|Spouse(s)||Henrie Etta Klassen (née McWilliams)|
|Children||Kim Anita Klassen|
Bernhardt (or Bernhard) "Ben" Klassen (Ukrainian: Бернар Классен; February 20, 1918 (O.S. February 7, 1918) – August 6, 1993 ) was a self-described White supremacist and an American religious leader who founded the Church of the Creator with the publication of his book Nature's Eternal Religion in 1973.
Klassen was also at one point a Florida state legislator as a Republican, as well as a supporter of George Wallace's presidential campaign. In addition to his religious and political work, Klassen was an electrical engineer and was the inventor of a wall-mounted electric can-opener.
Klassen was born on February 20, 1918 in Rudnerweide (now Rozivka in Chernihivskyi Raion in Zaporizhia Oblast), Ukraine to Bernhard and Susanna Klassen,[page needed] a Mennonite Christian couple. He had two sisters and two brothers. When Klassen was nine months old, he caught typhoid fever and nearly died. His earliest memories were of the famine of 1921–22. He remembered his father rationing to him one slice of dark bread for dinner. Klassen was first introduced to religion at the age of "three or four." When he was five, the family moved to Mexico, where they lived for one year. In 1925, at age six, he moved with his family to Herschel, Saskatchewan (in Canada). He attended the German-English Academy (now Rosthern Junior College).[page needed]
Klassen established a real estate firm in Los Angeles in partnership with Ben Burke. Believing that his partner was prone to drinking and gambling, Klassen eventually bought him out and became sole proprietor. He hired several salesmen, including Merle Peek, who convinced him to buy large land development projects in Nevada. Klassen and Peek started a partnership called the Silver Spring Land Company. In 1952, Klassen sold his share of the company to Phillip Hess for $150,000 and retired.
On March 26, 1956 Klassen filed an application with the U.S. Patent Office to patent a wall-mounted, electric can-opener which he marketed as Canolectric. In partnership with the marketing firm Robbins & Myers, Klassen created Klassen Enterprises, Inc. In the face of competition from larger manufacturers that could provide similar products more cheaply, Klassen and his partners dissolved the company in 1962.
Klassen served Broward County in the Florida House of Representatives from November 1966 – March 1967, running on an anti-busing, anti-government platform. He campaigned for election to the Florida Senate in 1967, but was defeated. That same year, he was Vice Chairman of an organization in Florida which supported George Wallace for president.
Klassen was a member of the John Birch Society, at one point operating an American Opinion bookstore. But he became disillusioned with the Society because of what he viewed as its tolerant position toward Jews. In November 1970, Klassen, along with Austin Davis, created the Nationalist White Party. The party platform was directed at White Christians and was explicitly religious and racial in nature; the first sentence of the party's fourteen-point program is "We believe that the White Race was created in the Image of the Lord..." The logo of the Nationalist White Party was a "W" with a crown and halo over it, and would be used three years later as the logo of the Church of the Creator.
Less than a year after he created the Nationalist White Party, Klassen began expressing apprehension about Christianity to his connections through letters. These letters were not well received and effectively ended the influence of the Nationalist White Party.
Church of the Creator
In 1973 Klassen founded the Church of the Creator (COTC) with the publication of Nature's Eternal Religion. Individual church members are called Creators and the religion they practice is Creativity.
In 1982, Klassen established the headquarters of his church in Otto, North Carolina. There he established a school for boys. The original curriculum was a two-week summer program that included activities such as "hiking, camping, training in handling of firearms, archery, tennis, white water rafting and other healthy outdoor activities" as well as instruction on "the goals and doctrines of Creativity and how they could best serve their own race in various capacities of leadership."[page needed][page needed]
Racial holy war
Ben Klassen first popularized the term Racial Holy War (RaHoWa) within the white racialist movement. He also consistently called Black people "niggers" in public discourse as well as in the literature of the COTC, as opposed to many white nationalist leaders who use relatively more polite terms in public. Klassen wrote "Furthermore, in looking up the word in Webster's dictionary I found the term 'nigger' very descriptive: 'a vulgar, offensive term of hostility and contempt for the black man'. I can't think of anything that defines better and more accurately what our position... should be... If we are going to be for racial integrity and racial purity... we must take a hostile position toward the nigger. We must give him nothing but contempt."
Mourning the death of his wife and the decline of his church, Klassen committed suicide late on August 6 or early on August 7, 1993 by consuming four bottles of sleeping pills. Klassen was buried on his North Carolina property in an area designated "Ben Klassen Memorial Park".
- Klassen, Ben (1992) [1973, Church of the Creator], Nature's Eternal Religion (reprint), Lighthouse Point, FL: Creativity Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9636094-2-7.
- ——— (1986) [1981, Lighthouse Point, FL: Church of the Creator], The White Man's Bible (reprint), The Milwaukee Church of the Creator, ISBN 978-0-317-53279-1.
- ——— (1982), Salubrious Living: A Natural Life Style for Achieving and Maintaining the Ultimate in Superb Health and Well-Being as Taught and Practiced by the Church of the Creator, Lighthouse Point, FL: Church of the Creator.
- Klassen, Ben (Sep 1983), A School for Gifted Boys, Otto, NC: Racial Loyalty.
- ——— (1991), A Revolution of Values Through Religion, Otto, NC: Church of the Creator, ISBN 978-0-9636094-8-9.
- ——— (1991), Against the Evil Tide: An Autobiography, Otto, NC: Church of the Creator.
- ——— (1991), Victor Wolf, ed., The Little White Book: Fundamentals of the White Racial Religion Creativity for Daily Reading and Affirmation of the White Faith.
- ——— (1993), Trials, Tribulations, Triumphs: A History of the Church of the Creator During Its 10 Year Domicile in the State of North Carolina, Coordinated with Biographical Details During the Same Period, Niceville, FL: Church of the Creator.
- Klassen, Ben (1985), Expanding Creativity (collection of articles), Otto, NC: Church of the Creator, ISBN 0‐96360943‐2 from Racial Loyalty #1-12.
- ——— (1986), Building a Whiter and Brighter World (collection of articles) from Racial Loyalty #13-28.
- ——— (1987), RAHOWA! This Planet is All Ours (collection of articles) from Racial Loyalty #28-39.
- ——— (1993), On the Brink of a Bloody Racial War (collection of articles) from Racial Loyalty #40-81.
- Klassen, Ben (1988), Letters I.
- ——— (1989), Letters II.
- Ward, Robert L (27 Oct 2011), Membership by County 1845–2012 (PDF), FL, US: House of Representatives.
- Hesser, Charles F (7 Dec 1967), "Wallace Men Feud in Florida", The Miami News: 6-A.
- US patent 2789345, Ben Klassen, published 1956-03-26
- Klassen 1991.
- Klassen, Awakening (article), Creativity alliance.
- Michael, George (2009), Theology of Hate: a History of the World Church of the Creator, Gainesville: University of Florida.
- "News", Sarasota Herald Tribune (Google).
- "Ben Klassen", Sarasota Herald-Tribune (obituary), 10 Aug 1993: 6B.
- Klassen 1983.
- Klassen 1985.
- Klassen 1992, p. 31.
- Quarles, Chester L (1999). The Ku Klux Klan and Related American Racialist and Antisemitic Organizations: A History and Analysis. McFarland. p. 141. ISBN 978-0‐78640647‐0.