February 20, 1918
|Died||August 6, 1993 (aged 75)|
Otto, North Carolina, U.S.
|Resting place||Otto, North Carolina, U.S.|
|Notable work(s)||See bibliography|
|Period in office||1973–93|
|Predecessor||None (founded religion)|
|Occupation||Religious leader, writer|
|Language||English, German, Plautdietsch|
|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||Henrie Etta Klassen (née McWilliams)|
|Children||Kim Anita Klassen|
Bernhardt (or Ben) Klassen February 20, 1918 (O.S. February 7, 1918) – August 6, 1993) was a self-described white separatist and racial purist American politician who was also a religious leader who founded the Church of the Creator with the publication of his book Nature's Eternal Religion in 1973.
At one point, Klassen was a Republican Florida state legislator, 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 he was also the inventor of a wall-mounted electric can-opener.
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Klassen was born on February 20, 1918, in Rudnerweide (now Rozivka in Chernihivka Raion in Zaporizhia Oblast), Ukraine, to Bernhard and Susanna Klassen (née Friesen) a Ukrainian 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, Canada. He attended the German-English Academy (now Rosthern Junior College).
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 Springs Land Company, through which they founded the town of Silver Springs, Nevada. 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 towards Jews. In November 1970, Klassen, along with Austin Davis, created the Nationalist White Party. The party's platform was directed at White Christians and it 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 a halo over it, and it 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 they 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 called Creativity.
In 1982, Klassen established the headquarters of his church in Otto, North Carolina. Klassen wrote that 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]
In July 1992 George Loeb, a minister of the church, was convicted of murdering a black sailor in Jacksonville Florida. Fearing that a conviction might mean the loss of 20 acres of land worth about $400,000 in Franklin, North Carolina belonging to the church, Klassen sold it to another white supremacist, William Luther Pierce, author of the Turner Diaries, for $100,000.
Racial holy war
Ben Klassen first popularized the term "Racial Holy War" (RaHoWa) within the white nationalist 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."
In his 1987 book Rahowa – This Planet Is All Ours he claims that Jews created Christianity in order to make white people weaker, and he said that the first priority should be to "smash the Jewish Behemoth".
Possibly depressed after the death of his wife, the failure of his church and a diagnosis of cancer and considering suicide a suitable way to end his life, Klassen took an overdose of sleeping pills either late on August 6 or early on August 7, 1993. Klassen was buried on his North Carolina property in an area which he had previously designated "Ben Klassen Memorial Park".
- 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, p. 6-A.
- ‹See Tfd›US patent 2789345, ‹See Tfd›Ben Klassen, published 1956-03-26
- Silver Springs Chamber of Commerce (https://web.archive.org/web/20150224024854/http://silverspringsnevada.org/home-history.htm) Retrieved 19 August 2015.
- 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), p. 6B, 10 Aug 1993.
- Klassen 1983.
- Klassen 1985.
- "White Supremacist Convicted in Death Of City Serviceman". The Oklahoman. Associated Press. 30 July 1992.
- Smothers, Ronald (20 May 1996). "Supremacist Told to Pay Black Family". New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
- 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.
- Love, Nancy S. (2016). Trendy Fascism: White Power Music and the Future of Democracy. State University of New York. p. 101. ISBN 978-1438462035. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
- Morris, Travis (2016). Dark Ideas: How Neo-Nazi and Violent Jihadi Ideologues Shaped Modern Terrorism. Lexington Books. p. 15. ISBN 978-0739191040.
- JoAnn Rogers; Jacquelyn S. Litt (2003). "Normalizing Racism: A Case Study of Motherhood in White Supremacy". In Ferber, Abby (ed.). Home-grown Hate: Gender and Organized Racism. Routledge. p. 93. ISBN 978-0415944144.
- Altman, Linda Jacobs (2001). Hate and Racist Groups: A Hot Issue. Enslow Publishers. p. 36. ISBN 978-0766013711.
- Ellison, Quinton (February 2, 2011). "Hate by any name is still hate". Smoky Mountain News. Archived from the original on March 31, 2017. Retrieved March 31, 2017.