Concordia University hosted a Holocaust denier

Concordia University in Wisconsin hosted Rev. Herman Otten on February 3, where he spoke about “questions on contemporary issues facing the Lutheran Church.” Who is Herman Otten? On the front page of its website at the time, Concordia described Otten as a “powerful Lutheran figure.” I describe Otten as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier.

What was Concordia thinking? Otten’s record as a Holocaust denier and anti-Semite goes back more than twenty years. One of the first five hits you get when you google his name is the text of a speech he gave in 1989 at the ninth conference of the Institute for Historical Review. The meandering, 15,000-word speech was called “Christianity, Truth and Fantasy: The Holocaust, Historical Revisionism and Christians Today.” The most troubling aspect of Otten’s speech is a section in which he claims that Christians have a religious duty to become Holocaust deniers:

“The Holocaust is a hoax and the time has come for Christian scholars and pastors to recognize this and stop perpetrating a hoax as the truth. A Christian is not free to believe and promote a lie about any person or nations, as we said in our introduction. True Christian scholars should at least read what the Revisionists are saying.

“Many have said to us: ‘What difference does it make? The truth of the Holocaust is of no concern to Christians.’ Nonsense! A Christian is not free to believe and promote a lie about any person or nation. A Christian is guided by truth and facts, not emotions and majority opinion.

“…The truth as to the Holocaust is a moral issue. Those who maintain the Germans exterminated some six million Jews, most of them by gassing, are seeing to it that the Christian Church can no longer avoid speaking out. Churches are being pushed, as never before, to have special services commemorating the Holocaust….The “fact” of the Holocaust is being used by some to deny that Christianity is the only true religion and that Jesus Christ rose from the dead….The Holocaust is not some innocent hoax, like children’s fairy tales, which entertain and have no evil consequences.”

How much influence does Otten — who, again, was described by Concordia as “a powerful Lutheran figure — have on young Lutherans when he preaches that they have a theological obligation to question the Holocaust?

[His IHR speech also includes some interesting factoids about Otten’s background, the  most  important of which may be that he imbibed “revisionism” from his father, who “followed the work of Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committees which sought to keep the U.S. out of [WWII],” and who appears to have taught young Herman that FDR played a role in allowing the attack on Pearl Harbor. Otten also reported that his father was a friend of Holocaust denier Austin App (author of “The Six Million Swindle,” among other works).] [Update: Another member of the Otten family has contacted me to state that Herman Otten is mischaracterizing his father’s views.]

I started working on this post back in late January, but I didn’t want to publish it until I had a chance to get to a library and check out some of the newer issues of Christian News, a weekly newspaper that Otten has edited since 1962. I can confirm that Otten’s Holocaust denial and anti-Judaism have continued long after his 1989 speech. In addition to his own material (usually unsigned), Otten publishes material by anti-Semites like Ted Pike, Charles Carlson, Michael A. Hoffman II, Harmony Grant Daws, Mark Weber, and Robert Faurisson. Consider:

-> The October 5, 2009 issue of Christian News includes an unsigned front-page story and a three-page spread on the Talmud, presumably written by Otten. The article includes excerpts from “The Talmud Unmasked” by Rev. I. B. Pranaitis, published in Russian in 1892, which claims that Jews are enjoined by their religion to hate, steal from, and even murder non-Jews. Otten writes, “We have picked some of the useless, stupid, repugnant and blasphemous passages of the Talmud to demonstrate that the Talmud is not the word of God, nor is it even a superior code of morals. By reading the passages, one may come to appreciate the position of Jesus Christ toward the Rabbis, which was almost entirely negative, and rightly so.”

-> Otten reprints a terrible column by Michael A. Hoffman II in the December 6, 2010 issue of Christian News, entitled “The crucifixion of John Demjanjuk proceeds on schedule.” [Hoffman appears to have removed the post from his blog, but the column in its entirety is still available elsewhere online.] Hoffman writes, and Otten reprints:

“Mercy is the essence of Christianity and revenge is the essence of Judaism….What we see transpiring in a German kangaroo court against Demjanjuk is international Talmudic supremacy in full flower. Christianity has been defanged. The proof is a spectacle like this one, wherein crypto-rabbis bearing titles such as bishop, cardinal and pope are as mute as moth-eaten carnival puppets….If they don’t awaken, then the so-called Aryans are heading for the trash dump of history where they will fulfill the only testosterone-fueled role still open to them in akashrut world — as rabbinic golem against the Muslims and Arabs….[T]he crucifixion of John Demjanjuk proceeds seamlessly, day by day, in the cozy confines of a Munich courtroom, business as usual in the eternal enterprise that is rabbinic revenge.”

This is hardcore anti-Judaism. For good measure, Otten plugged Hoffman’s wildly anti-Jewish book, Judaism Discovered, in the January 18, 2010 issue.

-> In the January 11, 2010 issue, Otten reprints a column entitled “Judaism: Our National Religion?” by Harmony Grant Daws, a writer for Ted Pike’s anti-Semitic National Prayer Network. Daws rails against “Jewish supremacism,” and repeats the claim that “Jews dominate Hollywood and big media in America” and that Jews are “overrepresented in seats of power in nations around the world.” The column concludes: “The epic, spiritual struggle between Christ and the Jews now spans over two millennia. American Christians, by ignoring the battle, surrender their nation.”

-> In the April 20, 2009 issue of Christian News, Otten reprints a column by Ted Pike which promulgates the claim that Judaism encourages pedophilia:

“Ultra-Orthodox rabbinic leadership knows the Talmud endorses child sex…. Pedophilia and pederasty are repeatedly endorsed by Judaism’s highest authorities…. The Pharisaic Talmud is the primary stumbling block to Jewish enlightenment and wellbeing. Because the Talmud’s anti-Christ ethics undergird Jewish revolutionary, messianic, global ambitions, it is also the pirmary enemy of Christian civilization.”

-> In the February 8, 2010 issue of Christian News, Otten  reprints an ad from Bradley Smith promoting Holocaust denial.  In the February 22, 2010 issue, Otten reprints a pamphlet by Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson which claims that the Diary of Anne Frank was a hoax. The March 30, 2009 issue reprints Mark Weber’s essay, “The Holocaust: Let’s Hear Both Sides,” on the front page.

This is a sampling of what I found in the pages of just the past couple of years of Christian News.

I am sympathetic to the dilemma faced by mainstream Lutherans who may be repulsed by Otten’s anti-Semitism but who have a hard time dismissing him because of his long history as a respected religious figure. Jews have the same problem in the form of Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, a former Chief Rabbi of Israel who, in his later years, has made several highly derogatory statements about Palestinians and non-Jews in general. Although many Jewish organizations and rabbis have condemned Rabbi Yosef [see for example here, here, here and here], his writings on Jewish ritual law (which do not contain these offensive statements, as far as I know) continue to be studied, and he is still accorded respect.

Religious leaders should not be forces for bigotry and prejudice. As long as Rabbi Yosef continues to make such statements, he should not be granted a platform to promulgate his ideas. And until Rev. Otten disavows his Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism, Lutherans, including Concordia University, should marginalize him and denounce his odious views.

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13 Responses to Concordia University hosted a Holocaust denier

  1. amband says:

    so what if he’s a holocaust denier. He is entitled to be heard

  2. mandrake says:

    How can one deny something that never happened?

    • Dvar Dea says:

      “How can one deny something that never happened?”
      Is this your idea of a wisecrack?
      Everything can be denied if you choose. You can deny the fact the sun rises in the east just as you can deny that it rises in the west. Denying something is a matter of choice, you can choose to deny the truth or you can choose to deny the lies.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Have you written to Concordia to inform them about Otten’s antisemitism and Holocaust denial? It’s hard to imagine that they would condone it if they had known about it beforehand.

    • JHate says:

      I am reasonably sure (though not entirely certain) that Concordia was aware of Otten’s views before the event. As I said, I sympathize with the position they were in. I agree that it’s hard to believe that Concordia would condone his views, but I think they probably tried to gloss over the issue altogether. The impulse one faces when dealing with a religious leader who promotes hatred is often to rationalize it away as a quixotic and personal side issue that pales before the leader’s more important contributions to normative religious life.

  4. TF says:

    One of the first official Acts of the Supreme Soviet was to declare anti-semitism a capital offence.

    In the years that followed Jewish Bolsheviks killed 60,000,000 Russian Christians.

    Israel is a cesspool of mass murderers.

    • Dvar Dea says:

      Bolsheviks killed millions of non-Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union. Those Bolsheviks were former Eastern Orthodox Christians, former Catholics, former Moslems, and former Jews. They persecuted all nationalities, and all religions, including Judaism and especially Zionism. They even persecuted other communists and other Bolsheviks.
      They did all their killings as Bolsheviks and for the sake of their Bolsheviks convictions.

      Yes Lenin outlawed anti-Semitism, and the Soviet Union had the most socially advanced constitution. They were both a façade for a monstrous repressive regime that used its own brand of anti-Semitism to advance its politics, internal and global.

      One of the lies they invented: ”Israel is a cesspool of mass murders
      In fact the Israeli Palestinian conflict is a low intensity conflict. Slightly over 100,000 dead in 91 years. Far less then other regional conflicts were in a matter of a few years even less; hundreds of thousands and even millions had died.

      Yes TF, you are a Bolshevik – or a tool of Bolsheviks.

    • sz says:

      In 1917, there were around 10,000 members of the Bolshevik party, of whom 364 were Jews, or seven per cent of the total members. By 1922, the number of Jewish Bolsheviks had fallen to five per cent of the total party membership, according to the Party census of that year. The purges of 1936-1940 eliminated all Jews from party, government and military positions. The purge of any remaining Jewish Bolsheviks was anti-Semitic in nature, and the anti-Semitism of Stalin in particular and the communist regime in general was also evident in the “Doctors plot”, anti-Zionist propaganda and the campaign against “rootless cosmopolitans”, the execution of Yiddish writers and intellectuals, and the mass deportation of Jews to the “Jewish Autonomous Oblast”, an inhospitable region in the far east of Siberia.

      To claim that a few hundred Jews managed to murder “sixty million” Russian Christians is evidence of hatred so delirious that it has already crossed the boundary into psychosis.

  5. Norma says:


    David Letterman’s hate is as old as some ancient Hebrew prophets.
    Speaking of anti-Semitism, it’s Jerry Falwell and other fundy leaders who’ve gleefully predicted that in the future EVERY nation will be against Israel (an international first?) and that TWO-THIRDS of all Jews will be killed, right?
    Wrong! It’s the ancient Hebrew prophet Zechariah who predicted all this in the 13th and 14th chapters of his book! The last prophet, Malachi, explains the reason for this future Holocaust that’ll outdo even Hitler’s by stating that “Judah hath dealt treacherously” and “the Lord will cut off the man that doeth this” and asks “Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother?”
    Haven’t evangelicals generally been the best friends of Israel and persons perceived to be Jewish? Then please explain the recent filthy, hate-filled, back-stabbing tirades by David Letterman (plus Sandra Bernhard, Larry David, Kathy Griffin, Bill Maher, Joan Rivers, and Sarah Silverman) against Christians like Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, and explain why most Jewish leaders have seemingly condoned such “crucifixion”!
    While Letterman etc. are tragically turning comedy into tragedy, they are also helping to speed up and fulfill the Final Holocaust a la Zechariah and Malachi, thus helping to make the Bible even more believable!
    For even more stunning information, visit MSN, Google, Yahoo etc. and type in “Separation of Raunch and State,” “Michael the Narc-Angel,” “Obama Supports Public Depravity,” “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” “Pretrib Rapture – Hidden Facts” and “Obama Fulfilling the Bible.”
    PS – – – There’s nothing wrong with Hollywood that a 10-point earthquake couldn’t fix !!

    • Dvar Dea says:

      First, the issue you brought has nothing to do with this blog post.
      Second, since these are largely internal American debates there is nothing I as an Israeli can add either way.
      Third, as an Israeli I appreciate everyone who gives Israel a voice. Even if they are diametrically oppose to each other on other issues, like Glen Beck and Bill Maher. While it would have been nice if they all liked each other, (hugging and kissing), as a student of Israeli politics I know politics does not work that way. Meaning, they are allowed to have their differences – like all people, even passionate ones.
      Fourth, and most importantly: Your last sentence is a discussing expression of hatred. Wishing severe harm to millions of people. Not only does that make you a hypocrite for preaching to others about hate. It creates a common ground with the Holocaust deniers commenting on this blog post, (which I suspect is the same person under different names.)
      You need love Norma, badly.

  6. John King says:

    Talking about the percentage of Jews in the Communist Party after the “Russian” revolution is less important that than the composition of the 1st Soviet Government. Robert Wilton was an experienced British reporter who investigated the murder of the Romanovs. In the Appendix in his book he lists all of the officals of the 1st Soviet Govt by ethnicity. The Russian majority had very few slots in this govt. More than 80% were Jews. Jews are likewise highly represented in the Obama cabinet though they make up very small percentages of the Democrat and Repubican parties. This website will gives you a feel for the highly disproportionate number of Jews in the Obama cabinet, though the same thing was true of Bush. I am not making any value judgements about Jews, rather just quoting some numbers. If posting true information on Jews is “antisemitism” crucify me as you did to Jesus for speaking the truth.

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