Although he died in prison in 2007 at the age of 69, David Lane remains one of the most important ideologues of contemporary white supremacy. A member of the terrorist group The Order, which was responsible for the 1984 assassination of Jewish radio host Alan Berg and many other crimes, Lane became even more of a movement icon after penning what rapidly became the best-known slogan of the U.S. white supremacist movement, the so-called "14 Words" ("We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children."). Sentenced to a total of 190 years for his crimes as a member of The Order, Lane spent his time in prison industriously pumping out racist tracts and other propaganda. After his death, a number of small memorial rallies were held in the United States and several European nations.
In His Own Words
"We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children."
— Lane's "14 Words" slogan
"By 1978 my research was essentially complete and the real problem was sharply delineated in my mind. The Western nations were ruled by a Zionist conspiracy … [that] above all things wants to exterminate the White Aryan race."
— Lane's autobiography, undated
"America is the murderer of the White Race. … I wouldn't contaminate my toilet with your red, white and blue rag."
— "Tri-Colored Treason," undated
"All the ancient teachings have said that the old and natural wisdom would return and there would be a man who could come to do this. It has to be somebody with the intelligence to form a revolution. And I am that man."
— Focus Fourteen, undated
"The patriot, being led to the inquisition's dungeons or the executioner's axe, will be condemned the loudest by his former friends and allies; for thus they seek to escape the same fate."
— "88 Precepts," undated
In March 1985, Lane was arrested in Winston-Salem, N.C., and charged with conspiracy and racketeering, along with 22 other members of The Order, a white supremacist terrorist organization also known as The Silent Brotherhood, or Bruders Schweigen. The charges followed The Order's 1984 machine-gun assassination of a Jewish talk radio host in Denver, Alan Berg, and its robbery of $3.6 million from an armored car in Ukiah, Calif. Lane was caught after the FBI arrested Order member Tom Martinez, who became an informant as part of his plea bargain. This was the first step in the FBI takedown, known as "Operation Clean Sweep," that landed most members of The Order in prison and effectively ended the organization's criminal activities. Lane received a 40-year sentence for conspiracy and racketeering.
In 1987, Lane was additionally accused of violating Berg's civil rights by helping to assassinate him, a federal charge. While Lane did not pull the trigger, prosecutors said he drove the getaway car and played a large role in the planning of Berg's murder. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison, as was co-conspirator Bruce Pierce, to be served consecutively with his earlier sentence.
Later in 1987, Lane was charged with sedition, conspiracy and civil rights violations in what was widely known as the "Fort Smith [Ark.] sedition trial." Thirteen other prominent white supremacists were also charged in a conspiracy to overthrow the government that allegedly ran between July 1983 and March 1985. Lane refused to enter a plea, claiming that the federal court had no jurisdiction, and declined legal representation. In the end, all of the defendants were acquitted.
David Lane was the Renaissance man of late 20th-century white nationalism. But the conspirator, writer, publisher, and theologian is best known on the radical right for coining the "14 Words," a very popular white supremacist slogan: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children." Also popular is Lane's "88 Precepts," a list of statements on what he calls "natural law." (Among neo-Nazis, because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, 88 stands for "Heil Hitler.") Lane was known for big proclamations. In his first trial, he told the court: "I do not recognize a government whose single aim is to exterminate my race. … I have given all that I have and all that I am to awake the people from their sleep of death."
David Lane was born in Iowa in 1938. An alcoholic, Lane's father regularly beat his four children and their mother until his death in 1942, according to David. When Lane's mother could not make ends meet, a young Lutheran minister and his wife adopted the 4-year-old boy. According to his autobiography, Lane first became disgusted with Christianity and bored with the idea of Jesus Christ while traveling from parish to parish with his adopted parents. As a child, he was strangely obsessed with Adolf Hitler and National Socialism and often impersonated the flat-hand salute while playing World War II games with his brother.
After graduating from high school in Aurora, Colo., and losing his job as a real estate broker for refusing to sell homes in white neighborhoods to black customers, Lane began exploring the world of organized hate. In the 1960s, he joined the John Birch Society, which focused obsessively on the threat of communism and made frequent allegations of communism against various personalities up to and including President Eisenhower. Lane soon left the group because he felt that its single-minded focus on communism was misguided. For Lane, Jews were the real enemy, a position explicitly rejected by the John Birch Society. As he wrote later: "By 1978 my research was essentially complete and the real problem was sharp in my mind. The Western nations were ruled by a Zionist conspiracy."
Lane then wrote his first pamphlet, "The Death of the White Race," and distributed copies all over Denver before becoming an organizer of the Denver chapter of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Between 1979 and 1983, he went even deeper into the world of white hate groups and their ideas. His main association then was with the Hitler-worshipping Aryan Nations, which practices Christian Identity, an anti-Semitic theology that preaches that Jews are the literal descendants of Satan. But he would soon turn his back on Christian Identity in favor of a racist version of the pre-Christian pagan religion commonly known as Odinism.
Disenchanted with the lack of action that characterized his network of white supremacists, Lane sought a more proactive path. In 1983, he met Robert Mathews, a recruiter for the neo-Nazi National Alliance, and joined Matthews' new terrorist group, Bruders Schweigen (The Silent Brotherhood), which later became known as The Order. The Order, a far more radical and violence-prone organization than even its KKK and Aryan Nations counterparts, fought to kick off a race-based revolution that Mathews hoped would ultimately lead to an all-white nation.
Survival of whites was David Lane's central concern, for he believed that integration would ultimately destroy, through miscegenation, the "Aryan" race. To that end, The Order's plan was loosely based on The Turner Diaries, a racist novel by National Alliance chief William Pierce that depicted racist revolutionaries destroying Jews, "race mixers," government agents and other enemies in a nationwide race war. To raise funds, Order members took on a lucrative trail-clearing contract, but when the work became taxing, they sought other illegal means of raising money for the revolution: counterfeiting and bank robbery. On June 19, 1984, 12 members of The Order robbed a Brinks armored car of $3.6 million in Ukiah, Calif.; the group also robbed two other armored cars, but with less lucrative results. Later, as officials realized that a single group was behind these crimes and others, an intensive investigation began that ultimately led to the arrest on counterfeiting-related charges of Tom Martinez, who became an informant as part of the plea bargain.
The resulting FBI crackdown, dubbed "Operation Clean Sweep," ended with the destruction of The Order and the death of Mathews in a fiery 1984 shootout with the FBI, and sent Lane and his partners to trial on three separate occasions. In 1985, he and 22 others faced charges of racketeering and conspiracy; he received a 40-year sentence. In October 1987, Lane and three others were charged with violating the civil rights of Alan Berg, a talk-radio host murdered outside his Denver home for speaking out against white supremacists on the air. Lane drove the getaway car. After receiving a 150-year sentence, to be served after his earlier 40-year sentence, Lane held up a sign that read, "Remember Whidbey Island"— a reference to the island near Seattle where Mathews fought it out with federal agents and was killed.
In prison, Lane wrote furiously, producing many articles for extremist journals with the overriding theme of racial survival. It was there that he authored the "14 Words" and "88 Precepts." Always anxious to move beyond rhetoric, Lane wrote the article "Strategy," in which he called for a group of white families to relocate to a remote country. There, they could breed Aryan children and take over the local political system, creating a haven where the white race could prosper. His numerous writings relentlessly targeted the Jews, Christianity, and law enforcement, which he considered "the most brutal and unthinking segment of the population."
To create an official outlet for his popular writings, Lane and wife Katja Lane, whom he married while in prison in 1994, established the 14 Word Press in 1995, dedicated to promotion of Lane's racist ideology and his religion, which he called Wotanism (the Germanic word for Odinism; he also described the theology's name as an acronym for "Will Of The Aryan Nation"). The theology is a version of the pre-Christian religion more commonly known as Odinism, and incorporates worship of Thor, Odin and other Norse-Germanic gods into an ideology promoting the survival of the Germanic culture and the Aryan race. (Devotees and scholars of these ancient religions have repeatedly pointed out that racism is not an original component of Odinism, but rather a product of Lane's and others' own creation.) Wotanism served as Lane's main point of difference from the "Christian" white supremacist organizations and was adopted by most members of The Order.
Katja Lane ran the 14 Word Press, along with friend Ron McVan, out of her home in St. Maries, Idaho, for several years. But in 2001, she announced that she was handing over responsibility for the press to Steve Wiegand of Micetrap Distribution, a New Jersey-based hate-music producer. The press has since gone defunct.
David Lane died in prison on May 28, 2007, of epilepsy complications. His death touched off paeans from racists around the country and abroad. June 30 was designated a "Global Day of Remembrance" for Lane, with demonstrations held in at least five U.S. cities as well as England, Germany, Russia and the Ukraine.
Meanwhile, neo-Nazi activist April Gaede, a Kalispell, Mont., resident who had corresponded frequently with Lane and was given custody of his body, announced with great fanfare that she and "the gals from WAU," a white supremacist group whose full name is Women for Aryan Unity, had established a David Lane Memorial Fund to cover the expenses of interring Lane's remains. According to Gaede, Lane had told her that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes placed in the capstone of a pyramid monument placed in a white homeland. However, Gaede wrote on the racist online forum Stormfront.org, "Since we are not in a situation to build a monument in a White homeland," she was arranging instead to distribute Lane's ashes among 14 smaller, portable pyramids, which would then be enshrined in the homes of 14 white nationalist women. (The number of pyramids is a direct reference to the 14 words.) Lane's body reportedly was cremated in June 2007.
Today, the doctrines of David lane live on, embedded in the ideology of many white supremacist groups and called up regularly by the popular hate symbol 14-88 (where 14 stands for the 14 words and 88 stands for "Heil Hitler," as noted above).