An image of white supremacist David Lane is placed on a light grey background with the text "David Lane Factsheet"

Factsheet: David Lane

Published on 02 Jul 2019

IMPACT: David Lane was a white supremacist and separatist whose writings and slogans have had profound influence in white supremacist ideology. Lane’s “Fourteen Words” slogan has been adopted by many white supremacists, including the perpetrators of the Pittsburgh synagogue and Christchurch mosques attacks.

Lane was born in Woden, Iowa in 1938, and died in federal prison in 2007 after being sentenced to 190 years in prison for counterfeiting, conspiracy, racketeering, and for violating the civil rights of radio host Alan Berg. 

Lane’s white supremacist leanings began in his childhood. In his autobiography, Lane notes that the first evidence of his “calling” and “struggle” was his attraction to the old Norse gods as a young child. Lane also describes his early childhood fascination with Adolf Hitler and Nazi soldiers.

Lane’s fixation on white women’s racial and sexual purity played a central role in forming his white supremacist worldviews. In his autobiography, Lane wrote that he “had a strange relationship with the women of our race from the beginning.” Lane described how his childhood affection for a “little Catholic angel with blond hair, blue eyes, and charms beyond description” was the first indication of what would later become his life’s purpose: preserving the “beauty of the White Aryan woman.” 

As a high school student, Lane became disillusioned with capitalism, and in the early 1960s joined the John Birch Society, a far-right anti-communist group. During his involvement with the John Birch Society, Lane encountered a pamphlet describing Jewish control over the American media, which he lauded as the “moment everything fell into place.” 

In 1978, Lane declared that “Western nations were ruled by a Zionist conspiracy” seeking to “exterminate the White Aryan race.” Lane’s conviction in the “extermination” of the white race shaped his writings, actions, and beliefs for the remainder of his life. After leaving the John Birch Society, Lane wrote and self-published a pamphlet entitled “The Death of the White Race,” which he distributed widely in Aurora and Denver, Colorado.  

In 1979, Lane joined the Denver chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. After being expelled for distributing neo-Nazi pamphlets, he became the Colorado organizer of Aryan Nations. Aryan Nations is a white supremacist and neo-Nazi group that adheres to the ideology of Christian Identity, an anti-Semitic interpretation of Christianity. 

In 1983, Lane met Robert Jay Mathews at an Aryan Nations meeting. Together with Lane and seven other men, Mathews founded the white supremacist group The Order (also known as the Silent Brotherhood or Bruders Schweigen). Mathews based the The Order on the 1978 novel The Turner Diaries, authored by prominent white supremacist William Pierce. The Turner Diaries describes the genocide of non-whites and Jews by a revolutionary group named The Order, and has inspired over 200 murders since its publication, most famously the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Closely mirroring the activities described in The Turner Diaries, The Order committed armed robberies, counterfeited money, and devised a list of “enemies” targeted for assassination. 

In 1984, members of The Order murdered Jewish radio host Alan Berg outside his home. In his autobiography, Lane described Berg as “rabidly Jewish.” Lane was sentenced to 190 years in prison: 40 for conspiracy and racketeering, and 150 for his role in Berg’s murder. 

In prison, Lane wrote his most notorious works, including his 88 Precepts manifesto that argues for white superiority and separation between races, men’s superiority over women, and the criminalization of homosexuality, all of which are characterized by Lane as “Laws of Nature.” The 88 Precepts manifesto proclaims that racial preservation is “ordained by nature,” and that “race-mixing…is and has always been, the greatest threat to the survival of the Aryan race.” 

Within the 88 Precepts manifesto, Lane coined the “Fourteen Words” slogan. The slogan has served as a rallying cry for white supremacists around the world and has been invoked in mass shootings and targeted attacks on minority groups. The slogan reads, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” A less commonly used 14-word slogan appears directly after the Fourteen Words in the 88 Precepts: “Because the beauty of the White Aryan woman must not perish from the earth.” 

Lane and his wife Katja established the Fourteen Words Press in 1994 to distribute Lane’s writings. Six months later, Lane’s longtime friend and white separatist Ron McVan joined the Fourteen Words press. Together, the three published a monthly newsletter titled “Focus Fourteen,” which featured articles, artwork, and pamphlets related to “white racial survival.”

In 1995, David Lane, Katja Lane, and Ron McVan founded Wotansvolk, an organization based on Wotanism (also referred to as Odinism or Wodenism). Wotanism is a religious practice premised on pre-Christian traditions of Germanic societies, and in particular, Norse mythology. Lane proclaims that biblical religions are “incompatible” with his goal of white racial survival because prior to biblical religions, the white European race was “dominant throughout the known world,” and that 2,000 years of biblical religion left the Aryan race “near extinction.” 

Lane stated that he chose the label “Wotanism” over Odinism because “Wotan” “makes a perfect acronym for Will Of The Aryan Nation.” Lane also explained that positioning Wotansvolk as a religious organization protected its existence in the United States: he stated that it would be “necessary to use the vehicle of religion to expound our message of racial survival” to guarantee Wotansvolk’s members the freedom to practice Wotanism under the First Amendment. 

Lane’s Wotanism is an explicitly racist form of Odinism, a neo-pagan religious ideology named after the Norse god Odin. Odinism regained popularity in Nazi Germany in the early 20th century: a 1988 Southern Poverty Law Center report states that Odinist mythology “was a bedrock belief for key Third Reich leaders, and it was an integral part of the initiation rites and cosmology of the elite Schutzstaffel (SS), which supervised Adolf Hitler’s network of death camps.” 

Odinism is closely related to Ásatrú, the polytheistic religious tradition of the original Viking settlers of Iceland that reveres the ancient Germanic gods. While most interpretations of Ásatrú are inclusive of all followers, some interpretations–whose followers often refer to themselves as “Folkish”–state that only individuals with white European ancestry may join. 

Wotanism, Odinism, Ásatrú, and other neo-pagan traditions have been adopted by members of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups around the world. While the terminology that these groups use to refer to their spirituality differs, their ideologies are commonly characterized by the belief that the existence of the white race must be preserved, often through antiquated notions of gender and sexuality that prescribe white women’s subservience to white men. Many white supremacist groups practicing these religious traditions were influenced by the writings of David Lane.

Lane died in federal prison in 2007 at the age of 69, but his writings have strongly influenced the ideologies and actions of other white supremacists around the world. On June 30, 2007, neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups declared a “Global Day of Remembrance” in Lane’s honor and held rallies in locations across the United States, including Los Angeles, Boston, St. Louis, and Houston.

Last updated: July 2, 2019