Charlotte, NC (7/18/05) — Speakers Michael Hoffman and Ingrid Rimland Zundel brought their controversial messages to a small but receptive audience at the Hilton Garden Inn in Charlotte on July 7, only blocks away from where Mennonite Church USA was meeting for its biennial convention.

Convener Bruce Leichty, of the sponsoring organization Good Information Advocates, said that being able to hold the event “Now Speak With Boldness” without disruption and the opportunity to begin dialogue with Mennonites about a variety of unpopular and suppressed points of view helped offset his disappointment at the small number of persons who attended the forum. About 15 persons attended all or part of the day’s events, he said.

“It is unfortunate that Mennonites, who have a history of dissent and persecution, by and large missed this opportunity to hear for themselves from people who have been vilified in the mainstream media and church press,” said Leichty, a registrant at the Mennonite convention and California attorney who represents Ingrid and Ernst Zundel in a U.S. court proceeding.

Leichty says that he and an assistant distributed about 1000 flyers inside and outside the nearby convention center, despite attempts by MC USA executives to oust them and to brand Leichty as “racist.”  The leafleting itself created opportunity for dialogue, he noted. (See related articles on the attempt by MCUSA executives to suppress distribution of the flyer and on the content of the flyer.)

Leichty was asked by MC USA officials to announce at the forum that the event was not affiliated in any way with MC USA, which he did. Leichty also emphasized in his opening remarks that the forum was not motivated by racism, white supremacism, or anti-semitism. All of those labels plus the “neo-Nazi” slur have been unfairly applied to speakers Hoffman and Zundel, he notes.

In his power-point presentation, Michael Hoffman showed extracts from the text of the Talmud to support his contention that the religion of Judaism is not a religion based on the venerated teachings of the Old Testament, as many Christians imagine. Among other things, rabbinical teachings enshrined in the Talmud authorize hatred of Gentiles or goyim, and permit sexual relations with children within certain age ranges, Hoffman noted.

Christ dealt with similar attitudes when he confronted the Pharisees, Hoffman pointed out. At their root, he said, many of the teachings of the Jewish rabbis both during Jesus’ lifetime and in the Talmud are derived from Babylonian mystery religion, not the Old Testament tradition. Hoffman explicitly identifies himself as a biblicist Christian and has been associated with several different Mennonite and Amish communities.

Hoffman distinguished the racism and deviant teachings found in the Talmudic texts with the teachings of the Koran, which he said do not counsel racial or ethnic supremacism or abusive conduct, but which he said are often unfairly featured as being hateful or directly responsible for acts of terrorism. Hoffman praised the work of the Mennonite-related group Christian Peacemakers in standing with Palestinians. But he added that well-intentioned people often miss the fact that the policy of persecution of the Palestinians is not just an accident but is part of the official teachings of Judaism.

Hoffman emphasized that this does not mean that Christians have license to hate rabbis or Jews, and he acknowledged that there are different levels of complicity in and awareness of these false teachings among adherents of Judaism. He counseled both confrontation and compassion for those enslaved by these aberrant traditions.

In her evening presentation, Ingrid Rimland Zundel told her story of seeing her father taken away from the family by Stalinist secret police in the Mennonite community of Halbstadt in the Ukraine in the early 1940’s, and about her uneasy relationship with Mennonites as a fatherless girl growing up in Paraguay, where her mother and grandmother eventually resettled as refugees.

She described waiting in a train station to be loaded onto rail cars for exile to Siberia, only to be rescued by what seemed like a miraculous intervention–she soon found out that the German army had won control of the locality even as the Mennonites waited at the train station.

Those that escaped exile then embarked on an 18-month trek with the German army, during which many of the walkers perished.  Her grandmother, mother and she and an infant sister survived.         She spoke of the fear that she felt when they were processed for naturalization in Germany.  Upon arrival in Poland, their heads were shaved because of the fear of lice, and there were rumors that they were going to be gassed, but to their relief they were merely sprayed with water and soap and what she believes now was an insecticide.  She says that the refugees were subjected to repeat “de-lousing” procedures.

The German army were not villains in her experience, but rather heroes.  This laid the foundation for her subsequent reevaluation of standard American historical accounts about the atrocities of World War II–which she originally accepted just as everyone else did, she said.  She said she no longer believes that Hitler’s regime operated gas chambers for the extermination of Jews, and the births of thousands of Jewish babies are recorded at the so-called death camps, she pointed out.

She briefly referred to corroborating evidence at the first trial of her husband Ernst Zundel in Canada.  One prominent Jewish expert witness, Raul Hilberg, was forced to admit on the stand that he had no direct knowledge of the gas chambers or anyone killed by gassing, she said.

Michael Hoffman observed that at that time he still had his Associated Press credentials, and that he had covered the trial as a reporter for an alternative publication,The Spotlight, and he echoed Rimland’s observations. Hoffman pointed out the fact that the “Holocaust” account with its central emphasis on the gas chambers did not occupy a prominent position in war historiography as might have been expected with regard to what is now almost uniformly held in the Western world to be the biggest atrocity in human history; for example, neither Roosevelt or Churchill in their multi-volume memoirs ever speaks about gas chambers, he noted.

Rimland portrayed Ernst Zundel as a young man who had migrated to Canada to avoid serving in the German army and who has been a life-long pacifist, and who became motivated to find the real truth about World War II and the events leading up to it. His conclusions, formed early in his successful career as a graphic artist in Toronto, placed him at odds with powerful figures in the Jewish community and in government who had a vested interest in portraying the Jews as unique victims of the Germans, and he has paid the price ever since, she said, culminating in his current imprisonment in Germany for the crime of “denying” the Holocaust.

Rimland said that his outspoken advocacy for Germans and his repudiation of the false witnesses of the extremely profitable “Holocaust” lobby are what led to Ernst Zundel being seized and taken away from her at her Tennessee home in a manner reminiscent of the Stalinist seizure of her father, who she never saw again.

In a question and answer period following her presentation, Zundels’ attorney, Bruce Leichty, underscored the fact that the United States did not have any authority to take Zundel out of the country. He noted that the U.S. routinely overlooks immigration violations when the alien is adjusting status through marriage to a U.S. citizen, but even where such persons are alleged to be deportable, they are entitled to a hearing in front of an immigration judge, something Ernst Zundel never got.

Leichty gave a brief presentation of his own at the forum, under the title “The Long Silence: Mennonites and Freemasonry.” He pointed out that his remarks were introductory and tentative in nature, and that more serious study was needed, but that while many people believe that Mennonites have uniformly been opposed to membership in secret societies, the presence of members of secret societies in Mennonite congregations appears to have been an issue in the church since at least the mid-1800’s, and there has been little if any teaching on the subject since World War II.

Many Mennonites were involved in the anti-secrecy movement of the National Christian Association at some point during the first few decades of the 20th century, noted Leichty.  These included John E. Hartzler, a past president of Goshen College who briefly served as president of the NCA, and Chicago home missions pioneer A. H. Leaman.  One Indiana chapter event was held in the Goshen College Assembly Hall, and the association’s magazine was printed at Berne, Indiana.   Whether related to that movement or not, John Umble, a prominent professor at Goshen College and its earliest chronicler, renounced his Masonic lodge membership.

Quoting from historian Abraham Friesen’s writing, Leichty noted that one German historian, Ludwig Keller, who was in conversation with a German Mennonite Freemason named Wiens in the late 1800’s, apparently even believed that freemasonry had roots that were linked to the “Alt-Evangelische” movement in Switzerland that gave birth to Swiss-German Anabaptism. Keller’s theory ultimately apparently lost out to a counter-theory that declined to trace the origins of freemasonry beyond its more institutional birth in London.

Leichty noted that certain Mennonite conferences long referred to themselves not by primarily by the name of Menno Simons but by the name “Alt-Evangelische.” Keller, who eventually joined the ranks of freemasonry, was a mentor to influential Mennonite John Horsch, who was in turn the father-in-law of one of the most prominent Mennonite leaders of the 20th century, Harold S. Bender.

Leichty presented five possible reasons why attention to the subject of secret societies remains important: the traditional official Mennonite reasons for opposition to secret societies, based on the worship of false gods and energies diverted from the church; the possibility that some masonic lodges serve as protective “cover” for abusive practices, including satanic ritual abuse of children; the contention by a growing number of persons that high-ranking freemasons and members of other secret groups use their fraternities to manipulate and advance political agenda and images for the purpose of social control; the possibility that secret societies seek to infiltrate, sponsor or use religion or religious movements for their own ends; and finally the prospect that the lodge is used and can be used as a sophisticated enabler for organized crime, favoritism and corruption of justice.

Leichty read from various sources and from responses to a survey sent by Good Information Advocates to some 2,500 Mennonite ministers in June 2005, and spoke about conversations he had had with a number of Mennonites or persons raised Mennonite: these sources bear witness in varying degrees to each one of the five critiques, he noted.

“I submit that we ignore the issue at our own spiritual peril,” he said.

Contacted after the event, Michael Hoffman commented,  “Bruce Leichty laid the groundwork for an inquiry into the influence of secret societies on the Anabaptist movement both ancient and modern. This is an issue that deserves greater scrutiny. For example, it has been alleged that the Lutheran Pastor Johann Valentin Andreae of Tubingen, was an elite Rosicrucian conspirator and the grandson of the distinguished Jacob Andreae, one of the leading pioneers of Protestantism, chancellor of the University of Tubingen,  and the man known in his lifetime as the `Wittenberg Luther.’

“In the early days of the revolt against Rome, Protestant and perhaps even Anabaptist dissidents often united in common cause with disparate groups, not all of them wholesome or savory. Any secret influence on the reformers is of concern since it runs counter to a sincere Gospel witness and by virtue of its secrecy, is difficult to track in terms of its provenance and subversive influence. Leichty’s efforts in this vein are commendable and represent an opening into a sensitive subject long neglected among a people traditionally much occupied with tracing and documenting their history and heritage.”

A C-SPAN presentation by David Ray Griffin on “9-11” was used as the springboard for discussion of the final topic tackled at the forum. Griffin, professor emeritus at Claremont School of Theology and author of several books on the subject, had presented his reasons for believing that the Bush administration was behind the events of 9-11, at an event in Madison, Wisconsin sponsored by an interfaith alliance of Muslims, Jews and Christians. That presentation aired on C-SPAN in May 2005 and Good Information Advocates obtained permission from C-SPAN to use the presentation the morning of the July 7 forum.