Avowed Holocaust denier running for school board in Minnesota

Vaughn Klingenberg, who has called for Jews to be sterilized and tattooed with Star of David, is one of seven candidates on the ballot for three open seats in suburb of Roseville

Illustrative: An empty classroom. (Getty Images via JTA)
Illustrative: An empty classroom. (Getty Images via JTA)

JTA — One of the candidates on the ballot for an upcoming Minnesota school board election is an avowed Holocaust denier who has called for all Jews to be sterilized and tattooed with the Star of David, all synagogues to be closed and all Jewish children to be forcibly removed from their parents.

Vaughn Klingenberg is one of seven candidates on the ballot for three open seats in Roseville, a suburb of the Twin Cities. In addition to his views on Jewish people, which he recently published under his own name on a blog, he also visited two area synagogues during the recent High Holidays, actions that have earned condemnation from the state’s attorney general and from local Jewish leaders alike.

“He has our attention. He’s clearly tried to get the attention of the public by spewing hateful, antisemitic rhetoric, which is obviously untrue but is also dangerous,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison told a local news channel.

“Minnesota has no place for hate, and we’re not going to tolerate it. And he can think whatever he wants to think, he can even blog about it,” Ellison added. “But when he starts showing up at peoples’ houses of worship and trying to inspire others to commit acts of hatred, that’s where we have to draw the line.”

The site of the first-ever Target store and home of a college once run by the late evangelist leader Billy Graham, Roseville has a population of around 36,000. Candidates for school board only need to demonstrate proof of residency and declare they are not sex offenders or running for another position simultaneously, according to election information provided by the district, which did not return a Jewish Telegraphic Agency request for comment.

Klingenberg has not participated in any local candidate forums for the election, set for November 7. This appears to be his first run for public office. He did not respond to JTA requests for comment.

In a blog entry dated September 20, Klingenberg describes visiting two synagogues in the Twin Cities. At the first, over Rosh Hashanah, he said he “dropped off some literature on Big Zionist Jewish responsibility for the Holocaust.” At the second, during the Kol Nidre prayer said at the start of Yom Kippur, he said he wanted to catch Jews reciting “an anti-vow that excuses all Jews who recite it from any oaths, promises, vows…etc. that they may make in the upcoming year.” He was reprimanded by synagogue security at both locations, according to his own accounts.

These visits got the attention of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. “It is appalling that on the holiest days of the Jewish calendar… an obsessive Holocaust denier and antisemite who espouses the most vile conspiracy theories would violate our sacred spaces,” Ethan Roberts, deputy executive director of the group, told the local Jewish news site TC Jewfolk.

Roberts added that the JCRC is working with law enforcement “to do everything possible to ensure that Vaughn Klingenberg knows that he is not welcome at our houses of worship and Jewish community institutions.”

Klingenberg works in customer service, most recently for the insurance company and Nordic cultural organization Sons of Norway, according to his LinkedIn page. He lists Progressive Insurance and Xcel Energy among his previous employers. He holds a master’s degree from Marquette University and in 2011 self-published a pamphlet on Holocaust denial called “The Big Lie: The Holocaust (An Introduction to the Greatest Fraud of the 20th Century).”

Klingenberg’s other writings include two self-published volumes on Shakespeare and an antisemitic novel titled “The Bruderschaft Manifesto” that opens with the statement, “Obviously there are many good, outstanding Jews in the world, but this should not blind us to the fact that an extremely powerful subsection of the Jewish community does not affirm a universalist humanitarian agenda.”

In blog entries titled “Vaughn Klingenberg in Zionist Wonderland,” published on the site VTForeignPolicy on September 20, Klingenberg outlines his proposal for Jews who “refuse to testify” against the wrongdoing of other Jews: They “will have all of their wealth stripped from them, they will be tattooed on their forehead with a Star of David (in order that they not remain hidden from the broader public), they will be stripped of all employment, they will receive as monthly income what is currently paid to those on disability, and they will be given Section 8 housing in which to live.”

He further outlines his plans to have all Jews “permanently rendered sterile so that they cannot, ever, reproduce,” to close all synagogues, and to have Jewish children “placed in foster homes to be adopted by non-Jews.” (Klingenberg said he would make exceptions for anti-Zionist Jews.)

Roseville’s schools superintendent has repudiated Klingenberg’s views. “Roseville Area Schools strongly rejects any language or stance that denies the truth of the Holocaust and its devastating impact not only Jewish people but our world. We stand for truth, human rights and human dignity,” Jenny Loeck said in a statement to Minnesota Public Radio.

Regional representatives for the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and educator union group Education Minnesota have also condemned the candidate.

Following impassioned support from local 99-year-old Holocaust survivor Dora Zaidenweber this spring, Minnesota state lawmakers passed a Holocaust and genocide education mandate for public schools. Zaidenweber died two weeks ago.

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