The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/p/prutschi.manuel/zundel-affair/za-07

Subject: The Zundel Affair: A Report by Manuel Prutschi (7/11)


The Nielsen Incident

In late 1980, Zundel launched an attack on History 398Y, the
Holocaust course taught at the University of Toronto by two Jewish
history professors, Jacques Kornberg and Michael Marrus, using his
follower, Ernst Nielsen. In a Zundel pamphlet, Nielsen is described
as having been born in pre-war Germany, and having served during the
war as "an air-sea rescue pilot."[77] Shot down on July 1, 1940, he
was imprisoned in England, and subsequently in Canada. In the early
1950s, Nielsen came to Canada as an immigrant, no doubt emulating
other German prisoners of war who had found their wartime
imprisonment in Canada not particularly harsh and had seen the nation
as a land of opportunity. In Zundel's account, however, Nielsen's
settlement is portrayed as some kind of noble act for which Canadians
should be profoundly thankful, rather than a piece of obvious
opportunism. "Mr. Nielsen is not a man to bear grudges." the pamphlet
states, "so he returned to Canada in the early 1950s and went to work
as a productive member of our society."[78]

In the 1979-80 academic year, Nielsen audited History 398Y; in
1980-81, he enrolled formally in the course. It is quite clear that
his purpose was not the pursuit of knowledge but to instruct the
instructors and the rest of the class that the Holocaust was a hoax
and a fraud. His tactics consisted of constant interruption and
harassment. As a result, he was asked to withdraw from the course in
both years. On November 10, 1980, in a letter to Professor William
Callahan, Chairman of the Department of History, Nielsen appealed his
second removal. His two-page letter, a precis of Holocaust denial,
describes the books on the class reading list as "nothing but hate
literature." The works "are not factual, but are Zionist incitements
to hatred of Germans - living, dead, and yet unborn." Most of the
authors cited in the course are "virulently anti-German, Zionist
fiction writers, not historians."[79] Nielsen further argued that a
professor teaching a course on this subject should "not be a member
of any ethnic group or organization directly concerned with the
Holocaust legend," adding that "no teacher be a Jew or a German, a
Zionist or a Nazi."[80] (The apposition and the equation of Zionist
and Nazi is significant.) The letter also provides a list of
notorious Holocaust deniers in the guise of "recognized scientific
authorities," adding the suggestion that the University of Toronto
sponsor a 'Holocaust Symposium.' Nielsen concluded by offering to
procure a number of his "authorities" for the benefit of the
university community.

This offer, as well as the entire affair, was almost certainly
masterminded by Zundel; Nielsen was merely his mouthpiece and agent
provocateur. Indeed, Nielsen's letter to Callahan, both in form and
content, is typical of Zundel's style and method. Nielsen, for
example, wrote that he had "been assured of the backing of several
local and international German ethnic organizations," but the only
organization actually mentioned is the German-Jewish Historical
Commission - one of Zundel's fronts.[81] 

Furthermore, another of
Zundel's fronts, Concerned Parents of German Descent, avidly took up
his defence. In a pamphlet titled "Holocaust Course Stirs
Controversy," Zundel referred to the professors in History 398Y as
"Biased predatory and mendacious Zionist advocates who write
Holocaust fiction for profit," and railed against the "misallocation dollars." [82] Declaring that "the abuse of our University
system through the inclusion of hateful, biased, unscrupulous Zionist
propaganda posing as history must be halted," he listed the names and
telephone numbers of a number of university officers and
administrators, urging his supporters to phone in protest even on
weekends.[83] The incident, however. although unpleasant or the
instructors, as well as for the Jewish students in the class, only
confirmed the importance of the course by providing an in-class
illustration of the pathological antisemitism and nationalism that
had kindled the flames of the Final Solution in the first place. As
far as Zundel and Nielsen were concerned, their efforts were an
exercise in futility.


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