The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/p/prutschi.manuel/zundel-affair/za-10

Subject: The Zundel Affair: A Report by Manuel Prutschi (10/11)


The Man

What caused the post-Hitler, post-Nazi, apolitical youth to become an
ardent neo-Nazi? What led the professional photo retoucher to become
an amateur retoucher of history? It is not inconceivable that the
answer to this question involves the troubling effect that a
uni-dimensional portraiture of Germans in post-war literature had on
an impressionable young mind. Zundel disclosed as much in an
interview with Michael Tenstzen of The Globe and Mail (December 6,
1983). Male adventure magazines of the 1950s and 1960s. with their
focus on German atrocity stories, left a mark on his psyche. "I said,
this is ridiculous. I knew German soldiers in our village, my father
and his brother were ones and they never talked about stories like

His concern with the negative stereotyping of Germans as
"goose-stepping mass murderers or stupid figures of fun" is, in fact,
shared by mainstream German Canadians. Many of the latter have been
genuinely disturbed by the persistent focus of the media, film
industry and popular literature with that narrow, albeit momentous,
era in German history known as the Third Reich. For the most part,
however, these German Canadians have acknowledged and confronted the
reality of the Holocaust. Believing that there is no cause for shame
in ethnic origin, since there is no such thing as collective guilt,
they are proud of their heritage and their achievements in this
country. Russell Doern, for example, a member of the Manitoba
legislature, declared in an article in Maclean's magazine: "I, too,
am angered, sickened and horrified by the terrible crimes committed
by the Nazis - which the world must never forget." However, in his
view, "German-Canadians must stand proud as an intelligent,
industrious and sensitive people who have made a significant
contribution to Canadian society since the first Germans came here
227 years ago. Only then will our history be placed in proper

In reply to a letter from Zundel, Reuben C. Baetz, Minister of
Culture and Recreation for Ontario, wrote as follows (December 31,
1981): "Stereotypes feed on ignorance. If the public knew the story
of the German community, if it were aware of the contributions
Canadians of German origins have made to all aspects of our life, if
it were sensitive to the achievements of all that is best and finest
in the German intellect and spirit, the kinds of objectionable
materials you cite would lose both their credibility and their
audience. In the long run this is the best solution, I believe."[102]

Zundel, however, for a variety of reasons, could never bring himself
to take this approach. For one thing. he could not adopt the
achievements of German Canadians because he refused to become one,
never having taken out Canadian citizenship. To be sure, he did
anglicize his name to "Ernest Zundel" when he arrived first in
Canada, but this did not last; indeed, sometime in the 1970s, he
reaffirmed his Germanness by returning to the original spelling. If
he could not bring himself to emulate German Canadians, he could have
emulated the post-war German generation, that generation that
confronted Nazi criminality, turned its back on Nazism, and built a
new, vibrant and democratic society. He also could have emulated
authentic German heroes, such as the anti-Nazi martyrs who died at
Hitler's hands for their opposition to the dictatorship and its
murderous policies. But he did not.

The only Germany Zundel saw was a "vanquished and divided German
nation"[103] - one he could neither associate with nor accept.
Burdened by guilt, his pride and self-esteem injured, unable to
honestly face the past and thereby transcend it, he opted to deny it.
Since, moreover, Holocaust denial is but one side of a coin whose
other side includes the glorification of the Third Reich, opposition
to justice for Nazi war criminals and a desire to found a white
supremacist Fourth Reich - in short, neo-Nazism-Zundel made the
mental and emotional transition from a post-Hitler youth to a
post-Hitler Hitlerite.

Certain personal character traits also played a part in his
conversion, notably a strong capacity to suspend belief. The same
irrationalism that allows him to ignore scientific evidence pointing
to the non-existence of flying saucers allows him to ignore
historical evidence pointing to one of the best-attested facts of all
time: the Holocaust. Of course, it is likely that Zundel does not
believe in flying saucers at all and these stories are merely for
effect. It is also likely, as the court found in two trials, that he
does not believe in his own propaganda claims, despite the immense
psychological power of wilful self-deception. Holocaust denial is
employed as the key device in marketing neo-Nazism. "If there was
never any crime of mass murder then there are no mass murderers.
Nazism and the Third Reich are whitewashed and made once again
respectable and, what is most important...attractive."[104]

There is also considerable evidence of egomania and exhibitionism.
Zundel regards himself, and wants to be seen, as a man of substance,
a leader, as the sort of pre-eminent individual described in his
autobiography. He does not only love Hitler, he wishes to emulate
him. This passion surely makes him design new neo-Nazi symbols,
incorporating the initial of his own name. Apparently, he sees
himself as a budding Fuehrer; indeed, he described himself to the
Toronto Star (October 3, 1978) as the "Fuehrer of Concerned Parents
of German Descent."[105] Another factor that may have affected his
Nazi metamorphosis is a peculiar sense of shame about what he claims
was his original pacifism. In his interview with Tenstzen of The
Globe, he indicated that he "chose Canada because he knew the country
did not have peacetime conscription."[106] Perhaps his militaristic
neo-Nazism is in part a classic overcompensation for an earlier
non-violent (religious?) ethic. Such things are not unknown.

In any case, the ex-pacifist had marketed depictions of Nazi weapons
and "warrior belt buckles," telling Dick Chapman of The Toronto Sun
(in a March 25, 1981, interview) that, once the Bonn government is
overthrown, "we [will]...certainly execute several hundred of the
current crop of leaders in West Germany."[107] If Zundel was ever a
pacifist, those days are clearly far behind.


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