The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: places/germany/legal/auschwitz-lie-legal-update.0594


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Archive/File: fascism/germany gm.052194
Last-Modified: 1994/05/24

Source: The Globe and Mail, Sat. May 21, 1994
(Focus, p.2)
by Margaret Evans, Special to the Globe and Mail, Brussels

   
   "After years of uncertainty, German parliamentarians yesterday passed a
law making it illegal to deny the murder of more than six million Jews by
the Nazis. Although old laws have been used against dissemination of the
so-called 'Auschwitz Lie,' ambiguities over interpretation have clouded the
issue.

The new law is being hailed as an important step in deterring such Holocaust
deniers as Ernst Zundel of Canada and Fred Leuchter, an American who in 1988
published a report claiming no gas chambers had operated at Auschwitz in
Poland. Says Frankfurt lawyer Michael Friedman, a board member of the Jewish
Communities of Germany: 'The law has two functions: one to strengthen an old
law, making it much more difficult to continue openly saying these things.
[And] it has an educational input. It is necessary in a democratic country
to know that the denying of Auschwitz offends the spirit of the state and
society.'

A case involving Mr. Leuchter was pivotal in the passage of the new law.
During a trip to Germany in November, 1991, he denied the Holocaust in front
of neo-Nazi groups.  The man who invited him to Germany and acted as his
interpreter, Gunter Deckert, head of the far-right National Democratic
Party, was subsequently convicted of inciting racial hatred and sentenced to
one year in prison.

In March, a federal appeals court overturned the sentence, ruling Mr.
Deckert couldn't be convicted of inciting racial hatred merely for stating
the Holocaust hadn't happened. Then last month, the Supreme Court ruled that
the Auschwitz Lie should not be protected by free-speech laws. It is these
contradictory decisions that prompted the justice department to propose the
new law. Put simply, in the past the emphasis was placed on proving that the
denier was trying to incite racial hatred; now, a denial itself constitutes
racial hatred and an attack on human dignity. 'This will essentially make it
much easier for the courts to convict people who say these things,' says
Klaus Meyer, a justice department spokesman.

The debate, of course, is achingly familiar in Canada. German-born Zundel's
conviction for disseminating false news about the Holocaust was struck down
by the Supreme Court of Canada in August, 1992, which ruled it violated his
right to free speech.

Mr. Zundel, who lives in Toronto, is well known in Europe, where he manages
to pocket a bit of money by hawking pamphjlets with such titles as 'Did Six
Million Really Die?' to extremist groups.

Some Germans fear the new law will encourage people like Mr. Zundel to step
up efforts to export their ideas. Officals at the German Institute for the
Protection of the Constitution in Koln say Mr. Zundel sees himself as a
leader who would like to unify the German neo-Nazi scene. Says one: 'His
activities are certainly not hampered by Canadian law.'

In Belgium, Mr. Zundel's work is published by a pair of brothers based in
Antwerp - home to some of Belgium's most racist parties - under the banner
of the Free Historical Research Group. They have recently expanded their
operation to Holland, where they have been greeted with widespread
condemnation.

High-profile Holocaust deniers, aside from Mr. Zundel and Mr. Leuchter,
include Thies Christophersen, a German who lives in Denmark, and Max Wahr,
who operates out of his native Switzerland. Denial literature has many
routes into Europe. It often comes simply by post, then is distributed by
extremist networks.

Mr. Zundel beams his radio program to Germany via short-wave radio. 'The
structure of distribution is not a problem,' says Dr. Friedman.  'There are
always enough people willing to take that stuff. I think it is a scandal
that in Canada it is possible to be involved in this anti-human, neo-Nazi
spirit without any risk of punishment.' He says the new German law is a
highly symbolic move in the 'democratic Germany that was established under
the condition that it would accept responsibility for the history of the
Third Reich and the Holocaust.'

There is some evidence the German decison could have an impact on
neighboring countries. There are no laws regarding hate literature or
Holocaust denial  in Belgium or Holland. But there are stirrings of concern.
In Holland, the first sentence of the Constitution, which states that all
people are equal, is increasingly used as the basis for court challenges
against those spreading hatred or falsehoods. Last month, a member of the
right-wing Centrum Democratic Party who said foreigners should be thrown out
of Holland was successfully prosecuted. In Belgium, a parliamentary debate
is under way about whether a law similar to Germany's should be passed."
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