The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Holocaust Denial Today
Manuel Prutschi, Canadian Jewish Congress

The criminal charges brought against Zundel arose out of his publication and dissemination of two pamphlets. One was a thirty-two-page pamphlet entitled "Did Six Million Really Die?" which branded the Holocaust a hoax. It was widely distributed throughout Canada, especially to politicians, media people, and librarians. The second one was a four-page letter entitled "The West, War and Islam!". It advanced the notion of a conspiracy by Zionists, bankers, communists and Freemasons to control the world. It was mailed to twelve- hundred specific addresses, in the Middle East.

Zundel was acquitted on the charge connected with "The West, War and Islam". Since precious little time was spent on this charge at trial, one can only speculate that the jury thought it unimportant and, also, possibly reasoned that the letter could not have done much harm in Canada since it was mailed out of the country. On the other hand, the jury did convict on the key Holocaust denial charge and Zundel was sentenced to a jail term. Zundel appealed the conviction. On legal technicalities, a re-trial was ordered. The second trial was held in 1988 and a jury, again, found Zundel guilty, and a jail term was imposed. The case is now once more under appeal.

Two other notorious Canadian antisemites who have been identified with Holocaust denial are James Keegstra and Malcolm Ross. Keegstra, for many years, taught high school in the small town of Eckville, Alberta while Ross is a teacher in the Moncton, New Brunswick area.

For Keegstra and Ross Holocaust denial is not as central to their world view as it is to Zundel's, but it is nonetheless a direct outgrowth of it. Both these men consider themselves religious Christians and have imbibed deeply at the well of Christian antisemitism. They can rightly be described as theologians of hate." To them Jews are evil, satanic world conspirators out to wreck western Christian civilization. Of course this view of a world Jewish conspiracy, when rid of its religious dimension, is precisely what the Nazis propagated.

Outside of Canada, Europe and the United States yield the most significant examples of Holocaust deniers.

The intellectual father of the movement was the Frenchman Paul Rassinier, who died in 1967. Rassinier was a bundle of contradictions. He was a socialist, an anarchist, and a communist. His ideological, political background was from the left, not from the right as one might expect. He was a politician, hero, and a pacifist. He was a concentration camp survivor, having spent two years at Dora and Buchenwald.

Rassinier, in his personal concentration camp experience, found that the everyday suffering inflicted on the inmates was done primarily by the kappos. These were individuals - themselves drawn from the camp population - placed on top of their fellows, as a way of shielding the SS and other authorities from the direct anger or the wrath of the inmates. Rassinier, in a bizarre mental odyssey, went from blaming the kappos, through absolving the Nazis of any responsibility, to blaming the victims for inventing the whole thing.

Rassinier's mantle was inherited by another Frenchman, Robert Faurisson who, in some ways, today is the movement's `elder statesman.' He has a doctorate from the Sorbonne in literary textual criticism. He was a professor of literature at the University of Lyons II but has been suspended from teaching since 1979. He has been found guilty of libel, racial defamation and incitement to racial hatred, and failure properly to discharge his responsibilities as a historian, both in his approach to evidence and testimony as well as in his research methods. He was a star witness for Zundel at both his trials.

Another Holocaust denier in France of more recent prominence is Henri Roques, a sixty-five-year-old retired, agricultural engineer. He produced a long thesis which was Holocaust denial through-and-through, and shopped around for a university to grant him a doctorate. Rejected by the universities of Paris and the Sorbonne, among others, he finally hit pay dirt at the University of Nantes. An academic panel of three granted the thesis a Ph.D. and gave it top grades. The supervisor, Jean-Claude Riviere, is a specialist in the medieval history of Provence. Sixty Nantes professors protested. After the Ministry of Education investigated, the doctorate was withdrawn in July, 1986 and the thesis supervisor was suspended.

Faurisson and Roques have their younger disciples. In April of 1987, on the eve of the trial of Klaus Barbie, fliers appeared in Lyons on behalf of what alleged itself to be a group of high school students from Lyons, Nancy, and Strasbourg. They claimed that the only gassing the Nazis had engaged in was for purposes of disinfection. 'Only fleas were gassed in the camps,' the posters read.

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