Ernst Christof Friedrich Zündel was born on April 24, 1939, in the village of Calmbach, in the Black Forest region of Germany. He was barely six when the war ended in 1945, too young to have joined the Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth) or to have been involved in anything serious in the Nazi period. Ernst was one of three siblings; if his account is to be believed, his sister became a Christian missionary in Africa and his brother a lawyer in the United States. His father was a woodcutter who had served as a medic during World War II; his mother was of peasant stock. Both his parents were apolitical. The family is said to have lived on the same farm for 300 years.
In his autobiography, Zündel writes that, from this inconspicuous background, he emerged with boyhood memories of personal suffering during Germany's defeat - "hunger, cold and sickness" under the French military occupation. Moroccan and Algerian troops occupying the local schoolhouse forced him and his friends to attend classes in the Protestant church. In 1953, he enrolled in a trade school, obtaining a diploma as a photo retoucher three years later.
This became his later vocation in Toronto. After graduating, he lived and worked for a while in north Germany. In 1958, at the age of 19, he emigrated to Canada, bringing a letter of recommendation from his last German employer which described him as excellent at his trade and a person whom everyone liked: Germany's loss was Canada's gain! The immigrant first settled in Montreal, where he married Jeannick LaRouche, a French-Canadian girl from the Lac St. Jean region. The couple had two sons, Pierre Ernst and Hans.
Continuing his education, Zündel studied history and political science at Sir George Williams University (he was later to credit these studies with his "general historical background" to the Holocaust). However, it was outside the university walls that Zündel received the education that mattered the most to his subsequent career. His teacher was Adrien Arcand, Canada's quintessential Nazi who, in the early 1960s, was living out his last years in Montreal.
In his autobiography, Zündel devotes space to what he regards as the sad story of Arcand's arrest and imprisonment without trial for the duration of World War II as "Canada's Hitler." He bewails this injustice, especially since Arcand never received a penny of restitution. The master's fate, according to his youthful admirer, was no different from that of thousands of Germans. Italians and Japanese. "Not a soul writes about (them) in Canada today and no monuments have been erected and no Holocaust film has been produced about them." Arcand himself was a philo-German who spoke German fluently. Taking Zündel under his wing, he made his private library of 4000 books, including many German pre-war monographs, available to his disciple.
Arcand also introduced Zündel to, or placed him in touch with, his friends and contacts in Canada, the United States and Europe. This network included noted antisemites such as Paul Rassinier, Henry Coston. Admiral Sir Barn-Domville, Sir Oswald Mosley and others. As a result of these contacts, Zündel writes, his "life was enriched." The aged fascist played mentor to the young in migrant, much as the old Houston Stewart Chamberlain once played mentor to the young Adolf Hitler. Zündel credits Arcand with bringing "order into my confused mind" (elsewhere, he declares that Hitler brought order to a confused Germany ). Summing up his entire apprenticeship, Zündel states that "in distant Canada he (Arcand) made a German out of me." Indeed, his autobiography proudly reproduces two photographs of the two men sitting together.
In the mid-1960s, Zündel left Montreal and settled with his family in Toronto, a city that, from 1963 to the end of the decade, was passing through a visible phase of neo-Nazi activism. A youthful David Stanley from suburban Scarborough was its first catalyst. When Stanley repudiated neo-Nazism after having read Eric Hoffer's "The True Believer," he was replaced by a not much older John Beattie as local leader. Not surprisingly, Zündel began to associate with the various Toronto neo-Nazi groups, including Stanley's and Beattie's. He already possessed the largest private collection of Nazi memorabilia in Canada, including books, portraits, insignia, etc. - a collection conceivably enhanced by his rumoured inheritance of Arcand's vast library of antisemitica.
However, he avoided leadership roles, preferring to stay on the fringe; he had the leadership of another party in mind. Taking his first stab at stardom, Zündel, despite his German citizenship, placed his name in the 1968 leadership contest of the federal Liberal party (credential arrangements at Canadian political conventions were rather loose at that time). He described himself as a dark horse candidate, representing what he referred to as "the third element," i.e., ethnic groups whose ancestry was neither British nor French.
Zündel also portrayed himself as a staunch anti-Communist, making, of course, no mention of his neo-Nazi views and associations; since he was not known publicly in this capacity - in fact, he was not known at all - neither did anyone else. In his autobiography, he speaks of his candidacy as though it had constituted the sensation of the day. "I was therefore the only non-Minister and outsider. the youngest candidate and also the first immigrant and German Canadian in Canada's history who had achieved this. This gave me the image of a maverick, a Skorzeny figure of politics."
In reality, no one cared who he was, his nomination attracted almost no attention, and he received not a single vote. Immediately forgotten, he returned to obscurity in his double life.
During this period, Zündel had also been busy with his professional and business career. In this pursuit, he was successful and soon owned his own advertising agency and commercial studio. As an artist, he worked for such national magazines as MacLean's, Homemaker's and Quest: in December 1973, his name appeared in a full-page advertisement, together with the names of other "writers. illustrators and photographers" who had "all helped make Homemaker's and Quest Canada's most successful new magazines." Also, Zündel twice won awards for his work from the Art Directors' Club of Toronto.
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