The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Zündel Affair

Manuel Prutschi


While enjoying these plaudits, however, he continued and intensified his neo-Nazi activities, especially his literary endeavors. Nor was he loath to employ his artistic talents for the cause. In 1976, a series of multi-coloured, multi-lingual leaflets appeared, calling for the release of Rudolf Hess from prison. They bore a Verdun, Quebec, postal box number and were attributed to something called the Western Unity Movement. The quality of the art suggested the work of a professional. As no Western Unity Movement existed in Verdun or elsewhere, the leaflets were soon traced back to Zundel, who had simply rented a Verdun postal box as a drop for his propaganda campaign. In 1977, he demonstrated his originality by producing some tracts claiming that UFOs (unidentified flying objects) were Hitler's secret weapon: a weapon still in use and being refined in secret bases in the Antarctic and below the earth's surface.

A flyer advertising these extraterrestrial claims described them (rightly) as "a radical departure from all previous UFO literature in the English-speaking world."[27] The claims reported in the tracts, it seems, "were researched in many languages on four continents, and present a continuing story dating back to the middle of the 1930s, when the first Nazi saucers were planned, right up to the present day."[28] Zundel penned this material under his quasi-pseudonym of Christof Friedrich. With characteristic puffery, his flyer described himself, i.e., Friedrich, as "the multilingual-globetrotting author" who was "in great demand as a lecturer and panelist on UFO and psychic matters."[29]

Zündel did not limit his literary efforts to the outer edges of neo-Nazi research; he also made substantial contributions to the more traditional themes of antisemitism and white supremacy under the same nom de plume. Thus, in a 1976 issue of The Liberty Bell entitled "Four Books That Shook the World," he presented a two-page synopsis of antisemitic articles from the 1920s that had first appeared in Henry Ford's "Dearborn Independent". In the January 1970 edition of "White Power Report," another product of White Power Publications, he published an article entitled "Our New Emblem - The Best of Both Worlds." This particular edition also described the activities of Don Andrews and the small fascist organization that styled itself the Western Guard (Andrews, a Balkan-born, Canada-raised antisemite and white supremacist, was at the forefront of neo-Nazi agitation in Toronto in the mid-1970s).

Obviously, Zündel had maintained his association with the various Toronto neo-Nazi groups, as well as with John Ross Taylor, the neo-Nazi elder statesman in Canada. He was also present at a public meeting of Ron Gostick's Canadian League of Rights in the Royal York Hotel in Toronto in December 1977. During this time, Zündel began to acquire a personal following, with meetings in his home attended by guests in the dozens. Known neo-Nazis who gravitated to him included Walter (or Wolfgang) Droege, an associate of Andrews, as well as David Astle and Jack Prins, former associates of John Beattie. In late 1977, Zundel organized his own group, "Omega," in association with the Hungarian Geza Matrai, the man who had "jumped" Premier Kosygin of the Soviet Union in 1971. This group absorbed Droege as well as Armand Syksna. To distribute his neo-Nazi materials and handbills, however, Zündel usually recruited hangers-on from the entourages of Don Andrews and John Ross Taylor.

This Jekyll-and-Hyde existence was not without its personal toll. In 1975, his wife left him, fearful of death threats, as Zündel explained in an interview in The Globe and Mail.[30] Since his own profile was relatively low at the time, it is more likely that his wife simply tired of his obsessions, and of the somewhat unsavoury company that he kept. On the whole, Zündel managed to keep his dual identity intact. There were occasional lapses, as, for example, when Jewish businessmen dealing with him in a professional capacity received hate propaganda by mistake, rather than the material under contract.

One client, on entering Zündel's shop in mid-1976, found "a huge rock-iron swastika on the wall, surrounded by portraits of Hitler and other Nazis."[31] Still, these incidents were exceptions, and few outsiders knew of his neo-Nazi persona. Hence, it was possible in 1976 for Hanoch Borda to write a rather straight story in The Toronto Star daily feature "Whatever Became of...?" about the anti-Communist, ethnic candidate in the Liberal party leadership race in 1968.[32] Noting that "Ernest Zündel" had now dropped the "e" from his first and last names, Borda did not realize that his subject had simply returned to the original German spelling. The article raised the possibility that Zündel might seek political office again: "I am still young!"

The screening of the television miniseries "Holocaust" in April 1978 provided Zündel with a new opportunity for publicity and notoriety. Under the cover of his newly launched front organization, "Concerned Parents of German Descent," he picketed the screening of the series and denounced its serialization in the press. The revelation, in Mark Bonokoski's column in the Toronto Sun (1978), of Zündel's outright neo-Nazism hardly deterred the self-appointed champion of German national honour at all.

A few months later, in October 1978, together with his followers, he staged a series of pickets in Toronto, Hamilton and Oshawa against the film The Boys From Brazil. The protagonist in this film is Joseph Mengele, the "Angel of Death" of Auschwitz, responsible for sending hundreds of thousands to the crematoria, and infamous for his brutal medical experiments. Mengele is portrayed as attempting to revive Nazism through a variety of means, including the cloning of Adolf Hitler.

In objecting to the film, Zündel declared: "It is unfortunate that German people are either depicted as bungling Colonel Klinks with a monocle or killers."[33] Subsequently, in January of 1979, he organized a series of poorly attended demonstrations before the Israeli Consulate, the West German Consulate and other German agencies and businesses to protest the screening of the "Holocaust" series in Germany. In his flyer, Zündel referred to East Germany, West Germany and Austria as "the three German puppet States," and the government of West Germany as the "West German Occupation Regime."[34] Significantly, the flyer bore the name of Ernst Christof Friedrich Zündel: at last, he had decided to cast off his double life and devote himself openly to the cause.


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