Ernst Zundel: Modern-Day Galileo
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. – "The Friends of Voltaire," 1906.
Last Tuesday Canadian authorities quietly shipped Ernst Zundel to Mannheim, Germany under cloak of night. Once his flight landed, Zundel was placed under arrest and taken into custody to stand trial for hate crime charges that were filed on behalf of the German people in 2003.
Indeed, aside from this flight, Zundel has only briefly seen the outside of a prison cell since his abduction from his home in Tennessee by U.S. agents and subsequent deportation to Canada. His exile to Germany is the culmination of a two-year "Star Chamber"-style legal proceeding in which Zundel was unable to question witnesses, examine available evidence or even know precisely what he was being charged with. The court's ruling, however, was inevitable – Ernst Zundel presented a grave risk to national and international security, and he had to go. The quicker the better.
What precisely has Zundel done that's incurred the wrath of three powerful nations? He's questioned the accepted views of the Holocaust. Does he accept that the Nazis exterminated millions? Absolutely. Does he acknowledge Jewish persecution during the second World War? Yes. Does he agree with the official position on casualties and methods? No – and he wants a dialogue with anyone who will listen.
And therein lies the problem. In Germany (and many other nations), questioning the Holocaust is a crime. Ernst Zundel is being persecuted for a belief. Anyone besides me feel that's wrong?
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It does not matter to me if Ernst Zundel is right or wrong. His contrary investigations into the machinations of Nazi atrocity are interesting, but ultimately unimportant.
What is important is the freedom to believe or say whatever one wants. There are those that insist world oil reserves are on a permanent and steady decline; still others are convinced aliens walk among us. If they're right, God bless 'em; if they're wrong, the only thing they're guilty of is being wrong (please note that I have no opinion on peak oil or UFOs). Neither outcome should be a crime – how can someone be legally responsible for an incorrect belief?
That is what puzzles me. Anyone should have the ability to debate the merits of whatever case he or she chooses without fear of government reprisal. In supposed democratic states like Germany and Canada, the very idea of free speech is a fundamental part of daily life – no topic should be off-limits to public discourse. It certainly doesn't stop the debater from believing in his cause and it clamps down on thought at the same time. Oftentimes, it makes people question why the topic was so risqué in the first place, creating new converts to a forbidden dialogue.
"Truth needs no laws to support it," says Mike Rivero. "Throughout history, only lies and liars have resorted to the courts to enforce adherence to dogma."
So if Ernst Zundel is wrong – and most of the world agrees with that assessment – what better way to expose Zundel as a fool than by letting himself hang on his own words? Why seek to prosecute someone for believing something few people want or care to hear?
Until his persecution by the Canadian courts, I had never heard about Ernst Zundel despite his decades-long attack on Holocaust dogma. He's been put on trial twice before for the same "crime," and his list of enemies is long. By continuing to harangue a marginal player in revisionist history, those who seek to condemn him have only shone the spotlight on his research... and the fervor of vested interests trying to impose a singular view of the Holocaust upon the world.
Like Zundel, I believe that the topic of the Holocaust should be openly and freely discussed and debated. I personally feel that how it is remembered today does a great disservice to the millions of other people who perished in World War II. The death toll was staggering – why nitpick over which culture was impacted the most (not much of a debate when you consider the Roma were effectively obliterated)? Anybody that wants to disregard or debate that stance should be free to do so.
Except they're not. Travel to countries with laws prohibiting dissenting opinions on the Holocaust and you can be jailed right alongside Zundel. Most startling is that Zundel is being prosecuted because his website has the potential to reach German citizens. Does it frighten writers that their text, written and stored in an entirely different country online, can be used against them in a foreign court? It should.
It's a sad state of affairs that Germany is now required to try one of its own citizens for daring to think differently – the same kind of ridiculous legal theatrics that would be at home in the Third Reich.
There are those who would protect their interests in maintaining the Holocaust image as-is. Are they opportunists? Perhaps. Are they truly interested in examining Nazi atrocity if they quell alternative viewpoints? No. Who maintains the legacy better – those who seek to learn all they can or those who bury viewpoints under layers of dogma?
In 1633 the revered scientist Galileo was brought before the Roman Catholic Church and charged with heresy for his conviction in a heliocentric solar system. His belief shook the very foundations religion and science; his reward for accepting long-denied truth was the promise of torture unless he recanted... and a lifetime of house arrest.
Right or wrong, Galileo's beliefs deserved greater scrutiny than the threat of an iron maiden. The research of Ernst Zundel and others of the Holocaust shouldn't end in a 17th-century Inquisition. It should be evaluated openly, regardless of the outcome.
History is supposed to ruffle feathers. Chaining up a man illegally, having him deported based on the word of a biased judge and subjecting him to a trial that has no basis in a truly free and open society doesn't help the Holocaust... it only helps others think there's something to hide.
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So long and good riddance, Ernst Zundel
The first of March, 2005, will be remembered as a truly great day in Canadian history. Years from now, this will be remembered as the day Ernst Zundel was finally returned to Germany to stand trial for Holocaust denial and the spreading of Nazi propaganda.
Yes, Ernst Zundel has gone home to face the music. He has returned to Germany, a country he fled to escape conscription in 1958, where he will face charges stemming from his US-based website devoted to Holocaust denial, for which he faces the possibility of up to five years in prison.
While it may be true that there are a number of issues regarding this affair that make it slightly distasteful—including Zundel being held for two years without charge, trial or even the presentation of evidence—Zundel will not be missed in Canada, as surely as he was not missed in Germany. Apparently, Zundel won’t miss Canada, either, which he came to think of as a “political police state”—nothing at all like Nazi Germany, of course.
Of course, one could always ask: “Where were the civil libertarians?” “There’s been an outcry at the last minute when it’s too late,” complained Peter Lindsay, Zundel’s lawyer. Of course, one could question whether or not holding Zundel under a national-security certificate was fair or just. But considering Zundel’s connections to white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups—read: domestic terrorism—no one should shed any tears over the matter. Where were the civil libertarians? Civil libertarians, rightly, had better things to do.
Of course, in a situation like this, one may wonder what, exactly, constitutes justice. When the memory of one of history’s darkest tragedies is trampled, those touched most by the tragedy will react negatively, to say the least. When laws threatening civil liberties are utilized, those who cherish those liberties will react. Sometimes you can’t please everyone.
But, in the case of Ernst Zundel, here’s an idea: truthfully, prison is not a suitable place to put an individual like Zundel, who will most likely use the spare time to pen a sequel to Mein Kampf. Instead, Zundel should be taken to Auschwitz and, much like a dog’s nose may be rubbed in an errant turd, forced to look upon this testament to the Holocaust with his own eyes. Let him try to deny the Holocaust once he’s done this.
One would expect that even this hate-filled, cowardly little man would feel some amount of shame for his actions. However, it could also be expected that to the man who wrote such literary masterpieces as The Hitler We Loved and Why and Did Six Million Really Die? shame is perhaps not only something he has little experience with, but is also a totally alien concept.
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Zundel back in jail – this time in Germany
By PAUL LUNGEN
Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel has traded one jail cell for another as a German judge ordered the neo-Nazi propagandist held in custody on charges of denying the Holocaust and inciting hatred.
According to news agencies, a judge remanded Zundel to a jail in the western German city of Mannheim last week. He is being held under a 2003 arrest warrant for decades of anti-Semitic activities, including repeated denials of the Holocaust, which is a crime in Germany. The allegations stem from his web site (www.zundelsite.org), which is available in Germany.
Zundel made no statement at the closed hearing in the city of Mannheim, court spokesman Ulrich Krehbiel told reporters.
The 65-year-old native of Germany was deported last week from Canada after spending two years in solitary confinement. He had been held on a certificate issued by two federal cabinet ministers, which deemed him a threat to national security. Zundel was deported to his native Germany only days after a Federal Court judge upheld the certificate and branded Zundel a threat to Canada.
His removal was hailed by Jewish organizations that had opposed Zundel for decades.
“This is a significant day for the Jewish community and for all those who treasure tolerance in a multicultural society,” said Ed Morgan, president of Canadian Jewish Congress. “Zundel’s departure demonstrates Canada’s abhorrence for those who would propagate Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. It brings closure to our efforts to bring this man to justice.”
“One would be hard-pressed to find many Canadians who will be sad to see Zundel go,” added Congress’s Ontario chair, Joel Richler. “This man has been found to be a threat to national security. By his own admission, he is the ‘guru’ of the white supremacist movement. Canada’s action in deporting him is, without question, the correct one.”
Leo Adler, director of national affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said “it’s wonderful to see he’s finally been deported. The problem is, his case highlights the problems of using the immigration system in cases like this.”
Adler suggested Zundel “manipulated” the system to file one appeal after another. The immigration system provides numerous avenues to challenge court decisions while the criminal justice system, reserved for more serious cases, is much simpler and operates more quickly, he said.
“It’s great [Zundel] is out, but it’s terrible it took so long. We’re unfortunately at the mercy of Zundel picking when and how he wants to leave.”
(Prior to his removal, Zundel announced he would no longer contest the government’s efforts to deport him.)
Adler’s colleague at the Simon Wiesenthal’s office in Los Angeles, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, said, “This long-delayed move comes as the civilized world commemorates the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Europe from the genocidal grip of Nazi Germany. But it also comes at a time when, as a result of the efforts of professional Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites, too many young people have come to doubt the horrific brutal reality of the Nazis’ Final Solution that systematically murdered six million innocent Jews.
“We hope that Canada’s move and Zundel’s impending arrest will give pause among those in the Arab and Muslim world who have rushed to embrace the ‘big lie’ that Zundel and his ilk continue to peddle,” Rabbi Cooper stated.
Meanwhile, Zundel’s lawyers published a statement slamming the “largely secret proceeding” against their client.
“The Crown and the presiding judge met secretly throughout his case, in the absence of Mr. Zundel and his lawyers. The Crown repeatedly presented evidence and made arguments to the judge in a Star Chamber-type proceeding,” said lawyers Peter Lindsay and Chi-Kun Shi.
“At the public proceeding, Mr. Zundel was told literally hundreds of times, when he asked for specific evidence of the case against him, that there was ‘nothing in the unclassified materials’. He was repeatedly blocked from asking questions of witnesses on the basis of ‘national security’.
“Probably no one cares because Mr. Ernst Zundel is notorious and reviled. The powerful and the popular do not need to rely on the fairness of our legal system. The marginalized and the reviled do. Our system has failed Mr. Zundel. We should care. But we fear most of us don’t give a damn,” they stated.