the recent conference in Iran (Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision)
I was in prison in Mannheim, Germany interviewing Ernst Zuendel.
Labeled a "Holocaust denier," Ernst has been in jail for almost four
years without being charged with a violent crime or without even being
convicted of a non-violent one. He is 67 years old.
As a six-year-old Ernst witnessed the
Allied firebombing of Pforzheim in which ten to twenty thousand German
civilians were killed. As a teenager he became a pacifist; at age 19
he moved to Canada to avoid serving in the post-war German army. In
Canada he worked as a graphic artist and publisher, specializing in
20th century German history. Many of the books he republished
questioned the Holocaust, such as the underground booklet Did Six
Million Really Die? by Richard Harwood. Others he merely
distributed, like The Rudolf Report by Germar Rudolf, An Eye
for an Eye: The Untold Story of Jewish Revenge Against Germans in 1945
by John Sack, and Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening to the Jewish
Question by David Duke. He also sold books on UFOs and alternative
Ernst's interest in history and revisionism led him to dispute and
challenge specific "facts" about the Holocaust. He claimed:
1. that Hitler's "Final Solution" was
intended to be ethnic cleansing, not extermination.
2. that there were no homicidal gas chambers used by the Third Reich.
(He did not deny that there were gas chambers used for disinfection.)
3. there were fewer than 6 million Jews killed of the alleged 55
million who died in WWII.
Over the years such firmly held beliefs expressed in writing and later
on his wife's
Internet site caused him to be charged with incitement. He was
tried twice in Canada. In the middle of the second trial in 1988,
Ernst sent the first forensic team to Auschwitz. It was this "Leuchter
Expedition" and the subsequent Leuchter Report that he believed
revolutionized Holocaust revisionism, taking it beyond the "he said,
she said..." testimonies and into the realm of solid forensic
Such endeavors made him the target of those who protect the standard
Holocaust narrative. He survived three assassination attempts,
including by arson and pipe bomb, and although he lived in Canada for
42 years, he was never able to gain Canadian citizenship, even though
immigration officials had described his application as "flawless."
While some consider his views to border on heresy, freedom of speech
in both the United States and Canada protected his right to publish
and distribute the truth as he sees it. But neither our Bill of
Rights nor the pleadings of his lawyers could prevent his being
rendered by the United States, forced back to Canada, and then on to
Germany where denying or revising certain aspects of the Holocaust is
The Latest Incarceration
On February 5, 2003, Ernst was arrested at his home in the mountain
region of eastern Tennessee. He was seized on the pretext that he had
violated immigration regulations, or had missed an interview date with
US immigration authorities, even though he had entered the US legally,
was married to an American citizen, had been checked out by the FBI,
had been given a health check, a work permit, and a social security
number, had no criminal record, and was trying to secure status as a
permanent legal resident.
After being held for two weeks, he was deported to Canada. For the
next two years -- from mid-February 2003 to March 1, 2005 -- he was
held in solitary confinement in the Toronto West Detention Centre, on
the charge that he was a threat to national security. Like others who
suffer rendition, there was no bail, no public trial, and no appeal.
His mail was censored and the lights in his cell were kept on day and
On March 1, 2005 Ernst was put in handcuffs and leg irons on a private
jet and deported from Canada to Germany where he has been held as an
Untersuchungsgefangener or a prisoner under investigation. As
in Canada, bail was again denied. On June 29, 2005, the state's
prosecutor, Mr. Grossman, formally charged him with inciting "hatred"
by having written or distributed texts that "approve, deny or play
down" genocidal actions carried out by Germany's wartime regime, and
which "denigrate the memory of the [Jewish] dead." The trial began on
November 8, 2005, eight months after he arrived in Germany.
Ernst is confined to his cell 22 hours per day. He has no access to
phone or Internet and he may not communicate anything about the
trial. He is able to receive two 30-minute visits per month, but all
conversations must be in German or must be conducted through a
Still Ernst remains upbeat and convinced that he has made a
contribution to the truth surrounding WWII and the Holocaust. He does
not deny that millions of people suffered at the hands of the Nazis,
including millions of Jews, who were worked to death and suffered from
disease (especially typhus) and who were often deliberately murdered
both inside and outside of concentration camps. But he does not regard
Jewish suffering as unique. He considers his efforts to tell the truth
about the Holocaust as ground breaking and is satisfied to let others
continue the research.
Ernst believes that Zionists treat the Holocaust as a sword and a
shield to deflect criticism of their racist quest to build a Jewish
state in Palestine, a state in which over half the people today are
not Jewish, "the state" being defined as all the land currently
controlled by Israel, including West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan
Heights. He regards himself as a political prisoner of Zionists who
try to erase his contributions and punish him with defamation and
A Day in Court
An admirer once described Ernst Zuendel as "an outgoing, good-humored
man who is blessed with a rare combination of unflagging optimism and
practical ability. He maintains this infectious spirit even under very
trying conditions. He is an unusually alert and sensitive individual
with a keen understanding of human nature. He inspires confidence,
loyalty and affection." On December 7, 2006 I witnessed his trial in
Mannheim and found this description to be uncannily accurate.
On that particular day those in the courtroom included Ernst, three
judges, three jurors, a court reporter, three defense attorneys, four
armed guards, twenty-four spectators, and one prosecutor, Mr.
Grossman. Ernst wore an old blue suit with a red tie; he was
attentive; he often smiled approvingly when something was said with
which he agreed. The guards were friendly but disinterested. Facing
the court, all the participants sat on the left hand side, except the
state prosecutor who sat all by himself at a table on the right side.
The jurors and the court reporter sat in line with the judges on an
elevated platform along the front and the spectators sat in rows along
the back wall. No media were present.
The spectators were clearly there for Ernst. Most were German men in
their late 60s or 70s; there were also a couple of younger women.
Several men commented that they were proud of having been to every
court session with Ernst over the past 21 months. Although they had
not met him personally, they were following his trial closely and were
supportive of him. They were helpful to my American Jewish colleague
and me and guided us through the security outside the courtroom and
made sure we got front row seats so that we could fully appreciate the
courtroom experience. Many spoke English and had sons and daughters in
America. Most were retired but one younger man had taken time off from
work to witness this day of the trial.
Ernst and his attorneys have not been allowed to discuss or challenge
the veracity of the facts about the Holocaust, including facts that
Ernst disputes and about which he would like to submit scientific
evidence and expert-witness testimony. Offenkundigkeit, the
German version of judicial notice, precludes it. The court is only
allowed to consider if Ernst denied these particular facts and if so,
when and where and how. During our visit, one of Ernst's attorneys,
84-year old Dr. Herbert Schaller , read a lengthy
and impassioned statement saying that he believed in the same facts of
the Holocaust as does Ernst and by so stating this he too is guilty.
He ended by saying that in over 53 years of practicing law, he had
until now never been guilty of the same crime as the man he was
charged to defend. The head judge, Ulrich Meinerzhagen, appeared
tired, agitated, and ready to explode.
Visiting Ernst in prison
It is not easy to visit Ernst Zuendel. He is allowed only two
30-minute visits per month, one hour if the visitor travels more than
100 km. Though I wrote and faxed the prison a dozen times beginning in
February 2006, the answer was always the same, no answer. But through
his wife, Ingrid, Ernst knew that a colleague and I wished to visit
him and he asked the judge to grant us permission to do so. Finally on
September 23rd Judge Meinerzhagen told Ernst to tell his wife to tell
me to fax him and formally request a visit. We were to each include a
copy of our résumés and a copy of our passports.
Another month passed before we received the visitation permission.
Once we had that document, stamped and signed by the judge, we were
able to make an appointment at the prison in Mannheim.
On arrival the guards filled out a long form on each of us. They took
our passports and had us put everything else in a locker. Then we were
searched, warned against speaking English, and told to cross the
courtyard to the visitation rooms. There we sat on one side of a table
with a plastic shield in the middle; they brought Ernst from the other
side and allowed him to sit across from us while a guard sat at the
end to monitor both parties. We asked if it was permissible to shake
hands and the guard smiled and said that would be all right.
Ernst began by asking us to contact his wife and tell her that he
looked well and that he missed her. He had not been in contact with
her for several weeks and he was worried that she would be worried
about him. Then he asked if my colleague's family had discouraged him
from making this trip. My friend understood what Ernst was asking, but
he was unable to answer in German, so I had to tell Ernst that indeed
pressure had been put on us both not to have anything to do with a
We asked Ernst about life in prison and his relationship with guards
and other prisoners. He described a typical day and told us that he
had only limited contact with other prisoners, but that they were
friendly towards him. So too were the guards, especially because he
followed the rules and was a threat to no one. He often asked the man
monitoring our visit to corroborate what he was saying, almost as if
to include him in the conversation.
He talked about history and philosophy and about recent books he had
read. He praised the prison library, which he said was markedly better
than the one in the US jail in Tennessee, which had "only Tom Clancy
novels and one old book on the US Presidents." I had been forced to
leave my notes outside and though I had many questions, I was not
allowed to ask him anything about the trial, not even the names of his
The hour passed quickly and the guard soon told us we would have to
go. When we stood we looked questioningly at the guard and he nodded
to us. We shook hands with Ernst, slowly, he taking each of our hands
in both of his. They were big, soft, and warm; although Ernst is only
six years older than I, he reminded me of my father saying goodbye
when we last parted.
Contrary to the warning given to people who currently tour Auschwitz,
"Holocaust denial" is not infectious. In many ways the term is used as
an epithet to discredit and demean those who question facts
surrounding the Holocaust. Nor is Holocaust denial anti-Semitic;
there are many Jews who question facts about the Holocaust and many
more who object to its being used to elevate Jewish suffering above
that of others.  Treating those who question the
Holocaust as heretics reveals the degree to which the Holocaust itself
has become a religion, a faith to be accepted and worshiped with
spectacular memorials, best-selling books, and mandatory curricula for
Ernst believes that Jewish groups have wanted him jailed for promoting
views that the Jewish-Zionist lobby considers harmful to its
interests. He claims that the only sustained and institutionalized
efforts to imprison him have come from this lobby, which includes the
Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canadian
Holocaust Remembrance Association, and the League for Human Rights of
B'nai B'rith (with the Anti-Defamation League, its counterpart in the
US). It is noteworthy that even the ACLU refused to defend his right
of free speech. 
Ernst Zuendel is neither a monster nor a heretic. He is a man with
strong convictions and the courage to express them. He views himself
not as a Holocaust "denier," but rather as a Holocaust revisionist.
For that he has been rendered by the United States, which otherwise
professes to protect the right of free speech and the writ of habeas
corpus, and by Canada, both countries in which he broke no law. To
force him back to his birth country to be tried for a "crime" which he
never committed in Germany is unjust. Those who would incarcerate
revisionists like Ernst Zuendel and hold them, without bail, for years
on end to drain them of their resources and to silence them as
"Prisoners of Zion" could well be labeled as "justice deniers."
Daniel McGowan is Professor
Emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He can be reached at:
 Upon his release from prison in Austria on December 21, 2006, the
English historian David Irving said, "I have the fine oratory of my
84-year-old defense lawyer Dr. Herbert Schaller to thank for the
unexpected victory in the appeal court. I spent over 400 days in
solitary confinement in Austria's oldest prison, sentenced in February
to three years' jail for an opinion I expressed in two talks seventeen
 Of the 63 participants at the recent conference in Tehran, six
were Orthodox rabbis.
 Perhaps Benjamin Ginsburg is correct when he infers that the ACLU
is an organization, which promotes Jewish interests. "In the realm of
lobbying and litigation, Jews ... play leadership roles in such
important public interest groups as the American Civil Liberties Union
and Common Cause.... Their role in American economic, social, and
political institutions has enabled Jews to wield considerable
influence in the nation's public life." (The Fatal Embrace: Jews
and the State, p. 1)