French Court Fines Faurisson, Roques for 'Holocaust Denial' Book

Witness Pressac Breaks Down Under Questioning in Dramatic Trial
Published: 1995-11-01

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Concluding a dramatic trial that included stunning testimony by a leading Holocaust researcher, a Paris court in June ordered two French revisionists to pay fines of $3,000 each for writing and distributing a book that disputes claims of Second World War mass killings in German gas chambers. (A brief report on this case appeared in the Sept.-Oct. 1995 Journal, p. 14.)

The offending publication, Réponse à Jean-Claude Pressac sur le problème des chambres à gaz ("Response to Jean-Claude Pressac on the problem of the gas chambers") was written by Robert Faurisson, a professor at the University of Lyon and Europe's foremost Holocaust revisionist. (It can be ordered from B.P. 122, 92704 Colombes, France [probably no longer; ed.].) Responsible for distributing the 90-page work was Henri Roques, himself author of a revisionist study of the Kurt Gerstein "Confessions."

On charges brought by the public prosecutor in Paris and by two associations of French wartime deportees, Faurisson and Roques were accused of violating France's anti-revisionist "Fabius-Gayssot" law, which makes it a crime to "contest crimes against humanity" as defined by the 1946 Judgment of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. Specifically, the defendants were accused of "contesting" the Nuremberg accusation that the Germans had pursued a wartime policy to exterminate Europe's Jews, particularly in Auschwitz in gas chambers.

The case came to trial on May 9 before the 17th section of the Paris tribunal correctionnel. The state prosecutor asked for a non-suspended sentence of three months imprisonment. The Jewish lawyers representing the two deportees' organizations asked for a non-suspended jail sentence and financial damages, and, in addition, that defense attorney Eric Delcroix be punished for sharing and espousing Faurisson's repugnant and criminal views in his written plea.

Anticipating the penalty demanded by the prosecution, Faurisson stated at the trial's outset:

I am ready to go to prison. It would be an honor for me, and a shame for those who imprison me. If I were to strike my colors and give up, my contemporaries would forgive me because of the prevailing atmosphere of intellectual ter ror in which we live. However, future genera tions would only note that I had weakened and I don't want that.

A Surprising Verdict

When the judges met on June 13 to announce their verdict, as expected they declared Faurisson and Roques guilty. However, instead of the punishment asked by the prosecution, they ordered the defendants to pay a fine of 30,200 francs (about $6,000). The two associations received token fine payments of one franc each. No publication of the verdict was ordered. (As usual in such cases, Faurisson and Roques must also pay 4,000 francs to the Jewish lawyers representing the organizations.)

Faurisson was gratified by this surprisingly mild punishment. Our adversaries seem to be "fed up and disgusted," he commented. "They realize that they have nothing to say against our arguments, and the judges also seem to realize it."

Sometimes the prosecution attorneys asked the judge for permission to leave the courtroom when it was time for Faurisson's attorney to present his arguments. The professor's adversaries were furious because of what he had to say in court. (Rather than simply letting his attorney represent him, Faurisson dutifully appeared in person at each session.) His adversaries could not stand listening to him present his arguments in court.

Considering its relative leniency, Faurisson and Roques decided not to appeal the verdict. Apparently frustrated, the prosecuting attorneys likewise decided not to appeal the ruling.

Pressac's Arguments

The relative leniency of the punishment was unquestionably due in large part to the remarkable courtroom testimony of a an anti-revisionist "star." At Faurisson's initiative, his attorney subpoenaed French Holocaust researcher Jean-Claude Pressac to testify. For several years, leading newspapers and magazines around the world have heaped praise on this pharmacist of La Ville-du-Bois (Essonne) for his supposedly devastating refutation of the revisionist critique of the Holocaust gassing story. For example, Newsweek magazine (Dec. 20, 1993) commended him for presenting a "dramatic rebuttal" of revisionist arguments

Robert Faurisson addresses the 12th IHR Conference, September 1994.

Robert Faurisson addresses the 12th IHR Conference, September 1994.

Pressac is the author of the 1989 book, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, and a 1993 work, Les Crématoires d'Auschwitz. (For more about Pressac, see the detailed essay by French scholar Serge Thion in the July-August 1994 Journal, pp. 28-39. See also the two-page item by Prof. Faurisson in the Jan.-Feb. 1994 Journal, pp. 23-24.)

Before he came to the witness stand, Faurisson had already told the court that, while Pressac had indeed proven the existence of crematories at Auschwitz (never a matter of dispute), he had completely failed to prove the existence of homicidal gas chambers. Faurisson pointed out that none of the 60 photographs or documents presented by Pressac in Les Crématoires d'Auschwitz provide any idea of just how these "chemical slaughterhouses" are supposed to have worked. He added that Pressac had not provided a photograph of the alleged gas chamber in the Auschwitz main camp – which millions of tourists have visited – nor of the ruins of an alleged gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The only reasonable explanation for such omissions in a work of this kind, Faurisson said, is that to provide such photographs would likely enable an alert reader to spot the deception.

Nowhere in his book, the professor went on to point out, does Pressac describe the alleged gassing procedure. He provides no proof either of the crime, or of the weapon used to commit the crime, or any expert report. In treating the subject, he relies exclusively on written or oral testimonies, even though, in his introduction to the work, he promises to provide the reader with "a historical reconstruction free at last of oral or written testimonies, which are always fallible."

Disastrous, Revealing Testimony

From the outset, says Faurisson, the witness Pressac was out of his depth. His May 9 testimony proved to be a "major disaster." In the first question put to Pressac, Faurisson's attorney asked:

On page two of your book [Les Crématoires d'Auschwitz], you promise your reader "a historical reconstruction free at last of oral or written testimonies, which are always fallible and become even more so with time." Well, on page 34, when you mention the "first gassing perpetrated in the camp of Auschwitz," you refer, in so many words, only to "testimonies." How do you explain this contradiction?

Pressac attempted to elude the question, as he did all the questions that followed, by digressing. Because of his inability to respond to Delcroix's questions, the presiding judge himself tried to elicit some explanation. But this also proved to be a waste of time. Pressac seemed extraordinarily confused.

Nervous, agitated, and losing his self-control, the witness threw up his arms, exclaimed that too much was being asked of him, that he had only one life, and that he was alone in his fight. Incapable of remaining at his place on the witness stand, the presiding judge several times asked Pressac to take his place at the microphone. The judges seemed utterly dismayed by Pressac's unresponsive answers. When called upon to show a single physical representation in his book of a German execution gas chamber, for example, he cited a German technical diagram of March 10, 1942, entitled "Arrangement of the ventilation and exhaust conduits."

The presiding judge demanded proofs. Delcroix demanded proofs. Faurisson, back on the witness stand, demanded proofs (including any that Pressac himself regards as such). Not a single proof was produced.

Pressac was questioned by the presiding judge about the successive postwar "confessions" of Rudolf Höss, the wartime Auschwitz camp commandant, first to his British guards and then to his Polish guards. "Was Hoss tortured?," asked the judge. Unquestionably, Pressac replied, Höss had been tortured, adding that instead of retracting the absurdities the British "had put in his head," he had "unfortunately" so absorbed those absurdities that he repeated them to his Polish guards.

Of SS chief Heinrich Himmler, Pressac had written (p. 44) that he had been present at a gassing of Jews from the Netherlands in "Bunker 2" in Birkenau. But Pressac's footnote source refers the reader to 30 photos that show Himmler at a satellite industrial center several kilometers away. Faurisson's attorney asked the witness for what proof he might have that Himmler was ever at a "selection" or a "gassing." Pressac's only response was a digression about Himmler's inspection of the Monowitz construction site. The witness was also asked for proof for his statement (p. 93) that "at the end of November, on Himmler's verbal order, homicidal gassings were brought to a halt." Once again, no clear answer was forthcoming.

When questioned about the drastic downward revisions in the estimated number of Auschwitz deaths, Pressac merely launched into new digressions, and provided no clear answer. (Until 1990 the "official" figure was four million. Recently it was "officially" reduced to 1.5 million. In 1993 Pressac asserted that the true figure was 775,000, and in 1994 he reduced it again to between 630,000 and 710,000.)

A Witness of Imagination

Pressac's embarrassment only increased when he was questioned about a man he had once described, in a sworn statement, as a witness "of absolute trustworthiness," the artist David Olère. Attorney Delcroix asked Pressac about drawings by Olère that appear in his 1989 book, notably one (p. 258) that depicts people dying in a Birkenau gas chamber with an open can of Zyklon B on the floor releasing poisonous vapors into the room. Pressac was asked how he reconciles this drawing with his thesis that an SS man poured the contents of Zyklon B cans through the roof into four perforated metal columns. At a loss, Pressac exclaimed: "I have finally come to the conviction that Olère did not really see any gassings."

It must be said that in his 1989 work, Pressac did write (pp. 258-259, 359, 493, 556) that Olère's drawings could be "entirely imaginary," "allegorical" or "symbolic," that the artist sought "to make a bigger impression" in some drawings, that Olère made use of "artistic license," and even that he suffered from "Krematorium delirium" (sic).

Instead of Proofs, 'Traces'

Jean-Claude Pressac

Jean-Claude Pressac

In his enormous 1989 book, Pressac, while supporting the thesis of homicidal gassings, severely criticized the historians who had hitherto supported that thesis: in his opinion, he said (p. 264), those historians had written "a history based for the most part on testimonies, assembled according to the mood of the moment, truncated to fit an arbitrary truth and sprinkled with a few German documents of uneven value and without any connection with one another." Pressac asserted (p. 264) that his own 1989 study "already demonstrates the complete bankruptcy of the traditional [Holocaust] history (and, hence also, of the methods and criticisms of the revisionists)." In that case, attorney Delcroix responded, the representatives of traditional Holocaust history, in replying to Faurisson, had as late as 1988 made use of arguments that Pressac himself acknowledges had been of no value.

Faurisson pointed out that in the late 1970s he had issued a challenge to his adversaries to provide "one proof, one single proof" of the existence and operation of a single Nazi homicidal gas chamber. In his 1989 book, Pressac had promised to answer the professor's challenge. Indeed, one chapter was even naively entitled: "One proof... One single proof: thirty-nine criminal traces." Instead of providing one proof, though, he could only come up with "criminal traces" (p. 429).

With remarkable good will and forbearance, the court on May 9 tried to elicit some explanation from Pressac of what, in the absence of proofs, he called "criminal traces" of gas chamber killings. As Faurisson had shown in his Réponse, these "criminal traces" referred simply to the delousing chambers and the detection devices that were indispensable for the disinfestation procedures using Zyklon B.

An Impudent Lie

Gripped with a feeling of despair, Pressac at one point shouted that Fred Leuchter, the American execution hardware specialist, had concluded in his 1988 Leuchter Report that there were homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz. Delcroix called the court's attention to the fact that Leuchter had actually come to a diametrically opposite conclusion in his Report (and the next day provided the court with a copy of it).

French courts are notorious for their lack of seriousness, order and guarantees of basic rights. Typically, the trial of a revisionist lasts two to five hours. There is no jury, but rather a panel of three judges. There is no transcript of the proceedings, which means that there is no proof of what was actually said. This means, for example, that there is no transcript of the May 9 trial to prove precisely what Pressac said to the court.

A Bankrupt Performance

The questions put by the court were clear and brief. The answers formulated by Pressac were tangled and replete with digressions. The three judges, who had been very hostile to revisionism in previous trials, appeared to be flabbergasted by his performance. The prosecuting attorneys seemed likewise dismayed and discouraged by the behavior of this prominent anti-revisionist. "Extremely nervous and agitated, he resembled Jerry Lewis," says Faurisson.

Pressac's collapse on the witness stand was a major disaster not only for the witness himself, but also for Serge and Beate Klarsfeld – who have been his promoters and financial benefactors – and their friends. For this bankrupt but enlightening performance by a leading Holocaust expert, we can be grateful to attorney Delcroix, who (on Faurisson's demand) induced his appearance by subpoena and threats of prosecution if he failed to appear.

Robert Faurisson

For his part, Professor Faurisson faced up to his responsibilities, testifying with clear arguments and responding forthrightly and confidently to questions. He demonstrated that his only crime was to have been right 15 years before Eric Conan who, in the January 19,1995, issue of the French weekly L'Express, had written (p. 68) concerning the Auschwitz "gas chamber" – that is, the veritably emblematic chamber visited since 1946 by millions: "Everything in it is false ... At the end of the 70s, Robert Faurisson capitalized on those falsifications all the better because the officials of the museum were at that time loath to acknowledge them." (See "Major French Magazine Acknowledges Auschwitz Gas Chamber Fraud," Jan.-Feb. 1995 Journal, pp. 23-24.)

Eric Delcroix

In the course of his well-constructed and erudite pleading, from which only a few arguments can be briefly mentioned here, attorney Eric Delcroix emphasized that the state prosecutor had failed to provide the text of the Nuremberg judgment that the defendant is supposed to have "contested." The public is familiar only with an unofficial version of the text, Delcroix said, which moreover is difficult and costly to procure. Because this Nuremberg judgment has become, as it were, an integral part of France's "Fabius-Gayssot" law, it should have been published in the Journal officiel so that it can be invoked impartially.

Delcroix told the court that the anti-revisionist article of the French law (article 24A, added by the law of July 13, 1990, to the law on freedom of the press [sic] of July 29, 1881) is not applicable in that it fails to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights. To be sure, he continued, that Convention makes provision for numerous restrictions on freedom of expression, but it does not provide for any restriction on the right to doubt or the freedom of research. It does not authorize anyone to decree: "Such and such an historical subject has been dealt with in a definitive manner on such and such a date by such and such individuals for eternity, and can no longer be subject to revision." Could we imagine, he asked, such a ukase a century ago preventing forever a revision of the Dreyfus case?

Moreover, Delcroix continued, did not Jacques Toubon (who later became the Minister of Justice) on June 21, 1991, in the National Assembly call for the abrogation of France's anti-revisionist law? Did he not compare it to the laws of Stalin? Did he not declare: "I am against making revisionism a crime because I am for the law and for history, and because making revisionism a crime sets back the law and diminishes history"?

Delcroix quoted William Goldnabel – a trial attorney, president of the Association of Jewish Jurists for Human Rights, and vice-president of the Renouveau juif organization – who declared to the militant Jewish "Betar" periodical Cactus (May 1991): "I am very leery about the possibility of the courts writing history ... That this law bears the name of a Communist deputy [Gayssot] is a magnificent gift made to our adversaries, for the Communists are a party that specializes in historical untruth."

In a verdict handed down against Faurisson on April 18, 1991, Delcroix pointed out, this same Paris court had gone well beyond the professor himself in "contesting" the Nuremberg judgment. The court declared:

Criticism may justly be developed concerning the organization, the structure, and the functioning of the International Military Tribunal of Nuremberg, and as much from the juridical as from the historical and philosophical point of view.

Delcroix went on to emphasize an extraordinary paradox: the Nazi gas chamber, the frightful weapon of a frightful crime, was never made the subject of an expert's forensic report by Germany's accusers. The only exception was in the case of Struthof-Natzweiler (Alsace), in which the twofold report of Professor René Fabre, dean of the pharmacy faculty of Paris, ended, on December 1, 1945, in a doubly negative outcome, both with regard to the alleged gas chamber and the corpses of alleged gassing victims that were preserved in Strasbourg. Delcroix also quoted Arno Mayer, a Princeton University professor of Jewish origin. In his 1989 book, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken: The "Final Solution" in History (p. 362), Mayer wrote: "Sources for the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable." Delcroix also expressed the hope that the court would order an expert's report on "the weapon used in the crime." Citing documents and quotations, Delcroix proved that the official historical school, though continuing to hurl abuse at Professor Faurisson, steadily moves ever closer to his position: the continuous updating of facts and figures, and the shifts of historical interpretation, are, without exception, heading in the revisionist direction. In closing, Delcroix stated that if he congratulated himself for having stood up in Moscow for Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn in the past, he considers himself fortunate today in Paris to defend Professor Faurisson, "whose disinterestedness and personal courage honor France." Attorney Delcroix is now himself under investigation for his own book, published in August 1994, about France's anti-revisionist law, La Police de la pensée contre le révisionnisme ("The Thought Police Against Revisionism").

New Problems

In June French authorities blocked the joint bank account of Faurisson and his wife, demanding that he immediately pay 42,208 francs (about $8,400) in "fines" that were imposed on him in December 1992 and in September 1993. The first was punishment for an article Faurisson had written for the September 1990 issue of the magazine le Choc du mois, and the second was for an article in the French paper Rivarol. In addition, French authorities threatened to seize Faurisson's furniture to pay for the enormous financial "damages" imposed for one simple interview in Le Choc du mois.

In 1990 three lawsuits were brought against Le Choc du mois and Faurisson for one and the same article. It is, Faurisson wryly comments, rather like putting someone on trial for having stolen not one bicycle, but, first, the handlebars of a bicycle, then the front wheel, and, finally, the rear wheel. The first lawsuit ended in December 1992 with an appeals court ruling that the magazine and Faurisson must each pay a fine of 187,000 francs ($37,400). The second and third lawsuits in this matter were together scheduled come to trial on February 1, 1996.

"I am not really upset," Faurisson comments. "I will manage to at least get out of the bank account blockage and the 'fines' punishment."

Defiance

Defying the court and powerful special interests, Faurisson boldly told the judges on May 9 that he will continue to seek the historical truth and publish the results of his research, regardless of the cost to himself. In spite of the guilty verdict and the fine, the May 9 trial and the June 13 punishment constitute another advance – even a half-victory – for the cause of free historical inquiry and freedom of expression. This case once again shows that a single man, acting with skill and tenacity, can make a real difference.


Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Robert Faurisson , Mark Weber
Title: French Court Fines Faurisson, Roques for 'Holocaust Denial' Book, Witness Pressac Breaks Down Under Questioning in Dramatic Trial
Sources: The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 15, no. 6 (November/December 1995), pp. 13-17
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Published: 1995-11-01
First posted on CODOH: Dec. 25, 2012, 6 p.m.
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