Letter Protesting the Austrian Prosecution of Dissident Historian-Writer David Irving
Via email to [email protected]
To Whom It May Concern:
Historian David Irving handcuffed in Austria for dissident history
I have a few questions I should like to ask you in regard to Austrian Law. Does Austria have a law which will punish denial or the minimization of the murder of tens of millions of Christians/Gentiles at the hands of the Communists in Eastern Europe during the period 1917-1980? Will you please explain to me what makes the 'holocaust' so sacrosanct that it requires punitive laws in order to protect it from legitimate inquiry and revision? Does Austria intend to arrest and prosecute Jewish historians like Arno Meyer, who have also questioned or otherwise deviated from the mainstream version of the holocaust? Punishing individuals for freely expressing their legitimate opinions is antidemocratic and a mark of FEAR and lack of confidence in one's own ability to refute the research and evidence provided by dissident historians such as David Irving and Germar Rudolf. Such persecution does the Austrian nation a great disservice and will most assuredly lead to a backlash over time, whereby these attempts to stifle free thought and enquiry will only lead to greater numbers of individuals questioning the mainstream version of the holocaust. It is as inevitable as the day is long, and perhaps it is long overdue. Austrian legislators should realize that questioning aspects of the holocaust is not equivalent to 'denying the holocaust' which is after all, a matter of proper definition. Even so, the mere questioning of 'any' historical event should never require legislation to compel rigid belief and conformity.
To quote Charles Dickens, "If that is what the law thinks, then the law is an ass."
Sincerely. J. P. Bellinger, Author: 'Himmlers Tod'
Austria's response to Mr. Bellinger's letter
From: Austrian Press and Information
Date: 02/28/06 08:41:49
To: J.P. Bellinger
Subject: Statement RE: Irving
Referring to your e-mail / letter in which you expressed concern over the sentencing of the British historian David Irving in Austria, we would like to draw your attention to the following facts.
Fifty years ago, in 1955, Austria instated legislative measures to serve as a safeguard against resurgence of NS activity of any kind. For countries having witnessed the devastating consequences of National Socialism and the Holocaust and having struggled to come to terms with it, fear of a resurgence of neo-Nazism is understandable.
Today you may be imprisoned or fined for dissenting from the accepted Holocaust history in the following other countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Lithuania, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Switzerland.
European countries have a different history and culture of free speech than that in the United States. In Germany, for example, the "Auschwitz lie" law makes it a crime to "defame the memory of the dead." Recently the British debated the merits of banning religious hate speech. In France, it is illegal to challenge the existence of the "crimes against humanity" as they were defined by the military tribunal at Nuremberg. In Switzerland, denial of genocide is punishable and liable to prosecution. In traditionally liberal Canada, there are "anti-hate" laws against spreading "false news." In 1992, when Mr. Irving went to Canada to receive the George Orwell Award from a conservative free-speech organization, he was arrested and deported on the grounds that his German court conviction for denying the Holocaust made him a likely candidate for future hate-speech violations.
Also in the U.S., free speech has been subject to legal intervention, which ultimately led to the concept of the "clear and present danger" test. It has become a standard test where U.S. law puts a limit on free speech. This limit is considered constitutional if it can be demonstrated that the use of language in question poses a "clear and present danger." Today, this principle is also referred to as "imminent lawless action" test, as a means to determine if speech does fall under constitutional protection.
Freedom of speech and liberal thought and action are highly valued in current-day Austria. The "Verbotsgesetz," however, is relevant to all issues touching upon National Socialism.
The Sentencing of David Irving
- David Irving was sentenced on February 20 to an unconditional three-year prison term without probation due to resuming NS activity. Irving was arrested on November 11, 2005 in Austria because of an Austrian warrant for arrest dating back to November 8, 1989. He announced an appeal for annulment and called for revoking the sentence. Thus, the verdict is not yet final.
- The warrant for arrest was issued due to his denying the existence of gas chambers in NS concentration camps while giving numerous lectures in 1989 in Austria. Since that time, there has been a pending pretrial investigation of Irving.
- The sentence was issued on the basis of the statute that prohibits advocating NS activity (Verbotsgesetz) stated in § 3g "Paragraph 3g: He who operates in a manner characterized other than that in § § 3a – 3f will be punished, [that is, to the extent that the deed is not more strictly punishable according to another section,] with a prison sentence from one to up to ten years, and in cases of particularly dangerous suspects or activity, up to twenty years imprisonment."
- Austria is aware of its historical responsibility and, according to Article 9, Paragraph 1 of the Austrian State Treaty of 1955, obligated to prevent "all Nazi-like activity and propaganda in Austria."
- Article 10 of the European Human Rights Convention, which provides the standards for the right to freedom of speech, emphasizes in Paragraph 2 that taking advantage of these rights brings with it obligations and responsibility and, therefore, "particularly, in terms of the law, are subject to the limitations or to threats of punishment," "as they are necessary in a democratic society and in the interest of maintaining order and preventing crime." Article 9 of the Austrian State Treaty, having the rank of a Constitutional Law, is such a legal limitation, conforming to civil- and human rights laws.
Embassy of Austria in the United States, Washington, D.C.
Mr. Bellinger's final reply:
Thank you for your expeditious response to my email. Now, I would like to respond to yours. Apparently in justification of your country's prosecution of dissident historians, you refer me to laws established 50 years ago in the wake of the allied occupation of Germany and Austria, which you say were enacted to "serve as a safeguard against [any] resurgence of National Socialist activity of any kind," disregarding the fact that David Irving cannot by any stretch of the imagination be classified as a 'National Socialist,' in the usually accepted definition of the word. David Irving is a writer and historian – not a politician. Furthermore, according to your own legal guidelines, the punishment which David Irving received does not fit the offence. To wit:
"David Irving was sentenced on February 20 to an unconditional three-year prison term without probation due to resuming NS activity... The warrant for arrest was issued due to his denying the existence of gas chambers in NS concentration camps while giving numerous lectures in 1989 in Austria... The sentence was issued on the basis of the statute that prohibits advocating NS activity (Verbotsgesetz) stated in § 3g... Austria is aware of its historical responsibility and, according to Article 9, Paragraph 1 of the Austrian State Treaty of 1955, obligated to prevent 'all Nazi-like activity and propaganda in Austria.' Article 10 of the European Human Rights Convention, which provides the standards for the right to freedom of speech, emphasizes in Paragraph 2 that taking advantage of these rights brings with it obligations and responsibility and, therefore, 'particularly, in terms of the law, are subject to the limitations or to threats of punishment,' 'as they are necessary in a democratic society and in the interest of maintaining order and preventing crime.'"
Based upon your own citations, it is quite easy to demonstrate that the entire law itself is fundamentally flawed. 'Denying the gas chambers' can hardly be defined as 'resuming NS activity.' What crimes do you imagine are being 'prevented' by persecuting individuals like David Irving? Additionally, denying the gas chambers or any other chambers or means of execution should not require a punitive law to compel belief. If Mr. Irving should deny the existence of gallows, will he be charged for that as well? Where does an intelligent person draw the line? Do you really fail to apprehend the absurd premise which characterizes these 'laws?' You might just as well issue an arrest warrant for Prince Harry in view of the fact that he publicly donned a swastika armband at a party. Perhaps the fact has eluded your legislators, but revising and correcting history does not constitute advocacy of National Socialism. Returning to your citation:
Austria is aware of its historical responsibility and, according to Article 9, Paragraph 1 of the Austrian State Treaty of 1955, obligated to prevent "all Nazi-like activity and propaganda in Austria."
What, I ask you, is more "historically responsible" than telling the truth? It seems to me that the Austrian State Treaty, by which Austria was 'obligated to prevent all Nazi-like activity and propaganda in Austria' represents the crux of the problem. In fact, this treaty, which was based on the Moscow Declaration of 1943, required that Austria pay a heavy price for its reunification and independence. The treaty forbade unification with Germany or restoration of the Habsburg Monarchy, both clauses constituting a violation of the right of all free people to self-determination. Moreover, the idea that human beings should be punished for expressing dissident political views is repugnant to people who believe in a free exchange of ideas and our right to express them in a peaceable, democratic and responsible manner. Surely National Socialism represents no threat to Austria's status quo anymore than it poses a threat to the United States or the United Kingdom, where such parties have every right to exist and expound their beliefs. Freedom of speech means exactly that—freedom of speech for all people, commensurate with freedom from fear of persecution. Thus, Austria's response to dissident thinkers, however well-intentioned, is undemocratic and indefensible. Punishing heterodox historians and researchers for the 'crime' of expressing their considered opinions is akin to handing Socrates another glass of hemlock. Moreover, neither David Irving nor any other high profile revisionist historian or researcher bears any responsibility for what happened during the Second World War and it is unjust of the Austrian government to try and hold them accountable for it in some way.
Is it the view of the Austrian government that Communism represents a far lesser danger than National Socialism, in view of the fact that the crimes of the former far exceeded those of the latter in scope and duration? Were the gulags of Lenin and Stalin more humanitarian than those established by the National Socialists? Did they claim less victims? Does Austria possess laws punishing historians, writers and assorted apologists for minimizing the crimes of the Soviets? Thank you for drawing attention to the repressive laws similar to Austria's which exist in other countries. They are no more defensible than your own. Canada's repeated violations of basic human rights and their suppression of unorthodox thinkers constitutes an appalling scandal in the minds of libertarian minded individuals throughout the free world. Appealing to countries that share a consensus with you by enacting a law which is intrinsically and morally wrong does a great disservice to the Austrian people and compromises the integrity of their legislators and elected representatives. Your reference to Germany's unprecedented, peculiar law pertaining to 'defamation of the dead' is a legalistic curiosity which apparently applies to only one ethnic group. How often have people been prosecuted on the basis of this law and for what reason? Does Germany intend to charge individuals such as Daniel Kertzer and Daniel Goldhagen for defaming the dead by publicly proclaiming that Pope Pius XII did nothing to assist the Jews during the Second World War?
Furthermore, free speech in the United States is only subject to government interference when someone threatens the life of the President or advocates the violent overthrow of the government or incites individuals to commit crimes of violence. How your description of the 'clear and present' danger clause applies to individuals like David Irving is a conundrum over which I shall not bother to expend any more energy. Perhaps the irony in referring to Mr. Irving's arrest in Canada, where he was invited to receive the Orwell Award, was entirely lost on you. In my humble opinion, an even greater irony here is that Austria, while claiming to enact repressive laws designed to prevent the resurgence of National Socialism, feels it necessary to emulate the object of their fear in order to punish contemporary dissident historians. Now, that is ironic! If, as you say, "Freedom of speech and liberal thought and action are highly valued in current-day Austria,' then I respectfully suggest that you stop treating your citizens as children who require the heavy hand of the State to do their thinking for them. If Austria values freedom, then let the bell of freedom ring throughout the land, and allow freedom of expression to all alike.
J.P. Bellinger, Author of "Himmlers Tod"
Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||Joseph P. Bellinger|
|Title:||Letter Protesting the Austrian Prosecution of Dissident Historian-Writer David Irving|
|First posted on CODOH:||Feb. 27, 2006, 6 p.m.|