Letter to PEN

Published: 2015-02-12

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Suzanne Nossel Executive Director PEN
[email protected]
Karin Deutsch Karlekar Director of Free Expression Programs
[email protected]
Katy Glenn Bass Deputy Director of Free Expression Programs
[email protected]
Shreya Balhara Free Expression Coordinator
[email protected]

Dear PEN-

I am writing in response to Executive Director Nossel's recent letter regarding the release of reporter Jason Rezaian and poets Fatemeh Ekhtesari and Medhi Mousavi. Thank you for the good news! While escapes from theocratic regimes make good press and fundraising material, I am writing regarding a more pernicious threat to Freedom of Expression.

Examples of Oppression

I am writing about the campaign against Revisionists. The following are a few examples of governmental actions meant to deny Freedom of Expression to scholars and authors who do not fully believe in a governmentally mandated history:

French comedian and social critic Dieudonne aka M’gala M’bala
By Copyleft - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15297307
  • The two-months jail sentence imposed last year on French comedian and social critic Dieudonne M’gala M’bala, as well as a program of censorship and banning, with the the last event two weeks ago, ie. Mr. M’bala M’bala's expulsion from Hong Kong due to French pressure; 
  • The imposition of strict censorship on Facebook posts by German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection Heiko Maas;
  • The 3-years jail sentence imposed on scholar and author David Irving.
  • The 2½ jail sentence imposed on scholar and author Germar Rudolf.
  • The 15-months sentence and fine jail imposed on the Swiss teacher Jurgen Graf.
  • The imprisonment for 15 months of writer and publisher Udo Walendy.
  • The ten-months sentence jail imposed on 87 year-old Ursula Haverbeck.
  • The 6-years sentence imposed on Wolfgang Fröhlich.

For other examples of imprisonment see here. 

In addition authors and scholars have been subject to censorship, loss of jobs, and physical attacks. Amazingly many Western governments have criminalized any expression of disbelief in a government mandated history by fines and jail sentences, some of which can be up to twenty years. See here. 

This campaign against a handful of scholars and writers has grown more fanatical and extreme in the last few years.

What is Revisionism?

Since there is so much blatant misinformation and slander spread about Revisionists, I would like to quote CODOH founder, Bradley Smith:

“Although it is standard practice to defame Revisionists as 'anti-Semites who claim the Holocaust is just Jewish propaganda,' that is not what we at CODOH argue. Briefly, we believe that much of that history that we are taught today has been influenced by Soviet, British and American wartime propaganda which exaggerated and exploited real tragedies for propaganda purposes. This concerns not just Jews but Slavs, Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses and, in some versions, Gays.”

And we are often right

Bradley Smith goes on to write, “It can be argued that there is considerable research that supports this point of view.” The single example of Majdanek Camp epitomizes the entire matter.

In 1946 evidence admitted in the Nuremberg Tribunal asserted that 1,400,000 people were murdered at Majdanek Camp, at Lublin Poland, and turned into human fertilizer. Revisionists have long disputed the size of this number. On Dec. 23, 2005 we were shown to be correct when the Auschwitz State Museum posted the following text:

“Majdanek Victims Enumerated. Changes in the history textbooks?

Kranz, director of the Research Department of the State Museum at Majdanek, asserts that approximately 59,000 Jews and 19,000 people of other ethnic backgrounds, mostly Poles and Byelorussians, died there.”

78,000 deaths is still a horrible tragedy but it is a quantum difference from the Nuremberg figure of 1,400,000. How could the Tribunal have gotten it so wrong?, Revisionists wonder.

The Revisionist view is summarized as follows:

“The concentration camp Majdanek was a place of suffering.

The people imprisoned there suffered under catastrophic sanitary conditions, epidemics, at times completely insufficient rations, back-breaking heavy labor, harassment. More than 40,000 Majdanek inmates died, primarily from disease, debilitation and malnutrition; an unknown number was executed.

The real victims of Majdanek deserve our respect, just as all victims of war and oppression deserve our respect, regardless what nation they belong to. But we are not doing the dead any service by inflating their number for political and propagandistic reasons and by making utterly unfounded claims about the way they died."

One of the authors of this accurate and sensitive piece was was forced to flee his homeland to avoid being jailed as a “Denier.”

The Campaign against Discussion of History is particularly dangerous

I am a Revisionist. I think parts of the Stories that I was taught about Steam Chambers of Death, Diesel gas chambers, Human Soap factories (to give some examples of Holocaust Belief) are quite impossible. I find it a profound infringement of my personal dignity to be forced to believe in things that could not have happened. Revisionists have a saying, “Why make things up? Reality was bad enough.”

Unfortunately, we seem to be in a time where belief in impossible tales is required. As George Orwell wrote:

"He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

Governmentally imposed history is a very bad idea.

History is rarely gotten right the first time around. As a process, Revisionists are simply trying to get the mistakes and falsehoods out of history. As shown, we are often right.

Unfortunately, governments currently deal with errors in mandated history not by correcting their official history but by imposing greater and greater penalties on Revisionists for writing what is often the Truth. For a government to intentionally proscribe writing Truthful ideas should shock the people at PEN.

The use of censorship and criminal penalties against Revisionists also undercuts the stance of the West for Free Speech but that is a separate letter.

Laws against Free Speech and Discussion are Dangerous. Revisionists are not

There are only a small handful of Revisionists worldwide. We usually have rather esoteric and boring discussions that are a threat to no one. That so many western governments have passed laws making "Denial" a felony is actually a sign of hysteria and fanaticism on the part of politicians, not an indication that Revisionists are a danger. But the long list of laws against "Denial" is a fact, as is the growing campaign against free speech and discussion. It is a fact that PEN has not taken a stance against.

The serious threats to Freedom of Expression come not when popular, rich, or powerful people suffer oppression but when governments are allowed to persecute the unpopular, the weak, or the poor. I hope that PEN will stand up for Free Speech for Revisionists.

David Merlin,
Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust.
PO Box 439016
San Ysidro, California 92143

Desk: 209 682 5327
Email: [email protected]

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): David Merlin
Title: Letter to PEN
Published: 2015-02-12
First posted on CODOH: Feb. 12, 2016, 10:48 p.m.
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