Remembering Bradley Smith

Published: 2016-02-24

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Bradley Smith’s life was a varied and colorful one. But he is best remembered for his courageous, steadfast battle of more than 30 years to promote public awareness of the Holocaust issue. In spite of privation, relentless smears and many setbacks, he persisted in this daunting struggle with exemplary dedication, calmly confident of ultimate victory and vindication. In his personal life as well, he endured poverty, recurring illnesses and many disappointments with buoyant stoicism.

His unflagging devotion to the principle of intellectual freedom was not just rhetorical. During the early 1960s, he was arrested, jailed and prosecuted for selling Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer from his book store on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. (The book was banned in the U.S. at the time.)

Bradley and I worked together most closely in the years just after the founding in 1987 of the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH), which was dedicated to defending free speech and free inquiry on the Holocaust issue, to encouraging greater public access to revisionist scholarship, and to promoting awareness of the controversy regarding the Holocaust story.

Through his efforts, which included hundreds of radio and television appearances, millions of Americans learned for the first time about Holocaust revisionism and the scholarly debate on this taboo-encrusted chapter of history. Bradley’s nationwide campaign to place full-page advertisements calling for open debate on the Holocaust issue in student newspapers distributed at colleges and universities provoked furious debate that, on some campuses, resulted in physical attacks, bitter resignations, boycotts and threats of law suits.

The Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, along with other powerful Jewish-Zionist groups, devoted considerable money and effort to countering Bradley’s modestly funded campaign. The ADL called him as one of America’s “Ten Top Extremists,” and published a booklet, distributed to student newspapers around the country, attacking Bradley and warning against his supposedly dangerous campaign. On one occasion ADL officials and staff members flew to a campus to cajole and pressure student editors there into rejecting his ad.

Bradley’s effectiveness was due in large measure to his obvious sincerity and earnestness, which came across well in television appearances, campus talks and broadcast interviews. Unable to plausibly portray him as a “hater,” “neo-Nazi,” or “white supremacist,” Jewish-Zionist groups and their allies in the media attacked him with a barrage of smears and lies, which he calmly accepted as an inevitable “part of the job.”

In 1986 Bradley wrote about the Holocaust claims of Mel Mermelstein, a California businessman who had been a prisoner in the Auschwitz camp complex during World War II. He critically reviewed Mermelstein’s incredible claims in an item published in the IHR Newsletter, and referred to the businessman as a “demonstrable fraud,” a “vainglorious prevaricator,” and a “false-tale spinner.” Mermelstein responded with an $11 million suit for defamation (libel). On Sept. 19, 1991, Mermelstein was obliged to drop what remained of his suit after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismissed a substantial portion of it. Although it ended in a clear victory for Bradley (and the IHR), coverage of this important legal battle predictably received almost no coverage in the mainstream media.

What drove this incorrigible idealist and modern-day Don Quixote? “Simply put,” he once explained, “I do not believe in thought crimes, in taboos against intellectual freedom. I do not believe it is thought crime to express skepticism about the ‘gas chamber’ stories.”



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Author(s): Mark Weber
Title: Remembering Bradley Smith
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Published: 2016-02-24
First posted on CODOH: Feb. 24, 2016, 8:30 p.m.
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