The Censorship Trial of Ernst Zündel: 1985 (1986)

Published: 1986-01-01

When the Bill of Rights was attached to the United States Constitution by those men responsible for founding the American Government, the ideals of freedom of conscience and political liberty were institutionalized for the citizenry in a way hardly imagined by any other people in history. Among those rights, none has proved more valuable to liberty or hateful to tyranny than the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech or of the press."

In Canada there exists a government founded by the same peoples that founded our own, but one under which no such guarantee of freedom of expression exists. Recently I was able to observe personally what can happen in an otherwise decent society where there is no guarantee of a free press or free speech, when I spent two weeks in Toronto, Canada, covering the preliminary hearing for the censorship trial of Ernst Zündel.

In Canada a schoolteacher is being prosecuted by the Crown for "willfully promoting hatred" for having admitted to his students that he does not believe that 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated in the so-called Holocaust.

At the border dividing our nations, history books are seized by Canadian Customs and Excise offices as "obscene" if they promote a point of view toward World War Two that is not approved of by the State. Arthur Butz's The Hoax of the Twentieth Century has become a victim to this twisted expression of intellectual Victorianism.

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act a man can be prosecuted for repeating on the telephone "information which is likely to expose a group to hatred or contempt based on race, religion, ethnic background...." and so on. On the telephone!

A Toronto attorney explained to me that under this so-called human rights act, "There is no defense. Truth is not a defense. Accuracy of statement is not a defense. There is no defense!"

Now Ernst Zündel, a German-Canadian publisher based in Toronto, is facing a possible two-year prison sentence for "distributing false news about the Holocaust." False news in this instance being a historical booklet titled Did Six Million Really Die?, by Richard Harwood, in which ostensibly there are errors of fact.

The original charge against Zündel was laid by a founder of the Canadian Holocaust Remembrance Association, a Ms. Sabina Citron. There may well be errors of fact in the Harwood booklet. One would think that there are errors of act in many history books. How many other Canadian publishers, however, are going to be prosecuted by the Crown for distributing a history book with a mistake in it?

"Writing about the Holocaust," Zündel says, "is like making an archeological dig. During the first dig you uncover part of the truth, but your understanding of the situation as a whole is limited. After the second dig, more of the facts are discovered, you're forced to revise your initial theories, and you still don't know the whole story. Harwood's booklet was one of the first revisionist digs into Holocaust history. It would be unnatural if there were no mistakes in it." Zündel was born and raised on a small farm in the Black Forest in Germany. When World War Two ended he was six years old. He was educated in village schools to believe that German Nazis had exterminated 6,000,000 Jewish men women and children, mostly in "gas chambers." It wasn't until he emigrated to Canada in his early twenties that he discovered that there are two sides to the Holocaust story.

During the next few years Zündel came to the conclusion that he had been hood-winked about the Jewish "genocide." He took offense at having been lied to about such an enormous accusation, and he decided to do something about it. He taught himself to be a writer and public speaker, and he founded a publishing business in his house. He called it Samisdat.

The publishing venture became a formidable operation. Samisdat supporters and contributors appeared in every country in the Western world. In any given 12 month period now, Samisdat will distribute as many as 450,000 pieces of mail in batches of 40,000 to 50,000 each. In each mailing errors, lies and twisted exaggerations published in the establishment press about the Holocaust story are corrected and revised, and the efforts of organizations like the Canadian Holocaust Remembrance Association to suppress revisionist writings and drive revisionist publishers out of business are described as fully and accurately as is possible.

Zündel showed me a photocopy of a letter signed by Simon Wiesenthal, the notorious "nazi hunter," addressed to the Solicitor General of Canada "urging" the Crown to "... stop this anti-Jewish propaganda." And it wasn't long before Samisdat lost its mailing privileges, as if it were a privilege and not a right for free men to correspond with one another. It took a year and tens of thousands of dollars from his supporters to regain his right to use the Canadian mails. At that point the Holocaust Remembrance Association struck again, protesting to the Crown that Samisdat was "distributing false news about the Holocaust." When Zündel answered his first court summons in response to the charge, he was beaten by a mob of Jews on the courthouse steps.

"There were hundreds of absolutely hostile young and old Jews," Zündel recalls. "It was an ugly, ugly scene." Photographs in the Toronto papers confirm what Zündel says about the behavior of the mob. Zündel appeared at the court again on January 16, this year. This time he had a number of supporters with him, organized as bodyguards and wearing hard hats. They had, literally, to fight their way into the courthouse. Zündel's attorney, Luren Marshall, described her experience:

When we left it was even worse. We had to run through showers of spit. It was insane. One of Zündel's people was knocked to the ground and people kicked him down the street like a football."

After several delays the preliminary hearing got under way June 16. Robert Faurisson had flown from France to Toronto to help with background and research. David McCalden flew in from Los Angeles and served in the courtroom as an assistant to the attorney. Zündel's right-hand man, Eric Thompson, was everywhere.

The Court placed a "ban on publication" over the proceedings. That is, if you are a reporter you can attend the trial but you can't report on it. It can be said that after eight days of hearings the Crown showed, to its own satisfaction, that errors exist in the Harwood booklet and that, therefore, Zündel can be prosecuted. A trial date will be set August 9th.

Raul Hilberg, author of The Destruction of the European Jews, appeared as a witness for the Crown. Outside the courtroom I asked Professor Hilberg: "If it is proven that there is an error in the Harwood booklet, do you agree that is grounds for the government to censor it?" "That's not an issue that interests me much," he replied. "Do you mean," I asked, "that you have no interest in whether the State censors books or not?"

He shrugged his shoulders and declined to answer. This Canadian farce prosecution is rooted, in the first instance, in the lack of a constitutional guarantee for a free press. It makes me recall the American Revolution against the British Monarchy with an almost steamy affection. Secondarily, it probably is based in the mentality of those Eastern European Jewish immigrants who were born into societies where a free press has never existed and who have been unable to adapt to Western ideals of free speech and free inquiry.

Now there are American politicians who are preparing to subvert the free press guaranteed to American citizens, and to institute laws that resemble those that oppress Canadians. In the next Congressional session, when our representative are being urged to ratify the "Genocide Convention," a bill containing the following language will likely be attached to it.

That is, anyone who .... publishes, or causes to be published, or conspires with others to publish or to cause to be published, any statement likely to cause mental harm or distress to any group or class of persons identifiable by race, color, religion, or national origin will be liable for a term of imprisonment in a Federal penitentiary not to exceed five years.

Nice law, eh? It's an easy one to get, too. All we have to do is sit still for it.

Originally published in The Spotlight in 1986. The Spotlight, 300 Independence Ave., SE. Washington, D.C. 20003.

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Bradley R. Smith
Title: The Censorship Trial of Ernst Zündel: 1985 (1986)
Sources: The Spotlight, 1986
Published: 1986-01-01
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 1995, 7 p.m.
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