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Ernst Zundel - Modern Day Galileo
Ernst Zundel is a controversial figure who has questioned the official story of the Holocaust for years. Why is that a crime?

By Matt Hutaff | The

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
- "The Friends of Voltaire," 1906.

Last Tuesday Canadian authorities quietly shipped Ernst Zundel to Mannheim, Germany under cloak of night. Once his flight landed, Zundel was placed under arrest and taken into custody to stand trial for hate crime charges that were filed on behalf of the German people in 2003.

Indeed, aside from this flight, Zundel has only briefly seen the outside of a prison cell since his abduction from his home in Tennessee by U.S. agents and subsequent deportation to Canada. His exile to Germany is the culmination of a two-year "Star Chamber"-style legal proceeding in which Zundel was unable to question witnesses, examine available evidence or even know precisely what he was being charged with. The court's ruling, however, was inevitable - Ernst Zundel presented a grave risk to national and international security, and he had to go. The quicker the better.

What precisely has Zundel done that's incurred the wrath of three powerful nations? He's questioned the accepted views of the Holocaust. Does he acknowledge Jewish persecution during the second World War? Yes. Does he agree with the official position on casualties and methods? No - and he wants a dialogue with anyone who will listen.

And therein lies the problem. In Germany (and many other nations), questioning the Holocaust is a crime. Ernst Zundel is being persecuted for a belief. Anyone besides me feel that's wrong?

It does not matter to me if Ernst Zundel is right or wrong. His contrary investigations into the machinations of Nazi atrocity are interesting, but ultimately unimportant.

What is important is the freedom to believe or say whatever one wants. There are those that insist world oil reserves are on a permanent and steady decline; still others are convinced aliens walk among us. If they're right, God bless 'em; if they're wrong, the only thing they're guilty of is being wrong (please note that I have no opinion on peak oil or UFOs). Neither outcome should be a crime - how can someone be legally responsible for an incorrect belief?

That is what puzzles me. Anyone should have the ability to debate the merits of whatever case he or she chooses without fear of government reprisal. In supposed democratic states like Germany and Canada, the very idea of free speech is a fundamental part of daily life - no topic should be off-limits to public discourse. It certainly doesn't stop the debater from believing in his cause and it clamps down on thought at the same time. Oftentimes, it makes people question why the topic was so risqué in the first place, creating new converts to a forbidden dialogue.

"Truth needs no laws to support it," says Mike Rivero. "Throughout history, only lies and liars have resorted to the courts to enforce adherence to dogma."

So if Ernst Zundel is wrong - and most of the world agrees with that assessment - what better way to expose Zundel as a fool than by letting himself hang on his own words? Why seek to prosecute someone for believing something few people want or care to hear?

Until his persecution by the Canadian courts, I had never heard about Ernst Zundel despite his decades-long attack on Holocaust dogma. He's been put on trial twice before for the same "crime," and his list of enemies is long. By continuing to harangue a marginal player in revisionist history, those who seek to condemn him have only shone the spotlight on his research... and the fervor of vested interests trying to impose a singular view of the Holocaust upon the world.

Like Zundel, I believe that the topic of the Holocaust should be openly and freely discussed and debated. I personally feel that how it is remembered today does a great disservice to the millions of other people who perished in World War II. The death toll was staggering - why nitpick over which culture was impacted the most (not much of a debate when you consider the Roma were effectively obliterated)? Anybody that wants to disregard or debate that stance should be free to do so.

Except they're not. Travel to countries with laws prohibiting dissenting opinions on the Holocaust and you can be jailed right alongside Zundel. Most startling is that Zundel is being prosecuted because his website has the potential to reach German citizens. Does it frighten writers that their text, written and stored in an entirely different country online, can be used against them in a foreign court? It should.

It's a sad state of affairs that Germany is now required to try one of its own citizens for daring to think differently - the same kind of ridiculous legal theatrics that would be at home in the Third Reich.

There are those who would protect their interests in maintaining the Holocaust image as-is. Are they opportunists? Perhaps. Are they truly interested in examining Nazi atrocity if they quell alternative viewpoints? No. Who maintains the legacy better - those who seek to learn all they can or those who bury viewpoints under layers of dogma?

In 1633 the revered scientist Galileo was brought before the Roman Catholic Church and charged with heresy for his conviction in a heliocentric solar system. His belief shook the very foundations religion and science; his reward for accepting long-denied truth was the promise of torture unless he recanted... and a lifetime of house arrest.

Right or wrong, Galileo's beliefs deserved greater scrutiny than the threat of an iron maiden. The research of Ernst Zundel and others of the Holocaust shouldn't end in a 17th-century Inquisition. It should be evaluated openly, regardless of the outcome.

History is supposed to ruffle feathers. Chaining up a man illegally, having him deported based on the word of a biased judge and subjecting him to a trial that has no basis in a truly free and open society doesn't help the Holocaust... it only helps others think there's something to hide.

Canon Fodder is a weekly analysis of politics and society.
The Simon Magazine - ©1998-2005

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