As a result of re-publishing Did Six Million Really Die?, a booklet that originally appeared in 1974 in England, Canadian authorities charged Ernst Zündel, a German-born commercial artist residing in Toronto, with violating section 177 of the country's Criminal Code. This section provides:
Everyone who willfully publishes a statement, tale or news that he knows is false and that causes or is likely to cause injury of mischief to a public interest is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
Although this law had seldom been invoked, in 1985 and 1988 Zündel was a defendant in two long jury trials for allegedly violating this statute. These two trials are among the most significant in North American legal history, and provide a valuable source for historians.
As one of the defense witnesses in the first trial I had an opportunity to observe members of the jury, which consisted mostly of rather old men, some of whom must have been veterans of the Second World War (as am I). For me, the trials of Ernst Zündel had a bearing on my own experiences in life, for I had been involved in the Allied postwar “denazification” process in Germany.
I know from my own experiences and observations that most veterans of the Second World War have a tendency to want to believe that their sacrifices and those of their contemporaries were for a good cause, and that they were involved in a “good war” in spite of our alliance with and strong support of one of the most evil regimes in the history of mankind, the government of Stalin. Believing “Holocaust” tales is thus a psychological compulsion for the typical Canadian, American and British veteran of the Second World War.
More broadly, the desire to believe in the ethical inferiority of our adversary in that war, National Socialist Germany, in a conflict that required great national sacrifices, is no doubt a factor that favors the ready, seldom-questioned acceptance of “Holocaust” accounts and tales, fantastic and improbable though they might seem to an unprejudiced examiner. The sentences imposed on Zündel (later revoked by higher courts) were dependent on opinions of members of a jury consisting of Canadian citizens selected more or less at random. In assessing the verdicts in the Zündel trials we must bear in mind the atmosphere in which they were conducted.
These trials provide a unique opportunity for historians who wish to be objective to examine “Holocaust” arguments, because they involve a juxtaposition of opinions of advocates of what might be called the “Extermination Thesis” and the opinions of the “revisionists” who do not accept that thesis. Because the “Holocaust” today has an important impact on American thought, policy and even legislation, the “Holocaust” question is certainly one of the most important with which an historian can concern himself.
The first, 1985 trial — much more than the second — received a great deal of attention in the Canadian press and television. In the United States, the media paid virtually no attention to either trial.
This massive book is an admirable and valuable summary of evidence presented by historians with opposing views on the “Holocaust” in a major trial in which the usual rules of evidence generally prevailed (quite in contrast to the Nuremberg trials of 1945-1946). Furthermore, this book supplements the copious evidence with developments on the “Holocaust” question between 1988 and 1992, such as the 1990 report of Poland's Institute of Forensic Research commissioned by the Auschwitz State Museum. (The complete text of this report is published in the Summer 1991 IHR Journal.)
This book summarizes rather closely, with many direct quotations, the testimony presented by the various witnesses. The summary of the testimony for the Crown (prosecution) takes up 157 pages, that for the defense, 276. The summaries of the testimonies of the two major prosecution witnesses, Raul Hilberg and Christopher Browning, take up 148½ pages, while the summaries of the testimonies of six major defense witnesses occupy 224 pages: Ditlieb Felderer 13, Mark Weber 63, Udo Walendy 13, Robert Faurisson 65, Fred euchter 8, David Irving 62. I give these figures to provide an idea of the book's dimensions and contents, because it is difficult to indicate much more than the general nature of the testimonies within the usual limits of a book review.
Summaries of the testimonies are preceded by a publisher's note, an editor's introduction, and a foreword by Dr. Robert Faurisson. In addition, editor-compiler Barbara Kulaszka provides a significant essay on implications of the legal campaign against Holocaust revisionism, pointing out that even statements by Jewish historians plausibly constitute “Holocaust denial.”
In his foreword, Faurisson stresses the importance of the physical-forensic investigations of Auschwitz by Fred Leuchter and subsequent investigators, as well as the courageous role played by Ernst Zündel. At the same time, he admonishes us that court proceedings are not the ideal setting for the examination of complicated historical questions.
Christopher R. Browning, a 43-year-old professor at Pacific Lutheran College in Tacoma, was the only major witness to testify in person for the Crown. His testimony is summarized on 73½ pages. Browning obtained his Ph.D. degree in 1975, and has carried out research on the National Socialist government's treatment of Jews at archives in Jerusalem, Bonn, Koblenz, and elsewhere. He is the author of Fateful Months: Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution (1985).
Seeking to discredit the booklet written by an Englishman under the pen name of Richard Harwood, Did Six Million Really Die? (the full text of which is reproduced in the work under review here), Browning read from a number of documents, many of which had been presented at the Nuremberg trials. One of these was the Stahlecker Report, written by the commander of an Einsatzgruppe operating in the Baltic region. This Report mentions executions by Latvian and Lithuanian auxiliaries who were selected because they had relatives who had been murdered or deported by the Communists during the 1940-1941 Soviet occupation of the Baltic lands.
During cross-examination by Zündel's attorney, Douglas Christie, Browning admitted that he was being paid $30,000 by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust center to write a book.
Browning acknowledged that — in contrast to such defense witnesses as Felderer and Leuchter — he had never visited the sites of any of the former German concentration camps for purposes of research. Browning's naiveté about the origins of the Second World War also became apparent. The often-quoted phrase “bei Freilassung” ("upon release") in the “Wannsee Protocol” is discussed. In a striking example of the biased, one-sided nature of his research, Browning admitted that, in 17 years studying the treatment of Jews by the wartime German government, he had never read the works of Wilhelm Stäglich. (Stäglich's principal book, which is published in English by the IHR under the title Auschwitz: A Judge Looks at the Evidence, is perhaps the most important revisionist work on the question.)
At the behest of the prosecution, the testimony of Raul Hilberg given during the first Zündel trial was read in its entirety to the court. Hilberg, a professor at the University of Vermont, has written extensively in support of the Extermination Thesis. His chief work is a three-volume work, The Destruction of the European Jews.
In an October 5, 1987, letter to Crown prosecuting attorney Pearson (and reproduced in this book), Hilberg cited several reasons for his decision not to testify at the second trial, including the “time and energy required to ward off” the assault on his testimony. Defense attorney Christie objected to the reading of the testimony from 1985, charging that Hilberg had perjured himself in the first trial. In the present work, the summary of Hilberg's testimony takes up 76 pages. In view of his justified timidity about subjecting himself again to Christie's penetrating cross-examination, Hilberg's testimony should not detain us in detail here. However, the curious reader should read Christie's devastating cross-examination of Hilberg. Christie proved to be very well prepared for detailed cross-examination, confronting Hilberg with a great many appropriate citations from a wide range of sources.
Ditlieb Felderer from Sweden was the first witness called by the defense. Felderer had first become interested in this subject as an adherent of the Jehovah's Witnesses, when he began investigating the fate of Witnesses in German concentration camps. This stimulated wider-ranging investigations of the camps, in which he found to his astonishment that they were quite different from the way they are generally described.
Felderer became fascinated by this subject, so much so that he took some 30,000 slides during visits of the sites of former concentration camps in Poland. He showed about 300 of his slides to the jury, 230 of which are reproduced in this book's pictorial section. During his testimony, Felderer drew parallels between Germany's Auschwitz trials and the medieval trials of witches who were forced to admit to having had sexual intercourse with the Devil.
Testifying next was Thies Christophersen, who had been a German army officer stationed in 1944 at Raisko, a subsidiary camp near Auschwitz where agricultural experiments were conducted. Christophersen has laid out his wartime experiences in a booklet, Auschwitz: Truth or Lie: An Eyewitness Report (available from the IHR).
Historian Mark Weber, who was born in Oregon in 1951, was the eighth witness for the defense. Accepted by the court as an expert witness qualified to give opinion evidence on the Holocaust issue, he discussed a wide variety of aspects of the Extermination Thesis, including the Einsatzgruppen, the Wannsee Conference, Zionism, the postwar “confessions” of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss, and Allied aerial photographs of Auschwitz.
Throughout his five days of testimony Weber demonstrated wide archival experiences, and a vast knowledge of many aspects of the history of the Jews in Europe during and before the Second World War. Attorney Christie took him through a line-by-line analysis of virtually the entire text of the Harwood booklet. Weber discussed the questionable legal basis of the Nuremberg trials (which were condemned at the time by no less a figure than Senator Robert Taft of Ohio). Crown attorney Pearson cross-examined Weber at great length, largely about the Einsatzgruppen and then about Weber's personal experiences and beliefs. In sometimes bitter exchanges Pearson sought to discredit Weber as a racist.
Maria van Herwaarden, a Austrian-born resident of Canada, testified about her experiences as a inmate of Auschwitz-Birkenau from December 1942 to January 1945. She told about large-scale deaths due to disease, and measures taken by the camp authorities to combat the epidemics. Although there was talk of gassings in the camp, she stated that personally she never saw any evidence of that.
Joseph G. Burg, a Jewish author who had been harshly treated during the war, testified that shortly after the end of the conflict he had visited the Auschwitz and Majdanek camps — and found no evidence of “gas chambers” at either. There were no liquidations in the concentration camps, Burg stated. He was not cross-examined.
Ivan Lagacé, a crematory manager in Calgary, testified on the credibility of the standard claims of mass cremation at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Even modern crematories require an average of two hours (the cremation cycle) to “process” a human body, he said. Non-stop cremation, as allegedly happened at Birkenau, is simply impossible, said Lagacé, who had cremated more than a thousand bodies in his career.
Birkenau's crematories were almost identical in structure and design to the crematory he manages in Calgary, said Lagacé. Claims by Raul Hilberg and other Holocaust historians that some four thousand bodies were “processed” daily in Birkenau's four crematory facilities are “preposterous” and “beyond the realm of reality,” Lagacé emphasized. Based on his experience, he said, the Birkenau crematories would have been able to cremate no more than 184 bodies daily.
During his testimony, German historian and publisher Udo Walendy spoke at length about his collaboration with Zündel, and about censorship and “reeducation” in Germany. For two decades, Walendy has published the important booklet series, Historische Tatsachen. He is also the author of several books, and he distributed Harwood's Did Six Million Really Die? in Germany.
During his six days on the witness stand, French Professor Robert Faurisson, like Weber, covered a very wide range of aspects of the Extermination Thesis, including his notable research on the Anne Frank Diary.
Faurisson summarizes his view of the “Holocaust” as follows:
The alleged Hitlerite gas chambers and the alleged genocide of the Jews are one and the same historical lie which opened the way to a gigantic political-financial fraud, whose principal beneficiaries are the State of Israel and international Zionism, and the principal victims the German people — but not its leaders — and the entire Palestinian people.
A good deal of Faurisson's testimony was devoted to an analysis of the booklet, Six Million Did Die, published by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. He characterized this work as a “bad book.” At the beginning of Pearson's cross-examination, Faurisson pointed out that court proceedings are not the proper setting for historical debate (just as he does in his foreword to this book). He demonstrated not only a wide knowledge of the history of the Jews in Europe during the Second World War, but also impressive verbal skill (with an occasional touch of Gallic humor) in a language that is not his mother tongue.
Fred Leuchter, an American expert on penal execution procedures, took the stand to provide relatively short but crucially important testimony. Commissioned by Zündel, he had carried out the first ever on-site expert forensic examination of the alleged homicidal “gas chambers” at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek. He compiled his detailed physical and chemical data and his conclusions in the history-making Leuchter Report, which has had a tremendous impact on all subsequent discussion of the wartime function of the camps. (A condensed version of The Leuchter Report is published in this book as an appendix.)
Judge Thomas permitted Leuchter to give oral testimony, but with major restrictions. Leuchter was not allowed to present or even refer to his Report, but he was able to describe his investigation of the camp sites in some detail.
David Irving, the prolific British historian, was the final defense witness. Not a man to hide his light under a basket, Irving can justifiably boast not only about the quantity and wide range of his publications on Second World War history, but also about his extensive archival research and his intimate familiarity with the German language, which gives him far greater access to original sources than some historians who have written in this area.
Irving has written on such diverse topics as Churchill and the Hungarian uprising of 1956. He often shows contempt for academic historians who show no originality, or rigor in going after original documentation, content to drift along with popular mythology. Acknowledging that he had not read Hilberg's three-volume work, Irving said that he does not read other people's books if he can avoid it, adding that he finds it is easier to go to the archives and read the original documents. When his Hitler's War was published in 1977, he accepted most of the Extermination Thesis without much questioning. Since then, though, he has changed his views on this subject. Taking advantage of what he considered an important wedge here, Pearson read extensively from Hitler's War, challenging Irving's change of views.
Irving had strong praise for the value of Leuchter's forensic, on-site investigation, which he characterized as “shattering in the significance of its discovery” and “a stroke of genius on the part of the defense.” Irving stated that his views had been changed even by testimony he had heard at the trial “in the last few days.”
Irving adheres to the view that there were isolated massacres of Jews in the Baltic lands and in Ukraine that were not authorized by Hitler, and indeed prohibited by him, and that Hitler envisaged the “final solution of the Jewish question” as postwar emigration of Jews from Europe. Irving suggests a similarity in some respects of the massacres of Jews to those by American forces in Vietnam.
He testified that he did not dispute the authenticity of the Wannsee Conference “protocol” of January 20, 1942. I find this astonishing because there is a good deal of evidence that it has been altered, if it had not been a forgery from the outset.
Irving often seemed rather cavalier about statistics, as when he accepted as accurate the figure of “eleven million” European Jews given in the statistical table of the Wannsee Conference protocol. These figures are rightly considered notoriously inflated, especially in the case of France, and include Jews in neutral counties and the USSR.
I could not escape the impression that Irving was somewhat crippled as a defense witness as a result of being confronted with contrary views he had expressed on earlier occasions. He was expressing “Exterminationist” views as recently as 1977, long after serious questions had been raised about the orthodox portrayal of Second World War history.
In keeping with the purpose of the trial, much of the defense testimony and Crown cross-examination was taken up in examination of passages from the booklet, Did Six Million Really Die?, which was written by Englishman Richard Verrall under the pen name of Richard Harwood. There was general agreement among the defense witnesses that the Harwood booklet, which was first published in 1974, is a relatively early and somewhat deficient revisionist work. Irving and Weber testified that, in spite of some errors, mostly of a minor nature, the booklet's arguments are essentially sound.
Each of the six major defense witnesses (with the exception of Weber), have, like Zündel himself, been subjected to severe legal difficulties. Faurisson testified that he would continue his historical activities no matter what his fate might be, in spite of the previous legal harassment and brutal physical attacks against him. Of course, such measures against historians who question the Extermination Thesis are a striking demonstration of the panic amongst propagandists whose lies and distortions have been exposed by a small, poorly financed group of courageous historians motivated by an idealistic search for the truth.
At the conclusion of his testimony, Weber pointed out that he was appearing as a witness with no compensation other than personal satisfaction — quite in contrast to Browning, who was being paid $150 per hour by the Canadian government. Faurisson mentioned the case of Francois Duprat, a French teacher who was murdered in 1978 because he had been distributing Harwood's Did Six Million Really Die?.
Nearly all of the major witnesses, both for the prosecution and for Zündel, pointed out that many deaths of Jews resulted from actions by the Einsatzgruppen, German field security police units that were responsible for protecting German soldiers from the devastating actions of partisans, irregular Communist combat forces. Because Jews were disproportionately represented among the partisans, measures taken against them resulted in heavy Jewish losses.
Following the summaries of testimonies in the book is an epilogue with Judge Thomas's reasoning for sentencing Zündel to nine months in prison, a very valuable pictorial section that includes 230 slides presented by Felderer, a condensed version of the euchter Report (which Judge Thomas would not permit the jury to see), a facsimile reprint of the entire text of Harwood's Did Six Million Really Die?, and a helpful bibliography and comprehensive index. The two final pages reproduce Zündel's January 1993 appeal for compensation for wrongful prosecution in the wake of the history-making August 27, 1992, ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada invalidating the entire trial on constitutional grounds, thus acquitting Zündel.
This book is an absolute necessity for every library of universities and academic centers where modern history is taught, and indeed for any honest scholar of modern history who deals, even tangentially, with the “Holocaust” question. With all due respect for earlier works by revisionist historians on this issue, this book now assumes the position of the most important reference work on the “Holocaust” issue. Advocates of the Extermination Thesis ignore it at the risk of making fools of themselves.
Charles E. Weber received a doctorate in German literature from the University of Cincinnati in 1954, and has taught at the University of Cincinnati, the University of Missouri, Louisiana State University, and the University of Tulsa (Oklahoma). He has served as Head of the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Tulsa. Dr. Weber (no relation to this Journal's editor) publishes the Bulletin of the “Committee for the Reexamination of the History of the Second World War.” He is a member of this Journal's Editorial Advisory Committee.