The Holocaust Historiography Project

Italian Scholars Defend Free Speech of 'Holocaust Deniers'

Twenty-one Italian scholars and historians have issued a public statement defending freedom of speech and of historical research on the Holocaust issue, and criticizing the laws in France and Germany that restrict these rights for revisionist scholars who question the orthodox Holocaust extermination story. It specifically cites a French government order banning distribution in France of a book by Swiss revisionist scholar Jürgen Graf on the grounds that it “denies the Holocaust.”

Most of the scholars who signed the statement — which was published March 1, 1996, in the Turin daily newspaper La Stampa — are professors at various Italian universities. Interestingly, they represent leftist, rightist and centrist political views.

The scholars conclude their appeal with the words: “We are appealing, therefore, to the scholarly community to which we belong, but also to the political world and to the press, so that they react to this state of affairs, and put an end to a tendency that wherever it develops may put the freedom of speech, press and culture in European countries at risk.”

In an editorial that called the statement a “provocative protest,” La Stampa commented: “The historians who signed the letter are challenging a taboo … Until now, no one in the scientific or academic world, and outside the extreme right, has objected to the banning of denial texts, a ban codified in Germany and France by regulations that consider denial of the Holocaust a crime.”