The Holocaust Historiography Project

Revisionist Master’s Thesis Under Fire

New Zealand University Resists Jewish Demands

A New Zealand university is rejecting demands by Jewish groups to revoke a master’s degree it awarded six years ago for a thesis that disputes Holocaust extermination claims. Citing academic traditions of open scholarship, the University of Canterbury (in Christchurch) has told Jewish community leaders that it will not rescind the degree earned by Joel Stuart Hayward, who endorsed revisionist arguments about Germany’s wartime policy toward Europe’s Jews in his master’s thesis.

Hayward, who now teaches at Massey University in northern New Zealand, recently expressed regret over the thesis.

At the center of the dispute is Hayward’s carefully researched 360-page overview of the development and impact of Holocaust revisionism from 1948 to 1993. Written in 1991 and 1992, The Fate of the Jews in German Hands: An Historical Enquiry Into the Development and Significance of Holocaust Revisionism, was approved in 1993 with first class honors by the University of Canterbury.

In it Hayward presents evidence to show that there was no German policy to exterminate Europe’s Jews, that fewer than six million European Jews died during the Second World War, and that numerous claims of killings in gas chambers are untrue. He points out the unreliability of “eyewitness” evidence of “Holocaust survivors,” and notes that numerous Holocaust claims “have been quietly dropped by historians over the years, although few non-specialists have been informed of this and, consequently, the claims are continually repeated.”

On the emotion-laden question of wartime killings of Jews in gas chambers, Hayward wrote: “A careful and impartial investigation of the available evidence pertaining to Nazi gas chambers reveals that even these apparently fall into the category of atrocity propaganda.” Among the evidence he marshals in support of this view, Hayward cites the 1988 forensic examination by American gas chamber expert Fred Leuchter of the alleged “gas chambers” at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek ("The Leuchter Report"). “Leuchter’s unorthodox conclusions, which at first seem incredible, do appear to be supported by ample evidence,” wrote Hayward.

In summing up “the revisionists,” Hayward writes: “It is worth repeating one point made above: some revisionist books and articles (such as those by Weber, Irving and Faurisson) are balanced and authoritative, containing both solid research and highly-developed analysis. They contribute substantially to the accumulated body of knowledge about the Holocaust, and should not be ignored or discounted out-of-hand by historians upholding received opinion. The truth-seeking historian has nothing to fear from these scholars.” In a 60-page chapter on the Institute for Historical Review, Hayward praises Mark Weber (now IHR Director) as a “thoughtful and serious historian” who has produced “consistently well-researched and cogently-argued writings on the Holocaust and other historical topics.”

In his thesis' conclusion, Hayward sums up:

… The gassing claim is irreconcilable with the overwhelming weight of evidence on the nature of official Nazi policy on the Jewish question. That policy, our careful and unbiased reading of the evidence suggested, was not one of total extermination, but was a brutal policy of deportation and forced labor.

… The weight of evidence supports the view that the Nazis did not systematically exterminate Jews in gas chambers or have an extermination policy as such, [even though] it cannot be denied that Jews in German hands suffered terribly during the Second World War … The total would undoubtedly be more than one million and far less than the symbolic figure of six million.

In an analysis of the thesis published in the New Zealand Jewish Chronicle (April 2000), a Jewish academic, Prof. Dov Bing, speculated that “in 1991 it seems that Joel Hayward had been caught in the web of Holocaust deniers. Although he set out to critically analyze their views in an objective academic manner, he ended up supporting them. He came to admire people like Irving, Faurisson and Weber.”

Jewish groups are understandably upset with Hayward’s thesis, especially because it was approved — after seemingly careful supervision and review — with first class honors, and then remained unchallenged for five years. The New Zealand Jewish Council, the main body representing organized Jewry in that country, has asked Canterbury University to revoke Hayward’s master’s degree.

As soon as the thesis was accepted, Hayward imposed an embargo on it, allowing only those with his permission to see it. Until last year is contents remained unknown, except to a small number of revisionist scholars around the world. Then it was posted, without his authorization, on the Internet, and Fredrick Töben, director of the revisionist Adelaide Institute, sought to use it (also without Hayward’s authorization) in a legal dispute in Australia.

At this point, Hayward issued an addendum to his now-public thesis, repudiating its main conclusions. In his “recantation” he wrote:

My thesis represents an honest attempt on my part to make sense of events I wanted to understand better. Yet I now regret working on such a complex topic without sufficient knowledge and preparation, and I hope this brief addendum will prevent my work causing distress to the Jewish community here in New Zealand and elsewhere, or being misused by individuals or groups with malevolent motives … With the benefit of hindsight and eight years of subsequent research, I can now see that it [the thesis] contains several errors of fact and interpretation …

In a recent letter to the New Zealand Jewish Chronicle, Hayward wrote: “I believe that, without doubt, around six million Jews perished during World War II. They were murdered by Nazis and their allies. The perpetrators used a range of methods, including gas chambers, shooting, physical exhaustion and starvation, to carry out this monstrous crime.”

How sincere is Hayward’s “recantation"? One indication that his most recently expressed views on the Holocaust may be less than entirely sincere is that they were issued only after his thesis had (without his authorization) been made public, and was beginning to come under attack. As recently as November 1998, Hayward was sharply critical of anti-revisionists. For example, he called Deborah Lipstadt’s book, Denying the Holocaust, “hopeless. Very poor indeed.”

Hayward was born in 1964 in Christchurch, New Zealand. While in his twenties, he adopted Joel as his first name to affirm his partial Jewish ancestry. Today he is a well regarded member of the academic faculty at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand, where he is “senior lecturer” and program coordinator of defense and strategic studies in the university’s School of History, Philosophy and Politics.

Hayward writes and teaches on military history, strategy and operational art. In addition to numerous articles published in scholarly journals, he is the author of a critically well-received 395-page historical study, Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler’s Defeat in the East, 1943-1943, which was published in 1998 by the University of Kansas Press.

The Kupka Affair

In a related affair in New Zealand, Jewish groups recently demanded that Waikato University expel from its doctoral study program a German student who, they charge, is an anti-Jewish “Holocaust denier.” Hans-Joachim Kupka, 55 years old, had been working on a Ph.D. dissertation that would analyze the contribution to New Zealand society of immigrants from Germany and Austria.

Jewish groups expressed alarm that before moving to New Zealand in 1992 Kupka had been active in Germany in the allegedly “neo-Nazi” Republikaner party. During the 1980s he was the party’s regional chairman in lower Bavaria, and in 1987 became deputy chairman of the party’s Bavarian section. Jewish academics also cited writings by Kupka in recent years that he had posted on the Internet, calling them “anti-Semitic Holocaust denial.” Jewish students organized protest marches at the University demanding his expulsion.

On the other hand, three Waikato University professors who evaluated Kupka’s writings concluded that they “could in no way be interpreted as being remotely right-wing.” Similarly, the university’s vice chancellor found that the writings did not constitute “Holocaust denial.”

With Jewish pressure mounting, Kupka suddenly withdrew from his doctoral study program. In spite of this, the local Waikato Times reported (July 6, 2000), “the Jewish community will not let the matter rest,” and demanded a critical review of the university’s handling of the matter.

The Roques Affair

The Hayward and Kupka affairs recall the 1986 case of Henri Roques, a French scholar whose doctoral degree was revoked by government order — for the first time in the nearly eight centuries of French university life — because the revisionist conclusion of his doctoral dissertation enraged Jewish groups. In his dissertation, Roques closely examined the “confessions” of SS officer Kurt Gerstein, which for decades have been a main piece of evidence for gas chamber killings. Roques concluded that Gerstein’s postwar testimony is “extravagant and crammed with improbabilities,” lacks the evidentiary value one should require of a historical document, and cannot be accepted as a proof for the existence of wartime homicidal gas chambers.

Roques doctorate was revoked even though his dissertation had been accepted by a panel of three professors at the University of Nantes. And even after the “Roques scandal” became public, the prominent British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper (Lord Dacre) praised Roques' dissertation (in a 1990 letter) as “an entirely legitimate, scholarly and responsible work of Quellenkritik [source critique] on a limited but important subject.” (See the Sept.-Oct. 1993 Journal, pp. 40-41.)

Roques, a member of this Journal’s Editorial Advisory Committee, addressed the Eighth (1987) IHR Conference. (See H. Roques, “From the Gerstein Affair to the Roques Affair,” in the Spring 1988 Journal, pp. 5-23.) His dissertation was published in English by the IHR under the title The 'Confessions' of Kurt Gerstein, and is still available for sale from the IHR.