The Holocaust Historiography Project

The Greatest Dirty Open Secret

Arthur R. Butz

In the trials and tribulations of Fredrick Töben one can observe in operation the greatest dirty open secret of our day. In explaining that remark here, I will do my best to be objective, despite the fact that because of the conditions I am to discuss several of my friends have been imprisoned or fined for doing the sorts of things I also do.

In October 1997 I received a request from Töben, director of the Adelaide Institute and a Holocaust revisionist, to be a defense witness for him in his hearings before the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC). The role would have involved writing a letter for him and perhaps testifying by telephone from my home near Chicago.

I resisted this request, pleading a shortage of time and the fact that he had told me, earlier that year in Chicago, that the Australian “Human Rights” legislation has no teeth and that he did not have to pay any attention to such proceedings against him. Both pleas were true but I had another strong reason for my reticence, which was too complicated to state in these rapid-fire e-mail messages, but which can be explained here in due course.

In any case I relented after a few passionate e-mails from Töben. I wrote a two page letter, intended to be submitted to the HREOC hearings. The letter, dated November 5, declared:

Alas I must say that you are arguably guilty of some of the charges. I looked over Jeremy Jones' stuff and I infer that the “Racial Discrimination Act” proscribes what might “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or group of people.” Well, revisionism certainly does the first three! It does not however “intimidate"; at least, I have never noticed such a case … Heated controversy is a price of open debate, the foundation of a rational society.

Jeremy Jones was the representative of the Jewish organization that had brought charges against Töben. I commented on Jones' letter by declaring Töben guilty. Some defense witness!

Far from acting betrayed by me, Töben submitted the letter to the HREOC. I believe that he was starting to see my real reason for reluctance to get involved as a defense witness. Such matters as I had expertise in were irrelevant to the proceedings, which related not to historical truth, but to offending, insulting, etc.. For the most part I could not understand the notion of culpability as used in the proceedings, but to the extent that I could understand, Töben was guilty. I am at least as guilty, as are many of my revisionist friends. The situation was structured such that nothing I could have said would have helped attain a favorable verdict, as became clear to Töben shortly later.

On December 7 Töben ended his participation in the hearings, complaining that he was unable to defend the position of the Adelaide Institute because the HREOC was not interested in historical truth. The breaking point seems to have come when the Commission rejected the witness statement of Dr. Robert Faurisson as “irrelevant."1 In a hearing conducted by telephone on November 27, the Commission had told Töben that for the most part the witness statements he had submitted had to be disqualified either because (1) they “make comments about the desirability, validity, constitutionality or sensibleness of this law” under which the hearings were being held or (2) they comment on “the substance” of the historical problem, that is, “the truth of the Holocaust, the extent of the Holocaust, its existence” which “is not of much significance” for the hearings.2

Of course these two questions are, to our common sense (or as Töben puts it our sense of “natural justice"), the only relevant questions. There is almost nothing left to be said if these two questions are excluded. I felt vindicated, because even the accused had decided to submit no defense. I could not be accused of failing him. Faurisson had written one of his usual masterfully incisive analyses of the historical problems, formulated for the layman, and his statement was rejected. The implicit effect of what I wrote was to question the law itself, but I declared Töben guilty so my statement was accepted. We may make the basic observation that it was impossible to determine what Töben was being charged with, apart from saying things that annoyed some people. The commission was not interested in the intentions behind Töben’s public declarations, or in their actual effect.

This observation raises the general question of the legal formulations under which Holocaust revisionists are persecuted in various countries. For purposes of such a discussion, we can take two: the “Human Rights Act” (such an Orwellian term!) in Canada and the 1990 Fabius-Gayssot law in France.

These two legislations do contrast sharply, but in practice they operate similarly, as I now explain.

In the Canadian case, the code excludes the relevance of three considerations:

  1. The truth of the offending statements.
  2. The intent behind the expression of the statements, for example, whether they were intended to cause people to hate Jews.
  3. The actual effect of the statements, for example, whether they caused people to hate Jews, whatever the intent of the author.

We simple minded people will scratch our heads and wonder what is left to try. It is this: whether the statements “exposed” somebody to hatred or contempt.

It is impossible for me to clarify that standard because, to the extent I understand it, reference is being made to a condition into which all of us are born. Somebody may start hating us, and often does. Holocaust revisionists are hated more than most, but exposure to hatred is basically part of the human condition. One can be argued to be innocent of such an offense only in that sense, that is, that the condition referred to is a condition we are all in, independently of what statements are made by anybody. If that plea is unacceptable, then of course we are all guilty. Anybody may be hated in the future for all sorts of reasons. Witness human history.

By contrast, the French Fabius-Gayssot law is very clear. It proscribes contesting the truth of any finding in the “Crimes Against Humanity” section of the 1946 judgment in the main Nuremberg trial. It candidly expresses, without any tergiversation, what all legal moves against revisionists are trying to do: freeze received history in the state of the end of war hysteria of 1945-1946. This sort of law contrasts with the typical “human rights” legislation, since here there is no doubt what offense an accused is being charged with.

The Australian statute resembles the Canadian, and the formulation of the French law is approximated in Germany, with its “denial of established fact” clause. These are two starkly contrasting formulations, and Töben may be unique in having been prosecuted under both, for as this book relates at length, in April 1999 he was jailed in Germany while traveling there.

That the two formulations have something important in common is suggested by what finally happened when Töben’s trial came up in Germany in November 1999. Again, he decided to remain silent and offer no defense, and his lawyer did likewise. I commented on my web site:3

If I must conjecture the specific grounds for Töben’s silence during the trial, I would guess that his protest is based on the impossibility of arguing the truth of any of the claims he has made, for which he is being prosecuted. I suppose in the court’s eyes there is a certain amount of logic in that situation which, as so often happens, makes legal sense but not common sense. If, for example, there were a law outlawing the denial that Germany is on the planet Mars, and if I deny that Germany is on the planet Mars and am prosecuted for the claim, then the question of whether Germany is on the planet Mars is irrelevant to the question of whether I broke the law. Truth is no defense. In those circumstances I would adopt the strategy Töben adopted, silence, which for me would make both legal sense and common sense.

Thus the two contrasting formulations confront the accused revisionist with the same practical situation: the impossibility of seeking to justify the offending statements in relation to the accusations. Before a “Human Rights” tribunal, a Holocaust revisionist confronts unintelligible accusations. Under the French or German laws, the Holocaust revisionist is accused of being a Holocaust revisionist. If I had been a defense witness for Töben in Germany, I could not have helped him and indeed he could not think of anything to help himself. There was nothing for him to say, and nothing a defense witness could have effectively said in his support. Such court victories as revisionist defendants have won have been based on legal and constitutional technicalities.

Since western society has, for many years, made freedom of expression one of its highest values, the reactions of the civil liberties groups to this offensive and scandalous situation are of great interest.

Their reactions are equally offensive and even more scandalous. The leading (in terms of general prestige) international civil rights group is Amnesty International, headquartered in London. Amnesty has a designation, “prisoner of conscience,” which it describes thus:4

“Prisoners of conscience” is the original term given by the founders of Amnesty International to people who are imprisoned, detained or otherwise physically restricted anywhere because of their beliefs, color, sex, ethnic origin, language or religion, provided they have not used or advocated violence.

The concept of a prisoner of conscience transcends class, creed, color or geography and reflects the basic principle on which Amnesty International was founded: that all people have the right to express their convictions and the obligation to extend that freedom to others. The imprisonment of individuals because of their beliefs or origins is a violation of fundamental human rights; rights which are not privileges “bestowed” on individuals by states and which, therefore, cannot be withdrawn for political convenience.

Amnesty International seeks the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience.

Early in Töben’s German incarceration John Bennett, the Melbourne civil liberties lawyer, wrote to Amnesty to request them to formally adopt Töben as a “prisoner of conscience” which, in ordinary meaning, is what he was. In a long letter Amnesty declined, declaring that

in 1995 the organization decided at a meeting of its International Council — the highest decision making body of Amnesty International — that it would exclude from prisoner of conscience status not only people who have used or advocated violence, but also people who are imprisoned “for having advocated national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” The decision codified Amnesty International’s intention to exclude from prisoner of conscience status those who advocate the denial of the Holocaust and it confirmed what had in fact had been the de facto interpretation of the prisoner of conscience definition contained in Article 1 of Amnesty International’s Statute.

That seems to say that “those who advocate the denial of the Holocaust” are viewed by Amnesty as thereby advocating “national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” That is rubbish, an obvious logical non sequitur, empirically contradicted by easy observation; I have never seen such advocacy in the Adelaide Institute newsletter. It is such obvious rubbish that it must be called a lie. Töben is not in the class of an Elie Wiesel, who has incited hatred of Germans, or of Zionists who have incited discrimination and violence against Arabs.

Amnesty has declined to support freedom of expression for Holocaust revisionists for political reasons. It is, therefore, not worthy of respect.

The organization’s hypocrisy is highlighted by the case of Nelson Mandela, who during his sabotage trial in South Africa in 1964, admitted that he believed in violence to achieve his political objectives and for that purpose had been a leader of a campaign of sabotage. Mandela was a hot subject of debate at Amnesty’s meeting in September 1964 because, while the overwhelming sentiment was to continue to support him, one of the rules pertaining to the prisoner of conscience category was that those who used or advocated violence were not eligible. Thus the meeting decided against adopting Mandela thus, but it also voted for supporting him anyway.5 A mere label was withheld, not the support. Töben needed the support more than the label.

Thus we see in the Töben case hypocrisy at high levels of contemporary public life, but I opened by promising “the greatest dirty open secret of our day,” and I have yet to explain.

Like the study of taboos, the study of hypocritical exceptions to agreed norms is highly instructive on the real, as opposed to declared, values of a society. That free expression of ideas must be a fundamental value of the sort of society we purport to be has virtual unanimous support, at least in the abstract. True, the ideal of free expression must be qualified in various ways, for example by national security laws and restrictions against distribution of pornography in some circumstances. However it is hard to make even a bad case for censorship of the history of the remote past unless that history impacts in some way on the present; in such event bad cases can be and are made.

The past and the present are linked, in the case of Holocaust revisionism, by Zionism. Many Israeli leaders agree that the Holocaust is “what this country’s all about."6 That statement is more true than the speaker intended, because apart from Zionism’s obvious contemporary exploitation of the Holocaust legend, there is the lesser known role that Zionism played in establishing, during the years 1942-1948, the legend that was to become its life blood, as I have discussed at length elsewhere. However even that is not the “greatest dirty open secret of our day.”

It is widely imagined that the various national-socialist movements that flourished in Europe more than 50 years ago are dead, but that is not true. Yes, gone are not only Hitler’s Nazis and Mussolini’s Fascists, but also the British Union of Fascists, the Croatian Ustashe, the Hungarian Arrow Cross, the Romanian Iron Guard, the Parti Populaire Français, and all such national-socialist movements except Zionism, a movement born and nurtured in Europe during the heyday of nationalism and socialism, and which is quite vigorous today. Its völkisch principle, that of the “chosen people,” is the oldest and best tested extant.

Despite occasional rhetoric by various governments and organizations like Amnesty International, for example against torture of prisoners, Israel and thus Zionism are essentially untouchable in international affairs. One cannot imagine, for example, Israel being treated harshly for defying UN resolutions, even with measures less severe than those used against Iraq during the past decade. Our institutions not only support Israel as a state, they also support Zionism in domestic policy by means tailored for each country. In Europe critical examination of Zionism’s sustaining legend is outlawed.

That is not the case in the USA, for constitutional reasons, but US institutions look kindly on this European repression nevertheless. There are occasional references in the US press to the European anti-revisionist laws, but I have never seen an editorial condemnation of them from these editors who so righteously scold China for its human rights violations. A frightening episode occurred in 1993 and 1994, when FBI Director Louis Freeh held talks with the German Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution), the euphemistically named agency that performs many of the functions once entrusted to the more honestly named Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo or Secret State Police). The talks sought to find ways the US could stop the flow, from the USA to Germany, of literature banned by German law but lawful in the USA.7 The talks seem to have come to nothing but the point was clearly made that the USA approves of such German repression of civil liberties. The role of the USA in supporting Israel diplomatically, financially and militarily is well known. The USA is also the mainstay of the operation of the related Holocaust restitution racket.

Thus the institutions of some major Western countries, flouting established legal and ethical norms, are as intellectually repressive as anybody’s Gestapo, in enforcing service to the only surviving European national-socialist movement, and the others are tacitly or even openly supportive of that repression. That is the greatest dirty open secret of our day.

-- September 2000


  1. Adelaide Institute newsletter, Jan. 1998, pp. 1, 8.
  2. Adelaide Institute newsletter, Feb. 1998, p. 10.
  4. Prisoners of Conscience (London: Amnesty International Publications, 1981), pp. 1-2.
  5. Egon Larsen, A Flame in Barbed Wire (London: Frederick Muller, 1978; New York: W.W. Norton: 1979).
  6. Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, quoted in the New York Times, Jan. 14, 1995, p. 6.
  7. Chicago Tribune, Dec. 15, 1993, sec. 1, pp. 1,16; Dec. 19, 1993, sec. 1, p. 4; June 27, 1994, sec. 1, p. 4. Publicly the talk was about stopping “neo-Nazi” propaganda, but that is a common camouflage or package term when Holocaust revisionism is a target that it would be inexpedient to identify.

About the author:

Arthur R. Butz was born and raised in New York City. In 1965 he received his doctorate in Control Sciences from the University of Minnesota. In 1966 he joined the faculty of Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois), where he is now Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. In addition to numerous technical papers, Dr. Butz is the author of The Hoax of the Twentieth Century.

Bibliographic information
Author: Arthur R. Butz
Title: The Greatest Dirty Open Secret
Source: The Journal for Historical Review
Date: September/October 2000
Issue: Volume 19 number 5
Location: page 18
ISSN: 0195-6752
Attribution: “Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, PO Box 2739, Newport Beach, CA 92659, USA.”
Please send a copy of all reprints to the Editor.