- David Irving, the controversial British historian, was
arrested in Austria on November 11 for a 16-year-old violation of that
country's "Holocaust denial" statute. He has now been formally
charged, and if found guilty could face years in prison.
- His case is by no means unique. In Germany, France, Austria,
Belgium, Switzerland and several other European countries, as well as in
Israel, it is a crime publicly to dispute the official version of Holocaust
- The list of those who have been fined, imprisoned, or
forced into exile for "denying the Holocaust" includes Robert
Faurisson and Roger Garaudy in France, Siegfried Verbeke in Belgium, Juergen
Graf and Gaston-Armand Amaudruz in Switzerland, and Guenter Deckert, Hans
Schmidt and Fredrick Toben in Germany.
- On November 8, the trial in Germany of "Holocaust
denier" Ernst Zundel began with a dramatic clash between his attorneys
and the presiding judge. And a few days later Germar Rudolf, a German citizen,
was deported from Chicago to his homeland, where he likewise faces years
of imprisonment for "denying the Holocaust."
- Tony Blair's government considered introducing a "Holocaust
denial" statute in Britain, but eventually rejected the idea. Italy,
Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden are among the other European countries
that have declined to enact such laws.
- Some people may be offended by those who play down Jewish
death and suffering during World War II. But free and open societies protect
even offensive speech. That's why western countries defend the right of
their citizens, for example, to praise Communism or promote atheism.
- "Holocaust denial" laws violate ancient and
universal standards of justice. They criminalize even factual or truthful
statements that "play down" or "whitewash" the Holocaust.
They are selective and one-sided. In countries where they are on the books,
the Holocaust is the only chapter of history that cannot be freely discussed.
They inhibit historical inquiry and restrict free speech. They are a disgrace,
and should be repealed.
- Mark Weber is director of the Institute for Historical
Review. In March 1988 he testified for five days in Toronto District Court
as a recognized expert witness on Germany's wartime Jewish policy and the
- The Institute for Historical Review, founded in
1978, is dedicated to promoting greater public awareness of the past, and
especially socially-politically relevant aspects of contemporary history.
It is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational enterprise.
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- © 2005 Institute for Historical Review