Institute for Historical Review

Institute for Historical Review

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The 'False News' Trial of Ernst Zündel -- 1988

Gary Botting

[Dr. Gary Botting was the thirteenth witness called by the defence. He testified on Wednesday, March 30 and April 5, 1988.]

Dr. Gary Botting was permitted to testify as an expert in text and literary criticism for the purposes of analysing and classifying the statements in Did Six Million Really Die? as either fact or opinion. (26-6961)

Botting's qualifications included a doctorate in English literature from the University of Alberta in 1975 and a Master of Fine Arts from the same university in 1982. (26-6947) He specialized in literary criticism, textual criticism, bibliography, and the nuances of polemic and rhetoric. (26-6958)

Botting testified that, as a whole, Did Six Million Really Die? was a polemical treatise which was very obviously an opinion. (26-7217, 7218) It did not purport to be an academic dissertation, but was rather a polemical essay which reviewed or analysed opinion on a particular subject. (26-6968) The essence of the booklet was opinion, heavily supported by fact. The statements of opinion constituted about one-third of the booklet; the statements of fact supporting the opinion constituted about two-thirds of the booklet. (27-7353, 7355)

This style of polemicism was a fairly common type of work; more common in the 19th century than the 20th century. Writers such as George Orwell had written in a very similar way. (26-7217) Before the electronic media were commonplace, people used to read much more, and there was a tendency to exchange tracts. Did Six Million Really Die? resembled the works of the great essayists of the 19th century, such as Bulwer-Lytton and Carlyle. (27-7331) It was typical of the kind of tracts contained in the George Orwell Collection of political and religious tracts in the Royal Museum in London. (27-7340) The 20th century equivalent of this kind of polemical writing would be a commentator on a television show, such as "The Journal" or the editorial page of a newspaper. It was an opinion piece which did not purport to be a factual statement of a journalistic nature. (27-7333)

The purpose of polemical works was to make a one-sided argument. "Polemic" was taken from the root word "pole," meaning poles of argument. It tied back to the Hegelian theory of having a thesis, antithesis and a resulting synthesis. The court system itself was based on this concept. A person heard one argument, then heard the other argument. The arguments might be stated in extemis, that is, in the extreme, and it was up to the person reading the polemic to make up his own mind. Polemical writings flew in the face of accepted views almost 100 percent of the time. If they didn't there would be no point in writing them; the genre would not exist. (27-7360, 7365)

In summary, the document as a whole was a statement of opinion. If one was to take out all the statements of facts, the statements of opinion could stand on their own. In contrast, the statements of fact segregated from the statements of opinion would not make sense. They would read like a dictionary of quotations. The essence of the document relied upon the opinions that the author expressed, while the facts were supportive of the opinion. (26-7218, 7219)

The booklet used common literary devices to develop its thesis. For example, many of the booklet's paragraphs began with a thesis statement and thereafter contained statements of fact supported or unsupported by references. A typical example was the third paragraph on page 5 of the booklet which began with the thesis statement of opinion:

The encouragement of Jewish emigration should not be confused with the purpose of concentration camps in pre-war Germany.

The remainder of the paragraph was made up of statements of fact supported by a reference to the book The SS: Alibi of a Nation. (26-6991, 6992)

Another literary device used extensively by Harwood was rhetoric. For example, the word "indisputable" was a rhetorical device very common in the English language, as in the sentence found on page 8 of the pamphlet:

Indisputable evidence is also provided by the post-war world Jewish population statistics.

The word "conclusively" was a rhetorical device, also found on page 8 of the pamphlet:

Later on, however, it will be demonstrated conclusively that the number was actually far less...

The word "proof" was a rhetorical device. Lawyers, while summing up their cases, might say: 'it will be proved later.' The lawyer might well not have proved anything, but it would be his opinion that he had. (27-7269)

Rhetorical devices used by Harwood included the reduction of an argument to an absurdity, reductio ad absurdum. An example was the sentence at page 9:

At such a rate, the entire world Jewish population would have been exterminated by 1945.

Harwood also used the rhetorical question; for example, on pages 9 and 30:

Could it be that some or all of these people whose names are "deceased" were included in the missing six million of Europe?... (p. 9)...Surely this is enough grief for the Jewish people? (p.30)

A rhetorical question was one for which the author did not require or anticipate an answer. It was used for the purposes of argument. (26-6964)

The headings within the body of the essay were also rhetorical devices used to separate thematically related sections and to order the essay both thematically and visually. The headings were reflective of the opinion that the author want to reflect rather than necessarily factual elements. (26-7220)

Botting reviewed the various editions of Did Six Million Really Die? for the purpose of establishing the origin of the text. (27-7233) Botting identified an English edition of the booklet (entered as Exhibit 103 at 27-7239) and an American edition (entered as Exhibit 104 at 27-7240). He testified that the text in each edition was identical to that published by Zündel, except for the pagination. (27-7241)

In Botting's opinion, it was clear that the English edition had come first in sequence and was the original upon which the other editions, both Canadian and American, were based. The quality and resolution of the latter editions were much reduced, but had retained the original blemishes which appeared on the English edition. (27 7242, 7243) A close examination of the front cover of the edition published by Zündel indicated that the words Truth at Last Exposed: had been superimposed over the original English subtitle of The Truth at Last. It was clear that a photograph had been made of the original front page of the English edition and a new title printed over it. (27-7244, 7245) A search of the Library of Congress catalogue had shown that a book entitled Did Six Million Really Die? was published in 1974, with the same English address as that printed on Exhibit 103. (27-7358)

Botting testified that he had classified the text of Did Six Million Really Die? according to five basic classifications: (1) authorial or editorial qualifications; (2) common knowledge or facts supported by secondary sources; (3) unsupported facts; (4) authorial opinions; (5) rhetorical devices. He was later directed by Judge Thomas, however, to confine the categories to two classifications: assertions of fact by the author and assertions of opinion. (26-6962 to 6964, 6997)

Botting defined a statement of fact as a fact that had objective reality in the world outside the publication. Statements were statements of opinion if they contained a subjective analysis or value judgment, were speculative, or were generalizations or conclusions drawn from earlier premises. (26-7273, 27-7253) He emphasized that conclusions were always statements of opinion deriving from facts or from other opinions. A statement of thesis was always a statement of opinion. (27-7252, 7253)

Quotations from other people or texts were facts to the extent that the source actually existed. The quotation itself, however, could constitute either an opinion or another statement of fact. A statement of fact made by Harwood only became supported by the quotation if the latter existed and was accurate. (26-6974, 6975, 6979, 6981, 6982) It was commonplace in non-fiction not to give the total bibliographical source, whereas in an academic essay specific references would be required for every quoted source. (26-6975, 6976)

Opinions were subjective things, originating in the author's mind. Factual elements were invariably objective. In other words, the author had obtained input from an actual source outside of his own mind and imagination. The meaning of facts, however, derived from within the mind or imagination of the author and therefore constituted opinion. (26-7117, 7127)

Use of the words "in fact" did not made a sentence into a statement of fact. These words were a rhetorical catch-phrase very common in ordinary speech. The purpose was to catch the reader's attention, to make the reader think along a specific path. (26-6970)

The use of irony or ridicule in relation to a quotation indicated an opinion. (26-7127) The use of quotation marks around words in certain contexts also indicated opinion; for example, the quotes around the word "found" in the following sentence on page 21:

When Otto Frank was liberated from the camp at the end of the war, he returned to the Amsterdam house and "found" his daughter's diary concealed in the rafters.

By using quotation marks, Harwood was indicating in a sarcastic manner that he did not agree the diaries could have been found. This was a subjective evaluation and therefore an opinion. (26- 7132, 7133)

The persuasive effect of the booklet was a mix of three different elements: the accuracy of the facts, the rhetorical devices used by the author and the statements of opinion. The most persuasive of these was opinion, based on fact. (27-7355, 7356)

Botting emphasized the importance of not taking words or sentences out of context. In determining whether a statement was one of opinion or fact, the statement had to be taken as a whole. Individual elements of the statement could not be taken out of context, nor could the statement be taken out of the context of its placement within the text. (27-7250, 7296, 7302, 7303, 7345)

Botting testified that the title Did Six Million Really Die?: Truth at Last Exposed was designed to be thought-provoking and constituted an opinion. The words "truth at last exposed" were a rhetorical device comparable to an advertisement claiming that the advertiser's product was better than other products. The words "Historical Fact No. 1" on the title page were also opinion. They really had no meaning except to indicate that the author was serious. (26-7211, 7212)

The foreword to the pamphlet, written by Zündel, consisted entirely of opinion, with two exceptions: the references to laws against incitement to riot, murder, etc., and the statement that only a few clear-sighted and courageous individuals protested the enactment of the hate law. Both of these references, however, could also be taken to be opinion. Botting indicated that it was very unusual for a publisher to sign his publications as Zündel had on these pages. (26-7214, 7215)

In the afterword on pages 31 and 32, also written by Zündel, the assertions of fact included the article from the Toronto Sun; the statement that the only material Mr. Gardom could have received from Samisdat was sent to all Attorneys General, members of Parliament, etc.; Zündel's statements about himself; and the information given about various historians and researchers. The rest of page 31 was opinion. On page 32, the information about historians and researchers constituted assertions of fact, but the rest of the page was opinion. (26-7215 to 7217)

Botting classified the first paragraph of Did Six Million Really Die? as a combination of both author opinion and authorial qualification of that opinion. Before embarking on the rest of his thesis, Harwood qualified it by stating that his opinion was based on his belief. The words "this conclusion, admittedly an unpopular one" anticipated criticism. Botting could find no statements of fact in the first paragraph. (26-6965, 6966) Harwood was saying that he believed he had brought together irrefutable evidence. He made it very clear that what was being presented was his opinion: 'I'm convinced. This is my opinion. I am willing to share it with you, and I will share it with you in the pages that follow.' The booklet met the criterion for polemic essay writing, that: 'Okay, it has convinced me. Now I'm about to convince you. You don't have to listen; you don't have to accept my evidence, but please hear me out.' It was just like an argument in court. The argument from the Crown and the argument from the defence were each polemic arguments. The author was convinced. The real question was: could he convince his readers? (27- 7343 to 7348)

Asked if the words "a great deal of careful research into this question has convinced me," contained in the first paragraph of the Introduction, were not extremely misleading and false, Botting stated that it was fairly obvious that Harwood had done a certain amount of research, and he might subjectively believe, as his opinion, that he had done enough. He had certainly done more than the average person that was earmarked as a reader for this type of book. It was very important to take the limitations of an author's medium into consideration in determining what "careful research" was. Such limitations included the format and the length of a particular essay, and the author's time and background. For example, an undergraduate essay on a particular subject might look at twenty different sources, and the author could say, 'Yes, I've really done my homework.' But a professional historian of great renown might conceivably have read one hundred different sources. (27-7347, 7372)

Botting testified that the first page of Did Six Million Really Die? was little else than introductory material that was designed to introduce the reader to his thesis and to cause him to read on. It constituted mainly authorial opinion and rhetoric with some statements of common knowledge and statements of fact. The statement "atrocity propaganda is nothing new," for example, was a matter of common knowledge. (26-6966 to 6969)

Botting testified that the three paragraphs under the heading "The Race Problem Suppressed" were the conclusion of the Introduction and constituted a protracted thesis statement. It was a combination almost entirely of Harwood's opinion and rhetoric. Two supportive facts were included, the references to Harry Elmer Barnes and Enoch Powell. The use of the capitalized word "Truth" in the sentence: "The aim in the following pages is quite simply to tell the Truth": implied or inferred subjective truth held by an individual. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses referred to their entire body of doctrine as being "the Truth." One was either in "the Truth" or out of "the Truth." There was no in-between. The Watch Tower magazine was a very good example of polemical literature. (27-6983, 7368)

Botting testified that where Harwood performed arithmetic functions on the facts he had already presented regarding Jewish population, emigration and deaths, the resulting statement was an opinion. (26-7024, 7039) An example was the sentence at page 8:

From Poland, an estimated 500,000 had emigrated prior to the outbreak of war. These figures mean that the number of Jewish emigrants from other European countries (France, the Netherlands, Italy, the countries of eastern Europe etc.) was approximately 120,000.

Botting identified the first sentence as a statement of fact and the second statement as a statement of opinion in which the author was doing an analysis of the figures. Whenever the author's subjective intelligence kicked in to analyse the facts, and he drew a conclusion, that conclusion was an opinion. It could be that he had missed out a figure, or added a figure that didn't necessarily belong there. These were matters which somebody might quarrel with. (27- 7257, 7258)

Botting gave a further example: if, for accounting purposes, a person was adding up a column of figures and the calculation was done correctly, the total of the figures would be a "fact." But if there was one indeterminate amount then the total could only be an opinion. More simply, if there were 1,500 different numbers, but one of them was an inconclusive number, then the total could only constitute an approximation. It was therefore an opinion. (27-7263, 7263)

Botting pointed out that Harwood made statements of fact regarding the number of Jewish emigrants from other European countries. But the conclusion he drew from those figures was an opinion. It was an unwritten premise of the argument that in Harwood's opinion this was a complete list of all the relevant figures. But because we didn't know whether it was a complete list, we could only assume that what Harwood had concluded by a subjective analysis of the evidence was an opinion. (27-7261)

At page 30 of the pamphlet was a biographical sketch of Harwood:

RICHARD HARWOOD is a writer and specialist in political and diplomatic aspects of the Second World War. At present he is with the University of London. Mr. Harwood turned to the vexed subject of war crimes under the influence of Professor Paul Rassinier, to whose monumental work this little volume is greatly indebted.

Botting testified that these words were consistent with Harwood being a student at the University of London rather than a professor. He was saying he was "with the" University of London. (27- 7266, 7267) Harwood was "riding on the coattails" of the University of London. The term "specialist" was a subjective value judgment. The author regarded himself as a specialist. (27- 7336) The more interesting thing that Botting found in the little biography was the reliance on the work of Paul Rassinier. From examining the content of Did Six Million Really Die?, it could be seen that the booklet, especially the last part, was basically a review of Rassinier's work. On page 28 the review of Rassinier's work began with the heading "The Truth at Last: The Work of Paul Rassinier." This corresponded with its original title. The entire booklet up to this page was introductory to this final statement of position. (27-7336)

Botting agreed that the identity of the author made a difference with respect to credibility. If readers thought Richard Harwood was a leading member of the National Front, rather than a specialist with the University of London, they would probably be more inclined not to read the booklet, to dismiss it. But this did not change the polemical nature of the tract itself. (27-7337, 7338, 7339) The claim of expertise had no relevance to whether the booklet was a statement of fact or opinion. (27-7366, 7367)

Botting analysed specific sentences of the pamphlet as to whether they constituted statements of fact or opinion:

By 1939, the great majority of German Jews had emigrated, all of them with a sizeable proportion of their assets. (p. 5)

Botting testified that the sentence was a statement of fact; he later stated, however, that he believed he was mistaken; he might have identified it as a statement of fact because it was a generalization. Generalizations were drawn from particulars that usually preceded it and were therefore conclusions. A conclusion was a statement of opinion. (27-7255)

Had Hitler cherished any intention of exterminating the Jews, it is inconceivable that he would have allowed more than 800,000 to leave Reich territory with the bulk of their wealth, much less considered plans for their mass emigration to Palestine or Madagascar. (p. 6)

After examining all the elements of the sentence, Botting concluded that this was a statement of opinion that either summed up the material before it or anticipated the material after it. In that sense, it was a conclusion and a statement of thesis. A statement of thesis was always a statement of opinion. Was it "inconceivable" that Hitler would have done what was alleged? How did one person know what another person would have done? It involved speculation and was therefore opinion. (27 7249 to 7254)

In respect of these Soviet Jews remaining in German territory, it will be proved later that in the war in Russia no more than one hundred thousand persons were killed by the German Action Groups as partisans and Bolshevik commissars, not all of whom were Jews. (p. 8)

Asked if the part of the sentence regarding 100,000 persons being killed by the Germans was not a statement of fact, Botting stated that Harwood had clearly said: "it will be proved later." It was an introductory element which indicated that he was going to attempt to prove, and in his opinion would prove, that this conclusion would be reached. Whether something had been "proved" was always a subjective thing. The use of the word "proved" was a rhetorical device used to reinforce the subjective conclusion of the author. Readers would be drawn into the text to read on to see how he demonstrated what he purported to demonstrate and to find out whether he had proved it or not. (27-7267, 7268, 7269)

So far as is known, the first accusation against the Germans of the mass murder of Jews in war- time Europe was made by the Polish Jew Rafael Lemkin in his book Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, published in New York in 1943. (p. 9)

Botting testified that while this statement appeared on the surface to be fact, it was qualified by the words "so far as is known" and was therefore an opinion. (26-7040, 7041) The author was limited by his own knowledge and therefore it was an opinion. Harwood may have overlooked references to earlier accusations in Lemkin's book, which was a very common occurrence in scholarly research. (27 7270, 7271, 7272)

Gerstein's sister was congenitally insane and died by euthanasia, which may well suggest a streak of mental instability in Gerstein himself. (p. 9)

Botting testified that this statement constituted speculative opinion. (26-7043) Whether a person was or was not insane was a judgmental matter and therefore a statement of opinion. (27- 7272)

It is remarkable that the testimony of this highly dubious person Hoettl is said to constitute the only "proof" regarding the murder of six million Jews. (p. 10)

Botting testified that this sentence constituted an opinion. The words "it is remarkable" told the reader to take note and were an introductory rhetorical device; the words "highly dubious person" were a value judgment; the words "is said to" indicated hearsay evidence; the word "proof" was a subjective word which the author had used ironically, indicating that he certainly didn't accept the "proof." On all counts the statement was an opinion. (27-7274, 7275)

It should be emphasised straight away that there is not a single document in existence which proves that the Germans intended to, or carried out, the deliberate murder of Jews. (p. 10)

Botting classified this statement as opinion with some factual elements in it. The key word was "proves" which was definitely opinion. "Not a single document" was ambiguous and the words "intended to" described something which, even in a legal context, was very difficult to demonstrate or understand. (26-7047, 7048)

The truth about Auschwitz is that it was the largest and most important industrial concentration camp, producing all kinds of material for the war industry. (p. 16)

Botting testified that this was very clearly a statement of opinion. Whether Auschwitz was the "largest" concentration camp was perhaps something that could be measured, but whether it was the "most important" could not. Whether something was more important than something else was a subjective value judgment. In what way was it more important? Was it important in terms of population, in terms of size, in terms of productivity? (27-7294, 7295)

However, no living, authentic eye-witness of these "gassings" has ever been produced and validated. (p. 16)

Botting classified this statement as one of opinion. The words "authentic" and "validated" both implied a value judgment or assessment. (27-7295, 7296)

Moreover, large numbers of the camp population were released or transported elsewhere during the war, and at the end 80,000 were evacuated westward in January 1945 before the Russian advance. (p. 17)

Botting testified that the second half of the statement was definitely a statement of fact. The first half, however, was a statement of opinion in that it was a vague generalization. What were "large numbers"? Less than a thousand? More than a thousand? (27-7297)

In terms of numbers, Polish Jewry is supposed to have suffered most of all from extermination, not only at Auschwitz, but at an endless list of newly-discovered "death camps" such as Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, Majdanek, Chelmno and at many more obscure places which seem suddenly to have gained prominence. (p. 18)

Botting testified that this sentence was opinion with rhetorical elements such as the words: "is supposed to have"; "endless list"; "seem suddenly." (26-7112)

It is worth repeating that no living, authentic eye-witness of these events has ever been produced. (p. 20)

Botting stated that what is "authentic" is a subjective evaluation. Did it mean recognized by the Nuremberg Tribunal, or by this court, or by the author in some subjective way? It was therefore a statement of opinion since subjective criterion would be used to determine authenticity. The Crown challenged Botting, suggesting that if he told Botting he had an authentic 1955 Ford Thunderbird for sale, then Botting would be entitled to treat this as a statement of fact. Botting replied that in such a case, the Ford Thunderbird would be available for examination. The actual objective reality of the car could be examined to determine whether in fact it was a 1955 Thunderbird. In the case of an "authentic eyewitness" to the gassings, however, the person may or may not have seen or may or may not have heard or experienced the alleged events. It was too nebulous to be categorizable. There was a vast difference between a car and an eyewitness. A person who claimed to be an eyewitness might not be telling the truth. How would you know that? How did you know that an eyewitness was authentic? How did you know that an eyewitness wasn't telling a story, that he didn't have some possible ulterior motive, possibly trying to reinforce what they already assumed to be the truth? (27-7309, 7310)

The truth about the Anne Frank Diary was first revealed in 1959 by the Swedish journal Fria Ord. (p. 21)

Botting classified this statement as one of opinion. There was a major difference between the process of searching for the truth, and Harwood's assertion about the truth of Anne Frank's diary in the statement. It was Harwood's opinion that what the Swedish journal said about the Anne Frank diary was the truth. (26-7133 to 7137) When the booklet said "this is the truth," it indicated the author's overall view of the world. (26-7212)

In a discussion regarding the objectivity and subjectivity of "truth," Botting testified that "truth" had to be a subjective matter. Judge Thomas asked: "Well, supposing I'm looking at that wall over there and I say the truth about that wall is it's black." Botting replied, "Then we get into a question of epistemology and basic philosophy. When you come down to it, there is no such thing as fact. It's all opinion, because we get into Cartesian analysis and a whole range of things which obviously is impractical for a court to consider." (26-7134) Botting defined epistemology as the theory of knowledge. (26-7136)

This is a frequent ploy because no such thing as a gas chamber has ever been shown to exist in these camps, hence the deliberately misleading term a "gas oven", aimed at confusing a gas chamber with a crematorium. (p. 24)

Botting testified that the sentence was a statement of fact except for the phrase "this is a frequent ploy" which was a rhetorical device. The Crown saw no distinction between this sentence and the sentence involving "authentic eyewitnesses." Botting stated that the gas chamber was like the Ford Thunderbird, and that a distinction must be made between physical things and more cerebral things like witnesses. (27 7316, 7147)

Most of these claimants are Jews, so there can be no doubt that the majority of the 3 million Jews who experienced the Nazi occupation of Europe are, in fact, very much alive. (p. 30)

This sentence was the essence of the opinion which the author obviously held, said Botting. It was a summing up of his conclusions and constituted opinion. The thesis of an essay was always opinion. The last page of the booklet was almost all opinion. (27-7319, 7320, 7356)

Botting believed that the type of person who would sit down and read a polemical essay such as Did Six Million Really Die?, a protracted opinion of this kind, would understand it to be opinion. He testified, however, that the average reader in Canada would not read a polemical document such as Did Six Million Really Die?. The average Canadian was the type that didn't read beyond a newspaper and did not analyse whether something was an opinion or not. The average Canadian also tended to accept anything in print very uncritically. (27-7248, 7304, 7306) Whether a reader concluded that parts of Did Six Million Really Die? were "facts" would be a matter of the reader's own opinion. Botting stated: "We go in circles here, because basically what the author has stated here is an opinion. If somebody comes along and says that's not opinion and ... reads it as fact, then ... it's the reader's fault, not the author's." (27-7317)

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