German Authorities 'Index' Two IHR Leaflets

A German government censorship agency has "indexed" as "dangerous to youth" translations of two leaflets published by the Institute for Historical Review. At the request of Germany's Interior Ministry, the "Federal Review Agency for Literature Dangerous to Youth" (Bundes prüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Schriften) on October 17 and 18, 1996, "indexed" unauthorized Internet translations of two IHR leaflets: "The Holocaust: Let's Hear Both Sides," by Mark Weber, and "The Liberation of the Camps: Facts versus Lies," by Theodore O'Keefe.

The Bonn agency generally uses its "indexing" authority to sharply restrict sales and advertising of pornography. In the case of these IHR leaflets, "indexing" may have only symbolic impact, because these two flawed German translation texts exist only on the "Zündelsite," the US-based Internet Web page offering writings of German-Canadian publicist Ernst Zündel and other material.

Justifications

In detailed statements justifying its decision, the Bonn agency declares that the contents of the two leaflets are "obviously suited to socially-ethically disorient children and youth." Refering to Section 130 of the German Criminal Code ("popular incitement"), the agency notes that it is "a punishable crime to deny the countless murders of inmates in Third Reich concentration and extermination camps."

This restriction on free speech does not involve a politically motivated suppression of legitimate opinion, the agency statement contends, but rather "strives to protect the honor of the victims of National Socialism as well as their descendents [Nachfahren]." In spite of a guaranteed basic right to express "the assertion that there were no Third Reich gassings of Jews," the Bonn agency's justification continued, the "gravity of the act of Holocaust denial...makes it necessary to give priority to protecting youth" by suppressing these leaflets.

Misrepresentations

However, and as any careful reader of the text in question can easily determine for himself, the key justifications given by the agency for this particular "indexing" decision are simply not true.

With regard to Weber's leaflet, the censorship agency declares:

On seven pages the author explains his thesis that, contrary to all previously accepted historiographic findings, there were no gassings of Jews or other persecuted minorities during the Third Reich. In this context the author mixes some undisputed details of historical research with simple assertions contrary to historical findings -- for example, the fact that with regard to the Final Solution no written Führer order has been found, and that all the inmates of Auschwitz other extermination camps in the east perished entirely of diseases and malnutrition.

This mixture of accurate facts and freely invented particulars culminates with the conclusion that the Holocaust is an invention of world Jewry to morally and financially blackmail the Germans according to the motto "There is no business like Shoah business." This keeps the entire truth from coming to light, so that all that the public learns is the "conventional extermination history."

In fact, Weber simply does not make the statements attributed to him here. No where does he claim or suggest that "all the inmates of Auschwitz other extermination camps in the east perished entirely of diseases and malnutrition." Weber does not claim or assert that "the Holocaust is an invention of world Jewry to morally and financially blackmail the Germans," nor does he even contend that "there were no gassings of Jews or other persecuted minorities during the Third Reich."

With regard to the "Shoah business" slogan, what Weber actually wrote is this:

For many Jews, the Holocaust has become both a flourishing business and a kind of new religion, as noted Jewish author and newspaper publisher Jacobo Timerman points out in his book, The Longest War. He reports that many Israelis, using the word Shoah, which is Hebrew for Holocaust, joke that "There's no business like Shoah business."

The Bonn agency similarly misrepresents the content of O'Keefe's leaflet, which it finds "could promote a mistaken orientation among young readers." Specifically, the agency declares:

On eight pages the author explains his thesis that during the Third Reich the gassing of Jews and other persecuted minorities could not have taken place, and comes to the conclusion that the deaths in Auschwitz and other concentration camps were the result of typhus epidemics and other diseases, which in turn were primarily the result of Allied air attacks; that the brutal attacks in the camps were in reality the work of fellow inmates, and that the supposed gas chambers were used either to bath the inmates or for delousing clothing.

In fact, O'Keefe simply does not make the sweeping statements attributed to him here. He makes no mention whatsoever of conditions in Auschwitz, but instead confines himself to conditions in such western camps as Dachau and Buchenwald, which were liberated by American and British troops. O'Keefe does not contend or argue that "gassing of Jews and other persecuted minorities could not have taken place."

With regard to mistreatment of camp inmates, what O'Keefe actually wrote is this: "US Army investigators, working at Buchenwald and other camps, quickly ascertained what was common knowledge among veteran inmates: that the worst offenders, the cruelest denizens of the camps, were not the guards but the prisoners themselves." To substantiate this (accurate) statement, O'Keefe went on quote from an official US Army report, and to cite a postwar statement by a former high-ranking US Army officer.

Official Disapproval

The Institute for Historical Review and its Journal of Historical Review have a peculiar status in Germany. On the one hand, the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, a leading German academic research center, as well as the Bavarian State Library, have been faithful (and paying) subscribers for years.

On the other hand, some German authorities view the IHR with suspicion, if not disapproval. In April 1995, Germany's Interior Ministry issued a critical but ambiguously worded official statement on the Institute and its work. (The complete text, with commentary, is given in the Nov.-Dec. 1995 Journal, pp. 34-35.) That same year, the Bavarian State Interior Ministry's "constitutional protection" office issued a 38-page booklet, entitled Revisionismus, on "right-extremist revisionism." It included a disparaging but rather ambiguously worded section on the Institute.

In early 1996 the public prosecutor's office in Mannheim announced that it was investigating the Institute for Historical Review. According to the newsletter of the German Information Office in New York (The Week in Germany, Feb. 23, 1996, p. 7), the IHR was suspected

of distributing prohibited materials in Germany via the Internet. The institute, the prosecutors' office believes, has made available publications via the Internet that attempt to refute the genocide of the European Jews carried out by the Nazi regime... The institute also faces charges of incitement for its Internet activities.

The IHR was never given formal notice of this investigation, and nothing seems to have come of it.

More recently, the Berlin Police sent a letter dated May 22, 1997, to Andreas Röhler, publisher of the Berlin dissident journal Sleipnir. Citing The Journal of Historical Review, it summoned Röhler to police headquarters for questioning as part of a preliminary official inquiry on a charge of "popular incitement."

Institute Letter to German Authorities

Last year the Institute for Historical Review received letters from German authorities announcing that they were considering "indexing" Web site translations of two IHR leaflets. In the following letter of September 11, 1996, to the "Federal Supervisory Office for Literature Dangerous to Youth" in Bonn, IHR Director Mark Weber responded:

We acknowledge receipt of your two registered air mail letters of 20 August 1996 with the accompanying copies of letters of 13 August from the Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend (Federal Ministry for Family, Senior, Women and Youth Affairs). These letters announce that the Ministry is seeking to "index" German-language translations of two essays, "The Holocaust: Let's Hear Both Sides," by Mark Weber, and "The Liberation of the Camps: Facts versus Lies," by Theodore J. O'Keefe, both of which are on the "Zündelsite" internet Web page.

Regrettably, insufficient notice was provided for us to respond appropriately to your letters and the indexing applications. You informed us that we had one week from the date of mailing to express objections to these applications. Your letters were postmarked on the 21st of August, and arrived here on the 30th. Thus, we received your letters after the legal time period in which we could respond had already passed.

Please be advised that the German-language texts under consideration here are translations that were neither made nor authorized by the Institute for Historical Review or by the authors. We first learned of these two German-language texts from your letters of 20 August, and we have still not read them. It is thus possible that the Federal Ministry's applications for "indexing" are based on inaccurate translations for which we cannot be held responsible.

We completely reject the Ministry's reason (Begründung) for the "indexing" applications. We reject the assertion that these essays might "socially-ethically... disorient" young readers, or that they "propagate National Socialist or right extremist" views. These essays do not "deny National Socialist crimes," nor do they seek to "rehabilitate" the National Socialist regime. Interestingly, no specific evidence or citation is provided to justify any of these assertions, or to show just how these texts might be "harmful" to youth.

The "Zündelsite" internet Web page on which these two essays are made available is located in the United States, where such writings are entirely legal and enjoy constitutional protection. Every German who reads these "Zündelsite" texts must take the initiative to do so, rather like making a long-distance telephone call to the United States to listen to a pre-recorded message. For German authorities to attempt, in effect, to ban these items in the United States is absurd, if not outrageous.

Since its founding in 1978, the Institute for Historical Review has steadfastly opposed bigotry of all kinds in its efforts to promote greater public understanding of key chapters of history. Consistent with this, we are very concerned about Germany's legal persecution of persons who express dissident views about certain historical questions. Germany is one of the few countries that punishes those who express dissident or revisionist views of the Second World War, and in particular about the wartime fate of Europe's Jews. Most notably, Germans are fined or imprisoned for disputing aspects of the Holocaust extermination story.

The Ministry's "indexing" applications insultingly suggest that German authorities do not trust the people they represent, or that Germans lack the intelligence or maturity to evaluate historical issues for themselves. As the French philosopher Claude Adrien Helvétius (1715-1771) wrote: "To limit the press is to insult a nation. To prohibit reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves."

The justifications offered by the Ministry to suppress these writings echo the arguments of censors throughout the ages. For many people around the world, the efforts by German authorities to suppress revisionist writings call to mind the suppression of politically undesirable writings during the Third Reich era.

We believe that Germans should have the same right to judge historical issues, and to express their views about them, as citizens of, for example, Sweden, Britain, Turkey, Pakistan, Italy, Russia and the United States.

We trust that in spite of the impossible time limit imposed on us to respond to your letters, you will give respectful consideration to this communication.


From The Journal of Historical Review, July-August 1997 (Vol. 16, No. 4), pages 29-31.