French Courts Punish Holocaust Apostasy
Le Pen, Faurisson, Garaudy Fined for 'Holocaust Denial'
by Mark Weber
In 1789 the French National Assembly enacted the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen," a guiding document of the French Revolution that solemnly proclaims as "inalienable" the rights of free speech and of the press.
Today French citizens are, by and large, able to express their views freely on nearly any topic. But there is one important exception. Those who challenge the Western world's most important social-political taboo -- on the Second World War treatment of the Jews -- are routinely punished for their apostasy.
France's Fabius-Gayssot law of July 13, 1990, makes it a crime to "contest" the "crimes against humanity" as defined by the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal of 1945-46. This one-sided law -- which was introduced to the French parliament by Socialist Party deputy Laurent Fabius (a prominent Jewish political figure) and by Communist Party deputy Jean-Claude Gayssot -- is applied selectively only to expressions of skepticism about real or alleged atrocities committed by the losers of the Second World War -- that is, by Germans and their allies -- and only about the wartime treatment of Jews.
Newspapers, government officials and human rights organizations in Europe and the United States that normally are quick to condemn restrictions on civil liberties have been silent about France's Fabius-Gayssot law and similar "Holocaust denial" laws in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain.
Jean-Marie Le Pen
In 1987 Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front political party, was found guilty of violating French law by referring to German execution gas chambers as a 'detail' or a 'minor point' in Second World War history. During a September 1987 interview, he said:
Do you want me to say it is a revealed truth that everyone has to believe? That it's a moral obligation? I say there are historians who are debating these questions. I am not saying that the gas chambers did not exist. I couldn't see them myself. I haven't studied the questions specially. But I believe that it is a minor point [point de detail] in the history of the Second World War.
After a drawn-out court battle, Le Pen was convicted by a French court and fined 1.2 million francs ($200,000).
Ten years later, on December 5, 1997, while in Munich to promote a book about himself written by German author and political figure Franz Schönhuber, Le Pen was asked about his 1987 remark. He replied by saying "There is nothing belittling or scornful about such a statement," and then added: "If you take a book of a thousand pages on the Second World War, in which 50 million people died, the concentration camps occupy two pages and the gas chambers ten or 15 lines, and that's what's called a detail." (See the accompanying essay, "The Detail," by Robert Faurisson.)
Seventeen organizations responded by promptly filing a formal legal complaint. Among the groups demanding punishment were the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which is headquartered in Los Angeles and has an office in Europe, and the Paris-based "Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples."
On December 26, 1997, a Paris Court sentenced Le Pen for his second "detail" remark, ordering him to pay 300,000 francs ($50,000) to publish the text of the court's decision in a dozen French newspapers. In addition, he was ordered to pay a large amount of money to eleven of the 17 organizations that had brought a suit against him. Because all this is an interim punishment, an even more severe punishment may be forthcoming.
Le Pen was born in 1928 in a Breton fishing village in western France. He served in the armed forces as a paratrooper, and worked as a fisherman and miner to pay for his studies. As a law student in Paris, he was known as an ardent anti-Communist and political activist who was not afraid of physical confrontations. Even his enemies acknowledge his courage and his skill as a public speaker and organizer.
In 1972 he founded the National Front. After several years of obscurity, the nationalist political party has achieved a significant level of popular support with its call, "France for the French." In last year's parliamentary elections the party won 15 percent of the vote. Le Pen, who is an elected member of the European Parliament, personally captured this same percentage of votes in the first round of the presidential election of 1995.
Le Pen has recently said that he would no longer speak publicly about Nazi gas chambers because nonconformist views on this subject are prohibited by law. During an interview on December 12, 1997, he explained: "I won't respond any more. It's a taboo subject that is protected by legal and criminal law, and the only opinion one can express about it is that allowed by the media."
For nearly 20 years, Robert Faurisson has been reviled and acclaimed as Europe's foremost Holocaust revisionist scholar. And no one has been targeted more frequently for violating France's anti-revisionist than this former professor at the University of Lyon and specialist of text and document analysis. He first publicly explained his skeptical views of the Holocaust gas chamber story in articles published in late 1978 and early 1979 in France's most respected daily paper, Le Monde.
A coalition of nine organizations, led by the Paris-based "International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism" (LICRA), brought a civil lawsuit alleging "personal damages" for Faurisson's "falsification of history." Found guilty of "personal damages" but not "falsification of history, he was convicted on July 8, 1981.
Faurisson appealed the decision, which was upheld by the Paris Court of Appeals on April 26, 1983. It ordered him to pay "damages" to the various Jewish and leftist organizations that had brought the complaint, as well as pay court costs and the cost of publishing the verdict in three French periodicals.
During an interview in December 1980 with the French radio network "Europe 1," Faurisson stated:
The alleged Hitlerite gas chambers and the alleged genocide of the Jews form one and the same historical lie, which opened the way to a gigantic political-financial fraud, the principal beneficiaries of which are the State of Israel and international Zionism, and the principal victims of which are the German people -- but not their rulers -- and the entire Palestinian people.
For these provocative words, Faurisson was brought to trial on criminal charges of racial defamation and incitement to racial hatred. In July 1981 he was found guilty and given a suspended three month prison sentence, fined several thousand francs, and ordered to pay 3.6 million francs for the cost of making public the verdict on television and in periodicals. However, in June 1982 an appeals court threw out the charge of incitement to racial hatred and eliminated the 3.6 million franc payment.
Among his other legal travails, in June 1995 a Paris court ordered Faurisson to pay a fine of $3,000 for writing Réponse à Jean-Claude Pressac sur le problème des chambres à gaz ("Response to Jean-Claude Pressac on the problem of the gas chambers"), a book that disputes claims of Second World War mass killings in German gas chambers. Henri Roques, another French revisionist, was likewise fined $3,000 by the court for distributing the work. Roques is also author of The 'Confessions' of Kurt Gerstein, published by the IHR. (See "French Court Fines Faurisson, Roques for 'Holocaust Denial' Book," Nov.-Dec. 1995 Journal, pp. 13-17.)
Faurisson has had to contend with many other trials and court convictions over the years, as well as the freezing of his bank account. Court officials have visited his house a number of times, threatening him and his wife with seizure of their furniture to pay for the considerable financial "damages" imposed for a simple interview in Le Choc du mois.
On September 25, 1997, Faurisson came to trial for a statement made in April 1996 on the Garaudy/Abbé Pierre affair in which he mentioned "the imposture of the Nazi gas chambers." During the trial he told the court: "We are only three years away from the year 2000, and there are billions of people who are asked to believe in something they have never seen and don't even know how it worked!"
Judge Jean-Yves Monfort showed considerable respect for the defendant during the trial. He was surprised to learn that there are revisionist web sites around the world, and on several occasions showed that he felt uncomfortable applying the Fabius-Gayssot law. It is true, said Monfort, that the court is asked to participate in a debate that ought to take place among historians.
The prosecutor asked for a new kind of sentence: either imprisonment or a fine, to which Faurisson responded by declaring: "I hereby make a commitment that I shall not buy and shall not pay for my freedom. No one has ever bought me and no one will ever buy me."
As expected, the Paris court handed down a guilty verdict. On October 23 it ordered Faurisson to pay 120,600 francs ($20,000), divided into three parts: 50,000 francs as a fine, 20,600 francs for a Jewish attorney, and 50,000 to pay for the publication of the summary of the court's judgment in the daily newspapers Le Monde and Libération, as well as (unprecedentedly) in the Journal officiel de la République française.
Faurisson has paid the Jewish lawyer and is paying the fine in installments. However, he will not have to pay to promulgate the court judgment because, he has learned, the anti-revisionist organizations decided that they did not wish to see the publication of the words "the imposture of the Nazi gas chambers."
There seems to be no end in sight for Faurisson's legal travails. He had to appear before a Paris court on March 16, 1998, to stand trial for a short definition of "revisionism," as inaccurately reported in Rivarol. The court's verdict is expected on April 27. On that day Faurisson is due to testify in London on behalf of Nick Griffin, who is being tried for having taken expressed revisionist skepticism about Nazi gas chambers in an issue of his magazine, The Rune.
On April 8 Faurisson is set to stand trial in Amsterdam for the publication in 1991 in Dutch of his detailed critical analysis of the Anne Frank Diary. Originally written for Ernst Römer, a German who had been put on trial in 1978 in Hamburg, it has been published in various editions (including in the Summer 1982 Journal of Historical Review, "Is the Diary of Anne Frank Genuine?").
The Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam and the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel, Switzerland, jointly brought the legal action. The Museum complained that it has been obliged to provide special training for its guides to respond to Faurisson's arguments, and that his critique might reduce the number of its visitors.
In December 1997 he received a summons from a Paris court official for an essay, "The Horned Visions of the Holocaust," that had been posted without his prior knowledge or approval on an Internet web site. In this piece Faurisson wrote that "The Holocaust of the Jews is a fiction." He responded to the summons with a stern letter in which he defiantly declared his refusal to "collaborate" with French justice authorities and police in the repression of revisionism. This case is likely to come to trial in October.
Faurisson has also been the victim of numerous physical attacks for his views. Between November 1978 and May 1993 he was assaulted on ten occasions, with at least nine of the attacks carried out by Jewish organizations or militants. Probably the worst was a savage and nearly fatal attack on September 16, 1989, for which a group calling itself "The Sons of the Memory of the Jews" claimed responsibility. No one was ever arrested for these crimes. (For more, see "Jewish Militants" in the March-April 1996 Journal, pp. 6-7, and The Zionist Terror Network [IHR: 1993], pp. 15-16.)
Reynouard, Garaudy and Others
Faurisson and Le Pen are hardly the only ones whom Jewish groups and French officials have targeted for expressing skepticism of the officially sanctioned version of 20th century history. Other victims include Philippe Costa, Alain Guionnet and Fabrice Robert. Between July 1990 and January 1993 alone, the Fabius-Gayssot law had already been applied 27 times.
In 1997 and early 1998, the principal victim of anti-revisionism in France has been Vincent Reynouard, who was abruptly dismissed without notice from his position as a teacher at a college in Normandy for an expression of unorthodox historical views. Reynouard, 28, is married and has three young children. Michel Adam, a teacher in Brittany in his mid-50s, has similarly been suspended from his post for expressing revisionist views, and will probably be permanently laid off.
Eric Delcroix, Faurisson's attorney, has been sentenced for his book, La Police de la Pensée contre le Révisionnisme ("The Thought Police Against Revisionism"). A bookseller in Bordeaux, Jean-Luc Lundi, has received a stiff sentence because he offered revisionist books for sale. In Paris, thugs have repeatedly assaulted bookseller Georges Piscoci-Danesco and attacked his book shop, which stocked some revisionist titles, while the police have refused protection.
On February 27, 1998, thugs of the militant Jewish group "Betar" brazenly attacked visitors in the Paris court house who were sympathetic with Roger Garaudy, a French scholar who was sentenced on that day to pay $20,000 for revisionist remarks made in a 1996 book. At least eight persons were injured in the assaults.
Gabor Tamas Rittersporn, a Jewish sociologist, was dismissed in February from his position as a visiting scholar in Berlin with "Marc Bloch" German-French research center when it was discovered that during the early 1980s he had defended Faurisson, and had expressed skepticism about the existence of Nazi gas chambers while he was associated with the revisionist publishing enterprise Le Vieille Taupe ("The Old Mole") of Pierre Guillaume. As soon as the affair began, Rittersporn recanted, saying that he had been wrong to embrace revisionist views and that since then he had come to realize that Faurisson was wrong (Berliner Zeitung, Feb. 12, 1998).
In a much-publicized recent case, a Paris court on February 27, 1998, fined French philosopher Roger Garaudy 240,000 francs ($40,000) -- not 120,000 francs, as widely reported -- for statements made in his 1996 book Les mythes foundateurs de la politique israelienne ("The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics," reviewed in the March-April 1996 Journal). Specifically, he was found guilty of "denying crimes against humanity" by expressing scholarly skepticism of the Holocaust extermination story, and for "racist defamation" by citing the awesome Jewish role in the Western media.
"Never mind! We'll take care of order in the court building," says a "Betar" militant to a French policeman in the Paris Palais du Justice. In this drawing, published in the French weekly Rivarol (March 6), "Chard" comments on the brazen behavior of Jewish thugs and the passivity of the police.
Garaudy, an 84-year-old convert to Islam, has won considerable support in Arab and Muslim countries for his legal battle, where this case is widely regarded as another example of the hypocrisy that prevails in Europe and the United States on issues involving Jewish and Zionist interests. (More on the Garaudy affair will appear in a forthcoming Journal issue.)
On the day that the verdict was pronounced against Garaudy, some 30 thugs of the Jewish youth organization "Betar" (comparable to the Jewish Defense League in the USA) assaulted revisionists at the Paris court house (Palais de Justice). At least eight persons were injured: six inside the building and two outside. Although about 120 guards and gendarmes were present, there were no arrests. Faurisson and four others, along with two guards, had to escape from the building through an underground passageway.
Jacques Vergès, Garaudy's defense attorney, and Eric Delcroix, attorney for co-defendant Pierre Guillaume (publisher of Garaudy's book), filed a formal complaint with the court. Faurisson also protested the official toleration of Jewish violence in an open letter to the Commandant militaire du Palais de Justice. On several occasions since 1980, Betar thugs have assaulted peaceable court house visitors, acting with impunity as security guards and gendarmes passively stood by. (See "Jewish Militants" in the March-April 1996 Journal, esp. pp. 8-9.)
-- March 22, 1998
From The Journal of Historical Review, March/April 1998 (Vol. 17, No. 2), pages 14-18.