September 23, 2003

Who Is Ernst Zündel, And Why Is He In Jail?

By Mark Weber
September 2003

For more than six months now, Ernst Zündel has been held without charge in solitary confinement in Canada on the pretext that he is a threat to national security. In fact, this 64-year-old German-born writer, publisher and civil rights activist is a political prisoner and a victim of great injustice.

Who is this man, and why is his case important?

Zündel was arrested at his home in Tennessee on Feb. 5, where he had been living peacefully with his wife, Ingrid Rimland, on the pretext that he missed an interview date with immigration authorities. Two weeks later he was deported to Canada, even though his wife is an American citizen.

Claiming that he is a national security threat, Canadian authorities have been holding Zündel since Feb. 19. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) — something like the American FBI — supports this charge by citing tenuous and years-old ties by Zündel to “white supremacist” groups. While acknowledging that he is not violent himself, CSIS also argues that material published by Zündel might cause “like-minded individuals to engage in violence.”

There is absolutely no basis for the “security threat” charge. Zündel's life is an open book. He is a peaceful man with no record of violence. During the 40 years he lived in Canada, he was never convicted of a crime. In fact, he has himself been a victim of hate and violence. He survived at least three attempts on his life, including a devastating arson attack against his residence.

Jewish groups are demanding that Zündel be deported to Germany, where he faces years of imprisonment for the “thought crime” of “denying the Holocaust.” (“Holocaust denial” is against the law in Germany, France, Switzerland and some other European countries.)

Zündel is in prison not because his views are unpopular, or because he's a “security risk.” He's in prison because Jewish groups want him there. He's a prisoner because he promotes views that the Jewish-Zionist lobby considers harmful to its interests.

This lobby is the decisive, critical factor in the decades-old campaign to silence him. The only sustained and institutionalized effort to imprison him has come from this lobby, which includes the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canadian Holocaust Remembrance Association, and the League for Human Rights of B'nai B'rith (with the Anti-Defamation League, its counterpart in the US).

A few prominent Canadians have been speaking out against the unjust treatment of Ernst Zündel.

One such person is Bill Dunphy, a veteran investigative journalist and editor for the daily Hamilton Spectator. He spent six years probing Canada's “white supremacist” movement, and got to know Zündel personally. Although he has no sympathy for Zündel's views, in a hard-hitting column (Hamilton Spectator, May 14) he told readers:

“Our government has seized and branded Ernst Zündel, stripped him of his human rights, tried him in secret and found him wanting, and will now hand him over to a foreign government anxious to throw him in jail...

“... Zündel — who did this country a favour by wiping off the books our disgraceful False News laws — has never once been convicted of a criminal offence in this country, never once found to have violated the hate crime laws that rest snugly around the throat of free expression in this country.

“Calculating correctly that there was no political cost, no ‘down side' to slipping on the jackboots to kick a reviled old man out of our country, our government cobbled together their best insults and innuendo, and Lord knows what secret ‘evidence,' and branded Ernst Zündel a threat to national security.

“I know this man, his local and international contacts and I know this movement. And after reading the 58-page ‘unclassified' summary of the government's case, I can assure you there is no justice here. Their ‘evidence' is riddled with errors and misinformation, hearsay and inflammatory innuendo. Dead men walk again, and the shattered bits of shoddy secret networks long since collapsed under the weight of their own ineptitude are made whole and menacing once again. It is a shameful piece of dishonest, unreliable tripe.”

The trendy Toronto weekly Eye pointed out in an editorial (May 15) that “declaring Zündel a terrorist now is not the result of any startling new information,” but rather “it has to do with political pressure ...” The paper added:

“The new security certificate admits Zündel has ‘virtually no history of direct personal engagement in acts of serious violence.' It labels him a terrorist partly because he ‘seeks to destroy the multicultural fabric and underpinnings of Canadian society.' Citing opposition to official multiculturalism as a type of terrorism risks expanding the war on terror to include everyone to the right of Pierre Trudeau.

“Anti-terrorism provisions should not be used as a catch-all solution. Misapplying terminology in this way damages its credibility, and undermines the efforts against real terrorism. It has also, of course, damaged the integrity of our refugee system.”

Similar concerns have been voiced by the daily Times Colonist of Victoria, British Columbia. In an editorial, “Even Zündel Merits Fairness” (May 9), the paper declared:

“... The way the federal government is trying to get rid of Zündel is wrong — it is using law that is so sweeping in its scope that it may be, as Zündel's lawyer Doug Christie argues, unconstitutional. It would allow him to be deported on evidence that amounts to mere assumption and subject him to a kangaroo court process where no defence can be mounted.

“The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service calls Zündel the patriarch of Canada's white supremacist ‘movement.' It argues he is a risk to national security — a finding essential for his deportation under this procedure — because he is trying to ‘destroy the multicultural fabric and underpinnings of Canadian society.'

“... Most Canadians would be surprised to learn that the country's multicultural fabric could be torn apart or society toppled by Zündel's rants which are not, in fact, broadcast widely. But this is the basis for CSIS's security certificate against Zündel.”

The Canadian Association for Free Expression (CAFE), a leading free speech advocacy group, is demanding Zündel's immediate release. “Mr. Zündel is quite literally a political prisoner,” says CAFE director Paul Fromm, who has also been acting as Zündel's legal representative in his detention hearings. “He is being held in solitary confinement solely for the non-violent expression of his political views.”

The allegation that Zündel might be a threat to national security “is mischievous nonsense,” says Fromm. “Zündel has been politically active in Canada for 40 years. He's a public figure. His writings and speeches are available on-line. He's been investigated for years by the police. He's an open book. Zündel has never advocated or practised violence, nor have his followers,” Fromm adds. “He's a pacifist and a publisher.”

A Life of Struggle

Ernst Zündel, a towering figure in the worldwide Holocaust revisionist movement, was born in 1939 in a small town in the Black Forest region of southwestern Germany. He emigrated to Canada at the age of 19, where he soon married and became the father of two sons. It wasn't long before he made a name for himself as a successful graphic artist whose work appeared, for example, on the front cover of Canada's national news magazine, Maclean's.

Setting aside a thriving career, he resolved to dedicate himself to the great task, as he sees it, of redeeming the sullied reputation of his fellow Germans. Through his Samisdat publishing house he distributed worldwide a prodigious quantity of books, booklets, leaflets, newsletters, and audio and video cassettes. Simon Wiesenthal, the well-known “Nazi hunter,” has called Zündel the world's number one distributor of allegedly dangerous literature and cassettes.

He has written countless booklets, newsletters and essays. He is a prodigious publisher, a one-man public relations firm, and an able public speaker and organizer. A dauntless leader in struggle against apparently insurmountable odds and seemingly invincible adversaries, no revisionist is more tenacious, dedicated and courageous.

Ernst Zündel, who sometimes describes himself as a "Swabian peasant,” is an outgoing, good-humored man who is blessed with a rare combination of unflagging optimism and practical ability. He maintains this infectious spirit even under very trying conditions. He is an unusually alert and sensitive individual with a keen understanding of human nature. He knows how to persuade, cajole and encourage his supporters to give their best for the greater good. He inspires confidence, loyalty and affection.

Zündel is probably best known for his central role in the “Holocaust Trials” of 1985 and 1988. He was brought to court in Toronto on a charge of “publishing false news,” and specifically for publishing a reprint edition of a booklet entitled Did Six Million Really Die?.

To wage the legal battle that was forced upon him, he brought together an impressive international team of revisionist scholars, legal specialists, researchers, and many others. From numerous libraries and archives in North America and Europe, this group assembled at “Zündelhaus” one of the most impressive collections of evidence anywhere on this chapter of history.

Zündel's two lengthy trials — the 1985 trial lasted two months, and the 1988 trial lasted four months — have been the closest thing anywhere to full scale debates on the Holocaust issue. For the first time ever, “Holocaust survivors” and Holocaust historians were closely and critically questioned under oath about their claims and views.

Among those who testified on Zündel's behalf in the two trials were Robert Faurisson, David Irving, Mark Weber, William Lindsey, Udo Walendy, and Bradley Smith. As a result of the two trials, an enormous quantity of compelling evidence refuting the Holocaust extermination story was presented to the court and thereby was made part of the permanent public record. The most important of this evidence was the historic testimony of American gas chamber expert Fred Leuchter about his on-site forensic examination of the alleged extermination gas chambers in Poland.

Zündel was found guilty in the 1985 trial, but the verdict was set aside by the provincial appeals court. It ruled that the judge in that trial had, among other things, given improper instructions to the jury, and had improperly excluded defense evidence. In May 1988, at the conclusion of the second Zündel trial, the jury declared him guilty. A few days later, he was sentenced to nine months imprisonment.

On appeal, Canada's Supreme Court threw out the conviction, declaring on August 27, 1992, that the archaic “false news” law under which he had been convicted was a violation of the country's Charter of Rights. This was not only a personal vindication by Canada's highest court; Ernst Zündel secured an important victory for the rights of all Canadians.

Zündel's next great legal battle was fought out before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in Toronto on charges, instigated by Jewish groups, of promoting “hatred or contempt” against Jews through the “Zündelsite” Internet web site (www.zundelsite.org), operated by Ingrid Rimland from the United States. In this legal action, as the Tribunal's presiding Commissioner declared, the truth or validity of the supposedly “hateful” items was not a consideration. The Tribunal ultimately ruled against Zündel, declaring the “Zündelsite” to be unlawful.

After four decades in Canada, including a failed effort to acquire Canadian citizenship, he moved to the United States, where he married Ingrid in January 2000. For two years they lived quietly in the mountain region of eastern Tennessee.

Of this remarkable man, Robert Faurisson wrote in 1988: “Zündel may once again go to prison for his research and beliefs or be threatened with deportation. All this is possible. Anything may happen when there is an intellectual crisis and a realignment of historical concepts of such a dimension. Revisionism is the great intellectual adventure of the end of this century. Whatever happens, Ernst Zündel is already the victor.”


Mark Weber (weber@ihr.org) is director of the Institute for Historical Review. He was born in Portland, and was educated in his home town, Chicago, Munich and Bloomington (Indiana). The IHR is a not-for-profit educational and publishing enterprise dedicated to truth and accuracy in history. For further information, see the IHR web site (www.ihr.org), or write to: IHR, P. O. Box 2739, Newport Beach, CA 92659, USA. This essay originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Community News (P.O. Box 191677, Sacramento, CA 95819, USA. thetruthisback@yahoo.com).