By Mark Weber – November 27, 2005
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 history.
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 They are a disgrace, and should be repealed.