Being a scribbler myself, I generally don't think people should be jailed for expressing themselves, even if they traffic in distortions, falsehoods and racist propaganda. Still, I have to say I take perverse pleasure in reading about a Holocaust denier like Ernst Zundel being sentenced to five years in a German slammer because of his efforts in disseminating anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying tracts such as The Hitler We Loved and Why and Did Six Million Really Die? Zundel had been deported from Canada to his native Germany, and prosecutors in Mannheim were able to go after him because he had contributed to a Web site devoted to Holocaust denial. He was sentenced this Thursday.
Zundel's name has come up recently in connection with the impending 9/11-deniers' conference in Chandler for two reasons. First, in 1988, when Zundel was tried by a Canadian court for publishing Did Six Million Really Die?, one of those testifying on his behalf was Holocaust-denier Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., subject of the Errol Morris doc Mr. Death -- in turn, Leuchter's one of the sources for Eric Williams, author of The Puzzle Auschwitz and formerly the head of the Chandler powwow until his Shoah-shirking ways were revealed. Second, Kevin Barrett, the wacky Wisconsin prof slated to speak at the Chandler symposium, has stated that "I cannot possibly dismiss the arguments of people like Green, Irving, and even Zundel," in a 2005 e-mail published on Oilempire.us.
Zundel is a major figure amongst Holocaust deniers and the neo-Nazis who cite them, right up there with David Irving, who's done time in an Austrian hoosegow for denying the Holocaust. The fate of both Zundel and Irving must give Eric Williams some second thoughts about visiting Germany or Austria anytime soon. All Barrett did was mouth off in an e-mail, but surely this is one reason why he went to such lengths to insist to me that he's not a Holocaust-denier: He wanted to avoid the stigma that goes with that label, a stigma in part imposed by European courts.
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I don't believe in such punishment for the speech we don't like, and I'm thankful we have a First Amendment to protect even jackasses on par with Zundel and Williams. But it's also satisfying to see karma bite people such as Zundel in the ass. In America, Williams, Zundel, Barrett, and everyone else can spew the vilest lies known to man, if they wish. Still, the thought that justice is lurking out there for them, even if it's thousands of miles away, is not necessarily a bad thing. For instance, I doubt Williams' travel agent will be booking him any flights to Berlin, or Tel Aviv, in the near future. And should Williams ever face sentencing in a German court, I won't be weeping any tears for him, that's for sure.