TORONTO (Mar. 13)
An American who denies the Holocaust occurred and a 72-year-old German whose “high point” in life was a personal meeting with Adolf Hitler were among four witnesses who testified for the defense in the retrial of neo-Nazi propagandist Ernst Zundel in federal court here last week.
Zundel has been charged with “spreading false news,” a violation of Section 177 of the Canadian Criminal Code. Specifically, he edited, republished and distributed in Canada a booklet titled “Did Six Million Really Die?” — a denial of the Holocaust to which he wrote an introduction and appended a summation.
Two other “expert” witnesses called by the defense gave equivocal or incomplete testimony that, in one case, greatly annoyed the presiding judge, Ron Thomas.
One of them, Russel Barton, a British psychiatrist, who as a young medical student was present at the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, said that while it was a “horror spot” with piles of corpses and dying people, he saw no evidence the Germans deliberately starved the inmates.
He attributed the mass deaths to breakdowns of transportation, communications and government in Germany in the final weeks of the war and to a typhus epidemic. He said he believed six million Jews died, but was not sure it was Nazi policy.
Another expert witness, Kuang Fann, 51, a Taiwanese-born professor of linguistics and philosophy of language at York University, in Toronto, drew a distinction between fact and opinion in Zundel’s booklet.
He noted that while fact is subject to the “spreading false news” section of the Criminal Code, opinion is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights.
Fann aroused the ire of Judge Thomas when he was unable to provide explicit examples of fact and opinion in the Zundel booklet. Thomas, after excusing the jury, lectured the professor, telling him he had expected analysis and precise information from an expert.
The two other witnesses were of Zundel’s ilk. Bradley Smith, 58, is media project officer of the Institute of Historical Review in Torrence, Calif., which has long been disseminating material alleging the Holocaust was a hoax.
He conceded in court that mainstream historians do not question the authenticity of the Holocaust, but claimed it was because they were failing in their responsibility.
Thiess Christoferson, a German living in Denmark, ran an experimental farm for the Nazis near the Auschwitz death camp during World War II. He told the court, through an interpreter, that he had visited Auschwitz many times and saw no evidence of gas chambers or mass murders.
Under cross-examination, Christoferson admitted that the high point of his life was a chance encounter with Hitler while on a hike in 1937. He said they chatted and later he was invited to the fuhrer’s birthday party.
Zundel was convicted in 1985 and sentenced to 18 months in prison. But the conviction was overturned on a technicality by the Canadian Supreme Court which ordered a retrial.
The second trial began here Jan. 18. It is recessing for a week and will resume March 22.