MADRID (Feb. 24)
A lecture tour in Spain by French Holocaust revisionist Robert Faurisson has called attention to this country’s ambiguous role during the Nazi era and its strivings toward democracy since the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
The Paris Court of Justice convicted Faurisson last year of falsifying history and inciting racial hatred.
A civil suit was brought against him by several organizations of wartime deportees after he denied the Holocaust and the existence of lethal gas chambers, in an interview published in an extreme right-wing monthly.
Faurisson is a self-styled historian, though his academic credentials identify him as lecturer in literature.
He was brought to Spain by CEDADE, a small group of European neo-Nazis who met here last year to honor the memory of the Condor Legion, the Nazi bomber pilots Adolf Hitler sent to help Franco defeat the Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War from 1936 to 1939.
Since there is no law in Spain banning Nazi symbols or incitement to hatred, groups like CEDADE can organize events that would be outlawed in other parts of Europe.
Shimon Samuels, head of the Paris office of the Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center, managed to prevent Faurisson’s speaking engagement at the University of Barcelona.
But he could not keep the revisionist from lecturing Tuesday before the law faculty at Madrid’s Complutense University.
"It is unthinkable for a man who has been convicted for falsification of history and anti-Semitic intent to be given an academic forum in the year marking the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of Jews" from Spain, Samuels said.
"It denies the very spirit of Jewish-Christian reconciliation," he added.
FRANCO ALLOWED NAZIS TO HIDE
Although favorably disposed to the Axis powers during World War II, Franco’s Spain stayed neutral and its official attitude always was ambivalent.
Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, who heads the War Crimes Documentation Center in Vienna, was, by coincidence, in Madrid for the premier of the film "Max and Helen," based on his book.
"Spain is light and shadow," Wiesenthal observed. "On the one hand, Franco allowed a few thousand Jewish refugees to take shelter and 25,000 others survived in camps here," he said.
"But he (Franco) also allowed Nazi war criminals to hide from the authorities searching for them" after the war.
Some of the worst war criminals and Nazi collaborators are believed still hiding in Spain.
They include Aribert Heim, the doctor at the Mauthausen concentration camp who is still wanted by the German authorities, and Pattist Hawke, a Dutch collaborator who lives openly in Oviedo.
The most notorious is Leon Degrelle, founder of the pro-Nazi Rexist party in Belgium. Last November, Holocaust survivor Violeta Friedman won a landmark ruling in Spain’s highest court which agreed the Belgian expatriate offended her honor by denying the existence of gas chambers.
Degrelle has become a source of inspiration for young neo-Nazis in Spain, Wiesenthal said. But he believes those groups are insignificant.
"I have confidence in the new generation. These young neo-Nazis are not representative of the German or Austrian youth or the youth of other countries," the Nazi-hunter said.
"You may see the painted swastika but you don’t see the millions of people who work and learn," Wiesenthal said.
Nevertheless, he suggested that "democracies should spend a little more time and effort with their youths because dictators are very busy with them."
Wiesenthal and Faurisson did not cross paths here. But Wiesenthal recalls that "Faurisson once walked into my office and I showed him to the door and asked him if he could find his way from there."