Nine hours after beginning deliberations, a 12-person jury last week found Ernst Zundel guilty of deliberately publishing lies about the Holocaust. But less than five minutes later, Zundel was claiming a moral victory and promising to appeal the verdict.
Zundel was charged with two counts of wilfully publishing false information likely to cause racial or social intolerance. It was the first trial in Canada of someone denying the Holocaust. Zundel was found guilty of publishing “Did Six Million Really Die?,” which claims the Holocaust is a hoax perpetrated by Zionists to extort reparations from West Germany.
He was found not guilty on the second count of publishing a pamphlet, “The West, War and Islam.”
In an impromptu press conference held from the prisoners dock in the courtroom where he had been on trial for eight weeks, Zundel told the press that “I have won on both counts. It cost me forty thousand dollars in lost work. But I got one million dollars worth of publicity for my cause,” he said.
EVIL HAD TO BE STOPPED
A short time later, the woman who first laid the charges, Sabina Citron, told reporters she had no doubt the trial was “absolutely” the only way to deal with Zundel. “The whole point is that an evil was around in the land, and it had to be stopped,” she said.
Citron, founder of the Canadian Holocaust Remembrance Association, an organization unafiliated with mainstream Jewish groups, dismissed suggestions that Zundel benefited from publicity generated by the trial. “What kind of publicity did he get?” she asked “He was shown to be a liar, a Nazi, a racist and a propagandist. The majority of Canadians will reject him and those that follow him will follow him anyway.”
As many of the local and international press gathered around him, Zundel cooly pontificated about the results of the trial. “The people who were interested in laying the charge have their pound of flesh,” he said. He compared himself to David facing Goliath and termed himself “one more victim of Zion.”
He refused to concede that the verdict indicated the jury had accepted the Holocaust as an historical fact, saying it simply meant he was found guilty of violating a section of the criminal law. One day earlier, however, he indicated that should he be acquitted, public perception would lean to the view there was “no Holocaust.”
ANGUISH AND PAIN IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
The lengthy trial had caused anguish and pain in the Jewish community in Toronto. To obtain a conviction, the prosecuting attorney had to prove “Did Six Million Really Die?” was false, and to do so he had to prove the Holocaust was an historic event.
A succession of survivors took the stand to describe the gruesome events many had long since tried to put out of their mind.
Dennis Urstein, 60, recounted how as a prisoner at Auschwitz he was part of a work crew forced to remove 600-700 bodies from a gas chamber.
Henry Leader, 65, described loading gassed victims onto wagons in Maidanek, while Rudolf Verba described how he counted the transports arriving at Auschwitz and relayed that information in the War Refugee Board report of 1944 following his miraculous escape.
They were grilled unmercifully by defense lawyer Doug Christie, who questioned their memories and at times boldly stated they were lying.
DEFENSE ‘EXPERTS’ MADE HEADLINES
A number of Holocaust-denying defense “experts” made headlines in the national media with their claims that the Holocaust is a myth or that gas chambers never existed. They included descreditted French Professor Robert Faurisson and other questionable academics associated with the California-based Institute for Historical Review.
While little weight may have been attached to some of the theories of the defense witnesses — one, Ditlieb Felderer from Sweden, claimed the prisoners at Auschwitz ate good food, swam in an olympic-size swimming pool and danced to the sounds of the Auschwitz waltz — the court ruled they were relevant in determining Zundel’s honest belief in the truth of the tales.
‘JUST AND NOBLE’ DECISION LAUDED
Shortly after the verdict was delivered, B’nai B’rith Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress held a joint press conference in which they lauded “this just and noble” decision.
The national director of field services of the League for Human Rights of B’nai B’rith, Alan Shefman, acknowledged the law was “a double edged sword” which allowed Zundel to “avail himself of a platform” to espouse his views. But the lesson is that “racism doesn’t occur somewhere else and it didn’t end with the Holocaust.”
The chairman of Ontario Region, CJC, Les Scheininger, said hateful propaganda starts with the Jews but it ends in attacking others in society. “The Holocaust did not begin with crematoria and gas chambers. It began with the spread of hate propaganda and vicious lies,” he said.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.