Police in Kitchener, Ontario, are labeling as suspicious a fire there Saturday that caused extensive damage to the home of an anti-Nazi activist who had just demonstrated against Holocaust-denier David Irving and his supporters.
“If it was arson, I associate it with these people,” Monna Zentner, 55, told reporters. “They’re bullies, and it looked like a tactic of intimidation.”
The fire caused damage worth $100,000 (Canadian), about $80,000 in U.S. currency.
Zentner is a sociology professor at the University of Waterloo, a twin city of Kitchener, about an hour’s drive west of Toronto. She has been leading a noon vigil held three times a week in front of European Sound, an electronics store in downtown Kitchener that markets Holocaust-denial literature along with compact discs and cassette players.
Irving, 56, a British historian turned Holocaust-denier, gave a speech at the store, which is owned by Michael Rothe, a known Nazi sympathizer who reportedly paid Irving’s expenses.
Irving, who is banned from entering Canada, snuck into the country at the end of October from the United States. The ban is based on his conviction last May in Germany of defaming the dead by claiming the Holocaust has been greatly exaggerated.
Although he was arrested and incarcerated, he re-entered the country and awaits a deportation hearing, which has been postponed twice and is now set for Thursday.
Meanwhile, he has taken advantage of the lack of a gag order to speak on his favorite theme, that the Holocaust was a hoax, throughout Canada from British Columbia to Ontario. He has addressed groups of supporters ranging in size from 50 to 150.
His itinerary is available on a phone-in racist hot line. His latest speaking venue was changed at the last minute to thwart would-be protesters. He spoke, finally, at the Latvia House in Toronto, whose hall has echoed before with the voices of those who deny the Holocaust occurred.
Irving was first arrested Oct. 28 in Victoria, British Columbia, where he was given 48 hours’ notice to leave the country. Just before midnight Oct. 31, he tried unsuccessfully to cross into the United States at Niagara Falls.
He was turned back by American border officials and re-arrested on the Canadian side of the falls, where he was detained until Nov. 4.
Irving was released that day on bail of $20,000 (Canadian), pending a hearing to deport him to his native Britain.
His bond was posted by Louis Martens, 76, a retired St. Lawrence Seaway employee from nearby Thorold, Ontario. Martens refused to comment when asked about this by the media.
Meanwhile, Irving used the time he remained free in Canada to address Holocaust-denial groups in Kitchener and Toronto.
The Irving case has highlighted differing approaches within the Jewish community in dealing with anti-Semitism and hate propaganda.
B’nai Brith Canada called on the federal government to appoint a royal commission on hate groups, which would be the government’s strongest possible reaction.
But there is disagreement, for example, from two prominent Jewish professors.
Professor William Kaplan of the University of Ottawa’s law school and J.L. Granatstein, a respected historian at York University in Toronto, wrote on Monday in the Globe and Mail, “Why should the Canadian government give David Irving the martyrdom and publicity he craves by barring him from Canada and incarcerating him and moving to deport him?
“By denying him a platform in Canada, why raise a very serious issue of free speech around this disreputable figure? Surely simple common sense suggests that it would have been far better to let Mr. Irving enter Canada, speak to his audiences, spread his misrepresentations, and then disappear,” they wrote.
They characterized as “regrettable” the “actions of the Canadian government and the applause” these acts received from Jewish organizations in Canada that ought to be remembering the truth of the Holocaust and defending free speech “in the proper way — by countering Mr. Irving’s weak case with the readily available facts.”
This trip was his fourth tour across Canada in six years.
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.