SYDNEY, Australia, Dec. 24 (JTA) A New Zealand university has apologized to the Jewish community for awarding a master’s degree to a student who had written a thesis denying the Holocaust.
The 1993 thesis by Joel Hayward is cited regularly by neo-Nazis and other Holocaust deniers as evidence that they have academic support for their positions.
Earlier this year, Hayward, who is now a senior lecturer in defense and strategic studies at Massey University, apologized to the Jewish community, saying that he now disagrees strongly with his paper.
In 1998, Fredrick Toben, whose advocacy of Holocaust denial has been found to be unlawful by both the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the Federal Court of Justice in Germany, tried to submit Hayward’s thesis as his defense against charges that Holocaust denial was not a legitimate academic subject.
Canterbury University awarded a degree to the author of the thesis, “The Fate of Jews in German Hands,” but after a study has concluded that it had a “perverse and unjustified conclusion.”
The university’s vice chancellor, Daryl Le Grew, apologized to the Jewish community but said the university had no power to revoke the granting of the degree.
The president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, David Zwartz, said the council is “deeply concerned that after all that has happened the Jewish community is left with a Holocaust denial thesis.”
“There is a fundamental difference in our attitudes,” Zwartz said. “The university has been concerned with how the thesis came to be awarded a first-class honors M.A., and how it can prevent such things happening again. The Jewish council doesn’t want it to happen again, but it is also concerned with the effect the thesis has and will have in the future in encouraging Holocaust deniers to think they have academic support for their poisonous views.”
But Zwartz added, “The strength and sincerity of the university’s apology to the New Zealand and international Jewish community is unquestioned.”