As Holocaust deniers go, Ernst Zundel was by far one of the most notorious ones, easily in the same slimy league as David Irving, Robert Faurisson, Arthur Butz and Ditlieb Felderer.
A German national who lived most of his adult life in Canada, Zundel died on August 5 at his home in Germany. He was 78.
The usual suspects mourned his passing. David Duke, an American neo-Nazi and former member of the Ku Klux Klan, hailed Zundel as a “very heroic and courageous European preservationist” who had dared to stand up for his beliefs.
A graphic artist by trade, Zundel was a master of exploiting mass media to propagate his neo-Nazi views. Through his Toronto-based publishing house, Samisdat Publishers, he produced an avalanche of books, pamphlets, posters, memorabilia and audiotapes that were manna to racists — white supremacists and neo-Nazis — in North America and Europe.
Operating out of an old Victorian building in downtown Toronto — a cosmopolitan city which celebrates its multicultural complexion and tolerant ethos — Zundel published such works as The Hitler We Loved and Why, which he co-authored, and Did Six Million Really Die? The Truth At Last, which was written by British Holocaust denier Richard Verrall. Both were considered “classics” of the genre and the Holocaust denial movement.
Quite simply, Zundel — an articulate and indefatigable propagandist — was “the gasoline that fed Holocaust denial” in Canada, according to Bernie Farber, the former chief executive officer of the now-defunct Canadian Jewish Congress and one of Zundel’s nemeses.
Zundel immigrated to Canada in 1958. He founded Samisdat Publishers, a small press publisher, in 1977, almost a decade before he was convicted of knowingly spreading “false news” about the Holocaust. The convictions, handed down in 1985 and 1988 in sensational trials in Toronto during which Zundel wore his trademark hard hat and bullet-proof vest, were eventually overturned on a technicality and as an unreasonable limit on free speech.
These trials, covered by the media in voluminous fashion, gave Zundel and his defenders a national platform to question the veracity of the Holocaust. By the same token, witnesses who testified against him, ranging from scholars to Holocaust survivors, succeeded in demolishing his arguments and that of his fellow travellers. One of them, a fraudster named Fred A. Leuchter Jr., claimed that gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps were a figment of the Jewish imagination.
By Zundel’s reckoning, the “so-called Holocaust” was little more than “a World War II propaganda monstrosity,” an Allied “propaganda tool” grounded in fantasy.
In short, the Holocaust was a glaring example of “fake news.”
As his website proclaims, the Holocaust was “a cleverly used ploy to keep the German wartime generation and their descendants in perpetual political, emotional, spiritual and financial bondage.” Zundel’s self-declared mission was to rehabilitate “the honor and reputation of the German nation and people.”
Speaking of the reparations Germany distributed to Holocaust survivors, he denounced them as a “cash cow” for Jews and Israel.
Zundel never claimed that Jews were not murdered during the Holocaust. Twisting facts shamelessly and engaging in noxious moral equivocation, he disingenuously conceded that “atrocities” had occurred during the war: “When 75 million men on both sides are put into uniforms, trained with guns and bombs and given orders to kill each other, atrocities are bound to happen. Atrocities happened on both sides to soldiers and civilians. Many, many people died — of all nationalities. Millions died during the war, and many more millions died after all shooting had long stopped.”
In a vague and self-serving generalization, he acknowledged that “some Jews caught up in the maelstrom of the largest war in history unfortunately died.”
Basing part of his specious argument on the claim that Adolf Hitler never issued an explicit order to annihilate European Jews, Zundel conveniently ignored his inflammatory writings and speeches threatening Jews with extermination. Nor was he interested in examining the incremental steps the Nazi regime took in implementing the Final Solution.
An unabashed admirer of Hitler and a self-styled “revisionist,” he never came to terms with the fact that a German government had ordered the mass murder of Jews, a crime that besmirched Germany, and that Germans had carried out this unprecedented crime against humanity.
Describing himself as pro-German rather than anti-Semitic, Zundel blamed German Jews for having brought the Nazi reign of terror upon themselves. He insinuated they had never been loyal to Germany and suggested they had attempted to dominate German society for their own ends. In accordance with a long line of homegrown anti-Semites, he peddled the age-old calumny that Jews were not and could never be Germans.
Having worn out his welcome in Canada, Zundel moved to the United States in 2000. He lived there with his third wife, Ingrid Rimland, an ethnic German of Mennonite stock who was born in what was then the Soviet Union.
Three years later, the U.S. government sent him packing back to Canada. Classified as a threat to national security, Zundel was ignominiously deported to Germany in 2005. The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service considered him “one of the most notorious distributors of hate material in the world” and a patriarch of the white supremacist movement in Canada.
In 2007, a German court convicted him on 14 counts of inciting hatred and one count of violating the memory of Holocaust victims. Although he was sentenced to five years in prison, he was released in 2010.
Shortly before his death, Zundel petitioned the U.S. government to allow him into the United States to care for his ailing wife, who lives in Tennessee. Last March, his request was summarily rejected by the Department of Homeland Security.
“The record shows that the Applicant is a historical revisionist and denier of the Holocaust, distributing writings, books, tapes, videos and broadcasts to promote his views,” the department stated. “The record indicates further that these publications agitated for aggressive behavior against Jews. Furthermore, the Applicant has been a leader in these activities for decades and has shown no regret or remorse for his actions.”
Unmasked yet again as an unrepentant neo-Nazi, Holocaust denier and anti-Semite, this was the real Ernst Zundel.
And this is how he will be remembered.