The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Globe & Mail
October 18, 1994

© Copyright The Globe & Mail, October 18, 1994

by Craig McInnis

HOLOCAUST DEFENDER / A self-taught B.C. scholar wages nightly battles with propagandists around the world who are trying to rewrite history

Computer buff takes on hatemongers with a passion

By day, Ken McVay runs a gas station/convenience store in a small Vancouver Island town. At night, he cruises the Internet, hunting for neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.

For long hours in front of a computer screen, the 54-year-old self-taught scholar wages a propaganda war with interests around the globe who are trying to rewrite history by denying or playing down the events that have become known as the Holocaust.

Over the past three years, the former welder and computer-communications consultant has combined a life-long interest in the Second World War with his technical expertise to create a major data base of historical documents on the Holocaust.

In the process, he has become a major part in an international effort to debunk the new wave of self-styled revisionists who have turned to the Internet as an inexpensive new international forum for anti-Semitic propaganda.

Norman Swartz, a philosophy professor at Simon Fraser University, ran into Mr. McVay's work about a year and a half ago while he was browsing on the Internet.

"I noticed a fair amount of Holocaust denial, anti-Semitic material of straightforward racist hate-mongering, and I was rather dumbfounded to see that so much of it was being replied to very effectively by the same guy, by Ken McVay, and he showed an address on Vancouver Island."

Professor Swartz contacted Mr. McVay through the Internet, expecting to find a history professor at the University of Victoria.

"It turns out he wasn't anything like what I expected. He's entirely self-taught and extremely knowledgeable, and these people offend him terribly and he feels this passion to refute them. He's the most single-minded man I've ever met."

Mr. McVay deliberately remains somewhat of a mystery, even now that Prof. Swartz has embarked on a fund-raising crusade on his behalf.

He does not want his opponents to know his physical location, although they can tackle his wits at any time on the Internet. He fears for the safety of himself and his family. He recalls the fate of Alan Berg, who was found in the driveway of his Denver townhouse, where he had been shot more than a dozen times with a .45-calibre automatic.

Mr. Berg had made his reputation as a talk-show host partly by ridiculing the so-called Aryan nation.

"The neo-Nazis are out there and they're not nice people," says Mike Stein, a computer programmer in Washington who stumbled upon Mr. McVay last spring in similar circumstances during one of his regular night-time cruises through the Internet.

Since then, Mr. Stein has become part of a loosely formed, international web of amateur and professional historians who make it their business to refute the claims of the Ernst Zundel's of the world with meticulous research.

"They try to come up with something that sounds plausible but then if you actually look at it, they are taking something out of context or not telling the whole story," Mr. Stein said.

"I have access to the Library of Congress, the Holocaust Museum library and the National Archives, so I'm able to actually find these obscure sources that the Holocaust deniers quote out of context and simply post the unedited source next to the distorted paraphrase or the quote out of context."

The nature of the Internet makes it a perfect medium for anyone who wants to publish an essay of any kind, unchallenged by editors or fact-checkers. That makes it attractive to historical revisionists who rarely make it into traditional mainstream venues.

It also allows room for Mr. McVay and his associates to tack on their rebuttals whenever they find revisionist documents, which they say range from academic sophistry [usually found in the newsgroup alt.revisionism] to racist ranting.

Steven Shulman, assistant director of community relations for the Canadian Jewish Congress, says the Internet gives Holocaust deniers access to millions of people, some of whom have very little knowledge about the Holocaust and are easy prey.

The CJC does not debate with the revisionists, however, because it does not want to give them credability, Mr. Shulman says. "It is important not to get on the same stage as them but to expose them for what they are, which is anti-Semites, racists and ultimately liars."

Mr. Shulman belives the work of Mr. McVay and others can be useful, however. "If there are people like him who are at least exposing the lies in their materials, that at least can't hurt."

Mr. Stein says much of the archive that Mr. McVay has collected - mostly by typing it in manually, is available other places, but not on line.

That line, however, is fairly tenuous. Mr. McVay supports his archive with his gas station job and an aging computer that sits in three pieces in a closet in the basement of his rented townhouse.

Prof. Swartz started his fund-raising drive with the help of the United Church to try to buy Mr. McVay new computer equipment and a more direct link to the Internet.

He sees Mr. McVay and his network as part of an effort to strike out against a resurgence of international anti-Semitism and neo-Nazis.

Anti-hate legislation is powerless to stop anti-Semites on the Internet, he says, and "the only way to counter the menace is to reply immediately and forcefully with the truth."


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