The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Zündel Affair

Manuel Prutschi


Propaganda Techniques and Activities

Most of Zündel's material takes the form of circulars, leaflets and letters, including letters to the editor: occasionally, he also issues questionnaires. Some of his organizations have distinctive letterheads, e.g., Concerned Parents of German Descent, which features a pre-adolescent blonde girl against a dark background, curled up, fragile and fearful, with a teardrop descending from each eye. The pathos-inspiring caption underneath reads, "HELP US." The German-Jewish Historical Commission sports an imperial eagle in the top left comer and a Star of David on the right.

Zündel's style is also distinctive: a tightly packed text, sometimes with press clippings and commentaries appended. His mail-order operation purveys books, pamphlets, tapes, video cassettes, films, records and art. There are homemade audio-visual productions. as well as tapes of media interviews in which the self-appointed defender of Germany's honour is the star attraction. Fantasy in space, as well as fantasy in history, is included, with such titles as "UFO'S - Nazi Secret Weapon?" or "Little Known UFO Sightings from Around the World."

The catalogue also shows that Samisdat serves as a clearing-house for Holocaust denial publications from all over the world. Authors represented are the Americans, Arthur Butz, with his The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, and Austin J. App, with his The Six Million Swindle; the Briton Richard Harwood, with his pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die?; the Germans, Udo Walendy, with (among other titles) Truth for Germany: The Guilt Question of the Second World War and Thies Christophersen, with his Auschwitz: Truth or Lie; the Frenchman Robert Faurisson, with his taped presentation ("in slide show form") on the "fraudulent character of the gas chambers"; and the Swede Ditlieb Felderer on videotape with The Anne Frank Diary Hoax. For US$10, one can obtain South Africa Today, in which life in the last white bastion in Africa is described as it "really is."[61]

A great deal of Nazi material can be ordered, especially tapes of Hitler's speeches with a "simultaneous English-language translation." One can hear "the man whose voice captured the hearts and minds of millions of enthusiastic supporters." Other Nazi offerings include the movie Triumph of the Will, which is advertised as "The Third Reich's Version of the Woodstock Festival." For only $10, one can purchase Hitler Declares War on Poland or Hitler Declares War on America; one can also purchase "Hitler's sad but powerfully prophetic final broadcast from Berlin on January 1, 1945." Besides Nazi speeches, the Music of the Third Reich can be obtained, offering "old favourites" like the "Horst Wessel Lied," and the "Badenweiler March," described as "Hitler's favourite."

One can further assuage one's penchant for Nazi melodies with "Black shirt and Brown shirt Stormtrooper Songs and Marches." Art is also available; the Nazi aficionado can obtain for two dollars "large, beautiful illustrations of Nazi Secret Weapons suitable for framing." Devising a symbol based on the old runic form of the letter "Z," the ingenious artist-entrepreneur has marketed his own creation as "Thor's Warrior Belt Buckle," which comes with an "embossed Lightning Bolt of Thor," and the "Amulet of Thor," depicting "Thor's Lightning Bolt within the Sacred Sun Symbol." In both cases, the lightning bolt is the letter "Z."

Canadian politicians, both federal and provincial, were bombarded incessantly by Zündel. Elections provided special opportunities to canvass both incumbents and other candidates hungry for office. Another favourite target group was the media: on the whole, however, Zündel has been unsuccessful in his efforts to employ the media as a vehicle for the promulgation of his views. From time to time, he enjoyed modest success, usually in one of the smaller outlets. Thus, for example, in October 1979, a substantial letter to the editor from the tireless propagandist was printed in The Mirror of Middleton, Nova Scotia. This prompted a reply from an expatriate American living in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. Ms. Barbara Bachrach Taylor, who questioned the editorial decision to publish Zündel, characterizing his letter as "very disturbing in many ways to many people in the community," and proceeded to answer it.[62] On another occasion, in June 1981, a Niagara Falls radio station put him on a three-hour phone-in program.

Zündel also distributed his material to libraries and schools across Canada. Invariably, the recipients contacted the Canadian Jewish Congress with expressions of concern. In late 1978, when a copy of Butz's "The Hoax of the Twentieth Century" was mailed to a junior high school principal in Toronto, and when it was discovered that other mailings were being planned, the Toronto Board of Education alerted all elementary and high school principals under its jurisdiction.

Apart from sundry individuals and organizations, Zündel acquired a steady list of subscribers numbering between 700 and 800 in Canada.[63] His Canadian mailing list, however, pales in comparison to his infiltration of the antisemitic market in the United States. Here alone, he claims a mailing list of 29 000, although it is unclear as to whether this includes about 10 000 radio and TV stations. As part of his North American promotion campaign, he has placed full-page advertisements for Samisdat Publications in such magazines as Soldier of Fortune and Saga; he advertised also in Marvel Comics, until its pages were closed to him.[64]

Outside of North America, West Germany constitutes his principal target, where (as in Canada) his mass mailings are aimed at parliamentarians. In December 1983, he sent the book "Allied War Crimes" to all members of the West German parliament, acquiring in his homeland an ideologically sympathetic clientele for his mail order business. In December 1980, the Parliamentary Secretary of State for the Federal Ministry of Finance announced in the Bundestag that. between January 1, 1978 and December 30, 1979, "200 shipments of a right wing extremist and neo-Nazi content...books, periodicals, symbols, decorations, films, cassettes, records...came overwhelmingly from Canada."[65] He added that, as a result of similar shipments during the first half of 1980, prosecutions were being considered.

On April 23, 1981, in a letter to the Canadian Jewish Congress, an official of the Ministry of Finance in Bonn identified the source of these materials as "Samisdat Publishers, 206 Carlton Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 2L1."[66] A story on Simon Wiesenthal in the New York Times Magazine of May 3, 1981, provides a particularly telling example of how Zündel's mailings filter through German society and beyond. A Dutch tourist, vacationing in Upper Austria, was supplied with antisemitic material by a gas station attendant, who, in turn, had obtained the writings from a friend who was a Samisdat subscriber.[67]

Canada, the United States, Germany and Europe do not comprise the limits of Zündel's reach: Australia is also within his orbit, as is the Middle East. In the summer of 1981, 400 tapes in the Arabic language apparently were shipped to opinion-makers in Arab lands.[68] Zündel's claim to be in touch with people in 45 to 47 countries in at least 14 different languages is not impossible: an impressive operation indeed! This propaganda mill is by no means an altruistic enterprise. While much of the material is mailed unsolicited, much of it, together with his vast mail order enterprise, generates funds. Police sources estimate that a steady income ranging between $60000-100000 per annum comes from his empire.

Moreover, he has frequently appealed directly for money. A report of the West German Ministry of the Interior reveals that, in one fund-raising campaign in 1980, Zündel raised close to 100000 German marks (the equivalent of $50000).[69] Even this estimate may be too modest. In one of his own publications in 1981, he pooh-poohed the German magazine Der Spiegel for guessing that his total annual budget amounted to 100000 marks, countering indignantly that "Samisdat has long ago exceeded the figure...for no organization that spans the world and reaches forty-five countries can manage with so low a budget."[70]

An enterprising and ambitious man, Zündel regards himself not only as a businessman and publisher, but also as an intellectual and author. Certainly, he is not unintelligent. His mission is both practical and theoretical, combining his flair for organization with his flair for drama and exhibitionism. One forms an impression of an impresario - a P.T. Barnum of Holocaust denial. Various circuses are staged at his home, grandeloquently described in publicity literature as "Samisdat Lecture Hall." His guest performers have included R.G. Dommerque (or Dommergue) from France and J.J. Burg from West Germany. Other speakers have been Frank Walus from the United States and Mrs. Rost Von Toningen, described as the "wife of the former financial genius and Finance Minister of Holland." Zündel both arranged their public appearances and acted as publicity agent. setting up media interviews, etc.

Zündel's activities as an impresario are not restricted to Canada. As early as the late summer of 1979, he was engaged (as Ernst Christof Friedrich Zündel) in organizing a North American speaking tour and a "historical symposium" for what he referred to as his "Samisdat Truth Squad."[72] The projected itinerary was ambitious, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Flagstaff, Denver, Topeka, Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Buffalo, New York, Philadelphia and Washington. There is no indication that it ever took place. but Zündel, undaunted, planned a similar venture for his "flying truth-squads" through his German-Jewish Historical Commission several years later.[73]

Although the impresario might appear more comic than criminal, the image of buffoon is undoubtedly a device to disarm. It is evident that Zündel's ideas are toxic, his modus operandi carefully conceived, his connections in Canada and elsewhere most unsavoury and the consequences of his presence and his activities potentially dangerous.

An inkling of this danger was unearthed on March 24, 1981, in what The Toronto Star described as "the biggest crackdown on neo-Nazis since West Germany was founded in 1949."[74] West German police, raiding hundreds of homes of German neo-Nazis, discovered weapons, ammunition and explosives, as well as tens of thousands of copies of Zündel-type and Zündel-produced material, including, among other things, the diary of the top neo-Nazi leader, Manfred Roeder. Roeder, an ex-lawyer incarcerated in West Germany as a terrorist killer, claimed an organized network of radical right adherents stretching across 35 countries. His diary mentions Zündel.

The report of the Ministry of the Interior in West Germany identified Gary Rex Lauck, George Dietz and Ernst Zündel as important North American contacts of the West German radical right and its principal suppliers of neo-Nazi and antisemitic propaganda. Lauck of Lincoln, Nebraska, is the leader of the American Nazi Party; Dietz, of Reedy, West Virginia, is a leading American white supremacist; Zündel, of course, has published in Dietz's publications, and has admitted that Dietz has visited his Toronto home.[75] There is a sinister aspect to these connections. As the propagandist himself has reported, he was once visited by the police who, in his words, "were looking for persons who might be on my mailing list who were wanted for murdering a certain person of Hungarian birth in Missouri. The murdered man was a National Socialist and possessed many of my writings."[76]


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