The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Zündel Affair

Manuel Prutschi


Zündel and the Jewish Community

In the spring of 1981, Zündel applied to the Canadian Jewish Congress for the advertised position of director of the Holocaust Documentation Bank Project (designed to document extensively the memories of Canadian survivors). He penned his application on April 10, barely two weeks after the media had identified him as a major manufacturer and exporter of neo-Nazi and Holocaust denial literature.

In his application (which, incidentally, contains his full name), he described himself as "the ideal candidate" for the position. He was, in his own words, "extremely knowledgeable and sensitive in regard to the Holocaust issue," and possessed "a good understanding of... Yiddish."[84]

The applicant also generously offered the project his "substantial Holocaust archives."[85] The Congress sent Zündel a standard reply indicating that his application had arrived too late for consideration and that a director had been appointed already.

In 1981, Zündel announced that his German-Jewish Historical Commission was organizing a series of Holocaust symposia to begin in November or December of the same year. To raise funds, he addressed himself to Canadian business people, seeking minimum donations of $250. "Minimum donors" were to be granted "the German-Jewish Historical Commission's Community Fellowship Award," while "donors of $500 or more" were to be honoured at a "Symposium Celebrity Banquet."[86] Prominent Jewish scholars were asked to participate.

Rabbi Gunther Plaut, for example, was invited to present his "Holocaustological viewpoints,"[87] and Michael Marrus, whom he had castigated as a mendacious Zionist during the Nielsen incident, was also invited: Zündel indicated that he knew that Marrus understood the "tremendous" educational value of "such a meeting of minds."[88]

His needling of the Jewish community knew no bounds. On September 28, 1981, in the classified section of The Toronto Star carrying Rosh Hashanah greetings for that year, there was an entry from Ernst Zündel and Samisdat Publishers Limited wishing a "Happy New Year to all our Jewish friends."

Another favourite theme was his avowed intention to meet with representatives of the Jewish community, allegedly to work things out. He articulated that intention in a 1981 letter to Rabbi Plaut and repeated it in a letter of November 4, 1982, to the Canadian Jewish Congress, referring (among other things) to the "rapidly-eroding Holocaust Legend" and the "wild claims of mass-gassings."[89] In the later letter, he described himself as "the only person in Canada who can virtually guarantee the Jewish community a smooth transition from hysterical World War II hate propaganda to historical fact...."[90] Obviously, nothing could and nothing did come of such overtures, although this foregone conclusion did not dampen his zeal.

In February 1983, under his Concerned Parents of German Descent letterhead, he mailed a six-page letter to rabbis and Jewish community leaders across Canada. Opening with "Shalom," he called once more for dialogue, declaring that, because his previous gestures were turned down by "senior members of certain influential Jewish community organizations," he had chosen to go above their heads to communicate directly with Jewish leaders in different parts of the country.[91]

He offered himself as a speaker to synagogues and Jewish Community Centres (for a fee, of course) ending with the pious hope that the lies separating Jews and Germans would be put to rest, and that the "liars would be anathematized."[92] In making his point, he actually referred to the Talmud, citing a phrase which he paraphrased as stating "that a lie kills three persons - the person lied about, the person who believes the lie and finally, the liar himself."[93]

Predictably, the Jewish community was angered by these provocations, which rubbed salt in wounds already opened by Zündel's neo-Nazi and Holocaust denial activities. His tactics constituted a brutal assault on Jewish sensibilities, as well as a desecration of Hitler's victims. Through his characterization of the Holocaust as a political-financial swindle, he also defamed the Jewish people. Hence, he became another name on a list of Canadian antisemites from whom redress was sought through legal means. The search for legal protection against antisemitism in particular, and racism in general, led finally to his indictment and trials.



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