According to Reuters,, a German court sentenced a prominent Holocaust denier extradited from Canada to five years in prison on Thursday for inciting racial hatred and denying the Nazis killed six million Jews.
uendel, publisher of works such as "Did six million really die?", was handed the maximum sentence under German law for Holocaust denial.
Zundel, as you may know, was tried in Canada in the later 1980s, found guilty, and then the Supreme Court struck down the law under which he was tried. He is an unreprentant Holocaust denier and antisemite. [He also believes in UFOs.]
Parroting Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Zundel declared in his closing statement that Germany "should set up an international commission of experts to examine the Holocaust." If the commission confirmed that Jews had been gassed he would apologize.
At last year's conference in Teheran, there were posters of Zundel displayed in places of prominence.
I, as readers of this blog know well, oppose jailing people for denial, however I am intrigued by his having been found guilty of "inciting racial hatred." Was he found guilty just for denial or for actual acts of incitement?
As strongly as I feel about this issue, it gives me a moment of pause when I note that this is happening in Germany. The Germans say -- and rightly so -- what would the world say about us if we let deniers freely spout their stuff and did not call them to account?
The Germans also remember, as I taught my students recently in a history of the Holocaust class, that the Nazi rise to power began with rhetoric. It gives me momentary pause in my views but the thought that Zundel might become a media darling is quite revolting.
The Germans seem well aware that Holocaust denial is the ultimate form of antisemitism.
I only wish the Germans and the Austrians, for that matter, had felt -- particularly in the years after the war -- as strongly about punishing perpetrators or, on a far lower level, returning stolen property and artwork to the victims.