6. Political discrimination: propaganda

Somehow we can’t help thinking that if political discrimination is against “us” it is bad, but if it is in a good cause, it must be OK. The hard part is to allow the expression of opinions that we find offensive. The extreme end of this spectrum is our response to Nazi propaganda and Holocaust deniers.

David Irving

There was debate in Australia about whether Holocaust denier, David Irving, should be allowed into Australia. Some people in the Jewish community, as well as other Australians, said no. Others said that the better response was to argue against him rather than ban his entry. I am sympathetic to this view. However, I am also sympathetic to the people who said that giving his poisonous crap an airing would be so hurtful to some people (such as Holocaust survivors) that he should not be allowed to express his views in public. Again, it is the fine line between expression of offensive views versus doing actual harm.

Laws against Holocaust denial

In January 1988, Irving travelled to Toronto, Canada to assist Douglas Christie, the defence lawyer for Ernst Zundel at his second trial for denying the Holocaust.

In 2006, David Irving was sentenced to three years jail in Austria for the crime of Holocaust denial.

See:  “http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4733820.stm” 

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the UK’s Holocaust Educational Trust welcomed the verdict. “Holocaust denial is anti-Semitism dressed up as intellectual debate. It should be regarded as such and treated as such,”

Another view was expressed by author and academic Deborah Lipstadt, whom Irving unsuccessfully sued for libel in the UK in 2000 over claims that he was a Holocaust denier.

“I am not happy when censorship wins, and I don’t believe in winning battles via censorship… The way of fighting Holocaust deniers is with history and with truth,”

Wikipedia gives this overview and commentary about Holocaust denial laws:

Scholars have pointed out that countries that specifically ban Holocaust denial generally have legal systems that limit speech in other ways, such as banning hate speech. According to D. Guttenplan, this is a split between the “common law countries of the United States, Ireland and many British Commonwealth countries from the civil law countries of continental Europe and Scotland. In civil law countries the law is generally more proscriptive. Also, under the civil law regime, the judge acts more as an inquisitor, gathering and presenting evidence as well as interpreting it”. Michael Whine argues that Holocaust denial can inspire violence against Jews; he states, “Jews’ experience in the post-World War II era suggests that their rights are best protected in open and tolerant democracies that actively prosecute all forms of racial and religious hatred.”

János Kis and TASZ, in particular András Schiffer feel the work of Holocaust deniers should be protected by a universal right to free speech. An identical argument was used by the Hungarian Constitutional Court (Alkotmánybíróság) led by László Sólyom when it struck down a law against Holocaust denial in 1992. The argument that laws punishing Holocaust denial are incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been rejected by institutions of the Council of Europe (the European Commission of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights) and also by the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Historians who oppose such laws include Raul HilbergRichard J. Evans, and Pierre Vidal-Naquet. Other prominent opponents of the laws are Timothy Garton AshChristopher HitchensPeter Singer, and Noam Chomsky. An uproar resulted when Serge Thion used one of Chomsky’s essays without explicit permission as a foreword to a book of Holocaust denial essays (see Faurisson affair). These laws have also been criticized on the grounds that education is more effective than legislation at combating Holocaust denial and that the laws will make martyrs out of those imprisoned for their violation.

Controversial Australian-born philosopher and bio-ethicis Professor Peter Singer is an advocate of freedom of speech. He has opposed the jailing of Holocaust Deniers such as David Irving.

“If there are still people crazy enough to deny that the Holocaust occurred, will they be persuaded by imprisoning people who express that view?” he asked in 2006 when Irving was jailed in Austria for Holocaust denial. “On the contrary, they will be more likely to think that people are being imprisoned for expressing views that cannot be refuted by evidence and argument alone.”

Countries with laws against Holocaust denial are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • Israel
  • Lithuania
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Switzerland

A speech Irving made in Germany led to his conviction for Holocaust denial on July 1991. The court fined Irving DM 7,000. Irving appealed the judgement, and received a fine of DM 10,000 for repeating the same remarks in the courtroom. Other governments followed suit, including Austria, Italy and Canada,where he was arrested in November 1992 and deported back to the United Kingdom.

David Irving being deported from Canada, 1992 (above)

In 1993, Irving was banned from Germany. His criminal convictions in Germany led Canadian authorities to deny him entrance as well; he was deported from Canada in 1992 after he admitted having lied to a Canadian customs official.

Also in 1993 Irving was barred from visiting Australia on the grounds that he was “likely to become involved in activities disruptive to, or violence threatening harm to, the Australian community.” Irving fought the ruling for several years, even threatening defamation proceedings against Australian Prime Minister John Howard. He failed to win entry to the country, however, which stated in 1996 that “applicants with comparable criminal records are routinely refused [entry]” by the Australian Department of Immigration.”

(Extract from: “http://www.adl.org/learn/ext_us/irving.asp?)

Civil law suits against Irving

“Although Lipstadt’s book was published in the United States in 1993, Irving waited to sue until it was printed by a British publisher. American law places the burden of proof on the accuser; to win, Irving would have had to prove that Lipstadt had lied about him in her book. In addition, under the provisions of American libel law, Irving would undoubtedly be considered a “public figure,” and thereby would also need to prove that Lipstadt wrote about him with malice. The libel laws in England, by contrast, place the burden of proof on the defendant. By suing Lipstadt in his own country, Irving forced her to prove that her statements about him were truthful.” See Simon Singh’s case for changes to English libel law.

Community action against Irving

Irving now claims to have changed his mind. However his recent tours of the US have seen “angry mobs trying to run him out of town” and trying to “shut him down”.

This an example of the “anti-fascist” response to Irving:

“In New Jersey, dozens of anti-fascists filled the Pompton Plains hotel, chanting and struggling with attendees.  They were so effective in disrupting the event that police had to escort attendees out. The same happened a day later in NYC, where the event was not only disrupted, but both Irving’s tour manager Jaenelle Antas and neo-Nazi friend Alex Carmichael were pepper-sprayed. Faced with humiliation and defeat, Irving was forced to cancel his next few scheduled appearances, but the chaos did not end there. Days later his Chicago event was shut down when dozens of masked anti-fascists stormed into the Edelweiss restaurant turning over tables, destroying his merchandise, and assaulting attendees, while Irving and Antas locked themselves in a supply closet in a magnificent display of cowardice.

Right in the middle of his failed east coast appearances, his websites were also attacked by anti-fascist hackers who released his private emails and databases to WikiLeaks.”

See:  “http://rosecityantifa.weebly.com/1/post/2011/03/david-irving-holocaust-denier-scheduled-to-speak-in-portland-on-may-1st.html”

Roger Garaudy

French philosopher Roger Garaudy, who died in 2012, took up many different beliefs, philosophies and religions over his lifetime: Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and Communism. He was in the French Resistance during the war, but became a Holocaust denier later in life. He was given a suspended jail sentence for Holocaust denial in 1998.

Leni Riefenstahl

Leni Riefenstahl was a German photographer and film maker, born in 1902.

See:  http://www.leni-riefenstahl.de/eng/film.html#oben for her filmography.

In 1933, she was appointed by Hitler as the top film executive of the Nazi Party.

After the war she was the subject of four denazification proceedings which finally declared her a Nazi sympathiser. She won more than 50 libel cases against people accusing her of knowledge having to do with Nazi crimes.

Leni Reifenstahl died of cancer on the 8th of September 2003, in Pocking Germany, a few weeks after her 101st birthday.

Iconic Nazi pictures

Her most controversial film, Triumph Des Willens (Triumph of the Will – 1935) is a documentary about the NSDAP’s 6th Reich Party Congress in Nuremberg from September 4th until September 10th 1934. The most famous still from the film is of a Nazi mass rally, with swastikas flying, which has a huge visual impact.

Triumph of the Will, with its evocative images and innovative film technique, ranked as an epic work of documentary film making, and is widely regarded as one of the most masterful propaganda films ever produced.” (Comment from: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/riefenstahl.html)

Also controversial was her celebration of German Olympic athletes (Olympia, 1938), made for the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, and which was seen as supporting the Nazi concept of magnificent Aryan youth. The modern German version of the film was “denazified” and is shorter.

See:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgEpnG7b8i4&feature=related

Another film, Tiefland (Lowlands) was made from 1940 to 1945. In 1953, the French confiscated the material.

Later work

At the age of 71, Leni Riefenstahl discovered the underwater world.. She passed a diving certificate (faking her age for the exam), and published stunningly gorgeous photographic works, “Korallengärten” (The coral gardens) (1978) and “Wunder unter Wasser” (Wonders under water) (1990). In her later work she never shook off the taint of Nazism.

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