by Dr. Alex Grobman

The trial of Holocaust denier Ernest Zündel in the Mannheim state court on charges of libel, incitement and disparaging the dead provides us with another opportunity to examine who the deniers are, their goals and how we should respond to them. Coming after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent statement on Iranian national TV that leaders in the West “have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets,” this is especially important.

Zündel, who failed to obtain Canadian citizenship, was deported from Canada last year to his native Germany. He immigrated to Canada in the late 1970s, where he owned and operated a graphic arts company for a number of years. He established Samisdat Publishers that printed and distributed Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi books and articles; Power, his radio programs; “Another Voice of Freedom” his cable-TV shows; and his Internet site, Zündelsite, where he exposed the Holocaust Hoax. Until 2001 he lived in Montreal and Toronto.

Dr. Michael Shermer and I visited Ernest Zündel at his home in Toronto while doing research on our book Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened And Why Do They Say It? When I asked Zündel if he was serious about what he had written in his book UFO’s: Nazi Secret Weapons? he laughed. The book claimed that flying saucers from outer space are really Nazi secret weapons.

He wrote the book, he said, to generate media interest in the myth of the Holocaust, and the guillble press beat a path to his door. When I asked Zündel how could we believe he was genuinely serious about Holocuast denial, his demeanor changed completely. His mission in life, he proclaimed, is to defend the honor of Germany and its people who have been maliciously maligned by this despicable lie. If the Jews did not cease spreading these fabrications he warned, there would be severe consequences for them. He wanted an ongoing dialogue with me on how we might prevent such a disaster, but our long distance phone conversations were not productive.

What became clear from these encounters, and with David Irving and another Holocaust denier, is that there is a core of true believers who will never be convinced that the Holocaust happened. Whether we should respond to these charges or ignore them has been an issue within the Jewish community for some time.

Michael and I decided to meet with the deniers privately, at their conferences, on the phone and by email to learn first hand what they had to say. It seemed incongruous that Jews were meeting with Yassir Arafat and others who either engaged in murdering Israelis or ordering their deaths, but Holocaust deniers were off limits. Confronting the lies of Holocaust deniers in public is imperative, otherwise people might assume we have no answers.

Holocaust deniers pose a physical threat to Jews because they want to rehabilitate antisemtism and make it more respectable in “civilized discourse,â€? Pierre Vidal-Naquet reminds us. They want antisemitism to be used as an acceptable policy of governments. What better way to do so, then by proving that the Holocaust never occured?

Holocaust denial must also be seen as a danger to the free world and our way of life. The goal is to make National Socialism and Fascism legtimate alternatives to democracy. Holocaust deniers believe that both are the wave of the future. If the Holocaust is a myth, then these non-democratic forms of government are no longer tainted with the systematic mass murder of Six Million Jews.

The deniers have convinced the media that this is a free speech issue which it is not. Deniers should be allowed to speak and publish their works. But we have no moral or legal obligation to publish or help them promote their lies.

Arab Holocaust denial raises the bar to a new level. Arabs deny the Holocaust or at least its severity; vilify Zionist leaders for allegedly collaborating with the Nazis and becoming their heirs and claim the Jews are responsible for precipitating whatever happened. They try to prove that Jews have no historical connection to the country, and thus no legitimate right to any part of Israel. If there was no Holocaust, Jews are also not victims. Only the Arabs are.

Holocaust denial is a form of pseudohistory. We need to understand how the deniers cleverly manipulate and distort the facts. Holocaust denial is an insult against history and how we practice the science of history. To deny the Holocaust is shocking because it attempts to deny our search to find out why it happened? For this reason, we note that Holocaust denial is dangerous and despicable—for it is an attempt not just to deny a true past, but also to deny a meaningful one.

Dr. Grobman is the co-author of Denying History: Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened And Why Do They Say It? University of California Press, 2000