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StarNet Dispatches
Wednesday, November 12, 1999

Canada prosecutes German for Holocaust revisionism

by Angélica Pence, apence@azstarnet.com




``There is absolutely no substance to the claims that the Germans killed 6 million Jews. We are through being sabotaged by the corrupt, organized forces in the Jewish community.''
-- Ernst Zündel

Ernst Zündel used to pass out flyers, give speeches, and man letter-writing campaigns protesting what he deems this century's most elaborate hoax: the Holocaust.

Offensive to many, but not illegal.

These days, the 58-year-old German native relays his controversial version of history to a much broader audience via the Internet - equally as offensive but still not illegal in his adopted Canada.

At least, not yet.

Zündel is facing allegations that he violated the Canadian Human Rights Act by posting material on a Web site that could expose an identifiable group (in this case Jews) to hatred or contempt.

"I am a truth teller", Zündel said. "My truth is uncomfortable to some and they've come after me because of it."

The City of Toronto's race relations committee and Toronto resident Sabina Citron levied the complaint against Zündel and were soon joined by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith.

The groundbreaking case - brought before a Canadian Human Rights Commission tribunal - is the first to attempt applying human rights laws to the largely ungoverned Internet.

"If Zündel wants to go on a street corner and flap his gums about his beliefs, if he wants to cover every single parking lot in Toronto with flyers or write every single newspaper editor in the western hemisphere to get his message out, he can do that", said Bill Pentney, general council for the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

"But he can't do so over the telephone and he shouldn't be able to do so over the Net."

As it stands, Canadian law has never been applied to the Internet. Still, it is illegal in Canada to send phone messages that could cause hatred or contempt of a specific group - ethnic or otherwise. And if the commission can equate Zündel's modems with answering machines and voice mail, the case could set a precedent for regulating speech on the global medium.

While most Internet access requires a telephone hookup, the receiver of online information must take an active role in seeking out the potentially offensive material as opposed to having someone yell it in their ear.

If Zündel, who is represented by the Canadian Free Speech League, is found guilty by the tribunal, "it will mean that the Human Rights Commission will have jurisdiction over the Internet", said David Jones, president of Electronic Frontier Canada. The organization is an advocacy group created to protect freedom of speech on the Internet and other emerging technology mediums.

"That's a tremendous amount of power to censor whatever they see fit to censor."

Zündel's most valid defense is that his Zündelsite home page is not subject to Canadian law because the computers that post the material are in San Jose, Calif. In addition, the self-proclaimed "computer illiterate" maintains he has no direct say in the operation of the site and therefore is not legally responsible for its contents.

But last month, Zündel's estranged wife testified otherwise.

Irene Zündel, who married Zündel in March 1996 and separated from him in July, told the tribunal that Zündel sent monthly checks to U.S. resident Ingrid Rimland in Carlsbad, Calif., to cover the costs of operating the allegedly anti-Semitic site. She also alleges Zündel instructed a part-time employee to post his handwritten material online.

Both sides agree the testimony hurt Zündel, but he's emerged unscathed from worse legal problems in the past.

Sabina Citron - a founding member of the Canadian Holocaust Remembrance Association - became entangled with Zündel almost 15 years ago when she filed "false news" charges against him for distributing lies denying the Holocaust. Zündel was convicted of the crime by two juries but the Supreme Court of Canada eventually ruled the law unconstitutional.

This time, dozens of Zündelsite documents are being examined by the tribunal including: "Did Six Million Really Die?", "66 Questions and Answers On the Holocaust", and "Jewish Soap."

Zündel, who has lived in Canada for nearly 40 years, says his work asserts many of the same beliefs found in Holocaust denial literature. Some revisionists blame Jews for World War II and portray Nazis as the true victims of the Holocaust.

Zündel also holds fast that Hitler maintained a top-secret UFO base in Antarctica.

"There is absolutely no substance to the claims that the Germans killed 6 million Jews", Zündel said. "We are through being sabotaged by the corrupt, organized forces in the Jewish community.

"(Germans) are not second-class citizens who must forever be silent when our own history is distorted and misrepresented by the media."

Free speech advocates say Zündel should be able to give his opinion - however detestable to some - without being prosecuted.

"We can all agree that Zündel will never win any popularity contests because of his views", Jones said. "There are many organizations that would like to see him kicked out of the country. But he hasn't done anything wrong, legally speaking.

"Freedom of expression laws are meant to protect offensive speech. Speech that no one is offended by is not in need of protection."

But Zündel's critics say his views go beyond sharing his views.

"It's not just the questioning of the Holocaust", Pentney said. "It is the linking of that with a Jewish conspiracy and a call to action to stop that conspiracy that concerns us."

Gary Prideaux, a professor of linguistics at the University of Alberta, testified last month that language used in the Zündelsite implies that Jewish communities worldwide are engaged in criminal activities including racketeering, the Canadian Jewish News reported.

If Zündel loses the case, the tribunal can issue a cease and desist order forcing him to remove his site from the Net and pay damages. Still, such a decision by the Human Rights Commission is likely to accomplish little-to-nothing to impede mirror sites in other countries from posting Zündel's thoughts.

And there's little governments can do to remove the more than 700 online "hate sites" documented by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

Zündel expects his site will remain - even if the Canadian tribunal rules against him when they reconvene in mid-December.

"Ernst Zündel and his truth will be the true and only winners in the end", he said. "We the Germans are the victims but we will one day be victorious."


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