Present-day Holocaust Denial [skepticism and critical research]
It behooves us to review the development of Holocaust denial
[historical revision] since the early 2000s; examine how relevant legislation has been applied; evaluate how states and the intergovernmental agencies are combating denial
[critical research]; and suggest some lessons that might be learned for the future.
All European states now accept that Holocaust denial
[skepticism] is designed to incite hatred against Jews [
] and that the failure to learn the appropriate lessons endangers social cohesion and democracy, and also increases the risk that another genocide will be perpetrated. [
The 2007 UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on Holocaust denial
[skepticism] (61/255) “condemns without any reservation” any manifestations of denial
[skepticism] and “urges all Member States unreservedly to reject any denial
[skepticism] of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or in part
, or any activities to this end.” It is noteworthy that the resolution was passed by consensus, with Iran dissenting.
The 2019 report on antisemitism for the UNGA by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief notes the rise in Holocaust denial
[skepticism], including by those who express anger toward Israel; the increasing use of social media to promote denial
[skepticism]; that denial
[skepticism] creates fertile ground for nationalist or neo-Nazi demonstrations; and that indifference to such manifestations of hatred can lead to the destruction of societies.
The Special Rapporteur warned, however, that criminal or other punitive measures against Holocaust denial
[skepticism] should only be used as a last resort when less restrictive measures have failed. Most states have historically relied on punitive action as their initial response, and only in recent years have they, alongside international bodies, invested in large-scale and more effective education.
Recent Convictions for Holocaust Denial [skepticism and critical research] in European Courts
The following cases indicate that extremists of various kinds promote Holocaust denial
[skepticism] by different means. In 2013, György Nagy
, a then-unemployed computer technician, was convicted under recently enacted Holocaust denial
[skepticism] legislation for holding a banner at a 2011 Budapest political rally that read “The Shoah did not happen.” He was ordered to visit the Hungarian Holocaust Memorial Center on three occasions in lieu of serving an eighteen-month jail sentence.
In 2017, a German court in Verden (Aller) convicted the elderly Ursula Haverbeck-Wetzel
[questioning] the mass murder of Jews and stating that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz. A longtime Nazi sympathizer, she had been involved in the paramilitary training of neo-Nazis and had been previously convicted for denial offenses. In 2018, she began a two-year prison sentence following convictions for several denial
Also in 2017, an unnamed Austrian woman was found guilty of publishing a post on Facebook in violation of an Austrian law that criminalises Holocaust denial
[skepticism] and the glorification of Nazism; she was given a suspended sentence and fined. She had accused a German soccer team of spreading lies after they expressed regret for Nazi crimes during a visit to Auschwitz. In the same year, former Belgian parliamentarian Laurent Louis
was convicted of denial
[skepticism] for a second time, after an earlier 2015 conviction, and ordered to visit the site of a Nazi concentration camp every year for the following five years and write about his experiences. Shortly after his conviction he wrote that every year he would repent in a death camp and that “the sentence would be very educational and very powerful on a human level.”
In 2019, Karl Münter
, a former SS officer was found guilty of disputing the Holocaust in a German TV interview and of blaming the victims for their own deaths. However, he died of natural causes before serving what would have been a prison sentence. Shortly after the war, he was convicted in absentia of war crimes and sentenced to death but was pardoned in 1955 as part of the Franco–German reconciliation efforts.
In February 2019, Alison Chabloz
, a British far-right activist and self-described “Holocaust revisionist,” lost her appeal against a June 2018 conviction for promoting denial
[skepticism] on YouTube. She had uploaded videos of herself singing three antisemitic
[satirical] songs. In one of them she sang “Now Auschwitz, holy temple, is a theme park for fools, the gassing zone a proven hoax, indoctrination rules.” Following her appeal, she served twenty weeks in jail and was banned from posting on all social media for twelve months.
In April 2019, Alain Soral
, a prominent French anti-establishment activist who has promoted both far-right and far-left ideologies, was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for publishing a cartoon that implied
[?] that the Holocaust did not take place. A year before, he had been sentenced to three months in prison by the Paris Criminal Court for questioning the occurrence of crimes against humanity, and in 2016 he had been sentenced to six months for making the antisemitic “Quenelle” gesture outside the Colmar High Court. However, Soral was released from prison in January 2020 after a successful appeal against the 2016 conviction.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) interprets the European Convention on Human Rights, the primary human rights instrument for Council of Europe member states, including members of the European Union. All states are required to execute the Court’s judgments, and it has issued important judgments against Holocaust deniers
[skeptics]. It has based its judgments variously on the abuse of rights (under Article 17), when the comments in question amounted to hate speech and negated the fundamental values of the Convention, and the abuse of freedom of expression, when hate speech was seen as a risk to the fundamental values of the Convention (under Article 10).
In the chapter “Negation of the Holocaust” in its Guide on Article 17, the Court notes:
Negation of the Holocaust has invariably been presumed by the Court and the Commission to incite to hatred or intolerance. In particular, the justification for making its denial a criminal offence lies not so much in that it is a clearly established historical fact but in that, in view of the historical context in the States concerned, its denial [skepticism], even if dressed up as impartial historical research, must be seen as connoting an antidemocratic ideology and antisemitism…
The ECtHR therefore views Holocaust denial
[skepticism] as a subversion of the fight against racism and antisemitism, a threat to public order, and an attempt to negate the historical record. It posits that prosecuting it is a necessary defence of democracy.
In the most recent case, Pastörs v. Germany
, in October 2019, the Court rejected the applicant’s complaint under Article 10 that the German courts should not have convicted him for denying
[questioning] the Holocaust during a speech in the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania regional parliament. On January 28, 2010, the day after Holocaust Remembrance Day, Udo Pastörs
, then a member of the regional parliament, made a speech in which he stated that “the so-called Holocaust is being used for political and commercial purposes.” He also referred to a “barrage of criticism and propagandistic lies” and “Auschwitz projections.”
was convicted in August 2012 in a separate case in which he was charged with of violating the memory of the dead and of the intentional defamation of the Jewish people. He appealed the judgment in March 2013, but the court stated that with respect to Holocaust denial [skepticism], he could not rely on his right to free speech
The parliament had already revoked his parliamentary immunity in 2012. In his appeal to the German Court of Appeals, Pastörs also challenged one of the sitting judges, claiming that he could not be impartial as he was married to the judge who had convicted him in the first instance. Pastörs’ final appeal was rejected by the German Federal Constitutional Court in 2014, after which he unsuccessfully appealed to the Strasbourg Court. In its judgment, the ECtHR noted that Pastörs had intentionally stated half-truths
in order to defame the Jews and the persecution they had suffered. The interference with his rights also had to be examined in the context of the distinct moral responsibility of states that had perpetrated or witnessed Nazi horrors to distance themselves from the atrocities. It also rejected Pastörs’ argument about the judge’s impartiality when deciding on the same case at a different level of jurisdiction.
In the same year, the ECtHR upheld another judgment, referencing Article 17. Richard Williamson
, an English-born former bishop and member of the traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X, had denied
[applied critical analysis to] the Holocaust in a Swedish TV interview broadcast in Germany, knowing that his statements were subject to criminal liability there despite residing elsewhere at the time. He had never insisted that his interview not be broadcast in Germany and had not clarified with the interviewer or TV station how this interview would be transmitted. The European Court upheld the judgment of the Regensburg regional court in Bavaria that had convicted Williamson of Holocaust denial
In 2015, the ECtHR upheld the 2008 conviction of French activist Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala
for public insults against Jews. He had invited the late French Holocaust denier
[skeptic] Robert Faurisson
onto the stage at the end of his show at the Zénith Arena in Paris to receive a prize, which took the form of a three-branched candlestick with an apple on each branch. This was presented to Faurisson by an actor dressed in striped pajamas with a stitched-on Star of David badge bearing the word “Juif” [Jew]. The Court found that M’Bala M’Bala
was not entitled to the protection of Article 10 of the Convention, as his performance could not be considered entertainment but actually resembled a political meeting convened to demonstrate hatred of Jews and to promote denial
The aforementioned Guide on Article 17 lists other cases in which the Court relied on Article 17 or used it as an aid in interpretation, such as Honsik
v. Austria (1995); Marais
v. France (1996); and Garaudy
v. France (2003).
Holocaust denial [skepticism] today
The constraints of space permit us to enumerate only a few examples of the way in which Holocaust denial
[skepticism] has been promoted on the world stage. Hitherto the most active Holocaust denier
[skeptic] in recent years, David Irving
has been forced to curtail his activities due to his age, lack of funds, and travel restrictions. His attempts to address university audiences in the UK have invariably been met by protests and the subsequent retraction of the invitations. In September 2019, the Polish Foreign Ministry stated that he would be denied permission to enter Poland to conduct a planned guided visit for his supporters to Treblinka, Sobibór, Bełżec, and Majdanek.
He is also banned from traveling to Austria and Germany.
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10 ... 20.1750858