The Thomas Fudge Article: New Zealand Herald, 23/24 July 2003


 Dr Joel Hayward has suffered two breakdowns as a result of the controversy. Picture / Mark Mitchell


'Book-burners' feared libel suit

Canterbury University staff who destroyed copies of a journal containing an article on controversial Holocaust scholar Joel Hayward say they did it because of potential defamation and possible inaccuracies.

The so-called "book burning" scandal has left the university in uproar and academics throughout the country concerned that the censorship of the university publication breached academic freedom.

The article by Canterbury University historian Dr Thomas Fudge in the May issue of History Now examined Dr Hayward's treatment over his 1993 masters thesis, which questioned the validity of Holocaust history.

Canterbury University vice-chancellor Professor Roy Sharp said yesterday that the majority of history department staff had agreed that the article, in its then form, should not be published.

He cited possible inaccuracies and misleading statements that no one had been given a chance to check, the use of internal history department documents without clearance, and the naming of specific individuals and businesses which could expose the university to legal action.

Professor Sharp and history department head Professor Peter Hempenstall said while a university should not prevent an academic publishing controversial or unpopular opinions, it was not obliged to publish such an article itself.

There had been no attempt to stop publication elsewhere. "Indeed, Dr Fudge was offered suggestions as to other media in which he could publish."

In the article, Dr Fudge asked if Dr Hayward had been the victim of a modern-day witch-hunt. He stressed academic freedom and said it was the duty of universities to challenge conventional beliefs.

Dr Fudge argued that while there was nothing redemptive about the Holocaust, nor was there any redemptive value in the "pursuit of Joel Hayward along a journey from holocaust historian to the fate of personal holocaust".

Dr Fudge said that in early 2001 Dr Hayward had received obscene and disturbing phonecalls with death threats directed at his children.

Outraged by the censorship, Dr Fudge resigned in protest and the journal's editor, Associate Professor Ian Campbell, walked away from the editorship as a result of disapproval over his running the piece.

The national president of the Association of University Staff, Bill Rosenberg, said yesterday that he had taken calls from academics around the country worried about the censorship.

Dr Rosenberg said the association strongly defended the right to academic freedom. It would want to ensure Dr Fudge had been treated fairly and due process was followed.

Dr Rosenberg said it was possible the university's actions were in breach of statutory rights to academic freedom under the Education Act 1989.

An associate law professor at Auckland University , Paul Rishworth, said it was not possible to say the decision to recall and destroy the journal was a violation of Dr Fudge's right to freedom of expression.

"Academic journals are not open forums. No one has a right to have their contribution published."

Professor Rishworth said Canterbury University 's decision offended no legal rights, although this was not to say it had acted wisely.

The director of the New Zealand universities academic audit unit, John Jennings, agreed it was the right of any publisher to publish what it wanted. From what he had read of Dr Fudge's article it seemed well considered, but he doubted whether its censorship in an in-house journal amounted to an attack on academic freedom.

The key players

* Associate Professor Ian Campbell - teaches world history, Pacific history and the philosophy of history at the University of Canterbury . Was the editor of History Now.

* Dr Thomas Fudge - a specialist on medieval and reformation Europe with research interests in iconography and European witchcraft in the period 1100-1700 and the social implications of heresy.

* Professor Peter Hempenstall, head of the history department, a Pacific historian who also takes an honours course in biographical method.

The story so far ...

1991: History postgraduate student Joel Hayward, aged in his late 20s, begins to write a master's thesis which questions the extent of the Holocaust.

1993: The 360-page thesis entitled The Fate of Jews in German Hands is completed. Described as an historiography of Holocaust revision it questioned the use of gas chambers, claimed far fewer than six million Jews died, and found no direct evidence of plans to carry out mass murder. The thesis is embargoed for three years, later extended to six years.

1994: Canterbury University awards Hayward a first-class honours pass, which was concurred by an external examiner at Waikato University . Hayward later withdraws his main conclusions but the thesis is meanwhile praised by controversial Holocaust "revisionist" historian David Irving.

1996: Hayward appointed to Massey University as a senior lecturer in defence and strategic studies.

1999: Hayward asks Canterbury University to withdraw his thesis from its library, but is refused. He is allowed to write an addendum.

Early 2000: Waikato University Professor Dov Bing reviews the thesis for the NZ Jewish Chronicle and Hayward faces a strong public backlash.

April 2000: New Zealand Jewish Council condemns Canterbury University for condoning the publication of the thesis and refusal to withdraw it from its library.

December 2000: An independent inquiry headed by retired judge Sir Ian Barker finds Hayward 's thesis was faulty and its conclusion unjustified. The university vice-chancellor, Daryl Le Grew, apologises to the Jewish community.

June 2002: Hayward resigns from Massey University to recover from a nervous breakdown caused by the stress from the publicity and death threats to him and his family. Has since worked as a freelance historical writer, having published books including his most recent - a thematic study on Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson called For God and Glory.




Holocaust thesis ruined my life says historian

New Zealand Herald



Historian Joel Hayward says he wishes he never wrote the thesis that challenged conventional views of the Holocaust, and thought at the time that it may have been "a piece of junk".

He told the Herald he remains haunted by his controversial masters thesis, which appalled the Jewish community late in 1999.

It queried the gassing of Jews, underestimated the numbers killed, and found no evidence of an extermination plan.

Dr Hayward says that even in the year he wrote it - 1991 - he was concerned that the thesis may have been flawed.

This week, the thesis was back in the news after copies of a University of Canterbury journal containing an article describing the "witch hunt" of Dr Hayward were destroyed.

The university said it was potentially defamatory and inaccurate.

The author, Dr Thomas Fudge, resigned in disgust and the History Now editor, Associate Professor Ian Campbell, was effectively dumped.

Dr Hayward says the university's action was unconscionable. He thought the Fudge article was "bang on".

"Anyone who reads the piece will know the price I paid was too high."

Despite having apologised, admitted his mistakes, and surviving an inquiry which considered stripping him of his masters degree, Dr Hayward remains vilified in the academic community.

He admits his thesis choice, which "ruined my life", was foolish and too ambitious for a masters student.

"I could have had better advice from the history department."

At the time, he was warmly disposed to the Zionist cause.

He had recently returned from Israel and passionately believed in a Jewish state. It struck him as unusual that revisionists could say the Holocaust didn't happen.

After finishing the thesis in 1991, Dr Hayward was worried it was no good. In an unusual step, he had written it before completing requisite honours papers. He wanted to work from home that year to help care for a sick child.

"I think that was the first of a lot of errors ... because when I did the papers the next year I learned a lot about the proper principles of historical research and inquiry ... making sense of truth, objectivity and bias."

After earning an A-plus for the thesis and completing the honours papers, for which he earned top grades, he graduated in 1993 with an MA in history.

The thesis was initially embargoed for three years - because of threats it would be stolen, Dr Hayward says - then for another three years by the university.

Dr Hayward says that in 1999, the thesis came into the hands of Jewish scholars, who were disgusted by its contents.

He started receiving emails "full of hatred", to which he replied that he had never intended to hurt anyone, and no longer agreed with its contents. He wrote an addendum admitting his errors. He also wrote a letter to the Jewish Chronicle apologising for the distress he had caused.

But the malicious calls and emails kept coming, and he has had death threats.

Dr Hayward says he is not making accusations against the Jewish community but believes "one or two very nasty people" agitated to present a story that was not true.

In 2000, the Jewish Council complained to the university, calling for the thesis to be withdrawn from the library and Dr Hayward to be stripped of his degree.

An inquiry, led by retired judge Sir Ian Barker, summoned Dr Hayward.

He says the inquiry, which found his thesis faulty and conclusion unworthy, arrived at a compromise solution.

"I was a very naughty man but not quite so that they could take my degree ... It left me feeling humiliated and aggrieved and the Jewish Council unfulfilled."

The drama has cost Dr Hayward the job he was enjoying at Massey University teaching defence and strategic studies.

He has had two nervous breakdowns and now lives on a sickness benefit, selling his book collection to keep the family afloat.

When Dr Hayward heard there was to be an article about him in the May issue of the history journal he cringed. But since the publicity, he has had a flood of support from academics and former students who did not realise the toll it had taken.

He remains stunned at Canterbury University's actions. He suspects that the Canterbury academics did not want it known they had failed to stand up for him.

Despite his regrets, Dr Hayward says no topic is taboo. "That's what our democracy allows us."



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