Freedom stops when denial starts
The New Zealand Herald


Last month the 'Herald' printed an
article by historian Thomas Fudge criticising the treatment of Joel Hayward, whose MA thesis brought accusations of Holocaust denial. The New Zealand Jewish Council offers this response, written by political scientist DOV BING.

In a democracy, academic freedom is a precious commodity. Protected by the 1989 Education Act, it cannot exist in New Zealand universities without matching responsibilities.

Dr Thomas Fudge, in his article on Dr Hayward's Holocaust denial thesis, has fallen well short of academic responsibility, not only by incorrectly representing Hayward 's thesis conclusions but by failing to distinguish between Holocaust revisionism and Holocaust denial.

Revisionism is an honest endeavour undertaken by many academic historians. Each year there are thousands of new publications on Holocaust history. Many of these can be termed academic Holocaust revisionism.

Holocaust denial is not history at all. Although Holocaust deniers may often deceptively refer to themselves as revisionists, they cannot be regarded as professional academic historians.

Finding against David Irving in his unsuccessful suit for libel against historian Deborah Lipstadt (April 2000), Mr Justice Gray provides a clear and compelling definition of Holocaust denial (see box).

In his report on the Hayward thesis, undertaken for the University of Canterbury in 2000, Sir Ian Barker also concludes that Holocaust deniers are polemicists with an antipathy to the status of the Holocaust as a unique and defining phenomenon of the modern era.

Many are anti-Semites with links to racist and extremist politics, observes the Barker report.

According to Winston Smith, leader of the National Socialist White Peoples Party - formerly known as the American Nazi Party - the real purpose of Holocaust revisionism (or denial) is to make National Socialism an acceptable alternative again.

If they can make people believe that the main features of the Holocaust are based on Allied war propaganda, the Nazis can rise again.

Deniers operate on the fringes of society and have been trying for many years to gain a foothold in universities to make themselves respectable. Canterbury University is the only Western university that has awarded an MA to a Holocaust denial thesis.

In defending Joel Hayward, Dr Fudge prefers to ignore the extent to which careful, recent definitions of Holocaust denial apply to Hayward 's MA thesis, the flawed methodology referred to in the Barker report, and Hayward 's failure to consider the dangerous implications of Holocaust denial's pseudo-academic facade, as noted in the Barker Report.

If Holocaust denial has demonstrated anything, it is the fragility of memory, reason and history. Deniers try to project the appearance of being committed to the values they, in truth, adamantly oppose - reason, critical rules of evidence and historical distinction.

Fudge further muddies the waters of academic credibility by rewriting what he calls Hayward 's three principal conclusions.

He supposes that Hayward 's first conclusion states that "there is no unimpeachable evidence that Adolf Hitler ordered the physical extermination of Jews".

Second, he suggests that Hayward concluded that "it was impossible to know how many Jews were killed", and thirdly that Hayward concluded that "gas-chambers were not used systematically to murder Jews".

However, Hayward 's thesis offers no concluding claim about Hitler's knowledge of the murder of the Jews. This has been added by Fudge.

Hayward does mention this issue in his chapter on David Irving, but did not consider Irving 's well-known hobby horse as a major issue to be included in his conclusions.

Fudge also rewrites the so-called second conclusion. He claims that Hayward agrees that "millions of Jews" perished. That is not correct. Hayward mentions "more than one million and far less than the symbolic figure of six million".

In the Sunday Star-Times, Hayward clarified this statement and indicated that he meant "more than one or two million". Fudge's quotation of the figure of "millions" comes from the addendum to the MA thesis, but Hayward published this revision in December 1999, eight years after writing the thesis.

Fudge adds his own reference to S. Krakowski of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem who, he claims, suggested that 20,000 testimonies of alleged Holocaust survivors were untrustworthy. This is not in the conclusion of Hayward 's thesis.

For his claim, Fudge cites as his source Barbara Amouyal, writing in the Jerusalem Post (August 17, 1986). He omits Krakowski's reply a few days later, when he wrote that he was deeply astonished to read Amouyal's version of her interview with him.

Krakowski had indicated that many of the 20,000 testimonies were used in criminal trials. He noted that he had told Amouyal that fortunately very few testimonies proved to be inaccurate (Jerusalem Post, August 21-22, 1986).

Fudge claims that Hayward "merely questioned other suggested figures and was denounced for it".

That is not correct. Hayward suggested that one or two million Jews perished in the Holocaust, rather than about six million.

He was criticised because of his academically unsound reiteration of this archetypal Holocaust deniers argument, without producing research on the topic.

In retrospect, Hayward clearly regrets this irresponsible claim, and made his revised views public.

According to Fudge, Hayward 's third conclusion was that "gas chambers were not used systematically" and that because he simply questioned "the extent of the use of ... gas chambers he was labelled a holocaust denier".

Further minimising Hayward 's claims, Fudge asserts that Hayward "wondered merely what contribution gas chambers made" to the total Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

In his conclusion, Hayward states that "the gassing claim is irreconcilable with the overwhelming weight of evidence on the nature of official Nazi policy on the Jewish question.

"That policy, our careful and unbiased reading of the evidence suggested, was not one of total extermination, but was a brutal policy of deportation and forced labour".

Hayward states that "the weight of evidence supports the view that the Nazis did not systematically exterminate Jews in gas chambers or have extermination policies as such".

Sir Ian Barker, Professor Macintyre and Professor Trotter noted in their report: "This is a perverse and unjustified conclusion."

Fudge characterises Hayward as a scapegoat. To some extent this is true, but only because the faults of his thesis ought to have been more publicly owned by his supervisors and the department that awarded it an A plus.

Hayward is also characterised in Fudge's article as the victim of a plot against him. This is simplistic and unjustified. Hayward is the victim of his own naivety at best, and also university failings.

Hayward decided to embargo the thesis for nearly six years, yet during that time gave copies of it to known Holocaust deniers.

The Canterbury University history department decided not to publish the Fudge article in its journal History Now because of "possible inaccuracies and misleading statements" in it.

The refusal of the majority of the history department to grant Fudge's article the stamp of academic credibility was, in my opinion, a step in the right direction.

The terms of the Education Act alone should prevent a university department endorsing and disseminating misinformation.

The publication of the article in History Now would also have undercut the apology Canterbury University made to the New Zealand Jewish Council "for the hurt that may have been suffered by Jewish people as a result of the award of the MA degree for the Hayward thesis".

Fudge was determined to publish his article, and made much of his academic freedom and the right of the public to be informed.

While these rights are unquestionable, in exercising them, Dr Fudge should explain his acceptance of Hayward keeping his MA thesis under lock and key for nearly six years.

Did not the New Zealand public have the right to know what was in that thesis? Was not this also an issue of academic freedom?

The New Zealand Herald is right to campaign for freedom of expression - it is guaranteed under the NZ Bill of Rights, but entails constant vigilance.

The Herald observes that "conclusions [by academics] cannot be mere flights of imagination; they must be based on all available evidence and rigorous reasoning".

I could not agree more, and argue that Dr Fudge, like Dr Hayward, has indeed fallen short.


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