Australian Civil Liberties Union
To donate to David Irving's Defence
go to David Irving's internet site -- http://www.fpp.co.uk
from Your Rights 2000
(Chapter 19 )
IRVING -- TOBEN -- KALEJS
Vilification and censorship of dissenters ( see also Whistleblowers, p. 94). Irving sues Lipstadt for libel. Reviewing Irving's books. Lipstadt's "scholarship" on revisionism in Australia. Dr Toben's imprisonment in Germany. Campaign against Kalejs. See pages 90-96 for other threats to freedom of speech.
"The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error". John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.
"Open discussion of many major public questions has for some time now been taboo. We can't open our mouths without being denounced as racists, misogynists, supremacists, imperialists or fascists. As for the media, they stand ready to trash anyone so designated". Novelist Saul Bellow.
"A liberal society stands on the proposition that we should all take seriously the idea that we might be wrong. That means we must place no one, including ourselves, beyond the reach of critics (no final say); it means that we must allow people to err, even where the error offends and upsets, as it often will. In other words, liberal society is built on two pillars. One is the right to offend in pursuit of truth. The other is the responsibility to check and be checked". Jonathan Rauch: Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought.
George Orwell said that "anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself being silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing". J.S. Mill said that "unmeasured vituperation employed on the side of prevailing opinion, deters people from expressing contrary opinions, and from listening to those who express them".
David Irving sues Deborah Lipstadt for Libel
David Irving is a UK historian who has written 19 books about various aspects of WWII. His books are available in University Libraries throughout the world and have been favourably reviewed by heavyweight historians such as A.J.P. Taylor and Hugh Trevor-Roper.
A.J.P. Taylor reviewing Irving's book, The War Path, in The Observer, said that David Irving is "a firstrate researcher of unrivalled industry and success". Hugh Trevor-Roper , reviewing Hitler's War in The Sunday Times, said that "no praise can be too high for Irving's indefatigable scholarly industry". Irving's best selling book, The Destruction of Dresden, was favourably reviewed by R.H.S. Crossman in The New Statesman. The Trail of the Fox, about Erwin Rommel, was favourably reviewed in The New York Times Book Review, and his biographies of Göring, Goebbels and Hess received excellent reviews in the UK. (The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe and The Mare's Nest (dealing with Germany's atomic bomb program) are standard texts. Goebbels, Mastermind of The Third Reich, was reviewed favourably in The Literary Review. The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Sunday Times and The Observer (these reviews are available from the ACLU). Due to pressure on his American publisher, St Martin's Press, the publisher withdrew from its contract to publish the book and Irving published the book himself in UK.
George Stern in the Literary Review, said that "Irving's trademark research into original manuscripts is uniquely impressive", while Hugh Trevor- Roper, in the Sunday Telegraph, said that Irving deserved credit for his use of Goebbel's diaries and criticised Irving's craven US publisher. John Keegan, in the Daily Telegraph, said: "David Irving knows more than anyone else alive about the German side of the Second World War. He discovers archives unknown to official historians and turns their contents into densely footnoted narratives that consistently provoke controversy. His greatest achievement is Hitler's War, which has been described as the 'autobiography the Führer did not write' and is indispensable to anyone seeking to understand the war in the round." Professor Stone (The Sunday Times) said the book on Goebbels "has received execration in some American pre-publication reviews for its alleged denial of the Holocaust and exculpations of Hitler...there is no truth in these allegations."
"Tom Bower (Daily Mail) said that Irving attracts credibility and attention by his indefatigable energy, intelligence and resourcefulness. Compared with most British historians, often a dull, lazy breed, Irving has spent a lifetime ceaselessly crisscrossing the globe to gather eyewitness evidence about World War II. As a formidable researcher, Irving regularly surprised and challenged other historians and his archival armoury could not be ignored. Nor should it." Sean O'Neill (Daily Telegraph) said that Irving's research, which other historians grudgingly admire, is entirely self-funded. There are no grants from academic foundations or universities...He is one of the leading historians of Nazi Germany."
Phillip Adams (Australian, 4/11/97) has praised David Irving's latest book Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich and believes Irving should be given a visa to enter Australia. Irving's new book has also been praised by Professor Hugh Trevor Roper, Professor Norman Stone, and Professor Gordon Craig. Adams states that "nobody knows the German archives better than Irving. Which is why a raft of prominent historians insist that he has the right to be heard. Which is why I've long opposed the ban on his visits to Australia, seeing them as not only foolish but counter-productive. And it's why I joined with Christopher Hitchens in condemning the decision of St Martin's Press in New York to withdraw from its contract to publish the book on Goebbels. For a major publisher to allow itself to be bullied into such an act of censorship is a disgrace". Raoul Hilberg, author of the major work The Destruction of the European Jews, spoke sternly on the issue. "If these people want to speak, let them. It only leads those of us who do research to re-examine what we might have considered as obvious. And that's useful for us.... I am not for repression".
Professor Gordon Craig writing in The New York Review of Books, stated that "silencing Mr Irving would be a high price to pay for freedom from the annoyance that he causes us. The fact is that he knows more about National Socialism than most professional scholars in his field, and students of the years 1933-45 owe more than they are always willing to admit to his energy, as a researcher and to the scope and vigor of his publications". He continues: "It is always difficult for the non-historian to remember that there is nothing absolute about historical truth. What we consider as such is only an estimation, based upon what the best available evidence tells us. It must constantly be tested against new information and new interpretations that appear, however, implausible they may be, or it will lose its vitality and degenerate into dogma or shibboleth. Such people as David Irving, then have an indispensable part in the historical enterprise, and we dare not disregard their views".
Irving has been subjected to an international campaign of vilification and censorship since he claimed in Hitler's War, that there was no documentary evidence that Hitler had ordered a program to exterminate Jews or that he was aware of such a program. Publishers of his early books then refused to publish reprints due to commercial pressure placed on them and, a German court fined Irving after he stated that the buildings shown to tourists at Auschwitz as "Gas Chambers" had been built after the war, a claim now accepted as correct. The Canadian government expelled Irving on the basis of false statements by his enemies and the Australian Government refused to give Irving a visa to visit Australia in the 90s on the basis of the German and Canadian decisions. I chaired three meetings for Irving in Melbourne in 1986-7, which passed without incident and there was no reason to believe that meetings held in Australia if he were granted a visa would not be as successful.
Irving instituted proceedings for libel against one of his many critics, Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books who published her book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, in 1993, which claimed that Irving was a falsifier of history, a holocaust denier, and a Hitler partisan. Irving claimed that Lipstadt was part of an organised international endeavour to destroy his career and that the waves of hatred that had been generated had robbed him of his financial security. Irving who sits alone in the Court is faced with a legal team of about 20 people including Richard Rampton QC for Lipstadt. The case before Mr Justice Gray commenced on 12th January 2000 and was expected to last 3 months. If Irving loses the case, he will face a bill for Lipstadt's legal costs likely to approach $20 million. The case has been extensively reported in the International Press and on Worldwide TV stations such as CNN.
Irving said in his evidence that his extensive research established that there was no plan to exterminate Jews, that there was no credible evidence of gassings by Zyklon B at Auschwitz, that Zyklon B was used as a fumigant to combat typhus, and that somewhere between 1 million and 4 million Jews died during the war, mainly from typhus but also by shootings from the Einsatzgruppen (murder squads) at the Eastern Front. He concluded that SS may have had gassing experiments but that mass murder by gassing at Auschwitz was logistically impossible. He said he had made errors in his writings, but acknowledged his errors, such as his estimate of deaths at Dresden when new evidence became available.
In his evidence (The Times, 13/1/00) Irving denied that the Nazis killed Jews in camp gas chambers. He said that he had never done anything to exculpate Hitler and in his book, Hitler's War, he gave a list of crimes committed by the Führer. "There was a time when he was on the right course and then went off the rails. You can't praise his racial programme or penal methods. But he did pick his nation out of the mire after World War I, reunified it and gave it a sense of pride again."
The judge put it to him: "It's said against you that you tried to blame what was done against the Jews by the Third Reich on Jews themselves." Mr. Irving replied, "I have said on a number of occasions that if I was a Jew, I would be far more concerned not at who pulled the trigger, but why. Anti-Semitism is a recurring malaise in society. There must be some reason why anti-Semitic groups break out like some kind of epidemic." Asked about the Holocaust, the historian said, "I find the word is misleading and unhelpful. It's too vague, imprecise and unscientific and should be avoided like the plague."
Pressed on his own definition of the Holocaust, he said that although tragedy befell the Jews "it was the whole of the Second World War and the people who died were not just Jews but Gypsies and homosexuals, the people of Coventry and the people of Hiroshima." He said that he paid no attention to Lipstadt's book until 1996- three years after it was published- when his own new work, Goebbels, Master mind of the Third Reich, was being marketed. He found that bookshops began to show an aversion and refused to stock his work. He accused the defendants of blackening his reputation by labelling him a spokesman for the forces of Holocaust denial, who spent his time with anti-Semitic groups. Mr. Irving claims that word was out that he was an ardent admirer of the German dictator who "conceived himself as carrying on Hitler's criminal legacy." Extolling his virtue as an historian who excelled at recovering original documents-from and from archives to collections of letters retained by the widows of German officers - he said that his opponents and rivals were jealous of the fact that he got to them first. He maintained that he had never knowingly or wilfully misrepresented any document nor suppressed information that did not support his case and said that he always passed the information he gathered to other historians. Information about the libel case is available on Rae West's website (http://www2.prestel.co.uk/littleton/irving-v-lipstadt.htm) and David Irving's website (http://www.fpp.co.uk/online.html), Adelaide Institute on (http://www.adelaideinstitute.org) and CODOH (http://www.codoh.com) Sites critical of David Irving and historical revisionism include Nizkor(http://www.nizkor.org) and others.
Lipstadt's "scholarship" on revisionism in Australia: Half a page of Lipstadt's book is devoted to historical revisionism in Australia. Claims by Lipstadt that I am "the leader" of the Australian League of Rights, that I have claimed the Holocaust is a "gigantic lie", and that Fred Leuchter, who had demonstrated that people could not have been gassed at Auschwitz, has visited Australia, are all incorrect, and amount to an "assault on truth". I am not the "leader" of the Australian League of Rights, and am not now and never have been even a member of the group. I understand the group is a Christian group, that it promotes an economic theory of social credit, and that it believes in an International Fabian Socialist conspiracy, orchestrated by the left wing Fabian Society. I am not a Christian, do not believe in social credit, and far from believing in a Fabian conspiracy, am a long standing member of the Fabian Society, and a former member of its executive.
The only organisations I belong to apart from the Fabian Society, are the Society of Labor Lawyers, the Free Speech Committee, and the Australian Civil Liberties Union, of which I am President. It was because of my interest in freedom of speech, that I became interested in historical revisionism. While agree with the growing number of Jewish writers that the extent of the Jewish Holocaust has been exaggerated, I have never said it is a "gigantic lie." The claim that Fred Leuchter has visited Australia, is simply factually incorrect. Lipstadt's "growing assault on truth", is continued in the only footnote relating to the half page on revisionism in Australia. The seven sentences in the footnote contain three errors of fact. Lipstadt did not reply to my letter dated 17/10/94 making the above points and made only one alteration to the text about me in the second edition.
In a recent 5 day period in Melbourne (10-14 April, 1999) 10 films dealing with the Holocaust were shown on TV. Since 1945 about 400 films dealing directly or indirectly with the Jewish Holocaust have been made (Other and greater holocausts such as the Ukraine, and Chinese Holocausts are ignored. The bombing of German cities leading to the deaths of over 700,000 people, mainly women and children, has been the subject of only one feature film since the end of the war (Slaughterhouse Five) The indiscriminate carpet bombing of German cities was described as "the greatest war crime of WWII in The Spectator, (19/9/79) Holocaust museums are commonplace in the USA, the Holocaust Remembrance Day has been set aside in the UK, and it is an offence to query the extent of the Holocaust in countries such as Germany, where David Irving was fined, and Dr Fredrick Toben was imprisoned. Amnesty International refused to take up the case of 17 revisionists referred to it by the ACLU.
Why is the Jewish Holocaust referred to on a daily basis in the media? Has the Holocaust become a new secular religion? Phillip Adams, Australia's leading atheist and skeptic, says it is "blasphemous" to query the extent of the Holocaust. (The Risks of Shoah Business, Sunday Age, (23/1/00) quoted Richard Ingrams in the Observer, that "not a day goes by without the Holocaust being mentioned in one context or another" and quoted Brian Sewell, from The Evening Standard, that "enough has been made of the Jewish Holocaust, and they are too greedy for our memories". The Holocaust In American Life, by Peter Novick says the Holocaust is used to clobber anti-Semitism, and justify support for Israel. The Holocaust Industry, by N. Finkelstein says the Holocaust Industry was created by the pro-Israel lobby in the USA after 1967 to justify aid for Israel. It is also used to put pressure on Governments and corporations to pay compensations. The play Perdition, refers to Israel as a nation built upon the pillars of Western guilt and subsidized by American dollars. The Holocaust has been described by Professor W. Rubinstein as "Israel's number one propaganda weapon", while Dr Alfred Lilienthal refers to the Holocaust as Holocaustomania and claims that the Holocaust has become a new religion for Jews.
Ten Month Prison sentence for Australian Holocaust Skeptic
Dr. Toben Free After Seven Months In German Custody
Mark Weber. Journal of Historical Review Volume 18 No. 4
Dr. Fredrick Toben, an Australian scholar and educator, is free after seven months in German prison for having disputed holocaust extermination allegations. He was taken into custody in April during a private meeting in the Mannheim office of Hans-Heiko Klein, Germany's best known public prosecutor of "Holocaust deniers", and held in "investigative custody" (without bail) until his trial in November, 1999. Toben, 55, is a leading Holocaust revisionist writer and publicist in Australia, where he founded and (until his arrest) directed the Adelaide Institute, an important revisionist research and publishing center.
At the conclusion of the three-day trial on November 10, 1999, a district court in Mannheim found Toben guilty on charges of incitement to racial hatred, insulting the memory of the dead, and public denial of genocide, because he had disputed Holocaust extermination claims in writings sent to persons in Germany. Presiding Judge Klaus Kern said that there is no doubt that Toben is guilty of "denying the Holocaust", and that because there is no sign that he would relent his views and activities, a prison sentence was required. The court then sentenced him to ten months imprisonment. Taking into consideration the seven months he had already served in custody, Judge Kern ruled that Toben could be released on payment of a bail or fine of 6,000 Marks (about A$5000), in lieu of the three months remaining of his prison sentence. German sympathizers quickly raised the money, and he was freed within 24 hours of the verdict.
Important Court Decision on Internet
In a ruling with potentially far-reaching consequences, the Mannheim court declared that German law has no jurisdiction over Toben's "on-line" writings or publications. It declined to consider the extensive evidence presented by the prosecution taken from the Adelaide Institute's Internet web site. Judge Kern said the court could take into account only the material Toben had mailed to or otherwise physically distributed in Germany. Material published on the Internet is not published in Germany. Instead, he went on, its distribution requires the Internet user, acting on his own initiative, to connect with the Adelaide Institute website, and then to download material from it.
"This is a victory for free speech", Toben commented upon his release. "We have saved the Internet as a place we can tell the truth and not be punished for it". The German courts Internet ruling may be relevant, for example, in the current legal case before the "Human Rights Commission" in Toronto, Canada, which charges Ernst Zündel with distributing "hate" through an Internet website based in southern California. Expressing concern that the Mannheim court's verdict sets a dangerous precedent, prosecutor Klein immediately lodged a formal appeal. "This is the first time", he said, that "a court in Germany has decided that some things which are said in (sic) Germany on the Internet cannot be subject to German laws. This is a very bad thing. It will undermine our laws which are very important for ensuring that history in Germany is not repeated". Toben's attorney is likewise appealing the court's sentence.
Toben remains defiant. "I will not be silenced", he vowed. "I intend to keep using the Internet to promote discussion on these issues. I believe in seeking the truth. Why are they so afraid in Germany of allowing open discussion about the so-called Holocaust? It can only be because they are afraid of the truth". On the first day of the trial, November 8, Toben announced that he would not defend himself against the charges because by doing so he would likely be charged for additional violations of Germany's "Holocaust denial" and "incitement" laws. His lawyer, Ludwig Bock, similarly announced that he would offer no defense on behalf of Toben because he risked being charged himself. "If I say anything I will go to jail myself, and if he says anything there will be another Trial", Bock told a reporter. Prosecutor Klein later affirmed that such fears were well grounded. "If they (Toben and Bock) had repeated things in this court which are against the law I would have charged them again", said Klein.
Bock did however read a statement to the court that compared the prosecution of Toben and other "Holocaust deniers" to the trials of witches in the Middle Ages, and which called Germany's anti-revisionist laws a gross violation of the principle of freedom of speech. In the German legal system no privilege protects the evidence of witnesses in court. If a defendant, or his attorney, says something in court that repeats the "crime" for which he is being tried, he can be charged again. This makes it all but impossible of course for defendants in such "thought crime" cases to present effective arguments and pertinent evidence. "The problem we have", said Geoff Muirden, Adelaide Institute acting director, "is that since it's against the law to produce hard evidence to prove aspects of the Holocaust are wrong, we can't mount much of a defense". "I wanted the court to go with me to Auschwitz and see the evidence," said Toben. "In any case where murder is alleged, there has to be a murder weapon. I have been to Auschwitz and I know there is no mass murder weapon there. The so-called (homicidal) gas chambers do not exist."
Bock, who is well-known in Germany as a defender of Holocaust "thought criminals," meanwhile is awaiting the outcome of an appeal of his own conviction earlier this year on a charge of inciting racial hatred because, in defending another revisionist skeptic, he had criticized German political leaders and judges for suppressing debate on the Holocaust issue. In similar cases in the past, German courts have simply refused to consider evidence supporting revisionist claims. For example, some years ago German courts fined best-selling British historian David Irving 30,000 marks (about $21,000) for publicly saying what is now authoritatively conceded. He was punished for having told a Munich meeting in April l990 that the structure in Auschwitz that has been portrayed for decades to tourists as an extermination gas chamber is a "dummy" (Attrappe). Irving was found guilty of thus "disparaging the memory of the dead," a German criminal code provision that effectively "protects" only jews. The judge refused to consider any of the evidence presented by Irving's attorneys, including a plan to permit Dr. Franciszek Piper, senior curator and archives director of the Auschwitz State Museum, to testify in the case.
Toben firmly rejects the premise of German authorities that revisionists are dangerous neo-Nazis: "It's time we got rid of this conceptual prison in our language which brands anyone who seeks the truth about the Holocaust as neo-Nazi or anti-Semitic. I am neither of these things. There are Jewish people who agree with me that we should establish the truth. The Holocaust is a matter of belief for many people. I respect that. But it is not a matter of fact. I only want to deal in facts." Toben also rejects the "Holocaust denier" label. "No one denies that his terrible thing happened," he has said. "We are looking at allegations that Germans systematically killed people, specifically Jews, in homicidal gas chambers."
Free Speech Groups Protest Detention
In Australia John Bennett promptly denounced Toben's detention. The nationally renowned civil rights defender said that Toben had been arrested "under draconian anti-free-speech laws." Calling this a "classic free speech case," Bennett urged people to contact German embassies and
other appropriate German agencies to protest the arrest. Bennett also helped organise a legal defense fund to secure the historians release. Since 1980 Bennett has been president or the Australian Civil Liberties Union (P.O. Box 1137, Carlton, Vic. 3053, Australia). For decades he has also been a leading revisionist writer and publicist in Australia. In London, historian David Irving promptly condemned Dr. Toben's arrest as an "outrage." The best-selling British author is himself banned from Germany for his dissident views on Second World War history.
Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), an independent on-line free speech group, also spoke out against Toben's arrest, expressing particular concern that German authorities are treating material posted on an Australia-based website as if it had been published in Germany. EFA chairman Kimberley Heitman, who is also a lawyer, said that the German government is, in effect, trying to legislate for the entire world. Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), strongly protested Toben's arrest and detention. The southern California-based revisionist history "think tank" closely monitors restrictions on free speech and free historical inquiry in Germany and other countries. Amnesty International has consistently refused to take up the cases of historical revisionists and refused to take up Dr Toben's case. (See page...) Toben was arrested on April 8, 1999, during a private meeting with prosecutor Klein to discuss German laws that prohibit disagreement with an official view of Second World War history, especially regarding the wartime treatment of European Jews. "Some people have claimed that I deliberately provoked my arrest in Germany to bring attention to myself. That is absolutely untrue," said Toben. He was in Europe as part of a European research tour that took him to Poland, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Germany.
He was held for seven months in "investigative custody," without bail on the basis of arrest warrants of April 9 and May 3. Referring to the pertinent sections of the German criminal code, the warrants specifically alleged that Toben, on repeated occasions, had in a manner suited to disturbed the public peace. 1. incited a portion of the population to hatred, and, 2. attacked the human dignity of others, by insulting, by malevolently making contemptuous, or by libeling a portion of the population. The warrants said that Toben had publicly denied, in a manner designed to disturb the public peace, a (genocidal) act... carried out under Nationalist Socialist rule, insulted others, and denigrated the memory of the (Jewish) dead. Reflecting the special status enjoyed by Jews in Germany today, the April arrest warrant also declared: "the claims of the accused as well as the literature offered and distributed by him are suited to awaken and stir up emotionally hostile attitudes toward Jews in general and, in particular, against Jews who live in the Federal Republic of Germany. They are also suited to shake the confidence in public security of the targeted Jewish portion of the population."
Jewish groups predictably expressed satisfaction with Toben's conviction. In Australia, the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission - similar to the ADL in the Untied States - responded by calling for stricter legislation in Australia against "racial vilification." Disputing Holocaust extermination claims is legal in most countries, including Australia, but it is a crime in Germany, Israel, France, and several other European states. In 1994 Germany's parliament sharpened the law against "popular incitement" to make it apply more directly to "Holocaust denial." The new amendment made it a crime for a person "in a manner that could disturb the public peace, publicly or in a meeting" to "approve, deny or whitewash" genocidal actions "carried out under National Socialist rule." Offenders are liable to fines and up to five years imprisonment. Noteworthy is the fact that the German law applies only to the Third Reich regime and era. It does not criminalise "denial" of genocidal actions carried out by Communist, Zionist, Democratic or other regimes.
Dr. Fredrick Toben (Töben) was born in northern Germany in June 1944, but emigrated to Australia when he was ten. He has lived most of his life in his new homeland, and is an Australian citizen. He studied at Melbourne university in Australia, as well as at universities in Heidelberg, Tübingen and Stuttgart in Germany, where he earned a doctorate in philosophy. He also holds a Master's degree in education, and has worked as a school teacher in Victoria, Australia. Centered in South Australia's largest city, and funded by donations, the Adelaide Institute plays a major role in the worldwide struggle against the historical blackout. It was founded in 1994 by Toben, who (until his arrest) directed its work and edited its important newsletter (P.O. Box 3300, Norwood 5067 South Australia. Email: Ftoben@adelaideinstitute.org. It also maintains an information-packed Internet website: http://www.adelaideinstitute.org) In radio and television appearances, Dr. Toben has been an outspoken voice for historical accuracy and free historical inquiry. Over the weekend of August 7-9, 1998, the Adelaide Institute hosted Australia's first-ever revisionist conference, successful meeting that included speakers from the United States and Europe. (See "The Adelaide Institute Conference," Nov.-Dec. 1998 journal, pp. 6-10.)
All this predictably enraged the powerful Jewish-Zionist lobby. In 1997 the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), the country's main Jewish community organization, brought legal action against Toben to shut down the Institute's website. In this case, the first test of the country's Racial Discrimination law involving the Internet, Toben was brought before the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC). Outraged by its guiding principle that truth is no defense, Toben walked out of the commission hearing and refused to cooperate further with it.
Wars inevitably involve atrocities committed by both sides, which are called "war crimes" when committed by the vanquished. In the last world war the victors killed over a million German and Japanese civilians by terror bombing, eliminated the Polish elite at the Katyn forest massacre, and killed over a million Cossacks and Croatians after the war. The atrocities committed by the vanquished included the mistreatment of prisoners of war, leading to the deaths of over a third of the Australian soldiers in captivity, arbitrary reprisals against partisans (including Jews), and the persecution of Jews, many of whom died in camps, mostly from disease.
Why is it that more than 50 years after the war that war crimes committed by the victors are not investigated and that the only war crime by the vanquished being investigated in Australia relates to the Holocaust of Jews? Why does the Jewish Holocaust receive so much publicity, why are other and far bigger Holocausts such as the Chinese and Ukrainian holocausts almost ignored, and why, if Australia is to indulge in vengeful hunts for alleged war criminals, don't we give priority to those responsible for the deaths of Australians in camps?
There has been a worldwide media campaign orchestrated by Jewish pressure groups for Konrad Kalejs, an Australian citizen, to be charged with the alleged killing of thousands of Jews and others in Latvia almost 60 years ago. There have been 3 prosecutions of alleged Nazi war criminals in Australia after investigations costing about $20 million. Two of the prosecutions failed and charges to the third case were withdrawn. Arguments against such trials include the retrospective nature of the law applied, the astronomical costs involved, the unreliability of witnesses, the withholding of evidence, and the tainted nature of evidence collected by the former Russian KGB.
An article in the Sunday Herald-Sun (19/11/99) pointed out that such trials have failed to achieve anything other than to excite ethnic tensions and turn innocent lives upside down. For instance Polish-born Frank Walus, of Chicago, in the 1980's was identified by 12 "eyewitnesses", including Holocaust survivors flown in from Israel, as a wartime butcher of Jews. The case against him was dismissed when diligent work by his lawyers established compelling evidence this "mass killer" had, in fact, been a forced labourer on a German farm at the time. The Office of Special Investigation, which had been responsible for the prosecution of Walus, refused even to apologize. Mr Walus was free, but with a legal bill of more than $200,000 and facing a campaign of abuse. Tscherin Soobzokov,67, of New Jersey, successfully fought war crimes accusations only to be killed by a bomb blast which also injured his wife, four-year old grandson and a neighbour.
An expert on the Holocaust in Latvia says it is unlikely alleged Nazi war criminal Konrad Kalejs was involved in the murder of Jews. Professor Andrew Ezergalis has authored a book on the subject with the support of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Professor Ezergalis says at the time of killings in 1942, Mr Kalejs was serving as a lieutenant in actions in northern Russia. He says photographs of Mr Kalejs wearing an SS uniform would not have been taken until almost two years after the murders. "There's no question about him being a member of the commando, but the question is, is there any kind of proof? You see you can't try anyone for just membership in an organisation, though evil an organisation may be. The organisation may be criminal, but at the same time nobody could be convicted on the basis of membership alone."
A letter to the Herald-Sun headed: "Innocent until proven guilty" (7/1/00) said that World War I gave the world a glimpse of what happens when the battlefront envelops civilian communities. World War II perfected the process. All forces breached the conventions and covenants governing the conduct of war, and consequently, war crimes were committed by all sides. The Allies firebombed Hamburg, Dresden and Berlin, killing more than 100,000 civilians- a war crime of some magnitude. The Japanese conduct in World War II was despicable, but the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima also qualify as war crimes. At Nuremberg, the Allies exacted "victor's justice". The horrors of the war were focussed on a few token monsters (and a few innocents, perhaps) and they were hanged. A similar exercise was carried out in Tokyo. Thus we sought to expiate the collective guilt for the gross barbarity of the war. The crew of the Enola Gay and Britain Bomber Command, of course, were never indicted. As Bob Dylan's song says, "The Germans now, too, have God on their side." So does everyone else. Everybody, that is, except an 86-year-old Australian named Konrad Kalejs, who allegedly worked in a concentration camp nearly 50 years ago. He has been deported from Canada, US and now Britain. No one has the evidence to charge him with anything - but he still gets deported. It will be interesting to see if the Howard Government stands behind the strength of principle shown by Attorney-General Amanda Vanstone in this matter. They will stand condemned if they do not.
A letter to The Australian (8/1/00) highlighted the problem of prosecutions so long after the alleged offence stating that four years ago Israel faced a similar dilemma after a retired general admitted killing 49 Egyptian prisoners in 1956. Israel's attorney general had to rule on the matter and the decision was that despite the available evidence, the case couldn't be prosecuted because the crimes took place too long ago.
Following representations made by the Executive
Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) the Australian Government know no longer requires
"prima facie" case to be made out against an alledged war criminal before he can
be extradited to a foreign country to face trial. The Australian Government is negotiating
with the Latvian Government to conclude an extradition treaty which could lead to Kalejs
being extradited to Latvia where sworn statements made by people now deceased could,
unlike the position in Australia, be used against him.
Contents of Your Rights
Australian Civil Liberties Union