Holocaust Denier Gets Three Years in Jail

Germany and Austira have some pretty extreme anti-Nazi laws:

VIENNA, Austria - Right-wing British historian David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison Monday after admitting to an Austrian court that he denied the Holocaust — a crime in the country where Hitler was born.

Irving, who pleaded guilty and then insisted during his one-day trial that he now acknowledged the Nazis’ World War II slaughter of 6 million Jews, had faced up to 10 years behind bars. Before the verdict, Irving conceded he had erred in contending there were no gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.


10 years for exercising free speech. Mein Kampf is also banned from being published in Germany and Austira, and I believe it is a crime to own it as well. Is this too extreme? If the Germans and Austrians are this afraid of Hitler’s beliefs, is it because they’re afraid those beliefs would still be appealing to a large number of Germans and Austrians? Or is this just national shame?

Sounds like just national shame.

It’s tempting to say that he deserved it, but it is a bit extreme, yes, and probably not the way to combat Nazism, at least not in a modern western democracy.

It’s national shame, but also that they’re expected to and would be judged and condemned if they didn’t.

DT should have something interesting to say about it because she’s from Germany. People are really really touchy about that apparently. I think its extreme punishment but I also think we need to take the regional context into consideration. As Nulani said, it is their historic duty to really not allow this kind of thing and also I think that considering the history of the area, its important to make sure that whatever elements that may remain are not allowed to germinate. I mean let’s think about it, relatively WWII was NOT that far away in the past.

The Confederate Flag, its symbols, its songs, etc. aren’t banned in the US. Despite not killing 11 million people under that banner, it has become associated almost exclusively with the enslavement and subsequent denials of rights of a group of people purely because they were born black. The flag persists and spreads; I’ve seen people fly it and claim it was their heritage despite the fact they didn’t have a drop of Southern blood in them. The Hammer and Sickle are not banned in Russia and former Soviet bloc countries despite the fact that flag flew over and instituted the Holodomor.

The Nazi flag is bad, yes. However, in any liberal nation, including Germany, it should be allowed to be displayed, and the atrocities committed under it should be allowed to be questioned and denied. Those that fly the flag for wrong reasons or deny the Holocaust, they should, and will, be publically ostracized and probably privately chided. Unless the display fits under good (and I would say strict) guidelines for clear and present danger, there should be no law against it, especially not this guy. From reading the article, I get no feeling he denied the gas chambers in any sort of clear and present danger case.

This actually happened in Austria, not Germany. I would probably disagree with such a policy if it were proposed in the United States, but if Austria wants to have such laws, that’s Austria’s business, not mine.

See, while I agree with these kinds of laws because I think it is fundamentally wrong to validate and excuse genocide and the kind of mentality that supports these crimes, the problem arises how you stop the state from dictating what the people know and presenting propaganda and not the facts of the reality that happened.

Well, I’m certainly not denying the right of a democratically elected government of a foreign nation to make their own laws. I’m just questioning the wisdom of the law.

People should be allowed to publicly hold wrong ideas so that those ideas can be proven wrong through public debate, because the public will then see the wrong belief proven wrong over and over again through rational argument. Ultimately, debating some whacko about why the Holocaust happened and was wrong will beat the points into people’s heads more than not allowing such a debate. To use another example, racist beliefs in this country are not widely held because everytime some public figure comes out with racist beliefs, about a dozen scientists jump forward with proof about why they are wrong. This is much more effective in getting people to renounce racism than simply jailing those who hold racist beliefs, because, once again, the public actually sees the wrong belief rationally disproven. Banning incorrect beliefs may even make those beliefs more powerful, because people will think to themselves ‘If they’re so scared of this belief that they’d jail people because of it, maybe its true…’

Even though this happened in Austria, Germany basically has the same laws. I’m pretty sure that, as I said, Mein Kampf can’t be published, bought, or owned in Germany. And even though I’m not certain about this, its more than likely that Germany also may have some kind of punishment for Holocaust deniers. DT will have to explain Germany’s laws.

while I wholeheartedly support national self-determination, isn’t the whole underlying basis of “modern successful government” (post-Enlightenment capitalist democracies) the fact that there are certain things that simply can’t be legislated against? That you can’t absolve every governmental decision simply because they “chose” it?

this is more of an intellectual critique, I don’t want to invade Austria because they sent a loser to gaol.

to answer my own question: I guess you could say that it’s up to the citizens of the state to make those choices what is and is not proper to prohibit or allow. Of course then the next question becomes the relative ability of those citizens to actually express their views (let alone form them) in their government of choice, etc.

The problem arises when large quantities of morons run around spouting and believing nicely packaged lies and start killing mllions of jews or shooting their kinds in the feet by teaching them religious science. Its one thing to have one whacko do stupid shit, its another thing to have a state full of them.

One could blame the media for not tackling the issue constructively and letting the situation get that bad though.
Merlin and SK are right though. Its up to the people of each region to set the bounds of what they believe is decent. These things tend to be really hard to deal with in some places thanks to cultural taboos and so its difficult to just tell people “hey, give them more freedom”. It doesn’t address why the freedom isn’t there in the first place.

What do you mean by “can’t” and “absolve”? If something “can’t” be done, that prohibition must be backed by force of some kind. Similarly, if something can’t be “absolved,” that implies some authority over “absolution.”

The philosophy of “modern successful government” holds that society would be better off if it voluntarily adopted certain principles, not that these principles should be imposed on it from outside (that’s actually more like the neoconservative philosophy). So, if this issue were up for debate in the United States, I would agree with all of your points. However, we don’t live in Austria, so we’re really not in a position to lecture them on the wisdom of their internal affairs. We don’t need to approve of it, but it’s also not really our business.

But the reason so many people can get fooled into believing insane bullshit is because public debate is stifled. Proving something is wrong through public debate is better than not allowing people to discuss it. If you stop debating it, people will become misinformed and become more vulnerable to being manipulated.

Truth is, there isn’t much difference between banning true and ideas and banning false ones. Any society which believes in banning any idea is profoundly insecure with itself.

Those that fly the flag for wrong reasons or deny the Holocaust, they should, and will, be publically ostracized and probably privately chided.

Well, yes. Theoretically. Except that, as we all know, repeat something enough and it becomes truth. For example, countless myths about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are widely believed (e.g. that the Palestinians just want Israel to retreat to the 1967 borders; that the Palestinians have been in Israel longer than the Jews; etc. etc.) despite having no basis in fact.

Holocaust denial is starting to gain force again, especially buoyed in Arab countries, where it’s been seething for a while. People don’t appreciate why Holocaust denial is different from other issues of free speech. The Holocaust began with people - regular, everyday people - being slightly antagonistic against the Jews. It started very slowly, to the point where until Kristallnacht, most Jews refused to believe that civilized Germany could ever even think about doing them harm. It was a slippery slope. Germany and Austria, more than other nations, realize that it took very little for their countries to become mass murderers. Perhaps it’s something in their cultural makeup; perhaps it was simply the wrong time and place. But they refuse to allow such a slope to even start again.

A ten year sentence might have been much, but I don’t think three years is. Denial of the Holocaust is equivalent to saying that the lives of Jews don’t matter. Giving those sorts of thoughts airtime, repeating the canards, can have no good consequence.

People should be allowed to publicly hold wrong ideas so that those ideas can be proven wrong through public debate, because the public will then see the wrong belief proven wrong over and over again through rational argument.

The public is hardly rational and rarely listens to a complete argument about things; the media even less so. Ours is a world of the sound bite and the ten-second idea. If you air these things, they’ll gradually seep into people’s consciousness, especially if they secretly agree with it. And there are plenty of people out there who’d be happy to see the Jews disappear now, just as there were then.

The public is hardly rational and rarely listens to a complete argument about things; the media even less so. Ours is a world of the sound bite and the ten-second idea. If you air these things, they’ll gradually seep into people’s consciousness, especially if they secretly agree with it. And there are plenty of people out there who’d be happy to see the Jews disappear now, just as there were then.

Well, I agree people are basically irrational but I still think there needs to be public debate, and that it is wrong for Germany and Austria to have such stringent anti-Nazi laws. Giving the government the power to ban certain ideas is simply too dangerous. The biggest danger is, as Sin pointed out, the ‘slippery slope’ argument: if the government is allowed to ban some kinds of ideas, where does it stop? What if the government one day decides its too dangerous to allow discussion of the War on Terror, because views that disagree with the administration would hurt the war effort? A society should be able to control intellectual malcontents through public ostracism, as SK said. Any society that needs the government to step in has big problems.

Besides that, there have been plenty of other genocides in recent times. For instance, Rwanada, Cambodia, the Congo, etc. Should we be justified banning denial of all those genocides?

I’m reminded of a line from The Science of Discworld III, in which the Dean makes a suggestion involving mind control and this gets shot down.

Dean: Why not? We’re the good guys, aren’t we?
Ponder (I think): Well, yes, but that rather depends on us doing some things and not doing others, and mind control is definitely one of the “don’ts”.

I find that really extreme. Really, I could agree to maybe somewhere between a week and month in jail - and a visit to the old, preserved camps. I think that would be quite enough. Waving around ten years in jail as a threat is overkill.

Ok, now to apply to a real world example. Did the people of Rwanda really choose the genocide that happened there in the 1990s? The ethnic basis for the war was an artifical construct imposed by former Belgian colonists. The destabilization of the Soviet Union led to an alarming surge in the proliferation of automatic rifles, particularly the AK-47, which has become cheaper than many foodstuffs in areas of Africa. The genocide was initiated by a coup of the (at least nominally) elected government of the state, formed and executed by people decidedly outside the electorate. Given this, did Rwanda choose its genocide? Should intervention (whether by a single nation or a conglomerate like the UN) be forbidden because we’d be “imposing” our principles that genocide is wrong?

I agree with most of what you say on this subject and your argument about national self-determinism has led to a massive rethinking of how international politics should work on my own personal level, but I feel if I take your doctrine far enough that it becomes almost Stephen Douglas-ish; which Abraham Lincoln demonstrated to be ultimately ineffective for solving particular governmental crises.

Can you elaborate on Douglas and Lincoln? They’re not proteins I’m familiar with.

Yay I got stuff to say ^^ Yeah, they’re indeed quite touchy. Don’t know about austria, but in germany they’re nuts about it, yet on the other hand, doing shit about neo- nazism (or at least they’re not doing what should be done imo).
I’ve heard several times now that some punk kids and other people were put into jail (or at least ended up in court) for wearing anti- nazi badges. That’s right. Why?
<img src=“http://www.unitedstatesaction.com/anti-nazi.JPG” alt="" />
<img src=“http://www.media-awareness.ca/francais/enjeux/haine_sur_internet/images/nazi_web.gif” alt="" />

People were brought to court for wearing these badges because, get this, they were displaying the swastika, which is forbidden to do in public. Even though it does clearly state it is anti- nazi. While I can understand it to a tiny degree, I think it’s bullshit as a whole. Especially the argumentations of the higher judges.
Apparently the “opinions of whether it is right or not to wear such a sign in public differ”, we’re talking about a formal taboo-ing, and after all one shouldnt think about the average joe, but of japanese tourists who could see it and get a negative image. Needless to say, a WTF all over. Alone the fact that he openly admitted to a “formal taboo” is sad enough. I can’t understand how you can get away with openly admitting to see certain parts of your own country’s history as a taboo (in a country like germany at that) to use it as an excuse not to do anything against right- extremist violence (which has been increasing in Germany lately, by the way! woohoo!)
Not to mention that one of our beloved post- nazi parties, the NPD, recently got away with giving away over 100,000 (!) CDs to students, freely. In schools. They planned 200,000 before it got stopped. I don’t think I have to mention what kind of songs were on it. Not pro- nazi, but borderline, and highly nationalist. The fun thing about it is, they turned in complaints about being “hindered” in their campaign to gain young voters for their party- and worst of all, the verdict is still pending.

That just being two examples of how shitty things are. One the one hand our beloved system crucifies everyone who dares to make a public statement about the whole issue, on the other hand they can’t fucking get their crap together when it comes to containing the real problem and doing something about those bald men in boots whose number is rising every day and two parties that are screaming for blood (NPD and DVU). Do we see a relation here? Retouche, retouche!
While I think that it’s most unfortunate that the man made such a statement, I think he should have been fired and maybe paid a few $$ and publicly say it was wrong, but we honestly got worse people to fill the jails with.
In conclusion, Pie.

Besides that, there have been plenty of other genocides in recent times.

No other genocide has been perpetrated with such cold analytical precision. No other genocide was done by the use of special camps in order to hasten the death of millions and make the remainders of their lives economically profitable. No other genocide was perpetrated out of utility, not anger, and with the tacit or explicit approval of entire countries.

Anti-Semitism is perhaps unique in its staying power. Few forces so specific have stayed as constant as it has. The reasons have changed, the perpetrators have changed, but the canards remain. It’ll probably never disappear - but we can ensure that people don’t act on it.

Now… not having any discussion of the Holocaust is of course ridiculous and probably far worse than the alternative as far as its actual goal. But perpetrating lies related to the fact that it never happened is absolutely the wrong way to go and should be outlawed IMO.