Holocaust Deniers With U.S. Links Facing European Prisons

In recent years, the United States has become something of an international refuge for those who deny the World War II Holocaust occurred. Drawn by the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech, Holocaust deniers who could face criminal sanctions in countries like Germany and Austria, where such activity has been illegal since shortly after the war, have increasingly made their way to America.

That may be changing. Three of the most prominent deniers, each of whom was at least partly resident in the United States, are now in European jails.

The best known is David Irving, a British writer who spends part of each year in Key West and puts on regular "real history" conferences in Cincinnati. The author of some 30 books on the war, Irving famously lost a 2000 libel case he brought in London against an American scholar who labeled him a "dangerous" denier. He was arrested on Nov. 11 in Austria, after sneaking into the country to speak to a radical student organization. Irving had been wanted since 1989, when an arrest warrant was issued charging him with denying the existence of the Nazi gas chambers.

Irving faces up to 10 years in prison when he goes to trial in late February. Interestingly, he recently adopted the tactic of saying he now realizes he was wrong about the Holocaust -- though until his arrest he remained as virulent as ever.

Meanwhile, another key denier, Ernst Zundel, was scheduled to have his trial in Germany restarted in early February. Deported from the United States and then Canada, Zundel had his denial trial halted temporarily in November, after a member of his legal team was booted off because he had been disbarred. Zundel, the author of The Hitler We Loved and Why, faces 5 years in prison if convicted.

A German associate of Irving's, Germar Rudolf (a.k.a. Germar Scheer), was deported home from the United States on Nov. 14 after defying an order to report to immigration authorities. Rudolf, a chemist who performed bogus experiments meant to show Jews were not gassed at Auschwitz, was sentenced in 1995 to 14 months by a German court that found him guilty of Holocaust denial. Rudolf spent a decade on the lam before unsuccessfully applying for political asylum in America.