Longtime Hitler enthusiast and Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel was released from a German prison on Monday after serving five years for the crime of inciting racial hatred. Zundel, who turns 71 next month, said he would be heading to his home in the Black Forest to regain his health. “It’s kind of a sad situation,” he told The Associated Press as a small group of supporters greeted him outside a Mannheim prison.
Thus ends a long legal saga that began in 1977 when the German-born Zundel founded a small publishing house in Canada called Samisdat Publishers. He published books such as The Hitler We Loved and Why (which he co-authored under a pseudonym) and Did Six Million Really Die? and distributed Nazi and neo-Nazi posters, audiotapes and other items. Among the countries where Zundel sent his offerings was Germany, which has laws prohibiting Holocaust denial and dissemination of Nazi and neo-Nazi material.
It also was during the 1970s that Zundel was spokesman for Concerned Parents of German Descent, a group that contended that German Canadians and their children were discriminated against by anti-German stereotyping. Zundel even issued press releases protesting NBC’s “Holocaust” miniseries for its portrayal of Germans. And yet Toronto Sun columnist Mark Bonokoski reported that Zundel’s maternal grandparents were Jewish. Bonokoski also wrote that one of Zundel’s ex-wives told him that Zundel was concerned enough about his lineage that he returned to Germany in the 1960s in search of his family’s Nazi-era certificate of pure Aryan blood, but could find no such document.
Zundel lived in Canada for more than 40 years, although he was a German citizen. He was tried twice there in the 1980s on criminal charges of using the mail to send hate propaganda. His conviction at his first trial was overturned on a legal technicality. His conviction at the second trial was also overturned when Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that the charge on which he was convicted was unconstitutional.
In the late 1990s, Zundel was investigated anew by Canadian authorities, this time for promoting hatred against Jews on his website. In 2000, he moved to Sevierville, Tenn., and married a fellow Holocaust denier named Ingrid Rimland (who had run Zundel’s website for years). Three years later, he was arrested for violating U.S. immigration rules as he applied for citizenship and deported to Germany to face charges there. Zundel tried to thwart the Germans by seeking refugee status in Canada. Twice denied citizenship in Canada, his permanent residency status had expired after his move to Tennessee. A judge denied his bid to remain in the country, saying he was a national security threat.
Zundel’s trial in Germany lurched along, delayed when two of his attorneys were kicked off the case because of their own far-right, anti-Semitic views. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to the maximum of five years in prison.
Canada Public Safety Minister Vic Toews on Tuesday made it clear that Zundel can forget about returning to that country should he long to leave the Black Forest.
“In 2005, a Federal Court judge confirmed that Zundel is inadmissible on security grounds for being a danger to the security of Canada,” Toews said in a statement. “The decision reinforced the government of Canada’s position that this country will not be a safe haven for individuals who pose a risk to Canada’s national security.”