Convicted Holocaust denier Zundel freed

70-year-old far-right German activist served 5 years in Mannheim prison.

March 1, 2010 17:43
2 minute read.
Far right activist Ernst Zuendel leaves prison in

ernst zundel 311. (photo credit: AP)


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MANNHEIM, Germany — Far-right German activist Ernst Zundel was freed after serving five years in prison for denying the Holocaust ever happened — something he wouldn't speak about Monday.

The 70-year-old had been extradited in 2005 from Canada, where he spent some additional time behind bars on the German warrant after having been deported from the United States for alleged immigration violations.

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A crowd of 20 supporters on Monday morning clapped and shouted "bravo" as Zundel emerged from the prison in Mannheim. Some handed him flowers as he passed through the prison's steel gates.

"I'm back out after seven years, three weeks, three prisons and three countries," Zundel said, declining to comment when asked whether the Holocaust happened. He also served some time in prison in North America.

"It's kind of a sad situation; there's a lot to say. I'll certainly be careful not to offend anyone and their draconian laws."

Zundel was convicted on 14 counts of inciting hatred for years of anti-Semitic activities, including contributing to a Web site devoted to denying the Holocaust — a crime in Germany. The Web site's accessibility made it possible for German prosecutors to charge him.

Zundel and his supporters had argued he was exercising his right to free speech.


On Monday he gave no details about his future plans, saying only that he wanted to improve his health and would return to his home region in the Black Forest.

"Having spent the last seven years in a 'chicken coop,' I've gained a lot of weight. I have to lose that. I have to get checked out in a hospital," Zundel told reporters outside the Mannheim prison, though did not indicate that he was ill.

He said he was unsure if he would return to Canada, where he had lived in both Toronto and Montreal for years after emigrating in 1958. He was rejected twice for Canadian citizenship and moved to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, but was sent back to Canada in 2003.

In February 2005, a Canadian judge ruled that Zundel's activities were a threat to national security as well as "the international community of nations," clearing the way for his deportation to Germany later that year.

One of his lawyers on Monday criticized the five-year sentence in Germany as having been too severe, saying there had been a lack of justice due to the fact that the Holocaust is a sensitive subject in Germany.

"I'm happy that he made it," attorney Alexandra Rittershaus said. "It was a hard and frustrating time" during which she said he was initially not allowed to receive all of some 1,700 letters because officials feared it would "threaten his resocialization."

Supporters outside the prison called Zundel "a brave man" and "a victim of justice," while some maintained there still was no evidence that anyone was gassed to death at Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Meanwhile, another Holocaust disputer had his Austrian prison sentence reduced Monday from five years to four. Austrian author Gerd Honsik — who wrote "Hitler Innocent?" — was sentenced in April after being arrested in Spain, to where he had fled following his original 1992 conviction for writings that defended Adolf Hitler's Third Reich.

A Vienna court ruled Monday that Honsik's five-year sentence was too hefty.

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