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From Hitler to MX
Media Softness on Nazi Zundel Part of Historic Softness on Nazism

By Barrie Zwicker

The mainline media are generally soft on Nazism. The coverage of Ernst Zundel and his ideas is only the latest proof of this.

Seven years ago Zundel showed up in the Toronto media as self-declared "spokesman" for a supposed organization he called Concerned Parents of German Descent which he claimed represented German-Canadians. His line was that the TV docudrama series "Holocaust" then being aired portrayed Germans unfairly.

He was quoted liberally in the Toronto press, whose members with one exception failed to pursue questions about Zundel's background or the legitimacy of his organization. The Toronto Sun ran a cleverly-propagandistic letter from Zundel prominently in a box across the top of its letters page.

At that time only one journalist did any digging into Zundel's background or legitimacy. That was Mark Bonokoski of the Sun. Posing as a Nazi sympathizer, Bonokoski telephoned George Dietz, editor-publisher of The Liberty Bell, which Bonokoski described as "a neo-Nazi magazine" published in the United States. The Liberty Bell had published a glowing review of a book titled The Hitler We Loved and Why, by one "Christof Friedrich." Bonokoski learned these are Zundel's middle names. (The Globe and Mail recently still hadn't caught up, referring to Christof Friedrich as a pen name.)

Bonokoski alone reported in a column seven years ago: "Zundel is a fanatical neo-Nazi proclaiming 'the mighty Swastika (again) has become the symbol of hope — the symbol of White Power'." The column's headline identified Zundel directly — not in quotation marks — as a neo-Nazi.

From that time until Zunde! was charged on the initiative of the Canadian Holocaust Remembrance Association there were, as far as I can learn, just two attempts by Canadian journalists to investigate Zundel. Reporter Michael Tenszen wrote a useful feature on an inside page of The Globe and Mail in December 1983 headed "Hate literature factory in a congenial setting." But although it quoted Zundel as saying Hitler was a great man, nowhere was Zundel described as a Hitlerite. A similar news feature ran in The Toronto Star.

Who might clearly deserve the label Nazi? According to Webster's New World Dictionary a member or supporter or follower of Adolf Hitler's Nazi party and its program of systematic elimination of opposition and of nationalism, racism, rearmament and aggression. The Columbia-Viking Desk Encyclopedia adds anti-Semitism (inexplicably missing from Webster's) to the hallmarks of Nazism and states that "annihilation of Jews and Communists" were "its most important ideological principles." By his own declarations and their implications, these were a fair approximation of Zundel's views as long as seven years ago. He is a Nazi, at the very least a neo-Nazi. Those who sympathize with him are Nazi sympathizers, at the very least neo-Nazi sympathizers.

Numerous journalists, columnist Douglas Fisher being one, received Zundel's literature but did nothing about it. Their rationale was that they did not want to give him publicity. But there always is a course available to the media other than inaction (i.e., self-censorship) or simply printing the stuff. That is investigation. Two investigations were undertaken in seven years. One of the ways, then, the media are soft on Nazism: lack of curiosity, lack of concern, lack of alarm.

Over the same period of time perhaps the majority of Canadian Jews and certainly the mainline Canadian Jewish Congress reached the agonized conclusion that media and other institutional silence was the lesser of evils in dealing with Zundel and what he represents.

The Canadian Holocaust Remembrance Association was therefore frustrated in its attempts to seize the Nazi menace by its horns. It pursued the only avenue it could see left open, the admittedly-risky Criminal Code Section 177, which makes it an offence to knowingly publish "false news" likely to cause injury or mischief to a public interest.

With the trial the media pendulum swung to the other extreme. From virtually no coverage to a surfeit. CBC-TV news, which rolled with pretty well daily coverage and The Globe and Mail, which took to front paging it, were the most excessive. CTV television news ran fewer and briefer items. The Toronto Star began its play well inside but it moved forward as the trial proceeded.

There appears to be a widespread feeling inside and outside the media that too much was reported of the trial. I don't share that opinion. But it was played too prominently, and I take issue most with the biases of the coverage.

These were soft on Nazism. A number of headlines took the Nazi side. "Lawyer challenges crematoria theory," ran the headline without quotation marks in the Feb. 12 Globe. The crematoria were not a theory, as the photo on the cover of the March 11 issue of Maclean's showed. Robert Faurisson, a French professor of literature, was denied status as an expert on gas chambers by the trial judge. But the same story in the Globe which informed us of that denial carried the headline "No gas chambers in Nazi Germany, expert witness testifies."

Faurisson had been quoted three days running in The Globe before the Globe reporter divulged that Faurisson had been convicted of libel and defamation in France.

The Globe ran an uncritical feature on the "re-education" (in Nazism) of one of Zundel's henchmen, but failed to do a significant feature on the real hero — agree with her or not — of the saga, Sabina Citron of the Holocaust Remembrance Association. Among the many such amazingly if subtly biased-toward-Nazism aspects of Globe and Mail coverage was its running a photograph entered as evidence by a loony Swede, Ditlieb Felderer, which purports to show a swimming pool at the Auschwitz death camp. The implication is that the photo is genuine (six lines below the picture The Globe reports that Zundel is "probably the best photo retoucher in Toronto"), and that it is relevant. With the trial over, why would The Globe not run one of thousands of available photos of the masses of victims killed by the Nazis?

The media also fell into the trap of adopting the self-descriptions of the anti-Semite Zundel and his lawyer, Douglas Christie of Victoria, B.C. They portray themselves as David in a David-and-Goliath battle for free speech. As far back as April 18, 1978 "free speech champion" Zundel had said reading material "unfair to Germans" should be collected from schools "and burned." And as Harold Levy, editor of the Criminal Lawyers' Association Newsletter, wrote in one of the Star's several refreshing think pieces, it was the Holocaust Association and the prosecution, not the Zundel gang, which faced the uphill battle in winning a conviction with a seldom-used, vague and unpredictable law.

It was The Globe and Mail, again, and on its front page, that characterized Christie, a sympathizer of the Nazi Zundel, not as a Nazi sympathizer but as a "maverick," a label generally considered positive. This mis-labelling plays into the hands of — in fact is one of the propaganda strategems of — right wing propagandists. Rightists such as Zundel, Christie and Alberta Holocaust denier James Keegstra from time to time claim they're just trying to give a "different" or "alternative" view. The Toronto Sun from the start called itself "Toronto's Other Voice."

Yet the media constantly label people and organizations of the left as of the left. Besides "leftist" and "terrorist" we have the currently ubiquitous "Marxist." As The Nation trenchantly observed in a front-page editorial in its issue of Feb. 2 last:

"Marxist" has become Americans' epithet of choice in the second cold war. With or without its companion "Lenin-ist," standing alone or with its modifier "Third World" it evokes fear and loathing and justifies behavior that would otherwise be tasteless, immoral or unconstitutional . . . it may mean as much or as little as the user likes. It is not supposed to be descriptive — much less analytical — just discriminatory, like a racial or sexual slur or an ethnic joke.

Ernst Zundel has been convicted now in a Canadian court of law as a dangerous liar. He's a smirking self-declared Hitlerite. Yet the media continue to call him "Mr. Zundel," or "Toronto publisher Ernst Zundel." Why? Why would the label-prone media not describe him as "Nazi Ernst Zundel" or "neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel" or "convicted racist liar Ernst Zundel?" Why do the media not call a Nazi a Nazi? Because the media are soft on Nazism.

They have been since the 1930's when Time and Reader's Digest wrote admiringly of Hitler and Mussolini. Time "coddled" Hitler, writes W. A. Swanberg in his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Luce and His Empire.

Swanberg writes: "(Hitler's) barbarities were soft-pedaled, Time's story on the Blood Purge being so restrained in tone as to suggest that Hitler had been forced against his will to clean out homosexuals and some few others in his ranks. His violations of solemn treaties were viewed with complacency. And when Hitler announced another treaty breach in the secret Nazi organization of an air force equal to England's, Time described it with great good humour . . ."

The coddling continues today with the media widely ignoring books such as Trading With the Enemy by Charles Higham which documents exhaustively that huge American corporations collaborated with the Nazis before, during and after the Second World War. A former New York Times correspondent for more than 20 years and author of 26 books, Higham got most of his information from U.S. Government archives. Trading With the Enemy reveals:

  • That Standard Oil of New Jersey provided fuel oil for German U-boats as late as 1942.
  • That ITT with the active involvement of its president helped improve Hitler's communications systems and built navigational components for the V2 rocket bombs that Hitler rained on London. The Globe, Sun and Maclean's have yet to review this book, published in 1983.

Why have most media until recently shown no enthusiasm for the story of Nazi war criminals given safe haven in this country for 40 years now? Why do the media refuse to review films such as Joan Harvey's From Hitler to MX, which covers ground similar to that in Higham's book? Because the media are soft on Nazism.

To dig perceptively into the Nazi era, to explore Western collaboration with Nazism to "smash Bolshevism" would risk uncovering disturbing patterns.

It could lead to more comparisons of today's U.S.-led "free world" policies with Hitler's, for instance:

  • Close ties between government and huge corporations which benefitted from a huge armaments program.
  • Incessant appeals to patriotism.
  • Rejection of the League of Nations and other structures of international law.
  • Belief in force to settle disputes.
  • Insistence that the Fatherland was being "pushed around;" appeal to the "pitiful Mr. Nice Guy" image.
  • Masterful orchestrated propaganda.
  • Continuous warnings about the "menace of Communism."

This last is the perennial central rallying cry from Hitler through the MX: fanatical anti-communism in general and anti-Sovietism in particular. With this all-purpose motivation and justification, even despicable and genocidal people and policies were and are considered good — as long as they subscribe to the religion of anti-communism.

Without taking away one iota of the indescribable pain and ineffable suffering of the Jews at the ruthless hands of the Third Reich, terrible as it was, anti-Semitism still was not the core of Nazism. Anti-Commu-nism in general and anti-Sovietism in particular were.

H.R. Trevor-Roper in his book Hitler's War Directives 1939-45, writes (page 18):

The essential thing was that, by politics or war, the victors of 1918 be driven out of eastern Europe, and the way made clear for Hitler's main task, the "be-all and end-all of Nazism," as he would call it: the war against Russia . . .

There is compelling evidence that this genocidal (and now suicidal) goal — the destruction of the USSR — remains central among many if not most of the top ruling elite of the United States.

At every turn the "Great Communicator" of the U.S. corporate/Pentagon elite raises the spectre — however insubstantial — of the "Soviet threat" to justify immoral acts including the U.S. $1.5-trillion over-armament drive. The mining of Nicaraguan harbours (found illegal under international law) and the whole war against Nicaragua are two other examples. Nicaragua is a "terrorist communist arsenal" according to Ronald Reagan.

Forty years ago a then-well-known public figure showed he well understood such labelling power. He said:

. . . people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.

That was Hermann Goring testifying at the Nuremberg trials.

Yet in the news or feature columns, and in the editorial pages, the mainline media largely turn a blind eye to the ominous parallels. And frequently the media fail in the primitive responsibility to simply report what is being said along these lines by knowledgeable people.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, for instance, spoke to a packed Convocation Hall in Toronto April 12 last. Hundreds were turned away. A physician, specialist in the arms field and star of an Academy Award-winning film, If You Love This Planet, Dr. Caldicott also has had a one-hour meeting with Ronald Reagan. At Convocation Hall she drew the parallels. She pointed out that each Trident submarine equals hundreds of Auschwitz's in killing power. She pointed out that Max Kampelman, the former chairman of the Committee on the Present Danger — and therefore the chief architect of the U.S. arms building program — has been put in charge of the Geneva arms reduction negotiations.

The Globe and Mail did not manage to publish a line about Dr. Caldicott's two-hour talk which also included many local, provincial and Canadian national references.

Recently some developments — very little that the media uncovered by way of investigative reporting — have led to more attention to Nazism past and present than we've seen for decades.

The Zundel and Keegstra trials were held in Canada and had to be covered. Coverage of the 40th anniversary observances of the end of the Second World War and the liberalion of the Nazi slave labour, torture and death camps is journalistically unavoidable. These in turn led to subplot developments such as President Reagan's revealing decisions and attitudes on the Bitburg cemetery visit. There's the federal inquiry into Nazi war criminals living in Canada.

The coverage is welcome insofar as it's accurate and comprehensive. But paradoxically it underscores a fundamental observation about the mainline media, one which must be counted in the final analysis as more a failing than a virtue. That is that information usually is legitimated as "news" only after it has been sanctioned through being received from status quo authorities.

There are many exceptions to this generalization. But the generalization particularly applies in the area of what Tom Hopkins of Maclean's magazine calls "invisible axioms." In the life-and-death ideological area these are the "givens" — they would better be called "accepteds" — which everyone "knows" are true. Yet these are in fact the very elements of our synthetic perceptual environment most in need of skeptical probing, for our very lives depend upon a vigorous, fearless questioning and discussion of these givens.

However accidentally, the lid has been lifted in the mainstream media just a little on the hidden history of the purposes and origins of the Cold War and its unbroken line of succession from the Nazis.

But will this uncovering of hidden history continue? Or will the lid be put back on once the observances have taken place?

It's a vital question, for Western and Western media softness on Nazism past and present is not just a matter of history. It's a question of the future — and whether we'll have one.

This is an adaptation of an article that first appeared in NOW magazine of Toronto.

Published in Sources, Summer 1985

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