by Michael Hoffman
A critic has made a negative remark about the photograph of Auschwitz gas chamber skeptic Ernst Zundel (above, on the right), and his attorney, Dr. Herbert Schaller, taken on March 1, moments after Zundel emerged from Mannheim prison for the first time in five years.
We believe it is a beautiful photo, a truly heart warming picture. It is evidence, by way of a photograph, that Ernst will not bow to adversity, he will not whine, he will not show pain, but rather, in his smiling countenance one sees the joy of life. This is a testimony to his spirit, after seven years' incarceration, including two in solitary confinement in Canada. Let us also not forget that as a child he survived the Allied firebombing holocaust against his hometown of Pforzheim; consequently, on top of it all, he is a holocaust survivor. I have seen a similar serenity and nobility in Japanese survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki holocausts.
This is a stunning contrast to the behavior and attitudes of many (though not all) of those poster soul-survivors of the Auschwitz slave labor camp, who, more than sixty years later, still pose with long faces, perpetually moaning, groaning, wailing, hectoring, spewing hatred and pointing fingers of accusation, while churning out a deluge of newspaper and magazine articles, books, novels, television shows and films constituting a new level of institutionalized vengeance, which has been weaved into the very fabric of the post-Christian West.
I say post-Christian, but we are even heedless of William Shakespeare. Surely Portia's famous speech to Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice" (Act 4, scene 1), is now discredited by the mandarins of mediocrity. Yet, in Portia's words we have our culture's most eloquent reply to the perpetual Purim cry for vengeance under the rubric of justice. Here Shakespeare, as usual, put his finger on the heart of the matter: the vast chasm separating Judaism from the ante-Auschwitz West is their enshrinement of revenge and our obligation to mercy.
Zundel's merciless persecutors have learned nothing from history. In their hubris, in their certainty that they will prevail and control and edit the future, they believe they can demonize, imprison and torment prisoners of conscience with impunity. The Romans imagined this about the early Christians, the French Catholics about the Huguenot, the German Lutherans about the Anabaptists, the New England Puritans about the Quakers, the Anglicans about their recusant Catholic countrymen, and the Soviets about the Eastern Orthodox. Yet, in each case history teaches that in time, the severely oppressed dissidents emerged stronger than ever.
This too is the destiny of World War II revisionists, though today, in the midst of intense persecution and witch-hunting, it is a future difficult for many to envision. In this sense, Ernst Zundel, even at age 70, is not a man of the past, but of the future.
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