Your Influence Counts ... Use It! The SPOTLIGHT by Liberty Lobby

Reprinted from, home of The SPOTLIGHT archive

Historian On 'Thought Crimes'

Noted historian and political prisoner Udo Walendy, who is currently languishing in a German prison, was interviewed recently about the persecution he faced as a result of his scholarly work.

The interview with the 73-year-old Walendy was conducted by journalist Georg Wiesholler for the German news magazine, Deutsche Stimme, and translated by Eva Hardemann.

Questions by Wiesholler appear in boldface type. Walendy's answers appear in regular text.

Mr. Walendy, your book Truth for Germany: The Guilt Question of the Second World War, published for the first time in 1965, was widely received and is now in its fourth edition despite being blacklisted.

To this day, not a single sentence in my book, which I labored on for years, has been repudiated. For 15 years I have had to fight the administration in court because the Federal Review Office for Youth-Endangering Publications, by using empty phrases, saw fit to put this book on its index of banned books at the end of the Sixties. Obviously, they had no intention of conducting an objective discussion but instead, wanted to immediately suppress it.

After 15 years of court proceedings, even though the Federal Constitutional Court released my book, the authorities in Bad Godesberg kept it on the banned list. After another trial it was again released but the dispute about it remains unsettled.

In the final deposition the authorities admitted that the details "are generally correct," but the book is "dangerous" because it is not refutable.

This case must be viewed as a skirmish in the persecution mania being waged against me as a historian. Still, indictments are not criminal procedures.

The German Federal Constitutional Court announced in 1994 a de cision which determined the boundaries of freedom of speech.

According to Article 5, Section 3, Clause 1 of the [German] Constitu tional Law, certain scientific theories do not fall under the category of protected speech. Furthermore, the German Federal Constitutional Court elaborated in subsequent comments that scientists are advised to probe the validity of previous discoveries and the results gained through their research. That means: Concepts that have been tested in scientific discussions can be subject to revision.

Still, you have been sentenced to 15 months' detention. Why?

All this changed with increasing harshness in 1985. Since then unwanted opinions, even in scientific research, have been criminalized.

To begin with, my scientific books and journals were destroyed under so-called "objective proceedings." This occurred without trial, fines or imprisonment be cause the statue of limitations for the press had run out. The destruction of the literature was their ultimate goal.

With discoveries by international historians and scientists intensifying, the top political leaders and judges got the idea to criminalize all research of historical events involving the Third Reich and the second world war that could exonerate Germany by labeling it with the global rubric, "notorious."

How far this situation in Germany has progressed is especially clear in regards to my publishing career because of the scientific research I have conducted for more than 30 years.

Can you give us some examples?

Yes, gladly. In the case of my Historical Facts No. 38 I submitted to the municipal court in Bielefeld a videotape of the newsreel about the Auschwitz trial in Cracow in 1958 made by the occupation forces.

I protested being accused of a crime because I simply re-played a newsreel of the occupation forces showing the Auschwitz death count at 300,000 and that did not fit in with the [then-official claim of 4 million dead]. The judge at the main trial told me that the court's concern was not whether my research was scientifically correct but that the highest legal decisions had been observed. My motion to bring evidence as well as all other motions I wanted to introduce were dismissed under the "notorious" concept. A factual inquest of the charges did not take place. The literature was destroyed without being tested.

The court's suppression of motions to show evidence and the destruction of evidence makes a mockery of the law. How has the threat to Free dom of Speech evolved into the present time?

The situation has escalated in the past years; my two criminal cases bear witness. It is well known that the statute of limitations for the press has been extended from one and a half years to five years but only for the "extreme right." That means that today each author, publisher and even printer and book seller risks the chance of five years in jail. How this affects the historical research and what is left of "freedom of speech" is anybody's guess.

During the first trial of my Historical Facts No. 1 and Historical Facts No. 64 the following took place:

The prosecutor accused me of phrases that I had never written. My lawyers and I protested vigorously and repeatedly against the imputations, to no avail. I was sentenced mainly for phrases that I had never written. Furthermore, the court declared abruptly that my writings were not science, but pseudo-science, which was not immune under [German] constitutional law.

The other charge for my sentence was that I allegedly presented a falsehood of historical facts. The court did not bring proof and dismissed my evidence. It had no need to gather evidence.

Furthermore, I was sentenced for nu merous phrases, which I had not been charged with in the first place. I received 15 months in jail, one year in closed confinement and the rest in a maximum security prison. During my imprisonment a fine of 20,000 marks, which had been approved previously and of which five installments had already been paid, was converted into additional five months jail in the course of a punishment consolidation.

The judge referred to "a hearing of the accused," but this judge at the District Court in Bielefeld knew that he had never granted me a "hearing" at all. Thus I was jailed for 20 months for the "criminal act" in question.

In the meantime, three additional Historical Facts No. 66, 67 and 68 were confiscated -- without having been read -- and were finally destroyed.

The Municipal Judge Knoener of Herford said in his statement that I had been sentenced to 14 months in jail not for what I had written -- this was beyond the court's jurisdiction -- but for what I had not written. Yet Judge Koener had refused any motion to bring evidence to substantiate the published particulars and also refused to hear the requested expert witnesses.

This is the lauded "freedom of speech" in Germany.

Shouldn't you have known that publishing your revisionist findings would be liable to punishment according to German law?

Prior to publication, I had consulted four lawyers to ascertain whether the intended publications were punishable and had received three written and one oral clearance. To this the municipal judge commented that "expert opinions" do not count. He did not elaborate why my expert opinions were rejected.

After finally hearing the witnesses, another appellate judge declared: "Since you have thoroughly discussed this case you should have been warned." With this he dismissed the expert depositions of the attorneys.

The appellate court that had imposed the additional 14 months' prison term at the end of October 1999 did not accept this case at all. In the opinion of this court the memory of deceased Jews is defamed by writing that "German politicians travel throughout the world disseminating fraudulent historical accusations against their own people."

As I had written, the memory of deceased Germans is not subject to debate. The Appellate Court did not censure the appellate judge when he called me a "representative of the generation who is to blame for Auschwitz and who has brought this disgrace upon us," although he knew that I had never been to Auschwitz and was 18 years old in 1945.

What conclusion do you draw from your experience?

I only want to describe the conditions my people endure at this time. In this regard I want to say that my publishing license has been revoked by the highest authority of the Herford District. In the written deposition, German officials reasoned that I have committed a criminal offense because I have tried to free the German people from the yoke of the original sin that has been laid upon them. They are not ashamed to document this in writing.

Such judgments are really incredible. Quondam German Federal Presi dent Herzog stated on Nov. 11, 1997: "Writers and intellectuals often also serve their country with biting critiques. Even when we do not believe everything they say ... we have to learn to listen to them calmly, to question ourselves and perhaps to change our minds .... Without critical input, discourse and troublesome thinkers, a society atrophies."

In regard to the Federal President Herzog, I want to point out that the reality of our country's constitution differs from well-turned speeches or even laws. In our country we do not cope just with laws but also with verdicts that go far beyond legal limits in certain cases.

I also want to emphasize that factually written history -- which can only be honest when open discussion is possible and guaranteed -- is the basis of an unbiased political exchange and could be the means to bring our people on an even keel with the world. When scientific re searchers, authors, publishers and even booksellers are imprisoned, democracy is usurped and the people are incapacitated.