Jim Keegstra, the man who taught the children in his 1980’s school class in Eckville, Alberta, the Holocaust was a Jewish fiction, died on June 2 at the age of 80. He was buried June 6 the day most of the world was remembering the first day of the battles that would eventually free a captive Europe and reveal death camp realities Keegstra refused to believe.
On Tuesday, June 17, Johann “Hans” Breyer, 89, was taken into custody by US authorities in Philadelphia. He has admitted to being a guard at the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp but denies he had anything to do with the deaths of 216,000 Jewish men, women and children imprisoned there.
For more than a decade Keegstra and other Holocaust deniers like Ernst Zuendel and Malcolm Ross made front page headlines as, defended by Victoria lawyer the late Doug Christie, they claimed their right to free speech gave them the right to preach hatred. The Supreme Court of Canada eventually rejected Keegstra’s claim, but only by a split vote of 4-3.
Later this month Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act – the “hate speech” section – will be repealed and replaced. Advocates in the House of Commons and the Senate claim the new language merely clarifies the section, critics claim it opens the door for more Keegstras and Zuendels and will encourage growing anti-Semitism, already again rearing its ugly head in Europe, to find root again in Canada.
Keegstra took his hatred for Jews into the classroom for a decade before he was finally fired. Former students testified he informed them Jews were responsible for many evils during the French revolution; that the growing feminist movement of the 1980’s was organized by the Jews who also promoted abortions; that the war in Vietnam was the work of Jews and Canada’s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was under the influence of and obedient to a Jewish conspiracy. And that the Holocaust was a lie created to earn undeserved sympathy for the Jews.
Students who believed got high marks. Students who questioned, were failed in exams.
In an effort to show Keegstra the reality of the death camps he was taken to Dachau, a minor camp when compared with Auschwitz where Breyer allegedly worked. He was unmoved by what he saw when he visited that first of Hitler’s concentration camps, built under the supervision of Heinrich Himmler, then chief of police in Munich. Construction started in 1933, 48 days after Hitler took power. Theodor Eicke was Dachau’s first commandant .His first prisoners were young German politically opposed to Hitler.
When I visited Dachau in 1976 the meticulous German official records listed 31,961 deaths in the camp, but admitted the exact number of Russians executed between 1941-42 “cannot be determined because they were not listed in the camp files.”
Holocaust deniers make much of the Russian statistic and the fact that 1,000 Catholic priests died at Dachau, along with many holding the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses, hundreds of gypsies and, as a simple bronze plaque testifies, four young English women who were parachuted into France to help the resistance, captured, imprisoned and “brutally murdered by the SS.”
It has always seemed strange to me that the Keegstras of the world find the non-Jewish death lists understandable, but the official German records of the Jewish dead, unacceptable and unbelievable.
On the edge of the parade square at Dachau, the place where “final selections” were made of those who would work that day and those who would die, stands a stone memorial with a powerful two word pledge – “NEVER AGAIN”.
Close to 40 years later as the Keegstra years come to their inevitable end, anti-Semite, anti-Islam, anti-Christian voices rumble renewed hatred in almost every corner of the world. And I wonder how long “never” might be.