No Flowers for Robert Faurisson

One the giants of French literature, Chateaubriand, denounced silence in the face of evil.  When everyone trembles before the tyrant, the historian appears.  Unfortunately, historians may be assassins of memory, and one professional notorious falsifier of history that few will mourn has now disappeared.

Robert Faurisson, born in a suburb 15 miles from London of a French father and a Scottish mother, a dual citizen of both countries, died aged 89 on October 21, 2018 in his home in the symbolically appropriate city of Vichy.

Faurisson was a notorious hater of Jews who defended obnoxious ideas, a fountain of evil.  Faurisson, educated in France, became professor at the Sorbonne until 1973 and then professor of French literature at the University of Lyon until 1991.  He will hardly be remembered for his knowledge of 19th-century French poetry, which he taught.  Concerned with nationalist politics in France, he became a public figure first for his extreme advocacy of colonialism, especially in Algeria, so intense that he was thought to be a member of the extreme OAS, and then as a defender of Marshal Philippe Pétain and the Vichy regime.

His infamous place in French history results from his role as anti-Semitic propagandist, a Holocaust-denier who propounded the falsity that insistence on Nazi gas chambers was the biggest lie of the 20th century.  In 1980, he informed the world of the lie of the existence of gas chambers and of the myth of the genocide of Jews, explaining that these "falsehoods" opened the way to gigantic political and financial fraud of which the principal beneficiaries are the State of Israel and international Zionism.  There were, he assured fellow historians, no gas chambers.  Jews who were deported died of disease and malnutrition.  One of his persistent views was that the Diary of Anne Frank was a hoax.  In 1981, he was convicted by a French court of inciting hatred and racial discrimination and for his views that the reports of the Holocaust were grossly exaggerated.

Faurisson was not alone in his historical and political fantasies, but he was the most prominent and influential of French negators.  He was associated with the Institute for Historical Review and defended Ernest Zundel, German publisher of material inciting hatred of Jews, and the pseudo-scientific Leuchter Report of 1988, denying mass killings at Nazi extermination camps.  He approved the statement by the despicable Darquier de Pellepoix, former commissioner for Jewish affairs in Vichy, that only lice were gassed in Auschwitz.

Faurisson followed in the footsteps of Holocaust-deniers and then became the leading figure for others.  Among them are Maurice Bardeche; Paul Rassinier; Roger Garaudy, once a brave wartime resistance fighter and communist author, then converted to Islam and became a Holocaust-denier; Henri Rocques, who asserted that the Holocaust was a wartime lie, artfully maintained by the International Zionist lobby; Jean-Claude Pressac, chemist and pharmacist who for a time denied that some concentration camps were extermination camps; Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the National Front, protector of Vichy collaborators, and author of the remark that the Holocaust was a "detail of history."

Faurisson may be remembered by his friends and associates.  One is the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, whom he embraced on stage and one of whose assistants gave him in 2008 an award while dressed in a striped concentration camp uniform with a yellow star.  Faurisson was honored in 2012 by the then-president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with an award for "courage, strength, and force" in contesting the Holocaust.

Faurisson can claim fame as the first Frenchman to be legally convicted of Holocaust denial.  At the time, Le Pen defended Faurisson as a symbol of the free speech that has been criminalized in France.  The state, Le Pen said, went to great lengths to silence Faurisson.  This event was the result of the prosecution of Faurisson for defiance of the Gayssot Law of July 13, 1990.  The law made it an offense to contest the existence or size of crimes against humanity as defined in the London Charter, 1945, on the basis of which the Nuremberg trials were held, 1945-6.

The Gayssot Law was a response to the development of "revisionism" by writers who challenged the existence of the Shoah, a not so subtle form of contemporary anti-Semitism that previously could not be prosecuted.  The law dealt with the assertion that the gas chambers are a dishonest fabrication (une gredinerie) endorsed by the victorious powers in the Nuremberg trials, which were a sham, a "mascarade," sinister and dishonorable.  The law was based on the right to be free from incitement to racism or anti-Semitism.  Faurisson, a forger of history, dismissed from academia in 1991, was rightfully convicted by the French court of inciting hatred and racial discrimination.

In a curious, still controversial statement, Noam Chomsky wrote a preface for one of Faurisson's writings.  Chomsky said he had nothing to say about the work of Faurisson or his critics, or about the topics they address, concerning which he had no special knowledge.  However, the charges that Faurisson was a rabid anti-Semite and fanatical pro-Nazi had no bearing whatsoever on the legitimacy of the defense of his civil rights.  Chomsky could find no evidence to support the conclusion that Faurisson was anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi, rather "relatively a political liberal of some sort."

By coincidence, on October 4, 2018, French culture minister Françoise Nyssen announced an award to memorialize Ilan Halimi, the first Jew to be killed in a hate crime after World War II.  Halimi, a 23-year-old, a mobile phone salesman, had been abducted, tortured, and killed in 2006.  The murder is depicted in a movie, 24 Days.

The intellectual and legal problem concerning Faurisson and like-minded individuals continues.  The argument is made that the expression "genocide" is no longer appropriate for what happened, that new evaluations are needed of rigid canons of memory that we have been taught to regard as eternal.  According to this line of argument, we must abandon the concept of a Nazi systematic extermination policy planned from the outset; it was a gradual plan imposed by war, which itself exercised the violent anti-Semitism of Hitler and his entourage.

This specious argument, derivative of Faurisson's work and influence, must be rejected, as should be historical revisionism.  The only praiseworthy remark that can be made of Faurisson and his ilk is that they did truth an involuntary service by making the Shoah one of the best known events in modern history.  The concept of revisionism should be buried with him.

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