While in no way condoning David Irving’s position on the Holocaust, English PEN nonetheless deplores the decision of an Austrian court to sentence him to three years imprisonment for ‘Holocaust Denial’. It should not be a crime in a free society to publish opinion, however poorly dressed up as fact.
At a time when freedom of expression is under increasing pressure and attack from governments around the world, it is more important than ever that democracies deal with contentious issues through debate and ridicule rather than through suppression by law.
The distinguished classical scholar Pierre Vidal-Naquet, who lost both parents to the Holocaust, once wrote of Irving’s French ally Robert Faurisson: ‘Confronting an actual Eichmann, one had to resort to armed struggle. Confronting a paper Eichmann, one should respond with paper.’
Dealing with historical distortion by imprisoning its author is self-defeating. English PEN believes that the neo-Nazi views of Irving are those of a paper Eichmann and that the only appropriate response to him is on paper. We urge the Austrian government to quash his sentence.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/news/_1443