Robert Faurisson, Holocaust Denier Prosecuted by French, Dies at 89


Paris — Robert Faurisson, a former literature professor turned anti-Semitic propagandist whose denial of the Holocaust earned him multiple prosecutions, died on Sunday at his home in Vichy, France. He was 89.

His death was confirmed by his publisher, Akribeia, which is known for its far-right leanings.

Mr. Faurisson was regarded as a father figure by contemporary French exponents of Holocaust denial, the extremist fringe in a country with a long tradition of anti-Semitism. Contemporary far-right figures like the propagandist Alain Soral and Dieudonné, who calls himself a humorist, have followed in his footsteps, but none have had the long-range tenacity of Mr. Faurisson.

French writers on the political margins began denying the Holocaust not long after the war ended. But Mr. Faurisson distinguished himself by making a rare breakthrough into the country’s mainstream media, publishing a notorious opinion article in France’s most respected newspaper, Le Monde, in 1978.

Titled “The Problem of the Gas Chambers, or the Rumor of Auschwitz,” the article was an immediate embarrassment for the newspaper, but it launched the public career of Mr. Faurisson, who until then was an obscure professor of French literature at the University of Lyon.

His notoriety only grew through an endless cycle of articles in the far-right press denying that gas chambers had been used to kill Jews, as well as through interviews and the French justice system’s condemnations of him under its hate-speech laws.

In 1990 he became the first person in France to be convicted under a law that criminalized the denial of crimes against humanity as they were defined in 1946 by the Nuremberg Tribunal.

Mr. Faurisson’s assertions drew attention in the French press in the 1980s and ′90s for their outrageousness, prompting scholars and activists to respond. But he faded from view over the last decade, reappearing only occasionally to traffick his views on the radio and elsewhere.

The most recent judgment against him came in November 2016, when a court fined him 10,000 euros for propounding “negationism” in interviews published on the internet.

Mr. Faurisson’s expertise in 19th-century French poetry gave him a veneer of respectability, as did a petition defending his free-speech rights signed by Noam Chomsky, the politically outspoken American linguistics expert. Mr. Chomsky wrote several pages defending Mr. Faurisson’s right to express himself, and Mr. Faurisson later used that writing in a self-justifying memoir in 1980.

“He was a professional propagandist who didn’t work scientifically,” said Valerie Igounet, a French historian who wrote a biography of Mr. Faurisson. “It was all dictated by an ideology. He was a falsifier of history.”

That ideology was anti-Semitism. His study in Vichy, the wartime capital of collaborationist France, was crammed with books and periodicals denying the Holocaust. There were photocopied checks made out to the French treasury — the record of his fines.

In an interview with this reporter in 1998, Mr. Faurisson, a slight, bespectacled figure with a high voice, asked me at one point, as if to clinch his argument, “Have you ever seen a gas chamber?”

At another point he said: “Excuse me, but you are definitely a Jew! And the Jew, we have the right to typecast him. How on earth do you imagine that one would not be irritated by them?”

In 1989, Mr. Faurisson was beaten by a group calling itself Sons of Jewish Memory in a park near his home.

Mr. Faurisson was born on Jan. 25, 1929, in Surrey, England, to a Scottish mother, Jessica Hay Aitken, and a French father, Robert Faurisson, who worked for a French shipping company.

He studied at the Lycée Henri IV in Paris, one of France’s most prestigious secondary schools, and the Sorbonne.

Execrated at home, Mr. Faurisson was lauded in Iran, receiving a prize from its president at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — who was well known for his fulminations against Israel and Jews — for “courage, resistance, and combativeness.”

Mr. Faurisson is survived by his wife, Anne-Marie, two sons and a daughter.

Source : Nytimes