I had forgotten. In my own defense, it is perhaps as it should be: a public service should be discharged without expectations of accolades or recriminations.
Then, yesterday morning, I received a text from a friend: “Ernst Zundel died, you were the Minister that kicked him out of Canada”. It now seems a long time ago. Tempus fugit. Issues change. Core principles shouldn’t.
In his day, Zundel’s activities and publications struck raw nerves and “poured salt on fresh wounds”. Today’s Millennials may find it hard to believe, but, in the seventies and eighties, memories of the Second World War and the manifestations of man’s capacity to perpetrate atrocities against fellow human beings were still vivid in the minds of those who lived through that period of human infamy. The survivors are fewer in number today
He insisted that State-sanctioned mass murders and ethnic cleansing were improbable figments of anti-Nazi, post-war propaganda. According to him, the Holocaust never happened.
Zundel became the poster boy of a strategy of denial, one that offended those who survived and insulted the memory of those who did not. He tested the concept of free speech, using it as a weapon to stir self-serving antagonisms and vile prejudices and to distort images of “right and wrong” on a massive scale.
But Murder is never justified. Can it be more so when it is the expressed means – genocide- to attain a political goal by a totalitarian government run by a band of organized criminals?
The truth of the matter is that Zundel essentially asked all of us to ignore the question and avoid the answer. He did not ask us to “forgive and forget” – as difficult as that is.
His writings, had they been unchallenged, would have been like a malignant tumour undermining the vigilance that Western Democracies, and civilized societies everywhere, need to maintain the value we place on human dignity and to sustain political freedom.
What is also true is the fact that, very objectively, “our court system”, the “rule of law”, found Zundel’s activities and writings to be both against the public interest and criminal.
Thankfully, the government of Canada then did the right thing and opted for the surgical removal of a societal cancer.