Saul Asks A Question.

Saul by email asks :

John Demjanjuk is accused of the murder of 29,500 people in Poland in
1943 as part of the planned systematic extermination of Jews.

Antisemites deny the Holocaust happened.

I have two genuine questions about this letter published in today’s Guardian.

What kind of justice is it that proscribes the normally accepted
right of the accused to challenge the assumption that a crime had, in
fact, occurred? Normally the prosecution is obliged to prove beyond
reasonable doubt that the crime of murder had taken place. This is not
the case in the trial of Demjanjuk. The court will, without proof,
arbitrarily accept that the crime took place. Being stripped of his
most powerful defence, the accused is reduced to pleading mistaken
identity or that he had nothing to do with an unproved murder.”

1. Is this letter doing what I think it is doing, that is, denying the
facts of the Holocaust? Or is some other interpretation possible?

2. If so, why did the Guardian think it fir to publish? or is
Holocaust Denial now part of “legiitimate debate”?

Saul.

UPDATE. Modernity sheds some light on the letter writer’s views.

SAUL ADDS : On an update at Modernity, this has now been placed on the relevant letter’s page at the Guardian,

“Editor’s statement: We published a letter by John Mortl in the Guardian of Thursday 3 December and on this site relating to the case of John Demjanjuk, who is accused of assisting in the murder of 27,900 people in Poland. Unfortunately, we misread the letter. The underlying meaning, we now realise, implied Holocaust denial. As soon as we realised our mistake, we removed the letter from the site. It should never have been published and we apologise unreservedly that it was.”

I’d like to thank Modernity for the information he has thrown on this matter, as well as those who posted their comments, especially Jeremy.
Regards,
Saul

15 Responses to “Saul Asks A Question.”

  1. Philip Horowitz Says:

    Regarding “the assumption that a crime had, in
    fact, occurred” I think there could be some ambiguity. As Saul says, Demjanjuk is accused of the murder of 29,500 specific people and not of participation in the Holocaust as such.

    As part of the trial, I would have thought some evidence that these people were murdered would indeed need to be lead though it might be fairly cursory and the defense might concede the point. There seems no grounds for assuming that the trial court will “arbitrarily accept that the crime took place”.

    That said, the tone is not such that I am very tempted to give the writer the benefit of the doubt.

  2. Saul Says:

    Philip,
    Thanks. I agree with you that “not of participation in the Holocaust as such”.
    However, as far as I understand it, there has never been a crime of “participation in the Holocaust”. Charges have always been laid re: involvement in the specific deaths of specific individuals (excluding Nuremberg and the question of being a member of an illegal orgainsation or some such).

    The present case is no exception. Demjanjuk has been charged with the deaths of those specific people (29,500) who were murdered at a specific place, Sobibor, and at a specific time 1943.

    The letter I posted above seems to cast doubt on the very existence of those crimes – that is, to express Holocaust denial.

  3. The Guardian, Holocaust Denial and John Mortl. « ModernityBlog Says:

    […] Engage ) Posted by modernityblog Filed in Uncategorized Leave a Comment […]

  4. Philip Horowitz Says:

    Saul,

    I am not sure I fully grasp your point. For one thing, I’m not quite clear who these 29,500 people were. The Jewish inhabitants of one quite large town or city?

    If Demjanjuk were accused of killing one named individual, it would, I think, be reasonable to ask for proof that the person were killed as well as that Demjanjuk participated – I suppose the two would go together.

    With 29,500 people – which is a large number for a murder trial – I suppose that denying that they were all killed is close to Holocaust Denial. I don’t know what one should have to prove. Probably not that the list was absolutely 100% accurate.

    I think it is in some way unfortunate that these cases are treated like “ordinary” murder trials even apart from the lapse of time issues. In my opinion, if a person were proved to be in certain of the death camps, or in an Einsatzgruppe, it would not be unreasonable for there to be a rebuttable presumption that he or she killed one or more individuals. Alternatively, there could have been a capital crime of participation in the Holocaust as such.

    It is though a little late for this discussion.

  5. Richard Gold Says:

    Modernity sheds some light on the letter writer’s views.

  6. Saul Says:

    Philip,

    “In the new trial he is charged with volunteering to be trained by the SS as a guard, and participating in mass murder at Sobibor between July and October 1943.”

    The point is, I guess, that Demanjuk has been charged with killing 29,500 individuals

    Sobhibor was a death camp, not a concentration camp, in which thousands could be murdered in a relatively short period. People were sent there from many parts of Poland. Records exist as to names, numbers, etc..

    The letter seems to me to imply that there is “no proof” for, either the crimes committed at Sobhibor nor the names of those who perished. Both claims are empirically untenable.

  7. Saul Says:

    Thanks for the link Richard.

    So, in short the Guardian now feels it is permissible to publish letters not only from Holocaust deniers (it may be too much to ask for a paper to check the “form” of every correspondent, so, fair enough on this point), but also one that in its content, expresses denial of the events with which Demanjuk has been charged.

    The Guardian takes its anti-antisemitism very serious. It was one of the only papers to cover at the time the rising antisemitism in the nazi period. Yet, now, it feels it is ok to published letters denying the Holocaust.

    This, in my opinion, is both the real problem and a very real concern – why a left-leaning liberal paper a. published Holocuast denying material and, or. b. does not recognise it as such?

  8. jeremy Says:

    See also:

    http://thecst.org.uk/blog/?p=978

    Quote: ‘This is the stuff of classical antisemitic conspiracy theorists, directly asserting that the Jews as a race bear responsibility for all wars. A few months later on a legal affairs blog run by the Inner Temple Library, we again find a “John Mortl” comment, this time in defence of Australian Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben. Finally, in March this year we find opinion from a John Mortl on a Holocaust Denial Forum, discussing the need for “a change of emphasis at the IHR”.’

    • jeremy Says:

      In 1998 a Lynda Mortl of Toronto wrote a letter to the Toronto Sun defending Ernst Zundel. (Google results for her lead to hate sites, so I do not include the links.) A Lynda Mortl of London in 2005 wrote a letter to the Times defending Israel Shamir (Google “This obsession with anti-Semitism” and “Mortl”).

      Interestingly, the recently hacked email messages of David Irving include a message from someone named Lynda Mortl, whose email address is lynjohn35@hotmail.com. (Google the address to see.)

      Her message: “Hi: Will you be speaking in New York City. someone I know would be interested if the timing is right. Let me know approximate date. Lynda”

      An earlier, and longer, message from her (and the same email address) to Irving appears on his Web site (Google “Lynda Mortl has been investigating library censorship of websites”).

      Interesting. What fools these Mortls appear to be…

  9. Saul Says:

    Jeremy thanks for this and the other comments and facts that you posted at modernity.

    Inna mentions that the Guardian has removed the letter from its web archive. I have just taken a look and cannot find it there.

    That still leaves the question I asked unanswered.

    How and why did the Guardian not recognise a letter espousing holocaust denial?

    Why did they think that a letter denying the murders in Sohbibor was “fair comment” and worthy of publication?

  10. jeremy Says:

    The Guardian now has this “editor’s statement” on the Web site for its letters page: “We published a letter by John Mortl in the Guardian of Thursday 3 December and on this site relating to the case of John Demjanjuk, who is accused of assisting in the murder of 27,900 people in Poland. Unfortunately, we misread the letter. The underlying meaning, we now realise, implied Holocaust denial. As soon as we realised our mistake, we removed the letter from the site. It should never have been published and we apologise unreservedly that it was.” (via Harry’s Place)

  11. modernityblog Says:

    In fact, it leaves another question (or 2), unanswered.

    What prompted the Guardian’s actions? Did Engage’s comment help them recognise the Holocaust denial in Mortl’s letter.

    Here’s their comment:

    “Editor’s statement: We published a letter by John Mortl in the Guardian of Thursday 3 December and on this site relating to the case of John Demjanjuk, who is accused of assisting in the murder of 27,900 people in Poland. Unfortunately, we misread the letter. The underlying meaning, we now realise, implied Holocaust denial. As soon as we realised our mistake, we removed the letter from the site. It should never have been published and we apologise unreservedly that it was.”

  12. Saul Says:

    On an update at Modernity, this has now been placed on the relevant letter’s page at the Guardian,

    “Editor’s statement: We published a letter by John Mortl in the Guardian of Thursday 3 December and on this site relating to the case of John Demjanjuk, who is accused of assisting in the murder of 27,900 people in Poland. Unfortunately, we misread the letter. The underlying meaning, we now realise, implied Holocaust denial. As soon as we realised our mistake, we removed the letter from the site. It should never have been published and we apologise unreservedly that it was.”

    I’d like to thank Modernity for the information he has thrown on this matter, as well as those who posted their comments, especially Jeremy.
    Regards,
    Saul

  13. modernityblog Says:

    In all fairness, Jeremy is more on the ball than me, I am playing catch up, posting what I can.

    But it would be good to ask, what, really, made the Guardian remove Mortl’s letter?


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