International Campaign for Real History
The Listener, NZ

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


Holocaust and academia

mailI CAN only presume Philip Matthews's evident obsession with worldwide Holocaust deniers ("Canterbury tales", September 20) and eagerness to link them to local academics stem from some deep concern. As a signatory to Martin Lally's petition, I regard both the Nazis' treatment of Jews (and many others) and Israel's treatment of Palestinians as hideous inhumanities. Furthermore, every mistreatment of even a single human being is evil and demands opposition.

However, the matter at issue is whether the University of Canterbury has acted properly in defence of academic freedom to debate any issue or fact and whether it fairly treated a student who acted in good faith and was found not to have been dishonest.

Matthews produced three pages of personal and guilt-by-association attacks on the participants of one side of the controversy. There was nothing in his article that, to my mind, sheds light on either the academic freedom issues or the evaluation of Holocaust history.

So I have a question for him.

Does the sacking of New Zealand Herald cartoonist Malcolm Evans for producing work critical of Israel indeed evidence a powerful and censorial Jewish lobby? Is he part of it?

Alan Wilkinson
Russell, Northland

mail I WOULD not contribute in any way to Philip Matthews's article. As I explained by email when he approached me, his previous article on me persuaded me that he was not a fair and ethical journalist. I did not believe he would treat my circumstances in an even-handed, professional manner.

As for his curiously veiled suggestion that I no longer regret mistakes in my 1991 thesis, let me bring clarity:

I continue to feel sincere regret at three things: errors in my thesis; some people's anger at those errors; and the misuse of the thesis by certain racists and politically motivated cranks.

I firmly stand by all my statements in the Addendum, dated January 26, 2000, that I attached to the thesis. It can be read at: That does not mean I will remain passive while protagonists on either side of the revisionist/anti-revisionist debate attempt to use me or my old thesis as ammunition to fire at each other.

Although I don't trust Matthews, I certainly do trust the good sense of the New Zealand public. This year many articles, most written by independent journalists, some written by me, others by my detractors, have appeared in major newspapers. A sizeable scholarly article on me and my circumstances also briefly appeared in a history journal.

Its prompt destruction after publication but before circulation caused a "book burning" controversy at the University of Canterbury. Even so, copies of the now famous "destroyed" History Now article can be read on the Internet [pdf version]. Thus, I believe the New Zealand public do not need Matthews's coaching on what to make of this entire controversy.

There is sufficient material available for the public to read, or re-read, so that they can exercise their own intelligence and arrive at their own conclusions. I don't fear that; I welcome it. To facilitate this process, I have started compiling material, including the complete History Now article (slightly longer than the edited version that appeared in the Herald and the Press), and placing them on my little Totem Press website:

Dr Joel Hayward
Palmerston North

mailWAS Professor [Roy] Sharp's suggestion that Dr Fudge publish in the daily newspaper merely a calculated academic insult, or does he seriously suppose that the likes of Tony O'Reilly and Rupert Murdoch are more appropriate and reliable defenders of academic freedom than the university itself? Subsequent events have shown that the mass media -- monolithic institutions which publish at the whim of their editors and on the sufferance of their owners -- are indeed more ready than Professor Sharp to give space to one who has laid down a challenge to social and political prejudice.

But this fact says more about the moral and intellectual plight of Canterbury University than it does about the real willingness of the media barons to function as the final bastion of academic freedom. In choosing to surrender to forces both within and beyond its walls which are hostile to the spirit of free enquiry, Canterbury has followed down the track beaten by German universities in the 1930s.

I grieve for my alma mater.

Geoff Fischer B.For.Sc Hons I (Cant) '98

mailPHILIP Matthews rightly concludes that the debate about Joel Hayward's Holocaust-denying thesis should focus on the issue of academic standards. He is also right to challenge those New Zealand academics leading the current crusade for "academic freedom" while, apparently, ignoring how this benefits the inter-national Holocaust denial movement.

As a longtime beneficiary of the principle of academic freedom, I was concerned when in 1999 and 2000 the New Zealand Jewish Council called for inquiries into, first, Hayward's alleged Holocaust-denying masters thesis at Canterbury University and, second, the alleged Holocaust-denier Hans Kupka's doctoral -candidature at Waikato University.

However, after carefully reading the report of the Canterbury inquiry, and reviewing the facts in the Waikato debacle, I put aside my concerns at the NZJC's role. Indeed, as the academic staff representative on the Council of the University of Waikato, I personally drafted and moved the resolution that initiated the external review of what by then was being called "the Kupka affair".

The point I emphasised was that, despite the claims of Kupka and his defenders that this was fundamentally an issue of academic freedom, for others it was about protecting our institution's academic standards -- in this instance, against the risk that postgraduate enrolment regulations and research ethics rules had not been properly implemented. As the review revealed, many of our doubts were justified.

It was instructive also to note how, even if most university managers and staff were of the view that the Kupka affair was about a German extremist's right to exercise his academic freedom in New Zealand, local Christian and Muslim religious leaders, and many ordinary people of goodwill, understood intuitively that this was an issue on which the Jewish community deserved support. Like other converts to this cause, I received verbal abuse, including several times being called a "Jew lover".

For our Jewish colleagues the sense of persecution ran deeper. In the worst case it involved an arson attack on a Hamilton home, with a Nazi symbol burned into its lawn, a car scorched, and a family forced to live in fear. The police have not yet found the perpetrators of this cowardly act.

As the current debate about "academic freedom" unfolds, I increasingly see worrying parallels with the nasty (and still largely untold) side of the Kupka saga. Academics, politicians and media commentators have professional responsibilities to stop representing Hayward as an innocent martyr caught up in some great Jewish conspiracy.

Dr Tom Ryan
Anthropology Department,
University of Waikato (Hamilton)

© Focal Point 2003 e-mail:  write to David Irving