Auckland, New Zealand, December 22,
equals anger for Jewish groups
University has apologised for accepting
a flawed thesis but says it can't
revoke the degree. Education reporter
REBECCA WALSH reports.
It all started so well.
Joel Hayward, a promising graduate
student, receives an A-plus for his
The hard work had paid off.
for the Canterbury University student --
now a senior lecturer in defence and
strategic studies at Massey University and
a PhD -- it was only the beginning of a
controversy which would ultimately result
in calls for his MA to be revoked.
Seven years after it was published,
Canterbury University has apologised for
accepting his "seriously flawed" thesis
Fate of Jews in German Hands'],
which claimed that parts of the Holocaust
never happened. But it says it is
powerless to revoke the degree.
Dr Hayward's 360-page thesis alleged
that there was never an official Nazi
policy to exterminate the Jews in gas
chambers and questioned whether six
million Jews were killed.
An inquiry into the thesis said it
breadth of research and lucidity"
but criticised its "perverse and
unjustified conclusion," its "faulty
method" and "poor judgment."
The report said it had not been proven
that Dr Hayward had acted dishonestly and
that legally the university could not
strip him of his masters degree.
It also questioned the quality of
supervision and the lack of explicit
procedures for dealing with postgraduate
research at the university.
has bitterly disappointed the Jewish
Council, which had asked the university
to withdraw the degree.
It has also raised questions about how
a seriously flawed thesis can remain an
And, in turn, what does that say about
the standard of the university's
qualifications and New Zealand masters and
doctorate theses as a whole?
Dr Hayward was in his 20s when he wrote
his thesis. It attracted worldwide
attention, including praise from Holocaust
"revisionist" historian David
Irving, who described Dr Hayward as
"New Zealand's leading Holocaust
This year, a British jury in a libel
case ruled against Dr Irving, who was
branded a Holocaust denier by an American
professor for saying the Auschwitz death
camp was a "Disneyland for tourists."
Dr Irving was described by Dr Hayward
as a "researcher, biographer and military
historian of outstanding
But since his thesis was published, Dr
Hayward has recanted his conclusions.
In a statement to the New Zealand
Jewish Chronicle in February, he said that
in 1991 and 1992 he had been inexperienced
as a historian and knew relatively little
about the Holocaust.
"My thesis represents a sincere attempt
on my part to make sense of events I
wanted to understand better.
"Yet I now regret being so uncritical
of people's motives and working on such a
complex topic without sufficient knowledge
Since it was
published in 1993 the thesis has been
embargoed and held in the university
library -- theses are sometimes
embargoed for up to two years if they
are to be published elsewhere or if
commercial factors are involved in the
The working party report said the
seven-year embargo was unusual and it
should never have been able to go on so
Last year, Dr Hayward asked the
university to withdraw the thesis from its
library. It refused, but let him write an
apology has been accepted by the
Jewish Council but president David
Zwartz said it was concerned that the
Jewish community was left with a Holocaust
denial thesis "that still carries the
award of first-class honours MA from the
University of Canterbury."
Mr Zwartz said the case highlighted the
heavy responsibility that accompanied
Stronger criticism comes from Dov
Bing, professor of political science
and public policy at Waikato University,
who reviewed the thesis for the Jewish
Chronicle this year.
Professor Bing described the decision
as a scandal that would impact on
Canterbury University's reputation.Major
Victory for Revisionists
"This is a contradiction in terms. They
say it is flawed, that the supervisor
didn't have the expertise, that the method
is faulty, but they say they can't take
away the degree. It's bizarre," he
"Canterbury University now has the
dubious distinction of being the only
Western university which has given a
masters degree for a Holocaust denial
He said it
would be regarded as a major victory by
Holocaust deniers, who have posted the
work on their websites.
The thesis was supervised by Dr
Vincent Orange, a lecturer in the
university's history department, and
externally marked by Professor John
Jensen, formerly of Waikato
Both maintained that the thesis was an
honest and creditable work.
Professor Jensen is understood to be
overseas and Dr Orange would not
But the working party, headed by
retired judge Sir Ian Barker, found
that the thesis did not deserve a high
honours mark and said it should have been
revised and resubmitted.
It criticised "systems deficiencies"
within the university and described Dr
Orange as an "attentive and conscientious
supervisor" but said he lacked knowledge
of the subject area.
"A supervisor with expertise in
Holocaust studies would have challenged
the numerous inconsistencies and the
imbalance of the argument."
The report recommended firm guidelines
for future masters theses, including the
appointment of qualified and appropriate
But in its executive summary it noted:
"It is hyberbolic and illogical to say
that, just because the university
standards slipped on this one occasion,
every other degree of the university is
"Such a sweeping claim ignores the
university's long tradition of scholarship
and excellent research record over a wide
variety of disciplines. Nor is it sensible
nor rational to brand the University of
Canterbury as approving Holocaust
Others agree that one isolated incident
is not enough to damage the university's
Dr David Woodhouse, director of
the New Zealand Universities Academic
Audit Unit, said the case was a rare
occurrence and he did not believe it would
have a negative impact on the overall
credibility of Canterbury University or
New Zealand universities as a whole.
The audit unit was set up in 1994 by
the universities but is governed by an
independent body. It is at present
completing an audit of Canterbury
University as part of an ongoing review of
New Zealand universities. Part of that
review will look at post-graduate
Dr Woodhouse said universities were
constantly monitoring and upgrading
procedures to improve quality.
Retired Auckland University history
professor Nicholas Tarling said he
believed that the standard of the New
Zealand assessment process is high.
Masters theses were generally
peer-reviewed by at least one other
academic expert within New Zealand while
doctorates were peer-reviewed by academics
here and overseas.
Professor Tarling said it was critical
that universities advised students before
they embarked on their studies whether
they had adequate resources and
supervision for their research topic.
The chairman of the New Zealand
Vice-Chancellors Committee, Dr Graeme
Fogelberg, would not comment.
Canterbury University vice-chancellor
Daryl Le Grew said this week that
the Hayward thesis should not have been
approved without far more scrutiny. If it
had been put forward today it would have
been subjected to improved departmental
and university processes.
In its report
the working party said the university's
apology and acceptance of
responsibility in no way impinged on
students' academic freedom.
"The freedom to express unpopular or
controversial views is crucial but must be
based on sound research. Unfortunately,
this thesis is flawed, its methodology is
dubious and its conclusions do not stand
up to the weight of evidence."
The case is not the only one this year
to highlight the depth of feeling
associated with the Holocaust.
Last week, Waikato University announced
that former Ministry of Education chief
executive Bill Renwick would head a
review of the university's handling of the
enrolment of an alleged neo-Nazi,
German-born Hans-Joachim Kupka.
In the meantime, Dr Hayward is taking a
Christmas break. He will be back at work
on January 8 to face his
items on this website:
at the University of Canterbury in New
Zealand is singularly well stocked, with
eighteen different works of history by
Hayward thesis: 'The
Fate of Jews in German Hands'
Hayward Working Party Report
apology to NZ Jewish Community