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New Zealand Herald

Monday, August 25, 2003



Joel Hayward: Enough - Academic Calls for Peace

It is unpleasant being a David and facing a Goliath, so I write this response to the article by Professor Richard Evans of Cambridge University with an acute awareness of our imbalance.

I'm an unemployed scholar who hates the Holocaust controversy that has swirled for decades and recently brought my academic career to a halt.

Professor Evans is an Oxbridge don who apparently loves the debate and who gave expert testimony, for a large fee, at the 2000 trial in London of David Irving [sic], the world's leading revisionist.

Three years ago Professor Evans, again for payment, wrote a cutting report on my 1991 MA thesis, calling it tendentious, biased and supportive of Mr Irving and others like him.

David slew Goliath so perhaps all is not lost for me. I have nothing against Professor Evans but I cannot let him wield his sword without defending myself.

I'm not particularly interested in re-litigating the contents of my thesis, which the [University of Canterbury] Working Party concluded was an honest effort.

But am I missing something in Professor Evans' article? He calls my thesis dishonest, but accepts that I had not acted with "deliberate" dishonesty.

It seems to me that no such thing as accidental dishonesty exists.

I can't make sense of a similar statement Professor Evans made last week during an exchange with another Kiwi academic: "The distinction between dishonest intent and dishonest effect is a fine one but it was one that the Working Party accepted."

EvansNot only is Professor Evans' logic jumbled but the Working Party did not find me dishonest at all. The party rejected Professor Evans' claims to that effect.

The party found my research honest and concluded that my thesis could not be stripped from me and that my masters degree could not be downgraded or otherwise changed.

Professor Evans noted that there did not appear to be "any racist or anti-semitic purpose" behind my masters research (also the view of the Working Party, which stated more emphatically that I was not motivated by malice).

That's good, and I thank Professor Evans for openly acknowledging that I was no racist. But the professor still accused me of sustained bias towards those whose motives and historical arguments were, in his opinion, solely and unmistakably racist and anti-semitic.

Is he suggesting, therefore, that I was a non-racist, non-antisemitic supporter of racism and anti-semitism? Again, with respect, his logic seems flawed.

His example of my bias (albeit this strangely accidental, non-racist and non-anti-semitic bias he identifies) is odd, to say the least. He points to a sentence in my 12-year-old thesis that said that almost all Holocaust scholars are Jews (Thesis, p9).

Although he infers from this statement that I was accusing Jewish scholars of bias, he appears to have misread the page or two around that statement. I was actually making five points:

  • Orthodox Holocaust scholars are predominantly Jewish or zionistic (Thesis, p9).
  • Revisionists are predominantly "of German descent or known to express affection for Germany, or are involved in or support right-wing or nationalistic organisations" (p9).
  • "Their [that is, those on both sides] experiences, interests, beliefs and values have [therefore apparently] guided their decision to specialise in this field" (p9).
  • "Proving that protagonists on either side of this heated debate are biased, however, is different from demonstrating that their historical theses coincide with their interests, current beliefs or points of view" (p10).
  • "It would have to be shown that their values have hardened into biases, preconceived feelings for or against someone or something which have led to an improper or defective consideration of the evidence" (p10).

In other words, my stated position 12 years ago was that even if Holocaust scholars were all Jewish, or Brazilians, or Zulu warriors, or Martians, this in itself would be no evidence of their bias. Thus, I respectfully suggest that it is Professor Evans who has erred and misread, not me.

Brevity prevents me explaining other points of difference between us but in my view they are of a similar nature.

Professor Evans also criticised me for not reading all secondary or accessible primary sources. This would be a stronger complaint against me if my research wasn't for a thesis written within the constraints of a single year.

I certainly made the most of the limited time available, and the Working Party praised my ability to access a multitude of sources. So if I couldn't get to read every single thing that Professor Evans thinks I ought to have read then this was a pity, but not a grievous or deliberate error.


I'VE said little about the entire University of Canterbury debacle until recently. It hurt too much, and it also seemed futile for an alleged denier to be denying his denial.

I also believed that no one showed much interest in the big issues that lay behind this story. Those issues are not about me and whether I was ever a revisionist or not. Only a few individuals with their own agendas still try to convince us otherwise.

This was all about a ratbag - these few claim - who, either because he was duped by others or because he believed so himself, once tried to rewrite "the truth".

Actually, the issue here is the freedom our forebears fought and died to give us. In a free and enlightened society no historical actions or events, and no area or type of historical inquiry, should be treated as so sacrosanct that asking questions about them, or arriving at unorthodox or even unpopular answers, constitutes a heresy. Historical events are not unquestionable religious dogma.

Canterbury University therefore should never have succumbed to external pressures from any minority or special interest group, however concerned and impassioned that group was.

It should never have launched an external investigation into the truth standards contained within a historical masters thesis, however unpopular or controversial the thesis' historical arguments were.

Many other options for the university existed, including mediation, which did not involve putting one of its former students effectively on trial and did not jeopardise the university's obligations under both its Charter and the Education Act (1989).

These documents emphatically state (to quote the act) that students and academics have the freedom, within the law, to query and test received wisdom, to advance new ideas and to state unpopular or controversial opinions.

The university was apparently scared stiff when the New Zealand Jewish Council's complaint came, as I was. But rather than stand firm and hold up the principles of free inquiry and free speech upon its huge institutional shoulders, it buckled and dropped them on my examiners and me, in particular.

I collapsed under the strain, and have now spent three years feeling crushed.

The fact that Canterbury University called the investigative team the Joel Hayward Working Party, and not, for instance, the History Thesis Working Party, indicates the university's desire to make me, and not the wider issues of academic freedom, the bone of contention.

During my first grilling by the Working Party that carried my name I quickly reached the conclusion that it was little more than a medieval heresy trial dressed up as an objective investigation. I have never deviated from that opinion.

The complainants paid a significant fee to employ Professor Evans, who submitted to them, and thence to the Working Party, a 71-page report.

In language that even the Working Party considered strident and over the top, Professor Evans insisted my thesis wasn't motivated by racism or malice but was very seriously flawed.

I could not afford to employ an expert to counter Professor Evans' report, which was in any event severely criticised as "adversarial", "not objective" and "partisan" by Professor Gerald Orchard, one of New Zealand's most highly regarded lawyers.

The Working Party agreed that Professor Evans was a highly partisan contributor to the proceedings.

Being unable to hire an expert historian, I did the best job I could myself.

My key defence was that Professor Evans was judging my thesis by far too high a standard. I was, after all, only in my fourth year of tertiary study when I had written it.

I was not a doctoral student, much less an established scholar with a string of books to my name. Professor Evans was mistakenly judging me by that very highest of standards, as even a member of the Working Party let slip on one occasion.

HaywardThe Working Party's report, released in Christmas week 2000, was an unsatisfactory document of compromise. That is, it would hang me out to dry by criticising my research as badly flawed and my conclusions as perverse, which would hopefully mollify the complainants.

But, because the thesis revealed no malice or dishonesty, it would not strip my degree from me, and thus hopefully placate all academics and students deeply concerned at such a possibility.

The report left no one happy, and so the controversy continued. I pray it dies now, and I can regain my life.

Far from being strongly interested in the Holocaust, let alone obsessed with it, I've never written anything on it after that thesis of 1991.

Since then I've written a PhD dissertation, scores of peer-reviewed academic articles and six books, some of which are used as set texts in university and staff college courses around the world.

And in not one of the million words I've published have I repeated any so-called heresy. So the choice becomes obvious: either I'm not a heretic and never was, or I'm the most uncommitted and unsuccessful heretic there ever was.






Our dossier on the Joel Hayward case | Our dossier on Professor Richard "Skunky" Evans 
Canberra MP Rodney Hide signs petition calling on University to recompense Joel Hayward
July 2003, NZ Herald: "Holocaust thesis ruined my life says historian"
Report of the Working Party established by University of Canterbury to Inquire into Hayward Case | summary
Holocaust scholar at heart of 'book burning' row | 'Book-burners' feared libel suit
Joel Hayward thesis: 'The Fate of Jews in German Hands' (zip file)
The Fate of Joel Hayward in New Zealand Hands: From Holocaust Historian to Holocaust? Part I | Part II
Death threats and breakdowns - the Holocaust thesis destroyed my life
Aug 19, 2003: University chief's job in doubt. The position of Canterbury (NZ) University Vice-Chancellor Roy Sharp to be reviewed after Hayward scandal
Richard J. Evans: Academic standards the issue, not freedom 
The petition (pdf, 56K)
© Focal Point 2003 e-mail:  write to David Irving