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heads up for Down Under: for readers in Australia
our dossier on Professor Richard "Skunky"
Monday, August 25, 2003
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
I'm an unemployed scholar who hates the
Holocaust controversy that has swirled for decades
and recently brought my academic career to a
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
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
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"
It seems to me that no such thing as accidental
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
only is Professor Evans' logic jumbled but the
Working Party did not find me dishonest at all.
The party rejected Professor Evans' claims to
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
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
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,
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,
- Revisionists are predominantly "of German
descent or known to express affection for
Germany, or are involved in or support
right-wing or nationalistic organisations"
- "Their [that is, those on both
sides] experiences, interests, beliefs and
values have [therefore apparently]
guided their decision to specialise in this
- "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
Brevity prevents me explaining other points of
difference between us but in my view they are of a
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Working Party agreed that Professor Evans
was a highly partisan contributor to the
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.
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
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
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
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
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"
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
at heart of 'book burning' row | 'Book-burners'
feared libel suit
Joel Hayward thesis: 'The
Fate of Jews in German Hands' (zip
Fate of Joel Hayward in New Zealand Hands: From
Holocaust Historian to Holocaust? Part I |
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