The German Ministry of Justice explains to an Australian in 1995 that it does not know how many died in the "gas chambers", and it is not a criminal offence to talk about that. . .
Mrs Olga Scully|
Dear Mrs Scully,
Thank you for your letter received by this Ministry on 5 December 1994.
I am in a position to make the following remarks regarding your inquiry:
The systematic anihilation of racial minorities, particularly European Jews, including in gas chambers, during the National Socialist rule of violence is a historical fact. As well as research on the part of historians, the German courts in particular have also contributed to clarifying the murder of millions of Jews and pursued a large number of criminal proceedings concerned with National Socialist crirnes. The convictions made in these proceedings are based on the evaluation of many documents, the testimony of hundreds of witnesses and reports prepared by numerous experts as well as, not leastly, on information provided by the defendants themselves.
It has not yet been possible to determine the exact total number of victims in a way which would stand up to a detailed examination, and this will most probably now never be feasible. For this reason, there has never been an official number of the victims among the Jewish population. Discussing the nurnber of victims is therefore not always an offence. However, this does constitute an offence in each case where it is carried out with the aim of denying or trivialising the murder of millions of Jews.
In such cases, criminal prosecution is a matter for the criminal prosecution authorities and courts in the Federal Länder. This Ministry has no statistics on the number of convictions or on sentencing in respect of denying the occurrence of the Holocaust.
As far as the offence of defamation of the memory of the dead is concerned, punishment is imposed pursuant to section 189 of the Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch). Defamation is considered to entail an insult the manifestation, content, accompanying circumstances or motive of which is regarded as particularly serious.
This criminal provision is intended to provide for protection of the memory of the dead against unjust disparagement, and gives no regard to nationality.