Posted Wednesday, July 5, 2000

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The Australia Israel Review



New Zealand's Holocaust denial problem

By Dov Bing

Holocaust Denial, which refers to itself as Holocaust Revisionism, is not history at all. It is one of the most notable forms of antisemitic propaganda to develop in the post-war period.

Holocaust deniers like David Irving, Frederick Toben, Roger Faurisson and Mark Weber have tried to give the movement academic respectability. Universities have generally been very vigilant not to associate their institutions with Holocaust deniers. Universities in Australia, the United States and Europe are very much aware that association with Holocaust deniers could be deadly for their reputation.

It must have come as a surprise to many observers therefore that two cases of Holocaust denial have recently been uncovered at New Zealand universities, prompting protests on campus and attracting much media attention around the world.

The Hayward thesis

In February 1993, Canterbury University student Joel Hayward submitted a Master's thesis entitled: 'An Historical Enquiry into the Development and Significance of Holocaust Revisionism'. The thesis was accepted for examination by the Chief Superviser, Associate Professor Vincent Orange of Canterbury University's History Department. The External Examiner was Professor John Jensen of Waikato University's History Department. Mr Hayward received First Class Honours for his Master's degree.

In the concluding chapter of his thesis, Hayward wrote:

"A careful and impartial investigation of the available evidence pertaining to Nazi gas chambers reveals that even these apparently fall into the category of atrocity propaganda."

His main argument is actually based on the discredited Leuchter Report, commissioned by Canadian Holocaust denier, Ernst Zundel, and written by an "engineer" later shown to have no formal qualifications whatsoever. Hayward argued that

"Leuchter's unorthodox conclusions, which at first seem incredible, do appear to be supported by ample evidence."

The other conclusion in the Hayward thesis refers to the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. On page 336 of the thesis, he writes:

"The total number of deaths is probably impossible to determine... the total would undoubtedly be more than one million and far less than the symbolic figure of six million."

Elsewhere in the thesis, he was not so generous. On page 17 he suggests the figure to be "hundreds of thousands of Jews or even more".

After Hayward received his degree, the issue then slumbered for many years because the thesis remained embargoed in the Canterbury Library, at the author's request, until it was recently made public.

The April 2000 edition of the New Zealand Jewish Chronicle (NZJC) contained five items on the Hayward thesis. The media took up the story both in New Zealand and abroad. In a letter to the NZJC of April of this year, Dr Hayward (now a Senior Lecturer in Defence and Strategic Studies at Massey University) withdrew the main conclusions of his thesis and says: "I stuffed up. The conclusions are wrong". In the same letter he now states that

"without doubt, around six million Jews perished during World War II. They were murdered by Nazis and their allies. The perpetrators used a range of methods, including gas chambers, shooting, physical exhaustion and starvation, to carry out this monstrous crime."

The New Zealand Jewish Council while accepting Hayward's subsequent apology and withdrawal of his main conclusions, wondered how a Holocaust Denial thesis could have been accepted for examination and approved with a First Class Honours at Canterbury. The President of the New Zealand Jewish Council, David Zwartz, called upon the University to cancel the Master's degree awarded to Hayward on the basis of his thesis.

The response of Canterbury University was sensitive and swift. Its Chancellor Dame Phyllis Guthardt announced that the University Council would immediately set up an independent Committee of Enquiry. The Canterbury Vice Chancellor, Professor Daryl LeGrew, issued a public statement on 20 April indicating that "the university is dismayed at the level of upset to the Jewish community and regrets this deeply" and stressing, "We wish to work with the Jewish community to resolve these matters."

The Kupka doctorate

However, in the second prominent Holocaust Denial case, the University involved has been much less sensitive and forthcoming. The case is that of Hans Joachim Kupka, who is writing his doctoral thesis at the University of Waikato on the topic: 'The Use of German in New Zealand'. Mr Kupka makes it clear that as part of the thesis he intends to analyse the contribution of immigrants from Germany and Austria to New Zealand society. Many of these immigrants are, of course, Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe and/or Holocaust survivors. The topic would have been unexceptional were it not for the fact of Kupka's neo-Nazi activities.

Mr Kupka was one of the leading lights of the German Neo-Nazi 'Republikaner Partei' before he emigrated to New Zealand in 1992. (This was known in the German Department of the University of Waikato.) In the 1980s Kupka was the regional party Chairman in lower Bavaria. In October 1987 he became Deputy Chairman for the Bavarian section of the Repuiblikeiner. Mr Kupka was also responsible for the 'Ordnungsdienst' of the Party, that is, their bodyguards and bouncers.

When Kupka arrived in New Zealand in 1992, he continued his neo-Nazi activities on the internet via several discussion groups. About 3000 pages of his correspondence published since 1996, mostly in German, have been archived.

Six experts in the field of Holocaust history have classified Kupka's writings as antisemitic Holocaust Denial. These experts were Professor Konrad Kwiet of Sydney University; Emeritus Professor John Moses of the University of Queensland; Ms Luise Freudenberg, a Research Scholar of the University of Berlin; Professor Peter Longerich of the University of London; Professor A. Sywottek of the Institute of Contemporary History in Hamburg and Professor Marion de Ras of the University of Waikato.

  • Professor Kwiet stated : 'Herr Kupka presents himself - and is pleased with his role - as an intellectual who does not hide his antisemitism, Holocaust Denial and racism."
  • Ms Luise Freudenberg agreed: "It is absolutely clear to me that he is a neo-Nazi, a rabid antisemite and apparently denies that there was a Holocaust. ...Also, the tone and language he uses to write about Jews and about the Holocaust is openly antisemitic. He uses stereotypes and polemical expressions that seem to come straight from Goebbel's speeches... The idea that a German Jewish refugee who escaped by the skin of his teeth and whose whole family was murdered should receive someone like Kupka in his home is more than disgusting."

Waikato academic Norman Franke and I raised the issue of Kupka's antisemitic and racist writings on the internet with Professor Knuferman, Kupka's sponsor in the University's German Department. Our request for a copy of Kupka's doctoral proposal was turned down by Knuferman and by the Chairperson of the Postgraduate Research Committee, despite the fact that Franke was a member of the German Department. Once we finally gained possession of the Kupka doctoral proposal via a different channel, it became clear to us why there had been so much secrecy. Kupka's doctoral proposal involved an analysis of the contribution of German and Austrian immigrants to New Zealand society which would involve Kupka in researching the contribution made by Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors to New Zealand.

In order to respond to concerns about Kupka's antisemitism and racism put forward by myself and Franke, an ad hoc committee was set up by the Dean, Professor Peter Oettli. Oettli was himself not disinterested, having been involved in approving Kupka's entry into the German Department with inadequate academic qualifications, and approved that his research project be written in German and not be externally assessed, both exceptions to university policy. The Committee consisted of Knuferman, Oettli, both native German speakers, and Dr Ann McKim, who had no knowledge of that language.

After examining only 150 pages of Kupka's internet writings, Knuferman and Oettli decided that the Kupka internet writings "could in no way be interpreted as being remotely rightwing."

Franke and I also wrote a 9-page letter to the University's Ethics Committee, alerting the University to the 'culturally unsafe' and academically problematic nature of the Kupka doctoral outline. We pointed out that no serious study about 'The Use of German in New Zealand' could be undertaken without extensive reference to the many Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors from Nazi Europe; that such a study could hardly be undertaken without the co-operation of these refugees and their families; and that to allow this doctoral study to be undertaken without reference to the contribution of the Jewish immigrants, would make the study effectively 'Judenrein'. However, the convenors of the various University Committees refused to receive and table our correspondence. A request to the Faculty's Human Ethics Committee to receive a delegation of Jewish academics to discuss the issue was denied.

The University responded to correspondence from myself and other Jewish academics by referring part of the issue to the Human Rights Commission. The Legal Adviser of the Office of the Race Relations Conciliator wrote that it would be difficult to establish whether Kupka's internet writings were likely to excite hostility against the Jewish people. The University used the advice and argued that the Kupka case had to do with free speech. This was of course a red herring. The main issue which had been raised with the University was that of the inherent academic problems and "cultural safety" of the Kupka doctoral proposal.

When public pressure became too strong and the New Zealand Jewish Council entered the debate, asking for an independent public enquiry, Vice-Chancellor Professor Gould responded by arguing that it was his opinion that Kupka's writings did not constitute Holocaust Denial. The implication was that the six international experts had all been wrong in their assessments of Kupka's writings despite the fact that Professor Gould admitted that he was not an expert on the subject. The University - albeit at this late stage - has now agreed to deal with the core issue of 'cultural safety' and academic standards raised in our correspondence of 26 November.

In a recent newspaper article, Kupka states that "no interviews with Holocaust survivors are explicitly intended or necessary in the context of my research." If this approach has been approved by Prof. Knuferman and the Ethics Committee, it would mean that the University of Waikato has now purged the thesis of its Jewish content and made the matter worse.

It seems that Professor Gould and his senior academic staff (Knuferman and Oettli in particular) are unwilling to admit that they have made serious errors of judgement.

The academic staff of the German Departments of Victoria, Massey and Canterbury Univerities have all written to the University of Waikato advising the Vice Chancellor that Kupka is not a suitable candidate to undertake doctoral research on the topic 'The Use of German in New Zealand'.

The University of Waikato stands alone in its stubborn and steadfast support of the neo-Nazi Kupka.

Professor Knuferman has now resigned from the University and Kupka is apparently now keeping a low profile in Australia.

The requests for an independent inquiry by the New Zealand Jewish Council, the Waikato Jewish Association, and the University's own Law Faculty should now be honoured. Only an independent inquiry set up by the University Council can restore Waikato's tarnished reputation.

Professor Dov Bing teaches in the Department of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Waikato.

Related files on this Website:

Hayward: Varsity leader defends historian | Joel Hayward web page (mirror) | Making History | University won't revoke degree for student who queried the Holocaust
Kupka: 'Holocaust' student drops PhD study
Origins of anti-Semitism
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