Robert Faurisson — the French academic honored by the Iranian regime and convicted in France during a four decade-long career as one of the world’s leading Holocaust deniers — died on Monday morning at the age of 89, his family announced.
Faurisson’s sister, Yvonne Schleiter, told the AFP news agency that her brother had just returned from a visit to England when he collapsed in the hallway of his home in Vichy — the spa town in central France that served as the headquarters of the pro-Nazi French government during World War II.
Jewish leaders remembered Faurisson — who received an award in 2012 for his “courage, resistance and fighting spirit” from then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — as fanatically-driven by his hatred of Jews.
“There’s one less antisemite and one less Holocaust denier on this earth, which is a welcome development,” Abraham Foxman — the former national director of the Anti-Defamation League who now heads the New York-based Center for the Study of Antisemitism — told The Algemeiner after learning of Faurisson’s death.
Serge Klarsfeld, the French Holocaust scholar whose work helped convict Nazi war criminals including Klaus Barbie and Maurice Papon, remarked that Faurisson had been “one of the pioneers of Holocaust denial.”
“What he wrote was repulsive, annoying and painful to me,” Klarsfeld told the French newspaper Le Figaro.
A far-right political activist who was once arrested on suspicion of membership of the OAS — the French terrorist group that violently opposed Algerian independence during the 1960s — Faurisson had become an outspoken Holocaust denier by the late 1970s, from his perch as a professor of literature at the University of Lyon.
After publishing an essay denying the existence of the gas chambers in 1978 — the same year that the Vichy official in charge of Jewish affairs, Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, claimed that “only lice were gassed in Auschwitz” — Faurisson went on to articulate the basic credo of Holocaust deniers across the world.
“The claim of the existence of gas chambers and genocide of Jews by Hitler constitute one and the same historical lie,” Faurisson infamously declared during a French radio interview in 1980. That “lie,” he continued, “opened the way to a gigantic political and financial fraud of which the principal beneficiaries are the State of Israel and International Zionism, and the principal victims the German and the entire Palestinian people.”
Among Faurisson’s closest partners in purveying Holocaust denial were Ernst Zundel, a Toronto-based publisher later imprisoned by both Canada and Germany, and the US-based “Institute for Historical Review” — an ostensibly “academic” forum where Holocaust denial mixes with strident antisemitism and anti-Zionism. One of Faurisson’s biggest obsessions was with the famous diary kept by the Dutch-Jewish teenager Anne Frank, who died in the Belsen concentration camp, which he insisted was a fake.
Described by the French historian Valerie Igounet as having “lusted after scandal,” Faurisson occasionally made the headlines as a result. In 1981, the well-known American left-wing academic Noam Chomsky contributed the preface to Faurisson’s book The Question of the Gas Chambers, on the grounds, as he put it, that “it is too easy to defend the freedom of speech of those who don’t need defending.” On the subject matter of the book, Chomsky conceded that while he “knew little” of Faurisson’s work, he still could find “no proof whatever” that Faurisson was “really an antisemite or a Nazi.”
Ejected from his academic post in 1991 after the French Parliament passed legislation outlawing Holocaust denial, Faurisson continued to push his revisionist agenda as ostentatiously as possible. He became a regular fixture on Iranian media, delivering the keynote address at an international conference to “review” the Holocaust in Tehran in Dec. 2006.
At home in France, meanwhile, Faurisson teamed up with the antisemitic comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who embraced the Holocaust denier as a fellow “insolent outcast.”
In 2008, much to Faurisson’s amusement during an 80th birthday celebration, the Holocaust denier was presented with an award by one of Dieudonné’s assistants, who entered the stage dressed in a striped concentration camp uniform embossed with a yellow star.
The Algemeiner (c) 2018 . Ben Cohen