Canterbury University history lecturer THOMAS FUDGE has resigned in protest at the university's refusal to publish this article defending a young academic against the charge of holocaust denial. It appears in two instalments, today and tomorrow.
The Fate of Joel Hayward in New Zealand Hands: From Holocaust Historian to Holocaust?
By Thomas A. Fudge
For the past three years, newspapers, national periodicals and television programmes have provided coverage about the Joel Hayward affair, a story of a New Zealand student who wrote a controversial thesis.
Contestable work and arguable conclusions are not uncommon in modern universities, but Hayward's unpublished work as a student seems to remain, after 10 years, a point of unusual and continuing interest.
Does Canterbury University support holocaust denial? The university answers no. Is Hayward a denier? He claims he is not. Does his thesis constitute holocaust denial? His critics say yes (some without having read it); others (who have read it) answer in the negative.
In June 2002, Joel Hayward resigned as senior lecturer in history at Massey University where he had been respected as an effective teacher and productive scholar. His departure generated applause from some quarters. Others lamented academe's loss.
What brought Hayward, a year and a half after the Hayward affair, still in the early stages of a potentially distinguished career, to this act of professional extinction?
In 1993 Hayward was awarded a master of arts degree with first class honours in history by the University of Canterbury for a thesis on the historiography of the Holocaust. He later wrote a PhD thesis, and in 1996 was appointed to a lectureship at Massey University.
In late 1999, the MA thesis was publicly denounced. The New Zealand Jewish Council alleged that the work amounted to historical revisionism constituting Holocaust denial, and called on the University of Canterbury to revoke the degree.
Hayward repeatedly apologised for any harm or distress his thesis might have caused, agreed to the extraordinary step of including an appendix to his thesis modifying his findings, co-operated with the subsequent investigation and appears to have made efforts to distance himself from Holocaust denial.
Under pressure, the university appointed an independent working party to investigate the claims against the thesis. This committee consisted of retired High Court judge Sir Ian Barker and academics Professor Ann Trotter and Professor Stuart Macintyre.
Their lengthy report concluded that the thesis was seriously flawed, and that Hayward should not have essayed a judgment in such a controversial area. The report did not recommend withdrawal of the thesis by the university and did not agree with the allegations that Hayward's argument was racist or motivated by malice.
While the opinion that the thesis did not deserve the high marks it received was widely publicised in the media, no fewer than six serving or retired members of the history department persisted in their own judgment that it was a first-class effort.
Notwithstanding the apparent finality of the report and its qualified exoneration of Hayward, during 2000, 2001, and 2002 Hayward received hundreds of pieces of hate mail, abusive telephone calls, threats against himself, his wife and small children, harassment at Massey University and continued negative media attention.
Further attempts to publish, as well as efforts at finding other employment, have been unsuccessful. The issue therefore goes beyond the apparent concern over allegedly flawed (but unpublished) research. Is this issue really about academic values and freedom?
Animosity towards Hayward arose not in 1999 but several years earlier. The subject of Hayward's thesis was controversial before he wrote it and there were attempts to censure Hayward at the time.
Aware of these factors, Hayward embargoed the thesis for three years as soon as it was examined. When the embargo expired, he notified the university library that the thesis could be made available to researchers.
The library replied that it had decided to restrict the thesis so it could be consulted only with Hayward's permission until January 1999. Almost immediately allegations were published about his alleged Holocaust denial.
That someone should have chanced upon the thesis so promptly seems an unlikely coincidence. Rather, events were to show that there were good reasons for the embargo on access.
Was this because Hayward had written things that he knew to be reprehensible? The Barker inquiry found no evidence of malicious intent, dishonesty or deliberate efforts to circumvent the truth on Hayward's part.
Is it possible that the outrage over the thesis itself was also a device for attacking Hayward?
One of the complexities of the Hayward affair is its apparent relation to issues of academic freedom and intellectual fashions.
Hayward's detractors claim that he is wrong in terms of both. One of his critics stated that academic freedom could exist without academic responsibility.
However, considered legal opinion concluded that the interpretation being applied in the Hayward affair permitted a very limited right to academic freedom.
Proponents of academic freedom insist that universities should be great storehouses of wisdom and learning, and students ought to be able to go there, learn and choose.
Academic freedom implies there are no taboo subjects, no off-limits topics.
The fuss made about this obscure piece of work fits rather awkwardly with the position taken by New Zealand academic libraries.
Official statements read, "No library materials should be excluded ... because of the ... views of their authors [and] no library materials should be censored, restricted or removed from libraries because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval or pressure."
Senior academics in New Zealand universities are often sensitive to public opinion and political moods. They may actively discourage graduate students from investigating certain topics.
There are other topics that although encouraged or permitted, are sometimes subject to constraints on arguments that may be employed, evidence that may be weighed and conclusions reached. This is especially the case in areas that touch on contemporary political or ethical concerns.
Many people do not regard these strictures as problematic but rather praise them as virtuous. The Jewish Holocaust is one of those delicate topics about which certain beliefs have become so fashionable as to be unassailable regardless of intellectual considerations.
The Hayward affair elicited the pronouncement that at least in this country anyone wanting to question received notions about the Holocaust is controlled by accepted truth standards. The danger in this thinking lies in the ambiguity of the term "truth standards".
What did Hayward say?
The major issue appears to be the belief that Hayward rejected well-established facts about the Holocaust. His thesis examined the writings of some of those who question the Holocaust industry, which has reached significant political proportions in the past 30 years.
Setting aside the question of whether Hayward's conclusions were really so exceptional, is it not the duty of universities and researchers to challenge conventional understandings?
In his MA thesis, The Fate of Jews in German Hands: An Historical Enquiry into the Development and Significance of Holocaust Revisionism, Joel Hayward investigated Holocaust historiography, especially that branch of it regarded as revisionist.
He concluded that some of the revisionist literature was unworthy of sustained scholarly consideration. Other approaches he found to be significant and worthy.
He came to three principal conclusions from the historiography, the weight of historical evidence and his own discernment. First, that there is no unimpeachable evidence that Adolf Hitler personally ordered the physical extermination of Jews. Second, that it is impossible to know how many Jews were killed and third, that gas chambers were not used systematically to murder Jews in European concentration camps.
Do these conclusions make Joel Hayward a Holocaust denier?
This allegation that he is can be easily evaluated. First, no document has come to light to prove that Hitler gave a final solution order.
That Hitler was anti-Semitic is beyond denial. That Hitler wished for Jews to be subjugated is without argument. Hayward makes these points. That Hitler gave an order for Jews to be exterminated cannot be proven.
Second, Hayward agrees that millions of Jews perished during World War II. He regards the figure of six million murdered as symbolic and impossible to prove on the basis of documentary evidence.
The traditional figure of 11 million - Jews and others - killed by the Nazis is essentially the invention of Simon Wiesenthal, the famous hunter of Nazi war criminals. This speculative figure has attained virtual canonical status in Holocaust historiography.
In 1986 Shmuel Krakowski, then archives director of Yad Vashem, the international centre for Holocaust documentation in Jerusalem, told the Jerusalem Post that most of the 20,000 testimonies he had from alleged survivors of the Holocaust were untrustworthy, fraudulent, lacking support or in some way untruthful.
Although this statement is at least as revisionist as anything Hayward wrote, Krakowski is not regarded as a Holocaust denier. Wiesenthal admits that he manufactured figures but appears to have escaped censure; Hayward merely questioned other suggested figures and was denounced for it.
Third, it was once held that concentration camps in Germany were used to gas Jews en masse. That hypothesis has now been abandoned by most historians of World War II without this being condemned as Holocaust denial.
There is stronger evidence for the use of gas chambers in Polish camps. Hayward relied upon certain studies now regarded as highly controversial or discredited to question the extent of the use of Polish gas chambers, and for his scepticism was labelled a Holocaust denier although he unequivocally states that millions of Jews perished under the Nazi regime through various means. He wondered merely what contribution gas chambers made to these results. But some of his detractors claimed that he denied the existence of gas chambers altogether.
That the historic Jewish community has been subjected to discrimination and persecution must be acknowledged, but that does not mean that there might not be new understandings of that experience.
It does not therefore provide that same community or any of its representatives with immunity to investigation.
Nor is it true that what happened to Jews historically is fundamentally different from atrocities perpetrated against native Americans, Africans, Gypsies, the victims of the witch hunts in early modern Europe, those trapped in the Stalinist purges in Russian lands, the fate of Iraqis in the hands of Saddam Hussein, heretics hunted by crusaders, and indigenous peoples around the world throughout human history, in which large numbers of people have been subjected to campaigns of mass extermination.
There is a great difference between anti-Semitism and arriving at research-based conclusions which do not support or conform to values, ideas and interpretations held by Semitic peoples and cultures.
Diversity of interpretation is not the same thing as discrimination. To contest common opinion is not racism. To argue against or disagree with conventional wisdom, regardless of the subject, cannot, ipso facto, be characterised as cultural or religious insensitivity.
Even Jewish communities cannot stand detached from intolerance, violence and destruction against others. The conquests recorded in the Hebrew Bible are one example. To argue that the Holocaust is in some way culturally specific or historically significant in unique ways on a universal level is opinion, not binding, necessarily persuasive, or intellectually obligatory.
To insist that it is amounts to intellectual terrorism.A Holocaust of those dimensions is less about history and more about myth.
To say so does not constitute a total betrayal of Jewish history.
The working party found that Hayward was not guilty of racism or anti-Semitism, or of falsifying data. But it criticised the quality of Hayward's work, and dissented from the grade that it was awarded.
Hayward's novice research exercise, however, became widely regarded by academics, university administrators, news media persons and members of the general population as the product of a contemptible scoundrel, a man lacking in probity, unfit to influence impressionable minds, and unworthy of being employed even in non-academic circles and whose writings, even though he has written nothing on the Holocaust since his MA thesis, should be suppressed.
It should be borne in mind that unlike many ambitious young academics, Hayward made no attempt to publish any aspect of his MA thesis. Nor was it the basis of his employment as an academic. Its only role in his career was to qualify him to proceed to the PhD degree, for which he undertook research on an unrelated topic.
Judging from the essays in the New Zealand Jewish Chronicle, the report issued by the working party in December 2000 and the articles appearing in the New Zealand news media, the Hayward affair might seem to be a rather straightforward case of incompetent research and defective supervision.
There are other details which have been less publicised, if at all. While some voices have condemned the lack of balance in the Hayward affair, others have dismissed it all as a hysterical diatribe.
Continuing publicity indicates that important parts of the story are not known.