At the centre of the web
By David Williams
David Williams examines how the UK has become the epicentre of the Holocaust denial world.
From a nondescript flat in west London a woman in her mid-fifties works at her keyboard. She counts Arab royalty and Middle Eastern businessmen among her friends. She has stood alongside President Ahmadinejad of Iran and has handled the financial and business affairs of the revisionist historian David Irving.
Lady Michèle Renouf is the lynchpin of a worldwide network of Holocaust deniers, historical revisionists and outright antisemites. It is a web that stretches around the globe but its epicentre is found in the UK.
She is not alone. Many of the world’s most influential revisionists and Holocaust deniers are British and the country is increasingly seen as a haven for foreign extremists.
The principal reason for this is quite simple. Holocaust denial is illegal in a number of European states but not in Britain. As many European countries have cracked down on the activities of Holocaust deniers, resulting in a wave of prosecutions in recent years, some have sought to re-establish themselves in this country. The refusal of the British authorities to extradite the Australian Holocaust denier Gerald Frederick Töben to face charges in Germany after he was arrested on a European arrest warrant has emboldened others in their belief that Britain represents a potential safe haven for their activities.
The other key factor is that the various UK-based revisionists and Holocaust deniers are prominent international travellers and networkers. This, coupled with the lax UK laws, means that they have been able to operate and organise in a fashion not possible in most other Western European countries.
There is no better example of this than Renouf. She is the single most important person in the international Holocaust denial world.
Lady Renouf is a former model who was married, albeit briefly, to Sir Frank “the bank” Renouf, one of the founders of the New Zealand Stock Exchange. She would describe herself as a defender of revisionist rights rather than a revisionist herself. However, she is fanatically anti-Jewish.
She first met Britain’s best known Holocaust denier David Irving during his failed libel action against the author Deborah Lipstadt in 2000, when she attended the court proceedings in his support. She soon became one of his main promoters, seeking to raise funds from contacts in the Arab world. They included Prince Fahd bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, the son of the governor of Riyadh and eldest nephew of King Fahd, though he died before he could make good on his promise.
Her link with Irving continues to this day and during his imprisonment in Austria in 2006 she ran his financial affairs and sought donors to keep his business afloat.
Renouf has emerged as a prominent proselytiser for the “revisionist” cause. She has been active in providing legal and moral support to imprisoned Holocaust deniers across Europe including Vincent Reynouard, George Theil, Robert Faurisson, Germar Rudolf and Ernst Zündel for whom she dutifully waited outside the prison gates in Mannheim, Germany, when he was released earlier this year after three years in prison for denying the Holocaust. Many of them have featured in DVDs and CDs produced by her company, Telling Films.
Riding on her coattails was Richard Edmonds of the British National Party, who at the time sat on its Advisory Council, despite the fact that Renouf has been banned from addressing BNP meetings since 2006 because of her extremism. That said, the previous year Renouf had shared a platform in New Orleans with Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, and several other extremists at a conference organised by the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Despite her earlier Saudi contacts, Renouf is now much closer to the Iranians. In December 2006 she attended a Holocaust denial conference in Tehran entitled “Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision”, which by macabre design coincided with the international Human Rights Day.
Although the Iranian Foreign Ministry was at pains to explain that the state-sponsored conference “will not be a forum for antisemites” it was just that. Attended by 67 “experts” from 30 countries including Britain, the conference attracted the crème de la crème of the world’s Holocaust denial community, together with a clique of anti-Zionist rabbis from the Neturei Karta ultra-orthodox sect who, in their rejection of Israel, seem to make a point of working with those who seek to persecute their Jewish brethren. Their presence at the conference also functioned as a counterpoint to charges of antisemitism.
The idea for the conference apparently originated with President Ahmadinejad himself, who justified it on the grounds that Iran was committed to “free speech” and was testing the West’s own commitment to the principle in the wake of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that appeared in the Danish press at the beginning of 2006 and occasioned riots and a string of murders across the world. The conference had nothing to do with free speech of course. Those present, puffed up with self-importance as a result of being feted by Iran’s president, have failed to recognise that the Iranian state sees them as no more than useful idiots, providing it with an alternative stream of arguments from within Western society with which to de-legitimise the Israeli state. Unsurprisingly, the conference found that the idea that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust was “very much exaggerated”.
While the conference appeared to have achieved little in its wake the organisers of the conference established the International “Holocaust” Research Committee (IHRC) Interim Committee to perpetuate its work. Alongside Renouf were Frederick Töben (Australia), Christian Lindtner (Denmark), Serge Thion (France) and Bernhard Schaub (Switzerland).
Although the Iranian government seems to have withdrawn some of its official backing for revisionist work following a huge international outcry at the Tehran conference, Renouf has become a regular interviewee on Press TV, the Iranian government-run English language television station. She regularly attempts to recast Holocaust denial arguments as “anti-Zionism”, perversely transforming the rankest antisemitic vitriol into a language of national liberation that supposedly speaks not just for the Palestinians but for all those “oppressed” by “Zionism”. This line of reasoning dovetails with other arguments prevalent in the Middle East (and indeed the West) that seek to conflate “Zionism” with “Nazism” to underline Israel’s perfidy.
Renouf’s importance as a propagandist was highlighted on 3 June 2010 when she addressed President Ahmadinejad and other delegates to the Fourth International Conference on Imam Khomeini and foreign policy, organised by the Institute for Political and International Studies and held at the presidential headquarters in Tehran.
President Ahmadinejad was sitting in the front row as Renouf told the audience that Khomeini was a “role model” for the West, as indeed was Ahmadinejad, for confronting Western “swindle-speak” with regard to the Holocaust. “My hope”, declared Renouf, “is that our President Ahmadinejad, who speaks the whole truth bravely, will promote awareness of the first Jewish homeland [Birobidzhan, centre of the Jewish autonomous district established by Stalin in far eastern Russia in 1934] and that there is no need for European Jews to go back to Germany, Poland or Austria when they have their own state whose first language is Yiddish”.
Renouf is a far more important figure symbolically than these fringe activities would suggest. She is symptomatic of a wider trend by which antisemites and Holocaust deniers in the West seek to inject their prejudices into the Middle East and anti-Zionist circles in the hope that their antisemitic arguments will gain some influence. There is little evidence that they have done. This has not stopped Renouf from turning up at Stop the War Coalition marches and any other function she feels might serve as a platform for her noxious solution to the Jewish “problem” in Europe and the Middle East. A case in point was her attendance in February 2010 at a meeting of Lord Nazir Ahmed’s Society Outreach group about Libya’s human rights record. In a video of the event, Renouf argued that Israel should be dismantled and its residents relocated to Russia or more precisely to Birobidzhan.
This is a message she has taken to the heart of Middle Eastern politics. Ever since the Tehran Holocaust denial conference, Renouf has enjoyed a certain cachet as a spokesperson on a range of Iranian-owned satellite television channels, including Press TV and Sahar 1.
In 2008 she organised Töben’s defence, which resulted in one of the few legal victories for the Holocaust denial movement when the German authorities dropped their extradition request in the London courts.
More recently, she has been active in Germany with the convicted Holocaust deniers Ursula Haverbeck and Manfred Roeder. In much of this she has enjoyed the support of Edmonds.
Less significant these days is Anthony Hancock, owner of the Historical Review Press in Uckfield, East Sussex. Before the growth of the internet, Hancock was responsible for publishing most of the literature of the extreme right in Britain and continental Europe for almost 30 years. It was Hancock who printed Richard Verrall’s seminal Holocaust denial booklet Did Six Million Really Die?
Hancock however maintains his strong links to the German revisionist scene, working closely with convicted deniers Günter Deckert, Rudolf and Zündel.
Another figure of importance in the British Holocaust denial scene is Bishop Richard Williamson (pictured below), a Catholic traditionalist whose antisemitic activities within the seminaries of the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), a schismatic sect excommunicated from the Catholic Church in 1988, had long been apparent to seasoned observers.
Williamson achieved widespread notoriety as a Holocaust “revisionist” in 2009 following a Swedish television interview in which he denied the existence of gas chambers in the Nazi death camps. Williamson’s views hit the headlines as much for their timing as for their content, coming just two days before the Pope opened negotiations with a view to lifting the excommunica-tion of the SSPX as part of a process of rapprochement and reconciliation with those Catholics profoundly alienated by the reforms of Vatican II in the 1960s. Williamson later dismissed the talks as a “dialogue of the deaf” on the grounds that “either the SSPX becomes a traitor or Rome converts”.
Williamson’s remarks were a serious embarrassment to the Vatican, which demanded that the errant Bishop recant. He did so half-heartedly, though without retracting his denial of the Holocaust. However, behind the scenes he has worked to spread his antisemitic ideology.
The Argentinean government expelled him from the country, where he had been teaching at an SSPX seminary, and he returned to the UK, though not before contacting Irving for advice, fearing that he might be extradited to Germany to stand trial. Irving conferred with Renouf, who was despatched to Heathrow airport to meet him, putting the legal team that she had assembled for Töben on standby. In the event Renouf did not meet Williamson. The bishop was spirited away to an SSPX seminary in Wimbledon and told in no uncertain terms by the SSPX leadership to keep quiet.
Shortly afterwards Williamson was prosecuted in Germany, eventually being fined €10,000 (£8,750). He did not appear in person at the trial because the SSPX leadership forbad him from attending, probably for his own good.
Contrary to his public silence Williamson has forged linked with the Italian fascist leader and convicted terrorist Roberto Fiore, the International Third Position, the French Holocaust denier Reynouard and the Horst Mahler faction of the German National Democratic Party (NPD).
He has also become involved in the activities of the third positionist “Catholic fascist” faction, of which the leading lights include John Sharpe in the USA and Derek Holland, a religious fanatic and one of the founders of the “political soldiers” in the 1980s with Griffin, Patrick Harrington, now leader of the BNP’s fake Solidarity trade union, and Fiore, their political and financial backer. Sharpe has contributed to The Angelus magazine, organ of the SSPX, which advertised materials distributed by his Legion of St Louis/St George Educational Trust including its Neo-Conned book series. Williamson also contributed the foreword to Sharpe’s booklet on Islam, published by the Legion of St Louis, as well as, according to one blog, paving the way for Holland, writing under a pseudonym, to contribute to The Angelus.
Carl O. Nordling
Gerald Fredrick Töben
Michael A. Hoffman
Leuchter, Jr .