Holocaust, history and free speech
The New Zealand Herald
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Contestable work and arguable conclusions are not uncommon in modern universities, but Hayward's unpublished work as a student seems to remain, after 10 years, a point of unusual and continuing interest.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.
Historian learns bitter lesson from 'academic freedom'
The New Zealand Herald
Canterbury University history lecturer THOMAS FUDGE concludes his essay, which the university History Department refused to publish, on the fallout from Joel Hayward's controversial thesis on the Holocaust.
In December 2000, the working party established by the University of Canterbury to investigate the Hayward thesis released its report.
Totalling 296 pages, including supporting material, this report was received by the administration, adopted by the university council on December 18 and no public contest was offered to its findings.
However, the report was not accepted unanimously. Several senior Canterbury University historians took the view that their institution had been far too apologetic.
Vincent Orange, Hayward's thesis supervisor, contested a great deal in the report, as did Professor John Jensen of Waikato University.
In February 2001, the History Department at Canterbury took the report under consideration and concluded its deliberations by affirming that it supported the broad thrust of the recommendations of the inquiry.
The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of this ambivalent motion but not unanimous. Three members of the department (besides Orange) put forward arguments in opposition to the report and to the nature of the inquiry.
One member of the department insisted on being named in the minutes of the meeting as opposing both the report and the departmental support for it.
Among those who supported the motion were some who admitted having read neither the report nor the thesis. One senior member argued that the department should not be seen as being in opposition to the university.
Vincent Orange, who absented himself from the February meeting, submitted to the department a dossier of 31 documents, titled A Case for the Defence of Dr Joel Hayward. The dossier included submissions from academics who had read Hayward's thesis, documents presenting another side of the matter and related material.
This material had been submitted to the working party but appeared to have had no significant influence on the ultimate report.
The dossier was prepared for three reasons:
* For consideration by the working party.
* That it might be attached to the working party report as an extended appendix (to provide balance).
* That it might be placed in the university library, where scholars or students in the future considering this matter might have access to both sides of the story.
The working party report did not respond to the contents of the dossier. Efforts to have the dossier appended to the report itself were unsuccessful, and the other objectives were not attained.
Why was this body of material not made more widely available to those actively involved or interested in the Hayward affair?
Vincent Orange or other members of the History Department opposing the submissions of the New Zealand Jewish Council could very well have distributed the dossier on their own. The apparent reason is repeated requests by university officials that no comment be made to the media and that the university administration be responsible for comment on the Hayward affair.
That administration, though aware of the dossier, elected not to publicise it. For this reason, the public has not been able to form a balanced judgment informed by testimony on both sides.
The Barker committee [working party] relied heavily on a report by Cambridge University Professor Richard J. Evans, who was engaged by the Jewish Council to provide comment on Hayward's thesis.
The Jewish Council originally presented a 14-page submission to the working party which summarised their concerns and specified their wishes about the inquiry.
It submitted that the thesis was dishonest, the award of Hayward's MA should be revoked, and all University of Canterbury endorsement of Hayward's work towards the MA be withdrawn, and by implication that the Hayward thesis be removed from the university library.
Fresh from his very public victory over David Irving in a high-profile London court case in April 2000, wherein Irving was found to have falsified historical evidence, Evans submitted a 71-page report trenchantly condemning the thesis.
Professor Gerald Orchard, one of New Zealand's most highly regarded lawyers, in turn denounced this report to the working party as adversarial, not objective and could not be relied on.
The working party acknowledged that Evans appeared to diminish the objectivity required of an expert witness, submitted unwarranted allegations, and was highly antagonistic.
The committee professed to have made every effort to discount Professor Evans' tendency to intemperate expression but accepted the report as authoritative and seems not to have been influenced markedly by the sustained responses to Evans' report in the dossier for the defence.
But faced with the profound disagreement on the merits of Hayward's thesis between its official examiners (Orange and Jensen) and Evans, the working party had received legal counsel that preference for one perspective over the other was a question for appropriate expert historians.
No appropriate expert historians were approached. Why, on such a critical point supported by legal advice, did the working party not take this step?
Vincent Orange and Joel Hayward made a strategic error in not also contracting an expert on Holocaust historiography to review the thesis and submit a report. This apparently did not occur to them at the time and the faux pas proved costly and monumental in its eventual implications.
The willingness of the working party to accept a partisan opinion commissioned by an interested caucus is curious and places the inquiry itself in a troubling light.
Notwithstanding the working party's remarks on Evans' language and lack of objectivity, he appeared both to the Jewish Council and the working party as a witness otherwise above reproach.
Evans' report makes no reference to extenuating circumstances, qualifications about the nature of Hayward's preliminary research exercise go unnoted, and Hayward is treated as though the thesis in question was the culminating work of a long career rather than an inaugural effort.
The working party's report satisfied neither of the protagonists. It appears to have been intended to soothe by offering a compromise solution.
It agreed with the Jewish Council and Richard Evans that there were serious flaws in the thesis, but not that it was either dishonest or fraudulent, or that it was unworthy of being awarded a master's degree.
It also disagreed that Hayward's degree should be withdrawn or that the thesis should be removed from library collections.
On the other hand, the report was not the exoneration of the thesis that Hayward and Orange had hoped for, and the university's examination procedures were severely criticised.
Consequently, both parties were embittered; neither could claim victory, and indeed, everyone seemed discredited by the whole affair.
The academics felt betrayed and the Jewish Council felt that its cause had been frustrated.
The official Jewish view was that the outcome of the inquiry was unacceptable. [Council president] David Zwartz told a newspaper: "We must take it further".
However, the University of Canterbury was unprepared to invest further time or financial resources on the Hayward affair, which it considered resolved.
Since the university clearly was not going to revoke Hayward's degree, excoriate him any further, censure the thesis supervisor or keep the matter at the forefront, one might have expected that the affair had run its course.
Hayward continued with his duties at Massey University and press releases seemed to indicate that his tenure was secure and the university had no intention of withdrawing support. The affair was closed at last.
But it did not end. There were people whose passions had evidently been aroused by the affair and the extensive publicity it had received, and these people had recourse to informal and sinister methods of expressing their anger.
In early 2001, Hayward began to receive even more vitriolic hate mail, along with obscene and disturbing telephone calls. More than a year after the working party's report became public, Hayward received death threats directed at his children.
He continued occasionally to issue apologies for any unintended consequences created by his MA work and tried to get on with his life and career.
Feeling ridiculed and harassed, and believing that even among his colleagues at Massey sentiment had turned against him, Hayward suffered an emotional breakdown. He spent more than two years under medical care.
More than that, he became disenchanted with the world of higher education. He no longer believed universities (at least in New Zealand) were places for the free exchange of ideas. He had come to regard the exalted virtue of academic freedom as an illusion sold out to considerations of expediency.
He became convinced that the ideals taught by his professors and lecturers at Canterbury were simply rhetorical.
In brief, he no longer wished to be an academic. He regarded higher education as irreparably soiled by indifference and moral cowardice.
In December 2001, in deep depression, Hayward tendered his resignation from Massey University effective in June 2002. Massey appears to have made no effort to assess Hayward's condition or provide support of the kind usually available to distressed employees.
With Hayward out of Massey and his academic career at an end, was the affair now truly over and done with?
Efforts were made to link another Canterbury thesis to Holocaust denial and to Hayward but came to naught. For Hayward, though, there was more to come.
Early last December, he was informed by HarperCollins, a major international publisher, through their Auckland office, that they wished to withdraw from publishing a book of which Hayward was co-editor.
The book, a collection of essays about New Zealand airmen, was fully prepared and ready for printing.
Hayward was shocked at the news and pressed for an explanation.
HarperCollins was reluctant to explain their eleventh-hour decision.
Nor is that company alone in shunning Hayward. People fear being seen in a cafeteria with him.
Others are afraid that emails might be monitored and association with him might have serious consequences for their own careers.
Some former associates suspect their own work has been scoured for traces of heretical thinking about topics on which freedom of thought and independence of expression are unwelcome.
Shortly after the HarperCollins shock, Hayward was hired by dairy company Fonterra as communications co-ordinator with responsibilities for writing internal communications, information and training documents. But the company decided, on the day he began, to terminate the position.
Why won't the Hayward affair come to an end? Apologies have availed nothing. Resignation has been for naught. Passivity has been unproductive.
Do the alleged (but contested) deficiencies of the thesis justify the chain of events, from the unauthorised copying of a thesis, to a highly publicised but not public inquiry, to nationwide ridicule and humiliation, personal threats, isolation and termination of a career?
What good was it thought was being served? Relatively early in the story, some senior academics wanted to know why the issue was pursued, and called for an inquiry into the motives for such activities.
On the most recent publicity, one opinion was blunt: There seems to be a determination both to break Joel's career and to silence inquiry into the facts of the Holocaust.
On the latter, the implications are precipitous. Dogmatic emphasis on the Holocaust only reinforces and legitimises closed-mindedness, unrealistic foreign policies and barbaric behaviour.
What specifically constitutes denial of the Holocaust? Is it as simple as questioning whether fewer than 6 million Jews died? Questioning testimonies of survivors? Alleging that countries other than Germany committed war crimes? Denying that Jewish suffering during World War II was somehow unique?
Is it anti-Semitic to try to remove the element of sacred myth from 1940s Jewish history? Is it really so intolerable to deny that the Holocaust transcends history; that it is the ultimate event or the ultimate mystery?
Is it truly obligatory to acquiesce in the view that any survivor has more to say than all the historians combined about what happened?
The shackles of a new orthodoxy suggest universities cannot allow certain assumptions to bear the weight of inquiry.
There is nothing redemptive about the Holocaust and arguably less redemptive value in the pursuit of Joel Hayward along a journey from Holocaust historian to the fate of personal holocaust.
Troubling threat to academic freedom
The article on the Hayward affair, which the Canterbury University history
department refused to publish, ran in the Herald over two days this week. It
will have been read closely by everybody who values academic freedom.
That freedom, it should be said at the outset, is not quite the same as free
speech. In a free country people generally have a right to express any view to
the extent they are able, and suffer no legal consequences unless they are
unable to prove a defamatory assertion about another person or a company.
Academic expression is not that free.
Academics work within the discipline of their subject. To be awarded higher
degrees and to have their work published by their peers, they need be familiar
with others' scholarship in the subject, acknowledge it and challenge it if
they wish by applying the principles and procedures of the subject. Their
conclusions cannot be mere flights of imagination; they must be based on all
available evidence and rigorous reasoning.
Academic freedom means that their work ought to be judged only on academic
criteria and never constrained by social, commercial or political sensitivities.
On the facts presented by historian Thomas Fudge in the Herald this week,
Canterbury University appears to have surrendered to some of those sensitivities
in the Hayward case.
Joel Hayward chose to assess the historical veracity of "Holocaust denial"
for his MA thesis. He concluded, according to Fudge, that there was no
unimpeachable written evidence that Hitler personally ordered the physical
extermination of Jews, that there was no way of confirming the estimate of six million
deaths and that gas chambers were not used systematically for murder. Except for
those issues, Hayward did not deny the historical event.
He was awarded his MA, went on to do a PhD in a different area of history and
became a lecturer at Massey University. The Holocaust does not seem to be his
abiding academic interest. Aware that the MA thesis would be controversial,
he had it embargoed for three years. When it became available the New Zealand
Jewish Council said it constituted "Holocaust denial" and demanded that the
university revoke Dr Hayward's degree.
The university set up an inquiry by a retired High Court judge and two
professors of history. They concluded the thesis was flawed but apparently not
enough to revoke the degree. They did not believe the student was motivated by
malice or racism but they believed he should not have ventured a judgment in such
a controversial area. That last statement is the most troubling of the whole
saga as Fudge presents it.
It sounds like an admission by the committee of inquiry, and by implication
the university that accepted the findings, that there are some subjects too
"controversial" for study, even by an honours student under supervision.
Historians must never put historic events beyond critical examination. All of history
has to be open to constant reappraisal of events, their causes and
consequences and the light they throw on the past and present.
Fudge believes the Holocaust is not the only taboo subject in this country.
Academics here, he wrote, "are often sensitive to public opinion and political
moods. They may actively discourage graduate students from investigating
certain topics. There are other topics that ... are sometimes subject to
constraints on arguments that may be employed, evidence that may be weighed and
There is a growing belief that the Government-appointed Tertiary Education
Commission will threaten academic freedom. If there is another threat, from
within the university walls, the future is bleak, not only for students but for
all New Zealanders.
©Copyright 2003, NZ Herald
Dr Joel Hayward has suffered two breakdowns as a result of the controversy.
His father's side of the family is Jewish. He has been threatened by Israel
with arrest, if he wants to visit his relatives in Israel. It is a no brainer why
he renounced his own thesis!
Just got hold of it.
If you want a copy of his 300 page well written and researched thesis on an
inter-active CD-rom for a $20.00 donation...let me know and I will e-mail back
an order form to pay by credit card.
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