The Trial of the Bishop who wasn’t there

A Tragicomedy in a Few Acts and Many, Many Scenes

On Friday, 16 April 2010, Pope Benedict XVI 83rd birthday, the trial against Bishop Richard Williamson of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) took place at the Local Court Regensburg, Germany. All in all roughly forty journalists arrived as well as twenty-odd supporters of Williamson, who had to make do being seated in the back row of the absolutely packed court room. Amongst the supporters were Lady Michèle Renouf, Günter Deckert and Ursula Haverbeck, as well as many other well known faces. Sadly, there were no members, followers or supporters of the SSPX present that could be identified as such.

After the usual security checks, which for a change were handled in a rather civilised manner, the trial started at 09.00 a.m. sharp. The dramatis personæ were: Judge Karin Frahm, a fairly pretty blonde, allegedly twenty-nine years of age (!); Senior State Prosecutor Edgar Zach, a grey-haired gentleman probably in his late fifties; and Defence Counsel Matthias Loßmann, a bloke possibly in his mid-forties whose air and appearance were eerily reminiscent of a gravedigger. The minor parts were played by an all-female cast: a stenographer, an interpreter for English, and another for Swedish. Her Honour was seated in front of a strange yellowish backdrop, the kind familiar from modern Wagner productions. Seating and legroom were satisfactory, the acoustics excellent.

The proceedings began with an explanation by Herr Loßmann that Williamson would not be appearing since the SSPX had forbidden him from doing so. Next it was recorded that not one of the three Swedish witnesses had turned up, and that they had neither excused themselves nor given any reason for their absence. Herr Zach then began reading out the indictment. The contents were comprised of the usual stuff familiar to all: Williamson has denied and belittled the Holocaust, has done so aware of the fact that such heresy is a grievous violation of modern dogma, has furthermore committed this heinous act intentionally in a manner suited to disturb the public peace, and must therefore be dealt with accordingly. To his credit it must be said that Herr Zach was calm, collected, read the indictment without any aggressive or hateful undertone, and made a generally polite impression.

In the scene that followed, Herr Loßmann gave a fairly detailed account of what had transpired and how the various events had come about. The judge asked many a probing question, of which a few were simply superfluous. Some questions Herr Loßmann was unable to answer, but a great deal of these gaps were filled in later during an exciting scene in which Loßmann’s witness, and lawyer for the SSPX, Maximilian Krah – a smarmy Nick Griffin effigy – took the stand. All in all Herr Loßmann left a rather dubious impression: his account was repetitive, unstructured, and his idiom sloppy and unbefitting of his role.

Here now a summary of a few lesser scenes, in no particular order: The court ordered a viewing of the infamous final five minutes of an originally hour long interview, the very five minutes that got Bishop Williamson into this mess. Then the matter of the absent witnesses was taken up again: two documents were read out, one by the legal department of the Swedish television station SVT1 which stated that they would not help the court due to lack of trust in the German legal system, and the other by the Swedish Ministry of Justice, who wrote that they would not be rendering the court mutual judicial assistance since freedom of speech is guaranteed in Sweden but not so in Germany. Furthermore, an article from a Swedish magazine, which had no real bearing on the case, was translated off the cuff fluently into high quality German – that was really cool. Plus, a segment of a German television programme showing the interviewer of Williamson (Name: Ali Fagan; Status: absent witness) make the comment that he would gladly stand as a witness in a German court of law, etc., etc. Another delightful scene starred the interpreter for English. Asked by Judge Frahm whether she could translate a letter extemporaneously or whether she needed time to prepare, this lady requested and was granted “five minutes”, whereupon she ambled over to her Swedish speaking colleague, chatted with her for fifteen minutes, went back to her seat and translated the text in one go. It was surreal. – All these and the following scenes were interrupted by “five minute recesses” that were fifteen minutes long each. The trial lacked any real coherence, haphazardly jumping from one matter to the next, not even the many “five minute recesses” being synchronised to the action on stage. The only thing that kept everything together, were the endless, totally superfluous repetitions. It was weird.

A real highlight was the act in which Herr Krah, whom we first encountered two paragraphs ago, was called as a witness for the defence. As lawyer for the SSPX, Herr Krah had a great deal of knowledge as to what had transpired having witnessed the events unfurl himself. Of this he gave an informative account. In answer to the judge’s questions, he drew a detailed picture of Williamson’s standard of living, describing not only his home but also which tube to take in order to get there! He then told of Williamson’s position within the fraternity, that the bishop wields little or no power in the SSPX, and that Richard Williamson is considered and considers himself “an eccentric Englishman”. Herr Krah went on to speak of the Bishop’s personality, characterising him as refined, polite, erudite, well-spoken, and an excellent teacher. He then informed the court that if the bishop questions the Holocaust then only because he is utterly convinced that his opinion represents the truth. The bishop, so he said, is absolutely bound to truthfulness and would never lie. As such Williamson is certainly convinced of what he had stated in that interview. The problem, according to Herr Krah, is that Williamson’s ability to perceive the truth is seriously impaired (“ein nachhaltig gestörtes Erkenntnisvermögen”). As an example of this condition Herr Krah told the court that Bishop Williamson does not believe in the 9/11 story, and on having been asked by the judge continued by explaining to the court all about how some, if not many people doubt the veracity of  the official 9/11 account. To summarise, Herr Krah was nothing short of a waffling windbag basking in the cold glow of that yellowy neo-Wagnerian backdrop. He gave a heap of information that nobody really cared about, including details likely to harm the bishop. But he enjoyed himself, and that is probably what mattered most.

Let us now turn to the final act of this tragicomedy. In the first scene Herr Zach gave his closing arguments. He stated that Bishop Williamson had known exactly what he was saying, knew full well that this is against the law in Germany, was counting on the fact that this interview would be made public, and that the bishop had by these means hoped to spread his twisted views on the Holocaust. Considering the fact that Williamson had done this intentionally, a fair sentence would be a fine of 12.000 Euros (i.e. 10.500 GBP or 16.000 USD).

Now it was time for the summation of the defence. Herr Loßmann proceeded to recapitulate the entire story as it had slowly unravelled before our eyes through a profusion of irrelevant repetitions, tedious tangents, and futile five-minute recesses. In short: On occasion of the ordination of a Swedish deacon who had converted from Protestantism not merely to Catholicism, but to one of its most traditional branches (which caused a stir in Sweden), a Swedish camera crew went to Zaitzkofen, near Regensburg, and asked the ordaining bishop, Richard Williamson, for an interview which he granted them. They spoke about religious matters for over fifty minutes, and then, once they had gained the bishop’s trust, suddenly asked him about a comment he had made about the Holocaust twenty years ago in Canada. The interviewer, Ali Fagan, described this question as “a shot from the hip”, and the evidence clearly showed that the interviewer had deliberately set a trap for the bishop. After Williamson had answered the question in depth, he pointed out to the interviewer that such comments are illegal in Germany and asked him not to publicise them. The Swedish television station STV1 then approached the leading German news magazine Der Spiegel with this story, which the Spiegel proceeded to publish three days before the interview was to be aired on Swedish television. As soon as the SSPX had gotten wind of this they had their lawyer, Herr Krah, get in touch with Williamson, the latter asking that the interview not be broadcast, something that was realistically not going to happen, and insisting that this interview not be made available over the internet. When Matthias Krah contacted Bishop Williamson, he was immediately aware of the gravity of the situation saying something along the lines of “typical journalists, you can’t trust them.” STV1 nonetheless made the final five minutes of the interview available on their website, from where it was downloaded onto YouTube and went viral. By itself this was all fairly inconsequential, for who had ever heard of the SSPX, or Bishop Richard Williamson for that matter? Unfortunately, however, this was exactly the moment the Vatican welcomed the SSPX back into the fold of the Church, and to the viciously anti-ecclesiastical, i.e. Jewish, press, the idea of a Holocaust heretic having his excommunication revoked must have been like curry to a pisshead. As such the matter was blown out of all proportion, causing desired damage to the Church. All this, Loßmann argued, was not the bishop’s fault. In fact Williamson is simply a victim of foul play, and must therefore be acquitted.

The court took a thirty minute recess, during which Her Honour decided on the verdict, the grounds for which were eight pages long. The court reconvened at 03.00 p.m. for the final scene, and Judge Frahm read out the verdict: guilty, fine: 10.000 Euros, i.e. 9.000 GBP or 13.500 USD. She gave the following reasons for the verdict: Williamson had denied the Holocaust, and though he may be convinced that it had not taken place, this is irrelevant since history has shown the Holocaust to have taken place, and furthermore even the highest courts have knowledge of this subject. Richard Williamson was also aware of the fact that his opinion would reach the public, but had nonetheless continued to express it. His crime was therefore a deliberate action. The fact that the interview had gone viral on YouTube was ignored since this was certainly not the bishop’s fault and went against his express wish. However, §130 Penal Code stipulates that incitement of the People (Volksverhetzung) is only given if the crime is perpetrated publicly and is suited to disturb the public peace. But: nowhere does it say that the public must be a German public! By having the interview broadcast in Sweden, millions of Swedes could see it. These then could feasibly contact their friends and relatives in Germany and thus endanger the German public peace. Therefore, the bishop is to be found guilty and fined 10.000 Euros. – And that’s the end of that.

Finally, it must be said that this trial was of no value to the struggle for freedom whatsoever, since the defence counsel defended neither his client nor truth but merely the SSPX. Then, the idea of having an allegedly twenty-nine year old female judge is, considering that judges ought to be male and at least forty years of age, a total joke, a joke topped only by the ridiculous (if talmudically exquisite) argumentation of the lady. At the end of the day, this trial showed us what happens when the System is left to itself, without anybody struggling against it. And as Michèle Renouf pointed out: “by reducing the fine they reduced the bishop.”

Markus Haverkamp

 The act being perpetrated: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGWLAmrHo44

 

 

 

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