[inline:01]His admirers call 63-year old Siegfried Verbeke the “most dynamic Revisionist in Belgium and maybe all of Europe.” In Europe “revisionism” has come to designate the act of denying the extent of the Holocaust of the Jewish people in Nazi Germany. This is also known as negationism. Last year, Verbeke filed an official request to be exposed in the still intact Auschwitz gas chamber to 15 minutes of inhalation of Zyklon B. This is the gas the Nazis used to kill the Jews. According to Verbeke the gas is not toxic for humans.
Voicing negationist opinions has been outlawed in most European countries. Last April 4, Verbeke was sentenced by a Belgian court to a one-year prison sentence and a fine of 2,500 euros for denying the Nazi genocide of the Jews during the Second World War. He also lost his civil rights for 10 years. Because he appealed against the verdict, however, Verbeke has not yet served his prison sentence in Belgium.
During the past decades Verbeke, a professional printer, published numerous negationist works in many languages. He also founded the world’s largest negationist website Vrij Historisch Onderzoek (VHO) (Free Historical Research). After the Belgian authorities closed down the site he sold the internet domain, in 1997, to a German who operates it from the United States, where the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech.
In November 2004, Verbeke was arrested and briefly imprisoned in Belgium following a European arrest warrant issued by the German authorities. According to the 2002 European Arrest Warrant Act, originally introduced to combat terrorism, EU member states can demand the extradition of people living in other member states for violations of the law in the state demanding extradition. Germany demanded the extradition of Verbeke because his negationist publications had also been distributed in Germany. A Belgian court, however, ruled that Verbeke be released because he had already been sentenced for these crimes in Belgium in September 2003, when he had been given a suspended prison sentence of one year. Under Belgian law a person cannot be prosecuted or tried twice for the same facts. This is the so-called “ne bis idem”-principle, which, however, does not apply in the European Union.
(Interestingly, last month the German Constitutional Court decided that the European Arrest Warrant Act is invalid in Germany. This was their response to Spain’s request for the extradition of a German national of Syrian origin whom the Spanish police suspect of involvement in the al-Qaeda bombings in Madrid in March 2004. The German Constitutional Court ruled that a German citizen is entitled to a verdict by German courts and so the German authorities released the suspected terrorist from prison.)
Last Thursday, 4 August, Verbeke was arrested by the Dutch police at Schiphol airport near Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where he intended to board a plane to the Philippines for a vacation there with his Philippine girlfriend. Because the European arrest warrant issued by the Germans against Verbeke is still valid, the Dutch authorities will propably extradite the Belgian to Germany, where he risks a long prison sentence. Nowhere are the penalties for denying or minimizing the holocaust as high as in Germany. While in Belgium the maximum penalty is one year in prison, in Germany it is five years and for repeat offenders ten.
Verbeke’s lawyer has little doubt that Verbeke will get ten years in Germany. He also said he did not understand why his client had been so stupid as to take a plane in Holland. “If he had taken off from Brussels Airport instead of Schiphol, he would still be a free man,” the lawyer said. “I do not understand why he tried to travel via an EU country knowing that there is a European arrest warrant for him.” The reason for Verbeke’s stupidity, however, is obvious: Verbeke is a staunch negationist. Since he does not believe the Germans had extermination camps during the Second World War he probably does not believe they have prisons today.