Washington, D.C. (10/8/07)–Although I had successfully engaged members of the German American Lawyers Association (“DAJV”) in dialogue the day before, security guards ordered me off the campus of Georgetown University Law Center under threat of arrest on Saturday, October 6, 2007–even after I agreed to stop leafletting the DAJV conferees about the scandalous treatment of German national Ernst Zundel in the courts of both Germany and the United States.
Ernst Zundel is the prisoner of conscience who was recently sentenced to five years in prison in Germany for “inciting racial hatred” because of the dissenting historical viewpoints he has expressed about “the Holocaust” and its exploitation by Jewish pressure groups. Before that, he was illegally deported from the United States and denied a constitutionally-guaranteed habeas corpus hearing, and then deported from Canada after being declared a national security risk based on the use of secret evidence–a use since prohibited by Canada’s highest court.
I have represented Zundel since 2003 in an effort to obtain justice for him in the U.S., where he was abducted by federal marshals at his Tennessee home and taken away from his U.S. citizen wife Ingrid. The pamphlet I was handing out October 6, at the inaugural meeting of the German-American lawyers group in the U.S., was titled “Lawyers Alert” and consisted of an article by Ingrid Zundel on Zundel’s conviction in Germany and an article I wrote on the defects in Zundel’s U.S. arrest and court proceedings. The pamphlet prominently featured a quote from German judge Ulrich Meinerzhagen, who stated in his decision convicting Zundel of a speech crime: “It is irrelevant whether the Holocaust happened or not. Denying it is punishable under German criminal statutes.” That quote caused a stir among at least a few conferees who spoke with me.
I had been denied–without explanation–the right to register for this conference when I had tried to do so a few days before the conference was to begin. But my client Ingrid Zundel thought it would be timely for me to fly to Washington, D.C. anyway, to try to raise the consciousness of the membership of the association, which had been described to me as over 3,000 strong (I was later told that 180 had registered for the D.C. conference). Ingrid and I then created a pamphlet with this specific audience in mind–and so on Friday, October 5, I entered McDonough Hall on the Georgetown Law Center campus, where the lawyers were meeting, and successfully distributed an estimated 70-80 pamphlets as participants were leaving a session on constitutional law.
There were no brushes with Georgetown officials or security officers on that first visit, and instead I engaged in dialogue with several members of the association. One was a fellow alumnus of Boalt Law School (University of California at Berkeley) who had told me about the conference just a week earlier and urged me to network with lawyers there. He and I had spoken after a screening of the film “Soldiers of Conscience” at Berkeley (about U.S. conscientious objectors to military service), and when I challenged him about Germany’s treatment of a different kind of conscientious objector (Zundel) he had expressed skepticism that such a harsh sentence had been handed down to someone for merely expressing his views on the Holocaust. He also attempted to justify imposing a criminal sentence for uttering falsehoods.
Despite the Berkeley alum’s hospitable demeanor while in Berkeley, he seemed somewhat shaken both by my appearance in Washington, D.C. and by the fact that my registration had been refused. Because he was at no time hostile to me and because he wanted more information on Judge Meinerzhagen’s decision, I will refrain from naming him–not that he risks anything in Germany besides embarrassment, apparently: he told me that as a former German government official he was not concerned about expressing an interest in getting further information about the Zundel sentence. My conversations on my Friday visit to the conferees also included a conversation with one young German attorney, who grilled me skeptically for about 5-10 minutes. He finally asked me whether I believed in a “Jewish conspiracy,” and after I refused to take that bait, he said that anyone who refused to take a position on that question could not criticize Judge Meinerzhagen for the Judge’s comment on the irrelevance of the historicity of the Holocaust, indeed he declared that this was logically inconsistent. I pointed out the logical fallacy of his analogy–noting among other things that one question (historicity of the Holocaust) involved judicial determination of a crime and the other (existence of a Jewish conspiracy) did not–but he instead continued to taunt me that I was being illogical and bragged about his own superior (German) education in logic before walking away. By contrast, an American lawyer born in Germany who was part of the same three-way conversation stated that he was open to the viewpoints of Zundel and that Zundel should be allowed to express them.
This German-born American lawyer suggested that the Zundel case symbolized the chasm between the United States with its legal pedigree in English common law, and Germany with its dependence on so-called “civil law” as influenced by the Roman empire. I pointed out to both lawyers that my ancestors fled Europe precisely because they were hounded for their resistance to state dogma in the same way that Zundel was resisting a modern form of dogma, and that I was determined to do my part in ensuring that America did not follow Germany’s example of criminalizing speech.
But if the conversations were relatively civil that day, they were decidedly hostile the following day. When I made my appearance at the conference the following morning, Saturday, October 6, I was accosted outside of the meeting room first by an agitated young German woman, Ms. Flimm, who told me that not only was my distribution of pamphlets prohibited but that I would have to pay for having dared show up at the conference despite having my registration refused (I simply told her truthfully that I had gone to none of the sessions). When I expressed my desire to at least hand out pamphlets by the elevators of the 12th floor meeting room, she said I would have to leave and physically shoved me in the direction of the elevators; I then asked to speak with her superiors. She called on someone who said he was the executive officer for the association, and who identified himself only as “Dietrich.” Dietrich glared at me and refused to take my outstretched hand and reiterated that I would have to leave. Even an attorney slated to speak on the next panel (on the topic of global warming), Sebastian Deschler, of the Washington, D.C. office of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, attempted to forcibly usher me to the elevators. As Dietrich and Ms. Flimm hastily shut the double doors to the lecture hall to prevent attenders from seeing the developing ruckus, I asked Deschler what role he had with the association, but he gave me no clear answer. All three of them were then urged by an older attorney, who I subsequently learned was Werner Hein of the law firm Mayer Brown LLP, to let him handle the matter. Hein asked me to step further down the hall toward the elevators, where the two of us spoke rapidly and calmly for a few minutes. Hein said he was one of the founders of the association, and he made it clear that he wanted me to leave the building voluntarily so that he would not have to ask Georgetown security to remove me–which he indicated would be unpleasant for the association. I was “imposing” a topic on the association where it was not wanted, he said; I responded that it was a topic where discussion was very much needed.
Hein said he was familiar with the issue of criminalization of Holocaust dissent, and he promised to read my pamphlet, but he alluded vaguely to difficulties caused by the subject and to other difficulties he was experiencing with the conference, including a speaker who had exceeded his time and a speaker who had offended the audience–although it was not clear what those matters had to do with my being present. He said that I should take my objections to the German Embassy; I told him I had already attempted to do so (I had participated in a protest at the German Embassy in D.C. several months ago and tried without success to get an appointment with an officer there).
When I told Hein that I had come to reach out to German lawyers directly because the Zundel case was an issue of importance both to international human rights law and to the legal relations of our two countries, and because the American media had effectively blacked out the story, Hein’s response was to suggest that if the Washington Post had not covered the story then it must not merit coverage. I reminded him that a man was in prison for his views.
I knew, of course, that Hein was legally correct that I had no right as a non-registrant to pass out pamphlets to the members of the association on private university property, at least without permission of the university or the association. When I failed to persuade him of the importance of my being allowed to continue my distribution, I agreed–at his suggestion–that I would instead hand out the pamphlets right outside the building, as the attorneys exited. I figured this was probably unlikely to occur, and I knew that this was still Georgetown property as well, but since I had earlier been granted a “day pass” by Georgetown security, and since I now had permission from Hein to distribute the pamphlets at a different place, I thought I would give it a try.
For about 10 minutes, therefore, I handed out a number of additional pamphlets to both German and U.S. attorneys who were still arriving for the day’s events. A couple lawyers took a look at the title of the pamphlet and showed interest in my brief verbal synopsis, and asked who I was. Another threw it into a nearby trash can; she was the only person I saw doing that. After another lawyer said he had received and read the pamphlet the previous day and that it made him “kind of sick,” I spoke with him for a few seconds on the importance of allowing dissenting voices. (Was he sick about Germany’s treatment of a dissenter or about the fact that someone dared question Holocaust orthodoxy? I wish I would have asked.)
And then suddenly security showed up in the person of “Officer Wilson” (with Officer Harris arriving somewhat later)–obviously at the behest of Werner Hein or his colleagues. Although Officer Wilson was initially courteous, he grew more threatening the longer I spoke with him. I eventually agreed with him, after failing to persuade him that Georgetown had effectively allowed me to distribute the pamphlets by giving me a “day pass,” that I would discontinue distribution outside the building where the German lawyers continued to meet. All the while he was snatching away pamphlets that I was handing to incoming guests, but he did not succeed in preventing all distribution during our otherwise civil conversation.
But he wasn’t done with me. When I said that I wanted to deliver a pamphlet to the student newspaper before I left campus, his attitude became menacing. He issued me an ultimatum to leave or be arrested. He stated that I was not allowed to deliver a pamphlet to the student paper, even after I pointed out to him that he was effectively denying me the right simply to walk onto campus and deliver a letter. As I walked away, he was on his walkietalkie describing me and telling someone that I was to be arrested if I had not left the campus within three minutes. I ambled back to the public sidewalk.
For my part, I reasoned that I could have tried and should have been able to gain access to the office of the student newspaper, since entrance to the Georgetown Law Center campus is not prohibited to the public. True, entrance to at least some buildings is controlled by the need for the visitors to state their purpose and show their ID’s. In my case, on October 6 I had explained to the guard at McDonough Hall that I had come “to talk with some of the German lawyers meeting there” and had then received the “day pass” sticker which I was wearing on my shirt when confronted by Georgetown security.
But I also knew that Georgetown did have the right to control access to the campus, and that Georgetown had arguably delegated to this security guard the right to revoke or withdraw its consent, even if Georgetown had not originally prohibited my access to the campus earlier in the day and even if one of their other guests had purported to give me permission to remain. And as a visitor to the nation’s capital with a full workload of cases in my home state of California, I could ill afford to be arrested even if the arrest was of dubious merit.
If Georgetown wanted to grant or deny access to lawyers based on the content of their speech, whether verbal or written, there was nothing I could really do about it on October 6. That was clearly what this Georgetown representative was doing, since I was not posing a threat to public order or anything or anyone. The result? A few lawyers had their consciousness raised, and hopefully the unexpected appearance of a Zundel advocate in their midst will ultimately help pave the way for more discussion and reevaluation among German lawyers–whether inside or outside this Association. But for the time being the authorities stepped in to make sure that not too much information reached some people in a position to make a difference–and I am under no illusions about the fact that there are many powerful vested interests in both Germany and the United States who want to keep it that way.