Ernst Zundel: Letters from Prison

Here, below, is a selection of letters from the man who is the most prominent political prisoner in the western world today. They were written by Ernst Zundel, a German-born publisher, author and civil rights activist, from prison cells in Canada and Germany . For more than two years he has been held behind bars for his peaceful expression of views, and especially his dissident views about the “Holocaust.”

Zundel was arrested at his home in Tennessee on Feb. 5, 2003, on the pretext that he had violated immigration reg­ulations, even though he had entered the US legally, was married to an American citizen, and had no criminal record. After being held for two weeks, he was deported to Canada . For two years he was held in solitary confinement in Canada as a supposed danger to national security. On March 1, 2005, he  was deported to Ger­many . Since then he has been held in the Mannheim prison were he faces years of imprisonment for the “thought crime” of “denying the Holocaust.” (“Holocaust denial” is against the law in Germany and some other European countries.)

On June 29, 2005, he was formally charged with having incited “hatred” by writing or distributing texts that “approve, deny or play down” genocidal actions carried out by Germany ’s wartime regime, and which “denigrate the memory of the [Jewish] dead.  The indictment warned that he could be punished with four years imprisonment. Trial is set to begin on November 8, 2005.

All the letters posted here were originally handwritten. During his incarceration in Canada , he wrote in pencil because he was not permitted to use a pen. These transcribed texts have been edited slightly for clarity. Names and personal references have sometimes been removed or abbreviated in the interest of privacy. Translations of German phrases, and other clarifying information, have been added in brackets. Letters are posted here in chronological order, with the most recent at the beginning or top of this file. Additional letters will be added as time permits

For more about Zundel and his ordeal, see the Zundelsite, which is run by his wife, Ingrid Rimland, and “Ernst Zundel,” a brief sketch of his life, with photos.

[ To Ingrid Rimland. From Ernst Zundel in Mannheim prison, Germany (excerpt)  ]

August 28, 2005

My dearest Ingrid -

Today is a beautiful Sunday in Mannheim !  You would be amazed, my dear, with whom your husband rubs elbows in his new surroundings.  The range is utterly incredible!

Yesterday, the Fred N. look-alike asked me to lend him my jacket because it was a very cool morning.  I did, reluctantly.  I hate it when people borrow my coats, caps, boots, etc. - as they did in Toronto .  Anyway, he felt cold, so I lent him my jacket and made the rounds with an eighteen-year-old who looked more like a milquetoast 14-year-old kid - nice open face, blond, blue-eyed, but already smoking.  He looked bewildered and shell-shocked, so I decided that a bit of Dienst am Volk [service for the people] was called for.

Guess why he was in here?  He had damaged some cars, mirrors etc.  Why, I asked.  Oh, he had been drinking, was angry, enraged because his 17-year-old girl friend had chided him about something - and whammo! 

Here he was in the slammer with murderers and was making his rounds with a 24-year-old unwholesome dope courier, callous and street-wise, defending the use of "the natural plant cannabis" versus "demon alcohol" - and the kid was all ears! 

I hammered that creep's arguments to shreds, leaving that blue-eyed boy visibly shocked.  I then separated that kid from this evil influence and worked the old Zundel Stare Magic.  In the end he agreed that it was stupid what he had done.  He certainly realized he was at a juncture in his life - he could attend this University of Crime , or he could decide that he had stared in the face of a worthless life, and that this German judge was giving him a bit of tough love and a reality check. Chances are that I had a bit of a good influence on a worthwhile German boy. 

Meanwhile, the Fred N. look-alike was nowhere to be seen.  I spent the rest of an hour with a Black engineer from France, the son of a former Ambassador to the U.N., practicing my French. 

My jacket was gone!  It turns out the wearer, whose father just died with six - six, Ingrid! - heart bypass operations behind him, age 93, and he, the son, at age 61 working himself up to his third heart attack, was wearing my jacket to the Krankenrevier [infirmary]. Luckily, he did not die this time, so the guard left him behind but brought my jacket back.

One wizened old guy, a German, smoking his guts out, pulled me aside, wanting to talk to me - belangloses Zeug [trivial stuff]!  Yesterday, another disheveled, wild-haired, unkempt guy proudly showed me his identity card because it was his birthday.  He, too, smoked his guts out!  He, too, was a German!

I make every effort to stay away from these people's second hand smoke.  But I must say that I am horrified by that destructive habit of public smoking.  480 Germans already died each day in 1990, according to an article I read. That's 175,200 Germans killed in one year.  In 15 years, that's like the city of Toronto being wiped out!  [Imagine] the costs to society, and the loss of their knowledge, experience, and skills!

I pine for our mountain top with its fresh breeze and remember every second up there, the magic when the sun set and the stars came out. 

Ernst Zuendel
JVA Mannheim
Herzogenrieder Str. 111
68169 Mannheim
[ Germany ]

August 9, 2005

Mark Weber
PO Box 2739
Newport Beach , CA 92659 [ USA ]

Dear Mark!

I hope that you received my letter of the 16.5.05 because shortly after I sent it, the Amtsgericht [local court] lost venue of my case – and it was transferred to the Landgericht [regional court] Mannheim – frankly I don’t know what the difference is between the two types of courts? Sorry I can’t help that!

One thing is certain, the Amtsgericht, Haftrichter [local court magistrate], had a more Canadian or American attitude to life, it seems. The Vorsitzende Richter, I suppose it would be in America the presiding Judge of the Landgericht Mannheim, immediately after being handed my case file, issued some directives, severely curtailing my incoming and outgoing volume of mail 7.7.05, followed up by another on the 14.7.05, now dealing with the languages I would be permitted to use, and receive mail in!

French, Italian, Spanish, etc., are “verboten,” they get seized and are not shown even to me, but apparently they are put to my belongings. I and my family members, like my children, grandchildren, my daughters-in-law, and Ingrid are all directed to write in German. None of my grandchildren speak German, none of my children are German citizens, Ingrid lived in Germany , out of her 69 years, 3 years at most, so you can certainly get an indication of how the German authorities see things! Amazing and revealing, but not surprising.

No enclosures of things like photocopies, newspaper clippings, small booklets, magazines or newspapers are allowed. That used to be the highlights of my day, when the mail arrived. I especially enjoyed these colourful U.S. gardening and homesteading magazines, and another one called Birds and Blooms, with notable writers contributing articles about Americana and farm issues, in short, stories of the best of what is left of the best of America! I thoroughly enjoyed those issues!

Now I must order everything with a request form, get the approval of the prison administration of my reading choices and tastes, and can only order from standard bureaucracy approved sources. Mind you – in Germany , like in other civilized countries, there is a presumption of innocence while one is merely in investigative custody. That’s what the written texts say – but as my old, little educated, but very wise mother used to tell me when I was a boy … “Bueble … gell merk Dir des … Papier ist geduldig.” Saying with a touch of worldly wise cynicism to me at a tender age … my boy … paper is patient. In other words, you can print or say anything on paper, whether it is right, wrong, false – the paper was just the medium for printers’ ink!!! Now I think that was pretty sophisticated for a woman with very little formal education! A healthy instinct is superior to book learning.

So Mark, please tell everyone that I am labouring under these restrictions until after the trial – when according to “seasoned, experience inmates,” the censorship is less stringent – once again amazing to me! However, live and learn!

Mark, I had two letters from acquaintances of yours! A young woman who wanted to know all kinds of things about Hitler and National Socialism – censorship, I bet, would take a dim view if I cooperated with her in her bookwriting project. So please tell her that. I must pass on this one, no sense in aggravating the censor or the situation. I hope you can direct her in the right direction? I cannot!

The other person is our mutual Jewish friend [ ... ], with whom I corresponded for years  [ … ]  In response to his first paragraph:

Yes, the treatment here, for the time being at least, is vastly more humane than it was in Kanada and the U.S.A. , in the two years of my ordeal there! So far – please note that.

[ … ] second paragraph, wherein he wonders about my great admiration for America’s Founding Fathers, like Jefferson, Washington, Madison, and he wonders how I can reconcile that admiration for the American Republic with the principle [“Fuehrer principle” of leadership] enunciated by the vilified one!

Frankly, I have always marveled at the brilliant concept enshrined in the original U.S. concept of things – which, boiled down, and stripped of all the verbiage and hyperbole of historians and spin doctors,  enshrined in America’s president the powers of a benign dictator “auf Zeit” [temporarily], limited to a four year period, after which he had to submit his dictatorship to a review – and recall -- mechanism – called a presidential election, which was, if he was the “reigning president,” like a plebiscite on his last four years’ performance in office.

If the electorate felt he had done a good job – he won his plebiscite on his leadership and program! If the public felt he was inept, corrupt, the wrong man in the wrong job, he was thrown out of office, only to replaced by another “Diktator Auf Zeit” [temporary dictator].

This way, bad or corrupt presidents could not ruin the country totally, [and] because of America ’s size and wealth, the country could usually survive one or two administrations by inept leaders and then elect hopefully better ones to “kick the rascals out.”

Now that – and the checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution did in fact work surprisingly well the first 100-200 years but began to seriously get derailed with Wilson, Roosevelt, and got progressively worse til we now have an American Republican form of government in name only – in fact the checks and balances have been so eroded and emasculated that they really exist in name only.

We now have an oligarchic system in place not unlike [what] we have had in Mexico in the last 110 years! A false multi-party system, where the same oligarchic powers, the banking and military-industrial-media-complex supplies the “talking heads” of all the parties, regardless of label and program.

In my understanding of the American setup, the founding fathers made a very clear distinction between Athenian or British type democracy, as it manifests itself today, and the early American system – where leaders were chosen for their character strengths, where a man’s word was his bond, where he was the best amongst equals, where a Congressman, or a Senator, or a President and his ministers took pride in being considered by their fellow equals to be representing them. Government service was almost Prussian in ethos, as was the military, not for nothing do Americans even today say they were in the “services.” In short, they were serving the people – and the bureaucracy was understood as being the “public service.”

There was a time not too long ago when American citizens looked upon their government as the “Servant of the People” and bureaucrats of all areas of U.S. governmental functions were therefore known as “public servants.”

And they acted like servants of the people in whose employ they were! Not like today – where their power entrusted to them has gone entirely to their heads – from the lowly U.S. border guard playing God – or some health inspector, or children’s aid society [worker,] thinking that they are some “divine right of kings” unchallengeable authority!

[ … ] asks me, “As a matter of principle, would you have preferred to live under the government of the Third Reich or the government of the original American Republic ? I can answer that question almost by reflex!

The operating term is … the original American Republic . My answer is an unequivocal … the original America of Jefferson and Washington. Maybe it is not known to [… ], that the German revolutionaries of 1848, who tried without success, in endless “constitutional assemblies” [meeting] in the St. Paul’s church in Frankfurt, came very, very close to giving the Germans an American form of republican government, almost verbatim taking their clues [cues] from the U.S. Constitution and Bill of rights. So I embody the best of both traditions within me!

Much more needs to be explained. I am restricted to five pages and severely censored, keep in mind.

As Always,


To Mark Weber, Institute for Historical Review, P.O. Box 2739, Newport Beach, CA 92659, USA

Ernst Zündel

May 16, 2005

My dear Mark!

How nice to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to write.  I know you are a busy man.

Thank you also for keeping my case before the public.  My detractors would love nothing more than to see my case vanish from the radar screen.

I am uncertain what the criteria [for writing letters] are.  [My attorney] says I can discuss my case.  The judge, whose job it is to censor my mail, seems to have other ideas.  Nobody gives me the criteria, so I don't know what's what.  I am asking around but know not whether my letters are even forwarded to the people from whom I am asking advice.  An amazing situation.  Kafka would have loved my case - George Orwell undoubtedly also.  The one man who could have
related to it would have been Francis Parker Yockey [author of Imperium].  However, I am not inclined to go this route [apparent suicide in prison] - please note! 

I'll keep mum on the topic today.

I find my own life a bit trying at times, especially of course in the last 29 months, but then [my Canadian attorney] told me rather sternly two years ago:  "Ernst, what did you think?  It was never easy to become an historical personality!"

Naturally, it's no fun to be locked up in an old fortress-like dungeon with walls a meter thick for 22 hours and 45 minutes [per day].  Prison is prison.  But it sure is nice to be sitting on a real solid chair and not a wobbly stack of court documents, and to have a nice, square, white arborite covered table with my own coffee pot, Melita filter coffee which I can brew day or night, or to eat an apple, or to make myself some nice hot lemon juice [drink] with a touch of honey in it - or, when my body demands some Omega 3 or 6 oil, to open a can of sardines from the prison store.  Luxuries I missed for two years in the U.S. and Canada !

As you can see, I have a fountain pen!  Imagine a real fountain pen in prison, thanks to the generosity of a lady supporter in Berlin .  I have enough refills, 1.55 Euro for five cartridges - expensive!  But man oh man, what a luxury!  My thoughts finally can flow out of me! Not the awkward feeling of having to press out my every word with a dull pencil or even a ball point pen.  What a relief!

I have brushes, inexpensive school children type paints.  I have my own pencil sharpener.  I can buy note pads, even drawing paper, some even in a large format.  What luxury!

I was able to buy myself a Gillette Track III razor in the prison store.  I am allowed to keep it in my cell.

I am sitting here at midnight, looking at my wrist watch the judge allowed me to have - another thing I was not allowed to have for two years in Canada or the U.S.   I have a mirror now to see my own face in two years.  The windows in my cell are wide open, day and night, and I have the luxury of switching on my own light or turning it off. It's heaven - in prison!

If I want to, and the authorities okay it, I could buy myself a radio with a built-in CD player or even a color TV connected to cable. With all these luxuries and these amenities I forget sometimes that I am in prison and am actually annoyed when the guards open the steel door to bring me my mountains of mail - 25 to 30 letters are not a rarity.  The staff is all German, and the Protestant minister mentioned in his sermon today that there are apparently 60 different
nationalities in this prison.  And I thought things were rough in Canada and the USA !  Not so!  Imagine these poor prison officials!  I would not want to have their job for any money in the world.  They are not nice jobs, let me tell you!  You and I - we have had the best job in the world!  We did what was a socially useful job which needed to be done, and we had the freedom to do it - and, until 9/11 especially in America ,  we had the freedom to state our case!

I often dwell on the freedoms we enjoyed in America when I read the writings of Thomas Jefferson - what he had to say about the organization of the state and his very, very prescient predictions of what could, and did in fact, happen to this new Republic if the citizenry was not very careful and very vigilant, especially if the legislative branch did not jealously guard and constantly assert its primacy, its paramount power over the state, the executive branch and the judicial system, specially the judges!  Oh Jefferson , where are you now?

It warms my heart to read and to know that our race produced men like Jefferson , Washington , Ben Franklin, and James Madison, to mention just some of my favorites.  When I read what these men promulgated at a time when America had the population 1796 of 4.6 million Whites in that census, and realize that Frederick the Great's Prussia had 4.4 million a few decades earlier, it gives one pause to ponder why [now] all the many millions are necessary - for what?  All of Europe, which was at one time allied with France against Frederick the Great, was made up of only 90 million Europeans.  Imagine that!  In its heyday, the City of Rome had 1 million people, [a city population] not again reached till London crossed the 1 million mark in 1804.  Paris and Berlin lagged way behind - even Vienna did.  And then, suddenly, this vast population explosion in 150 years!  An amazing development, to be sure!

I recently read a book from our prison library.  In all of Toronto 's West Detention Centre, there was not one book - here, they have several thousand in 10 languages.  This book was first published in England and was entitled there "Man and Water", the story of man's attempt at artificial irrigation and pure drinking water.  It was one fantastic book about largely Aryan achievement of building dams, irrigation canals - in short, making the desert bloom the world over. And there is no doubt whatsoever that America was/is the New Rome - alone when it comes to building vast dams, reservoirs, aqueducts etc. It warms one's heart what we as a people are capable of!  I am frequently so captivated by these topics that I am able to delve into that I forget that I am, in fact, in prison!  Now mind you, I would prefer to be in beautiful Tennessee with Ingrid and watch a gorgeous sunset over the Smoky Mountains , but it was not meant to be - not for a little while anyway.  Somehow, some inscrutable destiny had other thoughts, and it will manifest itself what my role is to be in this struggle for freedom.

Nomen est omen, the Romans are alleged to have said.  [“Zundel” is related to the German verb “to spark.”]

There is no doubt that my enemies seem to have detected something in Ernst Zundel, the peasant boy from the Black Forest , that seems to have eluded my friends, even myself.  What could it e?  What irks them?  After all, look at all the effort they have expended over three decades - to achieve for themselves WHAT?  What exactly is it that they have achieved by all their conniving and Herculean labor? Is their railroading of me - WHAT?  To inflict discomfort?  Pain? Misery?  Embarrassment?  Loneliness?  Humiliation?  Bankruptcy of me, the 66 year old artist?  A man with no university degree, no forces to threaten them?

What a policy goal!

I am reminded of Stalin's remark:  "How many divisions has the Pope?"

No troops were necessary to sink the Evil Empire.  I take comfort in knowing that the Bolshevik Monsters' regime is dead and gone, and candles are flickering in thousands of churches in the former Soviet Empire and Gulag state. All it took was ideas and truths - and dedication by those who held those truths to be [self]-evident.  Yes, Mark!  Ideas and truths are powerful things and dangerous weapons to tyrants.

No people certain of their power need to treat a man like me the way they treated me for 30 years!

[from Ernst Zundel, in the Toronto West Detention Centre, in Canada ]

Feb. 29, 2004

Dear Mark!

Just a quick note re: situation! You can only help it by keeping in touch with updates and mail outs – snail mail + email to different columnists rather than writing to newspaper editors! Individual columnists chosen with care, who have written even a bit critical­ly, are like us, they do keep correspondence and clipping files, and some­times at least some of our concepts find their way into their pieces! “Die Taktik der kleinen Schritte” [the tactic of small steps] !

Somehow we have to keep my name, face, and fate in front of them; otherwise, if there is no embarrassment and no publicity downside for those in charge of my fate, they’ll simply leave it at this dismal state! They have nothing to lose since nobody really cares. The Jews have seen to my demonization during all those years I had a court-imposed gag order and could not fight back to defend myself! I really never recovered from that disaster! Try as I might – as you know I have plenty of imagination – and tried all kinds of things! In Canada a truth squad of placard carrying Zuendel friends, outside political rallies now starting, could shift something – by polarizing things and making politicians take a stand. A handful of people is enough, even 3-4, 6 or 7. To get media coverage, the TV and still photographers have to come up close to make the demonstrators’ signs readable – in my experience!

I have mentioned it to Paul since last summer! He somehow cannot get his friends to go for that , it seems – they demonstrate outside jail – nice – but that’s not going to spring me! Only political pressure can do that!

On another topic! If you have anything on that Institute der Juden­frage – send me some photocopies, I would like to write something on that!

Thank S…  from me, and J..  for remembering me! Keep up the good work!

Your Gibson expose was as per usual brilliant!


[From Ernst Zuendel, in the Toronto West Detention Centre, in Canada ]

Feb. 27, 2004

In treue fest und ungebrochen. [Loyal and unbroken]

Dear Mark – (and P …  copy please!)

There has been really no change in my situation or status since I came here, except that I have been taken to a dentist after first making written requests in March of 03, in April of 03, and in May and June of 03. Finally in February 2004 I saw our prison dentist, only after I was asked if I had problems with seeing him since he is Jewish? Odd question? Eh? I was thinking of the movie the “Boys from Brazil .” That just about what the “treatment” consisted of. Since we are not allowed toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, comb, etc., in our cell, den­tal hygiene suffers a little at times. So now I have a severe con­dition of periodontal disease, am getting anti-biotics, saline solution, all because I am deprived of my freedom by these vindictive people with the “Jehovah genes,” I like that phrase!

The next hearing dates are on the 13, 14, April 2004. I am to be once again cross-examined by the CSIS and Dept of Justice lawyers for two days – with them it’s always longer. They get a chance to torture Ernst in public and exploit my faulty memory, they have caused by inflicting all this terror with bombs, fires and endless persecution through court cases in the first place – and then get the benefit of tormenting their victim in the witness box! Typical for them!

They have done that in Stalin’s show trials, in Nuremberg, the Se­dition Trial [in 1944 in Washington, DC] (Ernst F. Elmhurst told me in detail of how the hapless American patriots were sensory deprived, starved for nutritious food, vitamins, fresh fruit, etc., before the Sedition Trial) like they did with the Germans in Dachau, Schwaebisch Hall, Neundorf (British), Rastatt (French, where Gerstein ended up) and of course Nuernberg and Hamburg (Manstein) and Braunschweig for the Degesch Trials. All were starved (which affects your memory and thinking). Little fresh air (I get ten min­utes a day) so the same thinking and guiding hand (including 24 hour lights in cell) is being practiced -- along with monitored phone calls and strict in­coming and outgoing censorship!

Is democracy in the democratic process not nice? It’s obviously so much better than what Ditlieb Felderer told me they had in Auschwitz !

Ernst Zuendel