Holocaust scholar at heart of ‘book burning’ row

A “book burning” scandal has erupted at Canterbury University over an article on controversial Holocaust scholar Joel Hayward.

The decision to recall and destroy copies of the history department’s journal History Now — and dump editor Ian Campbell — is dividing the academic community.

Canterbury lecturer Thomas Fudge, who wrote the offending article, has resigned in disgust and plans to leave at the end of the year.

Dr Fudge said he could not remain at a university that suppressed academic freedom.

“It made me a hypocrite trying to teach my students to think critically and ask the tough questions — all of the academic values that universities are about — and here my department was saying, effectively, we’re going to burn books.”

The article revisits the storm that surrounded the 1993 masters thesis of former Canterbury student Joel Hayward, which questioned the validity of Holocaust history.

Dr Fudge, who lectures on medieval religious dissent and witch-hunting, explored what for Dr Hayward became a career-ending controversy.

He revealed in the article that Dr Hayward had been harassed and received death threats against his children.

Dr Hayward suffered an emotional breakdown and left his teaching post at Massey University in June last year. He now cannot get a job.

The Fate of Joel Hayward in New Zealand Hands: From Holocaust Historian to Holocaust? played on the title of his thesis, The Fate of Jews in German Hands.

The article appeared on May 6. Next morning, Professor Campbell was asked to appear before his editorial committee and history department head Peter Hempenstall.

Professor Campbell said he was effectively pushed: “The fact is that board disapproved of my editorial decision and, as a result, I couldn’t continue as editor.”

An embargo was slapped on the journal and 500 copies recalled.

Staff were later advised that copies of the offending journal had been destroyed on the authority of Professor Hempenstall.

Another May edition of History Now was printed without the Fudge article and an editorial discussing truth and martyrdom.

On May 14, Dr Fudge defended his article at a special meeting of history department academics, calling the censorship “unconscionable”.

Last week, he confirmed to his students that he had resigned.

Professor Hempenstall declined to speak, saying the matter had now become an employment issue between the university and Dr Fudge.


©Copyright 2003, NZ Herald