French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson dies at 89

Robert Faurisson, a former French academic who was convicted several times for claiming there was no systematic mass killings of Jews by Nazi Germany, has died aged 89 in his hometown of Vichy, central France, his sister and his editor said Monday.

French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson dies at 89
Photos: AFP

British-born Faurisson was also a staunch defender of Marshal Philippe Petain, the Vichy French leader who collaborated with Nazi occupiers of the country during World War II.

He “had just returned from England when he collapsed in the hallway of his home in Vichy” on Sunday evening, his sister Yvonne Schleiter told AFP.

A former professor of French literature at the University of Lyon, Faurisson maintained that the gas chambers in Auschwitz were the “biggest lie of the 20th century”, saying deported Jews died instead of disease and malnutrition.

He also contested the authenticity of the diary of Anne Frank, the Dutch girl who managed to hide with her family from the Nazis for years before being caught and sent to concentration camps.

After France passed a law in 1990 making Holocaust denial a crime, Faurisson was repeatedly prosecuted and fined for his writings.

He was dismissed from his academic post in 1991.

French historian Valerie Igounet, who wrote a book about him, branded him a “anti-Semitic forger” who “lusted after scandal”.

“He never stopped applying methods of interpretation and of the reading of historical documents in total contradiction with scientific method,” she said.

In 2012, Faurisson received a prize from Iran's president at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his “courage, resistance and fighting spirit” in contesting the Holocaust.

In 2008, he became close to French comedian and political activist Dieudonne, who has also been convicted for anti-Semitic insults.

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France pays emotional tribute to ‘Shoah’ director Claude Lanzmann

France paid a national hommage on Thursday to revered filmmaker Claude Lanzmann, whose nine-hour documentary "Shoah" is regarded as the best ever made about the Holocaust.

France pays emotional tribute to 'Shoah' director Claude Lanzmann

The director and writer, who died last week aged 92, had to hide from the Nazis with his Jewish family in rural central France during World War II, then leaving them to join the Resistance at 17.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe led the mourners at the solemn ceremony at the Invalides, which houses Napoleon's tomb, with Lanzmann's coffin draped in 
the French tricolour flag carried into the courtyard by a military honour guard.

“You made exist those who no longer do,” Philippe said of his film masterpiece, which pieced together the wartime slaughter of six million Jews through the harrowing testimonies of the survivors.

“'Shoah' is a unique work about a unique crime, it is a cry of defiance and a refusal to forget,” the prime minister added.

Lanzmann even managed to secretly film concentration camp guards talking about their part in the killing, and was beaten up by a group of thugs after his cover was blown while he was filming a former Nazi officer.

'The Orpheus of the Holocaust'

Philippe said that Lanzmann, a Communist in his youth, had learned his remarkable courage and sense of sacrifice from his comrades during the war.

His own first act of resistance as a Jewish schoolboy in occupied France was to refuse to write an essay in praise of its collaborationist leader 
Marshal Petain. He later took to the hills to ambush German patrols.

Philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy compared him to Orpheus in his oration, the mythical poet who returns from the land of the dead, working tirelessly to 
keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.

He described Lanzmann as an “engaged intellectual and quarreller” who was as intrepid later in life as he was as a young member of the Resistance. 

“I am completely against death,” Lanzmann told AFP last year shortly after the death of his only son, Felix, from cancer at 23.

The director was laid to rest next to him in the family tomb in Montparnasse cemetery in Paris. His former lover, the writer and feminist 
thinker Simone de Beauvoir, is buried nearby.

Lanzmann ran Les Temps Modernes, the legendary literary review that she and her partner Jean-Paul Sartre had founded, until his death.

His final film, “The Four Sisters”, about four Holocaust survivors, was released in French cinemas Wednesday.