The trial in Germany of two siblings, both Canadian citizens, for denying the Holocaust has ended with convictions and jail terms.
According to Anne Wild, a photojournalist who monitored the trial for The CJN, Alfred Schaefer, 63, who lives in Germany, received a prison sentence on Oct. 26 of three years and two months. His sister, Monika Schaefer, 59, who lives in Jasper, Alta., received a term of 10 months.
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But since she has been in prison since the charges were laid in January, she was set free, with time already served.
Monika Schaefer was tried on six counts of “incitement of hatred” and was found guilty of four of them.
Her brother was charged with 14 counts of incitement and was found guilty of 11 of them.
The charged arose after the siblings produced and posted videos, one in English and one in German, in which Monika Schaefer denied the Holocaust.
The trial began in July in Munich. At the time, Monika Schaefer was in Germany visiting her family and was arrested while attending the trial of another Holocaust denier who was convicted.
She’s a musician and activist who was born in Canada to German parents and was the federal Green party’s candidate in the Alberta riding of Yellowhead in 2006, 2008 and 2011.
In what Wild said was a three-hour address to the court on the trial’s last day, Monika Schaefer “seemed disappointed that the court didn’t believe what a good person she was as a musician and environmentalist (and) who didn’t want to harm anyone.”
Wild told the CBC the judge “said it right out – that what [Schaefer] had done was full of hatred.”
Monika Schaefer gained notoriety in July 2016 after appearing in a five-minute YouTube video, titled “Sorry, Mom, I was wrong about the Holocaust,” in which she said the Holocaust was the “biggest and most pernicious and persistent lie in all of history.”
In it, she claimed that death camps were really work camps where prisoners were kept “as healthy and as well-fed as was possible.”
According to Wild, Monika Schaefer told the court during the trial, in German, that, “I’m convinced that the Holocaust is a great untruth of history.” She said she made the video to make peace with her mother and that she had written the script.
Last summer, the Ontario Civil Liberties Association complained that Monika’s Schaefer’s prosecution was “unjust and immortal,” partly because the videos were made and published in Canada.
Wild said the trial heard evidence that the videos were produced by Alfred Schaefer in the town of Tutzing, outside Munich. Monika told court that she knew they would be published online.
Monika was ousted from the Green party over the YouTube video, which the party condemned “in the strongest possible terms.”
In May, Alfred Schaefer was convicted of incitement to hatred for a speech he delivered in the German city of Dresden in February 2017. He was fined 5,000 euros ($7,700).
As for appeals, Wild said Monika Schaefer’s lawyer was “uncommital and found the verdict to be “Solomon-like.”
She said Alfred Schaefer showed “no particular reaction” to his sentence. He told the court that he will not stop “spreading the truth,” Wild noted.
Alfred Schaefer still faces other criminal charges, including for other videos he has made and for giving the straight-arm Nazi salute three times on the trial’s first day.
“I am glad that this exhausting trial is over,” Wild said in an email.
B’nai Brith Canada said it provided “detailed intelligence reports” to German officials, leading to the siblings’ arrests. Supporters of the Schaefers “have explicitly blamed B’nai Brith for their legal challenges.”
“We commend the German justice system for effectively dealing with a blatant manifestation of antisemitism,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “Holocaust denial is once again on the rise, but this important court decision should help deter others from engaging in racist and hateful rhetoric.”
* The above corrects an earlier story which said the siblings were each charged with six counts of incitement to hatred.