Background of Ernst Zündel’s Youth and Early Adulthood

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This was written sometime in the mid-1980s, long before Ernst Zündel became a full-time, high profile political dissident.   Since then, Zündel has become world-renowned, but this is how it all began, as written up by a probation officer right after his first Great Holocaust Trial in 1985 in Toronto, Canada.

Ernst Zündel was born in Calmbach in Germany (West) on April 24, 1939. The subject’s father (now deceased 1969) was a lumberjack and his mother was and is a homemaker. Mr. Zündel has 4 sisters all living in West Germany and a brother who is an attorney in California. He maintains regular contact with his family.  

Mr. Zündel’s father was drafted into the army shortly after the beginning of World War II, as a result the subject saw little of his father as a child. When he returned permanently to the family home in 1947, he was, according to the subject, an alcoholic. Mr. Zündel stated that throughout the war years and thereafter his mother provided much of the structure and support for the family.

Mr. Zündel stated his earliest memories are connected with war time privations, and the early post-war occupation by the French army.

The subject attended school in Calmbach, graduated in 1957 and applied for permission to immigrate to Canada. He stated that he left Germany in 1958 because as a pacifist he objected to serving in the German Army.

Mr. Zündel arrived in Canada in 1958 and quickly found work as a graphic artist in the advertising field. He met his (first) wife Janick (Larouche) while attending night school shortly after arriving in Canada. The couple were married in 1959.

Mr. Zündel has two children – Pierre and Hans – born in 1960 and 1967 respectively. Pierre is completing his Masters Degree in Forest Sciences at the University of Toronto and the younger son will enter University this year.

Mr. Zündel and his wife separated in 1975. According to both parties, the relationship was strained for some years because of the controversy surrounding Mr. Zündel’s ‘historical’ publications.

Mrs. Zündel nee (Larouche) stated the separation was her idea, because of her husband’s refusal to end what she referred to as his ‘political activities’ which she stated resulted in continuous harassment of the family. She was, she said, particularly concerned regarding threats made to her children.

Ms. (Larouche) noted that she and her husband remain good friends and that he has continued to support and spend a good deal of time with her sons since the separation. She further noted that during their life together Mr. Zündel was a ‘good husband’ as well as being a ‘kind and loving’ father, who never attempted to force his views on her or the children.

Pierre Zündel described his father as a kind supportive person, who was actively involved with his sons both before and after his parent’s separation. He echoed his mother’s statement that the subject did not attempt to push his views on his children, but rather “… attempted to inculcate, on their part, a questioning and critical attitude toward events.”

Zündel’s employment history in Canada was reviewed in the same presentence report in 1985:

“Mr. Zündel arrived in Canada in 1958 and found immediate employment with Simpson-Sears Ltd. in their advertising department as a graphic artist.

Between 1961 and 1969 the subject lived in Montreal, where he owned a small commercial art studio employing 3 people. In 1969 the subject returned to Toronto where he started his own firm ‘Great Ideas Advertising.’

Mr. Zündel is presently the sole owner of two incorporated companies; the above Great Ideas Advertising, and Samisdat Publishers which specializes in private publications of a ‘political’ nature.

The writer contacted Mr. N. Berrnett, who in his capacity as Art Director for MacLean’s Magazine employed Mr. Zündel’s firm on a freelance basis between 1980-1983. Mr. Berrnett stated that Mr. Zündel is an excellent photo retoucher whose work was always satisfactory.

Mr. Berrnett noted that his decision to stop using Mr. Zündel’s firm was motivated by business considerations unconnected to Mr. Zündel’s other publishing activities. Mr. Zündel expressed the feeling that the decision to stop using his firm was a direct result of pressure by groups opposed to his political/historical publications.

He also expressed the view that much of the business he has lost in the past two years is the result of organized pressure by groups opposed to his views.”

At times, Zündel’s business employed some 12 people during certain periods in the 1970s. He frequently trained young artists and handicapped people with the help of federal and provincial government programs.

Zündel also pursued a career as an artist, producing and selling over 700 water colors and oil paintings, largely of Canadian themes. While most were produced in Canada, they have been sold to customers as far away as Japan and Europe. (..)

Mr. Zündel is also very much involved with an organization called Concerned Parents of German Descent, which is dedicated to fostering in the Germans-Canadian community a sense of pride and ‘countering the incessant abuse’ that the subject feels this group is subjected to. (…)

Mr. Zündel observed, somewhat ironically, that before his present legal difficulties began, he had planned to move from Toronto, buy a rural property and semi-retire to a life of farming and painting. Mr. Zündel is now adamant that his intention is to remain in Canada and ‘continue to struggle’; that is to continue to attack what he considers the ‘anti-German’ thrust of contemporary historiography.

The individual before Your Honour is a 46 year old man who is appearing before the criminal courts for the first time. He is a successful business man, well thought of by professional acquaintances and personal friends alike. There is little doubt that had Mr. Zündel confined his activities to purely business interests he would be, if not wealthy, certainly comfortable, at this point in his life.

It is very clear, however, that Mr. Zündel’s primary intellectual interest – perhaps passion or obsession is a better word – is an effort to revive recent history touching on the ‘Holocaust.’ The subject made it very clear to the writer that he sees this ‘struggle’ as a matter of ‘right.’ Indeed, Mr. Zündel’s wife stated to the writer that ‘his passion consumed their marriage’ and she often felt that she was married to a ‘missionary.’

Mr. Zündel stated emphatically that he does not consider anything that he has published, nor does he consider himself, as anti-Semitic, but rather pro-German.

Mr. Zündel also noted that he views himself as a stabilizing influence within the community. He stated within the various ethnic community there are many who share his views but are much more prone to react violently to what they see as historical calumny perpetrated by segments of the Jewish community.

Mr. Zündel has made mention on a number of occasions that he is a pacifist. He explained to the writer that his pacifism is regarding military service, but not political pacifism and that his struggle to present a ‘true’ picture of the Holocaust will continue. The subject did, however, state clearly to the writer that he is prepared to abide by any conditions Your Honour should set as part of Your Sentence in this matter.”


During his 1985 “false news” trial, Zündel took the stand and gave evidence concerning his childhood and the reasons he had come to Canada:

“My first recollection is living in a very old house, 370 years old. Later on I was told that it belonged to my family for all those years. My father was very seldom at home and he did come home only on periodic visits because he was a soldier.

I had a normal childhood like millions of other kids in the War on all sides of the battles, and when the war ended, towards the end of the war, we suffered the bombing raids and the sirens going off and the frequent wake-up calls from our mother, herding us children – we were five of us at the time – into a basement air raid shelter, a bunker.  The house would shake and rattle, but these hundreds of bombers were streaming towards cities like Dresden or Berlin and so on, and I think that the most vivid recollection that I have is the cold, stark terror of the air raid sirens and the droning of these bombers, then the anti-aircraft fire, the search-lights in the sky, Allied planes limping back over the Black Forest area burning, some crashing. It was, for a little kid, a pretty frightening experience.”

“The neighbouring city of Pforzheim was bombed. Twenty thousand people were killed in one night and we, of course, had been once again yanked out of bed and a fire storm was raging in that town that was twenty kilometers away.  We lived in this mountain valley, and there was this terrific howl as if there was a tornado going on, and it was the air being sucked into this town to feed the fires as … it was burning, and the sky was red wherever we looked from, flames as distant as twenty kilometers away.  That left an impression on me that I never forgot.” (p. 3792)

“And in the post-war period, of course, there was the cold. There was no heat. There was no food. We had to go to a church basement to school because the French Army had taken over our schoolhouse. School was on an irregular basis. We didn’t have paper to write on. The one thing that I will always remember was hunger – and we broke out in sores all over our skin. Later on I found out it was nutritional deficiency disease, lack of protein and so on, and it was just basically a horrible time.   My father was a prisoner of war.” (p. 3793)

“…the German government (…) had just passed legislation to re-arm Germany under the pressure of the United States, and I was absolutely convinced if I had anything to do with it, I would never serve in any man’s army, because I believe[d] still that the Germans had killed millions of people, especially Jews, just because they were Jews, and I thought the same generals and the same officers who had been responsible for that were going to be the ones who were building up the new Army – which was true in many cases.” (p. 3795)

“So I wrote away to various places, and when the colored brochures came and the descriptions of the different countries, I chose Canada.  It had no army, it was the only country that had no army, and also I liked the climate… (…)  And this was the deciding point.

And so in 1958 I came to Canada, and I haven’t regretted to this day ever having coming here.”


In his schooling in Germany, Zündel was taught from textbooks approved by the Allied occupation forces which taught a history at variance from what his parents told him. In his 1985 trial testimony he stated:

“I noticed one thing, that in the inside front pages of our textbooks in school there were foreign language things written.  Later I found out that it meant a kind of a censorship approval stamp by the various occupying powers that censored all our textbooks, even our mathematic books and song books, and I think that is an indication of what education we children in Germany received after the Second World War.

We were the victims of the occupying powers who taught us their version of history, and the result was that we became alienated from our parents. What our parents taught us as their life experience seemed like lies and fairytales to us because the teachers in the textbooks that we were given were reflecting a totally different reality.  This made for many an unhappy home and a kind of tribalism between the younger generation. We were kind of sticking together, and the parent’s generation,  the older generation, was separated from us.

As we got a little older, naturally my brothers and sisters  would ask questions of our father who had been in the war, and friends would drop in, and we began to realize that not all was well with history that we were being taught, that in reality our parents had lived and were eye witness to one version of history, and our school books reflected a totally different version of history.

This made me, certainly, realize that I had to inform myself somewhat independently.”

THE YEARS 1958 – 1978

In 1961, Zündel and his family moved to Montreal where Zündel started and quickly built through hard work his own thriving graphic arts business. His clients included advertising work for some of the larger corporations in Canada such as Henry Birks Jewelers, the Hudson’s Bay Company and Reader’s Digest of Canada.

Zündel formed the anti-Communist “National Defence Committee” during the early Sixties, a speaker’s bureau with Zündel as the sole speaker at first. He often had three or four speaking engagements a week, speaking to Kiwanis clubs, church groups, etc., on “Communism: A threat to our civilization.”

Through his efforts an anti-Soviet demonstration of 650 supporters took place outside the Montreal Forum.

Zündel took an active part in Canadian political campaigns, appeared as a guest on many radio talk shows, lectured in public and wrote political articles for various German language publications in North America and overseas. He also served as contributing editor and columnist on the campus newspaper for evening students, “The Paper” at Sir George Williams University in Montreal when he attended the school during the 1966-1968 academic years taking courses in political science. His regular column, “Politics, Past, Present and Future!” dealt with such topics as Quebec separatism.

When the federal Liberal Party leadership convention came up in 1968, Zündel ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party on a platform designed to preempt Pierre Trudeau’s “three wise men” from Quebec, all of whom he had watched with alarm for years and whose leftist pronouncements, articles in the “Citë Libre”, and policies for Canada seemed a disaster to him. He tried to articulate the fears and aspirations of the then never heard-of “immigrants”, at that time largely European, as a mediating third force between English and French Canadians. This action annoyed the power brokers of the Liberal Party and brought him disfavour at the highest levels of the then-ruling Liberal government.

It was during this period that Zündel’s application for citizenship was denied.

A major influence in Zündel’s life at this time was Adrien Arcand, a nationalist French Canadian who had been interned in Canada for six and a half years during the war. Zündel met Arcand in 1960-61. He later testified about Arcand’s influence on him:

“He was a great Canadian. He spoke eight languages, one of them being German, and he made available to me books, speeches, articles which I had never seen before and never had access to.  He allowed me to study these books from his library. I had no other way of obtaining those things, especially not in German.”

“What he helped me see was that there were people in all parts of the world – Canadians, Americans, Britishers, Spaniards, Italians, who all felt and had written and had studied the Second World War and did not think that the Germans were the ogres that the official propaganda had made them out to be. So he gave me a balance of an imbalanced viewpoint…”

Zündel’s business did well financially and he was able to take off several months a year to travel and meet and interview political leaders, authors and thinkers all over the world whose articles, books and speeches he had read. Arcand wrote a letter of introduction for Zündel to Admiral Sir Barry Domvile, who had been interned in Britain during the war, and other notables.

Zündel believed that Germans were being unfairly stereotyped in the media and he sought to rectify the situation through letters to the editor and speaking engagements.

“One cannot be [an] awake and alert person living in Canada and America without being exposed to programmes like ‘Rat Patrol’, ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ and things like this, and if you are of German background you know there is another German people – not bungling idiots or brutal killers – you know there is something going on from all the media and all those books and school textbooks. And so I decided to, once again, [do] in depth research with eye witnesses from around the world. (…)

“That made me realize that not all was black and not all was white. I was beginning to mature intellectually. And when I finally decided to go to university to night courses to advance my education, I found that in Canadian textbooks that I was naturally forced to take, the Germans were depicted in a totally false, negative stereotype manner.  I have been all my life, I suppose, somewhat of an active type.

When I saw that I thought that this wasn’t right, because I knew that although there were Germans, undoubtedly, which had been cruel or were anything less than virtuous, the great mass of the German people were like the rest of the people of the world, like Canadians or Americans, decent, law-abiding, hard-working people.

I did not want to be a member of an ethnic group or be associated with a nation that had such a bad public image. And I thought what was wrong ought to be corrected through truth.


For an extensive write-up about Ernst Zündel’s subsequent outreach to rehabilitate his German people, visit the Zundelsite.

3 thoughts on “Background of Ernst Zündel’s Youth and Early Adulthood

    1. Definitely. So sorry to hear of his death. Seemed like the kind of man to sit down with and have a nice conversation over a meal.

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