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Richard Williamson during the interview in question.
Williamson doesn't believe the Nazis used gas chambers to exterminate JewsImage: AP

Bishop on trial

January 27, 2010

Catholic bishop Richard Williamson has been charged with inciting racial hatred, after downplaying the extent of the Holocaust in an interview on German soil.


A Regensburg court on Wednesday summoned Catholic bishop Richard Williamson to face trial for inciting racial hatred. The charge was sufficiently minor that the Briton would not be obliged to attend the hearing, which is set for April 16.

Initially the court fined Williamson 12,000 euros ($16,900) for an interview he gave to a Swedish television station - filmed near Regensburg in Bavaria - in which he said he believed between 200,000 and 300,000 Jews were killed in Nazi concentration camps, and none of them in gas chambers.

Williamson appealed against the fine, which is why the case will come to trial.

Denying the Holocaust is a criminal offence in Germany.

"The trial will begin at 0900 on April 16 here in Regensburg and should last one day," court spokesman Robert Frick told Deutsche Welle. "Three witnesses, journalists from Sweden who interviewed Bishop Williamson, have been asked to take the stand."

The fine already issued against Williamson could be changed at trial, or he could be acquitted, but a jail sentence was not expected.

Williamson's lawyer, Matthias Lossmann, told Deutsche Welle that the bishop had appealed the fine, because he had tried to ensure that his comments would never be seen or heard in Germany.

Pope Benedikt XVI and Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu
The case has been problematic for the pope as he looks to improve ties with IsraelImage: AP

"In the online version of the video, you can see him tell the interviewer he is aware that his statements would contravene German law and asks him to make sure the video is not published in Germany," Lossmann said.

'No gas chambers'

In the controversial interview, Williamson said: "I believe that the historical evidence is hugely against six million Jews having been deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler."

"I believe there were no gas chambers. As far as I have studied the evidence, I think the most serious 'revisionists' conclude that between 200,000 and 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps, but not one of them in gas chambers," he added.

Williamson claimed that the Nazi concentration camps were not technologically advanced enough to safely carry out mass extermination with cyanide gas.

The case prompted a rare reaction on religious affairs from Chancellor Angela Merkel last year, when she called on Pope Benedikt XVI to clarify that "there can be no denial" the Nazis killed six million Jews during their reign.

Williamson is a member of the conservative Saint Pius X Society of Catholics and was excommunicated by Pope Jean Paul II. His successor, Pope Benedikt XVI, was criticized for reinstating Williamson and three other bishops from the Saint Pius X Society last year.


Editor: Nancy Isenson

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