San Diego Ingrid Rimland sees herself as a "determined, hardworking German mother." The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sees her as a "ferociously anti-Semitic pro-Nazi apologist" - a characterization Rimland dismisses with impatience.
"I am not a hateful person," she sighs. "My neighbors are Jews. I have no problem with them. I leave them my house key when I'm away. They collect my mail for me."
If Rimland's neighbors were ever to open the mail they collect, they might find one of the $3000 monthly checks Rimland receives from Ernst Zundel for maintaining the "Zundelsite" on the World Wide Web. Zundel, according to the ADL, is North America's premiere Holocaust revisionist. Among many ambitious aims, Zundel seeks to "debunk the Holohoax" and to promote a positive reappraisal of Hitler and of the national socialist cause in general. Rimland shares his concerns. Teaching about the Holocaust in our nation's schools is, she writes, the "rape of the mind of America's children."
Rimland's and Zundel's views have attracted attention. The Anti-Defamation League devotes six pages to them in "High Tech Hate," the ADL's most recent report on anti-Semitism and racism on the Internet. A civil complaint now before the Canadian Human Rights Commission charges that Zundel is in violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act because his Web site uses "telephonic communications to expose a person or persons to hatred." Zundel argues that the site is based in Carlsbad, California, and is therefore outside Canadian jurisdiction. Besides, he says, the site has been written by Ingrid Rimland since January 1996.
Reached at her Carlsbad home, Rimland is tentative and sounds put-upon and tired. She rises at 2:00 a.m. every morning to spend 16 hours maintaining "Zundelsite." She types up new material. She polishes her weekly column, her "Z- gram," to the site. She peruses the 300 to 400 pieces of daily e-mail the site receives, answering a few of the messages, but only a few. It seems many Jews find the site objectionable. Rimland is baffled by the "viciousness" of the tone they take in their letters. To respond to them would be, she feels, a "waste of time."
Sixty-one years old, Rimland, a child psychologist, has led a difficult and varied life. Born into a family of ethnic-German Mennonites living in the Ukraine, Rimland and her family fled after the war first to Germany, their "devastated homeland," and later to a Mennonite community in rural Paraguay, where they raised cattle and manioc. Rimland describes herself as a "brainy child" who from early on felt at odds with her faith's strictures. Still, she enjoyed the community's closeness and even today misses the "simplicity and wholesomeness" of primitive agrarian life. At 14 she fell in love with the Mennonite boy whom she later married - "I was 20 years old. An old maid by my community's standards."
Rimland, who speaks with candor about how she views the Holocaust, is vague about the event that gave form to her adult life. In 1959 she gave birth to a son who was brain damaged by an overdose of ether while in infancy. Rimland hints that her Mennonite community interpreted her son's injury as divine retribution.
"Why," she asks, "would God harm a child because his mother wore lipstick?"
Despite his brain damage, Rimland was convinced her son was educable. In 1967, she and her husband moved to Wichita, Kansas, to have the boy diagnosed and treated at the Institute of Logopedics, a world-famous residential school for the handicapped. It was in Wichita that Rimland discovered "the miracle of American public libraries." Having been educated only to the third grade in the Mennonite's Low German dialect, Rimland taught herself English by reading "Dear Abby." In time, she graduated magna cum laude from Wichita State University and in 1979 was awarded a doctorate by the school. Her son did well, too. His treatment at the institute was so successful that he went on to finish his education at a public high school.
Her son's disability remains a cumbersome and painful issue for Rimland. In 1984 she published a book, The Furies and the Flame, about the extreme difficulty of raising and educating her son. When asked about him now she becomes evasive, elliptical. Her voice drops, she mutters. She returns again and again, by reflex, to her son's difficulty at reading - a difficulty that must have uniquely frustrated a mother who prided herself on her language skills, her flawless English, her clean American prose.
When asked how she squares her great admiration for the Third Reich with the regime's program to euthanize the disabled, she says she finds the issue "sad."
"Frankly, I haven't really studied what happened with that program in any great depth. From what I've read, however, the numbers of those who were euthanized have been vastly exaggerated. And I'm also aware that Germany was not the only country to carry out such a policy. Many other countries had similar policies, too.
"Looking back to my own life, I think that if I had it to do all over again, I would have let my son die while he was a baby. He nearly died so many times. I should have let nature take its course. He's now 38 years old and lives in a senior citizens' complex and is on full disability. He runs errands for the seniors, he walks their dogs. He has an IQ of 85, which means his mental function is that of a 12-year-old. He can be very sweet and accommodating, but still.
"While I certainly don't think the state should dictate the fate of the disabled, I believe family and physicians should have a role in deciding things such as euthanasia and sterilization. My son, for example, is incapable of supporting a child or a family either mentally or financially. I don't see the point of bringing babies into the world, especially those with genetic defects, when the result is hardship and so much heartache. Then there's the issue of finding money to support them."
Rimland nonetheless feels that her experience with her son steeled her and gave her courage to carve out a life for herself in America, a country to which she says she owes everything. Her career as a freelance writer has been steady - she's reviewed books regularly for the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other large newspapers. She lectures on literacy to organizations like the Rancho Santa Fe Professional Women's Club and the Vista Republican Women's Club. In February, however, Trinity College in Burlington, Vermont, canceled a lecture Rimland was to have delivered on her family's "escape from Stalinist Russia." College officials cited her Internet writings on the Holocaust as reason for the cancellation. Rimland sees the incident as just one more example of the "horrible persecution" endured by people who challenge the Holocaust's validity.
"I certainly had no idea of just how bad it would be when I started. I'm still surprised by the level of animosity. Frankly, before I became involved in Holocaust revisionism, I'd never so much as spent a half hour's worth of thought on Jews or anti-Semitism in my entire life. But in 1994 a friend invited me to attend a seminar in south Los Angeles sponsored by the Institute for Historical Review, the very well-known Holocaust revisionist organization. I was fascinated by what I heard. And when I saw the enormous roadblocks that were thrown up before any rational discussion of the issue, when I saw how absolutely opposed certain people were to the dissemination of this kind of information, I was convinced of its importance. I have very good journalistic skills and felt I could contribute them to the cause.
"All I do, I do out of love for my people, for the German people. We have been so maligned, so abused, so shackled by disinformation about the Holocaust. I am not motivated out of any animosity toward Jews. Holocaust revisionists are not motivated by anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a very low-class thing. It's truly a thing of the lower classes, like skinheads. I have no skinhead friends. As a Mennonite, I love and am committed to the truth. Revisionism is a very scholarly discipline. We want to bring science and historical research to bear on three main issues: Hitler's ordering of the so-called 'Final Solution,' the existence of gas chambers as instruments for mass killing, and the numbers claimed to have been killed. We want to be allowed to get the information out there in the public eye where it can be debated and discussed by reasonable, rational people.
"I'm not really well-educated enough in these matters to say exactly how, but I do believe that there is organization at a governmental level to suppress this information and its open discussion. From people who have a vested interest in promoting disinformation about the Holocaust. Not all of these people are Jews.
"I want to stress that I am not anti-Semitic. But if you were to ask me if I believed that Jews had a corrosive effect on Aryan culture, on German culture, I would have to say yes. My work in Holocaust revision has helped me to understand that there is an enormous gulf between Jew and Aryan, an enormous abyss. Perhaps it is spiritual, although I believe that all that stuff about anti-Semitism being caused because Christians believe the Jews killed Jesus is just baloney. It is something very deep and very profound that goes back many centuries. You can sort of get an idea of what I'm talking about through culture. What Germans, what Aryans would call art, for example, Jews would consider kitsch. Another example is jazz. Jews love jazz. Germans don't like that kind of music; they find it irritating. Germans prefer more sentimental music, you know, schmaltzy music.
"But, once again, my interest in revisionism is not animated by these differences. I just want to get the facts about the war out there to the public. Hollywood turned Germany and German soldiers into caricatures. I want all the facts about the Holocaust to be openly available, to be debated. And once that's done, and if it's proven that Germans and Germany did all the terrible things they've been accused of, then, I swear to you, I will wear sackcloth and put ashes on my forehead. But first I and others must work to bring the facts to light. I know that I'm going to work as long as I am able. Just before I became involved with revisionism, I'd incorporated a charity, the Angel of America Scholarship Fund, that was to be geared to helping linguistically gifted children. I quickly discovered I didn't have time for both things. Then a member of my board of directors died. I gave up the idea of the scholarship fund, and I've dedicated myself to our Web site."