Conviction of Holocaust-denying Catholic bishop upheld by German appeals court

11 July 2011

A court in the German city of Regensburg has upheld a lower court’s conviction of Richard Williamson, 71, one of four bishops of the ultra-conservative Catholic breakaway group Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), for denying the Holocaust in a 2008 TV interview. The appeals court on Monday confirmed the 2010 conviction of Williamson for incitement to hatred, though it lowered the fine imposed against him to € 6,500 ($9,100) from the original €10,000. Both Williamson and the prosecution had appealed the original verdict.

While the prosecutor wanted a higher fine, Williamson's attorney called for the first instance verdict to be quashed. He argued that although the interview with Swedish television had taken place on German soil, where the denial of the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis during World War II is a crime, the interview was not supposed to be aired in Germany, but only in Sweden.

The 71-year-old said in the 2008 interview that he didn't believe any Jews died in gas chambers during World War II, and that the Nazis killed no more than 300,000 Jews in concentration camps.

Williamson and three other bishops of the SSPX were excommunicated in 1988 for challenging the new church doctrine established by the Second Vatican Council, but were readmitted by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. A few days later, the Williamson interview was aired, putting the Catholic Church in crisis.

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