LYON (AFP) – Robert Faurisson, a former French academic who was convicted several times for claiming there was no systematic mass killings of Jews by Nazi Germany, has died aged 89 in his hometown of Vichy, central France, his sister and his editor said Monday.
British-born Faurisson was also a staunch defender of Marshal Philippe Petain, the Vichy French leader who collaborated with Nazi occupiers of the country during World War II.
He “had just returned from England when he collapsed in the hallway of his home in Vichy” on Sunday evening, his sister Yvonne Schleiter told AFP.
A former professor of French literature at the University of Lyon, Faurisson maintained that the gas chambers in Auschwitz were the “biggest lie of the 20th century”, saying deported Jews died instead of disease and malnutrition.
He also contested the authenticity of the diary of Anne Frank, the Dutch girl who managed to hide with her family from the Nazis for years before being caught and sent to concentration camps.
After France passed a law in 1990 making Holocaust denial a crime, Faurisson was repeatedly prosecuted and fined for his writings.
He was dismissed from his academic post in 1991.
French historian Valerie Igounet, who wrote a book about him, branded him a “anti-Semitic forger” who “lusted after scandal”.
“He never stopped applying methods of interpretation and of the reading of historical documents in total contradiction with scientific method,” she said.
In 2012, Faurisson received a prize from Iran’s president at the time, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his “courage, resistance and fighting spirit” in contesting the Holocaust.
In 2008, he became close to French comedian and political activist Dieudonne, who has also been convicted for anti-Semitic insults.