German authorities accuse Zundel of decades of anti-Semitic activities, including repeated denials of the Holocaust — a crime in Germany — in documents and on the Internet.
Zundel is “known internationally as a leader of the right-wing scene,” prosecutors in the southwestern city of Mannheim said Tuesday in a statement listing 14 examples of alleged incitement.
It was unclear when he might face a trial, which Jewish leaders hope will spread awareness of the Holocaust.
Zundel was arrested in March on his arrival in Germany after a long legal battle, and remains in jail. He had been detained in Toronto since 2003 under anti-terrorism laws and deported after a Canadian judge ruled his activities a threat to national and international security.
The Canadian Jewish Congress said it was glad to hear Zundel had been charged, but said justice will not be served fully until he is convicted.
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“Certainly we’re very pleased that German prosecutors have charged Mr. Zundel,” spokesman Len Rudner said from Toronto.
“But it’s a successful prosecution that will go a long way to completing discrediting Ernst Zundel.”
Born in Germany in 1939, Zundel emigrated to Canada in 1958 and lived in Toronto and Montreal until 2001. Canadian officials rejected his attempts to obtain citizenship in 1966 and 1994.
He moved to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., until he was deported to Canada in 2003 for alleged immigration violations.
While Jewish groups in Canada hailed Zundel’s deportation, some civil libertarians argued it was a crime against freedom of speech.
“Banning ideas — even foolish ones — is just never healthy,” Paul Fromm, the president of the Canadian Association for Freedom of Expression, said Tuesday from Toronto after hearing of Zundel’s charges.
“It’s very disappointing and it’s sad to see the German government has learned nothing about democracy.”
German prosecutors obtained an arrest warrant for Zundel in 2003. Because his Holocaust-denying website was available in Germany, he is considered to have been spreading his message to Germans.