(JTA) — Robert Faurisson, a former French academic whose denial of the Holocaust has inspired many claims that the genocide did not happen, died in his hometown of Vichy. He was 89.
British-born Faurisson was a staunch defender of Marshal Philippe Petain, the French leader who collaborated with Nazi occupiers of the country during World War II, and whose government is named for its former seat of Vichy. He died Sunday, according to AFP.
Faurisson was convicted several times for claiming there was no systematic mass killings of Jews by Nazi Germany.
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 German-born girl who managed to hide with her family from the Nazis for two years in Amsterdam 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 an “anti-Semitic forger” who “lusted after scandal.”
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.
Alyssa Fisher is a news writer at the Forward. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter at @alyssalfisher