Award-winning film-maker Rex Bloomstein has become embroiled in a censorship row with the Board of Deputies over a television documentary featuring convicted Holocaust denier David Irving.
Mr Bloomstein, 66, made the film, An Independent Mind, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was shown on the Channel 4 digital subsidiary More4 on Tuesday night.
The film featured seven stories from around the world of people who had chosen to speak out against oppressive regimes and the consequences they faced. The eighth and last person interviewed in the 90-minute
programme was Irving.
But Mr Bloomstein saw red after a story in The Observer newspaper’s Pendennis column suggested that the Board of Deputies was trying to stop the programme being transmitted.
Diarist Oliver Marre wrote: “The Board of Deputies of British Jews tells me the programme should not be shown. ‘Whatever airtime David Irving gets is too much,’ says chief executive Jon Benjamin. ‘Here, he once again seems to be casting himself in the role of victim.’”
Mr Bloomstein, who has made films about Auschwitz, Mauthausen and other Holocaust-related issues, said: “If the Board of Deputies did not call for the programme to be banned, let them make it clear. I am certainly going to make it clear that the Board, according to the column, has aligned itself with the forces of censorship.” Board chief executive Jon Benjamin denied vehemently that the Board called for the film to be banned: “This is completely untrue. The Observer columnist used two lines of a longer comment in which I pointed out that, if the likes of Irving wanted to be free to express their views, they had to expect to be exposed by others, which Irving was when he unsuccessfully sued Deborah Lipstadt for libel.”
Mr Benjamin said that he, too, would be seeking clarification from The Observer.
Mr Bloomstein criticised both the Board and anti-Fascist group Unite Against Fascism, saying: “They have not named me in their literature as the producer and director of this film.
“They have neither contacted me nor seen the film. Their policy is simply to put pressure on any broadcaster or programme-maker to prevent Irving from speaking.
“We have to have courage to explore even the darkest and most troubled corners of our freedom, even subjects like Holocaust revisionism. I believe our society and community is mature and confident enough to engage people like David Irving in debate, rather than make martyrs of them by trying to suppress what they say, no matter how unpleasant that might be.”
Lord Janner, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “Why would Channel 4 give this man a platform for his vile views? We must not tolerate Holocaust denial in any guise. The best vehicle for challenging it is through education and informing future generations about the lessons of the Holocaust.”
Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said: “We are well aware of David Irving’s views, but I don’t know why people are being soft about this. People should be angry about this issue.
“I don’t believe in elevating him to some form of respectability. We owe it to a generation of people who cannot speak for themselves.”