Partner of Austria's new leader freed Holocaust denier David Irving from prison, saying he had changed

Judge Ernest Maurer ruled in 2006 the disgraced historian had undergone an 'unprecedented change'. Irving never since expressed remorse for his views


The life partner of Austria’s new chancellor Brigitte Bierlein was the judge who, in 2006, freed Holocaust revisionist David Irving from prison.

In 1989, Irving made two speeches in Austria in which he denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz.

In November 2005, having entered Austria to attend a meeting of far-right students, Irving was arrested under the law that forbids “re-engagement in National Socialist activities” including Holocaust denial.

He was sentenced to three years imprisonment in February 2006. Released on appeal in December of that year, Irving returned to Britain to serve out his sentence on probation.

Ernest Maurer, the presiding judge in the appeal case and the new chancellor’s partner, said at the time that Irving committed the offences an “extremely long time” ago and that the defendant had undergone an “unprecedented change” in his views on the Holocaust.

The prosecutor’s warnings concerning the gravity of Holocaust denial and Irving’s iconic status among right-wing extremists went unheeded. Mr Maurer believed there was no danger Irving would re-offend.

After the verdict was handed down, Irving thanked Mr Maurer, calling him “your honour.”

“The judge is Maurer, who looks disconcertingly like me,” Irving wrote in his diary at the time, “and throughout he runs his tongue around his lips as though dying or at least in need of water; he looks very frightened.”

To Irving’s “surprise,” Mr Maurer’s verdict “immediately dismiss[ed] the prosecution's case 100 percent, and accept[ed] ours.”

Once back in Britain, Irving told the BBC he did not feel the need to show remorse for what he had said about Auschwitz and the Holocaust.

The decision to release him was condemned by Vienna’s main Jewish community group, the IKG, which called for his verdict to be examined and dismissed him as someone “close” to Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ).

Mr Maurer has a reputation as a very conservative jurist and someone who, as the political columnist Hans Rauscher told the New York Times, was “known for very lenient opinions toward right-wing extremism.”

A 2006 Der Standard profile describes him as a “controversial” judge who ruled in favour of then-Freedom Party leader Jörg Haider in libel cases he had brought against journalists and academics highlighting the party’s links to neo-Nazism.

The Wiener Zeitung has called Mr Maurer an “intimate friend” of Haider.

In 2000, the FPÖ appointed Mr Maurer to be one of their representatives on the state broadcaster ORF’s board of trustees.

The far-right party defended Maurer at the time of the Irving verdict, calling criticism of his decision and questions surrounding his impartiality “completely unacceptable.”

Ms Bierlein, the president of Austria’s constitutional court, last weekend became Austria’s first female chancellor, having been appointed by President Alexander Van der Bellen to lead a transitional government until elections in September.

Her new cabinet is independent and cross-party, though Ms Bierlein’s appointment of transport minister Andreas Reichhardt has been criticised because of his previous connections to far-right extremism.

In 2008, photographs showed Mr Reichhardt was part of the same extreme-right paramilitary sports scene in his youth as ex-FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

Mr Reichhardt is also a member of the greater German national fraternity Grenzlandsmannschaft Cimbria and represented the FPÖ at the district level in Vienna.

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