As Canterbury University begins a high-powered inquiry into how it came to award a masters degree for a thesis which questions key assumptions about the Jewish holocaust, SEAN SCANLON unravels the curious tale of the man at the centre of the row.
This is the story of an enigma: a one-time Christchurch menswear salesman who now holds a doctorate in history; a man married in a New Brighton Presbyterian church who went on to embrace Judaism to the extent of changing his first name from Stuart to the Biblical Joel.
He formed an action group to fight anti-Semitism, only to leave it soon afterwards to write a masters thesis questioning key historical assumptions about the Holocaust and the fate of the Jewish people during World War 2.
It is the story of historian JOEL HAYWARD, a man who makes a living from the past but now finds himself unable to escape his own.
Dr Joel Hayward, senior lecturer in defence and strategic studies at Massey University, was born Stuart Andrew Hayward on May 27, 1964, in Christchurch, to his father John, a compositor, and mother Lorraine. In 1986 he married Kathleen Michie, also of Christchurch, at St Kentigerns Presbyterian Church in New Brighton.
Three years later Stuart Hayward changed his first name to Joel, a decision, he says, which expressed his "choice to go through life with a first name that has deep spiritual significance for me".
"I have never made a big deal of Jewishness in my family. It's merely a personal matter of pride that I have some Jewish heritage. I have enjoyed my time in Israel, remain committed to Zionistic ideals, and still enjoy reading Hebrew scriptures."
In 1991, after completing his Bachelor of Arts degree at Canterbury University, Joel Hayward started a masters thesis entitled The Fate of Jews in German Hands.
From then until the thesis was completed in 1993, Dr Hayward researched and wrote about the Holocaust. His thinking, it would appear, changed dramatically over this time.
In late 1991 Dr Hayward wrote an article in the Australian Jewish magazine Without Prejudice. In it he supported accepted orthodox historical opinion on the Holocaust. Importantly, he criticised the Leuchter Report, written by Fred Leuchter and based on a series of tests Leuchter carried out at various former concentration camps in 1988.
Leuchter concluded "the alleged gas chambers at the inspected sites could not have then been, or now, be utilised or seriously considered to function as gas chambers".
However, Leuchter held no formal engineering, forensic, or chemistry qualifications. He had a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston University and owned a business in the United States specialising in making hardware for executing prison inmates.
By the time Joel Hayward's thesis was completed he had reversed his unfavourable opinion of the Leuchter Report and changed his stance on the Holocaust itself.
In the 360-page thesis Dr Hayward questions whether there was ever an official Nazi policy to exterminate Jews, whether Nazi gas chambers may in fact have fallen into the category of "atrocity propaganda", and whether far fewer than six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis. These issues are among the central tenets of Holocaust revisionism.
As a result the thesis attracted the attention of the world's leading Holocaust "revisionist" historian, David Irving.
Irving, branded an anti-Semite by a judge in a British libel case last month, dedicated part of his web page to Dr Hayward, describing him as "one of the most original historia ns of the Southern hemisphere", and hailing his thesis as a "landmark in the turning of the tide in the favour of historical revisionism".
Here in New Zealand, however, a five-year embargo placed on the thesis with the support of Hayward's supervisor, Dr Vincent Orange, meant it did not reach the public domain until late last year.
No explanation for the embargo has been given.
Last December, Dr Hayward asked the university to pull the thesis from its libraries.
The university refused, but allowed him to write an addendum in which he casts doubt on several of his key conclusions and the strength of his own scholarship.
Of the pivotal Leuchter Report, Dr Hayward writes: "The report contains serious errors of fact and judgment, several of them significant enough to rob the report of its evidential value."
He concludes: "My thesis represents an honest attempt on my part to make sense of events I wanted to understand better.
"Yet I now regret working on such a complex topic without sufficient knowledge and preparation, and hope this brief addendum will prevent my work causing distress to the Jewish community here in New Zealand and elsewhere, or being misused by individuals or groups with malevolent motives."
Dr Hayward now says of his thesis: "I simply see the evidence very differently now to the way I did then as an inexperienced student straight out of a BA."
Dr Hayward's volte face has prompted the New Zealand Jewish Council to call on the university to withdraw his First Class Honours Masters degree. But it also raises several uncomfortable issues for the University of Canterbury.
The University this week set up an independent three-person working party to investigate the controversy. The high-powered group is chaired by former High Court judge Sir Ian Barker, joined by Emeritus Professor Anne Trotter and Professor Stuart Macintyre, of Melbourne. It has wide powers to probe the nature of the thesis topic, the supervision received, the examination procedures, and the embargoing of the thesis.
The inquiry might also need to explore claims that university authorities were alerted to the potential problem eight years ago -- before the work was even submitted for examination.
In May 1992, the university received a letter from an organisation called Opposition to Anti-Semitism Inc (OAS). The group, based in Christchurch, was concerned about the direction Dr Hayward was taking in his then half-completed thesis.
Ironically, OAS had been formed a year earlier by Dr Hayward with Yossie EtzHasadeh (previously Philip Woodfield of Christchurch, now in Israel) and Denis Green.
The organisation's goal was to monitor anti-Semitic groups in New Zealand and warn people about Holocaust revisionism. Several members were converting to Judaism. Joel Hayward resigned from the group before he started his thesis.
Dr Hayward says he formed OAS because "I considered, and still consider anti-Semitism to be a vile and repellent thing."
He says he left OAS because of a personality clash.
"I certainly did not leave because I had become less hostile to anti-Semitism."
OAS members soon became worried about the path Dr Hayward's thesis was taking and arranged to meet him.
Dr Hayward says he went along on January 30, 1992, to what he thought was an ordinary afternoon tea with friends. As they talked about his half-completed masters thesis a video camera hidden behind a hollowed out book recorded the entire conversation.
Dr Hayward says a selective 13-minute transcript was made of the three-hour conversation by the OAS. "They only included statements that cast me in the worst possible light."
The group sent Canterbury University registrar Alan Hayward (no relation) parts of the transcript with a letter detailing concerns about Joel Hayward's views on the Holocaust. Alan Hayward forwarded the letter to Professor David McIntyre (then head of the university's history department and now retired).
Yossie EtzHasadeh says that at this point the OAS concerns went no further.
"Essentially they (the university) were very unco-operative."
The transcript includes the following statements by Dr Hayward:
Dr Hayward did not find out about the video until two months after it was made. He considers the taping dishonest and unfair and says he nearly had a breakdown as a result.
He admits to saying some "dumb and silly things", but says the tape didn't pick up nuances when his tone and facial expression showed he believed the opposite of his words.
"This was supposed to be a casual private conversation, and it was a full eight years ago," he says. "In no way do those comments represent my current views, which have evolved substantially with my growing understanding of the evidence and of the historian's craft."
Dr Hayward also says he has never used his Jewish background in order to bring credibility to his scholarship. "As a scholar my ethnicity is not important."
"I am merely trying to step back from a debate I absolutely do not want to be involved in. I don't work on the Holocaust. I love teaching, researching, and writing on military history."
He has written nothing on the Holocaust since the publication of his thesis, but has been asked by publishing house Macmillan to write a book about Hitler's effectiveness as a military strategist.
While Dr Hayward might wish to put the Holocaust thesis down to academic immaturity, the university might find it more difficult to explain how it came to award a first-class honours degree for a piece of work the author now largely discredits.
Dov Bing, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Waikato University, was called upon to review the Hayward thesis for the Jewish Chronicle in April. Currently on sabbatical in Israel, Professor Bing says, "I do not think that a thesis which has as its central finding that there were no gas chambers would find academic acceptance anywhere."
Professor Bing points out that the thesis is based on evidence widely discredited by mainstream scholars. "Hayward's problem has been that he ignored well-established sources and used sources that have no credibility at all."
He says Dr Hayward placed too much weight on the Leuchter Report and on the research of David Irving.
Professor Bing says Dr Hayward should have been cautioned by his supervisor Dr Orange. "He should have known that Hayward was merely following in the footsteps of Irving and Leuchter -- all well-known Holocaust deniers."
David Zwartz, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, agrees: "We lay full responsibility on the experienced professional historians at the university whose job was to guide and assess his work."
Dr Orange has declined to comment until after the university inquiry.
As a matter of course every masters student at Canterbury has a supervisor who acts under university guidelines. Generally a supervisor encourages, supports, and advises the student.
When the thesis is finished the supervisor marks it and sends it to an external examiner for assessment -- in Hayward's case Waikato University's Professor John Jensen, who is now retired.
The university's dean of postgraduate studies, Professor Graeme Wake, says that while he was not at Canterbury at the time the thesis was written, he believes Dr Hayward and Dr Orange had a good working relationship.
"I must stress, though, that when a student submits a thesis it is their work and their decision to submit, not the supervisor's."
The university does not endorse the findings of any thesis produced there, he says.
"Our examining procedures are designed to grade the quality of analysis and writing, the maturity of judgment, and the ability to absorb, transmute, and present material."
This doesn't wash with David Zwartz. "The university's reputation for scholarship is in question as long as it stands by a thesis which has been repudiated even by its own author," he says.
With Dr Hayward's admission that he was wrong, the university now faces the possibility of a having to withdraw a degree it awarded -- and embarrassing criticism of its academic standards.
The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand, May 20, 2000
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