'Nazi grandma' who 'went on the run to avoid jail' for Holocaust denial has been caught in Germany

Ursula Haverbeck, 89, has a string of convictions for Holocaust denial and once caused a despairing magistrate to declare 'It is deplorable that this woman, who is still so active given her age, uses her energy to spread such hair-raising nonsense'.

Adam Lusher
Wednesday 09 May 2018 11:52 BST
Who is Ursula Haverbeck, the ‘Nazi grandma’ jailed for Holocaust denial?

A “Nazi grandma” who apparently went on the run rather than serve a jail sentence for Holocaust denial has been caught and put in a German prison.

Ursula Haverbeck, 89, had been due to report to prison to start a two-year sentence on May 2, but instead the authorities discovered she had vanished from her home in Vlotho, central Germany.

Prosecutors ordered police to find her, and the International Auschwitz Committee expressed its hope that hunt for the alleged fugitive was being conducted “with high pressure”.

The German authorities, however, have now stated that Ms Haverbeck has returned home, and been apprehended and put in jail.

She will now serve the sentence handed down to her in August 2017 for writing in a far-right German magazine that Auschwitz had been a work camp, rather than the place where Hitler’s Nazis killed more than a million people.

Although this is the first time Haverbeck has seen the inside of a jail cell, she had racked up a string of convictions related to Holocaust denial, which is a criminal offence in Germany.

Her persistent denial of the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of six million Jews, has led the German media to call her "Nazi-Oma (Nazi grandma)”.

As well as offering vocal support for former SS concentration camp guards, Haverbeck co-founded a now-banned right-wing “education centre” with her late husband Werner Georg Haverbeck, who was an enthusiastic Nazi party member before and during the Second World War.

In November 2014 she went as far as lodging a police complaint against the Central Council of Jews in Germany, accusing them of “persecution of innocent people” who had denied the Holocaust.

Until now, however, lengthy appeals and suspended sentences have kept Haverbeck out of prison, despite one despairing magistrate describing the serial Holocaust denier as “a lost cause”.

That was in November 2015 when she was sentenced to 10 months for Holocaust denial, which is normally prosecuted in Germany under a 1985 law banning incitement to hatred.

While demonstrating outside the trial of former SS guard Oskar Groening, the bookkeeper of Auschwitz, in April 2015, Haverbeck had been seen on television declaring that “the Holocaust is the biggest and most sustainable lie in history."

At the resulting trial she claimed that Auschwitz’s status as a death camp was “only a belief”, and challenged the Hamburg court to prove otherwise.

The exasperated magistrate Bjoern Joensson replied: "It is pointless holding a debate with someone who can't accept any facts.

"Neither do I have to prove to you that the world is round."

It was, the magistrate added, “Deplorable that this woman, who is still so active given her age, uses her energy to spread such hair-raising nonsense.”

But Haverbeck’s far-right supporters still packed the court to applaud her.

On websites where absurdly anti-Semitic users seriously suggest that Jews worship Satan, Haverbeck is revered as a “courageous fighter for truth” and “German culture”.

Despite her November 2015 conviction, she again denied the Holocaust in January 2016 when she told an event in Berlin that the Holocaust never happened and there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz. This resulted in a court giving her a six-month prison sentence in October 2017.

Meanwhile, in September 2016 another court sentenced Haverbeck to eight months in jail for writing a letter to the mayor of Detmold saying that it was “clearly recognisable” that Auschwitz was nothing more than a labour camp.

She did so as a Detmold court was hearing the trial of former Auschwitz guard Reinhold Hanning, who was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of 170,000 people.

Immediately after her September 2016 sentencing hearing, Haverbeck handed out pamphlets to the judge, prosecutor and journalists. The leaflets denied the Holocaust, under the title “Only the truth will set you free”.

It meant that at the ensuing November 2017 appeal, she had four months shaved off her original eight-month sentence, but 10 months were added because of the post-trial stunt, leaving her facing an increased sentence of 14 months.

In February of this year she lost her appeal against her August 2017 sentence. A regional court in Celle in the state of Lower Saxony ruled that the judgement by the state court in Verden had been legally sound and should be implemented.

But when the time came to go to prison, Haverbeck was found to have gone missing, while her post reportedly starting to pile up outside her front door.

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