Arbeit macht frei: impertinent incarceration

Fredrick Töben, born on 2 June 1944 in Jaderberg, Germany, came to Australia with his family late in 1954 and completed his schooling here. From 1963 he studied English, German and philosophy at the University of Melbourne and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, where he also commenced his secondary school teaching career. In 1971 he began philosophy studies at the universities of Heidelberg, Tübingen and Stuttgart where he completed a DPhil in 1977.

After secondary and tertiary teaching in Germany, Rhodesia-Zimbabwe and Nigeria, he joined Victoria’s state school system but was dismissed from Goroke School near Edenhope in 1984 on the grounds of incompetence and disobedience. He ultimately won a decade-long court battle with Victoria’s Department of Education on a technicality when the judge declared the dismissal to be of no legal effect.

From 1983 to 1993 he was the director of Toben International Pty Ltd Import-Export specialising in exporting Australian honey. In 1994 he established the privately funded Adelaide Institute in Adelaide, South Australia and remained its director until 2009.

Töben is a Holocaust questioner. He was found guilty of ‘offending the memory of the dead’ in 1999 for his Holocaust-denial activity in Germany. He served 7 months of a 10-month sentence in Mannheim Prison for ‘defaming the dead’ under Germany’s Holocaust law.

In 2002 Australia’s Federal Court found that Töben’s website ‘vilified Jewish people’ and ordered him to remove the offensive material. Regularly denying that he is anti-Semitic, Töben wiped the website and began again.

In December 2006 Töben attended the International Holocaust Conference at Teheran, Iran. Australia’s Jewry initiated Federal Court contempt-of-court proceedings, which began after his return to Adelaide, for breaching the order to refrain from publishing the material.

In October 2008 Töben was detained at London’s Heathrow Airport while in transit because German authorities attempted to extradite him from the UK under a European Arrest Warrant for allegedly publishing’ antisemitic and/or revisionist’ material on his website. The warrant did not fulfil British legal requirements: Töben was released from Wandsworth Prison after the German government was advised that an appeal would fail because it is not an offence to express an opinion, except in countries where Holocaust denial is criminalized. The German authorities later slated their intention to attempt to extradite him from other jurisdictions in the future.

Unsurprisingly, in April 2009 Töben was found guilty of the contempt-of-court charge. In August 2009 the Federal Court rejected his appeal against his 3-month jail sentence. Arbeit macht frei: impertinent incarceration is his story of that battle and his one week in maximum security’s punishment block at Adelaide’s Yatala Labour Prison and his 12 weeks at Cadell Training Centre, a low-security prison farm in South Australia’s Riverland. Since his release in November 2009 Töben has continued his crusade.