Auschwitz entrance
Auschwitz entranceThinkstock

Robert Faurisson, a former French academic whose denial of the Holocaust has inspired many claims that the genocide did not happen, died in his hometown of Vichy. He was 89.

The British-born Faurisson was a staunch defender of Marshal Philippe Petain, the French leader who collaborated with Nazi occupiers of the country during World War II, and whose government is named for its former seat of Vichy. He died Sunday, according to AFP.

Faurisson was convicted several times for claiming there was no systematic mass killings of Jews by Nazi Germany.

He “had just returned from England when he collapsed in the hallway of his home in Vichy” on Sunday evening, his sister Yvonne Schleiter told AFP.

A former professor of French literature at the University of Lyon, Faurisson claimed that there were no gas chambers in wartime Europe, saying deported Jews died instead of disease and malnutrition.

He said “The Diary of Anne Frank” was a hoax, and was convicted by a French court in 1981 of inciting hatred and racial discrimination for a book claiming that reports about the Holocaust are “grossly exaggerated” and that genocide was not a policy fundamental to Nazism.

After France passed a law in 1990 making Holocaust denial a crime, Faurisson was prosecuted repeatedly and fined for his writings. He was dismissed from his academic post in 1991.

In 2007, a Paris court ruled that a former French Cabinet minister did not defame Faurisson by calling him a “forger of history.”

“I spent an entire day with him a number of years ago,” Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of Jewish history and the author of “Denying the Holocaust,” wrote after that verdict. “[B]elieve me this man is nothing but a forger of history and a liar and an antisemite.”

In 2006, Faurisson appeared at an Iranian conference questioning the Holocaust, and in 2012 was awarded a prize in Tehran by Iran’s then-president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his “courage, strength and force” in denying the genocide of the Jews.

In 2008, the French comedian and political activist Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, who has been convicted numerous times for inciting racial hatred against Jews, embraced Faurisson publicly, awarding him an “insolent outcast” prize presented by an assistant dressed in a concentration camp uniform.