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David McCalden; Failed to Disprove the Holocaust

October 25, 1990|BURT A. FOLKART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

David McCalden, the right-wing publisher and writer who denied that the Holocaust existed but--with others of similar persuasion--lost a judgment when a concentration camp survivor proved to a court that it had, has died in his El Segundo home.

A spokesman for the El Segundo Police Department said Tuesday that McCalden was 39 when he died of complications of acquired immune deficiency syndrome on Oct. 15. He had been fighting AIDS since November, 1988, the spokesman added.

McCalden, who also used the name Lewis Brandon, was best known as the director and a founder of the Institute of Historical Review, begun in Torrance in 1978. Among other things, the organization claimed that the Nazi massacre of 6 million Jews during World War II was a lie.

In 1979, the review offered $50,000 to the first person who could prove that a single Jew was gassed to death during the war.

Mel Mermelstein, a Long Beach businessman who was prisoner A-4685 at Auschwitz, answered the challenge with documentation but said the institute refused to pay him.

In 1981 he sued the institute, McCalden and others in Los Angeles Superior Court, and in October of that year Judge Thomas T. Johnson affirmed the concentration camp deaths.

Mermelstein was awarded a $90,000 judgment against the institute and the group's leaders were ordered to apologize. McCalden, however, refused to apologize and Michael Maroko, who represented Mermelstein, determined that it was in his client's interest to dismiss McCalden from the action and take the money.

(A film based on Mermelstein's battle and starring Leonard Nimoy as the Holocaust survivor is scheduled to air on the TNT cable network next April.)

In July, 1984, a firebomb gutted the institute's office near Crenshaw Boulevard in Torrance. Two years later, mail for the organization was being sent to a post office box in Costa Mesa. After that, some institute leaders were believed to have moved out of the area and into other organizations.

Even after the legal judgment McCalden remained in the news, branding "The Diary of Anne Frank" as "revisionist literature" and offering libraries copies of books he said refuted the Holocaust.

He was unsuccessful in those efforts but spoke from time to time to various groups, despite protestations of the Jewish community.

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