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Spain's unrepentant Holocaust denier

Bookstore owner Pedro Varela Geiss won't give up on his mission to revise history, even though he is in jail

The papers are beginning to pile up inside the jail cell of Pedro Varela Geiss. The bookstore owner who is serving time in a Barcelona prison for promulgating literature denying the Holocaust has received more than 1,000 fan letters. People have also sent him books on rightwing nationalist themes, similar to the ones he used to sell at his Europa bookstore that eventually cost him his freedom.

Varela is a deep-to-the-core Nazi who believes the Holocaust was a "myth." A bronze bust of Adolf Hitler is the crowning decoration inside his bookstore. But despite his inflamed beliefs, Varela is a well-groomed gentleman. He detests violence and hates "skinheads," whom he considers ignorant of the Third Reich's "true" history.

There is no doubt that he has a lot of influence as a promoter of Nazi ideology; his background as a Nationalist Socialist is a long one.

At 15, he joined the Spanish Society of the Friends of Europe (Cedade), which is considered one of the best-organized Nazi groups on the continent. Varela quickly became a revisionist and made the denial of "Shoah" (Hebrew for Holocaust) Cedade's main mission. He has presided over the Barcelona-based group since 1978.

Since his incarceration 13 months ago, Varela has painted himself as a martyr, a political prisoner, who was thrown in jail for selling a few books about the realities of the establishment and how Jews want to hurt citizens.

During his trial, he claimed to be a victim and compared his situation to that of Jesus, Joan of Arc or Gandhi.

Varela spends his days answering his mail and reading the books that are sent to him. A vitamin deficiency problem has caused him to lose his hair. Still, he refuses to receive any type of injection because he prefers natural remedies.

Prison authorities, his lawyers say, won't let him go to the gym. His way with words and his charm have jailers concerned that Varela would be able to spread his Nazi ideals among other inmates.

Last October, Varela, without the prison authorities' consent, left six books at the jailhouse library: Manual of the Iron Guard; Proof against the Holocaust; The Thoughts of Richard Wagner; Francoism; The History of the Defeated and The Bishop Williamson and Other Deniers, according to a prison report.

This "serious" infraction, along with other conduct reprimands, has cost him prison privileges. It is possible that he won't win an early release for good behavior and will have to serve out his entire term, which ends in late March.

When Catalan police raided his Europa bookstore in 2006, they confiscated dozens of books dealing with Holocaust-denials, anti-ethnic policies, and Nazism.

Prison authorities believed it would be a good idea if Varela spent some time talking to Jewish groups and anti-racist organizations as part of his rehabilitation, but the bookstore owner told them in a polite way where "to go" because he believes they want to brainwash him.

Born on October 9, 1957, Varela came from a family that supported Francisco Franco. When he was young he helped out a lot in social causes, including at the Red Cross and the Sisters of Charity in Barcelona. The nuns were enchanted with his personality, with his gentlemanly manner and his power of persuasion. When the nun's mother superior found out he was in jail, she rushed to see him.

"There are a lot of people who were attracted by his courtesy, his knowledge of culture and his savior faire. He has a great power of persuasion but I never saw him use it. He didn't like taking advantage of people this way," says Acacio Luis Friera, one of his closest friends who created a webpage where supporters can sign a petition demanding that Varela be freed.

"He believes in everything he says," Friera claims, "and I know there is one thing that he is clear about - no one is going to change any of his ideas."

His maternal last name, Geiss, is of German origin and could have been the catalyst for Varela's obsession with German history from a young age. But there are no direct family links to Germany, and he is the only member of his family who has embraced Nazism.

In 1991, he opened his bookstore Europa and filled it with many volumes with the help of a local book publishing company, Ojeda. Among those who have passed through Europa were German ultra-right leader Manfred Roeder, who was convicted for xenophobic attacks in Germany; revisionist British historian David Irving; and David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

When he was younger, Varela wanted to become a fighter pilot and was very interested in the air battles that took place during World War II, especially those involving the Luftwaffe. He graduated with degrees in history and German philology.

A father of a three-year-old girl, Varela is married but his wife and child live outside of Spain.

In 2008, the Constitutional Court ruled that denying the Holocaust wasn't a crime in Spain and ordered the Barcelona High Court to give him a shorter sentence.

While sitting in prison, Varela recently found himself in another legal jam when a Barcelona court opened an investigation into a copyright infringement complaint filed by the Bavarian state government over allegations that he sold copies of Hitler's Mein Kampf without its permission. Bavaria has had the copyright since the end of the war and rarely gives new permits to republish it. However, that 70-year copyright will end in 2015.