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Zündel gained prominence and respectability during the 1970s as spokesman for Concerned Parents of German Descent, a group that claimed German-Canadians and their children were the target of discrimination due to anti-German stereotyping in the media.

In 1984, the Ontario government joined the criminal proceedings against Zündel based on Citron's complaint. The charge against Zündel alleged that he "did publish a statement or tale, namely, "Did Six Million Really Die?In the late 1970s, reporter Mark Bonokoski unmasked Zündel and ended his career as a credible media spokesperson by revealing that he was publishing neo-nazi and antisemitic pamphlets such as The Hitler We Loved and Why under the pseudonym Christof Friedrich.A group calling itself the "Jewish Armed Resistance Movement" claimed responsibility for the arson attack; according to the Toronto Sun, the group had ties to extremist organisations, including the Jewish Defense League and Kahane Chai.Zündel was charged under the Criminal Code, section 181, of spreading false news by publishing Did Six Million Really Die? " that he knows is false and that is likely to cause mischief to the public interest in social and racial tolerance, contrary to the Criminal Code." After a much publicized trial in 1985, Zündel was found guilty.One of the prosecution witnesses, Auschwitz survivor Arnold Friedman, a Holocaust educator in Toronto, testified that " ...prisoners marched off to the ovens never returned" to which Zundel's lawyer, Doug Christie, replied " ...

if those who disappeared might not have been led out a nearby gate." His conviction was later overturned in an appeal on a legal technicality, leading to a second trial in 1988, in which he was again convicted.

West Germany became another large market, in violation of West German Volksverhetzung (incitement of the masses) laws preventing Holocaust denial and dissemination of Nazi and neo-Nazi material, with Samisdat going so far as to send mass mailings to every member of the West German Bundestag (parliament).

In December 1980, the West German Federal Ministry of Finance told the Bundestag that between January 1978 and December 1979, "200 shipments of right-wing content, including books, periodicals, symbols, decorations, films, cassettes, and records" had been intercepted entering West Germany; these shipments "came overwhelmingly from Canada." On April 23, 1981, the West German government sent a letter to the Canadian Jewish Congress, confirming that the source of the material was Samisdat Publishers.

Zündel was born in Calmbach (now part of Bad Wildbad) in Baden-Württemberg, Germany and was raised mostly by his mother, Gertrude.

His father, Fritz, a lumberjack, was drafted into the German Army shortly after Ernst's birth and served as a medic on the Eastern Front.

He had been jailed several times: in Canada for publishing literature "likely to incite hatred against an identifiable group", and on charges of being a threat to national security; in the United States, for overstaying his visa; and in Germany for charges of "inciting racial hatred". In 1977, Zündel founded a small press publishing house called Samisdat Publishers, which issued such neo-Nazi pamphlets as his co-authored The Hitler We Loved and Why and Richard Verrall's Did Six Million Really Die?