Twenty years ago, Ernst Zundel, a big amiable German, invited me into the basement of his Toronto home to show me something that would 'open your eyes'. There, on a table next to his workbench, sat a wooden scale model of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. But Zundel didn't call it that. He called it a holiday camp, and he lifted the roof of a building to show me where the swimming pool was located. 'And this is what they call the Holocaust!' he said. 'Not a single Jew was killed there.' Near the conclusion of his trial on criminal charges of spreading 'false news' about the Holocaust, Zundel showed up at the courthouse one morning dragging a large wooden cross. That got a big laugh, and big headlines, but Zundel was serious. He said he was being crucified for his belief that the Holocaust never happened. He was found not guilty. Zundel was a delusional nut with a gift for publicity, but some Canadians were convinced he was a menace and should be thrown into jail, or at the very least be deported. It took a long time, but earlier this year, a judge finally agreed, and Zundel was deported to his native Germany. The judge described him as a 'threat to the international community of nations'. Talk about judicial flattery. By itself, the legal odyssey of Zundel is of little consequence. Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are not at all uncommon on the fringes of North American life. Mostly, their rants are ignored. How, then, did Zundel become an international threat who needed to be evicted from Canada at all costs? Figures released by the Canadian government last week revealed that Zundel's forced removal cost C$130,000 ($821,200). He was flown to Germany on a chartered Challenger 604 jet, escorted by two immigration officers and a federal policeman - first-class treatment for a third-rate demagogue. The fuss over Zundel says more about us than about him. Paranoia and over-reaction have become part of our post-September 11 culture. He was prosecuted as a 'security threat', held in solitary confinement, and the court hearings were secret. None of this heavy-handed treatment would have been possible without the anti-terrorist legislation enacted after September 11. Treating Zundel as you would treat an al-Qaeda holy warrior is bad law and bad public policy. It inflates his sordid ideas and tarnishes the legitimate fight against terrorism. It says that we have lost our sense of proportion. Maybe that's why Zundel was smiling when he was handed over to German police. He made us look foolish.