Even before it began on January 11, 2000, the libel trial in London's High Court of Justice brought by historian David Irving against Jewish activist Deborah Lipstadt and her British publisher had attracted a good bit of attention. And since then it has generated considerable media coverage and commentary, not only in Britain, but around the world.
At the core of the case is Lipstadt's 1993 book, Denying the Holocaust, a polemical broadside against those who dispute Holocaust extermination claims. Her attacks against Irving, who she calls “one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial,” include demonstrably false statements.
In addition to her book, Lipstadt has played a major role in the ongoing international endeavor to silence those who challenge Holocaust orthodoxy — a campaign that has effectively blacklisted Irving among “mainstream” publishers. (See also “A British Historian Defends His Livelihood and Honor” in the Sept.-Dec. 1999 Journal, with the complete text of Irving's Opening Statement. Much more detailed information about the case, including texts of important trial documents, can be found on Irving's web site.
As the following excerpts from press reports and commentary on the case show, this non-jury trial has shaped up as a major battle over “Holocaust denial” and, more broadly, the Holocaust extermination story itself. The headings given here are the original article headlines. Brief explanatory or elucidating remarks have been added in brackets.
… British writer David Irving's books have been praised by some of the most eminent scholars in his field. The military historian John Keegan, who says Irving “knows more than anyone alive about the German side of the Second World War,” considers his work “indispensable to anyone seeking to understand the war in the round.” Gordon Craig, a leading scholar of German history at Stanford University, also calls Irving's work “indispensable.” He adds, “I always learn something from him.”
… Others see in the trial an inherent danger, fearing it will in effect put the entire Nazi operation on trial. Should that happen, then the slightest legal infraction could lead to a judgment that would reward Irving with a technical victory, one he would be sure to exploit to further his agenda.
"That's always the danger,' said Efraim Zuroff, head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Israel office. 'The court is going to deal with facts regarding events that obviously took place, and there is a theoretical possibility that the verdict could in some way diminish those crimes, or question those crimes.
"It seems unlikely, but every time you go to court there is always the danger of losing a case. Any victory for Irving, any defeat for Deborah Lipstadt on any major point, will be a loss for truth and historical accuracy.”
… this trial will dwarf all the others, because of its location, its adversaries, and what it portends for the future.
Zuroff said that what marks this trial is that “the stakes are much higher because of Irving, because of who he is, and the charges.
"This is not a perpetrator saying it didn't happen, nor a survivor saying it did happen — these are people who are historians, the people who deal with the events rather than the people who lived through the events. This is the beginning of the future. It would not be surprising if such cases don't happen again and again.”
[ADL director Abraham] Foxman, himself a lawyer, said that bringing the Holocaust to trial “is always a very, very uncomfortable and problematic issue, because those of us who are lawyers and who have experience with the law know that frequently 'the law is an ass,' and that decisions can come down on procedural matters which may be spun as a win or a loss which has nothing to do with the essence of the case.”
… Irving's chances for success are enhanced in the United Kingdom, where the burden of proof required in libel suits places the defendant at a disadvantage. Lipstadt's co-defendant is her publishing house, Penguin Books, Ltd.
… “The bottom line is, it's much easier to win a defamation action in England than it is in the United States,” said Lee. “That's probably why this suit was brought in England rather than the United States.”
… For his part, Irving said he is the object of hatred by Jewish and other organizations bent on destroying his legitimacy as a historian. He prefers the term “revisionist” to describe his views on the Holocaust. He may have chosen to bring a lawsuit against Lipstadt in England because her book was published there.
"Lipstadt may find it unfortunate that she is the one to be taken out of the line and shot,” he said via e-mail from Key West, Fla. “The fact is that Lipstadt was silly enough to print her libels within the jurisdiction of the British courts. Others have been more circumspect.”
… Over the last decade, supporters of [revisionist] theories have scrutinized hundreds of thousands of pages of Third Reich documents and diaries made available after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They have analyzed gas chamber construction. They have pinpointed contradictions and hard-to-believe details in stories told by camp survivors and, amid nearly universal scorn from the academic establishment, won testimonials for some of their work from academics at respected institutions, such as Northwestern University and the University of Lyon.
… For Irving, who is regarded in some mainstream quarters as one of the premier documentarians of the Third Reich, it is an issue of professional vindication. It is no accident, he says, that he has been banned from even entering Canada, Italy, Germany and Austria because of Holocaust denial laws in those countries. “They regard me as dangerous, and the word 'dangerous' puzzles me,” he said. “I don't go around punching people in the face… 'Dangerous' can only mean dangerous to their interests, either in the long term or the short term.
"In the end, it isn't really a question of whether it's 6 million or only 1 million” Jews who died. “I think the figures have been inflated, and the significance of the inflation is that the Jewish community is trying to make out that their suffering is unique in its grandeur and the methods applied to achieve it. And it wasn't. It was just one of the many barbarisms committed under the cloak of war.”
Some revisions in Holocaust history have been generally accepted. Stories that Jewish remains were manufactured into soap and lampshades have been dismissed as myth. There were, most historians now agree, no human gassings at Dachau. Deaths at Auschwitz, once estimated, based on the testimony of Nazi commanders, at up to 3 million have been scaled back to about 1.1 million. Even the widely accepted figure of 6 million Jewish dead all over Europe has been questioned in recent years by some of the world's most prominent Holocaust scholars.
Raul Hilberg and Robert Jan van Pelt, two of the leading authorities, now believe the figure is probably closer to 5.1 million.
… “I think, by the end of this case, the word 'scholarship' will come to stink,” Irving predicts. “Scholars tend to award that accolade to each other. And their scholarship usually consists of sitting in libraries reading each others' books.”
… Yet Irving has his admirers as well. Christopher Hitchens, writing of Irving's work in Vanity Fair, called him “not just a Fascist historian, [but] … also a great historian of Fascism.” Gordon A. Craig, considered the dean of German historians, acknowledged that Irving has been an “annoyance” but said: “The fact is that he knows more about national socialism than most professional scholars in his field.” His book on Hitler, Craig said, “remains the best study we have of the German side of the Second World War.”
"I can deal with Himmler. I can deal with Höss. There's a certain kind of naive honesty in what they do, however evil it is,” van Pelt said. “But the contortions and complete fabrications of these deniers is obscene.”
… Inside the austere Court 37, Lipstadt and Irving will spend much of the next three months in a detailed battle for the soul of the Holocaust, a battle which British Jewish historian Prof. David Cesarani this week described as “one of the most gripping of modern times.”
"The consequences for both parties will be enormous,” noted Cesarani, “and the consequences will reverberate far and wide.”
… “I don't see any reason to be tasteful about Auschwitz,” [Lipstadt defense attorney Richard] Rampton quoted Irving as saying. “It's baloney. It's a legend.
"Once we admit the fact that it was a brutal slave labor camp and a large number of people did die, as large numbers of people died elsewhere in the war, why believe the rest of the baloney?
"I say quite tastelessly, in fact, that more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz.”
… A maverick British historian testified Tuesday that a book written by an Emory University professor was part of an international conspiracy to silence him and end his attempts to challenge conventional understandings of the Holocaust.
… Irving said that Lipstadt's use of the phrase “Holocaust denier” to describe him has been deeply damaging.
"It is a poison to which there is virtually no antidote,” he said. “It is like being called a wife-beater or a pedophile. It is enough for the label to be attached, for the attachee to find himself designated as a pariah, an outcast from normal society. It is a verbal Yellow Star.
"Far from being a 'Holocaust denier,' I have repeatedly drawn attention to major aspects of the Holocaust,” he said.
Irving, who stated in a 1977 book that Hitler was unaware of the mass slaughter of Jews until 1943, said the term “Holocaust” is meaningless.
"The word 'Holocaust' is an artificial label commonly attached to one of the greatest and still most unexplained tragedies of this past century,” he said.
In his view, Auschwitz was a slave labor camp but not a death camp. He argues that gas chambers at the camp were built after the war.
British historian David Irving and American professor Deborah Lipstadt confronted each other Tuesday in a British court face-off that has drawn worldwide attention to Irving's attempts to cast doubt on the Nazi Holocaust.
Irving, who has questioned whether 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis and has sought to absolve Adolf Hitler of responsibility for the Holocaust, has brought a libel suit against Lipstadt.
… Irving said he was able to pursue the expensive libel action only because of contributions from 4,000 supporters around the world. His opponents say he is being bankrolled by right-wing extremists, mainly Americans.
The controversial British historian David Irving claimed he was the victim of an “organized international endeavour” to destroy his career at the opening of a libel trial in London yesterday.
… The case is likely to prove one of the most emotive seen in an English libel court in recent years, taking one of the greatest human tragedies of the 20th century as its subject matter. Journalists from Israel, Germany and America crowded into the High Court for the beginning of the trial, which opened with vitriolic attacks from both sides.
… Mr. Irving said at Calgary, Alberta, in September 1991: “I don't see any reason to be tasteful about Auschwitz. It's baloney, it's a legend. I say quite tastelessly, in fact, that more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz.
"Oh, you think that's tasteless, how about this? There are so many Auschwitz survivors going around, in fact the number increases as the years go past, which is biologically very odd. Because I'm going to form an Association of Auschwitz survivors, survivors of the Holocaust and other liars, or the ASSHOLS.”
… Holocaust deniers “has become one of the most potent phrases in the arsenal of insult, replacing the N-word, the F-word, and a whole alphabet of other slurs …” Mr. Irving said. The judge would undoubtedly hear from the defendants, he said, that he was fined a very substantial sum of money by the German Government.
"It is no matter for shame for me, although it has had catastrophic consequences, as it now makes me de facto 'a convict', with a criminal record and as such liable to a concatenation of further indignities and sanctions in every foreign country which I now wish to visit.” It arose from a remark made during an address he made to an audience in Munich in 1990 — “We now know that the gas chamber shown to the tourists at Auschwitz is a fake built by the Poles after the war, just like the one established by the Americans at Dachau.”
Mr. Irving said: “This may well raise eyebrows. It might be found to be offensive by sections of the community and if they take such offense, I can assure this court that I regret it and that such was not my intention. The fact remains that these remarks were true; the Poles admitted it in January 1995 and under English law truth has always been regarded as an absolute defense.”
… What is at stake here is not the amour-propre of individuals with grossly inflated egos. Rather it is whether one of the blackest chapters of 20th-century history actually happened, or is a figment of politically motivated Jewry.
… In the absence of a jury, the case has been allotted one of the High Court's smaller and less imposing arenas, where every spare seat is taken by representatives of the British, US and Jewish press.
David Irving, the historian, denied yesterday that millions of Jews were systematically murdered in the gas chambers during the Second World War.
Giving evidence in a libel action, Mr. Irving claimed that the mass gassing of Jews by the Nazis was not possible, and that there was no evidence of a systematic programme of extermination sanctioned by Adolf Hitler. The 62-year-old author said he had removed the word Holocaust from the second edition of his book Hitler's War because the term was too vague and imprecise.
… Yesterday Mr. Irving, who is representing himself, went into the witness box for cross-examination by Richard Rampton, QC, the counsel for Prof Lipstadt and Penguin. The historian stood by comments he made in Calgary in 1991 in which he claimed that the gassing of millions of Jews in “factories of death” was “just a legend".
… When asked if he believed that Jews had been gassed in great numbers in the Treblinka and Sobibor concentration camps, Mr. Irving said he had no evidence of it. He said: “I deny that it was possible to liquidate millions of people in the gas chambers.” Mr. Irving also put the number of Jewish dead at between one million and four million, as opposed to the generally accepted figure of six million.
… Mr. Irving said that like most fellow Englishmen of his background and age he regretted the passing of “the old England". He said: “I sometimes think that if the soldiers and sailors of the Normandy beaches in 1944 could have seen what England was like at the end of the century, they would not have got 50 yards up the beach. They would have given up in disgust.”
The Hitler historian, David Irving, denied yesterday that the Nazis killed millions of Jews in concentration-camp gas chambers. The SS may have had gassing experiments, he said, but such mass murder was logistically impossible.
Mr. Irving, 62, said that the massacre of Jews — as occurred in the East when Germany invaded Russia — was by shooting, but was without the knowledge of Adolf Hitler and was not part of any systematic extermination by the Third Reich.
… “There was a time when he was on the right course and then went off the rails,” he said. “You can't praise his racial program or penal methods. But he did pick up his nation out of the mire after World War I, reunified it and gave it a sense of pride again.”
… Was it six million who died in one of the blackest chapters of 20th-century history? “A lot of the numbers are very suspect,” the historian said. The judge put it to him: “It's said against you that you tried to blame what was done against the Jews by the Third Reich on Jews themselves.” Mr. Irving replied: “I have said on a number of occasions that if I was a Jew, I would be far more concerned not at who pulled the trigger, but why. Anti-Semitism is a recurring malaise in society. There must be some reason why anti-Semitic groups break out like some kind of epidemic.”
Mr. Rampton asked him: “Do you accept that the Nazis killed by one means or another — murdered, hanged, put to death — millions of people during World War II?” “Yes,” Mr. Irving said. “I hesitate to speculate. It was certainly more than one million, certainly less than four million.” Mr. Rampton: “Do you deny the Nazis killed millions of Jews in gas chambers in purpose-built establishments?”
Mr. Irving: “Yes, it's logistically impossible.” He added: “One million people weigh 100,000 tons — it's a major logistical problem. I deny that it was possible to liquidate millions of people in gas chambers as presented by historians so far.” Asked about the Holocaust, the historian said: “I find the word is misleading and unhelpful. It's too vague, imprecise and unscientific and should be avoided like the plague.”
Pressed on his own definition of the Holocaust, he said that although tragedy befell the Jews it “was the whole of the Second World War and the people who died were not just Jews but Gypsies and homosexuals, the people of Coventry and the people of Hiroshima.” Asked how many innocent Jewish people he thought the Germans had killed deliberately, Mr. Irving brought up the name of Anne Frank, who died of disease in a camp at the age of 15. “She was a Jew who died in the Holocaust and she wasn't murdered unless you take it in the broadest sense.”
… He maintained that he had never knowingly or wilfully misrepresented any document nor suppressed information that did not support his case and said that he always passed the information he gathered to other historians.
… This libel trial, dealing with one of the most controversial and complex episodes of the past century, is expected to take at least three months. Both sides will call a host of eminent historians. “The documentary evidence will be enormous,” one lawyer said. Neither side opposed the judge's suggestion, made before the trial, to dispense with a jury.
Historian David Irving questioned the extent of the Holocaust as his libel action against an American academic continued in the High Court this week.
… he told the packed court: “I am prepared to deny the possibility that the Nazis liquidated millions of people in gas chambers.”
… Professor Yehuda Bauer and I, among others, did not find evidence that remains of the dead were manufactured into soap. And when we could not, we published our findings. Each bar of soap given to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was tested to see if it contained human remains. Since it didn't, we said so. We are the servants of the truth.
… To survivors and experts on the Holocaust, there is little doubt that the [Los Angeles] Times and reporter Kim Murphy gave credence to the lies of the deniers in the name of journalistic impartiality.
"It is a sign of immaturity, and inexperience on the reporter's part, to try and balance everything, because there are some things that can't be balanced,” says Arthur Stern, a veteran of Bergen-Belsen and a Jewish Federation lay leader.
"I fear that at some point in the future, everything reported about the Nazi regime will be gray, and nothing will any longer be black and white,” he adds.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, faults the Times' report on the same basis, and also charges that the article suffered from a glaring omission.
"The reporter left out the most crucial element, namely the confessions of the war criminals themselves,” says Cooper. “The Nazis left an extensive paper trail and there are any number of quotes and statements by Himmler, Goebbels and Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss, clearly documenting the extent of the Holocaust.”
To Harold Schulweis, author and rabbi, of Valley Beth Shalom, denial of the Holocaust is “the ultimate obscenity … like poking in the cremated ashes of a loved one.
"What is the motivation behind saying that Jews died 'only' of starvation and typhus, but not gassing? It's like telling a person after a terrible tragedy to cheer up,” he observes.
… “How can you even discuss whether 6 million or 5.1 million Jews were killed?", asked survivor and business leader Nathan Shapell. “After all these years, for a newspaper like the Los Angeles Times to print such an article is ridiculous.”
… Whatever the impact of the Times article, it will be eclipsed in the next few months by the London trial of a libel suit by revisionist David Irving against Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt.
This courtroom drama, notes the Jerusalem Post, is expected to be the most highly publicized Holocaust trial since Adolf Eichmann's in 1961.
The paper cites the view of the eminent Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer of Yad Vashem, who sees the trial as a wonderful chance to debunk the deniers.
… Others are less sanguine, fearing that the slightest legal infraction could lead to a judgment that would reward Irving with a technical victory.
[David] Lehrer [regional director of the Anti-Defamation League] … shares the concern. “There is always a possibility, especially under British libel laws, of losing a case on a technicality.”
Controversial historian David Irving today dramatically revealed that the German government was seeking his extradition for alleged racial incitement.
The 62-year-old author told the High Court in London that it was another example of “the kind of hatred I face and the problems I face because of the repugnant allegations against me".
… After the end of today's sitting, Mr. Irving told the media that the controversy arose over a comment he made during a talk at Weinheim that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were a fake and built after the war. Such a statement was a criminal offense in Germany, he said.
He said he was fined the equivalent of £15,000 in 1992 for making the same statement in Munich in 1990. He was also banned from Germany.
The extradition proceedings revealed in court today were launched in August 1998, said Mr. Irving. No attempt had been made to serve the warrant against him, but the British Government had agreed to co-operate with Germany.
… Next on CNN & TIME, historian David Irving and the Holocaust. Some of his views on the subject may surprise you …
… GLASS: Don Guttenplan is a journalist writing a book about Irving versus Lipstadt.
GUTTENPLAN: In this case, what he's done is kind of use the libel law as a kind of jujitsu to force her to prove not only that what she said about him is true, but since she says that his views about the Holocaust are nonsensical, she has to prove that they're nonsensical.
… DAVID CESARANI, DIR., WIENER LIBRARY: We now have in the Moscow archives the building plans, the orders for the gas chamber and crematory equipment. This is not to mention the sworn statements taken by Nazis in captivity at the end of the Second World War, and of course, the mass of statements by the survivors.
… IRVING: I'm interested to see if in this coming trial here in London they find the documents and they produce them to the satisfaction of this court that do prove me wrong. And if they prove me wrong, I'll smile sheepishly and say, well done, fellows. It's taken you 40 years.
… if Irving were to win this case, the impact would be far greater than damages. At the last possible moment, his reputation as a credible historian would be salvaged. His version of Hitler and the Holocaust would be given a degree of plausibility.
… Once, in a bout with Rampton over whether the Führer had ordered the extermination of the Jews, David Irving reminded him that no signed order had been found. That, said Rampton, was just negative evidence. Noisily, Irving retorted: “I have to remind you of the basic principle of English law that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty: am I right?”
And at that second there was a tiny stillness in Court 37. We were talking about Adolf Hitler.
The image of the Holocaust was dented by the fact that trains carrying Jews to concentration camps were “well-provisioned,” David Irving, the historian, said in the High Court yesterday.
A telegram message about a transportation of 944 Jews from Berlin to Lithuania on Nov. 17, 1941, decoded by British intelligence at Bletchley Park, Bucks, showed that there was 24 days' worth of food on board for the three-day journey.
"It's a bit of a dent, a tiny dent in the image we have of the Holocaust today,” said the 62-year-old author of Hitler's War.
It went against the accepted image of victims stuffed into cattle trucks and shipped across Europe with no food or water, to arrive half dead. In fact, he added, intercepted messages indicated that the trains were equipped with a “very substantial amount of food” to keep the Jews going for three weeks after their arrival and their appliances or “tools of the trade".
At times during his legal battle in the high court, David Irving, a man of natural military bearing, resembles a beleaguered Wehrmacht general in some god-forsaken pocket on the eastern front, desperately trying to beat off the Jewish-Bolshevik hordes…
He stands or sits alone on one side of the courtroom, while the large defense team occupies most of the rest of it. In his opening statement he referred several times to the existence of an “international endeavor” to destroy his name and career as a writer… Bizarre as they may be, these accusations … may feed into the growing backlash against the so-called 'Holocaust industry' which, for very different reasons, is taking hold in mainstream media and academic circles.
… Earlier in the year the announcement that the Imperial War Museum North was planning a joint venture with the Manchester Shoah Centre provoked Brian Sewell in the Evening Standard to condemn the 'bandwagon' effect. 'Can we not say to the Jews of Manchester,' he asked, 'that enough has been made of their Holocaust and they are too greedy for our memories.'
Most recently, Sam Schulman in the Spectator warned that 'a new kind of anti-Semitism may emerge in the 21st century, in reaction to the attempt to make 'the Holocaust' central to our civilisation.'…
In 1999, Tim Cole, a British academic responsible for ground-breaking research on the wartime Budapest ghetto, published Images of the Holocaust: the Myth of the 'Shoah Business,' which slammed the redemptive and kitschy representation of the Holocaust seen in films and museums the world over. He dubbed this, perhaps foolishly, the 'myth' of the Holocaust.
… But Cole singles out the use of exhibitions and memorials to combat Holocaust denial. “Museums such as the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and movies such as 'Schindler's List' have as a self-conscious goal not simply teaching the public lessons from the past, but also the aim of disproving the claims of those who deny the Holocaust.”
In his eyes this is a mistake, since “it amounts to attempting to counter the questioning of the reality of the 'Holocaust' by offering in its place a representation of the 'Holocaust' which only tends to blur the critical distinction between reality and representation.” Worse, it's self-defeating: “It was not until it emerged as an iconic event that it was perceived to be an event which was deemed to be worth denying.” Memorialization provokes denial.
The intellectual backlash has been more prominent and problematic in the US. Next month will see the publication in Britain of The Holocaust In American Life by the respected US historian Peter Novick, in which he maintains that “it was Jewish initiative that put the Holocaust on the American agenda"…
… Irving is a scholar of enormous energy and dedication. He has published innumerable works, most of which have been praised by leading historians of the period…
This cuts no ice with our cultural vigilantes who would spoon-feed us what information they think we need. Back in March 1996, St. Martin's Press was looking forward to bringing out his book, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich…
The book would have been a fascinating read. But it was not to be. Abraham H. Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League led the charge of the pious bullies…
The usual crowd of smelly little orthodoxies immediately chimed in… Lipstadt herself made the sonorous announcement: “In the Passover Haggadah, it says in every generation there are those who rise up to destroy us … David Irving is not physically destroying us, but is trying to destroy the memory of those who have already perished at the hands of tyrants.” The onslaught in the media was followed by death threats to the publisher.
Inevitably, St. Martin's caved and withdrew the book from publication. Irving is right to be upset that an influential minority with a political agenda succeeded in destroying his career… Irving is also right to be outraged by the promiscuous use of the phrase “Holocaust denial.” As Lipstadt uses the term, it means whatever she wants it to mean. If you believe that fewer than six million died, are you still a Holocaust denier? Are you a Holocaust denier if you have questions about the precise means of death? In Denying the Holocaust, Lipstadt wrote that Pat Buchanan's “attacks on the credibility of survivor' testimony are standard elements of Holocaust denial.” Yet, a few years ago the director of Yad Vashem's archive told a reporter that most of the 20,000 testimonies it had collected were unreliable: “Many were never in the places where they claim to have witnessed atrocities, while others relied on secondhand information given them by friends or passing strangers.” Is he also then a “Holocaust denier"?
We now know that many of the most lurid stories of the Holocaust are not true. Jews were never made into soap. Jewish skin was not used to make lampshades. Deaths at Auschwitz, once estimated at around four million, have been scaled back to about 1.1 million. There were no gassings at Dachau. Holocaust scholars no longer accept the six-million-Jewish-dead figure; two leading figures — Raul Hilberg and Robert Jan van Pelt — believe the figure is probably closer to 5.1 million. Is this Holocaust denial or merely addition to our knowledge?…
Whether Irving wins or loses his libel case, we will probably find out that our current knowledge of the Holocaust is much flimsier than we had believed. Today, David Irving is banned from entering Canada, Australia and Germany. If our politically correct globalists have their way, he will probably be banned here and everywhere else as well soon. Why? Irving is a scholar, not a criminal. There is something contemptible about democracies terrified of anyone challenging their prevailing pieties. Outlawing him only serves to make him look good and our rulers shabby.
… Irving denies Hitler knew anything of the Holocaust. So does Australia's Fred Töben. And Ernst Zündel in Canada. And Arthur Butz and Fred Leuchter in America. And Robert Faurisson in France. And lots of others.
… Deniers like Irving, Töben and the rest are using the Internet to recruit and promote themselves to a vast audience.
… Extremists on both sides of the political divide have adopted the Internet as their preferred medium of communication, but by far the largest number of Web sites propagating denialism and racial vilification are owned by the far right-wing.
… The Internet is a dream come true for today's historical revisionists. No longer do they have to find a mainstream publisher willing to print their words; nor do they have to rely on the limitations of handing out leaflets on street corners.
Alan Gold is a novelist whose latest book, Berlin Song, deals with issues of denialism and the Holocaust.
The historian David Irving refused to accept yesterday that hundreds of thousands of Jews had been sent to concentration camps as part of Hitler's plan to exterminate them.
His denial that the liquidation of Jews was part of a plan personally approved by the Führer came during a sharp exchange with Richard Rampton, QC, during a libel case at the High Court in London.
Referring to the transportation of Jews from Warsaw and other towns and cities to the villages of Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec, near the Russian border, Mr. Rampton suggested that “only a fool and a liar” would suggest that they were being sent there for their health.
… Mr. Irving, 62, who is conducting his own case, replied: “There could be any number of convincing explanations, from the most innocent to the most sinister.”
He added: “During World War II large numbers of people were sent to Aldershot but no one believes that there they were put into gas chambers.”
In another exchange, Mr. Irving said he could not accept that 1.2 million Jews had been deliberately murdered at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Mr. Irving, who maintains that the gas chamber at Auschwitz was built by the Poles after the war as a tourist attraction, said: “I don't accept that and I have good reason not to.”
He indicated that he would justify his belief about what occurred at the infamous camp when he cross-examines Holocaust experts who are to appear in court during the course of the trial, which is expected to last for more than two months.
Speaking from the witness box in Court 73, in front of a packed public gallery in which there were many Jewish people, Mr. Irving maintained that Hitler had not been aware of the mass slaughter of the Jews. He said that in the records of the so-called “table talks” between Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, and Joseph Goebbels, his Propaganda Minister, there was no evidence that the Führer knew of the “Final Solution.”
Even in 1942, Mr. Irving said, Hitler was talking in terms of shipping the Jews to the island of Madagascar to begin new lives but that operation could not be carried out because of the naval war.
Hitler, he said, did not want the Jews transported to Siberia, which would merely toughen up the strain of the Jewish “bacillus.” He wished them to be removed totally from the Greater Reich.
Mr. Irving said that during the conversations, at which Hitler and his henchmen had discussed the course of the war, there was no suggestion that the Jews should be systematically killed.
Mr. Irving, who accepts that hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered but denies that the killings were part of a systematic programme of extermination, accused Mr. Rampton of disregarding evidence which did not concur with his case.
Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper has acknowledged that a poll asking readers whether they supported David Irving's views of the Holocaust was “ill-conceived".
The question which appeared in last Friday's edition read. “Do you agree with David Irving's view of the Holocaust?” and invited readers to respond via a “Yes” or “No” phone number. However a poll result did not appear in the following paper.
The reader poll accompanied a story about the David Irving libel trial currently before the courts in London.
Herald Sun deputy editor John Trevorrow said, “The question was ill-conceived and shouldn't have been asked. With a question like that you're allowing for the possibility that you agree with David Irving's view on the Holocaust i.e., that it didn't happen, that it was a conspiracy, which is clearly not something the Herald Sun wants to be associated with. It was a mistake to ask that question.”
Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre President Shmuel Rosenkranz said, “The question was simply do you believe Mr. Irving or don't you? It Is absolutely ridiculous to put such a question when there is sufficient evidence that the Holocaust did take place. There is sufficient evidence that Mr. Irving is a Holocaust denier par-excellence.” He believed the question could give Holocaust denial legitimacy.
Australia Israel Jewish Affairs Council National Chairman Mark Leibler said that making Holocaust denial the subject of questionnaire conferred an inordinate sense of legitimacy to the issue. “It is insensitive to the many Holocaust survivors who live here. It's offensive I would have thought to all Australians of whatever shade or complexion or ethnic background and it's just simply not appropriate.”
B'nai Brith Anti-Defamation Commission Executive Director Danny Ben-Moshe said he received several complaints that the poll reflected a lack of understanding about the nature of Holocaust denial and individuals such as David Irving.
"This is a very good example of the way something like Holocaust denial can sort of slip in there. In this particular way, it is a different form of racist hate to deal with, so the educational role we have to play is going to be more not less.”
He added, “I think under the circumstances while its original publication was abhorrent and completely unacceptable, it was, dealt with in the most appropriate way.”
Mr. Trevorrow said that the individual responsible for the poll had been admonished that the newspaper did not print the results as it wanted nothing more to do with the issue. “The best thing was not to air the subject any further,” he said.
… As the libel trial enters its third week, Irving promises fresh proofs that Auschwitz had no gas chambers, evidence he'll unleash when he gets one of Lipstadt's expert witnesses on the stand.
"The battleship Auschwitz as the capital ship of the Holocaust legend will have sunk,” Irving assures me.
… Even his critics acknowledge that Irving is the most scholarly of the Holocaust deniers, and few people have searched the wartime archives as thoroughly — and benefited as well from the recollections and diaries of old Nazis whom he befriended.
His memory is prodigious. Rampton produces relatively obscure archival documents, and Irving rattles on at length about minor Nazi bureaucrats mentioned in them, or says with great confidence this is a document he has never seen.
… During one break in the proceedings, a woman accosts him and says her parents were gassed at Auschwitz.
"You may be pleased to know that they almost certainly died of typhus, as did Anne Frank,” Irving replies.
Traces of cyanide in human hair recovered from Auschwitz and on metal ventilation grilles over the concentration camp's gas chambers were evidence of a delousing program by the Nazis and not of mass extermination, David Irving, the Hitler historian, said yesterday.
Mr. Irving told a High Court judge that the SS used the gas chambers simply to fumigate bodies and clothing and hair shorn after death from inmates of the Polish concentration camp in the face of a plague of lice.
… Yesterday Mr. Irving said that he stood by the man whose work had persuaded him that mass extermination never took place at Auschwitz. Fred Leuchter, a consultant in the design of execution facilities in America, had visited the camp in 1988 on behalf of a German, Ernst Zündel, who was on trial in Canada for publishing material that denied the existence of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz.
… David Irving said he still believes no Jews were gassed at Auschwitz because he is unimpressed with evidence supporting the traditional account. “We are entitled to at least one unambiguous, not read-between-the-lines, document that would give us a clear smoking gun,” Irving testified Monday. “That document does not exist.”
… When asked about the overwhelming body of documents, physical evidence and eyewitness accounts of the mass killings at the infamous Nazi concentration camp, Irving said he did not accept the conclusion that Nazis systemically killed as many as 2 million Jews in gas chambers at the camp and then burned their bodies in specially built furnaces.
"No, I don't agree with this,” Irving said. “There are other arguments that are just as plausible.”
Irving, who has never visited Auschwitz, said it was more likely the structures identified as gas chambers were used as air raid shelters or as places to administer poison gas to corpses to kill typhus-carrying fleas and lice.
Eyewitness evidence of the existence of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz was “totally demolished” because there were no holes in the roof through which to insert poison, the historian David Irving told the High Court yesterday.
Mr. Irving, the 62-year-old author of Hitler's War, who is seeking libel damages for being called a “Holocaust denier,” said his theory “blows holes in the whole gas chambers story.” He said a number of “revisionist” researchers had entered the ruins of Crematorium Two at Auschwitz, in which Holocaust historians say 500,000 died.
They photographed the collapsed underside of the roof but found no holes. He said: “I do not accept that the Nazis, in the last frantic days of the camp, would have gone around filling the holes that they were going to dynamite.”
… Mr. Irving said the defense's “so-called” eyewitnesses were a relatively small number for the large proposition at stake. Apart from that, he said, there was not “a single document of any credible worth” which explicitly set out the defense case in all the “hundreds of thousands” of papers in the Auschwitz museum and the Moscow archives. He submitted that his position on the Holocaust was justifiable and not perverse.
David Irving, the Hitler historian, challenged in the High Court yesterday the credibility of evidence of Auschwitz survivors.
The veracity of Henryk Tauber, a Jew forced to work in the crematoriums, stretched “a reasonable historian's credibility,” he claimed. Mr. Irving, 62, who is suing Deborah Lipstadt, an American academic, and her publisher, Penguin Books, for libel over her claim that he is a Holocaust-denier, pointed to Tauber's eye-witness accounts of one Jew set alight with petrol by the SS and another thrown into a pit of boiling human fat.
This was the sort of “lurid” evidence that should be open to more than normal scrutiny, Mr. Irving said during his cross-examination of Robert Van Pelt, a Dutch Auschwitz expert. Mr. Irving suggested that Tauber's “precision” was prompted by the Polish authorities.
Historian David Irving railed on Wednesday against what he termed the “well-funded … Holocaust education business” as his libel action against Professor Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books continued in the High Court.
Mr. Irving launched his attack while cross-examining Dutch historian Professor Robert van Pelt, co-author of a history of Auschwitz with American academic Professor Debórah Dwork.
He claimed that Professor Dwork, at Clark University, had obtained $5 million to finance her chair, and for library, student and other grants.
"It has become big business, and it's not just me who has said this. The Chief Rabbi of England said it once,” Mr. Irving claimed. “There are all sorts of profitable sidelines.”
… Stéphan Bruchfeld, Sweden's foremost expert on the deniers, tells that after a ten weeks course he gave notes with the arguments of the deniers to the students, and asked them to answer them. The outcome was a disaster, he said. Not because there are no substance in the arguments of the deniers…
… Prof. van Pelt agreed that none of the blue-prints showed any modification to create holes in the roof necessary for the introduction of cyanide into the chambers.
Mr. Irving, who says that the apparent lack of such holes means that genocidal gassing did not occur, said that he would abandon his action tomorrow if the Auschwitz authorities would agree to clear the rubble from the ruined crematoria and find the holes.
Such a move, he said, would thwart neo-Nazis who currently benefited from the existence of doubts over the gas chambers.
An expert in Judaism told the High Court yesterday that he did not consider David Irving, the historian who denies the mass gassing of Jews in concentration camps, to be anti-Semitic.
A television critic who works for this newspaper recently wrote that wallowing in the Holocaust is hard for him and on ordinary days (any day that is not Holocaust Day), the Holocaust interests him less than last Monday's rainstorm. Although one doubts he would dare to write, let alone feel such a thing, about genocide in Rwanda, what was most impressive about this confession was its unquestionable sincerity, duly rewarded by a letter of praise from a Holocaust survivor. From the sound of it, it was just the bluster of a very young man being negative, and it would be an exaggeration and surely unfair to associate such a pronouncement with anything as serious as Holocaust denial. Nevertheless, I could not help being reminded of this as I watched Yaakov Achimeir ("World News Magazine,” Channel One, Saturday, 20:00) briefly interviewing the prime minister of Sweden, Goran Persson, who opened the International Forum on the Holocaust this week in Stockholm. The Forum is devoted to the dangers of denying or forgetting the Holocaust. “There is no need for denial. Indifference and forgetfulness are enough,” said the Swede.
… There are all kinds of motives behind Holocaust denial, including the argument that the subject is simply not interesting. Israeli supporters of this view like to hint that through no fault of their own, they already know too much about it, and are plain sick of it. This, in spite of the fact that the Holocaust really takes up very little space in the national agenda or in school curricula.
It seems logical enough that as time goes by, the children of various nations, our own included (the signs are there) will not believe the stories of their parents or grandparents, and demand more and more proof, becoming increasingly disbelieving of what is already so hard to believe. The fears of the Swedish prime minister, it seems, are no joke. The day may come when people will argue about whether the Holocaust happened or not, in the same way that they argue today about the flood in the time of Noah.
"First they came for the Jews …”
Of all the “lessons” of the Holocaust, Pastor Martin Niemöller's unsparing account of his own complicity in the escalating brutality of life in Nazi Germany is probably the best known. When Americans talk about the Holocaust — from Vice President Al Gore speaking at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony in Washington, DC, to the AIDS activist Mary Fisher at the 1992 Republican Convention — Niemöller's litany of indifference, “but I was not a Jew …,” almost always comes up. It is one of the things everybody knows about the Holocaust, along with the bars of soap made from the fat of murdered Jews, and the gas chambers at Dachau and Belsen.
The problem is, what everybody knows about the Holocaust isn't always true. Although the grisly tale of human beings rendered into soap figured in some of the earliest accounts of events inside Nazi-occupied Europe, it is now universally rejected by historians as a fabrication — similar to the atrocity stories that were a staple of Allied propaganda during the First World War. The concentration camp at Dachau did have a gas chamber, but it was never used. There were no gas chambers at Belsen.
Nor, as it happens, did the Nazis come first for the Jews. In fact, as Peter Novick explains in his brilliant and provocative new book, The Holocaust in American Life, “First they came for the Communists” — a circumstance acknowledged by Niemöller, who continued,
but I was not a Communist — so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrats — so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew — so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left who could stand up for me.
Novick describes Gore, Fisher, and the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., as “prudently omitting Communists” from their versions of Niemöller's homily. But as Novick makes clear, prudence and political calculation have influenced our knowledge of the Holocaust from the very beginning.
… The dispute has posed a difficult question for observers: Is Irving's mission to win, or to force Holocaust historians to engage him in a theatrical debate on even ground? Irving's limited assets and vulnerability are bound to make any win for Lipstadt and Penguin a pyrrhic one, allowing a martyred Irving to broadcast, via the courts, the newspapers and the Internet, a kind of virtual history no mainstream publisher would be likely to touch.
British historian David Irving says that, had the Jews not been allowed to set up a state in Palestine but were sent to Madagascar instead, as proposed in the plan he attributes to Nazi Germany, “the world would be a happier place.”
… Irving added that the Jews should ask themselves why they are hated so much, and always have been, everywhere. “What is it in them that generates this hatred? They would do well to think about that.”
"There is no doubt that they are hated today in part because of all the 'Holocaust propaganda' they are constantly spreading. It's become impossible to open a newspaper or see a television program these days without coming across the Holocaust. Holocaust, Holocaust, everywhere Holocaust. The Holocaust has 'hijacked' all the media, all of Western culture. The world is fed up with it. People are losing their patience and are liable to resort to acts of violence against Jews. If the Jews don't stop, they can expect a genuine Holocaust.”
… What interested him [Irving] more than anything else were the holes that were supposed to be in the ceiling of the chambers, which were ostensibly used for introducing the poison gas. No holes were marked on the plans displayed by the defense witness. Perhaps these were not suffocation chambers, but rather shelters to protect from aerial bombing, suggested Irving, and dramatically promised to withdraw his libel suit if he could only be shown the holes. Where are the holes, he asked again and again. “We had so much fun that day,” he said later, because it turned out that there were no holes…
… There are broader points at issue beyond one man and his reputation. Like any other historical episode, the Shoah — the Hebrew word for catastrophe, which some of us prefer to “Holocaust,” the Greek word for “burnt offering” — is a legitimate subject for historical inquiry. Only Nazis and nutters deny the Shoah, but there is another serious, though sadly envenomed, debate between historians who believe Hitler was all along determined to exterminate the Jews and those who think it was a form of improvisation.
… While Irving is conducting his own case, the defendants have a full legal team, solicitors, Queen's Counsel and junior, all costing many thousands a day. Taking part in a case like this is catching a cab from Toronto to Vancouver and watching the meter tick over. Since Irving cannot possibly pay even part of the defense costs, he will presumably go bankrupt if he loses, and the defendants can whistle for their money.
And this case shows once again how heavily weighted in the defendant's favor the libel law is. He doesn't have to prove “actual damage” or financial loss, only to assert that his feelings are hurt, as aren't ours all from time to time. The burden of proof is effectively on the defendant. She has no public interest defense, and the plaintiff is not obliged to show (as in American law) that she acted recklessly and with malice.
… It is indeed possible to detest Holocaust deniers while also having grave misgivings about what has been called the Holocaust industry, or “Shoah business,” about which Hal Niedzviecki wrote in the National Post last Saturday (Turning the Horror of History into Fun)…
That great man Isaiah Berlin was an acutely conscious Jew, who identified passionately with his people and their fate. And in the words of his biographer Michael Ignatieff, “he actively despised the Holocaust industry and kept his distance from rhetorical invocations of his people's horrible fate. Silence seemed more truthful.” While knowing what I think about David Irving, I also know what Isaiah Berlin meant.
… Irving … reckons he knows enough to deny three key, defining aspects of the Holocaust:
The defense will have to prove Irving wrong. Not to a jury — both sides agreed to dispense with that — but to the satisfaction of Charles Gray, former libel lawyer and now high court judge.
You would think that would be a simple enough task. We've all seen the archive footage of the camps, the shocking images of human skeletons bulldozed into pits. Surely that evidence settles the matter? Not quite. For Irving looks at those bodies and sees the victims of typhus, an epidemic that thrived in what he admits were the “ghastly” conditions of the concentration camps. He claims these victims were not gassed, but died of “natural causes.”
What of the countless volumes of testimony provided by the survivors of the Holocaust, the Primo Levis, Elie Wiesels and Hugo Gryns who, along with thousands of others, described the same, deathly process? They all witnessed the train rides that ended in “selection,” with those deemed unfit to work herded away for “delousing,” into showers that proved to be gas chambers. What of them? No, Irving would say, the Jews have made it all up. Either these accounts are “a matter for psychiatric evaluation” — the witnesses were out of their minds — or the more sinister fruit of a worldwide Jewish plot to guilt-trip the human race.
So the defense offers the evidence of the Nazi themselves. On Wednesday, Rampton raised Hans Almeyer [Aumeier], the second highest-ranking Nazi officer at Auschwitz. In his interrogation by British intelligence Almeyer, too, corroborated the witnesses' account of the extermination process.
But that is not good enough for Irving either. “British Army officers … had ways of making people talk,” the plaintiff said, happily reversing the cliché. If a Nazi confesses to the Holocaust then, according to Irving, his words were obviously beaten out of him. They are worthless.
That leaves two types of evidence, physical and documentary. Physical evidence is hard, since the Nazis took great pains to destroy the death camps …
All that remains are the documents. Here Irving, acknowledged as a near-obsessive student of Nazi paperwork, takes over. This week he took great delight in cross-examining Robert Jan van Pelt, a Dutch architectural historian who is an authority on the gas chambers. Van Pelt's testimony was crucial to the defense, because he has studied architects' drawings — recently made available — which leave little doubt as to the chambers' function.
Irving grilled van Pelt on one document in particular, questioning its authenticity. He rattled off questions: about a serial number out of sequence, an incorrect rank for the signing officer, the initials of the typist (which Irving said exist on no other document), even the precise location of the margin. All these discrepancies, bragged Irving, suggested a forgery.
This is where Irving is happiest, rolling around in swastika-embossed paper. He knows these documents so well, he knows their mannerisms. On this terrain, Irving can be frighteningly convincing.
Jerusalem — Israel's attorney general last night authorized the release of the prison memoir of Adolf Eichmann, architect of the Nazis' “Final Solution” for the extermination of European Jewry.
Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein also agreed to rush a copy to American scholar Deborah Lipstadt during her libel trial in London …
The memoir has been locked away in Israeli state archives since Eichmann was hanged in 1962, the only time that Israel has imposed the death penalty. According to the few researchers who have had access to the document, Eichmann offers a detailed description of the systematic attempt to exterminate European Jews. He minimizes his role in the operation, describing himself as a minor cog in the Nazi killing machine.
Forgotten over four decades, the document resurfaced last summer when one of Eichmann's sons demanded the memoir. Rubinstein, son of Holocaust survivors, decided instead that the handwritten notes would be opened to the public…
Holocaust experts in Israel say the document could be crucial to Lipstadt's defense …
Although the evidence of Irving's decades-long historical distortions is overwhelming, he may yet prevail in court, thanks to the complexities of British libel law and his own clever wordplay. That would be a devastating blow — for Irving has been in the forefront of a sinister and dangerous campaign that has allowed Holocaust denial to slowly, but surely, creep into otherwise respectable institutions…
If he wins in court — and the legal onus is on Lipstadt and Penguin to prove their accusations — Irving and his revisionist soulmates will have been handed a license to rewrite history and distort the truth.