Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day001.09 Last-Modified: 2000/07/20 Fearing that Dr Bondarev was not properly getting my message, I asked Mr Bezymenski to approach him on my behalf and inform him that there were certain documents he held in which I was interested, and that I was coming as a representative of the Sunday Times, well armed with foreign currency. Mr Bezymenski enquired what those documents were. I refused to tell him and he replied: "You are referring to the Goebbels diaries I presume". This I affirmed and ten minutes after this phone call from me in London and Mr Bezymenski in Moscow, I receive a phone call from Dr Frohlich in Munich complaining bitterly that I revealed our intentions to Mr Bezymenski. Instead of acting as I had requested, my friend had immediately sent a fax to the Institut fur Zeitgeschichte to alert them to what I was "up to". This set the cat among the pigeons, and the Institut fur Zeitgeschichte left no stone unturned to prevent the . P-69 Russians from providing me with diaries or other material, for reasons which this court can readily surmise. I had in the meantime approached the Sunday Times after my American publishers got cold feet, and I succeeded in persuading a Mr Andrew Neil that I could obtain Goebbels Diaries from the Moscow archives, and that I was by chance one of the very few people capable of reading the handwriting. Two years previously, in 1990, my Italian publisher, Mondadori, had commissioned me to transcribe the handwritten 1938 diary volume of Dr Goebbels, a copy of which they had purchased from a Russian source. So the diaries were in the process of being purchased. I was thus acquainted with the difficult handwriting of the Nazi propaganda Minister. At that time there were probably only three or four people in the world who were capable of deciphering it. The negotiations with Andrew Neil proceeded smoothly, that is between me and Mr Neil. He did express at one stage enough nervousness at the prospect of entering into another "Nazi diaries" deal. Your Lordship will remember that his newspaper group had been made to look foolish for the purchase and publication in 1983 of the Adolf Hitler diaries. I pointed out that I had warned them writing once ahead in 1982 that the Hitler Diaries were fakes, and I added: "I am offering the Sunday Times the chance t . P-70 rehabilitate itself". Armed with the prestige and the superior financial resources of the Sunday Times, I went to Moscow in June 1992, and negotiated directly with Dr Bondarev and his superior, Professor Tarasov, who was at that time the overall head of the Russian Federation Archival System. Dr Bondarev expressed willingness to assist us, although there could no longer be any talk of the clandestine purchase of the plates which we had originally hoped for, since Mr Bezymenski let the cat out of the bag. I say "clandestine", but of course I understand that the same archives had sold off many other collections of papers, for example, to the Hoover Institution in California and US publishing houses, publishing giants, and to my colleague the late John Costello as well. My own little deal was not to be. My Lord, professor Tarasov is to be one of the witnesses in this case called question by the Defence. Your Lordship will be able to study the documents exhibited to his witness statement. I confess that I fail to the relevance of very many of them, but no doubt we shall see that difficulty removed by Mr Rampton in due course. The Moscow negotiations were not easy. We negotiated directly with Professor Tarasov for access to the glass plates. The negotiations were conducted in my . P-71 presence by Mr Peter Miller, a freelance journalist working for the Sunday Times, who spoke Russian with a commendable fluency. He will also be giving evidence in this action on my behalf, my Lord. With my limited "O" level Russian I was able to follow the gist in conversation and also to intervene speaking German after it emerged that Professor Tarasov had studied and taught for many years at the famous Humboldt University in Communist Berlin. By now both Dr Bondarev and Tarasov were aware, if they had not been aware previously, that these Goebbels Diaries were of commercial and historical value. The negotiations took far longer than I had expected. I produced to Professor Tarasov copies of the Soviet editions of my books which had been published years earlier, and I donated to him as well as to the Archives staff later copies of my own edition of the biography of Hitler's War. This established my credentials to their satisfaction, and Tarasov gave instructions that we were to be given access to the entire collection of Dr Goebbels Diaries. It was evident to me when I finally saw the glass plates that the diaries had hardly been examined at all. It seemed to me, for example, from the splinters of glass still trapped between the photographic plates, that there had been little movement in the boxes of plates for . P-72 nearly 50 years. The boxes were the original boxes. The brown paper round them in some parts was still the original brown paper. The plates were in total disarray and no attempt had been made to sort them. I have seen no work of history, Soviet or otherwise, that is quoted from them before I got them. My Lord, my excitement as an historian getting my hands on original material like this can readily be imagined. The moot point is that there is a dispute as to the nature of the Russian permission. This alleged agreement is one of the issues pleaded by the Defendants in this action. It is difficult for me to reconstruct seven years later precisely whether there was any verbal agreement exceeding a nod and a wink or what the terms were or how rigid an agreement may have been reached. There is no reference to such an agreement in my contemporary diaries. Certainly the Russians committed nothing to paper about such an agreement. Professor Tarasov's word was law, and he had just picked up the phone in our presence and spoken that word to Dr Bondarev. My own recollection at the time was that the arrangement was of a very free-wheeling nature, with the Russians being very happy and indeed proud to help us in the spirit reigning at that time of Glasnost and Perestroika, and the extreme co-operativeness between West . P-73 and East. They were keen to give us access to these plates which they had hitherto regarded as not being of much value. Tarasov did mention that the German Government were also interested in these plates, and that they were coming shortly to conduct negotiations about them. I remember clearly, and I think this is also shown in the diary which I wrote on that date, that Dr Tarasov hesitated as to whether he should allow us access without first consulting the German authorities. I rather mischievously reminded Dr Tarasov of which side had won the war, and I expressed astonishment that the Russians were now intending to ask their defeated enemy for permission to show to a third party records which were in their own archives, and this unsubtle argument appears to have swayed him to grant us complete access without further misgivings. There was no signed agreement either between the Russian authorities and us or at that time between the Russians and the German authorities, my Lord. I would add here that I was never shown any agreement between the Russian and the German authorities, nor was I told any details of it, nor of course could it have been in any way binding upon me. We returned to the archives the following morning, Mr Miller and I, to begin exploiting the . P-74 diaries. Miller went off on his own devices. I had brought a German assistant with me to act as a scribe. My Lord, her diary is also in my discovery, and I admit that I have not yet found time to read it. I have got an odd aversion to reading other people's diaries, unless it is by way of my business. I must admit that I was rather perplexed by the chaotic conditions that I found there, that is in the Russian archives. There were no technical means whatever of reading the diaries, the glass plates. The Nazis had reduced them to the size of a small postage stamp on the glass plates. I should have photographs of them brought to you, my Lord. Fortunately, Dr Frohlich had alerted me about this possibility, the lack of technical resources, and I had bought at Selfridges a 12-times magnifier, a little thing about the size of a nail clipper, with which by peering very hard I could just decipher the handwriting. It was even more alarming to someone accustomed to working in Western archives with very strict conditions on how to handle documents, and cleanliness and security, to see the way that the shelves and tables and chairs were littered with bundles of papers. At one stage the Archivist (I think it may be one of the ladies who is coming to give evidence for the Defendants) brought in bottles of red wine and loads of bread and cheese which was scattered among the priceless papers on the tables for us to . P-75 celebrate at the end of the week. That would have been unthinkable in any Western archive building. My German assistant had worked with me in the US National Archives previously. We spent the first day cataloguing and sifting through all the boxes of glass plates and identifying which plates were which, earmarking, figuratively speaking, the glass plates which were on my shopping list to be read copied. Very rapidly we began coming across glass plates of the most immense historical significance, sections of the diaries which I knew had never been seen by anybody else before. I was particularly interested in the Night of the Broken Glass, November 1938, the Night of the Long Knives, June 1934. I also found the glass plates containing the missing months leading up to the outbreak of World War II in 1939, diaries whose historical significance in short need not be emphasised here. Given the chaotic conditions in the archives, I took the decision to borrow one of the plates overnight and bring it back the next day so that we could photograph its contents. I shall argue about the propriety of this action at a later data. I removed the plate. Its contents were printed that night by a photographer hired by the Sunday Times whose name was Sasha, and the glass plate was restored to its box the next morning without loss or damage. . P-76 The Sunday Times editor, Andrew Neil, was coincidentally in Moscow at this time, and I showed him one of the glass plates at his hotel, the Metropol. He stated: "We really need something spectacular to follow the Andrew Morton book on Princess Diana and this is it". The next day, Dr Bondarev formally authorized the borrowing of two more such plates anyway. So it was clear to me that nobody would have been offended by my earlier action. I returned to London and over the next few days a contract was formalized by myself and the Sunday Times under which the newspaper was to pay me œ75,000 net for procuring the diaries, transcribing them and writing three chapters based on the principal extracts from the Goebbels diaries. The contract with the Sunday Times contained the usual secrecy clauses. Nobody was to learn of the nature of the contract or its contents or the price or the existence of the diary. For reasons beyond my knowledge, the Sunday Times when it came under extreme pressure from international and British Jewish organisations, subsequently put it about that I had only been hired to transcribe the diaries, with the implication that they had obtained them on their own initiative. I was not, however, just a hired help. This was my project. Which I took to them and which they purchased, as the documents . P-77 before this court make plain. It may be felt that œ75,000 would have been a substantial reward for two weeks work. My response would be that it was for 30 years plus two weeks work. We are paid for our professional skills and expertise and experience and reputation, for our track record in short. I returned to London with arrangements to revisit Moscow in two or three weeks time. My Lord, the court will find that I have stipulated, in what I believe is known in legal terms as an admission, that I carried with me two of the glass plates from the Moscow archives to the Sunday Times in London, informally borrowing them in the same manner as previously, namely those vital records containing the 1934, "Night of the Long Knives". The reasons for doing I have already hinted at earlier, the fear that they would either vanish into the maw of the German Government, or be resealed by the former Soviet Archives, or be sold off to some nameless American trophy hunter and thus never see the light of day again.
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