The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day001.09


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 75,000 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 75,000 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.


Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.