The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day001.04


Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day001.04
Last-Modified: 2000/07/20


        True to form, in Germany it is now a criminal offence to
        question the mode, the scale, the system or even the
        statistics of the Holocaust.  Criminal offence.  No
        defence is allowed.  Some good friends of mine, I have
no
        hesitation in allowing to this court, are sitting at
this
        very moment in German prisons for having ventured to
voice
        such questions.  One of them has been in prison for
seven
        years.
                  In France, the situation is even more
absurd.
        Any person found guilty in France under a new law
aptly
        named an "amendment of the law on the freedom of the
        Press" finds himself fined or imprisoned or both.
This

.          P-26



        law, passed in 1991, makes it a criminal offence in
France
        to challenge (the French word is contester) any war
crimes
        or crimes against humanity "as defined by the
Nuremberg
        Statute" of 1945.
                  Fifty years on, it has become a criminal
offence
        to question whether Nuremberg got it right.  History
is to
        be as defined by the four victorious powers in the
        Nuremberg trials of 1945 to 1946.
                  I respectfully submit and would, indeed,
hope
        that your Lordship would find such laws if enacted in
this
        country to be utterly repugnant.  For that same reason
        I have no hesitation in saying that some more good
friends
        of mine have been fined under precisely this French
law.
        Indeed, in 1993 or 1994, I myself was fined the sum of
        500 by a Paris court under this law.
                  I had given an interview to a French
journalist
        in the study of my home in London.  This interview was
        published in a reputable French journal.  There were
        complaints in Paris and I was summoned before the
French
        Magistrates and fined, along with the publisher, the
        editor and the journalist concerned for having given
this
        interview.  It is, indeed, a very sorry state of
affairs.
                  My Lord, we may hear the word "conspiracy"
        uttered during the next few days and weeks.  If there
has
        been a conspiracy, it is a conspiracy against free
        speech.

.          P-27



                  I might mention that my father fought as an
        officer in the Royal Navy in both World Wars, both in
the
        Battle of Jutland in 1916 and in the Arctic convoys of
        1942.  Both my brothers have served with the Royal Air
        Force.  My father was an arctic explorer between the
        wars.  Admiralty charts show two island points in the
        South Sandwich Islands named after him and his first
        officer, my uncle.
                  I come from a service family and I find it
        odious that at the end of the 20th century writers and
        historians going about their own respective
businesses,
        writing books that may, indeed, have been completely
wrong
        have found themselves suddenly and vicariously
threatened
        with imprisonment or with crippling fines having
expressed
        opinions on history which are at variance with these
new
        freshly enacted laws, which have been introduced at
the
        insistence of wealthy pressure groups and other
enemies of
        the free speech for which we fought two World Wars in
this
        country.
                  Your Lordship will undoubtedly hear from the
        Defendants that I was fined a very substantial sum of
        money by the Germany Government under these witless
new
        laws.  It is no matter of 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

.          P-28



        every foreign country which I now wish to visit.
                  The circumstances these are these.  I may
say
        here quite briefly that on April 21st 1990, nearly ten
        years ago, my Lord, I delivered an address, quite
possibly
        ill-judged, to an audience at a hall in Munich.  When
one
        agrees to attend such functions one has little way of
        knowing in advance what kind of audience one will be
        addressing, and has no control over the external
        appearance of the function.  I make no complaint about
        that.
                  Your Lordship will hear no doubt that in the
        course of my speech, of which apparently no full
        transcript survives, I uttered the following remark:
                  "We now know that the gas chambers shown to
the
        tourists in Auschwitz is a fake built by the Poles
after
        the war, just like the one established by the
Americans at
        Dachau."  Those are two concentration camps, my Lord.
                  This may well raise eyebrows.  It might be
found
        to be offensive by sections of the community, and if
they
        take such offence 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 defence.
                  We shall hear, indeed, from the Defences'
own
        expert witnesses, though perhaps the admission will
have

.          P-29



        to be bludgeoned out of them, that the gas chamber
shown
        to the tourists at Auschwitz was indeed built by the
        Polish communist three years after the war was over.
                  I think it is fair to note there that at
this
        point Mr Rampton is shaking his head and I apologise
if
        I have misunderstood the evidence given by their
        witnesses.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  You carry on with your speech.
   MR IRVING:  I do not intend to go into the question of
whether
        or not there were gas chambers at Birkenau, my Lord,
some
        five miles from Auschwitz, in these opening remarks.
By
        the time this trial is over we shall all be heartily
sick
        of the debate which has little or no relevance, in my
        submission, to the issues that are pleaded.
                  So what are the issues that are pleaded and
how
        do I propose to address those issues in opening this
case?
        First let me emphasise that I also have no intentions,
and
        neither is it the purpose of this trial, to refight
World
        War II.  I shall not argue and have never argued that
the
        wrong side won the war, for example, or that the
history
        of war needs to be grossly rewritten.  I must confess
that
        I am mystified at the broad thrust which the
Defendants
        have taken in the vast body of documentation which
they
        have served upon this court and myself, another 5,000
        pages delivered to me on Friday evening and more last
        night.  It is all something of an embarrassment to me
and

.          P-30



        I am being forced into positions that I have not
        previously adopted.  I have never claimed to be a
        Holocaust historian.  As I have said, I have no
written no
        book about the Holocaust.  I have written no article
about
        it.  If I have spoken about it, it is usually because
        somebody has asked me a question, I have been
questioned
        about it.  On such occasions I have emphasised my lack
of
        expertise and I have expatiated only upon those areas
with
        which I am familiar.  In doing so I have offended many
of
        my friends who wish that history was different, but
you
        cannot wish documents away, and it is in documents
that
        I have always specialized as a writer.
                  Your Lordship will find upon reviewing my
        various printed works that I have very seldom used
other
        people's books as sources.  I found it otiose and
tedious,
        not only because they are ill-written but because in
        reading other people's books you are liable to imbibe
the
        errors and prejudices with which those books are
beset.
        If, however, you go to he original documents you will
        often find to your joy that the weight of documents
you
        have to read is pound for pound, or indeed ton for
ton,
        less than the weight of books hat you might otherwise
have
        to read upon the same subject, and you are kilometres
        closer to the original real history.
                  As for the nature of documents, I remember
that
        in 1969 I visited Professor Hugh Trevor Roper (now
Lord

.          P-31



        Dacre who I am glad to say is still with us).  He very
        kindly made available to me his considerable
collection of
        several thousand original intelligence documents for
my
        biography of Adolf Hitler, and in doing so he advised
me
        as follows:  When considering new documents you should
ask
        yourself three questions.  If I remember correctly, my
        Lord, those tree criteria were as follows.
                  1) Is the document genuine?  (Possibly in
the
        light of the "Hitler Diaries" scandal, an unfortunate
        pre-requisite in this case).
                  2) Is the document written by a person in a
        position to know what he is talking about?
                  3) Why does this document exist?
                  The latter is quite interesting, as we have
all
        experienced in the archives, coming across documents
        obviously written for window dressing or buck passing
        purposes.
                  It is documents in this case which I think
the
        court will find most interesting and illuminating.  By
        that I mean the documents at every level.  The court
will
        have to consider not only the documents originating in
        World War II on both sides, my Lord, but also the
        documents that have been generated by that painful
process
        known as Discovery.  It will not escape the court, my
        Lord, when the time comes that like many personalities
I
        have kept the most voluminous records throughout my
career

.          P-32



        as a writer and even before it.  Along with my writing
        career I have kept a diary.  Sometimes I wondered why
but
        I think the reason is basically this.  If you are a
        writer, self-employed, you need the discipline that a
        diary imposes upon you, and you cannot in conscious
enter
        in a diary at the end of the day:  "I did nothing all
        day".
                  Your Lordship will be amused no doubt to
hear
        that at one stage in the discovery process in this
action
        at the request of Mr Julius, I readily agreed to make
        available to the Defence my entire diaries in so far
as
        they still exist.  A few pages are missing.  Mr Julius
        only then learned that these diaries occupy a shelf
eight
        feet long, and that in them there are approximately or
        probably 10 or 20 million words to be read.  Mr Julius
and
        his staff have, however, risen most nobly to challenge
        that these pages presented, and I am sure that over
the
        next few days and weeks we shall be hearing more than
one
        morsal that they have dredged out of the pages.  They
will
        hold it aloft, still dripping with something or other,
        read it to this court with a squeal of delight,
        proclaiming that this is the philosopher's stone that
they
        needed to justify their client's libels all along.  We
        shall see.  That is not what this trial is all about.
        This trial is not really about what happened in the
        Holocaust or how many Jews and other persecuted
minorities

.          P-33



        were tortured and put to death.  The court will I hope
        agree with me when the time comes that the issue us is
not
        what happened but how I treated it in my works of
history.
                  It may be that I was totally ignorant on
some
        aspects of World War II, and I hasten to say that I do
not
        believe I was, but to be accused of deliberate
        manipulation and distorting, and mistranslating is
        perverse.  The Defendants must show, in my humble
        submission, first that a particular thing happened or
        existed; second that I was aware of that particular
thing
        as it happened or existed, at the time that I wrote
about
        it from the records then before me; third, that I then
        wilfully manipulated the text or mistranslated or
        distorted it for the purposes that they imply.
                  I will submit that in no instance can they
prove
        this to be the case.  They have certainly not done so
in
        the documents so far pleaded.
                  I readily concede that what I have read of
the
        reports submitted by the Defendants' experts,
particularly
        those of the historians, is of the utmost interest.
        I have to congratulate Professor Jan van Pelt for the
        literary quality of his lengthy report on Auschwitz,
which
        will no doubt eventually see general circulation in
the
        bookstores.  Indeed, I congratulated him three years
ago
        already on the first book that he published on this
        topic.

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.