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Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day007.05

Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day007.05
Last-Modified: 2000/07/20

   Q.   Professor Watt, just remaining on that topic for one more
        question:  if you were an historian, as indeed you are, or
        you were teaching historians how to become an historian,
        would you advise them to use the original document or
        facsimile, if possible, rather than use the printed text?
   A.   Always, and, indeed, I used to urge my graduate students
        when using secondary works always to check the original
        reference if this was at all possible.  The geographical
        distribution of the documents used to meant very often
        that there was not, but where you have to look at the
        original, I mean, where an original document has been
        cited by another author and that seems to play an
        important part in the argument you are using yourself,
        then it is of extreme importance to check the original.
                  I would add that, in my experience and in the
        advice I gave to my students, I always recommended that
        they should take most seriously those documents which
        seemed to support the views that they were in the process
        of supporting.  After all, if you are in the process of
        being sold a pup by somebody, the man who is trying to
        deceive you will come as close as possible to what you
        know to be the truth before slipping in the element of

.          P-36

        falseness; and the conflict between the historian's
        to arrive at a decision and the insubstantiality of
        written evidence, or any other evidence, particularly
        evidence, or of the kind of man who comes up and says,
         "Never mind what the documents say, I was there and
        is the real truth", is one which is a constant pitfall
        our paths and which has mislead a great many people,
        including some extremely important and senior
        in the past.
   Q.   Professor, I was not going to ask you about eyewitness
        evidence but where would you rank eyewitness evidence
        the scale, if you had, for example, aerial
photographs, if
        you had prisoner of war intelligence, contemporary
        prisoner of war intelligence, if you had intercepts
        Bletchley Park, if you had captured documents, either
        captured during the war or after the war, and
        evidence, in other words, anecdotal evidence and,
        interrogations, whether under oath or not in court,
        would you classify those in order of reliability,
        with the least reliable?
   A.   I do not know that there is any way of classifying
        because it depends so much on the individual.  I did a
        great deal of interviews, particularly in the period
        before the 1967 Public Records Act released documents
        30 years of age, and in my experience the kind of
        I got differed according to the personality of the

.          P-37

        giving it.
                  In some cases I found that the man I was
        interviewing had his own documentary record and was
        consulting it, and that what he said was confirmed
        In other cases, including at least one Minister of the
        Crown, I was given a very plausible and, for all I
know, a
        very true story of a meeting at which he was supposed
        have been present; and when the records of that
        subsequently became available, it was clear that he
        not.  He should have been, but he just was not that
        and he must have heard the story from one of the
        there and then repeated it.
   Q.   But he seriously believed that he had been there?
   A.   Well ----
   Q.   By he came to tell the story?
   A.   If a gentleman who holds the rank of Admiral of the
        and is a junior Minister in the Cabinet tells you that
        is there, one's reaction is not to question him and,
        indeed, it was one of these confirmatory details.
   Q.   But ----
   A.   For all I know, the story was true; it is just that
        man who gave it me alleged that he was present and was
   Q.   My question was, Professor, if you remember, at the
        he told the story he believed that he had been there?
   A.   He may have come to believe it.  Memory is a very

.          P-38

   Q.   So to repeat my original question, where you would
rank on
        that scale of material that is lying before you, at
        end of the bench you have the eyewitnesses and at the
        other end of the bench you have, for example, the
        Bletchley Park intercepts?
   A.   The Bletchley Park intercepts, in so far as they are
        complete, are always regarded as the most reliable
        there is no evidence that the dispatcher was aware
        his messages could be decoded and, therefore, he would
        truth in them.  There are cases, of course, in which
        messages were sent in a code that was expected to
        in order to mislead.
   Q.   The Japanese Purple Code, for example, the Japanese
        aware that we were breaking it, is that not so?
   A.   That is not my information.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Professor Watt, I do not know whether you
        know the answer to this question but ----
   A.   That is not my information, no.
   Q.   The Bletchley Park intercepts, we have heard of
        about the shootings on the Eastern Front going back to
        Berlin and those having been intercepted by Bletchley
        Park, but how wide did it go?  What other kind of
        do you know, were intercepted at Bletchley?
   A.   We were reading at different times a very large
        of the Naval codes.  We were reading the Abwehr codes.

.          P-39

        were reading some of the German Army codes.  Not all
        Bletchley Park intercepts have as yet been released,
   Q.   But, on the whole, they were military?
   A.   This is not an area in which I have particular
   MR IRVING:  We have another expert who we will be calling
        precisely this, my Lord.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  All right.  I need not trouble you
   MR IRVING:  Professor Watt, I only intend to detain you for
        another five or 10 minutes at most.  Moving away from
        documentation that you yourself worked with, you have
        occasion on a number of times to read books that I
        written on the commission of newspapers who have given
        job to you to read them or possibly even out of
        entertainment or possibly even because you wanted to
        them yourself as a source, have you a general comment
        make on the quality of the research or the writing?
   A.   I find your version of Hitler's personality and
        of the Holocaust, a knowledge of the mass murder of
        Jews, a very difficult one to accept.  That, of
course, is
        a view that I have expressed in the reviews I wrote of
        your Hitler's War, in the review I wrote of the Goring
        the Goebbels' biographies.
                  I find in other areas where your particular
        political convictions are not involved, I am most
        impressed by the scholarship.  There is a book, my

.          P-40

        which I have brought me which is a second version of
        book in which I collaborated with Mr Irving back in
        60s which is an edited version of possibly the only
        surviving document of the German research office,
        so-called, which was one of the agencies involved in
        listening to telephone conversations, in decoding
        diplomatic and other ciphers and so on.  There were
        agencies -- there was one run by the Foreign Ministry
        there was one run by the German armed forces, but this
        most ----
   Q.   Pioneering?
   A.   --- high level one and it was one which, although it
        people, both of convinced Nazis and those who were
        unconvinced, on its ranks, it certainly enjoyed the
        highest reputation.  The document itself is a lengthy
        summary of British policy in the year 1938, 1939.
   MR IRVING:  Professor Watt, have you any comment on the way
        which I handled the document?
   A.   Yes, this is what I am about to come to.  When
        I collaborated with Mr Irving on this ----
   Q.   You wrote the introduction to the book.
   A.   --- after my discovery of it, I only had one basic
        document on the subject of the [German] which was the
        evidence of a man who was then unnamed which was
        me by a German organization.  Mr Irving's second
        of this is, I think, a major contribution to our

.          P-41

        on the subject.  He has worked very effectively.  He
        interviewed large numbers of people.  He has
        the British and American reports on the organization.
        British ones, I may say, I am in the process of trying
        persuade the authorities to release because they are
        available in America but not here.
                  I find it -- invaluable is perhaps too
strong a
        word, but a very, very effective piece of historical
        scholarship, and it is one which does not deal with
        issues on which Mr Irving is complaining.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Can I just ask this, as a military
        and I underline the word  "military", how do you rate
        Mr Irving?
   A.   I think Mr Irving is not in the top class, but as a
        historian of Hitler's war seems to ----
   Q.   That is what I meant.
   A.   --- I think his is a view which, even if one disagrees
        with it, has to be taken seriously.  He is, after all,
        only man of standing, on the basis of his other
        who puts the case for Hitler forward and it seems to
        that it is mistaken to dismiss it.  It requires the
        careful examination, though, I must say, I hope that I
        never subjected to the kind of examination that
        Mr Irving's books have been suggested to by the
        witnesses.  I have a very strong feeling that there
        other senior historical figures, including some to

.          P-42

        I owed a great deal of my own career, whose work would
        stand up, or not all of whose work would stand up, to
        kind of examination -----
   MR IRVING:  Would you like to mention some names?
   A.   --- and I think that would be a ----
   Q.   Selous ^^ Namier, perhaps, would you?
   A.   Well, Namier ^^ I would mention because it was the
        article I ever published -- the rash youth that I was,
        Lord -- was an attack upon him and I am told that it
        passed around Baliol College in plain brown wrappers
        because it caused such a sensation.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Professor Watt, when you said what you
        just said about Hitler (sic) as a military historian,
        are talking ----
   MR IRVING:  Irving.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  --- not really of what he has written
        the Jewish problem; is that right?
   A.   I am talking about his whole case for Hitler.  I think
        is difficult to divide this man's personality.  I do
        think he has solved what to me is the mystery which is
        extraordinary third rate nature of Hitler's mind from
        personality and thoughts.  How he could have managed
        suck into his own private fantasy world the whole of
        Europe and the major powers and so on is one of the
        historical mysteries which I yet to see anyone tackle.
        I am waiting for the second volume of the latest

.          P-43

   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  It is one of the few issues we do not
have to
        tackle here either, so...
   A.   But it is a case, I think, of whether one is arguing
        the key or the lock.
   MR IRVING:  Professor Watt, can I put this to you?  I will
        it out as that is the simplest way of doing it.  It is
        attached to the back of the little sheaf of documents
        I gave my Lord.  (Document not provided)   Professor
        it is the review in the Daily Telegraph.  It is the
        review I am going to put to you. "On June 16th 1977,
        you were invited to review my book Hitler's War, which
        the first edition, am only going to read one
        Mr Irving's views on Hitler's position in relation to
        massacre of European Jewry are well known.  He
        the massacre was organized by Himmler and Heydrich
        Hitler's knowledge, a belief he rests on the absence
        any direct evidence of Hitler's knowledge and the
        existence of certain specific orders in specific cases
        that there was to be no liquidation.  From these
        he deduces the positive, backed by evidence from the
        survivors of Hitler's immediate entourage that the
        was never mentioned in their presence at all".  This
        yourself writing, Professor Watt?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   "To this argument each historian would have apply his

.          P-44

        judgment." You do not say straightaway what an absurd
        idea, what a perverse kind of reading of the documents.
        You carry on by saying, Professor Watt, "For myself
        I found it initially not unpersuasive, having read the
        book, until I reflected on the character of Himmler".  At
        that point I propose to stop. In other words, that was
        your position at the time you had freshly read the book?
   MR RAMPTON:  May I interrupt?  Could Mr Irving please complete
        the paragraph?
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Yes, because I do not have that document in
        front of me.

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