The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day009.05

Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day009.05
Last-Modified: 2000/07/20

   Q.   May I, first of all, pardon my rudeness, welcome you to
        our country and say what a great pleasure I had in reading
        your book on Auschwitz -- for what it is worth, it is one
        of the few books that I have read from cover to cover and
        it was a book that I found very difficult to put down.
        I do not know how much of the book was written by you and
        I do not know how much of the book was written by your
        partner, Deborah Dwork.  However, a number of questions
        arise from the book and, after we have seen the video,
        I would ask you just in one paragraph to give the court a
        brief history of Auschwitz in the way you have done in the
        book so admirably on the basis of documentation.  You
        studied at the University of Leiden, am I correct?
   A.   Yes, I did.
   Q.   And you are now Professor of the History of Architecture
        at the University of Waterloo in Toronto?
   A.   No.  The issue of my appointment is kind of confusing.

.          P-38

        I am in the Department of Architecture and hence I am
        officially a Professor of Architecture.  Your title as
        Professor depends on the department you are in.  However,
        I teach in what we call the Cultural History stream, so
        normally, in order to prevent confusion in ordinary usage,
        I would call myself Professor of Cultural History because,
        both in my background, my PhD and my teaching duties,
        I teach cultural history in the architectural school.
        However, when I was advised about the way I had to create
        my curriculum vitae for this proceeding, I was told that
        I had been to be extremely precise in the legal sense of
        what I was, so again I put in Professor of Architecture.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  So you are really a cultural historian?
   A.   I am really a cultural historian.
   MR IRVING:  This is a point of some substance, my Lord.  We
        need to know precisely what your qualifications are to
        offer your expertise to the court.  I do not mean this in
        the least sense in a derogatory manner because, as I say,
        I have read both your book and your report with the utmost
        interest.  However, we need to know what your areas of
        expertise actually are.  In Britain, of course, we have
        the Royal Institute of British Architects.  Are you
        familiar with the fact that it is illegal in England to
        call yourself an architect unless you are registered with the RIBA?
   A.   That is in most countries like that, yes, I know.

.          P-39

   Q.   In Holland, the equivalent is the Bond van Nederlandse
        Architecten, am I correct?  I am sorry about my pronunciation.
   A.   Yes, Bond van Nederlandse Architecten.
   Q.   Which is the rough equivalent of the RIBA?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   Am I right in saying that you are not registered with the
        Bond van Nederlandse Architecten?
   A.   I have never had any reason to do so since I never studied
        in an architectural school.
   Q.   So you cannot legally pretend to be an architect, if I can
        put it like that?
   A.   No, I could be prosecuted.
   Q.   You could be prosecuted?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   Rather like Mr Leuchter was prosecuted in Massachusetts
        for pretending to be an engineer?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   You can probably see the thrust of this particular
        question.  In other words, your expertise, as an
        architect, is the same as Mr Leuchter's expertise was an engineer?
   A.   I do not really know.  I have been teaching in
        architecture school now since 1984.  I have taught design
        courses, specially in small architecture schools one needs
        to chip in wherever one does.  I have been on

.          P-40

        architectural juries and quick sessions, mostly on a
        weekly, bi-weekly, kind of frequency.  I did ----
   Q.   You have never learned architecture?  You have never
        studied architecture at university?  You have never taken
        a degree in architecture?
   A.   I do not have a degree in it, but I have been confronted
        with the architectural practice and, apart from that,
        I have worked for various architects, one of them, Sir
        Dennis Leston, here in England, when he was designing the
        Synagogue in Jerusalem.  I have worked with Jack Diamond
        in Toronto.  So I have been in architectural offices very
        often and other practices.
   Q.   And, of course, you are now advising the present Auschwitz
        authorities on the reconstruction, if I can put it like
        that, of the Auschwitz site?
   A.   I was advising them, yes.
   Q.   You are no longer doing so.  Very well.  So if I am called
        a pseudo historian, then you are a pseudo architect, if I
        can put it like that?
   A.   Yes, except I have never claimed to be either an architect
        or a pseudo architect.
   Q.   Except that you are a Professor of architecture, you
        announce you are a Professor architecture, you leave
        people with the impression that you are an expert on
        architecture, and yet you have never studied it and you
        have never qualified and you are not registered as such?

.          P-41

   A.   I must say that I probably would prefer to be called a
        Professor of cultural history, but the fact of the matter
        is that the university has given me an appointment as
        Professor of architecture.  So ----
   Q.   But you are not giving evidence here on the culture of
        Auschwitz; you are giving evidence on the architecture of
   A.   I am going to evidence, I hope, on the history of
        Auschwitz, and the architectural documents are a very
        important historical source.  I think we both agree on
        that.  I think, as an historian, you can talk about
        various forms of evidence and the architectural documents
        is one of these forms of evidence.
   Q.   I do not mean these questions in the least sense as a put
        down, but I think it is important to draw his Lordship's
        attention to the fact that your qualifications as an
        architect are, in fact, no greater or lesser than mine?
   A.   I agree that my formal qualifications are exactly the same
        as yours.
   Q.   So when you look at light switches or architectural
        drawings or blue prints, as you call them, you are no
        better qualified than I am?
   A.   No, but I would say, your Lordship, that I have been doing
        this for the past maybe 15 years, and so there is a
        certain practical experience, I would say, which may be is
        going to be relevant.

.          P-42

   Q.   Yes.  There is only one other very general question on the
        question of credit which I would ask you before we settle
        back and watch the 10 minute video.  Your report is
        unusual in one respect, and your Lordship may have noticed
        it, it has a copyright line on page 2.  In other words,
        you claim copyright in this document.  Now, remembering
        you are on oath, would you tell the court if you have
        any intention eventually of publishing this?
   A.   At the moment I do not have.  I think it is an
        unpublishable document.
   Q.   I disagree.  It is set out in chapter form.  It has
        literary quotations at the beginning of every chapter,
        quotations from Mediaeval poets and other authors in a way
        you do not normally find in an expert report, I would have
        thought.  I would have thought it was designed explicitly
        for publication at some future date?
   A.   No.  When the occasion would arise, I would be very
        pleased if some of the things could be used, but I have
        learned to respect a big difference, for example, between
        a Ph.D. dissertation and a book and there is a big
        difference between an expert report, and I understand this
        report as a means for an intelligent judge to make up his
        mind about Auschwitz who has never been there, which is
        quite a difference for when one writes a book for the
        general public.
   Q.   So why the copyright line?

.          P-43

   A.   Oh, it is a habit of mine which I do whenever I submit any
        manuscript to anyone, and maybe this is inappropriate in
        this case.  None of the lawyers has told me that it was
        inappropriate, so the copyright line remained there.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  You can have an argument about the copyright
        after this case is over.
   MR IRVING:  My Lord, the reason I ask this, of course, if the
        witness was intending to publish this work, and he has now
        said on oath he has no intention of publishing it, then
        I would ask him the following question.  (To the witness):
        If you were to write a report which came out with the
        conclusion that crematorium No. (ii) had never been used
        as a homicidal gas chamber, that Auschwitz was not a
        factory of death, that Leuchter was right, David Irving
        was right, whatever, what would the commercial prospects
        of that be as compared with the commercial prospects of
        the report that you have actually written?  Would they be
        greater or less?
   A.   It is difficult to say.  It seems to be that the book
        buying habits of the people who are believing that the gas
        chambers were not used for homicidal purposes seems to
        have been much more active than for the people who
        believed that they were used for homicidal purposes.
        After all, I think that you sell more books than I sell of
        my Auschwitz books.
   Q.   Not currently I do not.

.          P-44

   A.   I mean, it is very difficult to say this.  Certainly,
        controversy seems to have served you well in the past in a
        number of books.  I have been, I believe, in some way less
        controversial and controversy certainly helps sales
        figures in general, so I probably put some more books.
   Q.   Very well.  I will take your statement that you have no
        intention of publishing this ever, as you have now told
        the court.  My Lord ----
   A.   May I just come back to this?  I said "in this form".
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Quite briefly, if you would.
   A.   Sorry?
   Q.   Quite briefly, if you would.
   A.   No, I said "in this form".  I did not -- I did not write
        this with publication in mind as such.
   MR IRVING:  Yes.  Very well.  My Lord if your Lordship will
        turn to the transcript ----
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Play the video?
   MR IRVING:  --- which I provide your Lordship of the video,
        just so you can confirm what is actually said.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Let me find it.  Is that one of the documents
        you have handed in.
   MR IRVING:  It is called Mr Truth -- Mr Death.  There are two
        excerpts that I wish to play.

                       (The video was played)

   MR IRVING:  My Lord, this is Fred Leuchter.  My Lord, I think
        this is not the part I wanted in fact.  I would speed the

.          P-45

        court along, I think, if I ask the witness if he remembers
        what was said.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  It is not your fault.  Shall we turn it off?
   MR IRVING:  Yes.  If I could borrow a transcript from someone?
        Professor van Pelt, you remember appearing in a video
        which is part of a film now called "Mr Death".  Do you
        remember the filming of that project?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   When exactly was that filmed?  A year ago?  Half a year ago?
   A.   We went to Auschwitz in April 1998 -- was it 1998?  1999,
        I think.  1999.
   Q.   '98?
   A.   1999.  No, 1998.  I am sorry.
   Q.   Do you remember saying:  "Auschwitz is like the Holy of
        Holies.  I have prepared for years to go there, and have a
        fool come in, coming completely unprepared, it is
        sacrilege, somebody who walks into the Holy of Holies and
        doesn't give a damn"?
   A.   Yes, I remember saying that.
   Q.   This was a reference to Mr Leuchter, was it not?
   A.   Yes, it was a reference to Mr Leuchter.
   MR RAMPTON:  Should not the witness have a transcript like
        everybody else?
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Do you feel the need for a transcript?
   A.   No, I remember the -- it is useful, but I remember this.

.          P-46

   MR RAMPTON:  Except that some pages down the road we come to
        some German, so it might be helpful.
   A.   Thank you.
   MR IRVING:  You were deeply moved to visit the actual location
        where these atrocities had occurred?
   A.   More than moved.  I was frightened.  I ----
   Q.   Ghosts of the dead were still all around?
   A.   No, I do not believe in ghosts and I have never seen in
        ghosts in Auschwitz, but it is an awesome place in many
        ways, and it is also an awesome responsibility one takes
        upon oneself when one starts to engage this place as an
        historian.  For many years I felt I was not up to that
        task.  It was only after very careful preparation that
        I finally decided to go there and to start work in
        Auschwitz.  As many things in life, it became easier to
        work on it as I was there as you actually start
        confronting what the place is.
   Q.   Can I ask you about a part on the next page of the
        transcript, the page beginning with the words, "Very
        little left", "to suddenly have in that room that
        concentration of evidence, you are sitting in the
        archives, to actually hold the stamps in your hand which
        you see on the drawings".  Am I right in understanding
        that the Auschwitz archives have the original wartime
        rubber stamps still?
   A.   Yes, there is a box with all the rubber stamps.

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