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British scholar: Irving has no right to call himself a historian

By Douglas Davis

LONDON (February 13) - A leading British modern history professor last week
declared that Holocaust revisionist David Irving had no right to call
himself a historian, while a military historian, whom Irving himself had
called as a witness, described his views as "perverse."

Irving, who denies that Jews were systematically exterminated at Auschwitz,
is suing American professor Deborah Lipstadt and her British publisher,
Penguin Books, for libel in her 1994 book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing
Assault on Truth and Memory.

Irving claims that Lipstadt has destroyed his reputation and career by
labelling him a Holocaust denier and asserting that he had deliberately
distorted historical data to support his own ideological bias.

Richard Evans, professor of modern history at Cambridge University, told the
court that Irving did not deserve to be called a historian.

Testifying for Lipstadt, Evans said he was not prepared for the "sheer depth
of duplicity" he found in Irving's treatment of Holocaust-related historical

Irving retorted that Evans's "sweeping and rather brutal" attack on his
career was based on personal animosity.

"I think you dislike what I write and stand for and what you perceive my
views to be," he told Evans, who had produced a 740-page critique of
Irving's historical method.

Evans insisted he had no feelings of personal animosity towards Irving and
had sought to be as objective as possible when examining his work.

He had little prior knowledge of Irving's work, he said. He knew of Irving
as, in many areas, a sound historian, but he was "shocked" at what he found.

The proceedings had reinforced his view in the report that Irving had fallen
so far short of accepted standards of scholarship that "he doesn't deserve
to be called a historian at all."

But Irving declared that he was always "scrupulously fair... the total
opposite of being unscrupulous and manipulative and deceptive, as you say in
your report."

Evans agreed that Irving had a very wide knowledge of the source material
for the Third Reich and that he had discovered many new documents: "The
problem for me," he said, "is what you do with them when you interpret them
and write them up."

Irving's writings and speeches, said Evans, contained statements that he
regarded as "antisemitic" - to the extent that he blamed the Jews for the

Irving's belief that he was the target of "a worldwide Jewish conspiracy,"
he said, was "a fantastic belief which has no grounds in fact."

In his report, Evans said Irving had relied on his audience lacking the time
or the expertise to study the sources he used to discover the "distortions
and manipulations."

While acknowledging that individuals should be allowed to challenge the
"general consensus" of history, he insisted that there was a duty to conform
to academic standards in the evaluation of evidence.

Irving also had a bruising encounter with Prof. Christopher Browning, of
Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, who appeared as a witness
for Lipstadt.

Asked by Irving to comment on a Nazi plan to settle Jews on the Indian Ocean
island of Madagascar, Browning, author of four books and more than 35
academic papers on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, said it was a "bizarre

He added that the result of such a population transfer would have been
disastrous, as "a large percentage of the people would have perished." "I
think," countered Irving, "that the Jews are a very sturdy people."

Earlier, military historian Sir John Keegan, compelled by subpoena to
testify for Irving, said Irving's claim that Hitler did not know about the
fate of the Jews until late 1943 "was so extraordinary it would defy reason."

Keegan, who was knighted for his contribution to military history, agreed
that he had in the past recommended students of World War II to read
Irving's book Hitler's War, but he told the court he had also advised them
to read Chester Wilmot's Struggle for Europe. "Together, they gave Hitler's
side and the Allies' side," he said.

His recommendation to students did not mean he endorsed the opinions in
Irving's book: "I continue to think it is perverse in the proposal that
Hitler couldn't have known until October 1943 what was going on with the
Jewish population in Europe and many other minority groups as well."

Asked by Irving whether he was apprehensive about giving evidence "on my
behalf," Keegan replied: "I am not giving evidence on your behalf, but under



Editorial: Jousting with the Holocaust

February 13, 2000

In recent years the Holocaust has embedded itself more deeply into the
world's consciousness. The message of the shadows that it casts is that it
must never be allowed to happen again.

And yet, atop the mountain of factual material that confirms Nazi Germany's
inhumanity to man still stand a few individuals, blinded by their own
partisanship, who deny that the Holocaust ever took place.

In London this winter, one of the less disreputable of the disbelievers is
having his own version of truth tested. British historian David Irving is in
court, suing Penguin Books and professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory
University for libel for falsely accusing him of denying the Holocaust.

The conventional and almost universally accepted view was that Germany
systematically plotted the destruction of Jews, especially a decision
reached at a conference in July, 1942.

Mr. Irving says the mass extermination was not official policy and that
Hitler knew nothing about it until October, 1943. Forget the huge
extermination camps; forget the mass destruction of Jews across Europe; Mr.
Irving doesn't accept it or the use of gas chambers at Auschwitz (they were
a post-war tourist invention, he said). Hitler was a weak leader under whom
all kinds of bad things happened - without his intervention.

Mr. Irving's view is far off the track, of course. Literally hundreds of
historians blame the power-mad Hitler as the man who orchestrated the
Holocaust. The Nazi leader allowed no dissent from his attempts at world
supremacy and his attempts to annihilate all races and groups whom he viewed
as anathema.

And Hitler's henchmen were grim and methodical in carrying out their duties,
despite Mr. Irving's claims that it was a "totally ramshackle operation.''

And yet, Mr. Irving is about the best of those who challenge conventional
World War II history. A biography he wrote of Josef Goebbels has drawn
praise from a few respectable historians.

Where Mr. Irving finds his audience is among the small cadre of right-ring
scholars and neo-Nazi followers. Because Hitler was adept at covering up
some of his plans, it creates a loophole through which men like Mr. Irving
can crawl.

Win or lose, Mr. Irving has found a forum for himself in a London
courthouse. If he does lose - it's difficult to imagine a judge taking him
seriously - he will win a few more adherents for his cause.

It can only be hoped that, as the mountains of documents and truth pile up,
his distorted view of World War II history will look like a molehill by

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