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 desire to arrive at a decision and the insubstantiality of any written evidence, or any other evidence, particularly oral evidence, or of the kind of man who comes up and says, "Never mind what the documents say, I was there and this is the real truth", is one which is a constant pitfall in our paths and which has mislead a great many people, including some extremely important and senior historians in the past. Q. Professor, I was not going to ask you about eyewitness evidence but where would you rank eyewitness evidence on 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 from Bletchley Park, if you had captured documents, either captured during the war or after the war, and eyewitness evidence, in other words, anecdotal evidence and, finally, interrogations, whether under oath or not in court, how would you classify those in order of reliability, starting with the least reliable? A. I do not know that there is any way of classifying those, 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 of 30 years of age, and in my experience the kind of evidence I got differed according to the personality of the person . 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 later. 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 to have been present; and when the records of that meeting subsequently became available, it was clear that he was not. He should have been, but he just was not that day, and he must have heard the story from one of the people 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 Fleet and is a junior Minister in the Cabinet tells you that he 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 the man who gave it me alleged that he was present and was not. Q. My question was, Professor, if you remember, at the time he told the story he believed that he had been there? A. He may have come to believe it. Memory is a very tricky . P-38 element. Q. So to repeat my original question, where you would rank on that scale of material that is lying before you, at one 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 because there is no evidence that the dispatcher was aware that his messages could be decoded and, therefore, he would put truth in them. There are cases, of course, in which messages were sent in a code that was expected to broken in order to mislead. Q. The Japanese Purple Code, for example, the Japanese were 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 messages 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 topics, do you know, were intercepted at Bletchley? A. We were reading at different times a very large proportion of the Naval codes. We were reading the Abwehr codes. We . P-39 were reading some of the German Army codes. Not all the Bletchley Park intercepts have as yet been released, my Lord. Q. But, on the whole, they were military? A. This is not an area in which I have particular expertise. MR IRVING: We have another expert who we will be calling on precisely this, my Lord. MR JUSTICE GRAY: All right. I need not trouble you further. MR IRVING: Professor Watt, I only intend to detain you for another five or 10 minutes at most. Moving away from the documentation that you yourself worked with, you have had occasion on a number of times to read books that I have written on the commission of newspapers who have given the job to you to read them or possibly even out of entertainment or possibly even because you wanted to use them yourself as a source, have you a general comment to make on the quality of the research or the writing? A. I find your version of Hitler's personality and knowledge of the Holocaust, a knowledge of the mass murder of the 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 and 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 Lord, . P-40 which I have brought me which is a second version of the book in which I collaborated with Mr Irving back in the 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 also agencies -- there was one run by the Foreign Ministry and there was one run by the German armed forces, but this was most ---- Q. Pioneering? A. --- high level one and it was one which, although it had 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 in 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 provided me by a German organization. Mr Irving's second version of this is, I think, a major contribution to our knowledge . P-41 on the subject. He has worked very effectively. He has interviewed large numbers of people. He has identified the British and American reports on the organization. The British ones, I may say, I am in the process of trying to 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 the issues on which Mr Irving is complaining. MR JUSTICE GRAY: Can I just ask this, as a military historian, 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, the only man of standing, on the basis of his other research, who puts the case for Hitler forward and it seems to me that it is mistaken to dismiss it. It requires the most careful examination, though, I must say, I hope that I am never subjected to the kind of examination that Mr Irving's books have been suggested to by the Defence witnesses. I have a very strong feeling that there are other senior historical figures, including some to whom . P-42 I owed a great deal of my own career, whose work would not stand up, or not all of whose work would stand up, to this 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 first article I ever published -- the rash youth that I was, my Lord -- was an attack upon him and I am told that it was passed around Baliol College in plain brown wrappers because it caused such a sensation. MR JUSTICE GRAY: Professor Watt, when you said what you have just said about Hitler (sic) as a military historian, you are talking ---- MR IRVING: Irving. MR JUSTICE GRAY: --- not really of what he has written about the Jewish problem; is that right? A. I am talking about his whole case for Hitler. I think it is difficult to divide this man's personality. I do not think he has solved what to me is the mystery which is the extraordinary third rate nature of Hitler's mind from personality and thoughts. How he could have managed to 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 biography. 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 about the key or the lock. MR IRVING: Professor Watt, can I put this to you? I will read 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 Watt, it is the review in the Daily Telegraph. It is the only review I am going to put to you. "On June 16th 1977, when you were invited to review my book Hitler's War, which was the first edition, am only going to read one paragraph. Mr Irving's views on Hitler's position in relation to the massacre of European Jewry are well known. He believes the massacre was organized by Himmler and Heydrich without Hitler's knowledge, a belief he rests on the absence of 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 negatives he deduces the positive, backed by evidence from the survivors of Hitler's immediate entourage that the matter was never mentioned in their presence at all". This is yourself writing, Professor Watt? A. Yes. Q. "To this argument each historian would have apply his own . 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.
Site Map ·
What's New? ·
© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012
Home · Site Map · What's New? · Search Nizkor