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 œ500 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.
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