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Subject: Irving v. Penguin & Lipstadt: Judgment V
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Keywords: David Irving libel action Deborah Lipstadt

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Last-Modified: 2000/04/11

V. JUSTIFICATION: THE DEFENDANTS' HISTORIOGRAPHICAL CRITICISMS OF
IRVING'S PORTRAYAL OF HITLER IN PARTICULAR IN REGARD TO HIS ATTITUDE
TOWARDS THE JEWISH QUESTION

Introduction

5.1 A central tenet of Irving's historical writing about the Nazi era is
that Hitler was not the vehement and ruthless persecutor of the Jews
that he is usually portrayed to have been. Irving has on occasion gone
so far as to say that Hitler was "one of the best friends the Jews ever
had in the Third Reich". Even if that can be disregarded as hyperbole,
Irving would not, I think, dispute that he has on many occasions put
forward the contentious view that, at least from the date when he seized
power in 1933, Hitler lost interest in his former anti-semitism and that
his interventions thereafter in relation to the Jewish question were
consistently designed to protect them from the murderous inclinations of
other Nazis.

The general case for the Defendants

5.2 At p161 of Denying the Holocaust Lipstadt attributes to scholars the
description of Irving as a "Hitler partisan wearing blinkers". That
phrase, importing the suggestion that Irving deliberately ignores what
is revealed by the historical record, encapsulates one of the main
defamatory meanings of which Irving complains and which the Defendants
seek to justify.

5.3 The way in which the Defendants summarise their plea of
justification on this part of the case is as follows:

"that the [Claimant], driven by his obsession with Hitler, distorts,
manipulates and falsifies history in order to put Hitler in a more
favourable light, thereby demonstrating a lack of the detachment,
rationality and judgment necessary for an historian".

In their Summary of Case the Defendants highlight claims made by Irving
as to Hitler's friendship for and leniency towards Jews, which claims
they assert ignore a large and powerful body of contradictory evidence.
The Defendants contend that Irving

"misstates, misquotes, falsifies statistics, falsely attributes
conclusions to reliable sources, relies on books and sources that
directly contradict his arguments, quoting in a manner that completely
distorts the author's objectives, manipulates documents to serve his own
purposes, skews documents and misrepresents data in order to reach
historically untenable conclusions, bends historical evidence until it
conforms to his ideological leanings and political agenda, takes
accurate information and shapes it to confirm his conclusion and
constantly suppresses or deliberately overlooks sources with which he is
familiar because they contradict the line of argument which he wishes to
advance".

5.4 The Defendants advance a similar case against Irving in relation to
his account of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, culminating in the
genocide which they assert took place in the gas chambers, and his
claims as to the extent of Hitler's involvement in that persecution. I
shall deal with that part of the defendants' plea of justification in
sections VI to VIII below. The present section is confined to certain
specific instances where the Defendants attack Irving's historiography.

5.5 The principal protagonist amongst the Defendants' witnesses of the
view that Irving persistently and deliberately falsifies history is
Evans. In seeking to make good this full-blooded assault on Irving's
historiographical approach, Evans included in his lengthy written report
multiple examples of the way in which in his opinion Irving portrays
Hitler in a manner which is utterly at odds with the available evidence.
He cited numerous occasions when, so he alleged, Irving distorted the
historical record by one means or another; suppressed evidence; made
uncritical use of unreliable sources and arrived at perverse irrational
conclusions about events and documents. Evans also drew attention to
occasions when Irving has written in inappropriately flattering terms
about him. One example is Irving's description of the Fuhrer in Hitler's
War as "a friend of the arts, benefactor of the impoverished, defender
of the innocent, persecutor of the delinquent". Evans considers that the
consistent bias in favour of Hitler which is manifested in Irving's
works may stem in part from Irving's identification with Hitler and from
his professed intention to write Hitler's War from Hitler's perspective.
Irving has himself written that he sees himself as having acted as
Hitler's "ambassador to the afterlife" when he was engaged upon writing
his biography of Hitler. On the evidence of what Irving has written and
what he has said in his talks and speeches, Evans concludes that Irving
remains an ardent admirer of Hitler despite the overwhelming evidence
which condemns him.

5.6 Evans does not stand alone in making these harsh criticisms of
Irving's historical method. In the narrower fields covered by their
evidence van Pelt, Browning and Longerich level similar criticisms at
him.

5.7 The Defendants based their attack on Irving's historiography upon a
number of selected episodes. They contend that a detailed analysis of
the evidence which was available to Irving supports their case that in
his account of those episodes Irving has persistently and deliberately
falsified, manipulated and suppressed documents so as to presents a
picture which is skewed and misleading. The Defendants focus their
attention on a "chain of documents" which Irving has relied, initially
on BBC television in June 1977 and on several later occasions, in
support of his view that Hitler opposed the persecution of the Jews and
sought to protect them from the excesses advocated by other Nazis. I
shall consider the parties' arguments in relation to each of the
incidents to which the chain of documents relates.

5.8 Evans's detailed examination of those documents reveals, so he
alleged, consistent falsification of the historical record on the part
of Irving. Evans expressed the opinion that what he described as
Irving's "egregious errors" were calculated and deliberate. He accepted
that anyone can make mistakes but pointed out (as did Browning) that,
where all the so-called mistakes are exculpatory of Hitler, the natural
inference is that the falsification of the record is intentional. Evans
did not resile in his oral evidence from the view expressed in his
written report that Irving does not deserve to be called an historian.

Irving's general response

5.9 As I have already observed, Irving regards the imputation that he
has deliberately falsified the historical record as one of the most
serious which can be levelled against an historian. He testified that he
had never knowingly or wilfully misrepresented a document or misquoted
or suppressed any document which would run counter to his case. He
repudiated each and every one of the Defendants' allegations of
misquoting, misconstruing, mistranslating, distorting or manipulating
the evidence.

5.10 Irving denied any obsession with Hitler, as he denied any
falsification of history so as to portray Hitler in a more favourable
light. Irving argued that he has every right to praise Hitler where
praise is merited. Other historians, such as AJP Taylor, have taken a
similar line. Irving also resents the claim made by Lipstadt that he has
placed above his desk a self-portrait of Hitler. In fact it is nothing
more than a postcard-sized sketch which is not on display, although he
occasionally shows it to visitors.

5.11 Irving drew attention to the fact that in Hitler's War, as well as
in his other published works, he frequently includes material to the
discredit of Hitler and other senior Nazis and makes criticism of them.
He pointed out that he has expressly drawn his readers' attention to
crimes committed by Hitler. In his closing submission he included a list
of derogatory references which has made about Hitler. He refuted the
notion that these critical references were inserted for tactical
purposes, that is, to enable him to point to them in the event of
commentators accusing him of being a Hitler partisan. He has made no
attempt to conceal from his readers the rabid anti-semitism displayed by
Hitler in the early days. In his use of material obtained in his
interviews with Hitler's former adjutants or their widows, he has
included information provided by them which reflects adversely on
Hitler.

5.12 As Evans acknowledged, Irving has uncovered much new material about
the Third Reich. He has researched documents not previously visited by
historians, for example the Himmler papers in Washington and the
Goebbels diaries in Moscow. He has tracked down and interviewed
individuals (such as Hitler's adjutants or their widows) who
participated in or observed some of the events which took place during
Hitler's regime. Irving pointed out that, when he uncovers new documents
or sources, he habitually makes them publicly available by placing them
on his website or by some other means. Irving argues that no duplicitous
historian would behave in this way, for he would be providing the
evidence of his own duplicity to other historians. Irving advances a
similar general argument in rebuttal of the claim that he has
deliberately misrepresented or skewed or mistranslated documents. Irving
said that he invariably indicates in a footnote where the document is to
be found and often quotes the document in the original German. Irving
contended that a historian intent on misleading his readers would not so
forthcoming with the evidence of his own disreputable conduct.

5.13 Irving rejected the attack upon his historiography mounted by
Evans: the criticisms are sweeping but the instances cited in support of
them are, he claimed, relatively insignificant. Evans takes no account,
Irving complained, of the quality of the historical work displayed in
his many published works many of which have been favourably reviewed by
fellow historians. Irving was critical of frequency with which Evans
resorted to "the consensus amongst historians" by way of support for his
attack on Irving. He suggested that many of the criticisms advanced by
Evans were derived by him from the work of Professor Broszat, who had
personal reasons for writing corrosively about him. Irving stressed that
he should be judged by the use which he made of the evidence which was
available to him at the time of writing and not by reference to evidence
which has come to light more recently.

5.14 Irving was, understandably, indignant that Evans included in his
report a reference to his having been required by the British Museum to
read Hitler's War in the section of the library reserved for
pornographic material. By way of rejoinder he stated that the librarian
of the Widener Library in New York apparently thinks well enough of him
to stock forty-seven of his books.

5.15 Irving's general response to this part of the Defendants' case of
justification is that, when the pertinent documentary evidence is
subjected to "rigid historical criteria" (i.e. when due account is taken
of the authenticity and the reliability of the evidence, the reason for
its existence and the vantage point of the source or author), a
relatively slim dossier of evidence emerges which does indeed show
Hitler intervening in every instance to mitigate or lessen the
wrongdoing against the Jews. Few, if any, documents point in the
opposite direction.

The specific criticisms made by the Defendants of Irving's
historiography

5.16 In dealing with the Defendants' examples of Irving's alleged
distortions of the historical record, I shall adopt the approach taken
by the Defendants in their Summary of Case and deal with them one by one
and, so far as practicable, in a chronological order. In each case I
shall start with a brief account of the relevant historical background.
Then I shall by setting out in summary the criticisms made by the
Defendants of the use made by Irving of the evidence available to him in
relation to the particular episode and thereafter I will summarise
Irving's response to those criticisms.

(i) Hitler's trial in 1924

Introduction

5.17 In 1924 Hitler was tried and, following his conviction, imprisoned
for his role in the Nazi uprising in Munich in November 1923.

5.18 At p18 of the 1991 edition of Hitler's War Irving makes a passing
reference to Hitler's attempted putsch, on which occasion, according to
Irving, Hitler "disciplined a Nazi squad for having looted a Jewish
delicatessen".

5.19 A more detailed account of Hitler's role in the putsch is given at
p59 of Goering, where Irving writes:

"Meanwhile Hitler acted to maintain order. Learning that one Nazi squad
had ransacked a kosher grocery store during the night, he sent for the
ex-Army lieutenant who led the raid. 'We took off our Nazi insignia
first!' expostulated the officer - to no avail, as Hitler dismissed him
from the party on the spot. 'I shall see that no other nationalist unit
allows you to join either!' Goring goggled at this exchange, as did a
police sergeant who testified to it at the Hitler trial a few weeks
later".

Case for the Defendants

5.20 Evans noted that, whereas in Hitler's War it is claimed by Irving
that the whole squad which was involved in the looting was disciplined
by Hitler, in Goering it is just the ex-army lieutenant. The reader who
seeks to resolve the inconsistency is not assisted by any footnote
identifying either the police sergeant who is said by Irving to have
witnessed the dismissal or the occasion when he gave his evidence (as
would be conventional practice for a reputable historian). Irving says
at p518 that his account is knitted together from eye-witness evidence
at the trial.

5.21 Evans managed to track down the identity of the police officer, who
was called Hofmann. The Defendants criticise Irving for his failure to
inform the reader that Hofmann was a loyal member of the Nazi party who
participated in the putsch and who was on that account likely, when
testifying on his behalf at his criminal trial, to give a favourable
account of the conduct of his Fuhrer in his testimony and to depict him
as a law-abiding citizen.

5.22 According to Evans, examination of the transcript of Hofmann's
testimony reveals several inaccuracies in Irving's account. There is no
support for the claim that Hitler summoned or "sent for" the former
lieutenant or that either the police sergeant officer or Goering
"goggled" when Hitler admonished him for raiding the Jewish shop. The
admonition took place before the putsch and so cannot have formed any
part of an attempt by Hitler to maintain order during it.

5.23 Irving's account is also criticised for misrepresenting the nature
of Hitler's concern about the raid on the Jewish shop. The record of the
evidence given at the trial demonstrates that Hitler's concern was not
to punish the officer for victimising a Jewish shopkeeper but rather
that the incident might convey a bad impression of his new party.

5.24 Evans maintained that, far from acting to protect Jewish property
during the putsch, there is reliable evidence that Hitler (as he himself
admitted at his trial) ordered a raid on a Jewish printing house by
armed Storm Division troops, who under threat of violence stole 14.5
billion marks. This robbery is presented by Irving at p59 of Goering as
a "requisition" of "funds".

5.25 The Defendants maintain that in the respects which I have
summarised, in his account of Hitler's reaction to the raid on the
Jewish delicatessen and the evidence given at his trial, Irving
persistently twists and embroiders the facts so as to exculpate Hitler
and portray him as having acted sympathetically towards the Jews. Evans
emphasised that it is essential for any historian to pay close attention
to the background of any source he intends to quote so as to ensure that
he is a reliable witness. He concluded that Irving deliberately
suppressed the information as to Hofmann's background, preferring
instead to present him to the reader as an objective and trustworthy
source, when to Irving's knowledge he was nothing of the kind.

Irving's response

5.26 In the course of his own evidence and his cross-examination of
Evans Irving made a number of claims about his treatment of Hofmann's
evidence.

He repudiated the suggestion that he had deliberately provided a
footnote for Hofmann's evidence which would make it difficult for anyone
so minded to track it down. By way of explanation, he explained that his
publisher had called for cuts to be made in the text, so he had
abbreviated the footnotes with the result that they are not as helpful
as they might otherwise have been.

5.27 Irving initially excused his version of events by saying that what
he wrote was based on the microfiches of Hofmann's testimony rather than
the verbatim transcript of the evidence given at the trial. But Evans
pointed out that the contents of both were the same. Irving next claimed
that he had no way of knowing that Hofmann was a longstanding member of
the Nazi party and so likely to present Hitler in a favourable light.
Evans responded that this would have been apparent on the face of
Hofmann's testimony, which Irving read on microfiches and which
recounted his close relationship with Hitler and his involvement in the
putsch.

Moreover the Judge is recorded on the transcript as having congratulated
Hofmann for speaking out on behalf of his Fuhrer. Irving responded that
he had not had the transcript of Hofmann's evidence when he wrote
Goering or, if he had, he had not read that section of the testimony
which related to Hofmann's membership of the Nazi party. When it was the
pointed out to Irving that, in the course of his own cross-examination,
he had said that he had read the whole transcript of Hofmann's evidence
(which was only five pages long), Irving explained that, whilst it was
true that he had read Hofmann's evidence, he had not "paid attention" to
what he had said about his background. He added that readers of Hitler's
War and Goering would be able to work out for themselves that Hofmann
was not an objective witness without that fact being spelled out.

5.28 Irving accepted that there is no evidence that Goering "goggled"
when Hitler disciplined the former lieutenant but regards that as
permissible "author's licence". Irving defended his description of the
robbery of the bank as "requisitioning" the bank's funds by saying that
the robbery was an obvious prank: he was seeking to write with a "light
touch".

(i) Crime statistics for Berlin in 1932

Introduction

5.29 During the Weimar Republic statistics were maintained for the
numbers of crimes committed year on year. The crimes were broken down
into types of offences.

5.30 In the context of describing in his book Goebbels how Goebbels
turned anti-semitic when he realised the dominant position occupied by
the Jews in Berlin in the 1930s, Irving wrote that Goebbels was
unfortunately "not always wrong" to highlight every malfeasance of the
criminal demi-monde and identify it as Jewish. He added at pp46-7:

"In 1930 no fewer than 31,000 cases of fraud, mainly insurance swindles,
would be committed by Jews".

Irving cited in the supporting footnote various references including
Interpol figures which are said to be quoted in the Deutsche Nachrichten
Buro (DNB), 20 July 1935 and Kurt Daluege "Judenfrage als Grundsatz" in
Angriff, 3 August 1935. Two other sources are also given, namely
Kiaulehn and Wieglin.

Case for the Defendants

5.31 The Defendants assert that the claim about offences of fraud
committed by Jews, espoused by Irving in Goebbels, is factually
incorrect and that the references cited by him in the footnote do not
bear out his claim.

5.32 Indeed, say the Defendants, Interpol did not exist in 1932. The
DNB, according to Evans, was a news agency which acted as the mouthpiece
of the Nazi regime. In any case the DNB article cited by Irving did not
contain any Interpol statistics but quoted remarks made by Daluege at a
press conference which was nothing more than a propaganda exercise
designed to justify the brutal persecution of the Jews.

5.33 As for Daluege, he was an enthusiastic member of the Nazi party who
later emerged as a mass murderer on the Eastern front. His article in
Angriff, relied on by Irving, was an attempt to justify the remarks made
at the press conference in July 1932. The transcript of those remarks
does not bear out the figure which appears in Irving's text. Nor,
claimed Evans, do the other two references given by Irving in the
footnote.

5.34 The Defendants argue that, if (as a reputable historian would and
should do) Irving had checked the official statistics, it would have
been obvious that no more than 74 Jews were convicted of insurance
frauds. Irving has greatly exaggerated Daleuge's already suspect claim
as to the number of such offences committed by Jews. No evidence is
cited by Irving, or has been subsequently produced by him, for the claim
that Jews committed 31,000 offences of fraud that year or anywhere near
that many.

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