The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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An English court, a Holocaust denier and an American professor sued

Clive Davis

BODY: Amidst the minutiae of a libel case as complicated as Irving v.
Penguin Books & Deborah Lipstadt, even a High Court judge can sometimes find
himself wrong-footed. Mr. Justice Grey's turn came as the historian David
Irving cross-examined an expert witness, Hajo Funke, professor of Politics
and Culture at the Free University of Berlin, about an after-dinner toast
that took place in a Munich hotel on April 20, 1990.

What day, asked Mr. Irving, is April 20th in the German calendar? Before the
witness could reply, the judge answered that it was a Friday, his words
prompting a genteel flutter of laughter around the courtroom. The reason?
April 20th, as Mr. Irving was quick to point out, is Adolf Hitler's birthday.

David Irving knows all about these things, of course. The author of the
bestseller "Hitler's War," and a maverick who once described himself as a
"moderate fascist," Mr. Irving has spent much of his controversial career
wading through documents and memorabilia from the Third Reich. He has had
plenty of opportunities to indulge that passion over the last several weeks
as the main protagonist in a case which puts so-called Holocaust
"revisionism" on trial.

As readers will know by now, Mr. Irving is suing Deborah Lipstadt, professor
of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.,
for comments made in her 1993 book "Denying The Holocaust." The writer
prefers not to use the term revisionist because she feels it confers
respectability on an extremist conspiracy. In her book she describes Mr.
Irving as "one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial."

Mr. Irving, for his part, claims that the accusations have left his career
in ruins, since he can no longer find a reputable publisher for his work. On
the elaborate website where he documents every stage of the trial, he pours
scorn on the professor and her "Israeli paymasters."

Now the duo face each other in court. Court 73 of the High Courts of Justice
forms a bland, anonymous stage for these dramatic proceedings. The cramped,
modern room has no air of grandeur nor even Bleak House mustiness about it.
Laptop PCs easily outnumber the traditional lawyers' wigs.

The gold royal crest on the wall behind Mr. Justice Grey supplies one of the
few touches of decoration. Dull fluorescent lighting casts a yellow pallor
over the lawyers, press and members of the public. And there is no jury to
respond to the cut and thrust of the proceedings. Both sides in this
historic case have agreed that the issues at stake are so detailed that the
judge alone should deliver a verdict.

The defendant is surrounded by her ample team of lawyers, who include the
crusty, bewigged barrister Richard Rampton QC and the solicitor Anthony
Julius - best known in Britain as Princess Diana's divorce lawyer. Mr.
Irving, 62, stands alone. During this session four Jewish youths in
yarmulkas, clearly no part of his team, are seated close behind him, their
eyes fixed on his pinstriped back. Mr. Irving is alone because he is
representing himself in court, groping his way through the finer points of
cross-examination. Voluminous files rest on the desk in front of him, next
to a dozen or so books, among them "Hitler's War" and his biography of
Joseph Goebbels.

It is a typically convoluted day in a confrontation which has been rumbling
along since January. Once again a "Court Full" sign hangs on the door
outside. Today's expert witness is Mr. Funke, who has assembled a bulky
report outlining Mr. Irving's alleged links with neo-Nazi groups. Slowly,
laboriously, Mr. Irving attempts to undermine his credibility, pointing to
inconsistencies in the report. There is much cross-referencing with his
diary which is, curiously enough, one of the major sources of evidence in
the trial. (Disclosure of the contents were requested in the pretrial phase.)

Mr. Funke looks weary, as he has every right to, considering the many hours
he has spent replying to the questions. Mr. Irving pores over footnotes;
every now and then he makes theatrically scornful references to the social
scientists whom he clearly regards as ill-qualified to judge his work. The
cross-examination is a painfully slow process of claim and counterclaim, but
there is a logic to Mr. Irving's approach. Under British law the burden of
proof rests not on the plaintiff, but the defendant. She is the one who has
to prove her case decisively.

Mr. Irving's sense of humor never quite deserts him. When, not for the first
time, the judge rebukes him for asking irrelevant questions ("You're missing
the wood for the trees again . . ."), the historian responds with all the
bravado of a schoolboy in the headmaster's study. Mr. Hanke holds his own
too. When Mr. Irving claims not to have heard of a book attacking his work,
the witness breaks into a wry smile: "It's wonderful. I'll give it to you."

Humor has its limits, though. Amidst the theater, and the cut and thrust, it
is easy to forget that there are real issues and real lives at the center of
all this. At the end of January the court had heard a Dutch historian,
Robert Jan Van Pelt describing in detail the technology that made mass
murder possible at Auschwitz. In a map of human suffering, he said,
Auschwitz would be at the center. Mr. Irving argues that Auschwitz's
supplies of Zyklon-B gas were used merely as an industrial delousing agent.

Extracts of a speech Mr. Irving gave in 1991 in Alberta, Canada, have also
surfaced in court. A different brand of wit raises its head here:. . .
"There are so many Auschwitz survivors going around, in fact the number
increases as the years go past, which is biologically very, very odd to say
the least. I'm going to form an association of Auschwitz Survivors,
Survivors of the Holocaust and Other Liars, . . ."

There was nothing so dramatic in the closing session with Mr. Funke. But, to
return to the start of this column, what exactly did happen on April 20,
1990? Well, Mr. Irving was in Munich as the main speaker at a "revisionist"
conference organized by an alleged neo-Nazi Ewald Althans. That evening Mr.
Irving attended a dinner where the 16 other guests drank a toast to Hitler's
101st birthday. Mr. Irving's diary, not for the first time, had the last
word: "All rose, toasted; I had no glass as I don't drink."

If he loses the case, Mr. Irving could always consider a career in the law.
The two sides made their concluding arguments this week. The judge is
expected to return his verdict in about three weeks.

Clive Davis writes for the Times and Sunday Times, London. He lives in


Sympathy for the Devil?

Peter Millar on the perils of appearing as a witness for a controversial
historian  A question of history: Millar was called by Irving to give
evidence after working with him on the diaries of Goebbels, left

Why I spoke up for David Irving

Playing the devil's advocate is something most writers can cope with. It is
another thing entirely getting an e-mail from him asking you to be his
witness in court.

David Irving, of course, is not the devil. Or so he maintains. He has, he
says, been demonised by a global conspiracy determined to ruin him and
enforce his silence. That has been the essence of his libel case now
awaiting judgment in the High Court. As Joseph Goebbels's biographer, he
does not quite echo the man he considers the real architect of the Third
Reich's crimes, and say it is a "Jewish-Communist conspiracy". But he comes

Such is Irving's ogre status that I had some trepidation even appearing in
the witness stand - called by a man who says the greatest crime in human
history is largely a myth - in a capacity that shocked friends, described
(wholly mistakenly) as "for the defence". Mistakenly, because Irving is the
claimant. I was doing something even more apparently outrageous: appearing,
in a loose and non-legalistic manner of speaking, "for the prosecution".

Unlike me, Sir John Keegan, defence editor of The Daily Telegraph and an
eminent historian who praised Irving's book Hitler's War for its research,
had to be subpoenaed into the witness box. Under oath, he admitted that his
refusal to give evidence was based on fears of being "misunderstood". Irving
said that was proof of the strength of the conspiracy against him.

I have been to Auschwitz and have no doubt about what happened there. And as
the author of a novel that, while nothing to do with the Holocaust, is based
on the premise that winners of wars manipulate history to their own designs,
I agreed to take the stand voluntarily, rather than be dragged there.

My contribution to the case related to his conduct as a historian. In 1992,
Andrew Neil, then editor of this newspaper, did a deal with Irving to
publish extracts of Goebbels's diaries, newly uncovered in a hitherto secret
Moscow archive. My job, as a freelance writer fluent in Russian and German
and with a knowledge of the period, was to "oversee" Irving.

That he had the potential to be a "wild card" was never in doubt, at least
to me. It was like trying to play nanny to a mischievous grown-up schoolboy.
At one stage he misappropriated - "pinched" was the word used by the
opposition in court - an original, fragile, 1945 glass microfilm plate from
a Soviet archive and hid it for several hours, concealed in cardboard
postcards, on waste ground.

I was outraged, and told him so. He thought me a "wimp" and suggested any
real investigative journalist would have done the same. He had a point,
though not necessarily a good one.

The plate was put back. And therefore not "pinched". And undamaged. That
was, for him, the crux of my evidence: to counter any charge that he was
reckless. I thought it was a dubious point, but then it is to Irving's
credit (and the basis of his early reputation) that he unearthed and worked
from original sources. His German is fluent, learnt the hard way from
working in a steelworks in the Ruhr.

In the witness box, Irving asked me to confirm that I had, on my two or
three visits to his Duke Street flat, never seen a portrait of Hitler. I had
not. The defence QC, Richard Rampton, did not ask what I had seen. So there
was no occasion to mention the cocktail sticks with their little paper
swastikas. Irving regarded them, he said, as a joke. It all depends on your
sense of humour. Few Jews - or modern Germans - would have been amused.

Irving's accusations against Deborah Lipstadt, an American academic, and
Penguin centre on her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault
on Truth and Memory, which he says was the climax of a campaign designed to
deny him his livelihood by scaring off publishers. Lipstadt pleads
justification. The decision will be made by Mr Justice Gray, sitting, by
mutual agreement, without a jury, both sides apparently feeling that the
arguments require more than "common" sense.

In court, clearly nervous about the complex business of conducting his own
case, Irving was by turns pompous and deferential. Out of it, he still
appears an all-too-familiar crusty-uncle type, the sort you wouldn't mind
having round to tea at Christmas as long as nobody talked politics or played
rap music. But his views are undoubtedly what would be described in the
buzzword of the moment as "institutionally racist".

"I have never been politically correct and I am not ashamed of it," Irving
declared when his diary was found to include a now-infamous ditty he sang to
his youngest daughter Jessica in her pram: "I am a baby Aryan, not Jewish or
Sectarian, I have no wish to marry an ape or Rastafarian." Wickedly clever
doggerel worthy of Spitting Image, but quoted in court it was an own goal
that even his direst detractors would not have dared dream up.

But these attitudes, it can be argued - and was - are not germane to the
case. Irving insists that the case is not about deciding the truth of
history, but the historian's right to dispute it.

His vast website ( includes daily transcripts of the case and
the full text of the mostly hostile press comment. Irving declares himself
the champion of free speech and, in so doing, raises the dark issue of where
its boundaries lie. In Germany, where "Holocaust denial" is a crime, he has
a criminal record. Irving, the Germanophile, cites this as proof that
Germans have still not learnt to cope with some attributes of democracy.

When, back in 1992, the inevitable row erupted over Irving's opinions and
his status as a historian, for the sake of my own conscience, I put the big
question to him direct, on the telephone. "David," I said, "do you really
deny the Holocaust ever happened?"

"Of course not," he said. And a wave of relief swept me. Prematurely, I soon
realised. "I accept that thousands," (how many?) "even tens of thousands of
Jews died in the concentration camps." Not millions. And not, he went on to
add, in the gas chambers. According to Irving, the greatest cause of Jewish
mortality was typhus, though he accepts that vast numbers were also
executed, usually shot in the head. He insists that Hitler was unaware of
any mass extermination programme until at least October 1943. And, most
controversially of all, that most of those who claim to be Auschwitz
survivors are liars.

If even half of Irving's claims were true, it would - as he insists - be
evidence of a massive conspiracy of lies and distortion. A conspiracy that,
except to Irving and a few others, defies belief.

It would be sad if we allowed political correctness to condemn Irving for
thinking (or even saying) the unsayable. Nor is it our affair if he believes
the unbelievable. But what if he preaches it . . .?

In the end, it is hard to see David Irving in any other role than the latest
in a line of libel litigants that stretches back - without implying any
moral equivalence - from Neil Hamilton via Jonathan Aitken to Oscar Wilde.
Is it not the great clich=E9 lesson of history that we never learn from it?


GUARDIAN LONDON 03.19.00,2763,148654,00.html

The world according to David Irving

The judge will soon give his verdict on one of the most bitter libel trials
in recent memory. Last week David Irving took time off to give this
revealing and forthright interview to celebrated American author Gerald
Posner. He remains defiant, unapologetic and more outspoken than ever

The David Irving libel trial: special report

Sunday March 19, 2000

'Those are Adolf Eichmann's personal papers and diaries, the ones the
Israelis didn't find when they kidnapped him,' says David Irving, casually
pointing to a stack of papers strewn on his kitchen table. His flat is
overflowing with books, documents, files, as well as World War II
memorabilia. 'They are more interesting than the Eichmann papers Israel just
released to help the defence. They are desperate and clutching at straws.'

Irving, 62, relishes the limelight and tweaking his foes. He is thoroughly
enjoying the fallout from his high-profile libel lawsuit against Penguin
publishers and American Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt. After much
prodding, he has agreed to a rare break in his round-the-clock trial work to
see me in his sprawling Mayfair townhouse flat. 'After my closing argument
in the trial,' he declares, 'I shall give no further interviews. This is
probably the last one. I need to get back to my writing after a three-year

Irving remains unrepentant. In three weeks time he will discover if his
libel action will salvage his reputation or mark him as permanently ruined.
Following closing arguments last week, and while the the judge considers his
verdict, one might expect Irving to be circumspect and politically correct.
But that is not his style. Instead he seems determined to take on his foes
and to reiterate his strident views.

He leads me into his study. There, he sat directly in front of a large
colour overhead photograph of Crematorium Two at Auschwitz: 'That's the holy
of holies,' says Irving, jabbing one of his pudgy fingers toward the photo.
'No one was gassed there. The stories from survivors where someone says they
used to take off the manhole covers and then the gas poured in, it's all

He enjoys, as he puts it, 'deglamorising and deromanticising' the Holocaust.
'The Poles have admitted that the only gas chamber at Auschwitz is a
reconstruction built by them in 1948. It's only a damn tourist attraction.'

The charges start coming rapid fire. Although Irving relishes his status as
a contrarian and historic mischief-maker, he desperately wants to be
accepted as a serious historian. And he is anxious to demonstrate that
instead of being cowed by the battery of legal talent defending Lipstadt, he
is defiant and unbowed. For the next hour, he launches into a rather
remarkable defence of his own conclusions as well as an extraordinary attack
on the foundations of the Holocaust. In a virtual monologue, peppered
occasionally with German phrases, he rattled off contentions almost faster
than I could type them into my notebook computer.

'All Auschwitz survivors are now useless witnesses at any trial since they
have all seen Spielberg's Schindler's List, and can recite from memory where
the supposed shower heads with gas were.' When he says something he
particularly likes, his yellow teeth flash as his thin lips part in a
devilish grin.

And he does not back away from some of the extreme statements and acts
attributed to him, although he often tries to deflect their importance by
casting it as prankish humour. Yes, there were swizzle sticks adorned with
little swastikas at his 1991 book party, but 'those were really nothing more
than copies of Hitler's personal standard that my publisher had made up for
the launch of my book.' (The late Alan Clark was according to Irving, 'a
great admirer of Hitler. He sat in that very chair that you are in right
before my party started and told me in depth about his admiration for=

What about a little ditty found in the voluminous personal diaries produced
in the trial:

'I am a Baby Aryan, Not a Jewish or sectarian, I have no plans to marry, An
Ape or Rastafarian.

'Yes, that was mine. But I wrote it because of the bounce of the words and
they rhyme, not the content. They say it makes me a racist. Well, that is
all they got from my diaries. There are 20 million words in those diaries,
and these are 20. So that makes me what - 0.0001 per cent racist?' After a
moment's hesitation, he adds, 'But I do now wish I had used vegetarian
instead of Rastafarian.'

He comes alive when he talks about the trial, the forces he sees arrayed
against him, and what he believes he is accomplishing in courtroom 73 of the
High Court.

'I have been singled out,' Irving says as he sets forth a grand conspiracy
he believes operates against him. 'There has been, for years, a co-ordinated
effort to demolish my legitimacy as a historian. It is an international
endeavour. It is the international network of the Anti-Defamation League,
the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the
South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the Austrian Jewish Congress, the
American Jewish Committee, and a number of others.

'These are some of the traditional enemies of truth. These are all bodies
that Lipstadt thanks in her book. They always use the slime defence against
me. It is expensive for them, with so many lawyers and experts, but they
mount it. In any case, Jews should be asking not who pulled the trigger, but
why? When the Nazis asked the Slovaks, the Hungarians, the Czechs, and
others to give over their Jews, everyone did so gladly. Why did the
Americans and Roosevelt refuse to let the St. Louis dock? What is it about
these people that no one wanted them?'

It it vintage Irving. He deflects the query about why many respected
organisations have taken such a keen interest in his handling of history and
instead turns the discussion into a rhetorical question about the nature of
Jews, one that he is prepared to answer. Although he is adamant that he is
not a racist or anti-Semite, no sooner had he posed the question than he
provided an answer that is chillingly reminiscent of the anti-Semitic themes
that have persisted for centuries. 'Greed.' He pauses, letting the word
virtually hang in the room.

'Fifty years from now you might well have the same problem in the United
States. The Jewish =E9lite in America is filling the same positions they=
in the Weimar republic during the 1920s and 1930s - controlling the big
banks, the film business, media, and the like. The Jews disproportionately
held all these big positions in Germany. It's a mirror image in the US. And
it will evoke howls of rage from the ordinary citizens who are kept out of
the power =E9lite.'

Irving's charge about the 'Jewish =E9lite in America' sounds remarkably
similar to that made by the most extreme right-wing race baiters in the US,
and it is surprising to hear him say it publicly, especially since his
courtroom persona has been that of the measured historian who only has a
difference of opinion with other historians.

Although he has been forced to admit at trial that he greatly underestimated
the number of Jews killed in mobile gas vans (97,000 died that way), he
finds solace in his belief - which almost no courtroom observer shares -
that he has made great strides in demonstrating that Auschwitz's Crematorium
Two, the site of half a million deaths, is 'a mere legend'.

'It is the geocentre of the supposed death factory,' says Irving, his voice
rising slightly as he becomes more excited. 'But I have pictures that show
there were no holes in the ceiling, so there was no place for the gas to
come from.'

'What about the large quantities of Zyklon B gas that were shipped to
Auschwitz?' I ask.

His answer is the classic defence of hardcore revisionists. 'Yes, huge
quantities of Zyklon B were shipped there. The appropriate quantities for
fumigation, especially with the camp's typhus epidemics and problems with
pest control.'

My expression shows my scepticism.

'Look,' he continues. 'Zyklon B may have been used against prisoners. I
don't know. But I know crematorium 2 was not an enormous gas chamber.'
Although he says the debate over how many were killed by the Nazis is not
important, he enjoys contending that 'only 100,000 Jews may have died at
Auschwitz,' most from diseases, and the rest from shootings and hangings.

Then, as though his very minor concession about the possible use of gas ran
against his spirit, he picked up again in a vitriolic mode.

'Jewish leaders have hijacked the word 'holocaust.' It's even spelt
everywhere with a capital H. My Jewish editor in New York would not let me
use the word in my book Hitler's War to describe the Allied bombing of
Dresden. Another writer could not use it to describe the Irish potato
famine. It's like it's a registered trademark. You can't open it or tamper
with it. You either have to buy it or not, and if you don't buy it, what a

Now Irving's face is flushed red. His speech is rapid. There is an anger
against the forces he thinks are operating against him. Now it seems to boil
over as his rhetoric hits new highs. 'The factory of death legend,' he waves
his hand dismissively. 'They have hijacked the entire media with their
holocaust story. Nobody suffers from it except for me on who they pour their

He slumps back as though the outburst tired him.

'What if you are completely proven wrong one day?' I ask him. 'Proven wrong
even to your satisfaction.'

He sits quietly for a moment. 'I've said it before, and will again - with a
sheepish grin, I'll admit I was wrong, but you will have to give me credit
for having given them a great run for 40 years. But I certainly don't expect
that to happen.'


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