From kmcvay Sun Jan 16 13:52:56 2000 Return-Path:
Received: from localhost (20571 bytes) by mail.nizkor.org via sendmail with P:stdio/D:dotforward/T:pipe (sender: owner: ) (ident using unix) id for ; Sun, 16 Jan 2000 13:52:56 -0500 (EST) (Smail-22.214.171.124 1997-Oct-16 #1 built 1997-Oct-31) Message-Id: From: kmcvay (Kenneth McVay OBC) Subject: no subject (file transmission) To: nizkor (Nizkor Project) Date: Sun, 16 Jan 100 13:52:56 -0500 (EST) X-Mailer: ELM [version 2.4ME+ PL32 (25)] MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit Content-Length: 20239 Status: O Copyright 2000 The Telegraph Group Limited SUNDAY TELEGRAPH(LONDON) January 16, 2000, Sunday Comment: David Irving, truth and the Holocaust Andrew Roberts, the historian, on the real nature of a contentious author By ANDREW ROBERTS AVID IRVING, the historian, lives in a large, airy flat just off Grosvenor Square, in Mayfair, London. I once visited him there while doing some research of my own and his controversial far Right political sympathies appeared immediately clear. On one wall were framed copies of the then Nazi newspaper Volkischer Beobachter dating from the late Thirties. On the desk was a framed autograph in a familiar, spiky hand, which on closer examination read "Adolf Hitler". At his parties - to which I was not invited - the cocktail swizzle-sticks featured small glass swastikas. Here, the place proclaimed, lives a True Believer. In the libel trial that opened last week - Irving v Penguin Books & Deborah Lipstadt - the plaintiff has decided to represent himself. The super-litigious 62-year-old, craggy-jawed and pin-striped, looks perfectly at home and confident in Court Number 37 at the Royal Courts of Justice. And he remains as unrepentant as ever. Last Thursday he was accosted outside by a woman who said her parents had been gassed at Auschwitz. He pitilessly told her: "You may be pleased to know that they almost certainly died of typhus, as did Anne Frank." This case hinges on whether or not Irving is, as is alleged by Deborah Lipstadt - the professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia - a Holocaust denier, someone who refuses to accept that deliberate genocide was practised by the Nazis and their allies on about six million European Jews during the Second World War. When I visited Irving I could not resist asking him: "If there was no such thing as the Holocaust, what happened to the large number of Jews who were alive and well in Europe in 1939, but were not there in 1945? How do you account for the discrepancy?" His answer, which embraced typhus and suicides, "natural wastage", ad hoc killings and local pogroms, was far from convincing. That was 10 years ago. Now, Irving more or less accepts that between one and four million Jews were deliberately murdered, although he thinks it unfeasible for Zyklon B gas to have been used except experimentally and refuses to use the term "Holocaust" because it is "misleading and unhelpful". In the past he has called the Holocaust a "blood lie" against the German people and has dismissed the memorial to the dead at Auschwitz as a "tourist attraction". A 12-week battle of historical references and definitions has now begun, at potentially vast cost to whoever loses. Penguin sees the case as being in the same league as its earlier struggles over Lady Chatterley's Lover and Salman Rushdie, as a test case for freedom of speech. In a sense Irving also wishes to present it in those terms, arguing that it is his freedom of speech, as well as his livelihood, that are under under threat from an "organised international endeavour" to prevent his books being published. The one aspect of Irving's scholarship that few historians question is his extraordinary industry. He has worked his way through more of the archives, public and private, of the Third Reich than probably any other researcher alive. For his biography of Goebbels he read through the 75,000 pages of the propagandist's diaries in Moscow, the first person ever to do so. Even his worst enemy - who is probably Albert Speer's biographer Gitta Sereny (he's suing her, too) - is forced to admit that "he does wonderful research and has a talent for writing". He is also generous to other authors with his research information. Several distinguished historians, all of whom asked not to be named, told me how much they admired Irving's tenacity in uncovering new material from Nazi sources. Because few people know so much about Hitler and his entourage as David Irving, it does not follow that his outrageous assertions about the Fuhrer - such as that he did not know about the Holocaust until October 1943 - are correct. But it does make him hard to contradict in disputes over pure documentation. In speeches at foreign neo-Nazi rallies and "seminars", however, he has employed a less scholarly vernacular, which Penguin and Lipstadt must hope will prove his undoing. His political views have often prevented him from being trusted as an objective historian and impel him to write passages in his books that offend so many people. But for these views he might well have emerged as one of the leading historians of the Third Reich. Nevertheless, without his political stance, he might not have got access to the diaries and papers of so many senior Nazi figures. There is a self-publicising, egotistical side to Irving that will probably not go down well in the High Court. During the Hitler's Diaries debacle he suddenly declared the forgeries genuine, only days after pronouncing them false. When asked why he simply explained: "That's showbusiness." He boasts happily about the number of people he is suing, the number who are suing him, and which countries have banned him from entry. (Canada, Italy, Austria, Australia and Germany at the last count - with the latter now trying to extradite him for inciting racial unrest at a rally in 1990). He has already tried to claim Lord Weidenfeld, the prominent Jewish publisher, as a "friend", prompting Weidenfeld to retort, "Irving is anathema to me: I'd not like to be in the same room as him". Of his various shocking contentions to do with Hitler and the Holocaust, Irving has insouciantly remarked that if one day he was proved wrong, "I think you will then see me adopt a little bashful smile and utter some such phrase as 'I gave them a good run for their money for over 20 years'." One wonders how much a "bashful little smile" will mean to the woman who stood outside the Royal Courts of Justice. Copyright 2000 The Telegraph Group Limited SUNDAY TELEGRAPH(LONDON) January 16, 2000, Sunday Neo-Nazi accused of 'racial hatred' goes on the run BY: by JESSICA BERRY and CHRIS HASTINGS GERMANY has issued an international arrest warrant for a Holocaust revisionist who fled to Britain to escape a prison sentence for inciting racial hatred. Police here have joined the hunt for Germar Rudolf, who has been on the run from his home in Stuttgart since 1995. If he is arrested on British soil, he faces extradition or deportation. One source close to the case said: "Concern about this man's presence in Britain has been raised at the very highest level. The Home Secretary is likely to want to do all he can to help the Germans bring this man to justice." The warrant was issued three months after Rudolf was traced to the south coast by The Sunday Telegraph. He has not been seen at his home for some time and police have not ruled out the possibility that he may have left the country. An internet site which he runs from a PO box address in Hastings was still being updated last week. It carried the message: "Germar Rudolf is alive and still free." The site also carries an appeal for funds and volunteers to help with the revisionist cause. Rudolf, a former German air force pilot, was sentenced to 14 months in prison in 1995 for three counts of inciting racial hatred. He was found guilty of breaching Germany's Holocaust denial legislation after he produced a study claiming that Jews did not die in gas chambers at Auschwitz. Rudolf escaped to Spain were he stayed with a former Nazi general who had been a close friend of Adolf Hitler. But in 1996, fearing that the German authorities were catching up with him, he moved to England. David Irving, the Right-wing historian who is currently involved in a High Court libel action against Prof Deborah Lipstadt, one of his fiercest critics, was one of the first people Rudolf contacted when he arrived in Britain and both men have been supportive of each other. Copyright 2000 The Atlanta Constitution The Atlanta Journal and Constitution January 16, 2000, Sunday, Home Edition UP TO SPEED: THE WEEK'S TOP STORIES BY: Staff reports and news services WORLD: Holocaust dispute A libel lawsuit filed by maverick historian David Irving went to trial last week in London. Irving is suing Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, over her 1994 book, ''Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.'' The book claims Irving has denied that the Nazis used gas chambers to exterminate the Jews, holds extremist views and distorts history. The self-made historian believes Jews have sought to use the Holocaust story in a campaign to get increased reparations from the German people. Meanwhile, Irving is facing extradition to Germany, where he is accused of inciting racial hatred. Coming up: The libel case is continuing. === uk-holocaust trial history of holocaust on trial in uk london, jan. 13, irna - a unique libel trial, questioning the extent of the so-called jewish holocaust during world war two, entered its third day thursday with historian david irving resuming against an american author and her publisher. on wednesday, irving rejected claims that millions of jews were systematically killed by the nazis in concentration camp gas chambers as a "big lie." "i deny that millions died in the gas chambers because of the logistical problem for a start," he was quoted saying in british press reports of the proceedings. irving is suing deborah lipstadt and penguin books for libel over the claim in her book, denying the holocaust: the growing assault on truth and memory that he was a "holocaust denier." his argument is that since the book's publication in 1995, he has become a victim of an "organised international endeavour" to destroy his career as a historian. when questioned, irving said that he believed that between only one million and four million jews were killed during world war two and rejects that the gas chambers were specially built by the nazis for their extermination. he told the high court in london, which is sitting without a jury, that a million people alone would weigh 100,000 tonnes. "logistical and architectural impossibilities" in constructing gas camp could not be overlooked, he said. the trial is expected to take about three months with irving conducting his own case, but lipstadt herself is said to be against testifying. end === Andre Pretorius Sunday Times - South Africa 16 January 2000 http://www.suntimes.co.za:80/2000/01/16/insight/in03.htm The controversial British historian David Irving - once the darling of the SA Right - is involved in a battle for the hearts and minds of future generations over the interpretation of the Holocaust . ANDRE PRETORIUS listened to the evidence THERE is something moving about a man in a witness box trying to defend his life's work against the ranged forces of a well-groomed legal team. If that life's work is the apparently harmless act of historiography, the onslaught appears all the more callous. But then historiography, the art of researching, interpreting and writing history, is not harmless. The question of who should be trusted as curators of history is at the heart of a high-profile legal battle that started in the High Court in London on Tuesday and which is set to last three months. The British historian David Irving is suing an American academic, Professor Deborah Lipstadt, and her publisher, Penguin, for libel. Lipstadt allegedly defamed Irving in her book, Denying the Holocaust - The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, when she labelled him a "Holocaust denier". Her defence to the claim is justification: according to her, Irving's books and speeches make him "one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial". Irving is a well-known historian of the Third Reich and its personalities, although not, as he kept emphasising throughout the first week of the trial, of the Holocaust. His books include The Destruction of Dresden, Hitler's War and Goebbels - Mastermind of the Third Reich. Irving, 61 , has been an eminently controversial figure for more than 30 years. He has been barred from Canada, Germany and Australia and has been fined in France and Germany for questioning the Holocaust, which is an offence in those countries. He moves in extreme rightwing circles, but on the witness stand he described himself as a "laissez-faire liberal", although admitting his discomfort with uncontrolled coloured immigration. He also said he regretted the passing of the "old England" and ventured that if the British soldiers and sailors who won the war could see Britain now they would not have advanced 50 yards (about 38m) up the Normandy beaches. Yet he claims that Lipstadt was the willing executioner for a Jewish conspiracy to discredit him as a historian and that her book and actions have cost him his livelihood. Since its publication he has been unable to find a US publisher for his biography of Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister. Because Lipstadt asserts that Irving's works "misstate, misquote, falsify statistics and falsely attribute conclusions to reliable sources", the historical truth of his statements will need to be assessed. A host of star witnesses will analyse the integrity of Irving's methods and research. It is a fascinating and surreal exercise: in a courtroom stacked high with documents, people in gowns and wigs argue over the true meaning and significance of signals sent between German generals and Nazi leaders more than 50 years ago. Irving, whose forensic mind and capacity for detailed research are said to be admired by fellow historians, represents himself. Lipstadt and Penguin are represented by Richard Rampton QC. The parties agreed to Mr Justice Charles Gray's suggestion to dispense with a jury, because of the complexity of the case. Rampton is a bookish-looking man with the manner of a schoolmaster, but his first cross-examination of Irving was incisive. The importance of the case was evident as soon as that cross-examination started on Wednesday. Rampton began by grilling Irving on remarks he had made to a press conference in the '90s . He had said that the biggest lie of all in the history of World War Two was that the Nazis systematically murdered millions of people in gas chambers at Auschwitz. Irving retorted that he still denies that millions of Jews were systematically killed. Gassing, he claimed, was used only experimentally. If he suggested the gas chamber theory was physically impossible, it did not follow that he denied the mass-killing of Jews. Irving said he has never disputed the fact that somewhere between one and four million Jews were probably killed in various ways by the Nazis. Semantics were the swords of his verbal duel with Rampton: what does "Holocaust" mean? For Irving, it is a vague, imprecise and unscientific term and should be avoided like the plague, which is why he deleted all use of the word when he reworked Hitler's War in 1991. In as far as he could define it, Irving said he preferred to call it "the tragedy that befell the Jewish people in the war". But he thought it could also include the plight of Gypsies, homosexuals and the citizens of Dresden, Coventry and Hiroshima. On the number of victims, he said the exact numbers were in a sense irrelevant: whether it was one or six million, it was a criminally large number. The question of whether the killing was systematic centres on how far knowledge of the Final Solution extended up the Nazi hierarchy. Irving's books contend that Hitler had been unaware of the extermination policy until late in the war, because people like Reynhard Heidrich kept him in the dark. He points out that there is no documentary evidence linking Hitler to the policy. Rampton and Irving disputed the interpretation of a message sent by SS chief Heinrich Himmler from Hitler's bunker, the Wolf's Lair in East Prussia, on December 1 1941. It instructed an SS man in Riga not to execute a trainload of 1 000 Berlin Jews. Irving reads it as proof that Hitler disapproved of the extermination, but Rampton contended that the special instruction relating to one transport proved that liquidation was par for the course. Irving, the barrister said, read it differently to exonerate Hitler. In short, he distorted history by seizing on a small scrap of information to advance his agenda in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The arguments may cover minutiae, but the implications of the trial are far-reaching. Whoever emerges victorious after 12 gruelling weeks in Court 37, the result will be seized upon by extremists on either side of the argument. If Irving were to win, the subtler nuances of the judgment in an immensely complex case may be lost in a welter of simplistic headlines. If Lipstadt wins, it will make life difficult even for those historians who attempt an honest and unbiased reassessment of one of humanity's most despicable crimes. The argument for an honest reevaluation is put by people of far less controversial pedigree than Irving. Last week, journalist Christopher Hitchens wrote in London's Evening Standard that "the meticulous separation of fact and record, not just from propaganda but also from sentimental exploitation, will be a clarifying and reaffirming thing". "Fifty years on", Irving had said in his opening statement, "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= 1945-6." It is difficult to refute the case for a reappraisal of the Third Reich's history in light of all the information revealed since 1945. Any such reappraisal, if honestly done, will always conclude that the Nazis committed one of the worst atrocities in human history. It is the how and the why that should be open to investigation. Yet historians attempting this task should approach it with the utmost care and sensitivity. In his opening statement, Irving also lamented that "it is no longer possible to write pure history, untrammelled and uninfluenced by politics, once one ventures into this unpleasant field". That should come as no surprise to any chronicler of the Third Reich: the magnitude of the crime justifies the extra caution. But quite irrespective of the present libel action, what seems to be demanded by world opinion is not extra caution, but complete conformity with a version of history. In countries like Germany and France, this demand is enshrined to the extent of abrogating free speech. In both countries it is a criminal offence to question certain aspects of the Holocaust. Irving called these laws "questionable" and a "total infringement of the normal human rights". Advocates of free speech may point out that the apotheosis of tolerance is tolerating even intolerance. On the other hand, it may be argued that the repugnance of what happened between 1933 and 1945 justifies such extreme measures. However, Irving's case is not about free speech - after all, he is suing, rather than being sued. It is about who could be considered suitable custodians of historical memory. Historians give us our picture of the past, and that picture may be exploited in the interest of any number of agendas. Irving says Lipstadt destroyed his reputation as a historian. She says she was justified in doing so because his personal agenda made him an unsuitable trustee of the memory of this terrible episode. In the words of Rampton, Irving "is not historian at all, but a falsifier of history, to put it bluntly, he is a liar". Harsh words, a titanic struggle. The world may have entered a new century but the heritage of the last remains painfully present. The history of the destruction of European Jewry is one of the most difficult components of that heritage. More than mere personal reputations are at stake in Court 37 - the prize is nothing less than curatorship of that dark past. Pretorius is a South African law student in London === News And Features; Opinion Philosophy Of Hate Has No Room For Truth By: Alan Gold 01/18/2000 Sydney Morning Herald Page 13 Copyright of John Fairfax Group Pty Ltd The Internet is an invaluable tool for Holocaust deniers spreading evil. IN A SMALL oak-panelled courtroom in London, a quietly spoken middle-aged lady will be spending the next three months proving that the Holocaust actually happened. While it might seem bizarre to question one of the most widely reported crimes in the annals of history, a British High Court judge, Mr Justice Gray, must sit and make a determination on events that occurred when he was little more than an infant. He must hear evidence of whether Adolf Hitler knew the genocide of the Jews was taking place, and whether the concentration camps established by the Nazis were killing factories or merely forced labour establishments to benefit the German war effort. Professor Deborah Lipstadt , who holds the Dorot Chair in Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in America, is the defendant in a libel case. She believes these are facts so well established they need no further justification, and that any critic contradicting them goes beyond the bounds of academic inquiry and becomes aligned with the forces of evil. She writes widely and savagely against Holocaust deniers and right-wing extremists. David Irving, an English writer of history and biographies about the leading Nazis, is the plaintiff in the case, who claims that Lipstadt libelled him in her book Denying the Holocaust The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. But there are thousands of invisible defendants in the case. These are the survivors of the Holocaust, few in number now and increasingly frail, yet determined to stem the growing tide of denialism, which is gaining strength and threatening to wash away the crimes of Nazism. These frail old people who survived Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jews are accused by Holocaust deniers of participating in a massive conspiracy concerning events at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen and other concentration camps. Irving denies Hitler knew anything of the Holocaust. So does Australia's Fred Toben. And Ernst Zundel in Canada. And Arthur Butz and Fred Leuchter in America. And Robert Faurisson in France. And lots of others. Holocaust denialism is the rationalised manifestation of the growth of post war anti-Semitism. And the deniers have found a new outlet for their viewpoints. During the past five years, a global network has developed. Deniers like Irving, Toben and the rest are using the Internet to recruit and promote themselves to a vast audience. But how can the most pre-eminently documented facts of World War II be denied half a century after Hitler's death? With all the film footage, the eyewitness statements, the admissions by the killers themselves, the legal and academic investigations, the books, the newspaper articles for the past half-century, the hundreds of millions of words written by victims and commentators, how can Hitler's complicity in the Holocaust be denied? While no comment should be made about the David versus Deborah trial in England, the reality is that such a trial was bound to happen. As eyewitnesses die of old age, as the views of the deniers became increasingly popularised, and as they have said more and more outlandish things to make their voices heard, the mainstream media has given their pronouncements coverage. And there are few extremists with a more acute ability to manipulate media than Irving. So what is the basis for the deniers' claims that the Holocaust never happened? Firstly they claim that the designs of the gas chambers made it impossible for 6 million Jews to have been killed during the period of the camps (there are no claims that 6 million were killed in the camps; millions were also deliberately killed elsewhere, for example by the death squads called the Einsatzgruppen); that prussic acid Zyklon B was never employed as a killing agent for humans, but was instead used to fumigate clothing; that most inmates of the so-called death camps died of typhus and other diseases of overcrowding. And having set out to establish the impossibility of the Holocaust, the deniers then get down to the real reasons they pour scorn on the eyewitness accounts. According to them, the covert purpose of the Holocaust industry created by the Jews after the war was to steal billions of dollars in reparation from the Germans, to destroy Germany's good name and to win international sympathy for the establishment of the state of Israel. Israel and Germany are two of a small number of nations most affected by the Holocaust which have made its denial and defamation of the dead into a criminal act. And there is little sympathy with deniers in courts in Britain, the United States, Canada and elsewhere. But why should the statements of a handful of men denying a 20th-century genocide cause concern for us in the 21st century? Simply because Hitler's disciples are on the rise again. Neo-Nazism and fascism are among the fastest-growing political forces on Earth. As socialism declines, extreme right-wing reactionism is taking hold. Extreme right-wing, neo-Nazi political groups have established themselves from Russia to South America, from Australia to Canada. They are using the Internet in the same way that Hitler used the stadium at Nuremberg. Extremists on both sides of the political divide have adopted the Internet as their preferred medium of communication, but by far the largest number of Web sites propagating denialism and racial vilification are owned by the far right-wing. The names of these Web sites read like a directory of evil: Adolf Hitler Free Corps, the Ku Klux Klan, Knights of the White Kamellia (sic), Aryan Preservation Society, Carolinian Lords of the Caucasus, Christian Brotherhood of Holy War, and many more. Irving, Toben, Zundel and the others have their own sites. The hate sites are all uniformly anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-Asian, anti-gay, anti-anything which diverges from their idiosyncratic view of what the world should be. But in most cases, it is the specious facts of the Holocaust deniers that give them their intellectual authority. The Internet is a dream come true for today's historical revisionists. No longer do they have to find a mainstream publisher willing to print their words; nor do they have to rely on the limitations of handing out leaflets on street corners. As a writer, I regularly visit schools and talk to students about the Internet as a source of research and entertainment. What surprises and concerns me is how many students have found their way into the thousand or so hate sites. They are attracted by the Gothic imagery, the images of Teutonic knights in shining armour, of swords and daggers and shields. The very imagery that Goebbels and Goring and Hitler used in their propaganda in the 1930s and '40s. The trial of Lipstadt is more than an examination of her claims about Irving. It is a case that will test the facts upon which the deniers stake their claim to history. But even if Irving loses, one thing is certain. The truth of history will not be the winner. Because truth never has been an issue in Holocaust denialism.Alan Gold is a novelist whose latest book, Berlin Song, deals with issues of denialism and the Holocaust. ### Adolf Hitler? Innocent until proven guilty Cal McCrystal at the disturbing libel case in which a right-wing historian defends his view of the Nazis Cal McCrystal 01/16/2000 The Independent - London FOREIGN Page 13 (Copyright 2000 Newspaper Publishing PLC) HISTORIAN David Irving's performance in the High Court, where he is seeking libel damages over a book which he alleges has ruined his career, is often perplexing. Before the judge enters, the burly historian leans over a teak table, meaty hands extended before him. He does not stay still for very long. He bustles in the aisles, unpicking a knot of lawyers while seemingly heedless of an untied shoelace. When Mr Justice Gray is finally seated, Irving's blue-suited frame sways to the rhythm of his own utterances, while, behind his back, his thumbs continuously flick his forefingers. At one stage he tells the court: "In the last four days I have had six hours sleep." There are bouts of tetchiness over the teak. It is one of the most disturbingly bizarre battles to have come before a civil court in modern times. Irving is suing the author of Denying the Holocaust, the American academic Deborah Lipstadt , and her publisher, Penguin Books. The book claims Irving is a "Hitler partisan" who has twisted history by denying the Holocaust occurred. The court sits in a windowless basement below a spiral staircase. Irving conducts his own case, alternating from lawyers' table to witness box and back again. There is no jury, because the events under discussion are thought to be too complicated. Occasionally, the air ducts moan weirdly, like wind in a chimney. When Adolf Hitler's and Heinrich Himmler's names are spoken in a single sentence, the moans are so pronounced that heads turn anxiously in the direction of the sound. A square pillar in the centre of the room forces defending counsel Richard Rampton QC and his junior to sit yards apart so both may view the plaintiff. The judge thinks they all should move to a "more suitable" court - which they will do tomorrow. He announces that the "transcribing lady" is having "a most appalling time" and asks that German words be spelt out to ease her misery. The German words are either long (Obergruppenfuhrer, the rank enjoyed by Heinrich Heydrich, the so- called "Hangman of Europe" or ambiguous enough to have Mr Rampton dipping into a German-English dictionary. The case is expected to continue for three months. This is far from being a fresh sweep of Second World War history. Rather, it is a struggle - a Kampf - to sift a few incontrovertible facts out of the dust of a horrifying decade, to resolve "misinterpretations", repair truths and nail lies. It is a task as intricate and difficult as obtaining unanimity in international law. Hitler, whose name is mentioned frequently, had a great admiration for his 19th century predecessor,Otto von Bismark. The fuhrer particularly approved of the "Blood and Iron" chancellor's contempt for international law. "Find me an argument based on international law," Bismark declared, "and I will find you a professor to answer it." Some historians regard David Irving as Hitler's professor. He tells the court: "I deny that millions died in the gas chambers because of the logistical problems, for a start... the defendants will find it very hard to prove [the mass murder of Jews] was a Third Reich decision and an Adolf Hitler decision. There were multiple shootings but it was not pursuant to any programme." Further, he tries to explain that Hitler ordered a stop to mass executions of German Jews who had been transported to Riga, in that part of the Soviet Union occupied by Nazi forces. Gibbon spoke of the historian's "indispensable duty" to "diligence and accuracy". From Irving's protestations in court it is possible to believe that he takes the advice to heart, even when Rampton accuses him of "plucking explanations out of the air". The historian exudes sufficient self-confidence to tease Rampton ("You are setting a trap for yourself, I'm afraid") and to boast of "my very great expertise" concerning visiting arrangements at Hitler's fortified bunker, "the Wolf's Lair". But such exchanges do nothing to dispel more than a hint of 1945 Nuremberg (similar long teak tables and curved-back chairs; the same names and atrocities clogging the air) or obscure the fact that we are being forced to revisit an act of grossest obscenity - the deliberately planned extermination of the Jews. Irving denies he has "concealed what I knew" by manipulating documents in order to bury evidence that Hitler had ordered it. I glance at the public benches at the back of the court where impassive Jewish faces absorb his assertions. None seems old enough to have had personal experience of the Holocaust (a word Irving cut from the second edition of Hitler's War, his biography of the fuhrer). But I find myself wondering if any of them are familiar with the line from Goethe, Ich bin der Geist, der stets verneint - "I am the spirit that ever denies" - the reply of Mephistopheles when pressed by Faust to reveal his name. From this early stage in the trial (the defendants deny libel) it would seem that the thrust of Irving's case may be that one of the great obstacles to a free reconsideration of the Holocaust is a tendency to regard familiar notions as "sacred". But prejudices too are capable of consecration. Both sides here see prejudice in each other and desire to deconsecrate it. "Good" history is the solvent of prejudice, giving our thinking its necessary freedom. The Irving- Lipstadt case may, in the end and in one way or another, turn out to be a remarkable, if expensive, example of "good" history in the making. Whether it will change Irving's views is another matter. Although he tells the court that he has revised his writings from time to time as fresh facts have emerged, he concedes only "a sin of omission" in the way he has interpreted a particular archival document. Mr Justice Gray, who seems infinitely patient and civil, interrupts Irving at one point to accuse him of perverting the truth by altering the sense of a document in which an SS officer in Riga allegedly relayed a Berlin instruction: "These mass killings have got to stop..." Irving had omitted the subsequent part of the order: "They have to be done more discreetly." He draws a gasp from spectators in this exchange following his insistence that Hitler's innocence of annihilating Jews is obvious from the lack of discovery of primary, secondary and tertiary evidence. Mr Rampton: "No, it is an absence of evidence. It is negative evidence." Irving: "I hate to remind you that in English law a man is innocent until proven guilty." Caption: David Irving: insists the Nazis did not plan the extermination of Jews HAYDN WEST === Last battle of Hitler's historians Guardian, London http://www.newsunlimited.co.uk/observer/focus/story/0,3879,123018,00.html Neal Ascherson, chronicler of the great events in postwar Europe, spent the past week in court assessing a case that goes to the heart of the last century's worst crime Sunday January 16, 2000 Armageddon in Courtroom 37? Some older people on the public benches hope for that. As David Irving begins his libel action against Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt, author of Denying the Holocaust, they sit there with faces stiffened by the memory of pain. Some of them hope this trial will be a sort of Last Judgment, the breaking of the Seventh Seal to reward the righteous and drown the wicked, and flood the Earth with truth too blinding to deny. But there is nothing apocalyptic about the old Queen's Bench Division, off the Strand in London. Last Tues day, it was just another libel case that began. The usher carefully writes out COURT FULL on a scrap of paper and hangs it on the door. The wind moans and wails in the double-glazing. The scholar with the appalling cough is barking to death on a diet of Strepsils; the ginger-haired lad who stenotypes the record glares at him without sympathy. And three upper-class Englishmen - a judge, a barrister and David Irving - are having a civilised conversation about the darkness at the end of the world. All the same, there are invisible last chances in the room. The first is about handing on truth. It is 55 years this month since Soviet troops entered what was left of Auschwitz: the Nazis had dynamited the gas chambers and the Russians now set fire to the typhus-infested huts. Those who saw what happened there and elsewhere, to Jews and to the other human categories redefined as vermin, are today few and near the end of their lives. Idealists, like some of those vigilant old people on the public benches, dream that this trial will culminate in a mighty rite of transmission. It will lay out one last time the evidence about what was done in the Holocaust (to how many, by whom, in what manner and why). The young generations will lose the voice of the witnesses. But they will be armed instead with a judgment. The other last chance, more convincing, is Irving's. For something like 40 years, this strange figure - historian or chronicler or propagandist - has laboured at a single gigantic project which could be called (begging some questions) the rehabilitation of Adolf Hitler. Book after book, lecture after lecture and libel action after libel action, Irving has slogged on with the world's most unpopular historical enterprise. His skill at sniffing out unknown Third Reich documents is a legend. But the way he chooses to interpret them has so far condemned him to failure. This trial may be his last throw, although he has a similar action pending against this paper. Last week in Court 37, Irving hurled himself at those he regards as his real foes. In the person of Professor Deborah Lipstadt, he is trying to defeat a new generation of Jewish-American intellectuals, who have spread their own version of 'Holocaust Studies' and defined 'Holocaust Denial' as an offence - in some places, as a crime. The declared purpose of Irving's libel suit is to punish them for calling him a 'Holocaust Denier', and thereby allegedly wrecking his career. Irving accepts that an enormous slaughter of European Jews took place. What he disputes is its scale, circumstances and authorship. He will bring witnesses to 'prove' the Auschwitz gas chambers were mostly mythical. He refuses to accept the killing as 'systematic'. And he insists Hitler didn't know and wouldn't have approved. But if Irving were to win this case, the impact would be far greater than damages. At the last possible moment, his reputation as a credible historian would be salvaged. His version of Hitler and the Holocaust would be given a degree of plausibility. A last chance for David Irving in Court 37 - that can be argued. But a last chance for truth and history? Watching last week, I remembered the saying that for establishing what really happened in history an English libel court is the worst place in the world. That saying emerged, as far as I remember, from one of the most famous, spectacular and (for once) really important libel suits of the last century, the 'Cossacks Trial' of 1989 in which Lord Aldington sued Count Tolstoy. Tolstoy had blamed him for the handover of 70,000 anti-Soviet Russian soldiers to Stalin's vengeance at the end of the last war. Aldington won: the jury awarded him =A31.5 million damages. But in the= process the trial churned the business of historical inquiry into a sort of Passchendaele of fear and confusion. The jury found that Aldington was not to blame but the trial actually made it far harder to find out who was really responsible for the only serious war crime committed by the British Army in World War II. The judge lopes in with a sort of athletic impatience, and as we rise I recognise in Mr Justice Gray that Charles Gray QC who was Aldington's barrister 11 years ago. And here - ironic, relentless - comes Richard Rampton QC, counsel for Lipstadt and Penguin Books. He fits his wig on, and reveals himself as the man who was Count Tolstoy's advocate and Charles Gray's duelling opponent. Well, there. Both men did their best for their clients, and neither is to blame for the way that trial reduced history to toxic sludge. But the tale of the Jewish Holocaust, the worst deliberate act in modern European history, is like the Cossack tragedy in two ways: it is neither entirely simple nor entirely known. There are areas piled high with documentation - passenger lists, death lists, crematorium blueprints. But there are also huge gaps. How many died? We are less certain about that than 20 years ago. Did Hitler know, did he order it? I am certain he did. But the signed directive, even the secondary letter or phone note confirming this, has never been found. What chance is there that this trial in London will clear up mysteries and bring clarity rather than thicken the fog? It's unfair to say an English libel trial is not about truth. It has something to do with proof, after all. But above all it is about people. It is about the personalities of libel litigants, the way they can be made to seem liars and cheats or selfless victims, their breaking-strain under interrogation, their motives for suing. This trial is unusual. Given the wall-stacks of documents, largely in German, the parties agreed that a jury would be overwhelmed, So Mr Justice Gray will decide verdict, costs and any damages on his own, without even a pair of lay judges or assessors to help= him. And David Irving has no lawyer. He is conducting his own case. This is impressive, but it means the judge has to make allowances for any amateurism and make sure Irving knows his rights. As for Lipstadt, she has decided not to testify. She sits quietly in the front row, busy with her laptop, looking unhappy. All week, Irving has been defending his reputation, while Richard Rampton seeks to prove he is a liar and distorter. Irving, at bay, hunches giant blue-suited shoulders around his ears, his eyes glittering like a badger's. Fragments of history are snatched out of context, dried, treated and used as firelighters to scorch an adversary. We spend hours on the timing of a scribbled Himmler phone-note about how a transport of Berlin Jews should be treated in Riga, on a bugged conversation between captured SS men in London about whether somebody said he had an order from Hitler to kill Latvian Jews, on the meanings of words such as Vernichtung (destruction) or Judentum (Jewry). The civilised voices fence on. But they drop names too, and the shadows of human beings flit across Court 37: SS monsters from the pit such as Odilo Globocnik and Dieter Wisliceny. Or the unnamed human reality of that Judentransport steaming from Berlin towards death in Riga (whose grandfathers, whose maiden aunts?). Once, in a bout with Rampton over whether the F=FChrer had ordered the extermination of the Jews, David Irving reminded him that no signed order had been found. That, said Rampton, was just negative evidence. Noisily, Irving retorted: 'I have to remind you of the basic principle of English law that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty: am I right?' And at that second there was a tiny stillness in Court 37. We were talking about Adolf Hitler.
Site Map ·
What's New? ·
© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012
Home · Site Map · What's New? · Search Nizkor