The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david/press/irving-vrs-lipstadt/Press_Summary.000311


By Ray Moseley
Tribune Foreign Correspondent

March 11, 2000 LONDON -- Fifty-four years after a gaggle of surviving Nazi
leaders was hanged at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity, a legal case
that is an outgrowth of that proceeding is drawing to a close in London.

On Monday, closing statements will be made in the libel trial of British
historian David Irving vs. American professor Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin
Books. Justice Charles Gray will render his verdict some days, perhaps some
weeks, after that, ending a two-month, multimillion-dollar trial that has
drawn world attention.

The legal issue for Gray to decide (there is no jury) is whether Lipstadt
libeled Irving in her 1995 book, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault
on Truth and Memory."

She described Irving, 62, as a partisan of Adolf Hitler who has attempted to
absolve the Nazi dictator of responsibility for the systematic murder of
Jews and to deny the Holocaust took place.

In a broader sense, the trial is widely seen as a showdown between the
defenders of historical truth and the small body of extremists in the United
States and Europe who say the Holocaust is a Jewish invention, something for
which the men at Nuremberg, in their view, were not guilty.

Irving may have brought the suit but he has often seemed to be the one being
sued. The defense has brought in historians to denounce his interpretation
of history and has shown videos of Irving addressing neo-Nazi and other
extreme-right groups to try to demonstrate the truth of Lipstadt's assertions.

The defense also has quoted what it considers racial slurs against Jews and
blacks from Irving's 2 million-word diary as an indication of his mind-set.
He has denied the comments have any racial connotation.

Throughout, Irving has affirmed that he never denied thousands of Jews and
others died under the Nazis. But he has repeatedly denied that anyone died
in gas chambers at Auschwitz, at one point calling this extermination camp a
"Disneyland" created by Polish Communists to attract tourists.

For Irving to say he has not denied the Holocaust but then to deny the
existence of gas chambers would seem to be a semantical point, a difference
in the way the term "Holocaust" is defined. The death of millions in gas
chambers is central to Holocaust history; no other explanation exists for
how so many people died and, if Irving believes they did not die, then he is
ipso facto denying the Holocaust--or so the defense case suggests.

In the closing days of the trial, Israel sought to bolster the defense case
by releasing the long-secret memoir that Adolf Eichmann wrote in prison
before he was hanged in 1962 as one of the men chiefly responsible for
implementing the Final Solution.

Defense attorney Richard Rampton asked Irving whether he had read the
memoir. Irving replied that he had been too busy to do so.

"Well, if you are, look for the word gaseinlage," Rampton said.

"Gaseinlage?" Irving queried.

"Yes, gassing camps," Rampton replied.

Eichmann's memoir describes watching the gassing of Jews in sealed trucks in
1942--another event Irving denies--and refers to "the genocide against Jewry."

The memoir further states that Reinhard Heydrich, chief deputy to the head
of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, told Eichmann that Hitler had ordered the
extermination of Jews.

Rampton read a passage from a speech Irving gave at Calgary, Alberta, in
1991: "More people died on the back seat of Sen. Kennedy's car at
Chappaquiddick than died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz." This is a
reference to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne in Sen. Edward Kennedy's car when
it went off a Massachusetts bridge in 1969.

Irving objected that the quote as read was incomplete. He said in his
speeches he always spoke of "the gas chambers at Auschwitz shown to tourists."

Rampton then played a video recording of Irving's speech. It ended ". . . in
the gas chambers at Auschwitz" and did not contain the phrase "shown to
tourists." Rampton suggested to a clearly uncomfortable Irving that his
statement was false.

In the same Alberta speech, Irving was quoted as telling his audience: "I
don't see any reason to be tasteful about Auschwitz. It's baloney, it's a
legend. Once we admit the fact that it was a brutal slave labor camp and
large numbers of people did die, as large numbers of innocent people died
elsewhere in the war, why believe the rest of the baloney?

"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, or the ASSHOLS."

Rampton accused Irving of "feeding the anti-Semitism in your audience by
mocking the survivors and dead of the Holocaust." Irving replied he was
actually "mocking the liars" who invented stories of what happened to them
at the hands of the Nazis.

The court also saw video footage of a meeting in Halle, Germany, in the
early 1990s at which Irving spoke and a group of skinheads gave the Nazi
chant, Sieg Heil.

Irving said he had put his hand up to tell them to stop, and the skinheads
may have "been bribed to come along and shout these slogans."

Rampton also got an admission from Irving that he spoke in 1990 at a meeting
of the far-right, racist British National Party. Irving described it as a
"semi-BNP function."

Rampton described a meeting in Munich that Irving attended that was
organized by a neo-Nazi named Ewald Althans. The meeting was held April 20,
1990, the 101st anniversary of Hitler's birth, and the guests rose and drank
a toast to the memory of a "certain statesman."

Irving said he did not join in this "tasteless toast," adding that he had no
glass because he does not drink.

Irving has been banned from Germany, and German historian Hajo Funke told
the court this was because Irving "committed himself wholeheartedly to the
cause of revisionism, and thus neo-Nazism, in Germany. By denying the
Holocaust, he willfully and persistently violated the criminal law in Germany."

Turning to Irving, he said: "You are an admirer of Adolf Hitler."

Cambridge University historian Richard Evans told the court Irving "doesn't
deserve to be called a historian at all." Historian John Keegan, subpoenaed
against his will to give evidence on Irving's behalf, said Irving's views on
Hitler and the Final Solution were "perverse."

Dutch historian Robert Van Pelt testified that the use of gas chambers at
Auschwitz was a "moral certainty," and the court heard of confessions by
German personnel at the camp that gassings had taken place.


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