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Posted Sunday, March 23, 2008

Images and caption added by this website | click for German original  

Frankfurt am Main, Germany, Saturday, March 22, 2008, No. 69, page 36

David Irving on eve of 70th birthday

Easter Sunday: March 23, 2008: on the last day of his sixties, David Irving attends morning service
at his local church, the Twelfth-Century St James the Less, near Windsor. He says:
"This church is 400 years older than the United States, and we're both in pretty good shape for the future."
[click image to download high-resolution picture]


Filled to bursting

The controversial author David Irving turns seventy

THE case of David Irving raises a host of questions. For a start, there is the problem of where to place him. As early as the late nineteen-sixties, when Rolf Hochhuth enraged Britain with his play "Soldiers" based on Irving's theories, a play which blamed Winston Churchill with having brought about the death of the exiled Polish prime minister General [Wladyslaw] Sikorski in 1943, The Daily Telegraph editor's office directed that David Irving henceforth was to be referred to not as an historian, but merely as an author.

A few years earlier, after breaking off his physics studies, this son of a naval officer had come to public attention with a book on the destruction of Dresden, which portrayed the bombing raid as a war crime. The book, based on eye-witness accounts and on documents largely unknown at that time, triggered a debate which is still raging today. The book was a best-seller and established Irving's reputation as a tireless researcher of sources, who drilled deep into the remotest archives and brought to the surface, thanks often to his contacts with somewhat obnoxious circles, new materials including the diaries of Hitler's "personal physician" Theodor Morell, which Irving discovered in a cardboard box in the U.S. National Archives.

Even highly-regarded historians who criticize his writings for having become increasingly tendentious over the years agree that he has a magnificent nose for things, and that -- whatever their reservations about his interpretation of the facts -- their profession cannot ignore his books, as Andreas Hillgruber wrote in his review of Hitler und seine Feldherren [Ullstein, 1975]. Gordon Craig confirmed that Irving has a deeper knowledge of National Socialism than most professional historians, and criticized that students of the Hitler era owe more than they are willing to concede "both to his energy as a researcher and to the scale and the élan of his publications".

All the more puzzling is it that Irving threw away his credit with his revisionist theories on National Socialism, and in particular with the claim that the extermination camps were a legend; and that he brought about his own financial ruin by his libel action against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt.

As though driven by an impulse to self-destruction, he has undergone a Rake's Progress from the "controversial historian" as which he was once seen, to "a discredited historical writer" and a "Nazi apologist and polemicist". Numerous countries have declared him persona non grata; in Austria he was sentenced to three years' jail under a law against "reactivation along National Socialist lines" on account of the doubts he expressed in lectures, as to the existence of gas chambers; no respected publishing house is willing to publish his books.

Ideology alone cannot explain this development of this Querkopf, this member of the Awkward Squad. He has gone astray in a defiant mixture of pride and self-pity, of sensation-seeking and self-publicity. In his 1981 book on the Hungarian Uprising, which in his obsessive preoccupation with the Jews he gratuitously portrays as an anti-Semitic popular uprising against a Jew-dominated dictatorship, he writes of the prime minister Imre Nagy that his brain was "was bulging with an untidy mélange of ponderous facts and theories."

The same seems to hold true for David Irving, who turns seventy on Easter Monday.


(c) F.A.Z. GmbH, Frankfurt am Main

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