Documents on the International Campaign for Real History Monday, February 16, 2009 1:07 pm
Posted Sunday, February 15, 2009
© Focal Point 2009 David Irving
Images and caption added by this websiteDavid Irving explains: After the loss of the PQ.17 Libel Action in the High Court in February 1970, The Sunday Times sent Susan Barnes to write a multi-page feature article about me for their new colour magazine. It appeared in September 1970, and she later published it as the first chapter of her book Behind the Image (Jonathan Cape, London, 1974). Readers will note the polite, almost fawning, tone of this 1970 article. With the publication of my pioneering biography of Adolf Hitler in 1977 all that changed; after thirty years, 1977 can safely be called the watershed in my career. Susan Barnes, an attractive American journalist whose family owned the Baltimore Sun, was the wife of British Cabinet minister Anthony Crosland, who died tragically young.
The Sunday Times Supplement, London, September 6, 1970For thirty-five years until 2002 David Irving lived in Duke Street, between Selfridges and Grosvenor Square - his study window is "pointed to" by the dash in the above title. The authorities seized this Mayfair apartment - by then worth nearly a million pounds - and all his possessions including his archives in May 2002, after the loss of the Libel action he brought against the US Holocaust agitator, Deborah Lipstadt.
by Susan Barnes
AT thirty-one David Irving became the best-known historian in England, for what he regards as the wrong reason. His history, The Destruction of Convoy PQ17, led to a libel action against him and his publishers, in which Captain John Broome, R.N. retd., was awarded £40,000, one of the highest sums ever to be awarded in a libel action in this country. At the time we met, Irving had so far footed a £12,000 bill. He and Cassell's the publishers, had lodged an appeal.*
The case, already distinguished by some fairly memorable evidence, was further distinguished by the judge's summing up. Referring to a private letter in which Mr Irving described someone [Website note: Captain Broome] as 'a fly, slippery character', the Judge [Mr Justice Lawton] said to the jury, 'If there is anybody who is a slippery and fly character, you might think it is Mr Irving...'
'All countries have ways of penalizing difficult authors,' Irving said in the even, clipped voice in which he generally speaks. 'The Soviet Union puts them in labour camps or lunatic asylums. In this country they just fine you £40,000. It's rather more the British way of doing things.'
He and I met at his rambling Mayfair flat, where he wished the interview to be conducted. A maid took me into a drawing-room, austerely appointed with conventional contemporary furniture and then occupied by Irving, his delightful Spanish wife (left), his four small daughters (aged six, five, four and three) and a departing B.B.C. cameraman.
The family hadn't gathered for the sake of the cameraman: they are always in and out and around. In one sentence Irving may be saying that Churchill is in Hell with Hitler, and in the next sentence -- his tone quite unchanged -- he comments that it was a sixteen-guinea food-warmer that the children just broke.
Except for a reproduction of Canaletto's painting of Dresden (the bombing of which was the subject of Irving's first book), the only picture in the drawing-room is a striking, unusually sentimental photograph of Irving with his wife and children clustered around him.
He is a tall, burly man with short straight black hair. On greeting me, he clicked his heels and with a slight, perfunctory bow, lifted my hand halfway to his lips.
David Irving's personality is mystifyingly complex. There is the ambivalence in his own conversation -- for example, his openness about his deviousness. There is his penchant for cloak-and-dagger. Sometimes it is deadly serious; sometimes it is almost a pastime with him. There is his concept of 'the English gentleman': proud, authoritarian, illiberal, correct. It has been remarked by one of his fascinated and puzzled critics that 'this is rather like the English gentleman that Ribbentrop tried to be'. Irving's answer to this is short: 'This must have been said by one of my more distant admirers.'
There is the extreme emotionalism of a number of the people who know him. I talked to some of them and was struck by their obsessive interest in discussing him. A few of them, while accusing Irving of using innuendo and selection, excelled in these same areas.
There is the fact, freely admitted by historians of excellent reputation, that Irving is a remarkable researcher who has discovered documents of great importance. But some of them think he unduly emphasizes some words to distort their meaning and denigrate Britain.
There is the instance in his research into Sikorski's death where he spotted a possible clue, checked it at source, found it untrue and discarded it -- all the behaviour of a good historian. But it is said against him that, having thus preserved his historian's integrity, he apparently passed the point to Hochhuth as if it were true, and it then came to be used by Hochhuth as proof of his own conclusions.
Irving's answer to this charge is that naturally he and Hochhuth exchanged information as their investigations progressed. On each occasion when a trail pursued by Irving subsequently came to an end, he warned Hochhuth in good time. If Hochhuth did not accept the advice, 'that's his responsibility, not mine.'
Irving is skilful in his use of semantics. When explaining to me why he had taped a particular telephone conversation, he said that he doesn't take shorthand. As I knew that he was trained in shorthand, I thought to myself that his statement was at odds with the truth. But later when I re-read my notes I found that he had clearly said, 'I don't take shorthand.' He never said that he couldn't.
He is unusually helpful and forthcoming to a journalist. Obviously he selects documents that he wants the journalist to see -- as, of course, does everyone else, however irreproachable their ethics. But whatever subject I raised, whatever disagreeable article or letter by himself or about himself that I referred to, he instantly went over to a filing cabinet, produced a copy of the offending article and ran off a photocopy for me.
He is convinced of his own rectitude.
Irving insists that the 'Establishment' is out to destroy him. His downfall was hoped for, he says, from' the moment he associated with the German playwright Rolf Hochhuth on Hochhuth's play Soldiers, which assumed that Winston Churchill connived at the murder of his Polish ally, General Sikorski. (Irving himself has never explicitly said more than that Sikorski's plane was sabotaged, probably by the British.)
It is often suggested that Irving is a fascist. The only evidence seems to be Carnival Times, an undergraduate magazine printed in 1959, which he edited while he was a student at Imperial College, London.
There has been innuendo because he has privileged access to the private papers of eminent Nazis. But he makes no secret of the technique by which he obtains his source material. For example, he has secured the confidence of Albert Speer (the former German Armaments Minister [below with Mr Irving] recently released from Spandau Prison).
'This is again where I scored over everybody else,' Irving said. 'For months he wouldn't talk to anybody else, all because I went to see his family a year before he came out of prison. That's what the Germans call "Schmaltz".'
In gathering his material for PQ17, he showed a kind of initiative uncommon to academic historians. (Irving describes himself as a professional historian.)
'As an unknown author, I had to have a different technique for approaching important sources like admirals, and unimportant sources like seamen. With important sources, I would arrive on the doorstep and ask to make a future appointment, knowing if I wrote I'd never get past the secretary.
'One of the Lords Justices of Appeal -- Lord Justice Winn, brother of [the notorious homosexual and Express journalist] Godfrey Winn -- was involved in the Admiralty during the time when the PQ17 incident occurred.* I called on him one evening in Chelsea uninvited, unannounced.
'He said, "Why not come in now?" I went up to his drawing-room and we talked generally. After about half an hour, I left. I wrote an immediate note on the conversation in a restaurant.
'Five days later I thought was the time to renew contact. I telephoned him. For no reason at all, he got very angry, extremely hostile, and finally slammed the phone down after two and a half minutes. I had a habit of recording telephone calls, because I don't take shorthand. Usually I would then type out a summary of what had been said.
'In this case, I thought: "The swine. I've lost him anyway."
So I typed out the whole conversation verbatim and sent it to him with a note [From memory:]: "Dear Lord Justice Winn: I am attaching for your inspection two transcripts of these interviews, so that you may check from the first one to see whether I have misunderstood any of the information you imparted to me, and so you may observe from the second one your surprisingly uncivilized manner towards an innocent telephone caller, trying to ask you straightforward questions about Naval affairs".'
Irving's naive surprise at another's resentment of his technique was to be a recurrent theme in his conversation. Repeatedly he professed his own innocence and honesty, seeing no ambivalence between this assertion and his own admitted deviousness -- a deviousness which he describes quite openly with the pleasure of a boy who has succeeded in playing a particularly satisfying trick.
ALTHOUGH desperately intense, he can show a flash of grim humour when you least expect it. But most of Irving's conversation is not intended to amuse. He is convinced that since his association with Hochhuth he has had the Establishment against him.
Our conversation was briefly interrupted while Irving moved the television set into another room to lure his four small, chattering daughters elsewhere. Then when he settled down again, I asked him why on earth he and Cassell's hadn't avoided the libel action in the first place.
'First, we didn't consider that the passages were defamatory. Secondly, we considered that since we'd based the book entirely on documents, we need not fear the outcome of any action. This is the extraordinary thing: three firms of lawyers held this view.
'None of us thought they had any chance to win the case until we heard the Judge summing up. Then we knew that it had gone downhill.'
Irving's hands were clenched and unclenched constantly during this part of the discussion, his mouth smiling spasmodically like someone in acute pain.
'When the award of £40,000 was announced, we could hardly believe our ears.
'What have I done to be called "fly and slippery" for? I don't know. I've lived all my life trying to be exceptionally honest. I go to exceptional lengths to get details correct.
'During the seventeen days of the trial, I had to write constantly in a pocket-book in an effort to control myself. Part way through the Judge's summing up, I stood up, shut the book with a snap, and asked my lawyer to let me get out. He said, "You sit here and sweat it out."
'This was the cruellest torture: hearing this summing up for two days after not having been able to defend myself'.'
Why had he not given evidence on his own behalf?
'I wanted to,' he said. 'I told my Counsel [Alan Duncan QC], "If I'm to go to the firing post, I at least would like my last words heard."
'He said, "Don't." It would be foolish to engage his services and not accept his advice. Personally I'm glad hanging's been abolished. Otherwise. . .' He lapsed into brooding silence.
Somewhere in the distant rooms of the flat came the loud clump of a large object falling.
'That was the television,' said Irving in the same monotone. 'Go on.'
I asked him why immediately after the trial he had commented on the Judge's fairness.
'I'm ashamed to say,' he replied, 'that this was a deliberate statement by me, because the British people do not like to see a poor loser.'
'He was so taken aback,' Irving went on, 'that he stuttered, "Keep on writing good books".' Irving gave a short laugh and then with passionate intensity added, 'I know how to lose. I do know how to lose. It's an essential part of the upbringing of every British gentleman that he knows how to lose without losing his composure.
He has had one satisfaction from the case.
'The Germans have a word for it,' he said, 'Schadenfreude: pleasure in other people's discomfort. I have the pleasure of having prevented them from sinking me. They struck the wrong year to do it in. Two years ago they would have flattened me. [Irving's income was then about £10,000.] Since then I've employed an agent. I know nothing about money, but my agent does.
'I'm prepared to be smashed twice; but if I am smashed twice, I will be near the floor.' He broke off and sat silent, his wife still and quiet beside him.
When he resumed, he said, 'People have written me saying the easiest thing is to go bankrupt or leave the country. No. Neither.'
His wife murmured, 'He is an Englishman.'
'It just wouldn't fit in with things I've done in the past years, Irving went on. 'I've been criticized for honestly paying my income tax; when it comes in from abroad, it could easily be avoided. I would regard running out of the country as the same thing as evading income tax or living on the dole. I've never lived on the dole in my life. It gives me pleasure to spend that kind of money to prevent their attempt to sink me.'
David Irving comes from a service family. His father was a Commander in the Royal Navy. His elder brother [John] is now a Wing-Commander in the R.A.F.
'My parents separated very early, and I and my two brothers and sister lived with our mother in very reduced circumstances in Essex.'
He went to a direct-grant/minor public school and then to Imperial College, London, where he was one often students in an experimental scheme for converting arts students into scientists and engineers. Irving failed one vital subject -- in which he had previously topped the class.
'Out of the ten of us,' he said, 'two got degrees. One is now a computer mechanic. The other is a teacher in a secondary modern school in the Midlands. I say to myself, "I escaped by the skin of my teeth." If I'd got a degree, I would have felt bound to do something safe with it.'
In the next sentence, however, he touched on what was to be another recurrent theme: he minds deeply that he hasn't a degree. I asked why it now matters so much.
'It's irritating that...' he began, and then stopped, beetling his brow, clenching and unclenching his hands. 'People you don't know... For instance, if I hadn't warned you...' (Before we met, Irving had sent me six sheets of notes he'd written about himself for his Counsel in the libel action. A long section began, 'The weakness in my education is that I was unable to obtain a degree.')
Apologizing for having started his sentence three times, he began again. 'I wrote that to Counsel so that if I was in the witness box and was asked whether I had a university degree, Counsel could get rid of it in one sentence. Otherwise, I'd have had to blush and say, "I'm sorry, I wasn't smart enough to get a degree."
He went to Germany and became a steel-worker in the Ruhr [Thyssen Works, right]. Then he decided to try again for a degree, studied at night for the necessary A-levels, and applied for a place at University College, London. 'It was an attempt to make something of my life. I otherwise saw a life of manual work ahead of me. I didn't know I could write.'
While waiting to hear the results, he went to Spain and got a job with the U.S.A.F. Strategic Air Command as a clerk-stenographer. Although not yet married, he already knew his wife, whom he had met when she was studying languages in London. He is proud of her family, the Stuycks.
The family, originally Belgian carpetmakers, were introduced into Spain by King Philip V in the eighteenth century, and have since passed the family business down through the eldest sons.
'At first my wife's father was happy because he somehow thought I was a German,' Irving said wryly. 'When he found out I was English, he was less happy.'
'He didn't like the English, that's all,' his wife interposed.
Had the family reconciled themselves to the match?
'They all turned up in droves at the -- I almost said funeral -- wedding,' said Irving, 'though they may have been depressed by the fact that I was very poor.
'I was then working as a clerk-stenographer at an S.A.C. [US Strategic Air Command] base. They had these comic-devouring S.A.C. morons all over the camp. They were desperately short of English clerical workers. The only unpleasant aspect was, that I worked in the office of a very nice American lady earning seventy times what I was, and I was doing seventy times what she was.
'It was really a joke. I showed her up. She had allowed eight months' backlog of work to accumulate. Together she and I cleared it in three weeks. And she had the electric typewriter. That annoyed me.'
He learned he had passed the A-levels with distinction and then went to University College, London. After two years, he left. 'By then I had started writing and was paid and thought, "Who wants a degree to end up in a steel manager's office somewhere in the Midlands?"'
Then why, as the final choice had been his, does he mind so much not having a degree?
'Imperial College told me I was a failure,' he said. 'That's what leaves a mark.'
He thinks his extreme right-wing views did not help him at Imperial. He was quite open about these. And, less openly -- indeed, clandestinely -- Irving arranged the printing of extra pages for the undergraduate satirical magazine he edited, Carnival Times. The pages were extreme to the point of fascism, and led to Irving's hasty resignation as editor.
'It was a typical student escapade,' he said. 'Had it been left-wing satire, it wouldn't have hurt anybody's feelings. But it was right-wing satire. In modern Britain, you can be a leftwinger as extreme as you like and still end up as Defence Minister [a reference to former Communist member Denis Healey]. But if you're right-wing, people assail your reputation without a shred of evidence.'
Irving says he regrets the Carnival Times 'escapade' only because 'a lot of the antagonism and legends have sprung from that. I'm accused of being fascist and anti-Semitic. The Hochhuth play crystallized the rumours and whispers that had been repeated before. Now, for example, it is said that I was refused by the R.A.F. because I was a fascist. The truth is I didn't reach their medical standard.
'I am not anti-Semitic. My publishers, Weidenfeld; my solicitors, Rubinstein; my garage landlord, Littlestone; my sub-tenants, Woolfson; and many others associated with me are Jews.
'We intentionally chose a Jewish publisher [Weidenfeld] for my coming book on Field-Marshal Milch. We thought: the book is about a Nazi and it's written by me. So we gave it to a Jewish publisher, even though he offered £2,000 less than a rival. So he was lucky.'
It was after the [David] Frost programme about Hochhuth's play Soldiers that young Winston S. Churchill kept asking Irving if he was 'a mild fascist'.
'I think I would have reacted the same way,' Irving said to me, 'if someone had said this about my father or grandfather. I met Winston Junior just the one time. I tried to like him. I shook hands with him. But there's something immature about him.
Left: a Dunhill lighter the adulterous young Winston gave to one of his mistresses
'I'm doing my best and hardest in these trying months,' he continued, 'not to criticize Winston Churchill [the statesman]. A few days ago, I was with Hochhuth in Switzerland and drafted a letter offering advice on where to place the proposed statue of Churchill. Hochhuth said, "Don't send it. Don't send it".'
Irving reached into his breast pocket and produced the -- by now familiar -- large, slim, black diary, found the entry, and read aloud his draft of a mischievous letter, then repeated, 'Hochhuth said, "Don't do it." You see, Hochhuth is a great admirer of Churchill.'
'I think Churchill is frying in Hell with Truman and Stalin and Hitler -- playing scat or poker or whatever they play at a round table in Hell.'
His wife pointed out that Truman was still alive.
'That's true,' conceded Irving. 'He's not frying in Hell. He's probably frying in Florida. TRUMAN'S TIME SHALL COME,' he added, in large-letter mockery.
Since Irving describes himself as a Christian, I asked him whether he didn't think this judgment a little harsh.
'I think they have all committed crimes of sufficient enormity to justify their being down there,' he replied.
I asked him why, if he felt this about Churchill, he had refused to state explicitly in public a belief that Churchill arranged General Sikorski's murder (instead of saying that he thinks Sikorski's plane was sabotaged by the British).
Irving, who was pacing about, turned on me with glee, pointing his finger. He never conceals his 'pleasure in scoring points. 'Churchill's crime to which I'm referring was the bombing of Dresden and the massacre of civilians.'
IN the course of our conversation, we moved from the rather impersonal drawing-room into a room of curious individuality. The maid stood beside a formally laid and elegant table, white linen and silver and cut glass sparkling by candlelight. All around us, outside the glow of the candelabra, stood the equipment and papers of David Irving's workroom, for that's where we were: desks, filing cabinets, tape recorders, machines for photocopying and microfilming, cardboard boxes from Harrods in which he keeps the private papers of Göring's Deputy, Field Marshal Milch. It was Milch, he said, who introduced him to the Moselle we drank. 'He has a whole cellar full of it.'
Irving talked a little about his coming book on Milch. 'Milch was James Cagney to Albert Speer's Henry Fonda,' he said. 'When I told this to Milch, he was most upset. He asked whether he couldn't be Henry Fonda.'
Mrs Irving presided over the exceptionally good meal, taking part in the conversation only when she was asked to, and then usually with a playful manner towards her husband. He remained tense, but less so.
'What a thing to say,' Irving said in good humour. 'Fly and slippery by the Judge. Liar by his wife.'
I commented on Mrs Irving's sang-froid in taking ciné pictures of her husband outside the courtroom just after the £40,000 had been awarded against him.
'Even in the worst tragedies, I'm able to keep my nerve,' she said.
'Rubbish,' Irving said, 'She came at me with a knife once. She changed her mind and it ended up quivering in the drawing-room table.'
Mrs Irving explained that this was because her husband had been extremely irritating on some minor matter and repeated that she keeps her nerve in major crises.
'Of course we haven't developed your film yet,' Irving said. 'It may not come out.'
His wife tends to tease him about his driving.
'Every time we are flagged down in Spain,' Irving said, 'my wife says to the highway police, "You're quite right, you're quite right, my husband was driving like a madman."
I asked him about the note which he circulated to British newspapers and individuals about Carlos Thompson, the author of The Assassination of Winston Churchill -- a title referring to the alleged assassination of Churchill's character by Hochhuth, Irving, and Kenneth Tynan.
'I circulated a Spiegel article on Thompson,' Irving said, 'quoting things Thompson had once said about himself -- things I thought British reviewers should know about the sort of person Thompson is. I sent this to all the people who would review the book. This is the direct mail approach.'
The note at first sight could have been mistaken for a communication from Thompson's own publishers. Thompson went to great trouble to prove it was written on David Irving's typewriter. When a newspaper rang Irving and put this to him, he said, 'Of course. My initials are at the bottom.' And so they were: 'Transl.: djci'.
'I knew they wouldn't pay any attention if they realized straight away it was from me,' Irving said. 'And I wanted them to know about Thompson.'
It was Irving, not I, who raised the subject of his visits from the Special Branch.
'They sprang from an incident in 1963 when three Jewish people evidently thought I was in correspondence with Martin Bormann,' he said. There was a court case and the three people were fined. 'I think there is some kind of Jewish Underground in London. It's probably very benevolent and with sound aims. They genuinely thought I was an object worthy of their attention.'
Why? I asked.
'Because of my book on Dresden,' he answered. 'They hadn't read it and didn't realize it was a balanced presentation. It reflected on their own Jewish legend: therefore it must be Nazi.
'A week before the final hearing, a strange man appeared on my doorstep. He said, "I understand you're having trouble with the brotherhood. We've both got grudges against them now," he added. He then said, "If you put up the money, I've got the contacts to get back at them."
'It turned out he was a doorman at a Soho club and had Hungarian friends who would do anything he asked. He suggested that we put what he referred to as "a device" in the London hall where a world Jewish organization was going to meet in a few weeks.
'I immediately informed Special Branch. To be perfectly honest, I knew if I didn't approach them first, someone else might. At the request of Special Branch, I met the man in a public place. His new suggestion was that we rent a luxury flat, he would get two blondes, and we would entice a Jewish member of the Establishment into the flat and photograph him in a compromising position. I was to put up the capital for the flat.'
When Irving named the man for whom this fate had been briefly proposed, I became momentarily convulsed and then asked how the Soho doorman had intended enticing this particular person.
'Oh, I dare say there are ways and means.'
IRVING is the first to admit that he arouses a lot of personal antipathy.
'I don't know whether it's the traditional dislike of someone who's worked his way up from the bottom. If you really have to set out with fourpence in your pocket, having a service background doesn't help you.'
In pursuing this point, I used the phrase 'self-made'.
'I didn't use that phrase,' Irving correctly pointed out. 'I don't like the sound of "self-made man". It rather has a ring of nouveau riche. I'm not riche.' He paused in thought. 'Nor nouveau,' he added.
He assumes that he arouses historians' antipathy because he finds sources and documents that they miss.
'This is what has caused a lot of the envy,' he said. 'I've been particularly successful in Germany in persuading retired generals and ministers to open their diaries to me.
'Oddly enough, in Germany they trust me. They think they can trust me rather than the academic German historians who are frightened of what they call "the recent past".'
But he intends when he finishes his Milch and Hitler biographies to go into rather different fields and write about subjects like trade union structure.
'When I finish my Hitler book, I'm sending all my war papers to an historical institute in Munich, who have arranged to purchase them with Stiftung Volkswagenwerk funds. [This Stiftung is the German equivalent of the Nuffield Foundation.]
'So far, I have not received a penny from the Stiftung. No one could be less mercenary than me.'
Irving is ruefully aware of rumours about the source of his income.
'It would be nice if I could say I receive a monthly cheque from South America signed M. Bormann, but it just doesn't work like that,' he said.
If one looks at the fees Irving now receives from magazines and newspapers, it's not hard to see how his income mounts up.
'[Max] Becker -- my agent -- sold three articles on Hitler's medical history for 12,000 dollars. They were worth it, as I am the only person with all Hitler's medical records, and I showed how in 1944, at a very crucial period of the war, Hitler became desperately addicted to cocaine.
Irving works seven days a week. 'Three hundred and sixty-five days a year,' he said. 'It causes great irritation around Christmas time.'
'Not to me,' said his wife. 'I'm used to it.'
Doesn't he think this routine is unhealthy for the nerves?
'It is,' he said. 'But I have to work that bit harder. I'm going to the top. There's no question. This way I'm overtaking the others. Anything short of the top would be not to use my full capacity.'
I asked him if he would like to enter politics.
'Yes. Later. If I assemble enough money. It would be difficult to know which party, because none at the moment attracts me.
What is the summit of his ambition?
'Ah,' he said, and smiled. 'Stuck deep inside myself I have ambitions. I would vitiate them if I disclosed them. But first, one wants respect for one's honesty and credibility as a writer -- and then as a person. These are essential preliminary stages to becoming a politician -- and statesman.
'So far, I'm ahead of schedule. My first book [The Destruction of Dresden] was published when I was twenty-three. I'm now thirty-one. I would have been happy to be this far when I was forty.
'I realize the years to come will be the most rewarding -- although obviously one's plans can suffer a major disaster. The Broome case taught me that.'
When I went to see Irving for the second time, the elegantly-laid dining table had been converted back into a work table covered with piles of papers.
As Irving talked about matters vital to his own career and strode back and forth to the photocopy machine running off copies for me, children streamed in and out. One little girl was particularly insistent that her father should show her how to dial the telephone.
I asked Irving why he sometimes presents the appearance and mannerisms of a German. I referred to the photograph of himself which he chose for one of his dust-jackets:, it is the classic image of a Nazi stormtrooper.
'It never occurred to me,' he replied. 'We had very little money at that time, and I wasn't prepared to pay a lot of money to have my photograph taken by a pansy photographer, so my wife took that photograph. She managed to smash a perfectly good camera in doing it. This stayed a bone of contention for some weeks after.'
There then occurred another instance of Irving's grim humour. He laid before me a faded, sinister-looking label.
'It's a Gestapo seal,' he explained. 'The Gestapo stuck these seals on letters they had opened. I had two of them -- straight from Martin Bormann -- but now I have only this one.
'You know, Hochhuth is pathologically frightened of various secret services -- the German Secret Service, the British Secret Service. I stuck the other Gestapo label on the back of a letter to him. He nearly had a fit.'
When I was leaving, Irving said goodbye in the conventional manner and we shook hands. As I was about to disappear around the corner of the outside stairway, he said in his staccato monotone, 'I didn't click my heels.'
I turned around and he was the nearest I had seen him to grinning.
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- Free download: a chapter of his memoirs, The Scoop