International Campaign for Real History

Transcript: BBC RADIO FOUR programme on the Lipstadt Trial, November 8, 2001 (conclusion)
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Michael Cockerell: What is your attitude as a Judge to the Litigant in person?

Sir Charles Gray: It is a problem which confronts Judges day after day, and it undoubtedly does add to the Judge's burden, because he has got to make absolutely certain that the Litigant in person is not being disadvantaged by being a Litigant in person, which means that you have got to make sure that he understands what the law is and what problems the law may be presenting for his case.

Michael Cockerell: The High Court now became the kind of very public stage that David Irving relished, but though there was huge reporting of the case it was not to Irving's taste.

David Irving: I would say that the Judge was "in awe of`" the British Press. I complained on repeated occasions in the early stages of the trial about the vicious reporting of the case by the newspapers. And the Judge's attitude was that it is not affecting me, the Judge, therefore I am not going to do anything about it […] because if I say at the end of this trial "David Irving was right," the world's Press are going to say, "British Judge says Holocaust never Happened." [...] I think that the Press have behaved quite frankly like SH-one-TS -- they have behaved like shits throughout the reporting of this trial.

Michael Cockerell: One of the things that struck me about this whole case obviously was this extraordinary huge media interest. I wonder what effect that had you on you as a Judge?

Sir Charles Gray: It is in a sense daunting, but if you ask the question, "Does it really make any difference to the Judge that various parts of the evidence have been misreported the answer is, I think "No", because you were there when the evidence was given, you know what was said, it is just an added, if you like, irritation that you have got to deal with these sort of problems and the Litigant's complaint that his case has been misrepresented perhaps at the beginning of every other day, but beyond that I don't think it was a problem.

Michael Cockerell: David Irving had spent a great deal of time preparing for his cross-examination of Deborah Lipstadt, and he was looking forward to her appearance in the Witness Box, but to his chagrin Professor Lipstadt and her Defence Team decided that she should not go into the box to give evidence.

Anthony Julius: It was an inevitable consequence of the broader litigation strategy which is to put Irving's books on trial. Deborah's book spoke for itself, it was all that she wanted to say and which she needed to say about Irving, and therefore for the purposes of the trial she had already given her evidence, the evidence sat in Court as the book.

Michael Cockerell: Richard Rampton, QC:-

Richard Rampton: The defence of words which were said to be true is an objective exercise, it is not a question of what she thought or believed when she wrote what she did; the question is whether what she wrote when she wrote it is true or not, and that is an entirely objective question, and for that purpose Deborah Lipstadt was not a necessary Witness.

Michael Cockerell: So what was David Irving's reaction when he learnt that Deborah Lipstadt was going to give evidence?

David Irving: We knew it only at a relatively late date, which was (irritating?) for me because we had to spend a great deal of effort, I and my friends, in assembling a dossier for the cross-examination of her. I don't think that her Brooklyn accent would have endeared her to the Court. She kept literally silent for three months in that Courtroom.

Deborah Lipstadt: First of all I am not from Brooklyn, it is not a Brooklyn accent and if that is the way that British lawyers decide then it is a very sad day, I don't worry about the way I enunciate. If it is good enough for the BBC then I think it would have been good enough for the British Court. The fact of the matter is I wanted to go in the Witness Box, and a number of times in the Trial I said to Richard Rampton and Anthony Julius, if he is going to make a big fuss about the fact that I am not going into the Witness Box, and if you think that is going to harm our case, I am more than happy to go in, and I'm sorry I couldn't go into the Witness Box because I think I would have had no problem facing him.

Michael Cockerell: That was not how Irving saw it, he had worked up a detailed dossier on Deborah Lipstadt, using the discovery process, and had planned to try and demonstrate that the fact that she was Jewish had caused her to write what she had about him.

David Irving: I had obviously spent many months building up a dossier for a cross-examination: […] She is Jewish of course, she is Professor of Jewish Science at the University in Atlanta. […] I was going to get answers to the questions I needed her to answer [...] "What is the most important prayer that is intoned on Yom Kippur by a religious Jew like yourself?" […]

Michael Cockerell: You obviously know a lot about the Jewish religion. Do you have --

David Irving: -- I know nothing at all about the Jewish religion, I know nothing at all, I find them interesting people but also endlessly boring, they go on and on and on about themselves. I have said that the reason they go on about the Holocaust is because it is the only interesting thing that has happened to them in 3,000 years. I am not interested in the Holocaust, I don't know of anybody that is interested in the Holocaust, except in a kind of clinical way.

Deborah Lipstadt: Very early in the Trial I had emerged from the Courtroom and friends of mine had introduced me to a Professor who was standing in line, from Newcastle, and they had made friends with him and when I came out for the lunch break my friend was sitting on a bench with him, and he was weeping and she called me over, and the last thing I want -- this was maybe Day 3 of the trial -- was to become involved with someone else's emotional upset, I really wanted to focus on the trial, but friend insisted that I come on over, so I went over and the man was very embarrassed, and he said "So much of my family was killed in the camps and this was so hard to hear and to listen to Irving," and I said "Don't worry about it, I would love to stay and talk to you but I have really got to run," and he said "I understand but can I ask you one question?" And I said "Of course", and he said "My family came from Hamburg and my mother always used to talk about a Gustav Lipstadt whom she called Mr Handlebar, because he had a big handlebar moustache and he was very kind to the young children and the children and teacher remember him very well, is that any relationship to you?" Then I couldn't talk, uh, [Lipstadt begins to sob] Gustav Lipstadt was my Grandfather, and it is, uh, excuse me, uh, I never knew him, but you know who would have dreamt, excuse me, that suddenly into a British Courtroom my family would become paraded, you know and it was a powerful moment, and such a very powerful moment. So when you asked me why I fought for things like that .......

Michael Cockerell: The strategy that Deborah Lipstadt's Legal Team had developed for fighting the case in Court was to show that Irving falsified history in order to depict Hitler and the Nazis in a favourable light, and to deny that the Holocaust of 6 million Jews had ever taken place. They also wanted to show Irving had the political motivation for doing so. A key Expert Witness was Richard Evans, the Professor of Modern History at Cambridge and a German specialist. The Lipstadt team had commissioned Evans to go line by line through all Irving's books of Nazi history and check his sources and translations of documents. Professor Evans:-

EvansRichard Evans: I really and genuinely had no idea of what I would find before I started off, I was not familiar with them at all and, uh, I was quite surprised and shocked to discover that they did have a very large number of these falsifications. In my report I said they could only really be deliberate -- if you were just a very careless historian, then your mistakes were all over the place. If all your mistakes tend to support the same theory in the same idea and the same argument then that is a very strong evidence that they are in fact deliberate. I had two Research Assistants who were two PhD students who were all working part-time, and it took us 18 months to through Irving's work through his books, his articles, his speeches, and we selected a number of incidences but they weren't little tiny slips, for example we looked at the so-called Reich Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. Now, in one of Irving's books on Goebbels this is treated in 11 pages, and what I did was I followed everything in those 11 pages back through his footnotes to the sources, not that it was an easy thing to do, and discovered a whole mass of falsifications that took 80 pages of my report to deal with. We found that on a number of occasions he said they showed that "Hitler was," to quote Irving, "Probably the best friend Jews ever had in the Third Reich".

Michael Cockerell: Professor Richard Evans presented his report in Court and was cross-examined by David Irving.

David Irving: Professor Evans was the architect of their defence, the Chief Witness. I took an instant dislike to him, because he took an instant dislike to me. This scowling little Welshman, who stood permanently with his hands thrust deep in his pockets in the Witness Box -- and sometimes he even turned his back on me when I was addressing him and asking him questions -- I was baffled by the fact that Judge took so much notice of this man, who clearly had an ignorance of the subject that was not commensurate with his position at Cambridge. He didn't know the German language properly, and he obviously thoroughly loathed me. I don't mind people loathing me, I am sure that the world is full of people that don't like David Irving, even more so since the trial, but you are not allowed to do that if you are an Expert Witness!

Richard Evans: Scowling is a frown of concentration, which I really didn't have, and still don't have any personal animosity towards Mr Irving at all, he hasn't done me any harm and the first couple of hours I was in the Witness Box I did find it becoming a bit personal, and it was vital not to let that happen and you have to do your testimony in a very calm and objective way. So after that, as indeed one is supposed to, I addressed my remarks to the Judge, and I didn't look at Irving once within the subsequent five days, and I found that much easier.

David Irving: I was extremely hurt by his Report, which had a total lack of objectivity. It was so unacademic that it is mind-boggling, and if I had one enemy from now on it would be Professor Evans.

Richard Evans: Irving took me through from the beginning to the end of my 740 page Report trying to question the points that I had made, and that's fine, that's something that is easy to handle; but time and again in fact I found that that when I looked up in my own Report what Irving was alleging I had said in it I found that he had left bits out, or he was quoting partially, or he was claiming that I was saying something that I didn't say.

Michael Cockerell: When Richard Rampton cross-examined David Irving about his Nazi histories the QC was able to make use of his newly acquired knowledge of German.

Richard Rampton: In Court when one is discussing the original document, and Mr Irving is proposing that what I know to be a fallacious translation, I have to be prepared for that so I have to know what the various possible shades of meaning of the particular word might be.

Michael Cockerell: It was a source of some wonderfully theatrical moments, ....

Richard Evans: Yes it was........

Michael Cockerell: which Richard Rampton was careful to provide from time to time for the entertainment of the Court, that he would take a document and translate it seemingly off the cuff and then turn around and say that I am having a good day today, um, I think your accent could do with a bit of brushing up........

Richard Rampton: Well I know that..........

Richard Evans: Hah, hah...........

Michael Cockerell: The Defence Team assembled five Expert Witnesses who between them systematically demolished David Irving's historical works, as well as countering Irving's suggestion that Hitler did not know about the killing of the Jews. Irving called four witnesses apart from himself, but two of them he had to sub-poena (or force to appear). They were both historians who had in the past written favourable reviews of his books. One of Irving's sub-poena'ed Witnesses was Donald Cameron Watt, emeritus Professor of international history at the London School of Economics.

Donald Watt: I didn't feel that I could rightly appear as a character witness because I didn't think my evidence would be much use to him frankly, so he eventually sub-peona'ed me on the grounds that my reviews had always treated his work seriously, though I disagreed with him. There is nothing so likely to convince a generation of youngsters as that their superiors are wrong as they find all their superiors playing the same tune. My view of Irving was that he was a man who you had to take seriously, even if you thought he was quite clearly twisting and reading evidence to the benefit of his own cause. At some stage of his life for whatever private psychological Freudian reason, Irving decided that Hitler was his hero, and that meant that Hitler couldn't have done the things that he was alleged to have done, but we need somebody on Hitler's side, if only to show how bad the case is.

Michael Cockerell: The second prong of the Defence Team's strategy was to uncover Irving's political motivation for distorting history. Through the discovery process of Irving's private tapes and videos Richard Rampton was able to show how Irving regularly addressed neo-Nazi meetings, and ridiculed the Jews and the Holocaust. A key moment in the trial came when Rampton produced a poem that he had discovered in Irving's private diaries.

Richard Rampton: Like the little ditty which he wrote for his young child, is that kind of what one might call private or suitable material which does rather suggest a motive for his adulation of Hitler.

David Irving: Oh they found a poem. I was walking with my nine month old child in the park in Grosvenor Square here, and a half-caste child was wheeled past -- which I find is a great tragedy to inflict on civilisation......

Michael Cockerell: What -- the creation of half-caste children?

David Irving: The creation of half-caste children!

Michael Cockerell: Why is that?

David Irving: Oh, let's stick to one subject at a time, please!

Michael Cockerell: And you are the one that said it --

David Irving: You asked for the poem, here is the poem: Straight off the top of my head, as a kind of Edward Lear or Hilaire Belloc, I recited to my child this poem:-

"I am a baby Aryan,
not Jewish or Sectarian
I have no plans to marry an
Ape or Rastafarian."

It turned out so neatly that I thought this deserved to be preserved for posterity, so it went in my private diary for posterity. The entire British press leapt on the poem and used this as proof that I am a vicious racist of the nastiest sort, personally responsible for the murder of Stephen Lawrence and God knows whom else; but that is the way the British Press works, God bless them.

Richard Rampton: If you can show a motive for a persistent course of conduct which is to say the very least odd, or at any rate a relationship between ideology and falsification, the falsification becomes much more convincingly described as a deliberate and systematic process. And that why it was so helpful, we didn't set out to prove that he was an Anti-Semite, it is probably a good thing that the world now knows that he is.

Michael Cockerell: As the case went on over two months with the tirelessly prolix David Irving on his feet for many hours in a day, he began to sense that he was not getting through to the Judge, Sir Charles Gray. Irving had sought in cross-examination to demolish the Defence's Chief Expert Witness on what had happened at Auschwitz by use of detailed statistics. But Irving felt that Mr Justice Gray was failing to grasp the significance of his points about Auschwitz.

David Irving: I don't say these murders never happened, I just said they didn't happen on the scale the other side claimed. I am just sorry I didn't use a mallet of sufficient calibre to bring it into the thick skull of the Judge. [...]

I think that, if you are confronted with statistical evidence of that weight and impressiveness, the Judge, if he had been awake, would have said to himself, "There are surely grounds for scepticism here without being called a Holocaust denier" which is what it boils down to.

Michael Cockerell: "If he had been awake" -- are you suggesting that the Judge was not awake to join the trial?

David Irving: I am not saying he fell asleep, but there were occasions when I could see that he was not getting the point that was extracting from the Witness.

Michael Cockerell (to Judge Gray): What about the strain there was for you as the Judge with this trial?

Sir Charles Gray: I think it is a physical strain, but then as an Advocate of the Bar one had got used to it, because time and again you have long cases. You really have got to keep all your faculties about you, but to some extent you are used to it. I mean, it is part of your training. Undoubtedly it was a new experience for Mr Irving. But one of the, as it is, mitigating factors in this particular trial was that the subject matter was so absorbing.

Mr Irving manifestly is an extremely intelligent and well-read, and was very good on his feet, and one would say that Mr Irving handled his case with great skill and ability, and I think everyone was impressed at the way he represented himself. It is a very difficult thing to do in any context, not least the context of the Irving case.

Michael Cockerell: And what did Richard Rampton make of Irving as an adversary?

Richard Rampton: Certainly he was very courteous to me, never offensive and always acknowledged me and so on and so forth. As an opponent -- I will be quite frank -- I was surprised how unimpressive he was as an advocate. He didn't seem to me to have grasped the strength of the case against him.

Deborah Lipstadt: In the second week of the trial Richard Rampton asked him, "Mr Irving, have you ever checked these documents at the Auschwitz archives?", and he said "No, I am banned from going to Auschwitz." It is like the casinos in Las Vegas -- they don't let the big winners in." I think for him it was a gag, and if it was it was a pretty horrendous gag to play.

David Irving: I have always been taught that whatever the outcome of the game is, it is how you play the game that matters. On the last day, on April 11 last year [2000], I came into the Courtroom -- knowing the result of the trial -- and I went over to Richard Rampton, who was preening himself in the front row of this packed Courtroom; and I put my hand out to him, and I said, "Mr Rampton?" and he said "Yes?", and I said "Well done!" And he turned his back on me.

That really hurt. And I thought: I have not been dealing with ordinary English people here, these are people who are operating in the pay of a foreign power.

Richard Rampton: Well I don't remember turning my back on him and I don't remember shaking hands with him, but then I don't normally shake hands with my opponents. It is not that kind of false "Let's all play cricket together" attitude towards litigation. Litigation, particularly in a case like this, is a substitute for war.

David Irving: Rampton unfortunately became emotionally involved in a way that he shouldn't have allowed himself to.

Richard Rampton: I became emotionally involved, which is certainly true, there is no question about that; "in a way that he shouldn't have allowed himself to" is bunk. This doesn't mean that it affects the way you conduct a case.

Michael Cockerell: At the end of the 8 week trial Mr Justice Gray took a further month to deliver his verdict. In a lengthy written Judgment he found in favour of Deborah Lipstadt, and produced a devastating condemnation of David Irving. Mr Justice Gray said:-
"Irving has for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence that Irving has portrayed Hitler in an unwarranted favourable light, especially in relation to his treatment of the Jews. And that Irving is an active Holocaust denier, associates with Neo-Nazis and is an Anti-Semite and a racist."

In the event Mr Justice Gray had gone significantly further than Deborah Lipstadt in her book, and his findings were widely held as a landmark judgment. Once again, David Irving sees it differently.

David Irving: I think in my obituary it will rate less than two lines, if I can be so bold; I think it is one of those rocks you stumble over through life […] I am indestructible I think --

Michael Cockerell: As had happened throughout the case David Irving's interpretation of events was diametrically opposed to Deborah Lipstadt's.

This was her reaction to the Judgement by Sir Justice Gray in the case that had become the trial of David Irving:-

Deborah Lipstadt: I hadn't expected such a sweeping judgment, I was really profoundly overjoyed when I read what he had to say, but a lot of that joy was tempered by a sense that this never should have been. And more than that, that a man who spreads such hatred and lies and is such a distorter of history had gotten his come-uppance was overwhelming to me.

David Irving: It is lucky the Twin Towers [of the World Trade Center] hadn't been shot down by then, otherwise I would have been blamed about that as well, in Mr Justice Gray's judgment. The Judgment was so over the top that it totally missed its effect. […] I think Judge Gray needs lessons in how to write really wicked prose.

The Irving Trial was written and presented by Michael Cockerell, and it was produced by Charlie Potter and Bruce Hyman, and was an Above The Title production for BBC Radio 4.

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