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David Irving

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Letter before Action from David Irving to the publishers of Deborah Lipstadt's libellous book


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Dear Sir,

Deborah E Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust (a Plume book), ISBN 0-452--27274--4

As you will be aware I am a professional speaker and an historian of repute, whose works have been published for thirty-four years in the major publishing houses of the world, with several works being published in Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union, and a number published by your own publishing house and its various prestigious imprints in Britain and the United States; and of whom The Times has written: "David Irving takes his place in the first rank of historical chroniclers."

Regard this letter therefore as a Letter before Action, and please consider my requirements set out below most earnestly. I have as recently as October succeeded in enforcing swift but satisfactory High Court libel action against a major British Sunday publication on very similar grounds.

Your firm has now published within the jurisdiction of the British Courts Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, (hereafter: The Work) a book authored by a Ms. Deborah E Lipstadt, a teacher of theology at a college in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and identified as "a research project of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem." This Work has been criticised in the United States for its substantial errors.

I regret deeply the steps which I now find myself constrained to take against this Work. Permit me to quote on the attached Schedule the passages in the Work which purport to refer to me. I reserve however the right to include in any resulting statement of claim further passages published in this Work whether explicitly naming me or not.

The following are my comments on some, but by no means all, of the passages set out in the Schedule:


Page 8 and passim:

The phrase "Holocaust denial" is taken to mean the total blind and unreasoning negation that any physical harm was inflicted on the Jewish community by the Nazis in World War Two. To impute such an absurd position to me ("David Irving . . . has joined the ranks of the deniers"; a phrase echoed on page 111, page 181, page 221, etc.) is libellous, and a reckless and deliberate attempt to injure my reputation.

In speeches and lectures (of which I have tape recordings), and in articles, and in particular in my recent biographies of Hitler, Göring, and Goebbels I have described in compelling and often harrowing detail how the Nazis and their minions persecuted the Jews in their dominion, and massacred Jews by the hundreds of thousand; I have revealed facts, and published photographs, which no established Holocaust historian has revealed. For revealing these facts I have been bitterly attacked by rightwingers and by the people whom Lipstadt describes as "deniers," e.g. in the issue of the Swiss journal Eidgenoss dated April 28, 1990, in which an article entitled "Trojanischer Revisionismus des Herrn Irving" accused me of being a Trojan horse of the Holocaust historians, employed to undermine the revisionist movement by stating these uncomfortable facts about the Nazi massacres; the editor of this journal, a Herr Wahl, was sentenced to a prison term by the German authorities for his Holocaust revisionist activities.


Page 8:

I have never written that Britain made a tactical error in going to war against Germany; on the contrary, I have made plain in writing and in lectures that once we gave a guarantee to Poland in 1939 we were honour bound to do so. I consider that in retrospect we made an error in continuing to fight from late 1940 onward -- a position to which more and more academic historians are coming round.


Page 14:

This passage, which ostensibly relies on a Jewish Telegraph Agency report dated November 26, 1992, is particularly libellous: your Author alleges that I joined forces with "anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and Holocaust denial forces" to speak on the same platform in Sweden as black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan, the extremist Russian group Pamyat, and the notorious terrorist organisations Hezbollah and Hamas. This is totally fictitious. I have never been to Stockholm; there was no such agreement, and I have never met or corresponded with any of the people or organisations referred to. When I first heard this libellous fiction spouted, by Scandinavian radio journalists who had variously been told that this (fictitious) event was to be staged in Stockholm, Oslo, and Copenhagen, I that same day, realising that I was being "set up" by a person or persons unknown, contacted in writing the ambassadors of the three countries concerned and assured them that this was a malicious libel, that I had no plans to lecture in their countries; that I would lecture there only if invited by a properly constituted body, e.g. a university; and that in each case I would consult the embassy first for advice. My letter to the Swedish ambassador was displayed on the Stockholm evening television news programme. I do not know who started the damaging story, but it resulted in the immediate defection of all my Scandinavian publishers and of my literary agent in Stockholm; which may well have been the object of the enterprise. I find it significant that the lie is now peddled all over again by Ms Lipstadt in this Work.


Page 111:

Your author implies that no self-respecting historian would or should quote David Irving. I shall produce very many historians who do just that, including the British Official Historians and Sir Martin Gilbert, in for example his latest work on World War Two.


Page 111:

"Deniers" -- and your author has in the previous sentence identified me by name as one such -- "misstate, misquote, falsify statistics, and falsely attribute conclusions to reliable sources." The rest of the paragraph amplifies this libel on my reputation. Ms Lipstadt can not produce even one passage to justify such language about my career. On page 161 she gives as her sole authority for the similarly libellous passage that I "distort[ed] evidence and manipulat[ed] documents to serve [my] own purposes" the late Professor Martin Broszat, who wrote a review article in Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte in Heft 25, Jg.1977, October 1977, pp.739-49.

This article was a 36-page review of my biography HITLER'S WAR (published by Hodder & Stoughton and The Viking Press, etc., 1977). Broszat, it must be said, wrote highly of my book, and grudgingly agreed in this article with my conclusion that there was no Hitler Order for (the Holocaust) -- that whatever it was, it just happened of its own accord; this controversial finding sparked what later became known as the Historikerstreit. However, in this learned journal, he was completely off-base with his statement about document manipulations (Lipstadt refers to page 769, which I attach as a photocopy for your convenience with the marginalia I noted on it at the time, 1977). I pointed this out to Professor Broszat in letters at the time. Regrettably, the journal had no practice of publishing letters in response; they also refused to allow me space for a paper in response, and this led eventually to an estrangement between me and the Institut.

I had to explain patiently to Professor Broszat that his allegation did not hold water, because my quotations from the well known source work Hitler's Table Talk which he thought I had manipulated were in fact my own precise translations from the original German texts of those conversations which were in my possession, having had them made available to me by the mysterious Swiss gentleman known as François Genoud; while he, Broszat, like every other historian at that time had access only to a German version retranslated from Trevor-Roper's English text (an often highly imaginative translation into English) as published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson many years before.

I find Lipstadt's unsustainable allegations of manipulating, distorting, and skewing documents and quotations highly defamatory.


Page 161:

This whole description is defamatory, and may also serve you as a salutary illustration of Ms. Lipstadt's fabrications. The defendant in this Toronto criminal action, whatever one thinks of his opinions, was finally acquitted by the Canadian Supreme Court of the charge of spreading false information. I was first contacted on April 20, 1988, while I was writing in Florida, to ask if I would give evidence as an expert historian on the Third Reich. I flew to Toronto on April 21, 1988 and testified for three days. Other notable historians testified for the prosecution. I was accepted by the District Court after a long inquiry by the judge into my credentials; he subsequently told lawyers, so it was reported to me afterwards, that in his entire career he had never seen a witness give evidence with such authority as I did.

On arrival in Toronto I met (and heard of) for the first time the American prison consultant on gas-chambers and execution technology identified to me as Frederick Leuchter. He had been recommended as such to the defence attorneys weeks earlier by a panel of U.S. prison governors. I first read his forensic affidavit that evening, April 21, 1988, on his examination of buildings at the slave-labour camp site at Auschwitz. The document impressed me, and still impresses me, despite its shortcomings-of which I wrote in my Foreword when I published the U.K. edition (see below) in June 1989. His investigation has now been largely overtaken by other, more expert, forensic test reports. Lipstadt's assertions that I flew to Toronto in January 1988 to assist in the preparation of Zündel's defense; that I advocated inviting Leuchter to testify; that I solicited help from Bill Armontrout; that I flew off to meet Leuchter -- all of these assertions are accordingly pure fictions and illustrate her carelessness.

I deal above with the highly libellous assertion in the Work that I distort evidence and manipulate documents. Lipstadt gives only one source, and that source -- Broszat -- was mistaken. Later on this page of the Work the author quotes unnamed writers who accuse me of "skewing documents and misrepresenting data in order to reach historically untenable conclusions, particularly those that exonerate Hitler." This allegation is libellous.

Lipstadt quoted one purported sentence from the Sunday Times review by Hugh Trevor-Roper of my book HITLER'S WAR. Let me state without hesitation that this whole-page review by Trevor-Roper was one of the finest I have ever received. He wrote inter alia:

"No praise can be too high for his [Irving's] indefatigable scholarly industry. He has sought and found scores of new sources, including many private diaries. He has also tested hitherto accepted documents and discarded many of them as forgeries. His portrait of Hitler is thus, he claims, firmly based on solid primary evidence. . . An exact and scrupulous historian. . . One of the most interesting of his (new) sources is the diary of Walther Hewel, Ribbentrop's liaison officer with Hitler, part of which was enciphered by being written in an Indonesian language (Hewel had lived some time in Java). I particularly enjoyed one vivid detail from this source. On the eve of Hitler's attack on Russia, the Soviet ambassador sought an audience. Hitler and Ribbentrop were terrified lest he should offer concessions so vast as to take away any pretext for their invasion. They therefore decided that both of them must disappear, until their armies were on the march. Fortunately, the ambassador had no inkling of the true position: when he called on the state secretary, he 'discussed purely routine matters and left after cracking a few jokes'. Many such new details enliven this book, which is also well organised and well written: Mr Irving's craftsmanship as a writer has improved immensely, and I have enjoyed reading his long work from beginning to end."

In a hearing of any action arising from the libels in The Work I shall produce a sheaf of the many reviews by Hugh Trevor-Roper of my other works as well, all of them uniformly positive. Thus he wrote, reviewing my Göring biography in the Sunday Telegraph on August 20, 1989:

"David Irving, a remarkable researcher, a brilliant discoverer of documents, and a skilful writer, tells the [Göring] story well.. . ."

Reviewing my controversial work on the death of General Sikorski, Trevor-Roper wrote that there was no other historian than me whom he would trust to lead the reader across such a thorny area.

The allegation that I am "an ardent admirer of the Nazi leader" [Hitler] and that I have "placed a self-portrait of Hitler over my desk" is another gratuitous libel: the latter (portrait) allegation first surfaced in Moscow, in Izvestia in, I recall, 1982. No other newspaper has ever stated it. I do possess a one-and-a-half inch square self-portrait of Hitler sketched in pencil, given me by his secretary; it has never hung above my desk. My study has been visited by thousands of journalists, television crews, and other outsiders, and all will confirm this fact. I possess countless photographs taken in that study by journalists (e.g. from The Times). Then and now the wall pictures consist and consisted of three framed historic editions of the Völkischer Beobachter including the Kristallnacht; paintings of my first wife and children; a signed and dedicated photograph of Sir Winston Churchill; photographs of my father serving in the Royal Navy; paintings executed by my mother, a professional illustrator; a print of a Canaletto painting of Dresden; and engravings of the generals on both sides of the Franco-Prussian war. Lipstadt, who has never been in my apartment, made this absurd allegation during a tour last year of Australia: I refuted it in letters published in Australian newspapers: she repeats the lie in The Work published by yourselves nonetheless.

Lipstadt states that I described my visit to Hitler's mountaintop retreat (at Berchtesgaden) as a spiritual experience. She lists the novelist Robert Harris, Selling Hitler (New York, 1986) as her source. The canard is in fact much older: The Daily Mail printed the allegation in an interview on May 1, 1959 (over thirty-six years ago). The journalist was Mr Clifford Luton, whose moral standing is assessed from the fact that he later went to prison as a child molestor. I denied having said it at the time: I later took legal action against the newspaper: the clipping has long been removed from the Mail's clippings library. Certain bodies see to it however that the lie is regularly trotted out, though of course never with a date or source attached. I have visited Berchtesgaden only twice in my life: once in 1958 or so, when like thousands of tourists I took the bus up to the ruined site of Hitler's HQ; and once in about 1990, when I was revising HITLER'S WAR and my English assistant wanted to see the site. Half a million tourists a year visit the site.

Clifford Luton is also the source of the lie that I described myself as a "moderate fascist" -- in itself a misquotation by Lipstadt. In the interview, conducted in the bar of Imperial College, he said to me: "You seem to me to be some kind of, uh, mild fascist. . ." I foolishly retorted: "You can call me what you want." He did, writing: "Mr Irving, who said, 'You can call me a mild fascist. . .'". That is how journalists make their money I suppose. Neither before then (thirty-six years ago), nor at that time, nor since then, have I ever been directly quoted as using such words.

I have never established my own right-wing political party, in 1981 or at any other time.


Page 179:

I never declared myself converted to "Holocaust denial." The phrase is an absurdity, and this allegation is designed to expose me to contempt.

In my foreword to the publication of the Leuchter Report under my imprint, Focal Point Publications, I did not write that there was no doubt as to Leuchter's "integrity" and "scrupulous methods." The relevant passage of my very judiciously phrased Foreword reads in full as follows:

For myself, shown this evidence for the first time when called as an expert witness at the Zündel trial in Toronto in April 1988, the laboratory reports were shattering. There could be no doubt as to their integrity. I myself would, admittedly have preferred to see more rigorous methods used in identifying and certifying the samples taken for analysis, but I accept without reservation the difficulties that the examining team faced on location in what is now Poland: chiselling out the samples from the hallowed site under the very nose of the new camp guards. The video tapes made simultaneously by the team-which I have studied-provide compelling visual evidence of the scrupulous methods that they used.

There is clearly a difference in both tenor and substance between the above and what the author of your Work reports I wrote. The word "integrity" referred not to Leuchter, but to the reports by the independent forensic laboratory. As for the sampling methods, I expressed proper reservations. Quite apart from her reckless carelessness in quoting sources, it is evident that your author set out to defame, however, and that is what has brought about this action.

Your author states that the "British House of Commons" branded "Irving and Leuchter 'Hitler's heirs'; that the House of Commons denounced me as a 'Nazi propagandist and long time Hitler apologist' and the Leuchter report-which they had not even read, as it was not yet published!- as a "fascist publication."

This passage is again libellous, as published in The Work. At no time did "the House of Commons" denounce me, with all that that implies in a democracy. The facts are these: Drummed up no doubt by one of those hired consultants and lobbyists we hear so much about, on June 20, 1989 a posse of eighty-eight British Members of Parliament tabled an "early day" Motion -- an instrument which is not debated and not voted on, but which provides a useful means to vilify a member of the public from within the privileged walls of the House of Commons. This particular Parliamentary lynch-party included Greville Janner and Ivan Lawrence, the barrister who unsuccessfully defended the petty burglar and Searchlight editor Gerald Gable on housebreaking charges in November 1963 (Gable got caught red-handed burglarizing my apartment). Their Early Day Motion proposed (in full):

that this House, on the occasion of the reunion in London of 1,000 refugees from the holocaust, most of whose families were killed in gas chambers or otherwise by Nazi murderers, is appalled by the allegation by Nazi propagandist and longtime Hitler apologist David Irving that the infamous gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Majdendk [sic] did not exist ever, except perhaps, as the brainchild of Britain's brilliant wartime Psychological Warfare Executive; draws attention to a new fascist publication, The Leuchter Report, in which this evil calumny appears; and condemns without qualification such pernicious works of Hitler's heirs.

It was a piece of nasty flag-waving by one of the House's sleazy special-interest groups, and in no way a condemnation by the House of Commons as such. Anybody who wishes to "brand" me as a "Nazi propagandist and long time Hitler apologist" has evidently not taken the trouble to read even the lengthy Introduction to HITLER'S WAR in which all his crimes are set out at length; and which I shall certainly set before the Court in any hearing of this matter.

It is incorrect, and defamatory, to say that the Sunday Times chose to hire me despite being "such a discredited figure" to translate the Goebbels diaries which had been discovered in a Russian archive. In fact, as is now well known, I located the diaries in the Moscow archives in May 1992, and approached the Sunday Times with the project in June; they bought the project from me and published the diaries after I retrieved them in June and July 1992, for a contractually fixed sum (which, coming under international Jewish pressure, they then refused to pay me).

The footnote is grossly libellous: "Irving immediately violated the agreement, took many plates, transported them abroad, and had them copied without archival permission. There is serious concern in archival circles that he may have significantly damaged the plates when he did so, rendering them of limited use to subsequent researchers." What on earth was in your mind, publishing such reckless allegations about me? No source is given for them. If true, they would clearly be sufficient to have me, quite properly, disbarred from any archives around the world. It would be the end of my career as an active researcher and historian.

The true facts are these: As my colleague, a senior official from the Sunday Times, who was with me, can confirm, on my first visit to Moscow the Russians allowed me to see, take out of the building on trust, copy, and use whatever Goebbels diaries pages and plates I wanted. When I returned to Moscow a short while later to complete the task, rival and jealous German historians had intervened to try to block my access. Under pressure from them, an informal verbal agreement was then worked out between us (Irving/Sunday Times) and the Russian Federation archival authorities as to how much additional material I would be allowed: we adhered strictly to that agreement-we had no choice, as the Russians were parcelling it out to me. But from the earlier trip to Moscow I already had hundreds of pages, either photographed, typed in transcript, or dictated onto tape. To spite my efforts, the frantic Germans (namely the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich) on my last day in Moscow spread the lie via a fax to Moscow that I was stealing, or had stolen the precious glass plates. They subsequently disowned this horrific allegation, in a letter by them which was published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on July 25/26, 1992.

By now the Germans will have received all the plates from Moscow, and they will have to confirm that nothing is missing or damaged. In fact the 1,400 plates were stored by the Russians in atrocious conditions, and I found that several were fragmented. I carefully restored them during my work on them, extracting the crystals and slivers of glass from between them, laying sheets of paper between them, and cataloguing, dating, labelling, and sorting them-they were in total disarray. I have seen it said in one report that the Russian archivists praised my work to subsequent visitors and are looking forward to my return.

Page 181:

Your author's real agenda is plain from these lines-rage that I am highly regarded for my books and historical research, and that inadequate credence is given to her and paid lobbyists who have been hired to ruin my reputation. The remark: "Familiar with historical evidence, he bends it until it conforms with his ideological leanings and political agenda" is wholly libellous.

Page 213:

I have never argued 'that the Nazi "internment" of Jews was justified.' Anywhere. At any time. For whatever reason. It is libellous to say that I have.


We are all accustomed to a certain amount of rough and tumble, when we -- as writers -- are in the public eye. This time you as publishers and your author Ms. Lipstadt have stepped over the line that separates robust criticism from the publication of malicious and reckless defamations with the avowed intention of injuring others, and with reckless disregard for the truth.

These are all serious and seemingly deliberate libels on my name.

For thirty years and more as a writer and public figure I have adopted the Christian etiquette of turning the other cheek. When the book was published in the United States I was aware of the shortcomings of the laws of defamation in a country where suits for defamation are impeded by the precedent of New York Times vs. Sullivan. I have gritted my teeth at these and similar smears by Ms Lipstadt and her consorts, and looked the other way. I did however issue due warning to several American libellers against allowing any of their outpourings to come within the purview of the British courts, since in the U.K. these constraints do not apply.

I therefore require your firm, within seven days of receipt of this letter, to undertake in writing:-

1. to expunge the above libels from all and any future editions of this work;

2. to refrain from repeating in all and any future editions of this work or in other works these or essentially similar libels against me;

3. to remove immediately all current copies of this work from circulation, recalling those already issued from the libraries, distributors, warehouses, and bookshops;

4. to inform me to the nearest hundred how many copies of the work containing these libellous passages have already been published or otherwise circulated within the jurisdiction of our courts, and how many have been published or otherwise circulated overseas;

5. to pay an agreed sum of money in damages and in compensation for the injury wilfully or negligently inflicted on my reputation by this publication.

Failing satisfaction in each and every one of the above five points, I shall reserve my rights to commence without further notice immediate proceedings under the Defamation Act and to serve Writs on yourselves and the author of these libels.

Please be so good as to indicate in your reply whether the address below is the Registered Office of your company; whether you or your solicitors will receive service of any legal documents; and whether you are authorised to accept service on behalf of your author Ms Lipstadt as well.

Yours sincerely,

David Irving



The Managing Director,
Penguin Books Ltd
27 Wrights Lane
London W8 5TZ file: Knight's Move 3


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