Prof. Lipstadt arrives at Courthouse, Jan 11, 2000 (AP)
Defence Counsel's Opening Statement
Opening Statement on behalf of the Defendants
Mr. Irving calls himself an historian. The truth is, however, that he is not an historian at all, but a falsifier of history. To put it bluntly, he is a liar.
Lies may take various forms and may as often consist of suppression or omission as of direct falsehood or invention, but in the end all forms of lying converge into a single definition: wilful, deliberate misstatement of the facts. Mr Irving has used many different means to falsify history: invention, misquotation, suppression, distortion, manipulation and -- not least -- mistranslation. But all these techniques have the same ultimate effect: falsification of the truth. Moreover, the lies which the Defendants in this case will show that Mr Irving has told concern an area of history in which, perhaps, it behoves any writer or researcher to be particularly careful of the truth: the destruction of the Jews by the Nazis during World War II -- the Holocaust -- and Adolf Hitler's role in that human catastrophe:
Or, as Mr Irving would have it, alleged catastrophe. For Mr Irving is nowadays a Holocaust denier. By this I mean that he denies that the Nazis planned and carried out the systematic murder of millions of Jews, in particular -- though by no means exclusively -- by the use of homicidal gas chambers, and in particular -- though by no means exclusively -- at Auschwitz in southern Poland.
This was not, however, always so. In 1977, the first edition of Mr Irving's book, Hitler's War, was published. In that edition, Mr Irving accepted that the Holocaust, as generally understood, had occurred. He was not willing, however, to accept that Adolf Hitler had any real or direct responsibility for what happened or that he knew anything very much about it until it was too late.
Mr Irving went to considerable lengths to achieve his exoneration of Hitler. At this stage I take but one example of many to illustrate Mr Irving's disreputable methods.
In late November 1941, a trainload of about a thousand Jews was deported from Berlin to Riga in Latvia, as part of a process which had been initiated earlier that year, in accordance with Hitler's wishes, to empty the Reich of its Jews.
On 30 November 1941, as his daily log records, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, was at the Wolf's Lair, Hitler's headquarters in East Prussia. Mr Irving's account of this visit, so far as it concerns the fate of the Jews, is as follows (Hitler's War (1977), page 332):
On November 30, 1941, [Himmler] was summoned to the Wolf's Lair for a secret conference with Hitler, at which the fate of Berlin's Jews was clearly raised. At 1:30 p.m. Himmler was obliged to telephone from Hitler's bunker to Heydrich the explicit order that Jews were not to be liquidated; and the next day Himmler telephoned SS General Oswald Pohl, overall chief of the concentration camp system, with the order: "Jews are to stay where they are."
And in the Introduction to the book (page xiv), anticipating what the reader would find in the text, Mr Irving wrote this:
the incontrovertible evidence is that Hitler ordered on November 30, 1941, that there was to be "no liquidation" of the Jews (without much difficulty, I found in Himmler's private files his own handwritten note on this).'
Thus the reader was led to believe, first, that as early as 30 November 1941, Hitler had issued an order, faithfully passed on by Himmler to the relevant authorities, that there was to be no liquidation of any Jews and that all Jews were to stay wherever they happened to be; and, second, that there was 'incontrovertible evidence' of this in handwritten notes by Himmler which Mr Irving had found in Himmler ' s private files.
Mr Irving had evidently read Himmler's notes. And Mr Irving's German was then, as it is now, very good. So what did the notes actually say?
The relevant part of the note for 30 November 1941 reads as follows:
'Judentransport aus Berlin, Keine Liquidierung.'
The unambiguous meaning of those words in English is: 'Jew transport' -- the word is singular -- 'Jew transport from -- No Berlin liquidation'.
Thus, so far from being a general prohibition against the liquidation of the Jews, it was merely an order from Himmler to Heydrich that the particular trainload of Berlin Jews in question was not to be killed on arrival in Riga.
The matter gets worse: what was the evidence that Himmler's order to Heydrich was derived from instructions given to him by Hitler at a 'secret conference' at which 'the fate of Berlin's Jews was clearly raised'?
The answer is, none. This was pure invention by Mr Irving. Indeed, the fact is, as Mr Irving later discovered, that Himmler did not meet Hitler until an hour after he telephoned this order to Heydrich.
Alas, the matter gets worse still: I repeat Mr Irving's words
'and the next day Himmler telephoned SS General Oswald Pohl, overall chief of the concentration camp system, with the order: "Jews are to stay where they are"'.
What does Himmler's note of his telephone call to General Pohl on 1 December 1941 actually say? It says this:
'Verwaltungsführer des SS haben zu bleiben'.
Does this mean, as Mr Irving told his English readers, 'Jews are to stay where they are'?
No, it does not; it means:
'Administrative leaders of the SS are to stay where they are'.
Nor is there, in this day's entry, any reference to the Jews whatsoever.
I repeat, Mr Irving had, as he proudly announced, read the Himmler log; and he has very good German.
One asks the question: does not this single example condemn Mr Irving as a liar whose utterances about this awful episode in European history can never be taken seriously?
In fairness, it should be pointed out that in the 1991 edition of Hitler's War, Mr Irving corrected -- though by implication only -- the assertion that Himmler's order to Heydrich of 30 November 1941 -- 'no liquidation' -- applied to Jews generally and accepted that it applied only to a single trainload of Jews from Berlin.
But did he withdraw his imaginative assertion that Himmler's instruction to Heydrich was derived from an order given to him by Hitler? Or that Himmler's log for 1 December 1941 read 'Jews are to stay where they are'? No, he did not. He wrote (page 427):
'On November 30, 1941, [Himmler] was summoned to the Wolf's Lair for a secret conference with Hitler, at which the fate of a trainload of Berlin's Jews was clearly raised. At 1:30 p.m. Himmler was obliged to telephone from Hitler's bunker to Heydrich the explicit order that these Jews were not to be liquidated; and the next day Himmler telephoned SS General Oswald Pohl, overall chief of the concentration camp system, with the order: "Jews are to stay where they are."'
Thus was repeated and preserved a monstrous distortion of the evidence in Mr Irving's own hands. It is true that he printed a facsimile of Himmler's log for 30 November 1941 in both editions of the book. But he never printed the entry for 1 December 1941: 'Administrative leaders of the SS are to stay where they are.' One wonders, rhetorically, why not.
And so I pass on to Mr Irving and Holocaust denial.
Between the publication of the first edition of Hitler's War in 1977 and its second edition in 1991, Mr Irving's views about the Holocaust underwent a sea-change. In the 1977 edition, he had accepted it as an historical truth in all its essentials: systematic mass-murder of Jews in purpose-built extermination factories. But in the 1991 edition, all trace of the Holocaust, in this sense, has disappeared. Auschwitz, for example, has been transformed from a monstrous killing machine into a mere slave-labour camp.
What are the reasons for this astounding volte-face? The principal reason can be expressed in one word: Leuchter.
In 1988, a man of German origin, Ernst Zündel, was put on trial in Canada for publishing material which, amongst other things, denied the existence of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz. In defence of this charge, Mr Zündel's lawyers recruited a man called Fred Leuchter, who seems to have made his living as some kind of consultant in the design of execution facilities in the USA. Mr Leuchter was duly dispatched to Auschwitz to seek evidence of the use -- or otherwise -- of homicidal gas chambers.
He took some samples from various parts of the remains at Auschwitz which he later had analysed in America and then wrote a report describing his findings and summarising his conclusions. These were that there were never any homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz. Unfortunately for Mr Zündel, Mr Leuchter's report was declared inadmissible by the Canadian judge on the grounds that Mr Leuchter had no relevant expertise.
Now it happens that Mr Irving also gave evidence for Mr Zündel at that trial. In the course of that visit, he read the Leuchter report. Shortly thereafter he declared himself convinced that Leuchter was right and that there were never any homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz. So enthused was he by the Leuchter report that he published it himself in this country with an appreciative foreword written by him, and introduced it to the public at a press conference in London, at which he declared that the validity of Leuchter's laboratory reports was unchallengeable.
And so it was that the Leuchter report became the main weapon in Mr Irving's campaign to 'sink the Battleship Auschwitz', as he calls it. The essence of this campaign is that the Holocaust, symbolised by Auschwitz, is a myth, legend or lie deployed by Jews to blackmail the German people into paying vast sums in reparations to supposed victims of the Holocaust. According to Mr Irving, the Leuchter report is 'the biggest calibre shell that has yet hit the Battleship Auschwitz', and has 'totally exploded the legend.'
Unfortunately for Mr Irving, the Leuchter report is bunk. And he knows it. It was comprehensively debunked in court in Canada. It has been comprehensively demolished since, by people who have written to Mr Irving, and, perhaps not least, by Professor van Pelt in his report made for the purposes of this case. This is not the moment to describe all the many means by which the Leuchter report is demolished. But one simple example can be given, because it is derived from the internal evidence of the Leuchter report itself and must have been apparent to anyone with an open and thoughtful mind.
One of the main reasons that Mr Leuchter advanced in his report for his conclusion that there were no homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz was that it was to be expected that any residual traces of hydrogen cyanide -- the killing agent in the Zyklon B pellets used by the SS -- should be very much higher in those parts of the remains of Auschwitz which were identified as gas chambers for killing people than in those parts which were known to have been used for killing lice.
Leuchter's report recorded very small traces of hydrogen cyanide in the gas chamber remains and relatively large traces in the delousing remains. Therefore, said Mr Leuchter, the alleged gas chamber remains could obviously never have been gas chambers at all.
But the report itself contained the seeds of its own destruction, for it revealed that the concentration of hydrogen cyanide required to kill humans was approximately 22 times lower than that required to kill lice: 300 parts per million as against 6,666 parts per million. This was internal evidence -- obvious to any interested reader, which Mr Irving certainly was -- that the Leuchter report was rubbish.
So why did Mr Irving ignore this and all the other stupidities in the Leuchter report? Why did he embrace it with such wholehearted enthusiasm? The answer must be that he wanted it to be true. After all, if the Holocaust never happened, then Hitler cannot have ordered it or known about it: thus, as Mr Irving himself said of the second edition of Hitler's War, 'You won't find the Holocaust mentioned in one line, not even in a footnote, why should [you]? If something didn't happen, then you don't even dignify it with a footnote.
So, finally, why has Mr Irving resorted to these lies, distortions, misrepresentations and deceptions in pursuit of his exoneration of Adolf Hitler and his denial of the Holocaust? One can often derive a fair picture of a man's true attitudes and motives from what he says and from the kind of people he associates with and speaks to.
Mr Irving has done a lot of public speaking over the years. The evidence for the Defendants in this case will show that his audiences often consist of radical right wing, neo-fascist, neo-Nazi groups of people. Groups like the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi, white supremacist organisation in the USA, the DVU, perhaps the most radical right-wing party in Germany, gatherings of 'revisionists' -- in truth largely Holocaust deniers, the extreme right-wing British National Party, and so on.
And what sort of things has Mr Irving said on these occasions which might be thought to betray his underlying motives and attitudes? It is not possible in a relatively short opening statement of this kind to catalogue all the most telling instances of this kind, but it is perhaps possible to give the flavour of some of Mr Irving's thinking by reference to two short examples from the same speech.
In September 1991 Mr Irving spoke to an audience in Calgary, Alberta. He complained about pressure from Jewish people and Jewish bodies designed to prevent him from speaking. He said:
"And it's happening now. They're zeroing in on the University, 'Nazism not welcome here. Self-professed moderate Fascist ...' I strongly object to that word 'moderate'."
That remark provoked some laughter and it may be that it was not meant to be entirely serious. On the same occasion, however, he said something which, though somewhat facetiously worded, conveys a message about his true views and attitudes which can only be taken seriously. It was this:
"I don't see any reason to be tasteful about Auschwitz. It's baloney, its a legend. Once we admit the fact that it was a brutal slave labour 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?
This last inspiration was also greeted by laughter. But it was laughter of an altogether different kind. It was the laughter of mockery, mockery of the suffering of others -- people whom, on this and other occasions, Mr Irving has accused of lying about their Holocaust experiences, of forging Auschwitz tattoos on their arms, of deserving both contempt and the attention of psychiatrists.
This is obviously an important case. That is not, however, because it is primarily concerned with whether or not the Holocaust took place or the degree of Hitler's responsibility for it. On the contrary, the essence of the case is Mr Irving's honesty and integrity as a chronicler -I shy away from the word historian' -- of these matters. For if it be right that Mr Irving, driven by his extremist views and sympathies, has devoted his energies to the deliberate falsification of this tragic episode in history, then, by exposing that dangerous fraud in this Court, the Defendants may properly be applauded for having performed a significant public service, not just in this country, but in all those places in the world where anti-Semitism is waiting to be fed.
* Website note: the correct title of Mr Irving's (fictitious) association for the Wilkomirskis of this world is "Association of Spurious Survivors of the Holocaust and Other Liars."