International Campaign for Real History

In the High Court of Justice

DJC Irving

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Penguin Books Ltd and Deborah Lipstadt

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In 1993 American scholar Deborah Lipstadt published Denying the Holocaust, product of a research contract funded by an Israeli agency.

British writer David Irving claims that it libels him.

Tuesday, January 11, 2000, opening statement by David Irving, part 1

David Irving's Opening Statement

[not corrected; a fully hyperlinked version will be posted later]

[Click for index to verbatim trial transcripts, go to "Day 1"]

May it please Your Lordship,

this is my Opening Statement in the matter of David Irving vs. Penguin Books Ltd. and Deborah E. Lipstadt.

I appear as a litigant in person, and the Defendants are represented by Mr. Richard Rampton and Miss Rogers of Counsel and by Mr. Anthony Julius. There were originally three other Defendants, who can be characterised here as booksellers; but your Lordship will observe that they no longer figure in this action, a settlement having been reached.

This is an action in Libel arising from the publication by the First Defendant of a book, entitled Denying the Holocaust, by the Second Defendant, Professor Lipstadt.

As Your Lordship is aware, the Work complained of has attracted considerable attention, both in this country and in the United States and elsewhere since it was first published in 1993. Your Lordship will have before you my Statement of Claim in which I set out the grounds for my complaint, the consequence of which I am asking that the Defendants be ordered to pay damages of an amount which I will venture to suggest, and I will invite Your Lordship issue an injunction against further publication of this work and that the Defendants should make the usual undertakings.

It is almost thirty years to the day since I first set foot in these Law Courts and I trust that Your Lordship will allow me to digress for two or three minutes, being (in my submission) something of an historian, on the history of those events; because they are not without relevance to the proceedings upon which we are about to embark.

The occasion of that visit to this building, was an action heard before Mr. Justice Lawton, which became well known to law students as Cassell vs. Broome and Another. It too was a Libel action, and I am ashamed to admit that I was "Another", having written a book on a naval operation, The Destruction of Convoy PQ.17.

That was the only actively fought Libel action in which I became engaged in thirty years of writing. There were two reasons for this abstinence: first, I became more prudent about how I wrote; and second, I was taught to turn the other cheek.

The man who taught me the latter lesson was my first publisher. He had signed up my first book, The Destruction of Dresden, which was eventually published in 1963.

I had been approached in about 1961 by a well known English publisher, Mr. William Kimber. When I visited him in his offices -- which were on a site which has long since been buried by a luxury hotel, the Berkeley, in Belgravia -- I found him surrounded by files and documents, rather as we are all in this court room today. He wore an air of exhaustion.

Your Lordship may remember that Mr. Kimber and his author Mr. Leon Uris had become involved through a book which Uris had written, entitled Exodus, in a Libel action brought by a London doctor who had been obliged to serve at Auschwitz. That case was also heard before Mr. Justice Lawton. There was one other similarity that closes this particular circle of coincidence: like me now, Mr. Kimber was in consequence also obliged to spend two or three years of his life wading, as he put it, "knee-deep" through the most appalling stories of atrocities and human degradation.

That day he advised me never, ever, to become involved in Libel litigation. I might add that, with one exception that I shall later mention, I have heeded his advice.

There have since then been one or two minor legal skirmishes, which have not involved much "bloodshed": there was an action against an author, which I foolishly started at the same time as the PQ.17 case and, having lost the latter, was obliged for evident reasons to abandon on relatively painless conditions; and a more recent action against a major London newspaper, who put into my mouth, no doubt inadvertently, some particularly offensive words which had in fact been uttered by Adolf Hitler; that newspaper settled out of Court with me on terms which were eminently acceptable.

I have often thought of Mr. Kimber's predicament since the 1960s, and more particularly the last three years. I have been plunged into precisely the same "knee-deep" position, ever since I issued the originating writs in this action in September 1996. If I am late with the bundles and papers upon which this Court relies, I can only plead this in mitigation.

I have never held myself out to be a Holocaust expert, nor have I written books about what is now called the Holocaust: if I am an expert in anything at all, I may be so immodest as to submit that it is in the role that Adolf Hitler played in the propagation of World War Two and in the decisions which he made, and the knowledge on which he based those decisions.

As a peripheral matter to that topic, on which I have written a number of books, I inevitably investigated the extent to which Hitler participated in or had cognisance of the Holocaust. That was the sum total of my involvement as a book author up to the launching of these writs.

Since then, because of the tactics chosen by the Defendants, I have been obliged, willy nilly, to become something of an expert, through no desire of my own. To my utmost distaste it has become evident that it is no longer possible to write pure history, untrammelled and uninfluenced by politics, once one ventures into this unpleasant field.

I have done my best to prepare the case that follows, but I respectfully submit that I do not have any duty to become an expert on the Holocaust; it is not saying anything unknown to this Court, I remind those present that, the Defendants having pleaded justification, as they have, it is not incumbent upon me as the Claimant to prove the wrongness of what they have published. It is for them to prove that what they wrote was true.

I intend to show that far from being a "Holocaust denier", I have repeatedly drawn attention to major aspects of the Holocaust and have described them, and I have provided historical documents both to the community of scholars and to the general public, of which they were completely unaware before I discovered these documents, and published and translated them.

It will be found that I selflessly provided copies of the documents, that I had at great expense myself unearthed foreign archives even to my rival historians, as I felt that it was important in the interests of general historical research that should be aware of these documents (I am referring for example to the Bruns Report, which we shall shortly hear; and to the dossier on Kurt Aumeier in British files, a dossier which even the Defence Experts admit is one of the most important historical finds, since the writings of Rudolph Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, were published after the war.

There is one essential plea I wish to make of this Court; I am aware that the Defendants have expended a considerable sum of money in researching all over again the harrowing story of what actually happened in what they call the Holocaust.

I submit that, harsh though it may seem, the Court should take no interest in that tragedy. The Court may well disagree with me, and show a profound interest in it; but in my submission, we have to avoid the temptations of raking over the history of what happened in Poland or in Russia fifty years ago: what is moot here is not what happened in those sites of atrocities -- but what happened over the last thirty-two years, on my writing desk in my apartment off Grosvenor Square.

To justify her allegations of manipulation and distortion, it will not suffice for Professor Lipstadt to show, if she can, that I misrepresented what happened, but the following that I knew what happened; and that I perversely and deliberately, for whatever purpose, portrayed it differently from how I knew it to have happened.

That is what manipulation and distortion means, and the other, though fundamental, story of what actually happened is neither here nor there. In effect, this inquiry should not leave the four walls of my study: it should look at the papers that lay before me -- and not before some other, magnificently funded researcher or scholar -- and at the manuscript that I then produced on the basis of my own limited sources.

My Lord, if we were to seek a title for this Libel action, I would venture to suggest "PICTURES AT AN EXECUTION".

Your Lordship may or may not be aware that I have had a reputation as an historian and as an investigative writer arising from the thirty or so works which I have published in English and other languages over the years since 1961. I am the author of many scores of articles in serious and respected newspapers, including over the years in this country The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, the Jewish Chronicle, the Sunday Express, the Evening Standard, Encounter, and publications of similar repute in Germany, my articles have appeared in newspapers ranging from Die Welt, Die Welt am Sonntag, and magazines and journals like Stern, Der Spiegel, Neue Illustrierte, Quick.

My books have appeared between hard covers under the imprint of the finest publishing houses. I might mention in this country the imprints of William Kimber Ltd., Cassell & Co. Ltd., Macmillan Ltd., Hodder & Stoughton, Penguin and Allen Lane and others. As the Second Defendant is I understand an American citizen, it might be meritorious for me to add that my works have also been published by her country's leading publishing houses, including the Viking Press; Little, Brown; Simon & Schuster; Holt, Reinhardt, Winston; St Martin's Press; and a score of no less reputable paperback publishing houses.

Each of those published works by me contained in or near the title page a list of my previous publications and frequently a sample of the accolades bestowed on my works by the leading names of literature and historiography on both sides of the Atlantic.

This happy situation, namely having my works published in the leading publishing houses of the world, ended a year or two ago under circumstances which I shall venture, if Your Lordship permits, to set out later in my remarks. Suffice it to say that this very day the Australia/Israel Review has published in Sydney a presumably well-informed article, coming as it does from their corner, which provides one missing link in the circumstances under which St. Martin's Press finally terminated their contract to publish my book Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich:

... One of the catalysts for the case was Irving's experience with American publisher St Martin's Press, which, after being warned by Lipstadt and others about Irving's approach to history, then cancelled its agreement to publish Irving's book Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich in the US.

So these Defendants have done very real damage to my professional existence. May I first of all set out the very real pecuniary damage which can be done to an author by an attack on his reputation. It is not merely that he suffers injury and hurt to his feelings from unjustified attacks, whatever their nature.

An author, by virtue of his trade, lives a precarious financial existence. A tenured Professor or other scholar can look forward to a brief career, lengthy vacations, high rewards, and eventually a pension. Perhaps some members of the legal profession enjoy the same fortunate expectations.

A writer leads a much lonelier and more hazardous existence. When he first embarks on his career he may write a string of works that are never published. I was fortunate in this respect; when I first started advertising in The Times in 1961, inviting British airmen who had taken part in the principle operations of Royal Air Force Bomber Command to come forward, among those who contacted me was Mr. William Kimber, a publisher of great repute who himself felt deeply about the ethical questions raised by these saturation bombing operations.

I therefore did not have the usual problem that faces most first-time authors, namely that of crossing the difficult threshold from being an unpublished, to a published author. My first book, THE DESTRUCTION OF DRESDEN, was serialised by The Sunday Telegraph' and attracted much critical acclaim. It was only then that I took the, perhaps fateful, decision to become a writer.

If I may now advance rapidly some twenty or thirty years -- and I sense the Court's relief -- I would repeat a brief conversation I had with my Accountant, at a time when I was earning more than £100,000 p.a. in royalties. My Accountant, no doubt with his eye on the commission involved, asked what steps I had taken in anticipation of retirement. My immodest reply was that I did not intend to retire, and when he murmured something about pensions, I replied that my books were my pension fund.

If I may explain that remark: if an author has written a good book it will be published and republished, and on each occasion a fresh ripple of royalties reaches the author's bank account. Admittedly the ripples become smaller as the years recede, but if he has written enough books in his 30 or 40 years of creativity then the ripples together make waves large enough to sustain him into and beyond the years of retirement. Indeed, they should also provide something of a legacy for his children, of whom I still have 4.

That situation no longer obtains.

By virtue of the activities of the Defendants, in particular of the Second Defendant, and of those who funded her and guided her hand, I have since 1996 seen one fearful publisher after another falling away from me, declining to reprint my works, refusing to accept new commissions and turning their backs on me when I approach.

In private, the senior editors at those publishing houses still welcome me warmly as a friend, invite me to lunch in expensive New York restaurants -- and then lament that if they were to sign a contract with me on a new book, there would always be somebody in their publishing house who would object. Such is the nature of the odium that has been generated by the waves of hatred recklessly propagated against me by the Defendants.

In short my "pension" has vanished, as assuredly as if I had bee employed by one of those companies taken over by the late Mr. Robert Maxwell.

I am not submitting that it is these Defendants alone who have single handedly wrought this disaster upon me. I am not even denying that I may have been partly to blame for it myself.

Had I written books about the Zulu Wars, as the Air Ministry earnestly advised me in 1963, when my book THE DESTRUCTION OF DRESDEN was first published, I would no doubt not have faced this hatred.

Unfortunately, World War Two became my area of expertise; I generated a personal archive of documents, a network of sources and contacts, a language ability, and a facility to research in foreign archives, and eventually a constituency of readers who expected and wanted me to write only about the Third Reich and its criminal leadership.

What obliges me to make these sweeping opening remarks, is that I shall maintain that the Defendants did not act alone in their determination to destroy my career, and to vandalise my legitimacy as an historian. They were part of an organised international endeavour at achieving precisely that. I have seen the papers. I have copies of the documents. I shall show them to this Court. I know how they did it, and I now know why.

Nearly all of these villains acted beyond the jurisdiction of these Courts. Some of them however acted within, and I have on one disastrous occasion tried to proceed against them too.

I mention here and, only in a few words, that one example: as the Court will no doubt hear, I was expelled in the most demeaning circumstances from Canada in November 1992. I need not go into the background of that event here, but I shall certainly do so later if in their attempts to blacken my name further, the Defendants indulge in that exercise in this Court.

Seeking to establish why Canada, a friendly Government, of a country which I had entered unhindered for thirty years or more, should suddenly round upon me as savagely as a rottweiler, I used all the appliances of Canadian law to establish what had gone on behind closed doors.

I discovered in the files of the Canadian Government, using that country's Access to Information Act, a mysterious and anonymous document blackening my name which had been planted there for the purpose of procuring precisely the ugly consequence that had flowed from it in 1992.

Among the stupid lies that this anonymous document contained about me, was the suggestion that I had married my first wife because she was "the daughter of one of General Francisco Franco's top generals", in order to ingratiate myself with the Spanish fascist regime. Another suggestion was that I lived too well for an author (I have lived for over thirty-two years in the same house off Grosvenor Square in Mayfair) -- that to sustain such a level of living purely from my income as an author was impossible; the implication being that I was receiving secret cheques from Nazi fugitives in South America.

I telephoned my first wife to ask her what her father had been, and she reminded me that he was an industrial chemist, a dedicated enemy of the regime after two of his brothers had been shot by Franco's men.

It took over a year to establish beyond doubt who was the author of this infamous document. Eventually it turned out to have been provided secretly to the Canadian Government by an unofficial body based in London, whose name I do not propose to state in this Court here, as they are not formally represented in this action.

Suffice it to say that when I applied to a judge in chambers for leave to take Libel action out of time, the culprits made no attempt to justify their Libels, but pleaded that the Statute of Limitations had run; which plea was allowed, though with regret, by Mr. Justice Toulson. The mendacious body concerned then had the temerity to pursue me to the threshold of the Bankruptcy Court for the legal costs that it had incurred in that one day hearing, amounting to over £7,500. It is a rough life, being an independent author.

Which brings us to the present case. In 1993 the First Defendant, as they allow in their Witness Statements, published Denying the Holocaust, the work complained of, within the jurisdiction, written by the Second Defendant.

The book purports to be a scholarly investigation of the operations of an international network conspiracy of people whom the Second Defendant has dubbed "Holocaust deniers". It is not. The phrase itself, which the Second Defendant prides she herself on having coined and crafted, appears repeatedly throughout the work, and it has subsequently become embedded in the vernacular of a certain kind of journalist who wishes to blacken the name of some person, where the more usual rhetoric of neo-Nazi, Nazi, racist, and other similar epithets is no longer deemed adequate. Indeed, the phrase appears over 300 times in just one of the Defendants' experts reports!

It has become one of the most potent phrases in the arsenal of insult, replacing the N-word, the F-word, and a whole alphabet of other slurs. If an American politician, like Mr. Patrick Buchanan, is branded even briefly a "Holocaust denier", his career can well be said to be in ruins. If a writer, no matter how well reviewed and received until then, has that phrase stuck to him, then he too regard his career as rumbling off the edge of a precipice.

As a phrase it is of itself quite meaningless. The word "Holocaust" is a artificial label commonly attached to one of the greatest and still most unexplained tragedies of this past century.

The word "denier" is particularly evil: because no person in full command of his mental faculties, and with even the slightest understanding of what happened in World War Two, can deny that the tragedy actually happened, however much we dissident historians may wish to quibble about the means, the scale, the dates and other minutiae.

Yet meaningless though it is, the phrase has become a part of the English language. It is a poison to which there is virtually no antidote, less lethal than a hypodermic with nerve gas jabbed in the neck, but deadly all the same: for the chosen victim, it is like being called a wife beater or a pædophile. It is enough for the label to be attached, for the attachee to find himself designated as a pariah, an outcast from normal society. It is a verbal Yellow Star.

In many countries now where it was considered that the mere verbal labelling was not enough, governments have been prevailed upon to pass the most questionable laws, including some which can only be considered a total infringement of the normal human rights of free speech, free opinion and freedom of assembly.

Germany has not had an enviable reputation in any of these freedoms over the last century. True to form, in Germany it is now a criminal offence to question the mode, the scale, the system, or even the statistics of the Holocaust. No defence is allowed. Some good friends of mine, I have no hesitation in allowing to this Court, are sitting at this very moment in German prisons for having ventured to voice such questions.

In France the situation is even more absurd: any person found guilty in France, under a new law aptly named an "amendment of the law on the freedom of the Press" finds himself fined, or imprisoned, or both. This law, passed in 1991, makes it a criminal offence to challenge (the French word is contester) any war crimes or crimes against humanity "as defined by the Nuremberg Statute" of 1945.

Fifty years on, it has become a criminal offence to question whether Nuremberg got it right. History is to be as defined by the four victorious powers in the Nuremberg trials of 1945--1946.

I respectfully submit that Your Lordship would find such laws, if enacted in this country, to be utterly repugnant. For that same reason I have no hesitation in saying that some more good friends of mine have been fined under precisely this French law. Indeed, in 1993 or 1994, I was myself fined the sum of £500 under this law: I had given an interview to a French journalist in the study of my home in London; this interview was published in a reputable journal, there were complaints in Paris; and I was summoned before the Paris magistrates, and fined along with the publisher, editor and journalist concerned for having given this interview. It is indeed a very sorry state of affairs.


Defendants' opening statement