Unless correspondents ask us not to, this Website will post selected letters that it receives and invite open debate.
writes from USA, Sunday, July 30, 2000
Mr Irving's opponents base their case on interpretations not facts
I SEE your point.[*] It seems characteristic of your opponents to make apodictic claims about your true thoughts and motives and about the true meanings of documents they cite, when in fact all they have to offer are interpretations -- some of them forced. But when you offer a straightforward interpretation of a document and they are discomfited, suddenly they become hermeneutically hyperscrupulous and complain that you did not consider a host of alternate interpretations (theirs in particular). This oscillation between aggressive asserveration (when it hurts you) and mewling pleas for interpretive charity (when it helps them) is something I would expect from American lawyers or members of a high school debate team, not from objective scholars seeking the truth.
One particularly breathtaking misreading on your opponents' part is the treatment of the meeting of Hitler and Ribbentrop with Horthy on the fate of Hungary's Jews, particularly the words of Ribbentrop quoted on page 40, right hand column, top [of Mr Justice Gray's Judgment]. The natural reading of this passage, it seems to me, is that Horthy objected that taking away the Jews' livelihoods would mean their deaths, and he was not keen on the idea of simply killing them. (Letting them starve did not, apparently, seem an option to the Admiral.) Ribbentrop replied that there was an alternative to killing them: transporting them to German concentration camps. In short, the concentration camps (i.e., putting the Jews to work for Germany) were put forward as an ALTERNATIVE to killing.
Now I suspect that if this interpretation were put to your opponents, they would immediately change their tune. They are content to take Ribbentrop's statement at face value when it supports their thesis. But faced with my reading, they would probably claim that Ribbentrop was deceiving Horthy by pretending that the camps were an alternative to death rather than merely another means of it. Perhaps they could actually make a case for this by looking at further evidence--such as the overall behavior patterns of Ribbentrop's statements and of the Nazi regime's relationship to Horthy. But they would not feel pressed to do this, because in their dogmatic minds, merely contradicting their thesis is sufficient evidence of falsehood.
This brings me to a methodological question. What could possibly count as evidence against the exterminationist thesis? From the evidence they cite, Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, et al., spoke about extracting, expelling, rooting out, and transporting the Jews as well as about annihilating and liquidating them. The former terms were used more than the latter. Now, if these terms are taken at face value, they indicate that the attitudes regarding the final solution varied from person to person and from time to time. There was no monolithic Nazi consensus that the final solution was the physical extermination of Europe's Jews. The responsible historian would do exactly what you have: He would try to account for this complex set of attitudes as accurately as possible. He would try to assign responsibility to the guilty parties, and to differentiate degress of responsibility and culpability.
Your opponents, however, do just the opposite. Beginning with the dogmatic assumption that there was a monolithic consensus originating from Hitler, they take all language to the contrary and interpret it as mere "euphemism" or "code" for extermination. So what could change their minds? If they were to find orders signed by Hitler that all Jewish children were to be given milk and cookies upon their arrival at Auschwitz, would they simply interpret this as a particularly sick euphemism for murder? Any behavior on the part of the Nazis that does not cohere with the exterminationist thesis is treated as evidence of the irrationality of the Nazis, never as evidence of the irrationality of the exterminationist thesis. One can prove anything, once one declares words to mean something other than their face value! One can accept any behavior as possible once one accepts that people are irrational. Why not interpret liquidation and annihilation as just brutal euphemisms for deportation?
One final point: Last night I watched MR DEATH about the hapless Fred Leuchter. I concluded that the filmakers were either sympathetic to Leuchter index.html or, if they were not, they were singularly inept at making him look bad. I would be curious to know your reaction to the film, and curious to know of any other reactions you have heard.
I should point out that I am far more vulnerable to persecution than you and Fred Leuchter, so if you do publish my letter, please withold my name.
David Irving replies:
THOSE were exactly my reactions [to the film Mr Death]. I heard that the original version shown at Harvard to students as a test had the entire audience convinced (as a poll showed) that the Holocaust had never taken place; the producer rapidly tried to edit the film differently, but the result is still disastrous for Leuchter's enemies.