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William Blair writes from Toronto, Canada, Saturday, July 13, 2002



How accurate is a Penguin?

I HAD always respected Penguin Books as a publisher with some integrity until I read their Historical Atlas of the Third Reich. [See too G Rohringer] The book is full of inaccuracies. When I wrote him in 1999, Prof. Richard Overy [the editor] was good enough to acknowledge that the book did contain "a great many small errors" but he essentially blamed third parties including "a very sloppy cartographic editor" for the problems.

In view of your recent fight with Penguin it seems incredibly ironical that Penguin would be attacking YOUR alleged inaccuracies and distortions when it is guilty of publishing such an incredibly sloppy piece of work.

This correspondent adds, on July 13, 2002:

The impression I originally got was that Prof. Overy was guilty of carelessness or recklessness rather than a wilful attempt to subvert or distort facts.

But I'm beginning to wonder after reading Mr. Rohringer's letter. For example, on page 102, in the same section that Mr. Rohringer referred to, there is a chart entitled "Results of bombing major cities" showing the number of killed at 305,000.

As you know, this is far short of the actual number of civilians killed by the Allied bombing offensive against Greater Germany. Perhaps this is accurate with respect to "major cities" but what about the rest of Germany? Is this not a deliberate attempt to downplay the Allied massacre of the civilian population?


William Blair


  Penguin's Atlas of the Third Reich (ed: Richard Overy) is full of howlers, says Gerhard Rohringer | William Blair suggests the errors follow a conformist pattern | Both readers spot still more howlers in the Atlas | Max Hastings gave the true data for air raid deaths in Germany

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David Irving replies:

OVERY once libelled me in a British Sunday newspaper review, accidentally putting into my mouth words spoken by Adolf Hitler in 1923, roughly: "If I ever come to power, I shall see that there is a Final Solution." Oops. That was in 1996. There was no possible defence. The newspaper settled out of court, very handsomely.

 © Focal Point 2002 David Irving