Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Quick navigation  

Alphabetical index (text)


 David Irving might be someone whose name we do not mention in polite company, but...





Tuesday, February 12, 2002
London -- Brentwood -- London

I DRIVE the twenty miles or so out to Brentwood in Essex, getting stupidly distracted on the last roundabout and finding myself doing a ten mile detour up the A-12 instead. I loop back over the exit bridge for "Hutton Industrial Estate."

Ten minutes of road, and a rewind of sixty years of memories. The Hutton where I was born was a sleepy little village with a grocer's run by Mr Williams, a gentle old man with sandy, wispy hair, too old for Churchill's army; he cut cheese with a wire on a pull-handle, measured out the sugar into a brown bag and thumped both ends and wrapped it shut with a string, and cut the coupons out of the ration-book with a pair of L-shaped scissors I have never seen since. At the far end of the village, where the road forked, was the tiny store run by a wizened old lady, Mrs Savage, whose opened door jangled a friendly bell that I can still hear in my memory, reviving all the excitement of spicy smells and the bike-oils and brace-and-bit drills that pocket-money was meant for.

One day in 1944 as we walked over the fields to Sunday church we saw a fresh crater where one of Field Marshal Erhard Milch's V-1 flying bombs had come down, just behind Mrs Savage's. Those things packed a wallop, two-tons of aluminised explosives, Trialen. Tangled wires, tubes, strange components and jagged alloys rimmed the deep and smouldering pit, and the kind of flash burns that a fire-cracker might cause but on a larger scale.

Beyond the church was the Bluebell Wood, where a Heinkel 111 had been brought down in 1940; we used to picnic near the wreckage -- my older brother swore to me that our village constable, P.c. Andrews, had found a Cowboy and an Indian piloting the Nazi bomber, and I, a three-year old, implicitly believed him for ages.

Years later, of course, I visited Milch (right) in Düsseldorf, and finagled his private diaries out of him for the writing of Hitler's War (I had to write his biography first, that was the deal, and did so).

The sense of excitement still overwhelms me as I drive out through London's increasingly dusky East End -- the Jews of the Mile End Road have long been displaced by the Bangladeshi's and Pakistanis -- and into Essex, towards my roots.

 Picture by Walter Frentz  

THANKS to my detour, I am late: it is two minutes to four as I drive in to the Brentwood School yard and park beneath the clock-tower. My old alma mater, established 1496. The tree at which they burned the Catholic martyr at that time has now vanished from outside our schoolroom window but the two trees between which I suspended the 12 foot hammer-and-sickle flag over the main gate on April 1, 1956 are still there: that was my last term and I was a member of the most exalted school form, but I was still beaten for that prank. Did me no lasting harm, so far as I can judge. I tell the children , the sixth formers who have assembled in the Library to hear me, how much greater is the sense of anticipation I derive from this short stretch of clogged tarmac out to Essex than from all those thousands of miles of driving across the United States last summer.

My topic is Dr Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Propaganda Minister, and the Problem of using the Diaries of an acknowledged Liar. The audience like it -- at least "nobody dies," as I used to say when touring in Germany (until tragedy intervened, alas, and it was no longer true). The "birdie-spoon" gets passed around from row to row, and the pupils finger it -- gingerly, in view of whose mouth had once clamped round it.

Over dinner, the history master tells me that they invited a certain German professor, Peter Longerich, to speak a few weeks ago -- this Lipstadt defence witness and self-professed expert on whether Adolf Hitler ordered the Holocaust ("there are still no documents, but it's clear he did"). Told that they had also invited me, Longerich expressed shock, says my host, and pleaded with the school to reconsider, saying that they were only increasing my "academic credibility" by such invitations.

What chutzpah: the guest in our country, Longerich pleads with my old school not to let me speak to its sixth-formers, as I did for the umpteenth time today. And doesn't it tell us something about how "academics" work: each such "scholar" bolstering the other's credibility in an endless act of intellectual incest -- one hand washes the other, as we say (or is that a German saying?).


BACK at Grosvenor-square at 9:30 p.m. There is a message from a Harvard friend quoting what British journalist Simon Heffer writes in the latest Literary Review -- a rather unkind look at a sanctimonious rival biography of Mr Churchill by former Cabinet minister Roy Jenkins (the review of this potboiler is entitled "From The Pulpit"). Heffer writes:

"Explaining his failure to uncover new facts about Churchill, Lord Jenkins asserts that 'with published sources about him on their existing scale this would be almost impossible.' What nonsense. One doubts whether even the great Sir Martin Gilbert, the ne plus ultra of Churchill scholars, and a man to whom Lord Jenkins owes (and acknowledges) a mighty debt, would agree. David Irving might be someone whose name we do not mention in polite company, but a journey through the recently published second volume of his Churchill's War makes a mockery of Lord Jenkins' statement. Such arrogance must destroy this book's claim to be a serious work of history, and Lord Jenkins' to be a serious historian."

He adds: "It has been shameful to behold how men who should know better have queued up to heap praise on this utterly derivative book." Wow!, that warms the cockles of my heart; Heffer's words confirm that journalists are largely aware of my book, the product of thirty years' work so far, even if the national press has spitefully boycotted it until now.


I AM glad to see that the applications for this Labor Day's Cincinnati Real History festival are coming in at a steady rate, though it is still many months ahead.

[Previous Radical's Diary]

Relevant items on this website:

Peter Longerich index
Cincinnati Real History festival
Martin Gilbert's trip to Wannsee and Auschwitz
 Register your name and address to go on the Mailing List to receive

David Irving's ACTION REPORT

© Focal Point 2002 [F] e-mail: Irving write to David Irving