Posted Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Quick navigation  

Alphabetical index (text)

My book on Hungary did not attract the reviews it deserved, needless to say (or perhaps it did). -- David Irving to a correspondent



July 23, 2002 (Tuesday)
Key West (Florida)

SOMEBODY sends me a review of my book Uprising, which appeared in an obscure Hungarian journal eighteen months ago. I shall have to say "obscure", as it is my only excuse for having missed it. The article by András Mink, "David Irving and the 1956 Revolution," is fascinating reading, I tell my correspondent. "My book on Hungary did not attract the reviews it deserved, needless to say (or perhaps it did)."

UprisingI completed the book after six years' work in early 1981, at a particularly harrowing time in our family's history -- Josephine's illness had been diagnosed in that January -- and to say that the British press received it unenthusiastically would be putting it mildly. They poured hatred, corrosive and all-engulfing, across its pages.

The problem was, in retrospect, that following the conclusions of the expert Hungarian analysts employed by the CIA and other bodies, I drew attention to the essentially anti-Semitic, "pogrom," character of the 1956 anti-Soviet uprising in Budapest: the secret police chieftains and torturers, as well as most of the Soviet puppet regime, were largely Jewish (a characteristic of most of the post-war Eastern European Soviet satellite governments).

The 1956 uprising gave the rest of the Hungarian population a chance to vent their hatred on them, with often fearsome results, like the bloodbath of Republic Square in Budapest in October 1956, as the occupants of the Communist Party headquarters were dragged out of the building one by one and lynched, under the eyes and lenses of the world's press and cameramen. One of the photographers actually showed me his contact-strips, so one could follow the sequence numerically, so to speak.

This Hungarian reviewer, András Mink, points out:

"Irving takes an avid interest in the Jewish element among those who played a role in Hungarian history after the war and during 1956. The book's English edition begins with a biographical rundown of the main protagonists."

The explanation was simple: My editor at Hodder & Stoughton, Ion Trewin (now managing director of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, I think: or am I confusing him with Eric Major?) recommended that I put a kind of cast-list at the front of the book, identifying the religions of each of the principals, to aid the reader through this maze.

This was something that raised a red flag to the book's Jewish newspaper reviewers (Arthur Koestler was one, a Hungarian-born Jew himself, like John Lukács; Neal Asherson of The Observer was another -- he called the book "A Bucketful of Slime".)

It did not stop there. Peter Israel, my editor at GP Putnam's, the US publisher, cancelled the book altogether. It was revealing things that people did not want to be told. The German publishers, Bertelsmann, advised that we drop the worrisome list, and Dr Albrecht Knaus, the publisher, later said it was the best book I had written.

The news magazine Der Spiegel agreed, and serialized the book for many weeks. In the United States it never appeared: eventually in December 1983 I even approached Bill Casey, director of the CIA, who confessed himself an admirer of my works, and asked if he could recommend a publisher as it was in my view in the interests of the free world that the whole story be told. I had underestimated the forces of darkness however, and that darkness enveloped the book in the USA and still does.


THIS does not mean that I have not read the second part of Mink's article with the utmost interest. It turns out that he has had access to the secret Hungarian files on David Irving and my book.

Just as in England the archives are now, after thirty years, beginning to reveal the efforts made by Harold Wilson and later prime ministers to have me prosecuted for my researches into real history, so now it turns out that my innocent and amateurish toils in Budapest and elsewhere set the cat among the pigeons in the regime of Janos Kádár. Reading the names propelled me back twenty-five years in a rush to the late 1970s, as I drove around Hungary in my Rolls-Royce motor car, visiting the communist bosses and trying to prise these secrets out of them.

I particularly liked Peter Renyi, editor of Nepszabadsag, who was assigned to tutor me, it now turns out. I would have had to be blind not to have suspected it: why else would a busy national newspaper editor set aside a couple of hours a day to speak to a visiting Englishman. We chated about his wartime experiences. A communist and a Jew, he had been arrested by the Nazis and put to world building tank ditches, but somehow he had survived.

Now I read what he and the others were reporting to the secret police about me. Fascinating to read their ponderous deliberations: The fact that I was a simple writer, with no great resources, trying to use whatever arguments I could to persuade a buttoned-up-tight Communist regime to open up its secret archives to me, to balance the free access which I had obtained to the US, Italian, German, British and other files, did not sink in. To them I was a CIA agent (to Kai Bird, writing in the New Statesman at the time, I was a Soviet agent).

Just as I tried to manipulate them, they tried to manipulate me: and of course they were "sitting at the longer levers", as the German saying has it.

Still, I liked to think I was one jump ahead of them. I checked my room at the Hotel Gellért for hidden microphones and two-way mirrors. When they assigned to me a foreign ministry official, Erika László, whose spoken English was of the most perfect variety, I suspected at once that she was not just a simple clerk (and Mink confirms it); traveling down to interview one functionary in the Party's compound at Lake Balaton, I got the proof. The Rolls was stopped by a traffic cop, who fined me on the spot for crossing a white line. He asked to see my passenger's ID. It was Erika. As he studied the little cloth-covered booklet, his attitude suddenly changed, he reddened, saluted her, bowed, clicked his heels, saluted again, apologized profusely, cancelled the ticket, handed back the cash, and escorted us on our way…

The next incident did not help her either. After I had insisted on arranging -- despite Erika's obstructions, -- an interview with the daughter of Imre Nagy (the revolutionary prime minister, whom Janos Kádár had hanged), she acted as interpreter. I had the tape recording re-interpreted by exile Hungarians in London; they told me that the interpreter had more than once deliberately mistranslated what the daughter told me, often reversing the meaning by 180 degrees.

Alarmingly, Mink also writes: "The only explanation … is that they were still hoping to get hold of classified western intelligence." If the Hungarian government really hoped for that, they were disappointed. I am not a fool; I had no access to such closed materials, and would not have provided them if I had.

Nobody paid me, not the Hungarians, not Moscow, not the CIA. As with all my books, the researches were funded from my own pocket. The CIA was notoriously slow in producing files under the Freedom of Information act, but I made no difficulties about supplying spare copies of these items, from the public domain, to my contacts in Budapest. It is amusing now to read how the functionaries then squabbled among themselves over who should have these morsels.

I subsequently donated my entire research files on the Hungarian uprising to the Eastern Europe Institute archives, directed by Peter Gosztony in Berne, Switzerland, himself a survivor of the 1956 drama.


 Related items on this website:

Previous Radical's Diary
Free download of David Irving: "Uprising"]
Introduction to Uprising: a text document
Reviews | More reviews]
Miklos Vasarhelyi obituary mentioned in A Radical's Diary

 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