Documents on David Irving's early clashes with Professor Deborah Lipstadt
The film script reads: "1994. American Professor Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is speaking to an audience in Atlanta about her newly published book, Denying The Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. She’s articulate and impassioned and reasserts that she will never debate with anyone .... What happens next is completely unexpected. Rising from the back of the auditorium is David Irving ..."
TWO readers report that my mailings (video and book) to Canada are being intercepted and “detained” for determination by Canadian customs. George Orwell, thou shouldst be here!
2:35 P.M. I phone Martin back; he says Deborah Lipstadt is speaking on Technology and Revisionism in Atlanta on Friday evening; I say I can probably make it.
2:35 P.M. I phone Aftab M.: Berkely is evidently off. The university have denied him any location on campus. We have ten days to appeal the decision. Several phone calls with Martin, decide to go to Atlanta tomorrow for a confrontation with Deborah Lipstadt on Friday at her university lecture.
November 10, 1994 (Thursday)
RISE at 7:05 A.M. after a bad night, awake for every chime of the hour from midnight on. Pack all boxes of books and mail them at 9:30 A.M. to Tom Norman, FPP Bookstore in North Carolina [who is murdered in February 1995].
10:30 A.M. I drive north to Fort Lauderdale. No return flights to Key West from there available, so decide I still have to keep the car. 5:30 P.M. Valujet flight to Atlanta. Martin waiting for me with his Town Car. Cruise into town, dinner with the gang. Quite chilly there. Lay plans for the morrow.
November 11, 1994 (Friday)
RISE at 7:30 A.M. Breakfast on Marietta Square, but cafe was nasty and food more so. Drove with the gang to De Kalb college auditorium at 9:10 A.M.
We bump into Deborah Lipstadt as I struggle to carry in the two packages of (72) Macmillan GÖRING paperbacks. Find we are the first to arrive; she is engrossed in girl talk with the organisers, so we are not recognized. I tuck myself away in an exit corridor until after she begins, then slip in at the back. Martin has set up his video camera inconspicuously on a tripod to one side of the auditorium. About 150 students attend.
Lipstadt clearly is totally unaware that I am there. In her speech she makes several ugly references to me as, somebody, “not really a historian,” whose several books have been published but has earned no respect from other historians, in fact this Irving is “not a respectable historian” at all. Earlier she had talked of Mark W. in the same terms, of Willis Carto and — pandering to the sizable Black section of the audience — of David Duke and his “white sheet and cone-head”.
She talked of the eye witnesses to the Holocaust at length, though not in detail, and of the mounds of documents which exist to disprove the revisionists — though she refuses to call these people that; she calls them “deniers” and is proud to have coined the term Holocaust denier, she says. In particular she says that among the documents which refute the “deniers” is a “blueprint of a gas chamber complete with the openings through which the S.S. tipped the pellets of cyanide.” Most of her speech, in fact seventy-five percent, is empty vapourings on the level of: “These guys are denying the Holocaust. I won’t debate them. I refuse to. Would you debate somebody who said the Earth was flat? Would you debate somebody who said sexual abuse of children was good? There is no debate.”
She returns to the “child abuse” theme at least five times in her meandering talk—prompting me to consider asking a supplementary question when the time comes whether by her obsession with Sexual Abuse she was trying unconsciously to tell us something about her own childhood.
QUESTION TIME comes. Albert — without our having discussed this — asks the first question: would Ms. Lipstadt explain why she is so disrespectful of David Irving, given that he has such a record of literary accomplishments? She evades direct answer, suspecting that Albert is a hostile; in fact as soon as she has deduced that he is not there to flatter her she snaps at him, “Get to a Question or sit down”—or words to that effect.
I then politely put up my hand. Invited to speak, I boom in my very English, very loud voice to her: “Professor Lipstadt, I am right in believing you are not a historian, you are a professor of religion?” She answers that she is a professor of religion but (something special else) in history too.
I then wade in: “I am the David Irving to whom you have made such disparaging reference in your speech. Given that I have had thirty years experience in the archives, that I have published some thirty books in the leading publishing houses of the world, including The Viking Press, William Morrow, E P Dutton, and Avon, in this country, what gives you the right to go around the world, to Australia and New Zealand” (which visits she has just mentioned proudly in her speech) “blackening my name as though my opinions are of no consequence?”
She is livid and shouts at me to sit down or ask a question. Still booming I continue: “You have just told an outright lie to these students. You are trying to gull students into believing that there are mounds of documents proving the Holocaust. You refer specifically to one, a ‘blueprint of a gas chamber’ which you have, complete with ‘the holes through which pellets were inserted’. I have here” — holding up my right hand stuffed with $20 bills — “a thousand dollars for you if you can produce to this audience, now or at any time in the future, this document about which you have just lied to them. One thousand dollars!”
What follows is uproar. A pleasing “silent gasp” has gone round as I begin speaking and the students realise who I am, in their midst. I then challenged her on those world tours: “Why don’t you tell this audience, Who hired you to go around Australia and New Zealand! Who paid your fees.”
She splutters that she hasn’t received any fee. I press on remorselessly: “Why don’t you tell the students who paid your air fares to Australia and all around that continent, and who paid all your expenses. Because if you won’t tell them, I will.” (I could see adult staff running this way and that, obviously setting things in motion. Time to keep powder dry.)
A Black sitting next to Martin, ten rows ahead of me and to the right, with his video camera running, chuckles, “Man, this is turning into fun.” I called out, “I have here two packets of my books” (holding GÖRING aloft) “which I am happy to give to all the students free, so they can see just who I am and which of us is lying.”
One or two students are hostile, but most are suddenly alert and awake. I unrolled the big Auschwitz aerial photograph, and said: “You talk of documents. I have a document here. An aerial photograph of Auschwitz.” As Lipstadt begins screaming into the microphone, I try to make the point that the picture has no trace of the “two thousand tons of coke” that the cremations (to which Rudolf Höss “confessed”) would have needed every day. I am not sure that students got this point in the mounting turmoil however.
An armed security man had now arrived, brought in by the organisers, and he comes over to tell me that if I will not agree to be silent, I will have to leave. I stand up and said loudly, “So: Professor Lipstadt not only refuses to discuss with us, she has Security called to prevent any discussion.” Albert motions to me to sit down (he afterwards said I would probably have been arrested and held, so he was right).
There are no serious questions after that. Lipstadt is livid. The students are dazed. Several times I wag the bundle of $20 bills aloft, as she is speaking, and his: “One thousand dollars …!”
THEN COMES the test: will they take the bait? If the first student refuses to touch the book, then all will. But a Black walking past has accepted a copy of the book from me; he shortly returns, even as La Lipstadt is again speaking, to ask for an autograph. I give him one, together with four more books to hand out. That “seeds” the audience nicely.
As they file out, I am mobbed by students asking for a copy. Victory! “I’ve only got seventy,” I said loudly, “so there are not enough for everybody.” Beneath Lipstadt’s anguished gaze the students then form another line, to get their copies of the book autographed by me. Sweet victory. Then students come to me with copies of the printed invitation to autograph: I did so — they are blank, which means that either they have not asked Lipstadt for her autograph, or she will have to sign after me. Total Victory! Revenge!
Another, Mia Daniels, is a journalist for the De Kalb Collegian. I could see she was not writing down the favourable points I made. They learn young. The German department head (a woman) asks for a book, but I am empty-handed by now. Fortunately: those packets weighed a ton. Shortly, the woman organiser bustled over to ask who had video’d the event, and do we have a “release” signed by Lipstadt permitting this? Martin hands her his card and intimates that the video is needed for legal reasons, in case Lipstadt libelled me or in case I am falsely accused of libelling her. The card read ATTORNEY AT LAW. Woman organiser blenches and withdraws.
It has not come cheap: what with the air fares, the car rental, and near on a thousand dollars’ worth of books donated to the audience. In victory mood off to the Marietta Club for luncheon. Then with Martin to a computer shop — I pick up a new mouse for the Mac, and Bodoni typeface — then I catch the 5:30 P.M. Valujet flight back to Fort Lauderdale. I land at 7:30 P.M.; at 7:49 P.M. I am in the car, headed south on the Turnpike. At 11:55 P.M. I am back in Key West. Not since April 1983 and the day of the Hitler Diaries fiasco; not indeed since June 1977 and David Frost’s failed television attempt to demolish HITLER’S WAR, has success smelt so sweet, and been (in my view) so richly deserved.
November 12, 1994 (Saturday)
I WRITE this letter to Mia Daniels at the DeKalb Collegian newspaper:
Dear Mia,—it was very pleasant and interesting talking with you yesterday about the Lipstadt lecture and my dissenting views. I have no idea what you wrote, if anything at all; but I am enclosing a (slightly better) copy of the GÖRING biography, published by Macmillan Ltd in London. This was very well received (my most recent book), and I’m also attaching a few of the voices that were published about it around the world.
Also sent the book to the De Kalb German teacher. Customer service!