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THE FOLLOWING nasty specimen vilifying David Irving was published on page 22 of The Australia/Israel Review, 10 April - 1 May, 1998. The author, Norman Abjorensen, is described as writing for The Canberra Times and as a frequent contributor to the Review. The Lukács book was widely reviewed in the USA, of course. [Click for a disgusting 1996 attack on Mr Irving by The Australia/Israel Review]


Hitler's historians


The Hitler of History, by John Lukács, Alfred A. Knopf New York, ]1997 ISBN 0-679-444649 279pp, US$26 (Nat available in Australia)

DAVID IRVING's quest to rehabilitate Adolf Hitler is dubious history relying on manipulation of evidence and even possibly falsification of sources, according to a new book by the Hungarian-born American historian. John Lukács.[1]

In The Hitler of History, Lukács turns the spotlight away from Hitler on to his multitude of biographers, tracking the various portraits of Hitler that have emerged, and suggesting that despite the thousands of books written, certain vital questions remain unanswered.

Lukács spares neither names nor reputations as he examines historians and their methodologies and sources in minute detail, discerning to what extent their work has assisted or hindered new knowledge of Hitler.

He names those he finds have been involved in either implicit or explicit rehabilitation of Hitler, singling out for particular attention Irving and the American John Toland.

Toland, whose 1977 Adolf Hitler continues to enjoy a wide readership and is still available, is seen as employing flawed methods: even worse, his 'indications of his admiration for Hitler were detectable throughout the book'.

Toland's approach was to interview scores of people who had known Hitler in some capacity - an approach Lukács acknowledges falls legitimately within the biographer's craft.

"At the same time Toland made no effort (and no pretension) to conform to the methods of professional historians: his archival research seems almost non-existent: he paid little attention to the writings of other Hitler biographers: his employment of both primary and secondary sources was very selective," Lukács writes.

BUT Lukács' greatest scorn is reserved for Irving, who, he says, like Toland, has paid almost no attention to the works of professional historians, dismissing and deriding them often.

Lukács is critical also of academics who have used the works of Toland and Irving, as well as reviewers, for not having seen where they were being led.

Irving, he writes, attacked professional historians not only for being unduly narrow in their methods, but also for their unwillingness to give any credit to Hitler where credit was due.

"But then - apart from moral questions of judgment - questions should have been raised (and, alas, they were so seldom raised) about the very methods of this tirelessly ambitious amateur historian.

"Like so many amateurs (as well as professionals on occasion), Irving proceeded from what the great Spanish historian Altamira once stated as 'the idolatry of the document' - meaning that a single document, or fragment of a document, was enough for Irving to build a very questionable thesis on its contents or on the lack of such.

"Worse than this were many of the archival references in Irving's footnotes... many of which were inaccurate and did nor prove, or even refer to the pertinent statements in Irving's text.

"Thus, Irving, who often accused other people (including Churchill) of 'falsifications' of documents, indulged in his own manipulations. attributing at least false meanings to some documents or. in other instances, printing references to irrelevant ones."

Irving's body of documentation has to be treated with special caution. Lukács has followed up many references and citations only to find that archival numbers in some of his footnotes are either incorrect or do not exist.

Lukács cites Irving's attempts to substantiate his assertion that Russia was ready to attack Germany in June 1941. writing as he did in Hitler's War that there was "clear evidence of a Russian military buildup that could be unleashed against Germany."[2] There is, writes Lukács, not one shred of "evidence." In other cases he has been found to have invented words attributed to Hitler to shore up his case.[3]

While Irving displayed an obvious ideological commitment, it was also shot through with hypocrisy since his admiration for Hitler was frequently disguised by his persistent efforts to blacken all of Hitler's opponents, both foreign and German. And, like Hitler himself, there is great danger in under-estimating Irving.

"(I)t would be wrong to underestimate his influence, for at least two reasons. One is the not inconsiderable extent of his readership. The other - more significant for our purposes - is that certain professional and, by and large, respected historians have relied on some of Irving's researches and then given him qualified praise.

"This is regrettable, but not merely because of the often lamentable and, in many cases, unsavoury character of Irving's opinions.

"Few reviewers and critics of Irving's books, including professional historians. have bothered to examine them carefully enough." (He cites specifically [Prof. Ernst] Nolte, [Dr Rainer] Zitelmann and [Dr John] Charmley.)

"Had they done so they would have found that many of Irving's references and quotations are not verifiable."

While apologists for Hitler. like Irving, sought to argue that the war against the Jews was carried out without Hitler's direct knowledge or involvement, Lukács begs to differ.

"The invasion of Russia - and the American entry into the war - involved new problems: the presence of more millions of East European Jews in the territories overrun and occupied by Germany. and the closing off of the last possibilities of expulsion overseas," he writes, "Some time in August-September 1941, Hitler either ordered or approved a Final Solution."

[Flush this loo]The circumstantial evidence is sound:

In Hitler's Table Talk 1941-44, edited by Hugh Trevor-Roper, Hitler, in the presence of Himmler and others, on the evening of February 22, 1942 is recorded as saying: "We shall regain our health only by eliminating the Jews."

By then the first mass executions had already begun in Eastern Europe, and the paper setting out the proposals for the Final Solution had been drawn up at the Wannsee Conference just weeks before. on January 20, 1942.

History, says Lukács emphatically, has not finished with Hitler.


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Notes on some of the lies:

  1. Lukács had special reason to dislike Mr Irving. Publishers in Madison Avenue had turned down his own project for a Hitler biography, citing Irving's coming blockbuster Hitler's War as the reason. Lukács made this jealousy plain in a 1972 private letter to John Toland, which we have obtained from Toland's papers in the F D Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park.
  2. It is now commonly accepted by historians that Stalin was planning an offesive against Hitler later in 1941. The recent book Icebreaker, by a former Soviet insider, confirms this.
  3. Lukacs' book contains so many libels of this nature, that Mr Irving wrote a warningletter to publisher Alfred Knopf.

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