photo: Kelly Christensen/Observer
David Irving speaks to a packed Chavez Theater Tuesday
by Mike Jenkinson Staff reporter
THE visit of British revisionist historian, David Irving, on Thursday, was accompanied by a great deal of controversy. There were arguments the event between members of The Euro-American Student Union (ESU) and the Kittitas Coalition for Human Rights.
A police presence was highly evident inside the event, no doubt sensing that the charged atmosphere could boil over into violence. Irving also came with an escort of young men, some in Marine Corps t-shirts, who stood along the walls and doorways, apparently to keep order.
May 6, 1999
The Kittitas Coalition for Human Right handed out pamphlets decrying Irving as "Banned for lies against humanity" and "Hitler's apologist." The literature also claimed the Euro-American Studdent Union supports "textbook bigorty." The pamphlets claimed that Irving and Central's ESU founder David Stennett are both holocaust deniers. In fact, many people expected Irving to make a speech implicitly denying that the holocaust had ever happened.
Irving's visit to the Central campus was sponsored by Pepper Inc. and a group calling themselves "Students for Real History." Posters advertising the event featured the word "Banned" in large letters. The history student who introduced Irving said his visit marked Irving's third trip to the Pacific Northwest. She said Irving had agreed to speak at Central for free because he was dedicated to introducing students to other points of view on the topic of the holocaust.
Irving was introduced as Britain's "most feared, hated and respected" historian, a highly debatable reference. He took the stage and immediately began trying to win over his audience.
He told stories about his past as a historian, even eliciting a few laughs from members of the crowd.
Irving further gained the confidence of the audience by giving evidence that Jews were routinely killed in Hitler's Germany, and many in the crowd may have begun to wonder what all the controversy was about. Irving tried to put across the view that Hitler did not know about the executions, and that when he found out he "ordered a stop to the liquidation".
He moved away from the discussion of Nazi Germany to discuss British knowledge of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, before returning once again to Hitler.This time Irving told the audience that he found no evidence that the mass gassing of Jews ever took place.
During the question and answer session, Irving was asked whether or not he used Jewish testimony which suggests very strongly that mass gassing did take place. Irving said that he was "very nervous about using Jewish eyewitness testimony" because, he said, it is "full of conflicts." He also dismissed Jewish holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel as a "monstrous exaggerator." Irving later went on to say that some gassing may have occurred at Auschwitz to get rid of "unwanted inmates".
Another audience member pointed out that by accepting eyewitness testimony from Hitler's former staff, but not from Jews, Irving gave an unbalanced view of history.
When asked why his speeches at universities were sponsored primarily by neo-Nazi groups and Klu Klux Klan supporters, Irving said that he did not know who was sponsoring his events. Irving was also somewhat hazy on the subject of whether or not he knew Stennett.