London, Wednesday, January 12, 2000
Mass gassing of Jews not feasible, says Irving
By Neil Tweedie
DAVID IRVING, the historian, denied yesterday that millions of Jews were systematically murdered in the gas chambers during the Second World War.
Giving evidence in a libel action, Mr Irving claimed that the mass gassing of Jews by the Nazis was not possible, and that there was no evidence of a systematic programme of extermination sanctioned by Adolf Hitler. The 62-year-old author said he had removed the word Holocaust from the second edition of his book Hitler's War because the term was too vague and imprecise.
Mr Irving, one of Britain's most controversial historians, is suing Deborah Lipstadt, an American academic, and her publishers, Penguin Books, for libel after she claimed in her book Denying the Holocaust, that he was one of the world's foremost "Holocaust deniers" and had manipulated fact to prove his beliefs. The defendants plead justification.
Yesterday Mr Irving, who is representing himself, went into the witness box for cross-examination by Richard Rampton, QC, the counsel for Prof Lipstadt and Penguin. The historian stood by comments he made in Calgary in 1991 in which he claimed that that the gassing of millions of Jews in "factories of death" was "just a legend".
A million bodies weighed 100,000 tons, making disposal a "major logistical problem". He did not believe gassing had been carried out on anything other than an "experimental" level by the SS, and that Jews who had not been worked or starved to death had been killed by shooting, clubbing or hanging.
When asked if he believed that Jews had been gassed in great numbers in the Treblinka and Sobibor concentration camps, Mr Irving said he had no evidence of it. He said: "I deny that it was possible to liquidate millions of people in the gas chambers." Mr Irving also put the number of Jewish dead at between one million and four million, as opposed to the generally accepted figure of six million.
Miss Lipstadt, a professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, Atlanta, accused Mr Irving of being an admirer of Hitler who kept a portrait of the Führer in his Mayfair flat. Mr Irving denied having a painting of the Führer, but said: "There was a time when he [Hitler] was on the right course, but he went off the rails.
"You can't praise his racial programme or penal methods, but he did pick up his nation out of the mire after World War One, reunified and gave it a sense of pride again." He also denied being a fascist sympathiser, describing himself as a laissez-faire liberal who had once been a member of the Young Conservatives.
Mr Irving said that like most fellow Englishmen of his background and age he regretted the passing of "the old England". He said:
"I sometimes think that if the soldiers and sailors of the Normandy beaches in 1944 could have seen what England was like at the end of the century, they would not have got 50 yards up the beach. They would have given up in disgust."
He said he paid no attention to Prof Lipstadt's book until 1996, when he was trying to market his biography of Goebbels, which took nine years to write and which he considered the crowning achievement of his career. He said: "In many bookstores the head of the history department took an aversion to me and after visiting a number of stores, it became quite plain that the reason was that they were selling Denying the Holocaust."
In 1996 his American publishers decided not to go ahead with the Goebbels biography. He decided he had no choice but to take legal action against the book which he considered the cause of his difficulties.
The libel case continues.
Thursday, January 13, 2000