No shackles for Reich writer
ExpoMart banned revisionist Nazi historian from military show
By Mackenzie Carpenter
Post-Gazette Staff Writer
David Irving has been banned from a lot of places in his 35-year career as a revisionist Third Reich historian -- Canada, Italy Austria, Germany, and most recently, the ExpoMart in Monroeville.
Widely described as "Hitler's PR man", and a "a right-wing British historian who denies the Holocaust happened" -- labels he strenuously rejects -- Irving was told last week by ExpoMart officials that he would not be allowed to sell his books at a major military exposition that begins today. [next panel]
September 27, 1996
Photo: David Irving sits outside Judge Judith L.A. Friedman's courtroom before receiving permission to display his books at the ExpoMart.
But after a three-hour emergency hearing before Allegheny Court Common Pleas Judge Judith L.A. Friedman yesterday, Irving was told he could begin displaying his writings at the exposition, dubbed the "Militaria Antiques Extravaganza," a big attraction for war buffs, gun buffs, uniform buffs and military aficionados from all over the country.
The British-born Irving, author of some 30 books, has questioned Hitler's involvement in the extermination of millions of Jews, and has been variously described as "repellent" (Publishers' Weekly) and "obtuse" but "indispensible" (New York Review of Books) because of his deep knowledge of Nazi Germany.
Irving, a ruddy-faced man in a pin-striped suit, described himself as "an expert on that period, on Hitler. And I'm an expert on little Hitlers who try to use Nazi methods to prevent free speech."
And just who is censoring him in this case?
"The managers of the Radisson Hotel, if you know what I mean," he said in an interview.
Such comments clearly pained Linda Hurwitz, director of the Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh and the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Hurwitz was the one who notified officials at Oxford Development Co., which owns ExpoMart, about Irving.
Irving has appeared at the military show regularly since 1990, but only this year did Hurwitz find out about his presence, and when she did, she said, she called Ed Lewis, a top official at Oxford.
"Usually, my philosophy is not to get involved at all," Hurwitz said. "But when I saw information that he was coming, I thought ExpoMart should know about what his books say."
Hurwitz added that she had "mixed feelings" about the free speech issues involved, "but we have a moral responsibility to speak out against people who are liars."
Irving has been controversial among World War II historians for years, most notably for espousing the view that other Nazi leaders were responsible for exterminating Jews -- without Hitler's knowledge. He has also argued that while the Nazis massacred Jews, the numbers actually were between 600,000 and 1 million, far below the generally accepted figure of 6 mullion.
Earlier this year, New York's publishing world was set on its ear after St. Martin's Press decided at the last minute not to publish Irving's latest book, "Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich," based on thousands of pages of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels' diaries.
Undeterred, Irving, who self-published the work, began a U.S. book tour in early September to promote the Goebbels book, to be capped by this weekend's appearance at the ExpoMart military show.
But on Sept. 17, officials notified him by letter that he would not be permitted to set up a booth at the exposition, and although Irving met with them again yesterday morning, ExpoMart officials would not budge.
So at 3:30 p.m., Irving found himself before Friedman, who seemed troubled at the outset by ExpoMart's arguments that it had a right, under contract; to prohibit offensive material by its exhibitors.
"I think in Canada, it's against the law to say the Holocaust doesn't exist," Friedman said. "In this country, it's not against the law to say anything."
Books are more like ideas, she added, "and we don't enjoin the expression of ideas."
But Robert Allman, representing ExpoMart, argued that as a private organization, ExpoMart had the right to regulate its exhibitors, and that constitutional free speech constraints didn't apply.
Friedman conceded that point, but ruled against ExpoMart nonetheless, finding that the contractual agreement between the parties did not explicitly ban books like Irving's but was meant to prevent "an excessive display of Third Reich memorabilia" -- statues, uniforms, swastikas.
'There are many subtle issues here," she said, shaking her head. "I'm finding myself very troubled. Ordinarily, I'm asked to restrain free speech Here, it's the reverse. I'm being asked to enjoin infringement of free speech."