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Posted Tuesday, January 25, 2000

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Monday, January 24, 2000 16:56


[verbatim trial transcripts]

Historian David Irving was today accused of basing his rejection of the existence of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz on a report he knew to be "rubbish".

The 62-year-old author of Hitler's War, who is seeking High Court libel damages against American academic Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books over a claim that he is a 'Holocaust denier', firmly rejected the allegation made during cross-examination by their barrister.

Mr Richard Rampton QC dismissed as "rubbish" the 1988 findings in a report written by a man called Fred Leuchter, who had taken samples from various parts of the remains at Auschwitz and concluded that there were never homicidal gas chambers there.

The defendants claim that the Leuchter report was "bunk"; that Mr Irving knew that to be the case, but ignored the "stupidities" of it because he wanted it to be true.

Mr Rampton accused Mr Irving of saying "publicly that which you know to be untrue about the validity of the Leuchter report".

During a visit to Florida in 1995 he was "categorical" in his dependence on the findings of the Leuchter report.

Mr Irving, of Duke Street, Mayfair, central London, who is representing himself during the lengthy trial before Mr Justice Gray in London, replied: "I still am."

He told the court his position remained the same and he would be justifying that during the course of the trial.

Mr Irving, who rejects the claim he a Holocaust denier, is suing Professor Lipstadt and Penguin over her 1994 book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, which he says generated waves of hatred against him.

The author, who does question the number of Jewish dead and denies the systematic extermination of the Jews in concentration camp gas chambers, has been accused by the defendants of being "a liar and a falsifier of history".

At the start of the case Mr Rampton told the court that in 1988 a man of German origin, Ernst Zundel, was put on trial in Canada for publishing material which denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz.

In defence of this charge Mr Zundel's lawyers recruited Mr Leuchter "who seems to have made his living as some kind of consultant in the design of execution facilities in the USA".

He was dispatched to Auschwitz to seek evidence of the use "or otherwise" of homicidal gas chambers. Counsel said his report was declared inadmissible by the Canadian judge on the grounds that Mr Leuchter had no relevant expertise.

Mr Rampton said Mr Irving gave evidence at the trial and during his visit he read the Leuchter report and "shortly thereafter he declared himself convinced that Leuchter was right and that there were never any homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz".

One of the main reasons Mr Leuchter advanced for his conclusion was that it was to be expected that any residual traces of hydrogen cyanide "the killing agent in the Zyklon B pellets used by the SS" should be very much higher in those parts of the remains of Auschwitz which were identified as gas chambers for killing people than in those parts which were known to have been used for killing lice.

Mr Rampton said the report recorded very small traces of hydrogen cyanide in the gas chamber remains and relatively large traces in the delousing remains: "Therefore, said Mr Leuchter, the alleged gas chamber remains could obviously never have been gas chambers at all."

The defendants say that the Leuchter report has been "comprehensively demolished since", but Mr Irving submits that the "broad trend" of the report was substantially borne out by later reports.Mr Rampton said that the Leuchter report was at fault in its assertion that the alleged gas chamber remains could not have been gas chambers because they contained very small traces of hydrogen cyanide " while there were relatively large traces in the delousing remains.

Mr Rampton pointed out that it was possible to kill human beings with a 22 times lower concentration of the poison than was required to kill lice.

Mr Irving said that he accepted that the figures were "flawed" but asserted that the Leuchter report was "substantially substantiated" by later reports.

He said that in 1945, the Poles had carried out tests on metal ventilation gratings and human hair found at Auschwitz.

And in 1989/90, the Auschwitz authorities carried out tests and came up with "unsatisfactory" results which they kept secret.

A third more scientific report written later by a qualified chemist came up with figures which "broadly confirmed" the conclusions which Leuchter had reached.

Mr Rampton told Mr Irving that the court was not concerned with proving or disproving what happened at Auschwitz but "your state of mind and your standards of truth when it comes to reporting history".

Mr Irving said that the remains of cyanide found on the "gas chamber" gratings in the 1945 report was clear evidence that the room was used for "fumigating cadavers" or clothing which were heavily infested with typhus lice.

Alternatively, he added, the room "which had a door fitted with a peep-hole and double-thickness glass" could have been planned for use as a bomb shelter.

Mr Rampton dismissed Mr Irving's theory that Zyklon B was put into a room where people were already dead as "bizarre".

Mr Irving said that the hair of about 500 women, which was mentioned in the 1945 report as bearing traces of cyanide, was actually found in the area of Auschwitz where stolen property was stored.

Mr Irving said that the theory that all the evidence led to the probable conclusion that this was a mass extermination by gassing was "the conclusion of the closed mind".

An invoice in his possession, dating from early 1943, showed, he said, that the chamber was used as a "disinfestation plant" to combat the "appalling plague" that hit Auschwitz in 1942/3.

Mr Rampton said that "notwithstanding this catalogue of fundamental errors" (in the Leuchter report) "you publicly, in your public role, have adhered to it as if it was the Gospel of St John".

Mr Irving said what he had relied on was the chemical part of Leuchter's findings.

The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.

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