[verbatim trial transcripts]
Tuesday, January 25, 2000
Holocaust skeptic admits use of flawed evidence
But he denies any falsification
Bert Roughton Jr.
A controversial historical writer who denies as a "big lie" that Jews were slaughtered in gas chambers at Auschwitz admitted in court Monday that the study upon which he originally based his contention was substantially flawed.
Nevertheless, David Irving said he still believes no Jews were gassed at Auschwitz because he is unimpressed with evidence supporting the traditional account."We are entitled to at least one unambiguous, not read-between- the-lines, document that would give us a clear smoking gun," Irving testified Monday. "That document does not exist."
Irving is suing Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, for alleged libel over assertions made about him in her 1994 book, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory."
Lipstadt portrayed Irving, 62, as a prominent and dangerous "Holocaust denier," who believes the systematic murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis during World War II never took place. She also depicts him as an extremist who manipulates, distorts and falsifies history for his own purposes.
Lipstadt's attorneys are trying to prove that Irving either has lied or ignored evidence available to him when he has denounced accepted accounts of the Holocaust.
When asked about the overwhelming body of documents, physical evidence and eyewitness accounts of the mass killings at the infamous Nazi concentration camp, Irving said he did not accept the conclusion that Nazis systemically killed as many as 2 million Jews in gas chambers at the camp and then burned their bodies in specially built furnaces.
"No, I don't agree with this," Irving said. "There are other arguments that are just as plausible."
Irving, who has never visited Auschwitz, said it was more likely the structures identified as gas chambers were used as air raid shelters or as places to administer poison gas to corpses to kill typhus-carrying fleas and lice.
Irving bases his assertions about Auschwitz on a 1998 report by Fred Leuchter, an American with expertise in execution facilities.
Leuchter concluded that residual traces of hydrogen cyanide --- the killing agent in the Zyklon B pellets used by the Nazis --- in the buildings identified as chambers were too low to support the contention that people were put to death inside. He also noted that hydrogen cyanide levels were much higher in the nearby de-lousing chambers.
Leuchter studied Auschwitz to provide evidence in a Canadian court case of a man accused of publishing material that denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz.
The judge in the Canadian case disallowed the report because he ruled Leuchter lacked the necessary qualifications.
Defense attorney Richard Rampton, who is representing Lipstadt and Penguin, dismissed the Leuchter report as "bunk."
Rampton [right] argued that it would be expected that residual levels of hydrogen cyanide in the gas chambers would be lower than in de-lousing rooms because it takes 22 times more cyanide to kill lice than it does to kill people.
Subsequent analyses of the Leuchter report have attacked the study's methodology as well as its conclusions, he said.
Rampton said Irving has persisted in basing his assertions on the Leuchter report, even though the historian knows it is faulty.
Irving acknowledged that the report was seriously flawed, but he said he still believes that its findings about the poison residue marked an important breakthrough. "I accept that the Leuchter report was flawed, but its findings have been replicated," he said. "It's been superseded."
The trial is expected to last until March.
Meanwhile, a new study shows that claims attacking the Holocaust have reached a widespread audience but have so far failed to convince many people.
The American Jewish Committee on Monday released a survey of 11 countries. The report said that interpretations of World War II events varied from country to country but few people denied the Holocaust.
The most recent survey, conducted in Sweden in December, found that 86 percent of 1,000 people had heard these claims but only 1 percent believed it possible the mass slaughter of Jews during World War II never happened.
The highest proportion of people who said it seemed possible the Nazi extermination of 6 million Jews never happened was in East Germany, with one out of every 10 believing this.
Seven percent of Britons and Austrians, 5 percent of French, 4 percent of Australians, 2 percent of Russians and 1 percent of Americans and Poles said it was possible the Holocaust did not happen.
January 25, 2000