London Tuesday, February 8, 2000
Irving's opinion of Hitler is perverse, claims Keegan
By Caroline Davies
DAVID IRVING'S views on Hitler and the Final Solution are "perverse" and defy common sense, Sir John Keegan, defence editor of The Daily Telegraph, told the High Court yesterday.
Giving evidence after being subpoenaed by Mr Irving, he said the author's proposal that Hitler could not have known what was happening to the Jews until late 1943 "was so extraordinary it would defy reason". Sir John, knighted in the New Year Honours for services to military history, had been called by Mr Irving in his libel action against the American author Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books over a claim that he is a "Holocaust denier".
Mr Irving told the court that Sir John had, in the past, recommended his book Hitler's War to students of the Second World War. Sir John told the court that he had recommended two books, Mr Irving's and another, Struggle for Europe, by Chester Wilmot. He said: "Together they gave Hitler's side and the Allies' side."
That did not mean, he said, that he endorsed the opinions in Mr Irving's book. Sir John said: "I read Hitler's War very carefully at the weekend. I continue to think it is perverse in the proposal that Hitler couldn't have known until October 1943 what was going on with the Jewish population in Europe and many other minority groups as well."
Mr Irving, 62, who is representing himself, said he had called Sir John as a witness to his reputation. But Sir John had been unwilling to attend unless summoned.
Sir John, who had never met or corresponded with Mr Irving, said he admired Hitler's War in what it had to say on the subject he was most interested in as a military historian - how Hitler conducted military operations. He said: "That sort of history interests me. It does not mean I endorse your opinions beyond that."
Explaining his reluctance to give evidence, Sir John said: "It seemed to me this was going to be a very contentious case and one is easily misunderstood in discussions of this dreadful episode. I did not wish to put myself in a position where I might be misunderstood."
Mr Irving asked: "You were apprehensive about giving evidence on my behalf?" Sir John replied: "But I am not giving evidence on your behalf, but under subpoena."
Mr Irving claims libel damages over Prof Lipstadt's 1994 book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, which he claims has generated hatred against him. The defendants have accused him of being a liar and a falsifier of history.
Mr Irving believes that the killing of the Jews was organised by Heinrich Himmler, but accepts that after 1943 Hitler had no excuse for not knowing about it.
The case continues.