Thursday 20 January 2000
Irving 'ready to eat humble pie' over gassing of Jews
DAVID IRVING, the historian seeking damages over a claim that he is a "Holocaust denier", said yesterday that he was "willing to eat humble pie" if he had made a mistake over the number and way Jews were gassed in the Second World War.
Under cross-examination by Richard Rampton, QC, over statements he made that the Nazis used gassing trucks "on a very limited scale to experiment," Mr Irving agreed that he had been "quite plainly wrong". He told the High Court where he is representing himself in a libel action against Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt, the American author and academic, that what he had said in the past about the scale and number of the gas trucks deaths was based on his knowledge at the time.
But he admitted his error after Mr Rampton, appearing for Penguin and Prof Lipstadt, author of Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, referred him to a document showing that 97,000 Jews were gassed in three trucks in the course of five weeks.
Mr Justice Gray, who is hearing the case without a jury, asked Mr Irving if he would describe that as "very limited and experimental". Mr Irving, 62, of Mayfair, who said he did not have the document when he made the original remark, replied: "No, this is systematic."
Mr Rampton claimed that the statements about the trucks flew "in the face of the available evidence". He said: "I am suggesting a man in your position does not enter the arena waving flags and blowing trumpets unless he has taken the trouble to verify what he is proposing to say, particularly when what he is proposing to say is something of great sensitivity and importance to millions throughout the world."
Mr Irving denied flag-waving and said the comment was made in response to a question at a press conference in 1989. He said: "I am not a Holocaust expert. I am a Hitler expert." Mr Rampton: "Then why don't you keep your mouth shut about the Holocaust?" Mr Irving: "Because I am asked about it. It obsesses people."
He found the phrase "Holocaust denier" repugnant and said he never claimed that the crime did not take place. But he did question the number of Jews who died and denied that there was a systematic extermination of Jews in concentration camp gas chambers.
He denied Mr Rampton's suggestion that he bent evidence to exculpate Hitler or that he suppressed documents. He claims that Prof Lipstadt's book alleges he distorted documents and statistics to reach historically untenable conclusions and serve his ideological claims.
She and Penguin Books deny libel. The case continues.
Thursday, January 20, 2000