Oslo, Norway, March 13, 2000
Dagens Næringsliv is the Norwegian equivalent to the British "Financial Times".
Judgment on the Holocaust
by BJØRN WESTLIE
After one and a half weeks, the procedure in the libel case which the author David Irving has brought against the publisher Penguin and the historian Deborah Lipstadt, has started today [sic. Jan 11]. Does the judge agrees that the Holocaust is a lie?
Today at 10.30 a.m. it is a new start in court 73 in the cathedral-like Royal Court in London. Two different world views and two quite different versions of what happened in Central Europe 60 years ago are against each other. The starting point of the whole story is the polemic book "Denying the Holocaust", by the history professor Deborah Lipstadt , published in 1993, and where she puts a mark on those who deny that the Holocaust has happened.
The case, which started February 5 [sic], is drawing to a close, and the case is to be summarised before Judge Charles Gray makes his final judgement. David Irving (he will be 62 years old on March 24), is fighting for his primary statement that Great Britain should never have gone to war against Adolf Hitler. He maintains among other things that the history about the Holocaust is a falsification, and that Jews were not killed in gas chambers during World War II. Jews were killed, but it was because of the war, and not because there was a plan to exterminate all the Jews, he maintains.
The defence counsel Richard Rampton maintains on his side that Irving is propagating anti-Semitism, and that he feeds Nazi ideas. By using sarcasm and sharp attacks during the case, the defence counsel Rampton has done his utmost in portraying Irving as a half fascist fanatic. But the hide of the heavily built Irving is like an elephant; most of it has been lost on him. He demands evidence built on documents, and rejects witnesses and stories from the people who survived the death camps. Irving is his own lawyer, and has proved that he is able to cope with extremely competent lawyers.
The day before the court took a pause on March 1, it was maintained that Irving raised his glass in honour of Hitler during a party with neo nazis in Munich in 1990. Irving's simple answer was that he actually did not raise his glass, since he does not drink. His simple explanation of his contacts with right wing extremists in Germany, and the many speeches he has held in Germany with themes, which fit audiences with such a background. is: "I speak to the people who are willing to listen."
Today too, Deborah Lipstadt will find her special place among the lawyers in court 73, as she has done during the whole case. Lipstadt is professor of history in Atlanta in USA, and is herself of the Jewish faith. The reason why she wrote "Denying the Holocaust", was that a public opinion poll measurement had shown that as many as 22 per cent of the adult population in USA actually was not sure what had happened with the Jews during World War II.
Both as a historian and as a Jew she found it necessary to make a counter attack. David Irving is only one of the many historians who are attacked in her book, where she systematically examines the statements of those who deny that the extermination of the Jews was a part of Hitler's policy. Not until 3 years after the book had been published, Irving brought a libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher.
It happened after that the publisher St. Martin's Press withdrew a contract with Irving, which stated that they were going to publish his book about Goebbels. It was Lipstadt herself who at that time spoke out against the publication of Irving's book. Irving, on his side, maintains that Lipstadt's book and her statements have contributed in destroying his reputations and his career as an author. Lipstadt in her book portrays Irving the following way:
"Irving is one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial. Familiar with historical evidence, he bends it until it conforms with his ideological leanings and political agenda."
In her book, Lipstadt has not many more personal assessments of Irving than this. But by mixing the statements of others, she portrays a man who has done his utmost to clear Hitler and his men. According to Irving, the allegation that the Germans used gas chambers during the war originates from the British themselves. It was part of the psychological warfare against Germany, he maintains according to Lipstadt.
His line of argument that Auschwitz is just a tourist attraction, and not a memory from the war, is one of the items the court has to make up their minds about, and this in a case which may have great consequences for how the post war generation is going to judge World War II.
Translated by Bjorn Hanssen
Oslo, Norway, March 13, 2000