From the world's press
[verbatim trial transcripts]
London, March 4, 2000
Holocaust case result will deliver judgement on Irving
BY IAN BURRELL
THE LIBEL case brought by the revisionist historian David Irving against Penguin Books and the American author Deborah Lipstadt has seen the veracity [sic] of the worst crime in human history put on trial.
After eight weeks of remarkable theatre in Court 73 of the High Court, evidence has now been completed in a libel action that has profound significance not only for historians but for the memory of the millions of victims of the Holocaust. Mr Irving successfully silenced a series of critics with a flurry of libel writs, but the author of Hitler's War is finally being challenged before a judge.
Penguin, the publisher, has summoned an impressive array of Second World War experts to support its assertion that Mr Irving "distorts, misstates, misquotes, falsifies" the historical record to deny the Holocaust. Mr Irving, who has been regarded as a legitimate if maverick historian, claims this accusation by Ms Lipstadt has generated "waves of hatred" and made him an outcast among publishers.
The evidence given during the case by some of Mr Irving's fellow historians threatens to destroy his professional reputation. One, Professor Richard Evans of Cambridge University, told the court that Mr Irving "doesn't deserve to be called a historian at all". Sir John Keegan, the defence editor of The Daily Telegraph, called against his wishes to give evidence on Mr Irving's behalf, described his views on Hitler and the Final Solution as "perverse".
Yet the onus is on Penguin and Ms Lipstadt to prove their case before Mr Justice Gray and Mr Irving has chosen tactics carefully designed to frustrate his opponent. He has adopted a defensive position that he is "not an expert" on the Holocaust, that he does not deny it outright and even accepts that many Jews died in concentration camps.
He also argues that the case "should not leave the four walls of my study" -- considering only the evidence on which he had based his work and thus allowing him to disclaim knowledge of documents produced by Penguin that may undermine his findings. What he does say is that Jews were not gassed at Auschwitz, that Hitler did not order the extermination of Jews and that there was no systematic Nazi plan to do so.
During the course of the evidence Mr Irving, representing himself, has repeatedly denied awareness of documents. The man who found Josef Goebbels' diaries told the judge he had never read passages of books that he has discussed in public and keeps in his own library.
On Thursday Richard Rampton QC, representing Penguin, told the court he believed he had established 26 incidences of Mr Irving bending the historical record in the face of the available facts. But Mr Irving has repeatedly denied the authenticity of the evidence put before him, except to explain errors as regrettable inaccuracies made in the drafting and redrafting of a book.
Eyewitness accounts of the gas chambers by Auschwitz survivors have also been rubbished. The evidence of Henryk Tauber, who has told how he was forced to help to incinerate the corpses of up to 2,500 Jews a day at Auschwitz, stretched "a reasonable historian's credibility", Mr Irving said.
Confronted by the testimony of a Dutch historian, Professor Robert Van Pelt, that the use of gas chambers as an instrument of murder at Auschwitz was a "moral certainty", Mr Irving maintained that there were no holes in the roofs of the buildings through which cyanide pellets could have been fed.
The court heard of confessions by German personnel at the camp that the gassings had taken place and saw evidence produced at the trial of the Gestapo chief Adolf Eichmann in 1961, which included photographs and scientific studies of cyanide compounds in the walls of the chambers. But Mr Irving, claiming the chambers were used to delouse corpses of people who had died of natural causes, challenged Professor Van Pelt to dig up the chambers and find proof of the holes.
But it is Mr Irving's habit of recording every detail of his life in exhaustive detail that could finally prove to be part of his downfall. In discovery, Penguin obtained more than two million words of his diaries, revealing his associations with extreme right-wing and anti-Semitic groups in Britain, Germany and America, and laying bare his views on race. In one passage, he blames the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence on the consequences of "mass immigration".
Mr Justice Gray is expected to make his judgment next month. Penguin and Ms Lipstadt have spent close to £2m on the case. If Mr Irving loses he will face bankruptcy as well as professional ruin -- although his raised profile will doubtless bring offers of right-wing lecture tours in America.
But if he wins, it will open the door for revisionists to rewrite any event in history without the requirement to consider evidence that does not suit them and without fear that they will be publicly denounced for their distortion.
Dead millions block the path of denial
SAY YOU wanted to start a Reich. Perhaps you're a fan, on a practical basis, of the Corporate State. Or maybe you're a social Darwinist, who believes that the "survival of the fittest" applies to human social organisation.
Philosophically, you could be inclined towards the views of Nietzsche on the role of the Superman. Most likely, though, you are a plain old racial supremacist who just knows that your race is the best and that the others variously pollute your essential purity. Usually by sleeping with your women.
Clearly the biggest and best exponent of your creed was Adolf Hitler. Mussolini was a bit of a clown, Mosley got nowhere, and who has ever heard, these days, of Gabriele D'Annunzio?
But there's one problem -- one insurmountable roadblock -- in trying to get ordinary people seriously to engage with Hitler's beneficial policies and brilliant Weltanschauung and that's the Holocaust, You only have to begin talking about Adolf's employment programme, and someone is bound to drop concentration camps into the conversation.
So what is a Fascist to do? There is only one thing to do. Deny it. But a clever Nazi sympathiser will not deny it altogether. Only the madder American survivalists, reared on alien abduction stories and hatred of taxes, can fool themselves into believing that the whole thing was made up by President Bill Clinton and the Queen of England. Face it, some Jews did die.
So the thing to do, the Irving type thing, is to deny it a bit, to diminish it until it is no worse than many another act carried out by many another ideology or system.
First, make sure that it is compared with other great massacres which were not carried out by Hitlerians: the killing of Turkish Armenians, the Rwandan Tutsis, the Ukrainian peasantry, etc. You can't blame those on Nazism, can you?
Second, try to reduce it to an act of war, comparable with excesses committed even by the liberal democracies themselves. Equate it, if you can, with the American atomic strike on Hiroshima, or the Allied bombing of Dresden, You may even find yourself assisted in this by the (to you) strange propensity of democracies to flagellate themselves,
Quibble. Do everything you can to get the casualty total down, and to cast doubt on that most shocking feature of the Holocaust -- the industrial extermination of a people by one of the most civilised and best educated nations on earth. So find engineers to testify that the holes in the gas chambers were too small for the gas canisters, or the lifts too few to transport so many bodies to the crematoria.
Succeed, kamerad, and racial politics is off the hook.
But you can't succeed. Because, in a way, all children need to know is this. They went into the forests, the ravines and the depots, those millions, and they didn't come back. The shtetl Jews of the East, the artisan Jews of Thessalonika and the Greek Islands, the cosmopolitan Jews of Berlin, Lyons and Budapest, the orthodox Jews of Lublin and Bialystok, the naked women with their babies, the bearded grandfathers, the Steins, Goldbergs, Levis and Cohens.
They stand in a line a thousand miles long and a hundred miles deep across the path of the would-be Fascist, the uniform fetishist, the racial supremacist. And he cannot get past. DAVID AARONOVITCH.
March 4, 2000
1. (a). Mr Irving has issued two writs, both in September 1996: one against Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt, the action currently being tried; and one against Guardian Newspapers and Gitta Sereny, which will follow later this year. Hardly a flurry.
(b). In 1994 he issued a Writ against a major U.K. Sunday newspaper which was immediately settled out of Court on a very satisfactory basis which cannot be disclosed.
(c). The above article is libellous and evidently deliberately so.
2. Mr Irving challenges at present only two documents: the Auschwitz crematorium-capacities document of June 24, 1943, and the Müller telegram of August 1, 1941.