London, March 16, 2000
Holocaust trial about freedom, says Irving
BY MICHAEL HORSNELL
DAVID IRVING, the controversial Hitler historian, said yesterday that if a judge ruled against him in his libel trial, academics could become too scared to discuss the Holocaust.
If judgment went in his favour, he said, it would not mean that "the Holocaust never happened", but that debating it could continue in the interests of freedom of speech.
Mr Irving was making his closing speech at the end of a two-month hearing in which he is suing the American academic, Deborah Lipstadt, and Penguin books over her claims that he is a dangerous Holocaust denier and "Hitler partisan" who has twisted history.
He said that the trial wa --s not about the reputation of the Holocaust, but his own reputation as a human being and historian of integrity.
On the final day of the hearing, Mr Irving, 62, was accused by Richard Rampton, QC, for the defendants, of being a "rabid anti-Semite" who had falsified history on a "staggering scale in order to 'prove' Hitler's innocence" over Nazi persecution of the Jews. Mr Rampton alleged that Mr Irving had "prostituted his reputation for the sake of a bogus rehabilitation of Hitler".
Mr Irving retorted that Professor Lipstadt's book, Denying the Holocaust, was "malicious and deeply flawed" --and that it was the climax of a campaign against him.
He said a judgment in his favour would not mean "that the Holocaust never happened; it means only that in England today discussion is still permitted". Judgment against him would mean no one would dare discuss the Holocaust, as it should be by historians.
Mr Irving said that the defendants had, without justifying it, made one of the "gravest libels" that could be imagined for a respectable English citizen. This involved the "reckless lie" that he consorted with the extremist anti-Semitic Russian group, Pamyat, violent anti-Israeli murderers and Louis Farrakhan, an American Black Power leader and agitator.
He also told the High Court that he had been the victim of an orchestrated 30-year international campaign to destroy him and had been banned from foreign archives essential to his research.
He said his editor at Macmillans had issued a secret order in July 1992 to destroy several thousand copies of all three volumes of his Hitler biography worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Mr Irving said his family was placed in constant fear and West End Central Police Station in London had asked to film inside his Mayfair flat in case they needed to be rescued.
He added: "For 12 months after our young child --Jessica --was born, we lived with a wicker Moses basket in the furthest corner of our apartment near a window, attached to a length of wire rope in case the building was set on fire and we had to lower her to safety . . . I have lived since then with a four-foot steel spike stowed in a strategic point inside my apartment. No historian should have to live with his family in a civilised city under such conditions."
In his closing statement, Mr Rampton accused him of being a liar whose Holocaust denial had been exposed as a fraud. He said: "As the evidence in this court has shown, Mr Irving is a right-wing extremist, a racist and, in particular, a rabid anti-Semite.
Mr Justice Gray reserved judgment..
London, Thursday, March 16, 2000