London, April 15, 2000
Judgment has been passed. So how do you feel about being labelled as a racist now, Mr Irving?
By Julia Stuart
Buying milk at the local corner shop with his six-year-old daughter, Jessica, there is not the slightest hint of a ditty from David Irving. Despite the presence of an Asian shopkeeper, the historian keeps his musical talents to himself, unlike the time, exposed in his private diary, when he started singing "I am a Baby Aryan ... I have no plans to marry an ape or Rastafarian" to Jessica, in the company of "half-breed" children. Having been denounced as a racist, an anti-Semite, a pro-Nazi polemicist and Holocaust denier in a High Court libel trial this week, perhaps Mr Irving has learnt his lesson.
But once inside his office in a Mayfair apartment, where Mr Irving has been working through 422 new e-mails "of which less than 1 per cent is hate mail", it soon becomes apparent that the ego that led him to court is far from diminished. Mr Irving, 62, believes he lost the case against the American academic Deborah Lipstadt because the judge, Mr Justice Gray, failed to match his intellect.
While others would have balked at the contents of the judgment, which included "clear evidence" of his anti-Semitism, Mr Irving became "increasingly exhilarated" as he read through it. "I realised that on the important points he had missed the point again and again and again," he says, almost gleefully.
All trace of the strikingly florid complexion he bore in court has gone. He is, he says, very tired. Not that he has given up the fight. There is the question of an appeal, which, if granted, will undoubtedly vindicate him, he brags.
So does Mr Irving, as the court so unequivocally found, agree that he is racist? "I think we're all racist. I think there is something built into our microchip which makes us dislike people from different cultures. It's a glitch."
Does he dislike people from other cultures? "I think 'dislike' is probably the loaded and emotional word. One has an emotional instinctive aversion to them, making you want not to sit next to them ... If you're a man, and you go into a men's public toilet and there's a black man or Pakistani standing at one, then you go two or three stalls possibly further away. It's these little instinctive acts that you would take. It's not dislike, it's aversion. It's territorial."
He offers as another example of this "instinctive aversion", the tale of when he realised he had sat down next to a "mongol" [Mr Irving actually said: a Downs-Syndrome child] in a Spanish café 30 years ago. "I got up and moved two stools away. I was instantly ashamed for having done so. But it was just instinctive reaction. This is what makes human beings out of us. We know that the bug is in the microchip, and the civilised person represses it."
The phone suddenly rings on his desk, and he answers it gruffly. "That's very nice indeed," he says, his voice softening. "That's very, very kind of you. Just the kind of offer I need."
He puts down the phone, explaining with a degree of smugness that the caller was a Portuguese supporter offering him the use of his mansion for as long as he wanted. "Statistically more people like me than don't", he says.
Mr Irving needs all the friends he can get. He was warned by the judge that he would have to pay the "vast bulk" of the expenses incurred by Professor Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, thought to be about £2.5m. He says his fighting fund, amassed largely from responses to an appeal on his website, will not cover the sum, but refuses to say how he will pay the costs. He also refuses to name his benefactors, but denies they include members of the Ku-Klux-Klan. Not that he would turn down such offers. "I will accept money from any source, except Colonel Gaddafi no doubt," he says with a flourish.
He now faces the very real prospect of losing his home, indeed he is already scrawling his appointments -- including speaking tours in America -- on his kitchen cabinets. Mr Irving shares the flat -- where the old-fashioned furnishings are at odds with the smart address -- with Jessica and her Danish mother, Bente, 35, who is seriously ill. The historian says the prospect of decamping from Mayfair, which is also home for many Arabs, doesn't bother him. "I've lived here 32 years which is long enough. I've never particularly enjoyed this area, it is not what it used to be. I'm not going into the reason why or I'll be accused of racism, but it has seriously deteriorated and I no longer want to go out on the streets after 11pm around here."
As well as the appeal, he is about to resume another libel case, this time against the historian Gitta Sereny. And, of course, he plans to produce more historical books through his imprint, Focal Point, launched in 1990 after he was turned down by respectable publishers. But with his reputation as a historian now well and truly demolished -- the judge said he "persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence" -- one can only wonder why he continues his fight to get his views aired.
"Why do I keep going? It's the kind of question you shouldn't really ask, because you're liable then to start saying, 'Yes, why do I keep going?' But what's the alternative? My oldest daughter didn't keep going in September last year because she couldn't stand the crazy voices and she couldn't stand having no legs. But I'm not in that plight. I'm far better off."
Josephine, one of his four daughters by his ex-wife Pilar, committed suicide at the age of 32, by throwing herself out of a window. A schizophrenic, she was left an amputee by an accident in 1996. "You blame yourself, from having passed on defective genes perhaps," says her father, his eyes filling with tears as he tells of her death.
One of the wreaths sent to the funeral included a card bearing the words: "Truly a merciful death, Philipp Bouhler and friends." Mr Irving explains that Philipp Bouhler was in charge of Hitler's euthanasia programme for the disposing of the disabled, and committed suicide in 1945. It was, says Mr Irving, a "very cruel taunt".
How did her death affect him?
"You never get over it. Every time I fly to America I have a sense of being much closer to her." His remaining three grown-up daughters are said to be fiercely opposed to his beliefs. One refused to invite him to her wedding, and another wouldn't give him her London address when she returned from Australia. Mr Irving admits his twin brother changed his name by deed poll to avoid the stigma.
But his dead daughter isn't the only thing Mr Irving thinks about while flying -- he is also reminded of his own grand achievements. Each time he imagines what he would do if the plane was about to crash-land, and always comes to the same conclusion: "I'd just sit there with my arms folded with a smile on my face. Because you would say to yourself, 'You've achieved a great deal. You've had five beautiful daughters, you've written 30 books, you've done your duty both as a human being, and as a member of the species you've procreated, you've done your bit. You've led a life that's clean and decent as you can by your own precepts, which obviously don't match up to the precepts of Mr Justice Gray or the Jewish community'."
What would he say to all the people he has hurt?
"What people have I hurt?" he says indignantly.
The Jews for starters. "And they've not done anything to hurt me for the last 30 years? Am I supposed constantly to turn the other cheek?"
As a self-professed Christian many would say 'yes'.
"Am I supposed to write lies when I find something in the documents that I believe to be true which is not what they have been saying, because it might hurt them to be told after 20 years, 'I'm sorry folks, but you've been a bit gullible'?"
He offers another tale, never told before and presumably to counter the charge of racism, about the time he was cycling along a path in Florida. "Coming towards me one evening was a black man on a bicycle. At the last moment he became confused and couldn't decided whether to go this way or that way and he crashed head into me and nearly broke my fingeroff. I screamed at him, 'You stupid nigger!' "
Irving pauses, and tears start to well. "When I got home that evening," he continues, but his voice falters. There's another pause, and the tears well again. "I went down on my knees and I prayed to God to forgive me. I was terribly ashamed. I've never ever looked down on black people, or people of another race. I regard them as being different and each being beautiful in their own way." The tears disappear as fast as they've come.
He denies that he has been defeated. "All these Jewish, indecently well-funded organisations are rubbing their hands with glee at the thought that they have destroyed me. They had spent the last 30 years trying to silence me, and to their horror they open their newspapers today and I'm on the front of every newspaper with my views being quoted. I'm all over the world again."
He denies that his reputation is shattered. "I'm one of the world's finest military historians. He [the judge] said [that] in his judgment, page 284".
He will admit, however, to the charge of chauvinism, in which he appears to revel. During a description of a Florida sunset that reminded him of his "poor" dead daughter, he says the place is so lovely he must take me there.
In the same conversation comes the remark that he has been eyeing me up "lasciviously". As we finish, he comments on my appearance. "I like the dress," he says. I point out to him that I am, in fact, wearing trousers. Another mind-boggling manipulation of the facts by Mr Irving.
April 15, 2000