| April 11, 2000|
today in libel suit by Hitler
by Kate Kelland
LONDON -- A British
historian who says the Auschwitz
Nazi death camp is a "Disneyland for
tourists" that never had gas chambers will
learn today whether a court will uphold
his libel suit against a U.S. professor
who accused him of extremism and bad
The judgment in one of the most bizarre
libel cases to be heard in London's High
Court may mean that David Irving --
branded a "Holocaust denier" and a racist
-- can continue to enjoy a reputation as
an eminent Hitler historian.
But if the court rules against him, his
work will be damned as virulent
anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi propaganda.
Mr. Irving, who once said he would like
to form an association of "Auschwitz
Survivors, Survivors of the Holocaust and
other Liars," is suing Deborah
Lipstadt and her publishers, Penguin
Books, for libel.
Ms. Lipstadt, a specialist in Holocaust
studies at Emory University in Atlanta,
says Mr. Irving is a Hitler partisan who
"prostituted his reputation" as a
historian to try to prove Adolf
Hitler had no part in Nazi persecution
of the Jews. The case is being heard by a
single judge in London's High Court since
the details were considered too complex
for a jury.
The ruling in the eight-week trial is
of profound significance both for
survivors of what many term "the worst
crime in human history" and for history
The judge heard that Mr. Irving claims
Hitler knew nothing of Nazi plans to
exterminate Jews during the Second World
War until 1943.
Mr. Irving "distorts, misstates,
misquotes and falsifies" the historical
record to deny the Holocaust and back up
his right-wing views, say Ms. lipstadt's
During the trial they read a poem from
Irving's diary that they claimed was
evidence of right-wing extremism.
"I'm a baby Aryan, not Jewish or
sectarian; I have no wish to marry an ape
or Rastafarian," the poem read.
Mr. Irving says he wrote the verse for
his baby daughter.
say they would be surprised if Mr.
Irving won his battle, but they fear if
he does, this twisted version of the
Holocaust will gain credence.
"Even though the historical truth of
the Holocaust is not on trial, a verdict
in his favour would be perceived by the
public as lending support to his
allegations," said Ephraim Zuroff,
director of the Simon
Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem.
"It would give a certain legitimacy to
the Holocaust deniers and would greatly
encourage them to continue their assault
on historical truth."
But a spokeswoman for the legal
department of Penguin Books said the issue
was simple: "The question is whether we
have proved he distorted history," she
said. "It is not history that is on trial
Mr. Irving, too, told the court that a
judgment in his favour would not mean the
Holocaust never happened.
"It means only that ... discussion is
still permitted," the historian, who
represented himself, told the court.
In a recent interview, he said the case
centered on whether historical writing
should be "politicized."
"You can write that Stalin
didn't commit a single crime and that he
was deeply misunderstood, and you'll get a
professorship," he said of the former
"But if you were to insert the words
Adolf Hitler in place of Stalin -- on
equally tenuous evidence -- you'd be
kissing goodbye your chances of getting a