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March 11, 2005

Burden of Truth

I HATE to rain on Deborah Lipstadt's Parade ("History on Trial," Feb. 25), but I feel, as an academic, I must make two points.

First, while it may be that, as Lipstadt charged, David Irving distorted historical evidence and was "carrying out Hitler's legacy," it seems to me that she had the burden of demonstrating the truth of this accusation in her book, "Denying the Holocaust."

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David Irving comments:

I DO not normally like this journal, but they do at least seem to be motivated by a sense of fairness and balance in publishing this letter from Prof. Barry Steiner (whom I have never met, so far as I know).
 Prof. Steiner is correct about the grave shortcomings in Lipstadt's first book, Denying the Holocaust. I was not mentioned in it at all when she first submitted the draft to the odious "Robert Maxwell", her publisher, and Yad Vashem, who (eventually) paid for it: Yad Vashem's Prof. Yehuda Bauer then instructed her to shoehorn my name into it.
   She appears not to have known who I was. I have seen their correspondence -- it was before the Court: but I could not cross examine her on her reasons for nevertheless labeling me, in the redraft that was eventually published, as the world's most "dangerous" Holocaust denier, because she took the Fifth Amendment, as they say hierzulande (in the USA) and she did not enter the witness stand.
   She described me as associating with Hizbollah and Hamas terrorist leaders; there was not a scrap of evidence for this, other than clippings she had received from the Jewish bodies that she had perforce turned to with a frantic plea for "dirt" on me.
   She did not attempt to defend either this lie, or the lie that I had damaged the Goebbels microfiches, and perhaps even stolen them, from the Russian archives. The judge found that she had libeled me by saying these and other things. She does not mentioned this adverse finding in any of her articles, and for all I know those lies are still in later editions of her book.
   For the price of a 25¢ phone call, I would have set her right. She did not bother. In consequence she and her publishers are ten million dollars out of pocket in legal costs and what I see as bribes to her witnesses. A hollow Victory indeed.
   I can only be grateful that she wrote the book before Timothy McVeigh's bomb blasted the Alfred P Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, or she -- like the Jewish Telegraph Agency and the British Institute of Jewish Affairs -- might have accused me of providing the trigger mechanism to McVeigh.
   McVeigh's lawyer Stephen Jones repeated that lie on Californian television, having received it from the JTA; but he graciously apologized to me for it, and I took the matter no further.
   The moral: There are no depths to which the traditional enemies of the truth will not stoop, even to the dirtiest gutter, in their attempts to smear dirt on its champions..

A man's reputation was at stake, and the reader would expect that she would elaborate on it beyond a few paragraphs. Had she done so, and proven her case in her book, the prolonged London court case might have been avoided.

Second, a man's abominable political views are in themselves no evidence that his craft or profession is being used fraudulently or wrongly. The key question that needs to be asked, but has not been, is this: Is it possible for a Nazi sympathizer or any other political extremist to be a good historian? I feel that it is, for any individual keen on his craft should be able to keep his personal viewpoints out of his professional activity.

I believe the writing of Irving that I know and have consulted in my work is not fraudulent. I believe this, because Irving's earlier writing that I have used (on Nazi German war resources and on the American bombing campaign against them) shows not a shred of any linkage to Nazi sympathies or any kind of political agenda.

In that writing, Irving was a contrarian, taking pleasure in proving others wrong and always doing a thorough investigation of primary sources. That work, very undogmatic, remains valuable and important.

I am very distressed by Irving's current political sympathies, but refuse to reject his earlier scholarly work on that basis.

Barry H. Steiner
Professor of Political Science
California State University, Long Beach
© 2005 The Jewish Journal, All Rights Reserved


Index to the media scandal surrounding Prof Lipstadt's attempt to silence C-Span and the history debate
Lipstadt writes a paid OpEd in New York Sun: 'Why I said No to C-Span'

© Focal Point 2005 F Irving write to David Irving