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Melbourne, February 28, 2000


Writer tackles Irving trial


Monday 28 February 2000

Helen Darville, the novelist formerly known as Helen Demidenko, has made a comeback with an article on the Jewish Holocaust revisionist, Mr David Irving.

Ms Darville interviewed Mr Irving in Britain for a story to be published in Australian Style Magazine this week. He is embroiled in what she calls "the most sensational trial this century".

Mr Irving is suing the American academic Ms Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, for comments made in her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust: the Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. The book describes Mr Irving as a Holocaust denier and "one of the most dangerous" of the men who call themselves "revisionists", which Mr Irving denies.

Mr Irving was refused entry to Australia in 1997 because he was deemed "not a person of good character".

In 1996, Helen Darville (writing as Helen Demidenko) received the Miles Franklin Award for her novel The Hand that Signed the Paper. The novel, a combination of fact and fiction, told of Ukrainian complicity in the Holocaust, which she said was based on anecdotes from her relatives. Weeks after receiving the award she was revealed to be the daughter of English parents, not a Ukrainian father and Irish mother as she had claimed.

The president of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, Mr Peter Wertheim, said Darville's interview with Mr Irving was perhaps "an attempt to get back into the limelight" and also "a payback for those who exposed her".

"David Irving is a professional archivist who puts himself forward as a historian," Mr Wertheim said. "He has no formal qualifications as a historian. His main claim is his contention that there was no systematic extermination of Jews and others by the Nazis using gas chambers."

In the article, Darville anticipates potential criticism of "a meeting of anti-Semitic icons" by asserting she was commissioned to cover the libel case and interviewed Mr Irving because he agreed to it.

The editor of Australian Style Magazine, Mr Jack Marx, said Darville was "perfectly placed" to write the article.

"Helen, for all her intrigue, is in fact pretty knowledgeable on the whole topic of Second World War Nazi/Jewish history this Irving case is centring around," Mr Marx said yesterday.

"I wouldn't go so far as to say that Helen and Irving are similar creatures, but they share a passion for documentation."

Mr Marx said that both he and Darville expected the "usual" reactions to the article. "Irving is a historian - a revisionist but a historian. The more offensive voices that come out of this will not be Irving or Darville," he said.


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Monday, February 28, 2000
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