Irving v. Lipstadt

Defense Documents

David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial: Electronic Edition, by Richard J. Evans

Table of Contents
<< (iii) Irving's Account of...

(iv) Conclusion

1. Irving's egregious errors and lapses from normal scholarly standards go beyond mere carelessness. We have already seen numerous examples of how Irving distorts the documentary record in his futile attempt to claim that Hitler did not know about the pogrom of 9-10 November and tried to stop it when he found out about it. In places, he   goes beyond this and gives credence to the Nazis' own public claims about the events, which, as we have seen, portrayed the assassination of vom Rath as a Jewish conspiracy and alleged that there had been little or no violence against Jewish persons. On page 272 of Goebbels: Mastermind of the 'Third Reich', Irving suggests that there is 'some frail evidence that LICA, the Paris-based International League Against Antisemitism' had a hand in the assassination. But he provides no evidence for this insinuation at all, not even frail evidence. In the 1991 edition of Hitler's War, Irving has already made a similar suggestion. Once more failing to provide a source reference for his claims, Irving wrote:
Revisionist historians now argue that the Nazis had fallen into a Zionist trap. The Haganah officials with whom Adolf Eichmann negotiated on his trip to Palestine in November 1937 had hinted that it would serve their interests if things were made hot for Germany's Jews, to accelerate Jewish emigration to Palestine. It deserves comment that Grynzspan, although a destitute youth, was able to reside in a hotel in 1938 and purchase a handgun for 250 francs, and that his defence counsel Moro Giafferi was the best that the money of the International League against Anti-Smitism (LICA) could buy: LICA's Paris office was around the corner from Grynszpan's hotel.164
2. Once more, therefore, Irving uncritically repeats the Nazi propaganda claim that Grynszpan had acted as the agent of 'world Jewry' as if it were fact.165 Irving again has taken over the details from the discredited antisemitic writer Ingrid Weckert, this time however without acknowledging his debt to her in any way.166 Yet again, his claims   have no basis in fact. Grynszpan, whom Irving describes in an illustration caption in Goebbels as a 'crazed Jew', had actually been living until the day before his assassination attempt with his uncle Abraham Berenbaum, and left after a quarrel, renting a room in the Hôtel Suez on the Boulevard de Strasbourg for 22 francs 50 centimes a night. With 320 francs in his pocket, he bought a gun and cartridges from the weapons dealer Carpe for a total cost of 245 francs on the morning of 7 November 1938. There is no indication at all that he received financial or any other kind of support from Jewish organizations. His defence lawyer was paid by a non-Jewish committee in the USA set up by the journalist Dorothy Thompson in November 1938 specifically to help the young Pole. A subsequent investigation by the Gestapo failed to come up with any links at all between Grynszpan and Jewish organizations, or between such organizations and other assassinations mentioned by Irving. When Grynzspan was finally arrested after the Nazi invasion of France in 1940, the official appointed by the Propaganda Ministry to represent the interests of the German Reich in the Grynszpan affair in France, Professor Friedrich Grimm, admitted on 10 July 1942 that 'one can not prove any direct relationship between the murderer and Jewish organizations'.167 It was precisely because of this that plans to prosecute Grynszpan were dropped. One is entitled to ask, therefore: what does Irving know that the Gestapo and the Propaganda Ministry failed to discover? One searches his text and footnotes in vain for an answer to this question.
3. Irving's entire portrayal of the events of 9-10 November is designed to diminish the suffering of the Jews. Even though Irving is well acquainted with the figures detailing the terror of the pogrom drawn up by the Nazis themselves, he often provides much   lower figures in his published work, both of the destruction caused and of the number of Jews killed. In The War Path, published in 1978, Irving gave the official figure of 91 killed, arrived at by the Nazis themselves. Of course, this figure is still far too low, and does not account for suicides, of which there were 680 by Jews during or shortly after the pogrom in Vienna alone. Others were killed after their transport to the concentration camps.168 However, many other historians have quoted the figure of 91 deaths, and Irving's account in 1978 at least gives some insight into what happened during the pogrom. He comments that the night of 9-10 November saw 'the first anti-Jewish pogrom since the Middle Ages', in which there was 'an orgy of burning and destruction, of murder and rape' throughout Germany and Austria.169 By the end of the 1980s, however, Irving had altered his portrayal of these events. In his book on Göing, published in 1989, and his book on Goebbels, published in 1996, he cites a figure of 35 or 36 dead, basing it on an early, incomplete report by Heydrich.170 Irving's own earlier work shows that he knows as well as anybody that these figures are wrong. His overall presentation of the events, which he describes in the Goebbels book simply as the Night of Broken Glass, without any inverted commas, reaches a low point of tastelessness in the relevant Chapter heading of the Göring biography, which is entitled 'Sunshine Girl and Crystal Night', trivialising the murderous destruction of the pogrom by linking it in this way to a section on Göring's daughter Edda.
4. In his most recent writings on the pogrom, Irving's manipulation of the figures of destruction caused during the pogrom is even more openly designed to minimise the suffering of the Jews in Germany. In Goebbels: Mastermind of the 'Third Reich', Irving only devotes one short paragraph to the statistics of the pogrom: 'By dawn on November 10, 191 of the country's fourteen hundred synagogues had been destroyed; about 7,500 of the one hundred thousand Jewish shops had had their windows smashed. Thirty-six of the country's half-million Jews had been murdered, and hundreds more badly beaten.'171
5. Not one of these claims is accurate. The only source Irving supplies for his claims is the minutes of the conference on 12 November 1938, chaired by Göring.172 What Irving fails to tell his readers is that, once more, he has lifted large parts of his information from the notorious Ingrid Weckert (the figure of 1,400 synagogues; the figure of 100,000 Jewish shops).173 Let us deal with Irving's various claims in turn.
6. First, on 12 November 1938 Heydrich did give the figure of 7,500 shops. At least this figure is repeated correctly in Goebbels: Mastermind of the 'Third Reich'. In an article in 1995, Irving had merely stated that 'Hundreds if not thousands of Jewish shops were destroyed'.174 However, while giving the correct figure in Goebbels: Mastermind of the   'Third Reich', Irving utterly trivialises the damage done to these shops. Heydrich did not claim at the conference on 12 November 1938 that the 7,500 shops merely had their windows smashed, as Irving does. What Heydrich did say, in fact, was that these shops had been 'destroyed'.175 During the pogrom, the internal fittings of many Jewish shops had been smashed, goods had been destroyed, thrown on the streets or stolen.176 It was official Nazi propaganda which trivialised this destruction as the 'Night of Crystal', a lie simply taken over by Irving.
7. Secondly, it is totally misleading to claim, as Irving does, that only about one in every 13 Jewish shops were destroyed during the pogrom. As the historian Avraham Barkai, an expert on the economic life of Jews under the Nazis, has discovered, according to official figures there were only about 9,000 Jewish shops left in the Altreich in July 1938. Thus, during the pogrom the vast majority of Jewish shops in Germany were destroyed.177
8. Thirdly, regarding the destruction of synagogues, Heydrich himself had stated in a letter to Göring on 11 November 1938 that a total of 267 synagogues had been set alight or smashed during the pogrom.178 It was clear even at the time that the real figure was   considerably higher. The organisation of the Social Democrats in exile (SOPADE), which had informants all over Germany, estimated in November 1938 that 520 synagogues had been completely or partially destroyed.179 More detailed investigations of the damage could only be carried out after the war. According to A. Diamant, some 1,200 of around 1,800 synagogues and prayer-halls standing in Germany in 1933 were destroyed during the pogrom five years later. S. Korn has arrived at slightly lower figures: of around 2,000 synagogues and prayer-halls, about half of which were destroyed during or just after the pogrom.180 Whichever way one looks at these figures, it is clear that Irving's figure of only 191 destroyed synagogues is many times lower than the real figure.
9. Fourthly, as Irving himself has acknowledged in the late 1970s, at least 91 Jews (as noted previously, the real figure is significantly higher still), and not 36, had been murdered during the pogrom. Again, Irving uses implausibly low figures in order to diminish the suffering of Jews. He also fails to mention any cases of rape and sexual abuse.
10. The account David Irving gives in his recent work, and above all in his book Goebbels: Mastermind of the 'Third Reich', of the pogrom of 9-10 November 1938, therefore,   amply demonstrates the unscholarly and biased nature of his approach to the past. He falsely attributes conclusions to reliable sources, bending them to fit his arguments. He relies on material that turns out directly to contradict his arguments when it is checked. He quotes from sources in a manner that completely distorts their authors' meaning and purposes. He misrepresents data and skews documents. He uses insignificant and sometimes implausible pieces of evidence to dismiss more substantial evidence that does not support his thesis. He ignores or deliberately suppresses material of which he is aware that it runs counter to his arguments. When he is unable to do this, he expresses wholly implausible doubts about its reliablility. He uses discredited sources when they appear to support his arguments, and tries to conceal his dependency on them from the reader. He has no scruples about stooping to sheer invention if this serves his purpose.
11. Irving does all this in order to minimise and trivialise the violence and destruction visited by the Nazis upon the Jewish community in Germany, to suggest that the Jews were themselves partly responsible for it by organising the assassination of vom Rath, and above all to dissociate Hitler completely from events which he approved of. Irving's conclusions are completely untenable. His scholarship is sloppy and unreliable and does not meet even the most basic requirements of honest and competent historical research. None of his work on the Reichskristallnacht, whether it was written before or after his conversion to full-scale Holocaust denial, merits being called a serious contribution to historical knowledge.


164. Irving, Hitler's War (1991 ed.), p. 148, footnote.
165. See for example BA Berlin, BDC Ordner 240/I, Joseph Goebbels, '/Der Fall Grünspan', Völkischer Beobachter, 12 Nov. 1938.
166. See the passages of Weckert, '"Crystal Night" 1938', in Third Supplemental Discovery List, marked with pencil in the margins, presumably by Irving.
167. Helmut Heiber, 'Der Fall Grünspan', VierteljahresheIte für Zeitgeschichte, Vol. 5 (1957), pp. 134-172.
168. Irving, The War Path, p. 165: Der Oberste Parteirichter to Hermann Göring, 13 Feb. 1939, in Der Prozess gegen die Hauptkriegsverbrecher vor dem Internationalen Militärgerichtshof< ND 3063-PS, IMT Vol. XXXII; IfZ G 01/91: Der SD-Führer des SS-Oberabschnittes Donau an den Chef des Sicherheitshauptamtes, 21. 11. 1938.
169. Irving, The War Path, pp. 164-5.
170. Irving, Göring, p. 237.
171. Irving, Goebbels, p. 276.
172. Stenographische Niederschrift von einem Teil der Besprechung über die Judenfrage unter Vorsitz von Feldmarschall Göring im RLM am 12. November 1938, in Der Prozess gegen the Hauptkriegsverbrecher vor dem Internationalen Militärgerichtshof Vol. XXVIII, ND 1816-PS.
173. I. Weckert, "Crystal Night" 1938: The Great Anti-German Spectacle', Journal of Historical Review, 6 (1985), p. 190.
174. Irving, 'Revelations from the Goebbels's Diary', Journal of Historical Review, 15 (1995), pp. 2-17, here p. 12.
175. Stenographische Niederschrift von einem Teil der Besprechung über die Judenfrage unter Vorsitz von Feldmarschall Göring im RLM am 12. November 1938, in Der Prozess gegen the Hauptkriegsverbrecher vor dem Internationalen Militärgerichtshof Vol. XXVIII, ND 1816-PS.
176. See, for example, Obst, "Reichskristallnacht", p. 271.
177. A. Barkai,' "Schicksalsjahr 1938"', i. Pehle (ed.), Der Judenpogrom 1938 (Frankflirt a.M., 1988), pp. 94-117, here p. 96. Heydrich on 12 November 1938 explicitly refered to 'shops' only. But even if one counted all Jewish business in Germany, not just shops, one would only reach a figure of around 30,000-40,000, and not 100,000; see ibid. See also A. Barkai, Vom Boycott zur 'Entjudung'(Frankfurt a.M., 1987), p. 147.
178. Heydrich to Göring, 11.11.1938, in Der Prozess gegen die Hauptkriegsverbrecher vor dem Internationalen Militärgerichtshof, Vol. XXXII, ND 3058-PS.
179. Cited in S. Rohde, 'Die Zerstörung der Synagogen unter dem Nationalsozialismus', in A Herzig, I. Lorenz (eds.), Verdrängung und Vernichtung der Juden unter dem Nationalsozialismus (Hamburg, 1992), pp. 153-172, here p. 169.
180. A. Diamant, Die Zerstörung der Synagogen vom November 1938 (Frankfurt a.M., 1978), p. xv; S. Korn, 'Synagogenarchitektur in Deutschland nach 1945', in H.P. Schwarz (ed.), Die Architektur der Synagogue (Frankfurt a.M., 1988), p. 309; both cited in S. Rohde, 'Die Zerstöorung der Synagogen unter dem Nationalsozialismus', in A Herzig, I. Lorenz (eds.), Verdräangung und Vernichtung der Juden unter dem Nationalsozialismus (Hamburg, 1992), pp. 153-172, here p. 170.
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