Irving v. Lipstadt


Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Judgment: Electronic Edition, by Charles Gray

Table of Contents

The case for the Defendants

11.9 The main plank of the Defendants' case against Irving in relation to his book about Dresden is the way in which he used forged evidence, namely Tagesbefehl (Order of the Day) no. 47 ("TB47"). This document was dated 22nd March 1945 and attributed to a Colonel Grosse. It purported to quote a brief extract from a statement made earlier by the Police President of Dresden. It put the number of dead at 202,040 and expressed the expectation of a final figure of 250,000. TB47 features in the 1966 and 1967 editions of Irving's book and is reproduced in both as an appendix.
11.10 Irving had previously in 1963 denounced TB47 as spurious and as an ingenious piece of propaganda. In the 1963 edition of Dresden Irving had referred to Goebbels having deliberately started a rumour about the death toll in Dresden "wildly exceeding any figure within the realms of possibility". He also referred in that edition to the leaking of what he described as a "spurious" order of 23 March 1945 which gave a figure for deaths of 202,040 and an estimate of more than 250,000 for the final total. TB47 had already been denounced as "false and fraudulently invented and publicised" in a book by Professor Seydewitz.
11.11 But Irving subsequently changed his mind about the authenticity of TB47 when he was provided with a copy of it. In the 1966 edition of Dresden Irving was coy about naming his source. The indirect source was a resident of Dresden named Dr Funfack, who according to Irving had received the document through official channels. Dr Funfack showed the document to a Dresden photographer, Walter Hahn, who made a copy of it. Irving visited Hahn in November 1964 and saw the copy of the so-called TB47 and asked for a copy of that copy. Hahn's wife obliged and typed out a copy for Irving. Walter Lange, the Dresden City archivist was also at the Hahns' that day and he told Irving that the document was a patent forgery. Irving's copy was not authenticated by any official stamp.
11.12 The Defendants contend that, in these circumstances, Irving should not have made any use of TB47 or the figures contained in it. Yet, despite the lack of verification and despite the doubts which he himself expressed about the figures at the time, Irving began to circulate information about TB47, claiming that he was in no doubt as to the authenticity of the   document, adding that it remained to be established if the figure for casualties was equally genuine.
11.13 Whatever may have been his reservations about the figure, Irving on 28 November 1964 wrote to his German publisher that the information in TB47 was "sensational". On 6 December 1964 he wrote to the Provost of Coventry Cathedral in connection with a forthcoming exhibition enclosing a copy of his copy of TB47:
"To drive home the impact of the exhibition I also suggest that you have the text of the Police President's report on the Dresden raids (attached) printed in large type; I think that its nonchalance and the casualties it mentions have a shattering impact...I am myself in no doubt as to the authenticity of the document, having obtained it from the Dresden Deputy Chief Medical Officer responsible for disposing of the victims".
11.14 When the German edition of The Destruction of Dresden was reviewed in December 1964, Funfack was named in the press as the author of the new casualty figures. This prompted the latter to write to Irving on 16 January 1965 to say that he had not been the Dresden Deputy Chief Medical officer; that he had only ever heard the numbers third hand and that he had not been involved in any official capacity. He also pointed out that he was only given a copy of TB47. In the same letter Funfack told Irving that General Mehnert, the city commander, had spoken of 140,000 deaths and that Professor Fetscher, head of civilian air defence, had spoken of 180,000. Mehnert and Fetscher had both since died but Funfack told Irving that an International Red Cross delegation had visited the city and that the head of that delegation would know best. Funfack suggested that Irving contact the Red Cross. However, the Red Cross informed Irving that, whilst a delegate of theirs named Kleinert had been in the area at the time, no information concerning the numbers killed in the raids had been gathered by him. His reports had not even referred to the air raids.
11.15 Despite Funfack's expressed inability to authenticate TB47, Irving continued to promote TB47 in the German press. Irving had received the letter from Funfack in late January 1965 at the latest. Yet in February 1965 he wrote a draft article for the Sunday Telegraph which persisted in the claim that he had received TB47 from Dr Funfack, who Irving continued to   describe as Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dresden District, and as such responsible for the cremation and disposal of the victims.
11.16 On 19 March 1965 Irving wrote to his Italian publishers that his then figure of 135,000 for the death toll was "probably too low". He told them that he had obtained copy of an official police report which gave a final figure for the death roll of between 202,040 and 250,000. He asked that, if the Italian edition had not gone to press, this new fact and document be inserted. He added that it was going into the German and East German editions.
11.17 The Defendants contend that the use made by Irving of the purported TB47, as described at paragraphs 11.13, 15 and 16 was unconscionable. The Defendants contend that, in the light of Funfack's denials, it was worse than irresponsible for Irving to promote the new figures without revealing Funfack's denials. Irving was making use of a document which he knew might well have been forged. He was well aware that the Nazis themselves had used similar figures and versions of TB47 when promoting the numbers of dead in Dresden to the foreign neutral press and to Germans for domestic propaganda purposes.
11.18 Evans claimed that there were internal reasons why Irving should have been suspicious about the supposed TB47. Apart from the lack of official stamps or signature, the text of TB47 is indicative of a clumsy forgery. It opens with the words 'In order to be able to counter wild rumours' and closes 'As the rumours exceed the reality, open use can be made of the actual figures'. But the rumours themselves never pointed to more than 200,000, so quoting 202,040 could do little to counter the wild rumours. Furthermore, Evans noted that comparable raids on other German cities had led to casualties representing between 1% and 3.3% of their populations. In Dresden 250,000 dead would have meant 20-30% of the population. How, asked Evans, would it have been possible to have removed 200,000 bodies within a month. Moreover the claim in TB47 that 68,650 were incinerated in the Altmarkt defies belief, according to Evans, since it would have taken weeks and many gallons of gasoline to burn so many corpses in the available space.
11.19 In February 1965 Theo Miller, who had been a member of the Dresden clearing staff in 1945, wrote two letters to Irving in which he gave a detailed account of the system whereby commanders of the rescue units   reported the number of corpses found and the numbers were entered in a book kept by him. He continued:
"Soon after the attack we heard in (sic) the radio Joseph Goebbels reporting on the attack on Dresden. He spoke of 300,000 deads (sic). In your book you mention the figure of 135,000. My records at the Clearing Staff showed 30,000 corpses. If you assume that amount of deads (sic) completely burnt etc would reach 20%, the total figure of victims will not exceed 36,000. Still this figure - two full divisions - is terrible enough".
Miller's second letter went into even greater detail and reiterated the figure of 30,000 which he said that he remembered well.
11.20 The Defendants say that this was apparently credible evidence from a witness who on the face of it was ideally placed to know the true facts. They contend that no conscientious seeker after the truth could honestly have ignored this evidence. Irving never mentioned Miller or his testimony.
11.21 Irving went on 10 July 1965 to interview the widow of Colonel Grosse, the purported author of TB47. She showed some letters her husband had written in 1945. Irving later claimed that their style and expression resembled that of TB47 (which was typewritten). He did not, however, spell out what the similarities were. Subsequently Irving claimed that Frau Grosse remembered her husband saying that the final toll of the dead would be 250,000. In the 1966 Corgi edition of his book Irving wrote that she had said that her husband spoke of the final total as having been 250,000.
11.22 The 1966 Corgi edition of Dresden continued to rely on TB47 and the doument was quoted in an appendix. Irving included in this the claim that Kleiner, the leader of the Red Cross delegation, had been informed in the presence of witnesses by Mehnert that the death toll was 140,000. In the 1995 edition Irving went further and claimed that the report of the representative of the Red Cross might well have contained other information than about the number of prisoners among the casualties. Whilst it is true that Funfack had told Irving of Mehnert's figure of 140,000 (which figure Mehnert had stressed was not based on any documents he had seen), there is, according to Evans, no evidence that the figure of 140,000 was ever supplied to the Red Cross. The Defendants contend that no honest-minded objective historian would rely on a story told to him at third hand by a source   (Funfack) who himself had no reliable evidence on the number killed. Moreover the Red Cross had no connection with the figure given by Mehnert. The Defendants allege that the reference to the Red Cross in the 1966 edition was designed by Irving to give spurious credibility to what Mehnert is claimed to have said about the number of deaths.
11.23 In 1965 the document on which TB47 was based surfaced. It was the Final Report issued by the Dresden police on 15 March 1945. It bore the initials of a Dresden police officer named Jurk, whose daughter-in-law gave it to an historian named Weidauer. It was signed by Thierig, who had been a colonel in the Dresden police force at the material time. It recorded the number of deaths up to 10 March 1945 as 18,375.
11.24 In May 1966 another document came to light which confirmed the authenticity of the Final report. It was a Situation Report No 1404 of the Berlin Chief of Police dated 22 March 1945 (the same day at TB47). It recorded the same data as the Final Report, giving the current death toll as 18,375 and predicting a final toll of 25,000. Another Situation Report No. 1414 also made by the Berlin Chief of Police and dated 3 April 1945 put the figure for the number of killed recovered persons at 22,096. Evans argued that, in the light of these documents, Irving should have abandoned all reliance on TB47. He noted that Irving affected to take the matter seriously and announced his intention to publicise the new evidence. Evans claimed that when Irving did finally reveal the existence of the 'Final Report', through The Times and Sunday Telegraph in June and July 1966, it was too little and too late.
11.25 Moreover Irving began publicly to cast doubt on the veracity of statistics in the Final Report, suggesting that the circumstances in which the data contained in it was collected meant that the final figures could not be relied upon. Evans made the point that, if the ability to count 18,375 in the 'Final Report' could not be relied upon, as Irving contends, how then could the figure of 202,040 in TB47 be trusted. When asked in the summer of 1966 by his Italian publishers if he wanted the text of his letter to the Times reproduced in the forthcoming new Italian edition, Irving replied that he did not and added "despite what I wrote to the Times I do no think that too much importance can be attached to the figures given in the new German document".
11.26 Despite Irving's professed intention to publicise the 'Final Report', the figure given for the number of dead in the 1967 Corgi edition of The Destruction of Dresden was revised from 135,000 down to 100,000 but no lower. The German edition of the same year gave the same prominence to TB47 as it had enjoyed in the 1966 Corgi edition and gave 135,000 as the "most probable" figure. The 1977 edition of Hitler's War made the following reference to the raid: "The night's death toll in Dresden was estimated at a quarter of a million". The Defendants maintain that, on the evidence which had then become available including the discrediting of TB47, no honest historian would have put forward a figure for the death toll in excess of 35,000.
11.27 The Defendants contend that in 1977 TB47 was conclusively proved to have been a forgery. The historian Bergander obtained a copy of the original of TB47 from a reservist, Werner Ehlich, who had had the original document in his hands and, in his capacity as a member of the Dresden police force, had made one typed and one hand-written copy of it. Ehlich's copy of TB47 put the total number of deaths at 20,204 and the expected dead at 25,000. Evans surmised that the fake TB47 came into existence when someone doctored the genuine document by adding a '0' at the end of each number. Evans expressed the opinion that the version of TB47 on which Irving had relied for so long was beyond question a forgery.
11.28 But Irving continued, perversely and unforgivably say the Defendants, to make claims for a higher number of casualties. For instance in Goring Irving claimed that the death toll would rise to 100,000. At the press conference held in June 1989 to introduce the Leuchter report, he said that anything between 100,000 and 250,000 had been killed. In an interview with This Week on 28 November 1991 Irving referred to 25,000 having been killed at Auschwitz, adding that "we killed five times that number in Dresden in one night". Other speeches in Canada and in the US in 1991 and 1992 included similar claims. The 1995 edition of Destruction of Dresden gave a figure of between 50,000 and 100,000.