Irving v. Lipstadt
Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Transcripts, Day 1: Electronic Edition
Pages 26 - 30 of 103
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1hypodermic with nerve gas jabbed in the neck, but deadly
2all the same. For the chosen victim, it is like being
3called a wife beater or a paedophile. It is enough for
4the label to be attached for the attachee to find himself
5designated as a pariah, an outcast from normal society.
6It is a verbal Yellow Star.
7 In many countries now where it was considered
8that the mere verbal labelling was not enough, governments
9have been prevailed upon to pass the most questionable
10laws, including some which can only be considered a total
11infringement of the normal rights of free speech, free
12opinion and freedom of assembly.
13 Germany has not had an enviable reputation in
14any of these freedoms over the last century, my Lord.
15True to form, in Germany it is now a criminal offence to
16question the mode, the scale, the system or even the
17statistics of the Holocaust. Criminal offence. No
18defence is allowed. Some good friends of mine, I have no
19hesitation in allowing to this court, are sitting at this
20very moment in German prisons for having ventured to voice
21such questions. One of them has been in prison for seven
23 In France, the situation is even more absurd.
24Any person found guilty in France under a new law aptly
25named an "amendment of the law on the freedom of the
26Press" finds himself fined or imprisoned or both. This
1law, passed in 1991, makes it a criminal offence in France
2to challenge (the French word is contester) any war crimes
3or crimes against humanity "as defined by the Nuremberg
4Statute" of 1945.
5 Fifty years on, it has become a criminal offence
6to question whether Nuremberg got it right. History is to
7be as defined by the four victorious powers in the
8Nuremberg trials of 1945 to 1946.
9 I respectfully submit and would, indeed, hope
10that your Lordship would find such laws if enacted in this
11country to be utterly repugnant. For that same reason
12I have no hesitation in saying that some more good friends
13of mine have been fined under precisely this French law.
14Indeed, in 1993 or 1994, I myself was fined the sum of
15£500 by a Paris court under this law.
16 I had given an interview to a French journalist
17in the study of my home in London. This interview was
18published in a reputable French journal. There were
19complaints in Paris and I was summoned before the French
20Magistrates and fined, along with the publisher, the
21editor and the journalist concerned for having given this
22interview. It is, indeed, a very sorry state of affairs.
23 My Lord, we may hear the word "conspiracy"
24uttered during the next few days and weeks. If there has
25been a conspiracy, it is a conspiracy against free
1 I might mention that my father fought as an
2officer in the Royal Navy in both World Wars, both in the
3Battle of Jutland in 1916 and in the Arctic convoys of
41942. Both my brothers have served with the Royal Air
5Force. My father was an arctic explorer between the
6wars. Admiralty charts show two island points in the
7South Sandwich Islands named after him and his first
8officer, my uncle.
9 I come from a service family and I find it
10odious that at the end of the 20th century writers and
11historians going about their own respective businesses,
12writing books that may, indeed, have been completely wrong
13have found themselves suddenly and vicariously threatened
14with imprisonment or with crippling fines having expressed
15opinions on history which are at variance with these new
16freshly enacted laws, which have been introduced at the
17insistence of wealthy pressure groups and other enemies of
18the free speech for which we fought two World Wars in this
20 Your Lordship will undoubtedly hear from the
21Defendants that I was fined a very substantial sum of
22money by the Germany Government under these witless new
23laws. It is no matter of shame for me, although it has
24had catastrophic consequences, as it now makes me de facto
25a convict with a criminal record and, as such, liable to a
26concatenation of further indignities and sanctions in
1every foreign country which I now wish to visit.
2 The circumstances these are these. I may say
3here quite briefly that on April 21st 1990, nearly ten
4years ago, my Lord, I delivered an address, quite possibly
5ill-judged, to an audience at a hall in Munich. When one
6agrees to attend such functions one has little way of
7knowing in advance what kind of audience one will be
8addressing, and has no control over the external
9appearance of the function. I make no complaint about
11 Your Lordship will hear no doubt that in the
12course of my speech, of which apparently no full
13transcript survives, I uttered the following remark:
14 "We now know that the gas chambers shown to the
15tourists in Auschwitz is a fake built by the Poles after
16the war, just like the one established by the Americans at
17Dachau." Those are two concentration camps, my Lord.
18 This may well raise eyebrows. It might be found
19to be offensive by sections of the community, and if they
20take such offence I can assure this court that I regret it
21and that such was not my intention. The fact remains that
22these remarks were true. The Poles admitted it in January
231995, and under English law truth has always been regarded
24as an absolute defence.
25 We shall hear, indeed, from the Defences' own
26expert witnesses, though perhaps the admission will have
1to be bludgeoned out of them, that the gas chamber shown
2to the tourists at Auschwitz was indeed built by the
3Polish communist three years after the war was over.
4 I think it is fair to note there that at this
5point Mr Rampton is shaking his head and I apologise if
6I have misunderstood the evidence given by their
8 MR JUSTICE GRAY: You carry on with your speech.
9 MR IRVING: I do not intend to go into the question of whether
10or not there were gas chambers at Birkenau, my Lord, some
11five miles from Auschwitz, in these opening remarks. By
12the time this trial is over we shall all be heartily sick
13of the debate which has little or no relevance, in my
14submission, to the issues that are pleaded.
15 So what are the issues that are pleaded and how
16do I propose to address those issues in opening this case?
17First let me emphasise that I also have no intentions, and
18neither is it the purpose of this trial, to refight World
19War II. I shall not argue and have never argued that the
20wrong side won the war, for example, or that the history
21of war needs to be grossly rewritten. I must confess that
22I am mystified at the broad thrust which the Defendants
23have taken in the vast body of documentation which they
24have served upon this court and myself, another 5,000
25pages delivered to me on Friday evening and more last
26night. It is all something of an embarrassment to me and
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