Irving v. Lipstadt


Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Transcripts, Day 1: Electronic Edition

Pages 71 - 75 of 103

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    I pointed out that I had warned them writing
 1rehabilitate itself".
 2     Armed with the prestige and the superior
 3financial resources of the Sunday Times, I went to Moscow
 4in June 1992, and negotiated directly with Dr Bondarev and
 5his superior, Professor Tarasov, who was at that time the
 6overall head of the Russian Federation Archival System.
 7Dr Bondarev expressed willingness to assist us, although
 8there could no longer be any talk of the clandestine
 9purchase of the plates which we had originally hoped for,
10since Mr Bezymenski let the cat out of the bag. I say
11"clandestine", but of course I understand that the same
12archives had sold off many other collections of papers,
13for example, to the Hoover Institution in California and
14US publishing houses, publishing giants, and to my
15colleague the late John Costello as well. My own little
16deal was not to be.
17     My Lord, professor Tarasov is to be one of the
18witnesses in this case called question by the Defence.
19Your Lordship will be able to study the documents
20exhibited to his witness statement. I confess that I fail
21to the relevance of very many of them, but no doubt we
22shall see that difficulty removed by Mr Rampton in due
24     The Moscow negotiations were not easy. We
25negotiated directly with Professor Tarasov for access to
26the glass plates. The negotiations were conducted in my

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 1presence by Mr Peter Miller, a freelance journalist
 2working for the Sunday Times, who spoke Russian with a
 3commendable fluency. He will also be giving evidence in
 4this action on my behalf, my Lord. With my limited
 5"O" level Russian I was able to follow the gist in
 6conversation and also to intervene speaking German after
 7it emerged that Professor Tarasov had studied and taught
 8for many years at the famous Humboldt University in
 9Communist Berlin.
10     By now both Dr Bondarev and Tarasov were aware,
11if they had not been aware previously, that these Goebbels
12Diaries were of commercial and historical value. The
13negotiations took far longer than I had expected.
14I produced to Professor Tarasov copies of the Soviet
15editions of my books which had been published years
16earlier, and I donated to him as well as to the Archives
17staff later copies of my own edition of the biography of
18Hitler's War.
19     This established my credentials to their
20satisfaction, and Tarasov gave instructions that we were
21to be given access to the entire collection of Dr Goebbels
22Diaries. It was evident to me when I finally saw the
23glass plates that the diaries had hardly been examined at
24all. It seemed to me, for example, from the splinters of
25glass still trapped between the photographic plates, that
26there had been little movement in the boxes of plates for

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 1nearly 50 years. The boxes were the original boxes. The
 2brown paper round them in some parts was still the
 3original brown paper. The plates were in total disarray
 4and no attempt had been made to sort them. I have seen no
 5work of history, Soviet or otherwise, that is quoted from
 6them before I got them. My Lord, my excitement as an
 7historian getting my hands on original material like this
 8can readily be imagined.
 9     The moot point is that there is a dispute as to
10the nature of the Russian permission. This alleged
11agreement is one of the issues pleaded by the Defendants
12in this action. It is difficult for me to reconstruct
13seven years later precisely whether there was any verbal
14agreement exceeding a nod and a wink or what the terms
15were or how rigid an agreement may have been reached.
16There is no reference to such an agreement in my
17contemporary diaries. Certainly the Russians committed
18nothing to paper about such an agreement. Professor
19Tarasov's word was law, and he had just picked up the
20phone in our presence and spoken that word to
21Dr Bondarev.
22     My own recollection at the time was that the
23arrangement was of a very free-wheeling nature, with the
24Russians being very happy and indeed proud to help us in
25the spirit reigning at that time of Glasnost and
26Perestroika, and the extreme co-operativeness between West

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 1and East. They were keen to give us access to these
 2plates which they had hitherto regarded as not being of
 3much value.
 4     Tarasov did mention that the German Government
 5were also interested in these plates, and that they were
 6coming shortly to conduct negotiations about them.
 7I remember clearly, and I think this is also shown in the
 8diary which I wrote on that date, that Dr Tarasov
 9hesitated as to whether he should allow us access without
10first consulting the German authorities. I rather
11mischievously reminded Dr Tarasov of which side had won
12the war, and I expressed astonishment that the Russians
13were now intending to ask their defeated enemy for
14permission to show to a third party records which were in
15their own archives, and this unsubtle argument appears to
16have swayed him to grant us complete access without
17further misgivings.
18     There was no signed agreement either between the
19Russian authorities and us or at that time between the
20Russians and the German authorities, my Lord.
21     I would add here that I was never shown any
22agreement between the Russian and the German authorities,
23nor was I told any details of it, nor of course could it
24have been in any way binding upon me.
25     We returned to the archives the following
26morning, Mr Miller and I, to begin exploiting the

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 1diaries. Miller went off on his own devices. I had
 2brought a German assistant with me to act as a scribe. My
 3Lord, her diary is also in my discovery, and I admit that
 4I have not yet found time to read it. I have got an odd
 5aversion to reading other people's diaries, unless it is
 6by way of my business. I must admit that I was rather
 7perplexed by the chaotic conditions that I found there,
 8that is in the Russian archives. There were no technical
 9means whatever of reading the diaries, the glass plates.
10The Nazis had reduced them to the size of a small postage
11stamp on the glass plates. I should have photographs of
12them brought to you, my Lord.
13     Fortunately, Dr Frohlich had alerted me about
14this possibility, the lack of technical resources, and
15I had bought at Selfridges a 12-times magnifier, a little
16thing about the size of a nail clipper, with which by
17peering very hard I could just decipher the handwriting.
18It was even more alarming to someone accustomed to working
19in Western archives with very strict conditions on how to
20handle documents, and cleanliness and security, to see the
21way that the shelves and tables and chairs were littered
22with bundles of papers. At one stage the Archivist
23(I think it may be one of the ladies who is coming to give
24evidence for the Defendants) brought in bottles of red
25wine and loads of bread and cheese which was scattered
26among the priceless papers on the tables for us to

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