Irving v. Lipstadt

Transcripts

Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Transcripts, Day 7: Electronic Edition

Pages 36 - 40 of 199

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    Very rare. I have to admit, I have not seen that. To our
 1classification "Aktion Reinhard". That is a possible or
 2probable interpretation.
 3 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     I never came across anything like that. I had a look at
 4the document.
 5 Q. [Mr Irving]     Professor Watt, just remaining on that topic for one more
 6question: if you were an historian, as indeed you are, or
 7you were teaching historians how to become an historian,
 8would you advise them to use the original document or
 9facsimile, if possible, rather than use the printed text?
10 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     Always, and, indeed, I used to urge my graduate students
11when using secondary works always to check the original
12reference if this was at all possible. The geographical
13distribution of the documents used to meant very often
14that there was not, but where you have to look at the
15original, I mean, where an original document has been
16cited by another author and that seems to play an
17important part in the argument you are using yourself,
18then it is of extreme importance to check the original.
19     I would add that, in my experience and in the
20advice I gave to my students, I always recommended that
21they should take most seriously those documents which
22seemed to support the views that they were in the process
23of supporting. After all, if you are in the process of
24being sold a pup by somebody, the man who is trying to
25deceive you will come as close as possible to what you
26know to be the truth before slipping in the element of

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 1falseness; and the conflict between the historian's desire
 2to arrive at a decision and the insubstantiality of any
 3written evidence, or any other evidence, particularly oral
 4evidence, or of the kind of man who comes up and says,
 5"Never mind what the documents say, I was there and this
 6is the real truth", is one which is a constant pitfall in
 7our paths and which has mislead a great many people,
 8including some extremely important and senior historians
 9in the past.
10 Q. [Mr Irving]     Professor, I was not going to ask you about eyewitness
11evidence but where would you rank eyewitness evidence on
12the scale, if you had, for example, aerial photographs, if
13you had prisoner of war intelligence, contemporary
14prisoner of war intelligence, if you had intercepts from
15Bletchley Park, if you had captured documents, either
16captured during the war or after the war, and eyewitness
17evidence, in other words, anecdotal evidence and, finally,
18interrogations, whether under oath or not in court, how
19would you classify those in order of reliability, starting
20with the least reliable?
21 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     I do not know that there is any way of classifying those,
22because it depends so much on the individual. I did a
23great deal of interviews, particularly in the period
24before the 1967 Public Records Act released documents of
2530 years of age, and in my experience the kind of evidence
26I got differed according to the personality of the person

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 1giving it.
 2     In some cases I found that the man I was
 3interviewing had his own documentary record and was
 4consulting it, and that what he said was confirmed later.
 5In other cases, including at least one Minister of the
 6Crown, I was given a very plausible and, for all I know, a
 7very true story of a meeting at which he was supposed to
 8have been present; and when the records of that meeting
 9subsequently became available, it was clear that he was
10not. He should have been, but he just was not that day,
11and he must have heard the story from one of the people
12there and then repeated it.
13 Q. [Mr Irving]     But he seriously believed that he had been there?
14 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     Well ----
15 Q. [Mr Irving]     By he came to tell the story?
16 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     If a gentleman who holds the rank of Admiral of the Fleet
17and is a junior Minister in the Cabinet tells you that he
18is there, one's reaction is not to question him and,
19indeed, it was one of these confirmatory details.
20 Q. [Mr Irving]     But ----
21 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     For all I know, the story was true; it is just that the
22man who gave it me alleged that he was present and was
23not.
24 Q. [Mr Irving]     My question was, Professor, if you remember, at the time
25he told the story he believed that he had been there?
26 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     He may have come to believe it. Memory is a very tricky

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 1element.
 2 Q. [Mr Irving]     So to repeat my original question, where you would rank on
 3that scale of material that is lying before you, at one
 4end of the bench you have the eyewitnesses and at the
 5other end of the bench you have, for example, the
 6Bletchley Park intercepts?
 7 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     The Bletchley Park intercepts, in so far as they are
 8complete, are always regarded as the most reliable because
 9there is no evidence that the dispatcher was aware that
10his messages could be decoded and, therefore, he would put
11truth in them. There are cases, of course, in which
12messages were sent in a code that was expected to broken
13in order to mislead.
14 Q. [Mr Irving]     The Japanese Purple Code, for example, the Japanese were
15aware that we were breaking it, is that not so?
16 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     That is not my information.
17 MR JUSTICE GRAY:     Professor Watt, I do not know whether you
18know the answer to this question but ----
19 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     That is not my information, no.
20 Q. [Mr Justice Gray]     The Bletchley Park intercepts, we have heard of messages
21about the shootings on the Eastern Front going back to
22Berlin and those having been intercepted by Bletchley
23Park, but how wide did it go? What other kind of topics,
24do you know, were intercepted at Bletchley?
25 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     We were reading at different times a very large proportion
26of the Naval codes. We were reading the Abwehr codes. We

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 1were reading some of the German Army codes. Not all the
 2Bletchley Park intercepts have as yet been released, my
 3Lord.
 4 Q. [Mr Justice Gray]     But, on the whole, they were military?
 5 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     This is not an area in which I have particular expertise.
 6 MR IRVING:     We have another expert who we will be calling on
 7precisely this, my Lord.
 8 MR JUSTICE GRAY:     All right. I need not trouble you further.
 9 MR IRVING:     Professor Watt, I only intend to detain you for
10another five or 10 minutes at most. Moving away from the
11documentation that you yourself worked with, you have had
12occasion on a number of times to read books that I have
13written on the commission of newspapers who have given the
14job to you to read them or possibly even out of
15entertainment or possibly even because you wanted to use
16them yourself as a source, have you a general comment to
17make on the quality of the research or the writing?
18 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     I find your version of Hitler's personality and knowledge
19of the Holocaust, a knowledge of the mass murder of the
20Jews, a very difficult one to accept. That, of course, is
21a view that I have expressed in the reviews I wrote of
22your Hitler's War, in the review I wrote of the Goring and
23the Goebbels' biographies.
24     I find in other areas where your particular
25political convictions are not involved, I am most
26impressed by the scholarship. There is a book, my Lord,

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