Irving v. Lipstadt


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

Pages 46 - 50 of 199

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    The difficulty in dealing with Hitler is that he himself
 1your eyes only, or, as Germans say, between four eyes, and
 2then there is the normal category. It is in that area
 3where the absence of evidence to my mind, it is a
 4historical challenge but I do not think that it is
 5conclusive in the way other people have assumed it is.
 6 Q. [Mr Irving]     Professor Watt, I do not to labour the point too much
 7because, of course, it is well known that in my
 8biographies of Hitler I have accepted that after October
 91943, after Himmler's famous speech at Posun, the way
10I put it is that Hitler had no excuse for not knowing.
11Would this be a perverse reading of the situation, that he
12had no excuse for not knowing from that time on? He could
13not really get away with saying, I did not know what was
14going on? Am I wrong in suggesting that?
15 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     The difficulty is that Hitler's theory of the state,
16anything that was done in the state was done in his name.
17He would justify it retrospectively if he did not know
18about it. This is an area, I am talking here not having
19done the kind of detailed work which is in front of the
20court on this, and I am simply producing a judgment based
21on the work I have done on Hitler ----
22 Q. [Mr Irving]     Professor Watt, if I was William Showler writing a book
23about the rise and fall of the Third Reich, then quite
24clearly this was Hitler's fault, this was Hitler's
25responsibility. But, if you have a student who is writing
26an examination of Adolf Hitler's personal responsibility,

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 1which is germane to the issues before the court, then you
 2do come up against a bit of brick wall as far as
 3acceptable evidence goes. You really have to start using
 4what you yourself call your imagination. You imagine that
 5Hitler probably, you cannot imagine that he did not, and
 6this kind of thing, and that is very dangerous, would you
 7not agree? It is a dangerous kind of basis. Imagination
 8is a picking on a particular word I used here because
 9I was trying very hard to present a review of your book,
10which did not descend into denouncing it as being contrary
11to what everybody knows.
12 Q. [Mr Irving]     Mr Rampton, do you wish me to read any more of that
14 MR RAMPTON:     Yes. It would save me from doing so.
15 MR IRVING:     "For myself, I found it initially not unpersuasive
16until I reflected on the character of Himmler"- this is
17yourself writing, Professor Watt. "I found it unimaginable
18that he could proceed on so vast an enterprise without
19obtaining his master's approval. Heydrich would have been
20another matter. There are very large areas in which we
21have only the slenderest of indications as to what was
22going on in Hitler's mind. Like Roosevelt, he said
23different things to different audiences but, like
24Roosevelt, he committed nothing of his own thoughts to
25paper. In such circumstances inference is a legitimate
26historical method." Is that enough, Mr Rampton?

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 1 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     Then I go on to say "But to infer Hitler's ignorance, to
 2assume that Himmler and his minions went beyond the limits
 3of what Hitler had approved, seems to assume something
 4inherently improbable and out of keeping with all we know
 5of Himmler's relationship to Hitler". What I am getting
 6at there is that again, as in so much of this biographical
 7approach, there is a kind of build your own Hitler, build
 8your own Roosevelt, build your own Himmler, out of kits
 9which are supplied.
10 Q. [Mr Irving]     There are different images. There is the Madison Avenue
12 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     My feeling about Himmler was that he was a man who was
13almost incapable of originating anything himself unless he
14had what he thought was approval from above, that he was a
15man who was dependent on approval of those whom he
17 Q. [Mr Irving]     Professor Watt, Himmler's brother actually told me the
18same. He said, I cannot imagine Heinny would have done
19this on his own. He said he was a bit of a coward. I
20think I mentioned this also in my books.
21 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     Towards the end, he began to lose confidence in Hitler and
22he became open to the sort of arguments that were advanced
23by senior SS officers, the belief that the Allies would
24make a separate peace with him and so on, and he reached a
25point where Hitler believed that he was being betrayed,
26and there is an expression of his disbelief at this.

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 1 Q. [Mr Irving]     But that is another story, as they say. Can I draw
 2attention to the fact that the passages we read out were
 3written by you in June 1977, in view of the fact that 23
 4years have passed and still no document has come to light
 5to shake the notion which you considered at that time
 6inherently improbable, would you consider that my notion
 7has become slightly more sustainable?
 8 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     I think I would be reluctant to change my mind about
 9that. What I should say, however, is that the challenge
10that you then raise to the historical profession.
11 Q. [Mr Irving]     The thousand pound offer?
12 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     I was not thinking of money. I was thinking simply of the
13challenge of putting forward the sort of views you did and
14basing them on historical research, rather than
15ideological conviction, or at least seemingly so, has
16directly resulted in an enormous outburst of research into
17the ----
18 Q. [Mr Irving]     Holocaust?
19 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     - into the massacres of the Jews, into the Holocaust and so
20on, which is now so large an area of historical research
21that it can support journals, it can support conferences.
22I see that there are three scheduled in Britain this
23coming year and that I myself am appearing in one in
24America in March. This, I think, is a direct result of
25the challenge which Mr Irving's work and the consistency
26and the effort which he has put into maintaining it in

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 1public, has resulted in somewhat similar ----
 2 Q. [Mr Irving]     Would you describe my notion as being perverse? Would you
 3use that kind of word to describe it?
 4 A. [Professor Cameron Watt]     This is an argument about nominalism. I think that it is
 5perverse in relation to the values of western society, as
 6I understand them. I do not think it is perverse,
 7speaking as a historian. I have seen more perverse
 8arguments put forward, for example the gentleman who
 9maintained that Stalin hardly killed anybody, who held an
10academic post of some importance in an American
11university. I gather that he has now changed his mind as
12a result of being shown the KGB records and is editing a
13book which is hastily changing his position.
14     I think to maintain that America entered the
15Second World War as a result of the machinations of
16British security authorities in New York is perverse.
17I think that the views that Stalin was about to attack
18Hitler when Hitler attacked Stalin, which is a view that
19apparently commands a certain amount of support in America
20and Germany and Israel, is perverse.
21     There are areas of perversity and indeed the
22late Alan Clark's support for an eminent British
23historian's views that Chamberlain could have made peace
24with Hitler in 1937, and that somebody else besides
25Churchill have made piece with Hitler in 1940, I regard
26these as perverse. There is a lot of perversity about, if

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