Irving v. Lipstadt

Transcripts

Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Transcripts, Day 17: Electronic Edition

Pages 121 - 125 of 214

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 1 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     In so far as it refers to a specific order, yes.
 2 Q. [Mr Irving]     And you actually wrote an article on this subject called
 3"The Revised Hilberg"?
 4 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     Yes.
 5 Q. [Mr Irving]     Which is no doubt well in your memory?
 6 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     Well, it was written in mid-1980, so it is 15 years in the
 7past.
 8 Q. [Mr Irving]     And your recollection of events 15 years ago is not all
 9that good?
10 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     It is not bad, but if you want to tell me which word did
11I use I would like the like text. If you want the general
12gist of it I can give it to you.
13 Q. [Mr Irving]     I am suggesting that if your recollection of something you
14did 15 years ago is not all that hot, then an eyewitness's
15recollection about something 30 years ago might be equally
16shaky?
17 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     I can remember writing the article and I can tell you the
18gist. I cannot tell you if I used a word or a different
19word. It depends on the magnitude of detail that you are
20talking about.
21 Q. [Mr Irving]     Just winding up that matter, there is nothing
22reprehensible whatsoever about Hilberg going all the way
23through his book taking out any reference to a Hitler
24order, which is quite a major element to the book
25obviously, because he had reflected. On second thoughts
26he had decided the evidence was not there, is that the

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 1right way of putting it?
 2 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     He had decided that the way he had phrased it in the first
 3volume should be revised.
 4 Q. [Mr Irving]     Yes.
 5 MR JUSTICE GRAY:     Surely the key consideration is what
 6persuaded him to change his mind. If there were good
 7reasons, there good reasons, and if there were not there
 8were not.
 9 MR IRVING:     Witness, can you answer his Lordship's curiosity in
10this respect?
11 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     He does not explicitly address that question as to why the
12change. He rephrases it in such a way that he felt that
13was too specific.
14 MR JUSTICE GRAY:     No. What I am getting at is, that the ground
15for criticising him for changing his mind would depend on
16the quality of the evidence that convinced him to change
17his mind. If there were not good reasons for his change
18of mind, then he should not have changed his mind or the
19text, that is obvious, do you agree with it?
20 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     Yes.
21 MR IRVING:     But of course it would be an entirely subjective
22decision by the author or historian concerned as to what
23evidence would meet his own personal criteria?
24 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     Yes, and I think in this case it was partly a semantic
25question. He felt the word "order" implied or had come to
26imply by the 1980s more than he was comfortable with in

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 1specificity, and so he phrased it in a more general way
 2because by this point of course the controversy between
 3intentionalist and functionalist had broken out. In fact
 4he withdrew himself from that controversy. He phrased
 5things in a way that was not part of that debate.
 6 Q. [Mr Irving]     Can I put to you just a few words of your testimony in a
 7court action in Canada in about 1988, which obviously your
 8recollection then was refresher, it was 12 years ago:
 9     "I will go on, thank you, said Browning. There
10is a question of how we understand the word 'order' and
11this is a case where I think we have deepened
12understanding. Though we have tried to deal with the
13concept, what does it mean for there to be Hitler order, a
14so-called Fuhrer befehl. I have certainly looked into
15that question. I have myself", that is you, "proposed
16that we have to look at it in terms of a series of signals
17or incitements", and that appears to have been a favourite
18concept of yours, signals or incitements?
19 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     I believe ----
20 Q. [Mr Irving]     Yes.
21 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     I did not mean to interrupt.
22 Q. [Mr Irving]     Do you remember saying that in that particular legal
23action in Canada, in the Zundel case?
24 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     I remember we discussed the question and that sounds very
25much like what I said.
26 Q. [Mr Irving]     Would you just explain to the court what you mean by this

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 1phrase of signals and incitements from somebody like
 2Hitler which would lead to a Holocaust?
 3 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     I would say it is the same as we have been discussing this
 4morning and yesterday. Hitler sets a level of
 5expectation, in this case, for instance, that the war in
 6the Soviet Union is to be not simply a conventional war
 7but a war of destruction, an ideological war, and then
 8people bring him proposals and he approves or does not
 9approve.
10 Q. [Mr Irving]     It all sounds frightfully vague, does it not, far short of
11an order with a heading signature Adolf Hitler that we
12have in some of the other Hitler crimes like euthanasia?
13 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     Yes. This in a sense is a very different kind of process,
14and I think the reason why Hilberg took that word out is
15because people would read that word and interpret it that
16there must be a specific piece of paper, and so he talked
17more about a general process in which intentions or
18desires are conveyed, but did not want to use the word
19"order".
20 Q. [Mr Irving]     Yes. Does your Lordship wish to explore that particular
21matter any further?
22 MR JUSTICE GRAY:     No, thank you very much.
23 MR IRVING:     I think it is quite useful that we should establish
24that somebody of the reputation of Hilberg became uneasy,
25that in his own conscience, would you agree, he felt that
26he could no longer accept, having suggested there was a

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 1Hitler order in his first edition and he went through
 2actually -- I think, would you agree this is more
 3significant than not mentioning it in the first place,
 4that he had put it in the first place and then took it
 5out? This is a more significant step than just not
 6mentioning that there was no Hitler order?
 7 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     It does mean that this had become I think a word that had
 8become more freighted than when he wrote the first
 9edition, and that he felt now the connotation of the
10expectation or the interpretation of the word "order"
11would place him in an interpretation that he was not
12comfortable with.
13 Q. [Mr Irving]     Have you visited any of the Nazi concentration camps or
14the sites that you are talking about?
15 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     Yes, I have been to Poland and visited Chelmno, Treblinka,
16Sobibor, Belzec and I have been to Auschwitz, Birkenhau.
17 Q. [Mr Irving]     You have been to Auschwitz and Birkenhau?
18 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     And to Semlin.
19 Q. [Mr Irving]     Was this recently or some years ago?
20 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     In 1990 or 1991.
21 Q. [Mr Irving]     1990, 1991?
22 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     One of those. I forget which summer.
23 Q. [Mr Irving]     Did you visit the sites of the alleged gas chambers in
24Auschwitz one and Auschwitz two in Birkenhau?
25 A. [Professor Christopher Robert Browning]     I visited both of them, and so I did go into the
26crematorium building, the reconstruction in Auschwitz one.

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