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Defense Documents

David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial: Electronic Edition, by Richard J. Evans

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3.6 Conclusion

3.6.1 Not everyone who has studied Irving's writings and speeches in the 1990s has reached the conclusion that he has become a consistent and undeviating Holocaust denier. The American journalist Ron Rosenbaum, interviewing Irving for his book Explaining Hitler, published in 1998, concluded that 'Irving's stance in relation to Holocaust denial has seemed to waver confusingly back and forth in the time since I encountered him'. On occasion, says Rosenbaum, Irving, for example in his Goebbels biography, 'seems to argue that the Holocaust, or at least mass killings of Jews, did happen...that there was some deliberate killing of Jews, perhaps a hundred thousand or so, but mainly wildcat, unauthorized actions in the blood heat of the fighting on the eastern front.'1 Moreover, in the course of his conversation with Rosenbaum, Irving admitted of some Holocaust deniers 'that there are certain organizations that propagate these theories which are cracked anti-Semites', and that he only spoke at their meetings because 'I've been denied a platform worldwide...I know these people have done me a lot of damage, a lot of harm', he confessed, without actually saying who he meant by this or what kind of damage or harm he was referring to.2 This was enough for Norman Stone, reviewing Rosenbaum's book, to conclude that 'Irving...puts some blue water between himself and the nutty "revisionists" who claimed the Holocaust never happened...even Irving is not blind to the facts.'
3.6.2 However, even Stone was clear about the fact that Rosenbaum, as he wrote, 'cannot follow' subjects about which he was writing because of his ignorance of history, and had 'misunderstood' another of the key books he was writing about; while Rosenbaum himself   confessed in his book to bewilderment as to the line Irving was taking in his interview with him, and elsewhere in the same chapter stated that 'to an ever-increasing extent, Irving has...become a fiery rabble-rousing Führer of the Holocaust-denial movement, addressing adoring rallies in Germany and, not surprisingly, in Argentina.'3 The fact that Irving had been banned from addressing rallies, whether adoring or not, in Germany, some years before the publication of Rosenbaum's book seemed to have escaped the author. Rosenbaum is a careless and inattentive interviewer and author, who has clearly not taken the trouble to investigate the phenomenon of Holocaust denial or to arrive at a reasonable definition of it. If he had done so, it would be clear to him, as it should be to Stone, that Irving's admission that a hundred thousand Jews were killed in largely unco-ordinated acts of war on the eastern front did not constitute an admission of the reality of the Holocaust in any meaningful or generally accepted sense of the term.
3.6.3 A close examination of Irving's speeches and writings since the late 1980s indicates that there is no doubt at all that he has become a Holocaust denier. He clearly holds all four central beliefs of the deniers as defined above. He argues that the number of Jews deliberately killed by the Nazis was far less than six million; it amounted to only a few hundred thousand, and was thus similar to, or less than, the number of German civilians killed in Allied bombing raids, which he portrays as crimes of a similar or greater order. He argues that gas chambers were not used to kill large numbers of Jews at any time. If Jews did die in large numbers, it was as a result of epidemics for which the Allied bombing raids were in large measure responsible. If there has been any wavering by Irving on these points, it has been since the publication of Lipstadt's book; even here, however, insofar as it can be observed at all, it appears to be more a matter of presentation than of content.
 
3.6.4 Irving continues to assert, as he had already done prior to 1988, that the Nazi state had no concerted policy of exterminating Europe's Jews; all the Nazi leadership, Hitler at its head, wished to do was to deport them to Eastern Europe. He alleges that the Holocaust is a myth invented by Allied propaganda during the war and sustained since then by Jews who wish to use it to gain political and financial support for the state of Israel or even for themselves. The supposed evidence for the Nazis' wartime mass murder of millions of Jews by gassing and other means, he claims, was fabricated after the war. He has referred repeatedly to the 'Holocaust myth' and the 'Holocaust legend' and has described himself as engaged in a 'refutation of the Holocaust story'.
3.6.5 Irving is far from being a lone figure or an original, isolated researcher in this field. For some years now, Irving has had close contacts with virtually all the major Holocaust deniers, including Faurisson and Butz. In the years up to the publication of Lipstadt's book, he was a regular speaker at meetings of the Institute for Historical Review and continued to be through the mid-1990s. He has published extensively in its journal. An examination of the Institute's history, context and activities and of the contents of the Journal of Historical Review makes it clear beyond any reasonable doubt that its central business is Holocaust denial. Irving has contacts with many other Holocaust deniers and is using his website on the Internet to propagate their views. He has been prosecuted for Holocaust denial in Germany and found guilty under German law. Whether or not the law is just is in this context quite immaterial; the point is that he was convicted by a German court of Holocaust denial and that the conviction stands.
3.6.6 It is reasonable, therefore, to regard Irving as part of an international network of Holocaust denial. Irving links himself with others of similar views in rejecting the label 'Holocaust denier', as we have seen, either because they agree that some massacres of Jews took place (as   Robert Faurisson, quoted above, argued, massacres always take place in wartime), or because they redefine the term 'Holocaust' so as to make it possible for them to say they believe in it without believing in the systematic Nazi extermination of millions of Jews, the Nazis' use of gas chambers, or any of the other aspects of the Holocaust or 'Final Solution' as conventionally defined.
3.6.7 Thus for example Irving tends to argue, when accused of Holocaust denial, that the whole of the Second World War was a Holocaust, in the sense that many innocent civilians were killed on all sides; or that the term 'Holocaust' means the gassing of six million Jews at Auschwitz (a proposition which nobody apart from Irving himself has ever advanced). But it is not the term Holocaust which is at issue here. One may reject the term 'Holocaust' as a label without in any way rejecting the fundamental proposition that the Nazis had a conscious and centrally directed policy of exterminating all the Jews in Europe, and carried it out during the Second World War to the extent that they killed between five and six million of them by shooting, deliberate starvation and neglect, and in specially built gassing facilities at Auschwitz and elsewhere. It is these fundamental propositions which are at issue here, not the term used to describe them. And it is these fundamental propositions which Irving denies, in common with others who have made it their business to do so as well.
3.6.8 These are the facts which justify any reasonable person in describing David Irving as a Holocaust denier. Indeed he himself has come close at times to agreeing with the application of this description to himself. 'Until 1988', he told an audience in Calgary in 1991, 'I believed that there had been something like a Holocaust.' But since then, he continued, it had been clear to him that 'that story was just a legend.' It was not so much the label he rejected as its   negative connotations - 'Holocaust denier - as though there's something wrong in refusing to accept...the whole story.'4

Notes

1. Ron H. Rosenbaum, Explaining Hitler. The Search for the Origins of His Evil (London, 1998), p. 234.
2. Ibid., p. 233.
3. Ibid., p.223; and Norman Stone, 'Failing to find the Führer', The Sunday Times, 12 July 1998.
4. Videotape 189: Irving speech at Calgary, 29 September 1991
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