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Defense Documents

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

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(iii) False attribution of conclusions to reliable sources.

1. The documentary evidence Irving quoted for the attack is likewise threadbare. Irving quoted the 'account contained in the 20th Fighter Intelligence Bulletin for 14th February'.17 Bergander pointed out that this 'source' is 'a partly quite free interpretation' from 'Kings Cliffe. The 20th Fighter Group'. Therein appeared the sentence: 'Shortly after leaving the target 'A' Group hit the deck to strafe enemy transportation but found few targets.'18 Out of this sentence Irving builds up a narrative which creates the impression that the pilots were somehow spoilt for choice and did not know what to hit first. The implication is also that the pilots were cowardly and that somehow the greed of one of them caused him to hit the truck. Nowhere does the 'source' mention a 'briefing' to dive over rooftops. Indeed the source mentioned explicitly that 'Lt. Jack D. Leon (55th) was strafing a truck and either hit the truck or   it exploded causing Lt. Leon to crash.'19 Another member of the same sortie wrote to Irving that the one thing he distinctly remembered 'was a friend of mine, Lt. Jack Leon, strafing a truck which exploded. He flew through the debris and evidently struck a piece which downed him.'20
2. More slipshod still Irving decided that his source referred to Dresden when in fact Bergander went into painstaking detail to show that the group had in fact attacked Prague!21 Irving himself had even been provided with a detailed report in 1961 by one of the participants who had gone into some detail to explain exactly how they had hit Prague by mistake.22 The German Army High Command diaries [Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommando der Wehrmacht - OKW] reported fighter attacks on civilians and dive-bombers on 11, 12, and 13 February. On 14 February, the day that Irving quoted from to support a different point, attacks were reported from the upper and middle Rhine areas, but there is no mention of similar attacks on Dresden, although the OKW would have been amongst the first to receive any such reports.23
3. How did Irving then proceed to grapple with his critics? Some of Bergander's criticisms came to Irving's attention in 1985, through a book review.24 Irving firstly tried to defend himself by saying that he had proof that general orders existed to fire on civilians, a point that Bergander   never contested. He also claimed that the muzzle of a machine-gun could be seen on films of the British bombers taking part: 'This surely led to an understandable confusion on the part of the living, fleeing targets: but the word legend is rather rough.' Considering the prominence and care Irving took in the book to excite in the reader a feeling of revulsion against the attackers, his last refuge reads strangely: 'The question of dive attacks on fugitives on the banks of the Elbe and in the Große Garten is surely of ancillary importance.'25 It is not of ancillary importance in his book. Even if it were, that would in no way excuse his manipulation of the truth.
4. In the 1995 edition, rather than acknowledge, let alone tackle Bergander's criticisms, he exculpated himself with a disclaimer that: 'Memories may be fickle and eye-witness testimony is ever suspect' and then proceeded to relate the events anyway with the addition of one more eye-witness account.26 Thus the effect upon the reader remained the same one of revulsion, but Irving threw in the sop that in the 'opinion' of others the attack took place in Czechoslovakia.27 Thus his account is presented as fact: the actual truth is presented as 'opinion'.
5. To bolster his argument Irving quoted the Final Report [Schlußmeldung - see below for fuller details] of 15 March 1945 by the Dresden Higher SS and police leader [Höhe SS- und Polizei   Führer]. It states that during all the attacks 'Strafing by machine gun' [Bordwaffenbeschuß] had been 'observed' [festzustellen].28 No mention is made here of the targets of such strafing, however, which could well have been military.29 Details of the strafing of civilians, including time and place, would have had ample time in the month following the attack to have been taken down and noted in this otherwise meticulous report. When noting the various causes of death of those killed in Dresden during the raid, the 'Final Report' contains no mention of machine gun deaths.30 These points had already been made by Bergander, but again Irving saw no reason to alter his account, despite the fact that they told heavily against his allegation of Allied aeroplanes machine-gunning fleeing civilians.31
6. Although Irving had interviewed many of the participants in the events of 13/14 February 1945 in Dresden who claimed to have seen machine-gun fire he was likewise aware of the complete lack of any relevant documentary evidence.32 By his own count Irving had also interviewed two hundred British airmen and 'about one hundred' American bomber and fighter-escort crews for this and other sections of the book. He had ample opportunity to ask them to confirm   or deny the story, but the strafing story is supported by not a single one of Irving's three hundred airmen.33 He was aware of the fact that other reliable authors such as Bergander had destroyed the credibility of his use, or misuse, of these sources to claim that allied airmen engaged in the low-level strafing of civilians. Yet despite being confronted with the facts, Irving persistently repeated a story that he must know was an invention based on the misstatement of circumstances, the misrepresentation of the evidence and the false attribution of conclusions invented by himself to the testimony of reliable sources. It seems that in this, as in so many other cases, no amount of detailed refutation of his historical narrative can bring him to change it.

Notes

17. Corgi 1966, p. 276.
18. Irving was provided with two versions of the 20th Fighter Group's Intelligence Bulletin. See Irving's microfilmed records DJ 10, excerpt from King's Cliffe, the 20th Fighter Group, European Theatre of Operations, Mission Number 260, 14 February 1945, p. 1 and accompanying letter, John E. Hudgens to Irving, 6 September 1961. DJ 10, 20th Fighter Group's Intelligence Bulletin, Mission Number 260, 14 February 1945 and accompanying letter, Merle D. Nichols to Irving, 11 October 1961.
19. Ibid.
20. DJ 10, Dale N. Jones to Irving, 23 February 1962.
21. Bergander, p. 234-42.
22. DJ 10, Edward J. McCormack to Irving, 17 April 1961 and his enclosed account of the raid of 14 February 1945.
23. Bergander, p. 243.
24. Doc. 1061, newspaper clipping from the Süddeutsche Zeitung, 12 February 1985; doc. 1063, Irving to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, 15 February 1985.
25. Doc. 1063, Irving to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, 15 February 1985.
26. Focal Point, pp. 160 and 200. Irving acknowledged Bergander's book as 'well researched.' See Focal Point, p. 281, fn. 10.
27. Focal Point, p. 289, fn. 10. He attributes the 'opinion' to US Air Force Historians. Elsewhere he relates that his comments on the strafing generated an internal inquiry by US Air Force historians. See Focal Point, p. 293, fn. 6. Likewise Irving repeats the story of the attack of 20th Fighter Group's 'A' fighters and footnotes that 'In the opinion of the U.S. Air Force Historians the 150 (out of 461) B-17s escorting by the 20th Fighter Group did not attack the assigned target, Dresden, but targets of opportunity in Czechoslovakia.' See Focal Point, p. 289, fn. 10.
28. Focal Point, p. 199.
29. This would tally with the report in a source that Irving cited in full in a different context, namely the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenska Dagbladet. The edition of 17 February read: '...none of the aid convoys from neighbouring towns could be sent, because the roads to Dresden were blocked with refugee columns, peasant carts, and hand carts, interspersed with military transports. American dive bombers sprayed them with machine-gun fire. The military vehicles which were hit blocked the roads.' Svenska Morgonbladet, 17 February 1945, document 67 in Erhard Klöss (ed.), Der Luftkrieg über Deutschland 1939-1945. Deutsche Berichte und Pressestimmen des neutralen Auslands (Munich, 1963), p. 262. See Focal Point, p. 260
30. The 'Final Report' was reproduced in full as Appendix 3 in the Heyne edition of 1985 (and therefore 1977). For the relevant passage see p. 290.
31. Bergander, pp. 243-4.
32. DJ 10, Effect of Strafing.
33. Focal Point, ix.
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