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Defense Documents

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

Table of Contents
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1.5 Methods used to draw up this Report

1.5.1 I have never met, spoken to, or corresponded with David Irving. I have not previously concerned myself with his work in any way. The only references to him in any of my books come on pages 38 and 76 of In Hitler's Shadow: West German Historians and the Attempt to Escape from the Nazi Past (New York, 1989), in the context, not of a detailed examination of Irving's work itself, but of a discussion of the work of other historians, namely Ernst Nolte and Hans Mommsen. Irving is mentioned on these two pages briefly, and in passing.
1.5.2 I had leafed through the 1977 edition of Hitler's War and because of its style and content considered it a work of journalism rather than of professional history. Like the overwhelming majority of professional historians, I rejected its argument that Hitler did not order the extermination of the Jews. However, I was also aware of the widespread assumption amongst professional historians that Irving's work (like that of a number of other journalists who have written historical work) reached generally acceptable standards of historical scholarship. I also knew of Irving's reputation as someone who had a good knowledge of the archival and other sources for the history of the 'Third Reich' and had discovered previously unknown material on this subject.
1.5.3 I had never met, corresponded or had any dealings with Deborah Lipstadt, but I had read Lipstadt's Denying the Holocaust and quoted it on pages 239-41 of my book In Defence of History in the context of a discussion of the implications of postmodernist theories of knowledge for historical scholarship, especially on the history of the Nazi extermination of the Jews. Lipstadt's treatment of Irving in the book was a matter of completely marginal interest to me. In general, my view of the book was that it was a solidly researched and strongly but rationally argued work of scholarship. However, Denying the Holocaust does not deal in any detail with Irving's historical arguments, so that on being asked to write this Report, I had no difficulty in approaching Lipstadt's account of Irving's writings in an open and critical spirit, the same spirit, in fact, as that in which I approach Irving's work, the vast majority of which was completely unfamiliar to me.
1.5.4 The material on which this Report is based consists in the first place of Irving's published books. These have gone through numerous editions, and many of them are available both in English and in German in different versions. They are available in libraries in Britain and Germany, though some are rather hard to track down, and I was startled to find that the 1991 edition of Hitler's War can only be read at the desk in the Rare Books Room of the British Library that is reserved for literature deemed by the Library to be pornographic. Secondly, Irving has published a number of articles, mainly in The Journal of Historical Review, which are also available for public inspection in institutions such as the Wiener Library. Thirdly, Irving maintains a very extensive website on the Internet (http://fpp.co.uk) on which the text of various speeches by Irving is posted, together with a large quantity of other material revealing of his views on the history of the 'Third Reich'. 1
1.5.5 Fourthly, the legal process of Discovery has provided a large amount of further material of relevance to the issues at the centre of the case. As Irving remarked in 1991,
The first thing that happens in a libel action is this: only a few weeks after you've served a writ on a gentleman there comes a very expensive stage for both parties known as Discovery. The word 'Discovery' written with a capital 'D', just like the word 'Holocaust' written with a capital 'H'. Only this time the word is on my side. Because Discovery is an ugly phase, for plaintiff and defendant, when you face each other across a lawyer's table, at the choosing of the Plaintiff, and you say, "I want to see your documents and you can see mine". And at that stage usually all the defendants crack up and cop out.2
 
1.5.6 In the present case, however, no-one has wanted to 'cop out', and Irving has been obliged to disclose an enormous mass of material in addition to the list of documents he initially agreed to supply. I have had access to many videotapes and audiocassettes of Irving's speeches, tens of thousands of pages of documents, his complete private diaries, thousands of letters and a great deal of other material, much of it from the huge private archive in which he records his various activities and in which he stores the materials for his historical work
1.5.7 It soon became apparent that the amount of material available was too vast for me to master in the relatively short space of time I had to compile this Report, especially given my other commitments such as my regular academic work. I was fortunate therefore to obtain the research assistance of two of my PhD students, Nikolaus Wachsmann, who is now Junior Research Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge, and Thomas Skelton-Robinson, who is now researching for a PhD at Churchill College, Cambridge. Both had first-class honours degrees in History (from the London School of Economics and from Glasgow University respectively), both had a first-rate knowledge of German (Wachsmann is a native speaker, Skelton-Robinson lived in Germany for five years after graduating), and both had a good knowledge of twentieth-century German history.
1.5.8The two researchers compiled transcripts of the salient parts of the audiocassettes and videotapes and went through the material supplied by Irving during the process of Discovery, taking extensive notes. It was of course impossible to cover the whole of Irving's oeuvre with complete thoroughness, and some principle of selectivity had to be applied. We decided that I would cover Irving's general reputation as a historian, Irving's attitude to Hitler, and the central issue of whether or not Irving was a Holocaust denier. On the equally important matter of whether or not Irving distorted and falsified history, we decided to concentrate on the 'chain of documents' which Irving on various occasions had claimed proved Hitler's ignorance and disapproval of the Nazi persecution and extermination of the Jews. Each document was assigned to one or other of the research assistants for preliminary analysis. In this way we covered the entire documentary basis for Irving's controversial claim.
 
1.5.9 In addition, we decided to sample a number of other important issues on which Lipstadt's allegations of manipulation and falsification could be tested. These were the bombing of Dresden by the Allies early in 1945, a subject on which Irving had written the book which established his reputation; Irving's use of the evidence of Hitler's adjutants; and the explanations offered by Irving for such antisemitic actions by the Nazis as he was prepared to concede were actually carried out. Here again preliminary analysis was carried out by my research assistants. During the period January 1998 to April 1999, we met frequently, exchanged drafts, and carried out numerous revisions to what we had written. In addition, my research assistants undertook research in German archives and libraries. The compilation, structure and writing of this Report as a whole was undertaken by myself, and I alone bear the final responsibility for what it contains. I am satisfied that the amount of material we have examined, and the number of issues in Irving's writings which we have addressed, constitute a thoroughly representative sample of his work, and that any further investigation on our part would simply have replicated the conclusions we reached on the basis of the sample we looked at.
1.5.10 On all the issues concerned, this Report examines carefully and in detail Irving's writings and speeches over the whole of his career, from the 1960s to the present. Its method has been to identify what Irving wrote or said, and to note whether he changed his views over time, and if so, how and in what respects. The Report is written from the point of view, and with the expertise, of a professional historian. That is, it is not concerned with the issue of whether or not 'Holocaust denial' is morally wrong, or whether what Irving has written and said is politically or morally objectionable. Throughout, it bears in mind the pleaded issues in the case, but its method is not to subject them to any kind of forensic criteria or legal scrutiny, but rather to treat them as matters of historical and historiographical investigation.
1.5.11 Thus in examining each of the key 'chain of documents' which Irving claims prove Hitler neither knew or nor approved the antisemitic policies of the 'Third Reich', this Report is not concerned to demonstrate conclusively that Hitler did know or did approve of these policies: that is not the issue at hand. The issue is whether or not Irving distorts and manipulates the   historical record in trying to prove that Hitler did not know and approve of these policies. In dealing with this issue, the Report takes each document in turn, examines Irving's translation of it (all the documents in question were originally written in German), scrutinises his interpretation of it, and brings as many other relevant documents to bear on this interpretation as it has been possible to research in the time available, in accordance with the standard method of historical research, in which every original document used has to be set in a wider documentary context in order to elucidate its historical significance.
1.5.12 Many of these documents are well known to historians, some less so; many of them would appear at first sight to support the view that Hitler did know about antisemitic policies and actions in the 'Third Reich', and it has been necessary in the course of this Report to point this out. Historians who are advancing a particular argument have to take all relevant documentary evidence into account, and where documents appear to go against their argument, they have to explain them; failing to mention them at all constitutes suppression of relevant evidence and is not acceptable in a reputable historian. Citing these documents, as is done extensively in this Report, should not be seen as an attempt to prove conclusively that Hitler knew about the extermination of the Jews and other antisemitic actions during the 'Third Reich', only as evidence which has to be taken into account by anyone who, such as Irving, wishes to prove the contrary.
1.5.13Very few historians have actually gone to the trouble of subjecting any of Irving's work to a detailed analysis by taking his historical statements and claims and tracing them back to the original and other sources on which Irving says they rest. This is because doing so is an extremely time-consuming exercise, and most historians have better things to do with their time than undertaking a minute analysis of other people's historical writings. It is also because historians generally assume that the work of fellow-historians, or those who purport to be fellow-historians, is generally reliable in its footnoting, in its translations and summaries of documents, and in its treatment of the evidence at a basic level. That is, historians may make mistakes and errors of fact, but they do not generally deliberately manipulate and distort documents, suppress evidence that runs counter to their interpretations, wilfully mistranslate   documents in a foreign language, consciously use unreliable or discredited testimony when it suits their purpose, falsify historical statistics, or apply one standard of criticism to sources which undermine their views and another to those which support them.

Notes

1. Reference will be made in the course of this Report to various documents posted on Irving's 'Focal Point' website. Because of the changing content of the website, they may not be posted there by the time these proceedings come to court. The Internet is one of the main outlets for material and opinions of many kinds for which it is difficult to find a conventional means of publication through the printed word, since it is effectively beyond the reach of censorship and not subject to commercial considerations.
. Videotape 190: Irving at Bayerischer Hof, Milton, Ontario, 5 October 1991, at 1 hour 48 mins. 40 secs. to 1 hour 50 mins. 50 sees..
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