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

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(c) The 1991 Edition of Hitler's War

 
1. In the 1991 edition of Hitler's War, published under the same cover as a revised version of The War Path (dealing with the years 1933-1939), the picture painted by Irving is very different from what it had looked like in the first edition, published in 1977. In the Introduction, the references made in 1977 to 'the extermination of the Jews', 'the methodical liquidation of Russian Jews' and 'the extermination machinery', have all been deleted. Indeed, the word 'extermination' no longer appears at all. Instead, Irving refers vaguely to 'the Jewish tragedy', 'the Nazi maltreatment of the Jews', or 'the entire tragedy'. The only exception to this is where Irving points to his argument that Hitler made statements in 1942 and 1943 'which are incompatible with the notion that he knew that a liquidation program had begun' and that 'Europe's Jews had been systematically murdered' on Himmler's orders. On the face of it, this looks like an admission that the Holocaust, as conventionally understood, actually happened. But in fact this is not the case. The reference is to alleged facts which Hitler is often supposed to have been aware of, but, in Irving's view, was not; the 'liquidation program' and the systematic murder are 'notions' as much as Hitler's knowledge of them is; there is no implication here that they really took place.
2. In his reply to Lipstadt's defence, Irving points to the following Index entries to the 1991 edition of Hitler's War as evidence that he is not a Holocaust denier:
Hitler and the Jews: role in Final Solution, 17-21; analysis of his antisemitism, 126-17 (sic); threats to Jews, 150-1; Berlin deportations, 407; deportations to east, 425-6; concentration camps, 466, 754; demands restraint, 536; extermination programmes, 426, 427, 463-7, 814; Himmler's call for extermination, 590; massacres in Russia, 44, 809.
3. The first reference, in the Introduction, on pages 17-21, is a defence of Irving's views on Hitler. It has already been pointed out above how it differs from the corresponding Introduction to the 1977 edition of the book in removing all mention of the   extermination of the Jews. There is no allusion to Hitler's antisemitism on page 126, but there is on pages 24-26, which is presumably what Irving meant to refer to. Here he characterizes Hitler's antisemitic views as a 'demagogic element' in his speeches, which was without real significance. 'Stripped of this demagogic element', the speeches are in Irving's view significant only 'for Hitler's ceaseless reiteration that a Germany disarmed was prey to the lawless demands of her predatory neighbours' (p. 24). Thus for example in calling for the hanging of Jewish war profiteers, he was merely speaking 'the language that the mobs wanted to hear' (p. 26); he did not really mean to say that he would actually do this if he came to power.
4. Pages 150-1 quote Hitler's January 1939 speech threatening 'the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe' if 'international finance Jewry' started another world war; Irving frames this speech within two paragraphs about Jewish emigration, thus robbing the comment of its murderous implication by putting it into another context altogether, namely emigration. Page 407 contains a paragraph claiming that Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, not Hitler, was 'the mainspring behind the "Jewish question"', which Irving again puts as one of deportation and intimidation, not extermination (in August 1941). Pages 425-6 describe 'the deportation of Europe's Jews'. Irving comments here: 'The evidence is that Hitler's intention was twofold - to establish a Jewish labor force for his grandiose plans in the east, and to hold them hostage.' On the ground, however, this intention was frustrated by the actions of 'the Gauleiters' in the east, who 'had no intention of preserving the unemployable Jews'.11 A proposal to kill the Jews in Riga using mobile gas trucks was approved, though Irving does not say whether or not he thinks it was carried out. 'Soon the Jews from the   Lodz ghetto and Greiser's territories were being deported farther east - to the camp at Chelmno. There were 152,000 Jews involved in all, and Chelmno began liquidating them on December 8.'12 He does not say, however, whether or not all 152,000 were killed. In 1988 he made his views on this point a little clearer. 'I think it has to be pointed out', he said, 'we're not talking about 152,000 Jews being exterminated. I'm just saying this is one figure which is contained in the document and that Chelmno was certainly involved in killing Jews. I don't think it's proper to read anymore into the sentence than that.'13
5. Irving adds, in the 1991 edition of Hitler's War, that 'trainloads of Jews' from Vienna, Brünn (Brno), Bremen and Berlin' were 'shot' on arrival in the east; he mentions the figure of 10,000 killed in Minsk, and more, unnumbered, killed in Kovno and Riga (including one trainload of 5,000). There follows, on page 427, a reprise of Irving's argument that Hitler was unaware of all this. On page 463, Irving summarises the Wannsee Conference and claims it dealt only with deportations. Over the next few pages he develops further his argument that this was all that Hitler intended, quoting him for example threatening the 'total elimination' of the Jews (absolute Ausrottung) only if they should refuse to leave their homes in other part of Europe. On page 809 there is mention of another 7,000 Jews killed in the East by mass shooting. Finally, on page 814 Irving dismisses evidence that Eichmann had 'liquidated' 33,000 Slovak Jews on Hitler's orders.
 
6. None of this exactly provides evidence that Irving is confirming rather than denying the Holocaust as conventionally understood and as outlined earlier in this Report. Yet these passages are not the only entries in the 1991 edition of Hitler's War that are relevant in this context. An examination of Index entries not mentioned by Irving points up the issue much more sharply, and brings to light a number of additional, sometimes quite dramatic alterations from the corresponding passages in the 1977 edition. The entry is still there in 1991, as in 1977, for 'Auschwitz, extermination camp at', as it is for 'Treblinka, extermination camp at'. But when we turn to the pages in question (463-47 in 1991, 390-93 in 1977) the account has undergone some highly significant alterations. In 1991, the 1977 references to the 'murder machinery' and 'the extermination center at Treblinka', have gone. In their place is new material describing Himmler's visit to Auschwitz on 18 July 1942 and citing the postwar interrogation of Albert Hoffmann, an SS man who accompanied Himmler on the visit, noting that 'maltreatment did occur' but adding that he 'totally disbelieves the accounts of atrocities as published in the press' after the war. Irving explicitly denies there is any documentary sanction for the story that Himmler witnessed the liquidation of a trainload of Jews on this occasion, and adds: 'By late 1945 the world's newspapers were full of unsubstantiated, lurid rumors about "factories of death" complete with lethal "gas chambers"'.
7. Even more strikingly, the testimony of Morgen and Lorenz and the Slovak Jews cited on pages 718-19 of the 1977 edition, along with the account of the extermination camps at Majdanek and elsewhere, has entirely vanished from the equivalent place, page 699, in the 1991 edition. Morgen and Lorenz have also disappeared from the   Index.14 All that Irving now tells us about Nazi policy towards the Jews in 1944 and in particular about the Hungarian Jews, is what he already told us in the first paragraph of the chapter in question in 1977, namely that Hitler 'evidently made some promise about the Hungarian Jews' at a meeting with a leading member of the Horthy regime there which had resulted in the cessation of deportations of Hungarian Jews to Poland. In 1991, as in 1977, this is pure speculation on Irving's part. What he does in 1991 is to cut out entirely the following three paragraphs on the extermination camps and go straight on to another paragraph on Hungary which begins two pages later in the 1977 edition. The mention on page 660 of the Slovak Jews who escaped from the 'Auschwitz extermination camp' to spread news of it abroad, has been entirely excised from the equivalent place, page 654, of the 1991 edition of Hitler's War.
8. Perhaps most noteworthy of all is the difference between the two versions of Irving's account of Hitler's address to a group of generals about Hungary's Jews on 26 May 1944. Hitler's remarks are quoted at length, and it is made clear in both editions that he criticized Hungary for failing to deal with its Jews and claimed that 'this problem is now going to be solved too'. Irving's comment on these remarks differs as follows between the two editions:
  • 1977: 'In Auschwitz, the defunct paraphenalia of death - idle since 1943 - began to clank again as the first trainloads from Hungary arrived.'
  • 1991: 'Four hundred thousand Jews were being rounded up in Hungary; the first trainloads arrived in Asuchwitz as slave labor for the now completed I.G.Farben plant.'
 
9. In 1977, Irving makes it clear that the [sic] Hungarian Jews were killed. In 1991 he makes no mention of this fact but claims instead that they were being used merely as workers in a chemical factory.
10. The 1991 edition of Hitler's War, therefore, fails to support Irving's contention that he has not denied the Holocaust. Indeed, its account of these events accords well with the four central features of Holocaust denial described above. It minimises the number of Jews killed; it mentions the gas chambers only in the context of 'unsubstantiated, lurid rumours'; it insists that all that Hitler and the Nazi leadership in general wanted to do was to deport the Jews, not to kill them; and it dates accounts of the gas chambers to the postwar period, dismissing or ignoring contemporary accounts from the war years.
11. Thus Irving's views had altered substantially between the two editions. The turning-point in Irving's changing views was the 1988 trial of Ernst Zündel, a German-Canadian antisemite, Holocaust denier and self-confessed admirer of Hitler,15 Zündel was first tried in Canada in 1985 for spreading false information and disturbing social peace between ethnic groups, but his conviction was overturned on technical grounds and he was retried in 1988. In this second trial, Zündel's defence called a number of Holocaust deniers as expert witnesses in an attempt to demonstrate that the information Zündel had been spreading about the Holocaust was not false. These included for example the French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, whose views will be outlined in more detail later in this Report.
12. Irving himself also appeared as an expert witness in this second trial. His testimony in the trial is published in full on Irving's website. Irving repeatedly admitted under   questioning in the court that he had changed his mind since 1977 on the issues of the numbers of Jews killed and the use of the gas chambers. 'My mind has now changed', he said, '...because I understand that the whole of the Holocaust mythology is, after all, open to doubt.'16 Interviewed on radio in 1989, he admitted in relation to the 'Holocaust story':
Millions of people don't like to admit that they have been taken in and so in turn they have quite happily allowed the propaganda flywheel to spin on. I didn't like to admit that until quite recently I believed the story but I want to be the first one out there in front now saying I was tricked and its time to stop this particular piece of propaganda.17
13. Central to Irving's change of mind was his reading of the so-called Leuchter Report, a document commissioned by Faurisson for use in Zündel's defence in the 1988 trial. In this Report, the American Fred Leuchter, designer of gas chambers and lethal injection devices used in the administration of the death penalty in some states in the USA, declared that his examination of the gas chambers in Auschwitz proved that they had not been used for gassing at all. Leuchter's report contained a considerable amount of scientific, or, as it turned out, pseudo-scientific analysis of chemical residues on the gas chamber walls, and similar matters. It was quickly discredited, not least on the basis of Leuchter's failure adequately to defend his findings on the witness stand. However, Irving accepted it fully and published it in Britain, holding a special meeting to launch it. This was the source for his self-confessed change of mind in 1988 on   central issues such as the number of Jews killed, the use of gassing, and the evidence commonly accepted by historians for these things.18
14. In examining the question of whether or not Irving is a Holocaust denier, it is important therefore to concentrate on his publications and statements at and after the Zündel trial in 1988, not before. For Irving himself said quite openly in 1991 that he had removed all references to 'extermination camps and death factories' from the second edition of the book.19 Work published by Irving before 1988 is thus irrelevant to the issue of whether Lipstadt was correct in 1994 to call him a Holocaust denier.

Notes

11. The Gauleiters were the regional Nazi Party bosses.
12. Arthur Greiser was the administrator of the Warthegau, a region of Nazi-occupied Poland. Cheimno is in fact situated to the west of Lodz.
13. David Irving's 1988 Testimony at theTrial of Ernst Zündel, on Irving's website 'Documents on the Auschwitz controversy', p. 108 (http://www.fpp.co.uk).
14. 'Since having written this book in 1977', Irving said in 1988, 'I understand that that Slovak report is open to some question.' (ibid., p. 198).
15. More details about Zündel are provided later in this Report, under Section II (e), 'Connections with Holocaust deniers'. Irving was called by Zündel's defence as an expert witness on the events of the Second World War.
16. Ibid., pp. 30, 82-3, 138.
17. lnterview with David Irving on Radio Ulster, 23 June 1989.
18. Gabriel Weimann and Conrad Winn, Hate on Trial: The Zundel Affair, the Media, and Public Opinion in Canada (New York, 1986); Robert Faurisson, 'The Zündel Trials (1985 and 1988)', The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1988-1989; Her Majesty the Queen versus Ernst Zündel, District Court of Ontario, 1985; Her Majesty the Queen versus Ernst Zündel, District Court of Ontario, 1988; Shelly Shapiro (ed.), Truth Prevails: Demolishing Holocaust Denial: The End of "The Leuchter Report" (New York, 1990); David Irving, foreword to Auschwitz: The End of the Line: The Leuchter Report (London, 1989). The arguments and evidence, or pseudo-evidence, put forward in the Leuchter Report, are discussed more fully in the expert witness report by Professor Robert Jan Van Pelt. See also II (d) (ii) of the present report, on Irving's views on the Nazis' use of gas chambers at Auschwitz and elsewhere.
19. Videotape 207, from NDR (North German Radio) 3, documentary, 'Juden wurden nicht vergast...', German verion of a Danish programme by Jens Olaf Jersild, screened on 9 May 1993, at 38 minutes 25 secs.; also Videotape 189, speech in Calgary, 29 September 1991,.
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