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Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Judgment: Electronic Edition, by Charles GrayTable of Contents
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Irving's reliance on the forged Tagesbefehl No. 47
13.117 The forged evidence on which Irving is said to have relied is Tagesbefehl (Order of the day) No 47 ("TB47"). The majority of the Defendants' criticisms relate to or are connected with the way in which Irving dealt with this document.
13.118 I have set out in detail in paragraphs 11.9 to 11.40 above the history of the forged TB47 and the parties' respective arguments about Irving's reliance on it. In my judgment there are serious criticisms to be made of Irving's use of this document. In the first place Irving knew all along that there were powerful reasons for doubting the genuineness of the purported TB47. It had been denounced by Seydewitz as fraudulent. Indeed Irving himself was aware that Goebbels had been seeking to take propagandist advantage of the raid by making exaggerated claims as to the number of deaths. Irving in1963 described the so-called TB47 as "spurious" (although I accept that at that date he had not seen a copy). When he did receive a copy, he was warned by Lange, the Dresden archivist, that it was a patent forgery. I accept the evidence of Evans, which I have summarised at paragraph 11.18 above, that there were features within the document itself which cast doubt on its bona fides. Irving therefore had every reason to be suspicious about the claim that the death toll might ultimately be 250,000.
13.119 Yet when in 1964 Irving received a copy of TB47 from Funfack via Hahn, he appears to have been eager to accept the document as a true copy and the figures claimed in it as accurate. I am not persuaded that there is any valid explanation for Irving's change of heart about the genuineness of the document. Indeed in a memorandum written shortly after he obtained his copy of TB47 Irving expressed distinct reservations about its authenticity and the accuracy of the figures contained in it. In these circumstances it was in my view incumbent of Irving, as a responsible historian, to treat the document with extreme caution. He should have verified the provenance of the document with Funfack and with anyone else in a position to assist. In the meantime he should not have made use of so suspect a document.
13.120 There is no evidence that Irving sought Funfack's comments about the document. He did nothing to dispel the doubts he had previously entertained about it. In these circumstances it was in my judgment reprehensible for Irving to write to the Provost of Coventry Cathedral enclosing a copy of the supposed TB47 and expressing himself to be in no doubt as to its authenticity. It was equally reprehensible of Irving to write in similar terms to his German publisher.
13.121 Irving's conduct thereafter is even less defensible. As I have described in paragraph 11.14 above, he was told by Funfack that he was in no position to vouch for TB47. I accept that Irving was also told by Funfack of the estimates of 180,000 and 140,00 put on the number of casualties by Mehnert and Fetscher respectively. But that information (which was never verified) did little to remove the suspicion surrounding TB47. I do not accept Irving's explanation that he disbelieved what Funfack told him because he was living in a regime which was still Communist and was fearful of the consequences of being linked to the Nazi regime. Nor can I accept that the recollection of Frau Grosse of the estimate her husband had put on the number of casualties should have weighed significantly with Irving in assessing the reliablity of the figures in TB47.
13.122 Irving made reference to the fake TB47 as a genuine document in the Italian edition of Dresden in terms which suggested that it was a genuine document. Doubts about the authenticity of the document were subsequently increased yet further by Miller's letters to Irving to which I have referred at paragraph 11.19. Irving's disregard of that apparently credible evidence was, in my view, a further grave lapse on his part. His explanation that he considered that Miller was "fantasising" when he gave a figure of 30,000 deaths strikes me as absurd. There was nothing in what Miller wrote to suggest to an objective commentator that Miller was other than a credible and reliable witness. (In the event the figure in the genuine TB47 turned out to be 25,000 which was close to Miller's figure). The subsequent publication of TB47 in an appendix to the 1966 Corgi edition of Dresden without the expression of any reservations about its genuineness or the figures contained in it was in my view another grave lapse on Irving's part.
13.123 The Final Report and Situation Report No 1404, to which I have referred in paragraphs 11.23 and 11.24 above, would have been regarded by any dispassionate historian as conclusive proof that the purported copy of TB47 was a fake and that there was good reason to suppose that the death toll was in the region of 25,000. This was the figure accepted by Reichert in his book on the bombing, which is regarded by Evans as authoritative. I accept that Irving is entitled to credit for having taken the unusual step of writing to the Times about the new casualty figure. But that does not in my judgment excuse the doubts he continued to cast upon the accuracy of the new figure, still less does it excuse the grossly inflated claims as to the number of casualties which Irving continued to make in a subsequent edition of Dresden and in the speeches detailed in paragraphs 11.6 and 11.7 above.
13.124 When asked what was the supporting evidence for these inflated claims, Irving relied on the estimates for the number of casualties made by Mehnert and Fetscher and on the recollection of Frau Grosse, which I have mentioned. He also testified that his claims had been based on estimates as high as 250,000 which he had received from a great many individuals. Irving neither identified the individuals nor disclosed the letters. He prayed in aid also the fact that there were in Dresden at the time an unquantified number of refugees fleeing before the advancing Russian army. Finally he relied on the estimate of Hans Voigt, summarised in paragraph 11.52 above, that 135,000 had been killed. But, as stated in paragraph 13.126 below, none of this material casts significant doubt on the accumulation of evidence that th true death toll was within the bracket of 25-30,000.
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