Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Judgment: Electronic Edition, by Charles Gray

Table of Contents

Irving's case as to the death toll and his use of TB47

11.29 By way of general answer to the criticism of manner in which he has made exaggerated claims as to the number of those killed in the bombing, Irving submits that at all times (a) he has set and published the proper upper and lower limits for the estimates that he gave, giving a range of figures which necessarily decreased over the years as the state of information   improved and (b) that he had an adequate basis for the figures which he provided in his works.
11.30 Irving Irving emphasised that he had not been responsible for the claims as to the number of casualties made on the dustjacket of the sub-licensed Corgi edition of Dresden. He agreed that in the 1977 and 1991 editions of the book he wrote that the death toll was estimated at a quarter of a million. There were estimates as high as that. One such estimate derived from a West German government publication. Irving referred also to a US Air Force document dated 19 July 1945 which gave an estimate of 250,000 for the number of casualties in Dresden but had to accept that there was no indication where the informants identified in the document (who were Nazi medical officers) had got their information from.
11.31 Irving accepted that he had been aware that during the war Goebbels had sought to make use for propaganda purposes of the raid on Dresden and that to that end he had put into circulation a forged document giving a figure for deaths of 202,040. He mentioned this in the first edition of Destruction of Dresden published in 1963 as well as in a letter to his publisher in 1the same year.
11.32 Irving agreed that in 1964 that he was provided with a copy of TB47 by Hahn in the circumstances I have described. It was because of its provenance that Irving did not immediately dismiss it as a forgery on the ground that the figures contained it were the same as those contained in Goebbels's propaganda forgery. When he first saw TB47, Irving believed that his indirect source for the document, Dr Funfack, had been the Deputy Chief Medical Officer who had been responsible for disposing of the corpses of the victims. He agreed that in January 1965 he received a letter from Dr Funfack in which the doctor denied having been Deputy Chief Medical Officer or having been involved with the disposal of corpses. But Irving testified that he did not believe what Funfack said. He produced a photograph depicting piles of corpses in which he claimed that Funfack can be seen in the background wearing Nazi uniform. The reason, according to Irving, for Funfack's false denial is that he, living in Communist East Germany, was terrified to admit that he had been a senior medical officer in a Nazi city during the war. Irving claimed that he had been informed that Funfack had indeed been Deputy Chief Medical Officer but he did not   vouchsafe who provided that information. Irving agreed that he had never revealed the fact that Funfack had denied knowledge of TB47.
11.33 When Irving first saw the figures in TB47, his reaction was that, if true, they were sensational. However, Irving accepted that from the first there was grave doubt about the figures contained it and that there was concern that the figures for deaths (202,000) and expected deaths (250,000) might be forged. Asked about letters he wrote soon after coming into possession of TB47, Irving agreed that he had expressed himself as entirely satisfied as to the authenticity of the document, despite his reservations about the figures for deaths contained in it. He did, however point out that in his letter to Irving of 19 January 1965 Funfack wrote that in February 1945 General Mehnert, City Kommandant of Dresden, had mentioned to him a figure of 140,000 dead and that Professor Fetscher of the Civil Defence Organisation had spoken of 180,000 dead. Even so, he agreed that the figures in the purported TB47 called for proper enquiries and for further investigations to be made. Irving duly wrote to the German Federal Archive enquiring about the document and sought information as to the whereabouts of its author, Colonel Grosse.
11.34 In relation to his letter to the Provost of Coventry urging him to display TB47 because of the impact the figure for deaths would achieve, Irving pointed out that TB47 mentions not only casualties but also damage to property. He conceded that the figures had not been substantiated but added that a figure for deaths of 35,000 would have been equally shocking. Irving said that the higher figure of over 200,000 deaths appeared to him to be in line with the number of deaths in Hiroshima and other major air raid disasters. Irving saw nothing improper in the use of TB47 made in his letter to the Provost.
11.35 Irving claimed to have gone to great lengths to follow up the suggestion made in Funfack's letter to Irving of 16 January 1965 that the Red Cross might be able to provide him with information. He agreed that in the event the Red Cross had been unable to provide any information. He denied that in the 1966 Corgi edition of Destruction of Dresden the assertion that Kleiner of the Red Cross had been informed by General Mehnert that the death toll was 140,000 was an invention by him. But he was unable to be specific as to where the information came from.
11.36 Irving acknowledged that in February 1965 he had received a letter from Theo Miller, formerly of the Dresden clearing staff. He conceded that there was no reason to doubt Miller's good faith but claimed (despite the fact that Miller's figure of 30,000 is very close to the figure in the genuine TB47) that he may have been fantasising. He agreed that he had made no mention of Miller's evidence. But he rejected the suggestion that he had been guilty of applying double standards in placing reliance on third-hand hearsay accounts provided by Funfack and ignoring first-hand evidence from someone directly involved in dealing with the bodies of those killed in the raid. Irving explained that it is part of the skill of an historian to select and reject evidence according to his assessment of its reliability. Irving indignantly denied the suggestion that he had deliberately suppressed the evidence of Miller.
11.37 Irving confirmed that he had tracked down the widow of Colonel Grosse, the author of TB47. He said that Frau Grosse remembered her husband having spoke of a figure of about 202,000 deaths.
11.38 Irving received a copy of Situation Report 1404, which estimated the final death toll at 25,000, in May 1966 (see paragraph 11.24 above). Irving says that he was advised at that time by his London publisher to keep quiet about the new figures. But he emphasised that he promptly made the new figures public in his letter to the Times, in which he made clear his acceptance of the fact that the figures in the copy of TB47 on which he had relied had been forged. He circulated 500 copies of his letter. He suggested that this was a highly unusual step for an historian to take. Most historians would wait and publish the new information in their next book. He argued that his conduct demonstrates that he has not sought to obfuscate the true number killed in the bombing. Asked to explain why, having done that, he had written to his Italian publisher that he did not think too much importance should be attached to Situation Report 1404, Irving replied that he had in mind the estimates reportedly made by Mehnert and Fetscher; death tolls in other comparable disasters and the view expressed in letters to him by Dresden civilians that the upper limit was 250,000 deaths. Irving added that the author of the report, being the man in charge of civil defence, had a motive for understating the number of casualties.
11.39 Irving testified that he was unaware of the genuine TB47, discovered by Bergander, until it was put to him in cross-examination. He accepted,   however, that the figures contained in it (deaths 20,000, expected ultimate death toll 25,000) are correct since they tally with the report of the Dresden Police Chief and the Situation Report 1404. Despite this concession Irving argued that the true figure for the number of deaths is between 60,000 and 100,000. He maintained that, at the date of TB47 and the two reports, the corpses in the cellars of the city's houses had not been cleared. He agreed, however, that research indicates that only 1,800 bodies were recovered from beneath the ruined buildings in Dresden. Irving suggested that many would have been burnt literally to ashes. He pointed out that the city was at the time crowded with refugees fleeing from the Russians advancing from the east. It is impossible to know how many refugees there were or what has become of them. Irving would not accept the suggestion put to him that the maximum total figure is 35,000.
11.40 When asked why, after authentic reports had come to light all giving figures for deaths in the region of 30,000 he had repeatedly mentioned, on the occasions I have already itemised in paragraph 11.6 and 11.7 above, vastly higher figures, Irving explained that the top bracket was based on many letters he had received over the years. It is, said Irving, a matter of paying your money and taking your choice. As to the reference in Hitler's War (1991) edition to a death toll of a quarter of a million, Irving explained that this was the estimate which had been given to Hitler. The lowest figures became available to him in 1997 when he received the book which Friedrich Reichert had published in 1994. Unfortunately this information was received after the most recent edition of Dresden had gone to press.

accessed 11 March 2013