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

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Irving's concessions

13.152 It was a striking feature of the case that in the course of it Irving made, or appeared to make, concessions about major issues. In doing so he resiled from the stance adopted by him in relation to those issues before trial. Such concessions were made by Irving in relation to the shooting of Jews in the East; the use of gas vans at Chelmno and in Yugoslavia; the gassing of   Jews at the Action Reinhard camps; the existence and genocidal use of gas chambers at Auschwitz and the Leuchter report.
13.153 Thus the Defendants contend that, having previously asserted that the shooting of Jews in the East was generally unauthorised and carried out by small bands of criminals with Hitler's partial knowledge but without any order from him, Irving accepted at trial that perhaps as many as 1.5 million Jews were killed on the authority of Heydrich and on a systematic basis. He conceded also that Hitler not only knew of the shooting of the Jews in the East but also sanctioned their murder. He agreed that Hitler had taken the initiative in ridding the Altreich of Jews. Irving's concessions on these issues were in stark contrast to his case as it stood before trial.
13.154 At a later stage in the trial, however, Irving retracted, as least in part, the concessions he had made. He partially withdrew his acceptance of Hitler's responsibility for the shooting. In a written submission Irving argued that the treatment of deported Jews suggested a lack of system and co-ordination and that there was no clear and unambiguous evidence of Hitler's awareness of the mass murder in the East of European Jews. Irving claimed that he had adopted the position before trial that the killing of the Jews in the East had been largely systematic and much of it had been carried out under orders. He claimed that there was no significant shift of position on his part. But it appears to me that Irving did shift his ground in a significant way in the course of the trial, especially in regard to Hitler's authorisation of the killing.
13.155 In regard to the use of gas vans, Irving was prepared before trial to accept no more than that there had been an "alleged liquidation" of 152,000 Jews at Chelmno and that gas vans had been used on an experimental basis and on very limited scale. At trial he accepted that there had been a systematic use of gas vans at the camp; that in one relatively short period 97,000 Jews had been murdered there and that he had been wrong to say that the use of the vans was experimental. He also accepted that the Nazis used gas vans to kill Jews in Yugoslavia instead of shooting them. Irving's explanation for these changes in his case was that he was making admissions in order to deal with the issues expeditiously.
13.156 In relation to the Reinhard camps, having claimed before the trial that there were no gas chambers at Treblinka, Sobibor or Belzec, Irving accepted at trial that he could not challenge the accepted figures for the   numbers of Jews killed at those camps which were 700-950,000,200,000 and 550,000 respectively. He again later explained his concessions as having been made "formally" in order to speed the trial along, adding later that he had seen no documentary evidence to support the figures for those killed. I have already given my reaction to that response.
13.157 I have earlier summarised the manner in which Irving altered his position in relation to the number of Jews killed there by gas but also to the existence of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz. On both these issues there was in my view a radical shift of ground. Irving says that he has always accepted that many Jews were killed at Auschwitz. So he has, but not by gassing.
13.158 I have also described Irving's concessions in relation to the Leuchter report: see paragraph 7.89. Irving had previously expressed the view that the conclusions of the report were irrefutable. At trial, as has been seen, he agreed without any great protest that the vast majority of Leuchter's findings were wrong and the report was fundamentally flawed.
13.159 What is the significance of these alterations in Irving's in realtion to the issue with which I am at present concerned with, namely Irving's motivation? It seems to me that the Defendants are justified in their contention that Irving's readiness to resile from positions he had adopted in what he has written and said about important aspects of the Holocaust demonstrates his willingness to make assertions about the Nazi era which, as he must appreciate, are irreconcilable with the available evidence. I also consider that there is force in the Defendants' contention that Irving's retraction of some of his concessions, made when he was confronted with the evidence relied on by the Defendants, manifests a determination to adhere to his preferred version of history, even if the evidence does not support it.
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accessed 11 March 2013