Eichmann papers convinced Irving Holocaust happened
British historian David Irving pleaded guilty on Monday to charges of denying the Holocaust 17 years ago, but told an Austrian court that the personal files of Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann had changed his views.
The 68-year-old Irving faces up to 10 years in jail in Austria in a case based on remarks he made in a 1989 interview and in speeches when he visited Austria, where denying the Nazi genocide on Jews is a crime.
"I'm not a holocaust denier. Obviously, I've changed my views," Irving, a historian who has published many books on the history of Nazi Germany and World War Two, told reporters on his way into the Vienna courtroom.
Asked by the presiding judge Peter Liebetreu whether he had denied in speeches in 1989 that Nazi Germany had killed millions of Jews, Irving said he had until he had seen the personal files of Adolf Eichmann, the chief organizer of the Holocaust.
"I said that then based on my knowledge at the time, but by 1991 when I came across the Eichmann papers, I wasn't saying that anymore and I wouldn't say that now," Irving said.
"The Nazis did murder millions of Jews," said Irving, who answered the court in fluent German.
Irving's answers failed to impress state prosecutor Michael Klackl, who called Irving in his opening statement a falsifier of history who was dressed up as a martyr by right-wing extremists.
"The David Irving I heard today in the court was not the David Irving I got to know in preparing for this trial," Klackl told Reuters after the court adjourned for lunch.
"The court will have to decide whether Irving has made an honest confession or is merely engaged in tactics (to reduce his sentence)," he said.
The historian was detained in November on an arrest warrant issued in 1989. He faces between one and 10 years in jail, and prosecutor Klackl said Irving's confession could persuade the court to go for a less drastic penalty.
Irving's lawyer Elmar Kresbach asked the court for leniency because Irving had changed his views and was no threat to Austria's democracy.
However, the prosecutor said Irving remained an icon for neo-Nazis and revisionist historians worldwide.
A court of eight lay jurors and three judges is expected to give its verdict on Monday.
Irving was arrested when he was on his way to address Austrian radical right-wing student fraternity Olympia, and has attended meetings of Holocaust denying historians even after the time of his professed insight into the Holocaust's truth.
A British High Court ruling in 2000 rejected Irving's libel suit against an American professor and her publishers, declaring Irving "an active Holocaust denier ... anti-Semitic and racist".
The Viennese court will hear the reporter who interviewed Irving back in 1989 on Monday as its sole witness, and the prosecutor said he expected it to issue its verdict later today.
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