Irving jailed for 3 years after denying Holocaust
DAVID IRVING, the controversial historian, was jailed for three years in Austria yesterday after pleading guilty to charges of denying the Holocaust 17 years ago. "I'm shocked and I will be appealing,'' he said as he was led from a Vienna court by armed police.
Irving turned red when the sentence was delivered and told the judge that he had not understood.
During the 10-hour trial he apologised for his "mistakes'' and "errors of judgment'' in claiming that there were no gas chambers in the Third Reich.
"I made a mistake by saying there were no gas chambers,'' he told the court, which he addressed in fluent German. "I am absolutely without doubt that the Holocaust took place.''
He also apologised to "those few I might have offended''.
But Judge Peter Liebetreu said the court was not convinced that Irving had altered his views.
"We've seen no evidence that he tried to come to Austria to say 'I've changed my mind' and to prove that he was a different person,'' he said.
Irving, 67, appeared in Austria's national criminal court on charges that he had denied the Holocaust during a visit to the country in November 1989. He clutched the most famous of his 30 published books, Hitler's War, in one hand, and a copy of Eggs, Beans and Crumpets, by P G Wodehouse, himself accused of being a Nazi sympathiser, in the other.
During two lectures and in an interview to a newspaper in 1989, Irving called the gas chambers a "fairy tale'', claimed that Hitler had had no role in the Holocaust and had even "offered his hand to protect the Jews''.
The 22-page charge sheet listed some of the statements he had made, including the claim that the accepted version of the Holocaust - the Nazi's systematic extermination of six million Jews during the Second World War - was an "absolute absurdity'' that "millions of people were led to believe''.
Yesterday Irving tried to convince the three judges and six jurors that he started to change his mind in 1991, because of "new evidence''.
This came from the papers of Adolf Eichmann, in which the leading Nazi described visiting a gas chamber, and a friendship Irving formed with a Canadian professor whose family had died in the Holocaust and who had "papers to prove it''.
"I like to find my own sources and work it out for myself,'' he said.
But Michael Klackl, prosecuting, offered evidence that
he said proved Irving still held his controversial views at least until last year.
Elmar Kresbach, defending, said: "He has apologised for what he has said. He has made mistakes and has been willing to admit to them.
"You can go on the streets of England and say 'Hitler was a great bloke' and nothing will happen to you. It should be allowed to make such statements here after 60 years of successful democracy.''
Denying the Holocaust is illegal in Austria and punishable with a sentence of up to 10 years.
The author said that he had visited the country twice since 1989 without being arrested, and had thought that the charges had been dropped.
Lord Janner, the chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said that he was "pleased'' at Irving's conviction.
"It is the conviction and not the sentence that matters,'' he said.
"It sends a clear message to the world that we must not tolerate the denial of the mass murders of the Holocaust,.''
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, the director of the Jewish Information and Media Service, questioned whether Irving should have been jailed.
Dr Romain, rabbi of Maidenhead Synagogue, said: "I welcome yet another public rebuff for David Irving's pseudo-historical views, although personally I prefer to treat him with disdain than with imprisonment.'
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