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David Irving: What came out at the trial

Historians in the News




It was in an English courtroom eight years ago that David Irving’s reputation was comprehensively shredded. His attempt to sue American academic Professor Deborah Lipstadt for calling him a Holocaust denier ended in spectacular failure with a damning verdict on his character and professional credibility from the judge.

Even then, Irving had come to court claiming that he was no denier but simply a dissident historian who quibbled over minutiae. But under forensic cross-examination from Professor Lipstadt’s QC, Richard Rampton, Irving’s case unravelled.

At one point, Mr Rampton recalled a speech given by Irving in 1991 on the publication of his revised book, Hitler’s War, in which he had boasted: “You will not find the Holocaust mentioned in one line, not even a footnote. Why should we? If something didn’t happen, then you don’t even dignify it with a footnote.”

At his trial, Irving conceded that “certainly more than a million, certainly less than four million” Jews died at the hands of the Nazis. But he also referred to the gas chambers as an invention of “British propaganda” and refused to accept that there had been a planned mass extermination programme at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

“You have come to believe… that the Nazis did not use gas chambers for the extermination of Jews — let alone millions of Jews?” Mr Rampton asked.

Irving replied: “Yes, I have become very sceptical of that element of the story.”

While it was likely that there had been “some kind of gassing” at Birkenau, Irving told the judge, it was on an experimental basis.

When confronted with evidence that traces of cyanide had been found in ventilator grating taken from a crematorium at the camp, Irving argued that the particular room had been used as a “gassing cellar for fumigating objects or cadavers”.

As he continued along this line, Mr Justice Gray interjected: “I am sorry, this seems a crude question, but what is the point of gassing a corpse?”

To disinfect the bodies of “the typhus-bearing lice that killed them”, Irving contended.

But his plausibility began to vanish as Mr Rampton queried: “What would be the point of gassing a corpse that was shortly going to be incinerated?”...
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