Monday, February 20, 2006

Irving on trial

"Historian" David Irving goes on trial today before an Austrian court on charges of denying the Holocaust. Rather than denying the charges, Irving is expected to plead guilty and seek a suspended sentance. And it's easy to see why. Looking at what he is alleged to have said, Irving wasn't just denying the Holocaust, but was an outright apologist for the Nazi regime:

[The case] centres on two lectures Irving gave in November 1989. In the first, he told a 300-strong audience in Leoben that Kristallnacht - the night in November 1938 when 1,350 synagogues were destroyed - was carried out by "unknowns" dressed up as members of the SA, that Anne Frank could not have written her diary herself, because the Biro wasn't invented until 1949, and that Hitler never gave an order to exterminate the Jews.

He cited research by the (now discredited) American execution technician, Fred A Leuchter, which concluded that no significant traces of cyanide gas were found at Auschwitz, and accused the Jewish World Congress of spreading the "legend" in 1942 that the Third Reich was preparing its Final Solution.

During the second lecture, a day later, in the back room of a Vienna pub, he went even further. A tape of his speech contains such views as "Auschwitz is a legend, just like the Turin Shroud", and "the existence of witnesses proves that there was no mass extermination".

The Times's version is even nastier:

The authenticity of the Holocaust, [Irving] said, could not be established by documents, but only by the testimonies of survivors who were “psychiatric cases”.

The fate of the six million Jews, he said, was clear. “Seventy-four thousand died of natural causes in the work camps and the rest were hidden in reception camps after the war and later taken to Palestine, where they live today under new identities.” The comments were tape-recorded.

These statements can only be described as poisonous, anti-semitic lies, but Irving shouldn't be facing court or prison for them, any more than Turks should be for facing charges of "insulting Turkishness" for talking about the Armenian genocide, or Danish cartoonists should be for insulting (and in some cases, villifying) Muslims. If freedom of expression extends only to speech the majority agree with or find inoffensive, then it is no freedom at all.


yes, I agree.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/20/2006 02:55:00 PM

Must be a bit of a bugger for Irving - he made all those 1989 comments in the flush of enthusiasm generated by Leuchter's findings. Then it turned out Leuchter's results weren't all they could be. So Irving's view of Auschwitz has changed considerably since 1989, but getting up in court and saying so would probably be a better pill he'd rather not swallow. Which means he's got to bite the bullet and plead guilty to opinions he probably no longer holds. Life's a bitch!

I don't doubt the newspapers crowing over this case will be the same ones boasting about Europe's supposed freedom of speech only a short time ago. If he goes down for this, it'll be seriously big news in the Muslim world, and yet another screaming example of why they should consider whitey to be a top-grade bullshitter.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 2/20/2006 08:42:00 PM

Gaah - bitter pill, not better!

Posted by Psycho Milt : 2/20/2006 08:44:00 PM

What a stupid law - all this trial has done is generate welcome publicity for holocaust deniers - they should be free to deny or believe whatever they wish, just as I'm free to belive that the current US president is in fact one of the evil crab-people featured on South Park...

Posted by Anonymous : 2/21/2006 06:03:00 AM

Well, I'm going to agree with Professor Deborah Lipstadt - who could be forgiven for indulging in a mega-dose of schadenfreude over this sentence - who told the BBC last month:
"I would not want to see him spend more time in jail," she says.

"I am uncomfortable with imprisoning people for speech. Let him go and let him fade from everyone's radar screens."

Source:, and as they say the whole thing is worth reading.

All the Austrian courts have done is provide the Neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers with a martyr, and they don't deserve even that tatty a fig-leaf to cover their shame. IMO, Lipstadt's patient defence of her reputation - and one conducted at a considerable personal and professional risk, given the eccentricities of British libel law - did more to tear down Irving's reputation than the prison sentence.

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 2/21/2006 12:01:00 PM