David Irving is unique among modern Holocaust deniers for having first established a reputation as a popular, if controversial, chronicler of World War II. This reputation, combined with his flair for self-promotion and involvement in high-profile lawsuits, made him one of the best-known Holocaust deniers in the world. He suffered a major blow, however, when he lost an internationally publicized legal battle with Professor Deborah Lipstadt, whom he had accused of libel, before a London court. Labeled a Holocaust denier and anti-Semite by Justice Charles Gray, and increasingly shunned by publishing houses, it is unlikely that Irving will ever regain the mainstream cachet he once enjoyed. Nonetheless, he continues to tour, raise money and convene annual "Real History Conferences." He remains one of the world's most effective purveyors of Holocaust denial.
Year of birth : 1938 |
Residence: London and Key West
Publications: Irving is the author of numerous books and articles about World War II. He also posts a monthly "Action Report" on his Web site.
Organizations: Irving founded his own publishing house, Focal Point Publications. He also lectures internationally and has appeared at conferences held by the Institute for Historical Review and the neo-Nazi National Alliance.
Associations : Institute for Historical Review, National Alliance, several European far-right groups and Holocaust deniers.
Legal issues : The governments of Canada, Austria, Germany and Australia have barred Irving from entering their countries. He has been convicted of defaming the memory of the dead in Germany and has lost civil suits in England and the United States. His most significant legal battle ended unsuccessfully in April 2000 when a British court ruled that American historian Deborah Lipstadt had not libeled Irving when she called him a Holocaust denier.
David Irving continues to be extremely active in the United States. Since the conclusion of his spring 2011 American lecture tour entitled, "The Life and Death of Heinrich Himmler, Hitler's lieutenant, 44 years in 44 minutes," Irving has travelled throughout Europe and the U.S. conducting research for a book about the life of Himmler and the third volume of his Churchill series. Though he intended to continue his lecture tour in September 2011, it was postponed due to an impending surgery that required Irving to remain in London for the duration of his recovery. The Himmler tour has since been re-scheduled for May and June 2012 with planned appearances in 21 states.
Despite needing surgery, Irving traveled to the United States in November 2011 to speak at a conference held by American Free Press, a conspiracy-oriented anti-Semitic newspaper published by Willis Carto. Irving shared the podium at the conference with notorious anti-Semite Texe Marrs. Irving reportedly discussed the alleged connection between Chaim Azriel Weizmann, a British Zionist who would become Israel's first President, and Winston Churchill. Irving claimed that Weizmann made a successful bargain with the British Prime Minister"if Churchill could promise the establishment of Israel, Weizmann would get the U.S. involved in World War II.
When Irving cancelled his tour to the United States in September 2011, he instead conducted a tour with a small group of followers to the Majdanek and Auschwitz concentration camps and Hitler's headquarters in East Prussia. In his account of the trip on his Web site, Irving questioned whether gas chambers existed at Auschwitz. He posted pictures of his visit to the camp, writing, "The barriers are erected to stop revisionists satisfying themselves that there are no square holes whatever cut into the roof of the supposed gas chamber in Krema II - which proves that many 'eye witnesses' who 'saw' them lied."
Prior to his tour of "Hitler's sites in Poland," Irving visited over 30 cities around the United States from March through May 2011 to lecture about Himmler.
In July 2010, Irving gave presentations in over a dozen cities
across the western United States, including Boise, Idaho,
and Las Vegas, Nevada. The presentations were held in
secret locations, and attracted Holocaust deniers and neo-
At an invitation-only Irving lecture in October 2009, two
attendees were involved in a knife fight. The men were
reportedly members of two rival racist skinhead
organizations, Volksfront and the Hammerskins. Both men
were sent to the hospital. The police, citing insufficient
evidence and uncooperative witnesses, did not make any
Members of anti-racist organizations often try to disrupt
Irving’s lectures. In a November 2009 gathering of Irving’s
supporters in a Norridge, Illinois restaurant, police arrested
five protesters on charges of disorderly conduct after they
aggressively interrupted the meeting. In the same month,
Irving’s Web site and email accounts were compromised.
Hackers posted Irving’s correspondence on Wikileaks,
publicly exposing the names and personal information of
those who purchased Irving’s lecture tickets and products,
and destroying the information on his Web site. Irving claims
that the incident cost him “thousands of dollars.”
Irving has been active in Europe, as well. In September
2010, Irving led a tour of Nazi locations in Poland. The tour
included a visit to Hitler’s ‘Wolf’s Lair,’ Himmler’s
headquarters, and the Treblinka death camp. Irving excluded
Auschwitz from the tour, claiming that the former death
camp was “overrated” and that ‘the Jews tried to turn
Auschwitz and their tragedy into a money-making machine.”
According to media reports, Irving stated during the tour
that “'Hitler was a great man, one of the greatest Europeans
for centuries” and that “Hitler could be very cruel but he was
On May 25, 2009, Irving traveled to Norway and threatened to attend the Norwegian Festival of Literature in Lillehammer, to which he had been previously invited. His invitation had been rescinded in October 2008 following the protests of Norwegian authors, intellectuals, and civil rights organizations. Irving never visited Lillehammer, but gave an interview on Norway's TV 2 on May 26, 2009. Protesters from the anti-racist organization SOS Racism unsuccessfully attempted to block Irving from entering the television studio in Oslo.
Irving belies his claims to disinterested scholarship through anti-Semitic and racist commentary and pro-Nazi posts on his website:
- In a May 15, 2009 entry in his website's Radical's Diary, Irving calls for a special investigation into Jewish members of the British Parliament in the wake of the allowances scandal.
- On April 20, 2009, all visitors to his site were temporarily directed to a splash page that expressed gratitude to Adolf Hitler, on the 120th anniversary of his birth, for “sav[ing] Western Europe ? and the world ? from Bolshevism.”
- Irving writes on March 2, 2009 that “one of the great benefits of a judge having called me an anti-semite” is that “I can speak it like it is.”
- On the occasion of a December 12, 2008 visit to Gibraltar, Irving cites a 1713 document to claim that Jews should not be allowed to live in the territory. He labels Gibraltar's Jewish residents as “illegal settlers.”
- In a November 4, 2008 commentary, Irving suggests that Jews “maneuvered” to install Barack Obama in the White House because they view him as “pliable.” He also describes Obama's election as a “massive, but not final, humiliation of White America.”
- In a September 9, 2008 entry of his Radical's Diary, he writes about the novelty of being subjected to a special security screening in an airport though he is “not a Jew, or a terrorist, or a revolutionary.”
In March 2009, a British newspaper reported that Irving funds his activities and lifestyle through the sale of Nazi memorabilia.
Irving's association with the Holocaust-denying bishop of the Society of Saint Pius X, Richard Williamson, came to light in the wake of the bishop's rehabilitation by the Vatican after his 1988 excommunication. Williamson attended a reception at Irving's home in October 2008. The Times (UK) published early 2009 correspondence between Irving and Williamson in which the bishop requested Irving's assistance in determining “the objective truth about what happened in Auschwitz and other concentration camps.” In response, Irving provided a summary of his views on the killings of Jews during World War II, asserting that Auschwitz has been “hyped” and that it had no gas chambers, but that mass killings of Jews did occur at other camps. In his message, Irving also disparaged Jews, writing mockingly that “Though shalt have no other Holocaust than ours, that is their religion.”
Early Life and Writings
David John Cawdell Irving was born in
1938. He was considered a gifted student in
grammar school, and in 1957 he entered the
physics program at Imperial College in
London. He dropped out in 1959 due to a
lack of funds, but not before achieving
notoriety for his rightist writings, which
appeared in the student newspaper Phoenix,
and for his editorship of the London
University Carnival Committee's journal,
Carnival Times. In the latter case, Irving
published a special supplement to the paper
that included racist cartoons, a “spirited
defense” of South African apartheid, an
appreciative article about Nazi Germany and
the allegation that “the national press is
owned by Jews.” In the ensuing uproar,
Irving was removed from his position as
editor. In an interview with The Daily Mail
printed at the time, Irving was quoted as saying: “I belong to no political party. But you can call me a mild fascist if you like. I have just
come back from Madrid… I returned through Germany and visited Hitler's eyrie at
Berchtesgaden. I regard it as a shrine.” In a 1981 interview, Irving denied having made these
Following his departure from the college, Irving worked as a steelworker in the Ruhr Valley
in Germany. After a year, having become fluent in German, he returned to University College
in London to complete his degree, which he thought would be necessary to attain “higher
executive jobs.” To support himself while enrolled, he worked as a night watchman and wrote
articles for local newspapers about his experiences in Germany. Also at this time he began
researching and writing what would become his first book, The Destruction of Dresden. By 1962,
according to his own account, he contracted with a magazine to write a series of articles on air
warfare. Supporting himself with his writing, Irving decided that he had no further need for
college. He would later say, “After two years at University College, I decided to devote myself
entirely to a career of professional writing about history, and left without taking the degree.”1
In 1963, Irving, only 25, published The Destruction of Dresden. The book addressed the
February 1945 Allied bombardment of that city, in which tens of thousands of German civilians
died and which left the city nearly razed. Because casualties were so high, historians since the
war have debated the morality of the bombing, and there has been some debate as to how many
Germans were killed. Irving's book, however, seemed designed rather to sensationalize the
tragedy than to weigh the historical evidence. As historian Richard Evans recently demonstrated
while testifying as an expert witness for the defense in the Irving v. Lipstadt trial, Irving reported
the death toll at 10 times the most reliable estimate. The book became an immediate bestseller
nonetheless and may still be the most widely read of Irving's works.
In retrospect, the inaccuracies, omissions and distortions that Irving used in order to arrive
at his figures in The Destruction of Dresden come as no surprise. Throughout his career he has sought to rehabilitate the image of the Nazi regime, and this inclination led him ultimately to
deny the existence of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps and the genocide of the Jews.
In a similar but less spectacular way, by manipulating and misrepresenting historical data in The
Destruction of Dresden, Irving was able to exaggerate the already horrifying Allied actions in
Dresden by an order of magnitude, thereby suggesting a moral equivalency between the Nazi
regime and the Allied governments (or even that the Allies were “worse”). Indeed, since the
book's initial publication in 1963, Irving has lectured extensively on the subject of “Allied war
crimes” in Dresden while minimizing or denying Nazi war crimes. In 1995, Irving reprinted
the book himself, adding the phrase Apocalypse 1945 to the title.
Irving produced several other works following The Destruction of Dresden. In 1963, he
published The Mare's Nest, a study of Germany's development of secret weapons during World
War II; in 1964, The Virus House, on the German effort to develop an atomic bomb. A few
years later, in 1967, The Destruction of Convoy PQ17 described a failed arctic expedition, and
Accident " The Death of General Sikorski suggested that Sikorski, the Polish leader in exile
during World War II, had been assassinated by order of Winston Churchill.
Irving gained wider notoriety 10 years later with the 1977 publication of Hitler's War, a
900-page World War II narrative told “from behind the Fuhrer's desk,” “through Hitler's eyes.”
Irving later explained that he intended Hitler's War to clean Hitler's historical record of the
“grime and discoloration” that had accumulated since World War II. He concluded that
although Hitler was a “powerful and relentless military commander,” he was also a “lax and
indecisive political leader” who ignored internal German affairs of state. Completely focused on
the military aspects of the war, “[Hitler's] grip on his subordinates weakened with each passing
year.” In fact, Irving argued, as a result of Hitler's weak leadership,
domestic policy was controlled by whoever was most powerful in each sector "
by Hermann Göring as head of the powerful economic agency, the Four-Year
Plan; by Hans Lammers as chief of the Reich Chancellery; or by Martin
Borman, the Nazi party boss; or by Heinrich Himmler, minister of the interior
and Reichfuhrer of the evil-famed SS.
The depiction of Hitler as politically limited led to Irving's most startling claim: that Hitler had
little knowledge of, and no part in, the Jewish genocide. Irving acknowledged that as a young
politician Hitler realized that anti-Semitism was “a powerful vote-catching force,” but he
insisted that once the Austrian had attained power, he “paid only lip service to that part of his
Party creed.” In Irving's view, the planning, implementation and responsibility for the
systematic murder of the Jews rested with those under Hitler " subordinate “Nazi gangsters,”
Irving called them " most importantly Heinrich Himmler. As late as 1943, Irving argued,
Hitler knew nothing of the death camps operating in occupied German territory.
From the outset, Irving's conclusions and methods in Hitler's War elicited widespread
criticism from historians. Walter Laqueur of Georgetown University, writing in The New York
Times Book Review of April 3, 1977, stated that Hitler's War
reads like the plea of an advocate who knows from the very beginning what he
intends to prove and who marshals his evidence to his end relentlessly and with
an enthusiasm worthy of a better cause. The result is a book of value to a few
dozen military historians capable of separating new facts from old fiction, of
differentiating between fresh, documentary material and unsupported claims,
distortions, and sheer fantasies.
British historian Alan Bullock, in The New York Review of Books (May 26, 1977), said of
Irving's portrayal of Hitler as a “weak” leader that “there is so great a volume of evidence against
such a view that it is astonishing anyone can seriously suggest it.” John Lukacs, in the National
Review (August 19, 1977), called the book “appalling,” containing “hundreds of errors: wrong
names, wrong dates and, what is worse, statements about events, including battles, that did not
really take place.” Lukacs concluded that these flaws did not merely reflect “inadequate
research…technical mistakes or oversights. They are the result of the dominant tendency of the
Reviewers had further opportunity to explore Irving's “dominant tendency” when he
released The Trail of the Fox, a biography of Nazi general Erwin Rommel, shortly after the
publication of Hitler's War. David Pryce-Jones wrote in The New York Times Book Review
(November 12, 1977):
Like all Irving's work, this goes beyond revisionism: Hitler, his lieutenants and
his creed are to be pure and shining, cleansed of the crimes committed in their
name by tainted degenerates whom Irving keeps in the shadows out of sight.
Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda might have hoped for a postwar line like
The release of Hitler's War also led reviewers to revisit some of Irving's earlier works, where
they encountered the same patterns of distortion. In Accident: The Death of General Sikorski
(1967), Irving attempted to defame Winston Churchill, claiming that he ordered the
assassination of Wladyslaw Sikorski, the Polish Prime Minister-in-exile. In response, British
historian Hugh Trevor-Roper observed (London Sunday Times Weekly Review, June 12, 1977):
It is well known that some years ago Mr. Irving convinced himself that General
Sikorski, who died in an air crash at Gibraltar, was “assassinated” by Winston
Churchill, to whom in fact his death was a political calamity. Not a shred of
evidence or probability has ever been produced in support of this theory and
when it was tested in the courts, Mr. Irving's only “evidence” was shown to be
a clumsy misreading of a manuscript diary (I have myself seen the diary and feel
justified in using the work “clumsy”).
Toward the Radical Right and Holocaust Denial
By 1978, therefore, scholars largely dismissed Irving's methods and conclusions, though
many acknowledged his skill at unearthing previously unknown archival material. Publishers in
England and the United States continued to print his books, which sold well in the popular
market. In ensuing years, however, Irving's views veered still further right. He developed
connections with extremist organizations in Germany and the United States and articulated
theories that were increasingly critical of what he came to call the “Holocaust legend.”2
Irving and the Deutsche Volksunion
Irving began speaking to meetings of the German political party Deutsche Volksunion
(DVU) in 1982. Though not banned or illegal, the DVU had been categorized as “Right Wing
Extremist” since the early 1970s by West Germany's Office for the Protection of the
Constitution (the government body responsible for safeguarding democratic institutions, as
mandated by the Basic Laws of 1949). In a 1985 report, the OPC described the DVU's
platform as including “hatred against foreigners, anti-Semitism, playing down [the crimes] of
the National Socialist terror regime and disparagement of democratic institutions.” (Irving
demonstrated his usual disingenuousness when he recently referred to the DVU as a
“longstanding democratic party” " a true statement only if one defines “democratic party” as
a party that has not been banned by a democratic government.) As early as 1977 the DVU had
given an award to pioneering American Holocaust denier Arthur Butz, author of The Hoax of
the Twentieth Century.
Irving's signature themes " the rehabilitation of Hitler, downplaying the Holocaust and
condemning Allied actions " fit well with the DVU program; the subject of his first speeches
for the party " during a tour of ten German cities " was “The Unatoned Holocaust " The
Expulsion of the Germans.” For the next 12 years he continued to stump for the DVU, but
following his conversion to hard-core Holocaust denial in 1988 (see below), party leaders began
to consider him a liability: his outspokenness threatened to entangle the party in legal action
brought by the German government. His relationship with the party apparently ended in 1993.
Irving and the Institute for Historical Review
Since its founding in 1979, the California-based Institute for Historical Review has been
the foremost Holocaust-denial organization in the United States. Its two main projects have
been publishing the bimonthly Journal of Historical Review, which contains ersatz scholarly
articles “disproving” various aspects of the Holocaust, and its occasional Holocaust-denial
conferences, which attract an international coterie of “revisionists.”
Irving's relationship with the IHR began in September 1983 when he appeared before the
Fifth International Revisionist Conference in Los Angeles. In the course of a speech on
“Contemporary History and Historiography,” he restated his Hitler's War thesis, to wit: “There is a whole chain of evidence from 1938 right
through to October 1943, possibly even later,
indicating that Hitler was completely in the dark
about anything that may have been going on” in
Nazi-controlled territories. For good measure,
he added that the German leader was “probably
the biggest friend the Jews had in the Third Reich, certainly when the war broke out… He was
the one who was doing everything he could to prevent things nasty happening to them (sic).”
As radical as these statements were, Irving realized that, for the dedicated deniers of the IHR,
they didn't go far enough. Reflecting on his own observation that Hitler was unaware of
“anything that may have been going on,” Irving explained:
I use these words very closely. I am sure you realize that I take a slightly different
line from several people here. I would specify as follows: I would say I am
satisfied in my own mind that in various locations Nazi criminals, acting
probably without direct orders from above, did carry out liquidations of groups
of people including Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, mentally incurable people and
the rest. I am quite plain about that in my own mind. I can't prove it, I haven't
gone into that, I haven't investigated that particular aspect of history but from
the documents I have seen, I've got the kind of gut feeling which suggests to
me that that is probably accurate.
Several months after the conference, Robert Faurisson, a French Holocaust denier and
member of the Journal of Historical Review's Editorial Advisory Committee, published “A
Challenge to David Irving” in the Journal. He derided Irving's “gut feeling” about the
Holocaust as unworthy of a serious historian, who should only rely on duly substantiated
evidence. Faurisson concluded that Irving's belief that Hitler knew nothing about any mass
killings was only true because no mass killings took place. There is no record of any direct
response from Irving to Faurisson.
In the mid-1980s, Irving worked on Churchill's War, whose conceit was to tell the story of
World War II from, supposedly, Churchill's point of view. Not surprisingly, Irving portrayed
Churchill as a warmonger whose reckless policies forced the start of the war. Even here, however, Irving did not deny the existence of gas chambers or the extermination of Jews under
the Nazi regime.
Nevertheless, there are indications that by the mid-1980's Irving was gradually moving
toward denial of the basic facts of the Holocaust. This evolution is most evident in his estimates
of the number of Jewish victims of the Nazis. In a 1986 interview in Australia, Irving referred
to the Jewish victims as “millions of Jews, or… hundreds of thousands of Jews " I'm not going
to name a figure.” In 1988, he testified on behalf of Ernst Zundel, a Canadian resident being
prosecuted by the government there for disseminating neo-Nazi and Holocaust-denial
materials. Irving said:
I am not familiar with any documentary evidence of any such figure as six
million… it must have been of the order of 100,000 or more, but to my mind
it was certainly less than the figure which is quoted nowadays of six million…
Irving the Denier
By all accounts, including his own, Irving's “conversion” to hard-core Holocaust denial took
place sometime around the Zundel trial in 1988. Zundel's defense team had commissioned
Fred A. Leuchter Jr., a self-described engineer from Massachusetts who specialized in designing
execution apparatus, to investigate whether the Nazis had used gas chambers to kill Jews. In his
findings, Leuchter claimed that samples he (illegally) chipped off the walls of the gas chamber
at Auschwitz did not contain residue of the cyanide gas recorded as having been used there.
When Irving read The Leuchter Report, he called it “shattering in the significance of its
discovery.” He elaborated:
If a future historian was to be writing the history of the Holocaust controversy,
then undoubtedly they can no longer ignore a document of this validity
(sic)… It is clearly a document written by somebody in the position to know
what he is writing about… I'm very impressed… by the scientific manner of
presentation, by the expertise that's been shown by it and by the very novel
conclusion that [Leuchter] has arrived at… I must say that as a historian I'm
rather ashamed it never occurred to me to make this kind of investigation on
this particular controversy.
In fact, The Leuchter Report was discredited within days of its introduction to the court.
Leuchter identified himself as the Chief Engineer of Fred Leuchter Associates in Boston, but
the prosecution established that he had no engineering education or training (his degree from
Boston University was in history). Under court questioning, he also demonstrated that he was
unfamiliar with basic facts and documents about the gas chambers. The court ruled that
Leuchter did not possess the qualifications or knowledge to serve as an expert witness for the
The New Disciple
Irving remained committed to The Leuchter Report. In 1989 his own publishing house
issued the study in a book version with an introduction by Irving himself. This short essay may
include his first explicit public denial of the Holocaust: he calls Nazi executions of millions of
Jews a “well-financed and brilliantly successful postwar publicity campaign,” modeled on “the
original ingenious plan of the British Psychological Warfare Executive” in 1942 to disseminate
a similar “propaganda story” against Germany. He also described the “Auschwitz concentration
camp and its ‘gas chambers’” as the “holiest shrines” of a “new twentieth century religion.” At
the end of the essay Irving challenged the “incorrigible historians, statesmen and publicists”
who persist in their belief in the Nazi genocide of the Jews to “explain to me as an intelligent
and critical student of modern history why there is no significant trace of any cyanide
compound in the building which they have always identified as the former gas chambers.”
Irving appeared again at the Institute for Historical Review's convention in 1989, the year
following the Zundel trial, and has since been a frequent participant in the organization's
functions. His books are sold through the IHR's Journal of Historical Review, and the IHR has
even organized mini-conventions for local supporters when Irving passes through the United
States. Despite his consistent claims to the contrary, he also began associating with the neo-Nazi
National Alliance during the 1990s. Between 1995 and 1998, Irving addressed National
Alliance events at least seven times.
As his appearances among bigots and neo-Nazis suggest, Irving has become increasingly
emphatic and sweeping in his denial of the Holocaust. Although The Leuchter Report denied the
existence of gas chambers only at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdanek, Irving extended Leuchter's claims in a 1990 speech to include Treblinka and “other so-called extermination
camps in the East.” In his 1991 edition of Hitler's War, he deleted all references to the
extermination of the Jews “because it never occurred.” He was forced, therefore, to explain away
thousands of pages of testimony at Nuremberg. Like many other deniers, he claimed, in
Nuremberg: The Last Battle (1996), that the proceedings against Nazi war criminals were mere
“show-trials” staged by the victorious Americans and British " themselves guilty of crimes
against humanity. Using a method to which he resorts when treating evidence that disproves his conclusions, he claimed that Nuremberg prosecutors forged or tampered with incriminating
documents used in the trials.
Another challenge for Irving has been the survivors of the Holocaust, who experienced
firsthand the horrors of Nazi policies. Irving told a Canadian audience in 1990 that people
claimed to be survivors because “there's money involved and they can get a good compensation
cash payment out of it.” He has also suggested that many of the survivors are mentally unstable;
he told the magazine CODE in 1990 that “the psychiatrists should concern themselves with this
matter some time. There are many cases of mass hysteria.” In a 1991 speech in Ontario, Irving
coarsely expressed his disdain:
These September gatherings have attracted such prominent Holocaust deniers as Bradley
Smith, Mark Weber, Frederick Toben and Germar Rudolf. Also attending were Wellesley
Professor Tony Martin, who argues that Jews controlled the Atlantic slave trade, and
columnist Joseph Sobran, a former senior editor at the National Review deemed “obsessed
on the subject of Israel” by Review editor, William F. Buckley, who “disassociate[d]” the
magazine from the “obstinate tendentiousness” of Sobran's columns.
California Civil Suit
In 1997, Max Kerstan (now deceased), a California resident, lent Irving $10,000 to
underwrite the cost of publishing or reprinting some of Irving's books through a company
Irving set up called Parforce UK Ltd. The agreement specified that Irving pay back the
loan in United States dollars within four months, with the addition of interest calculated
at the annual rate of 15 percent. After Kerstan died, Irving claimed that he no longer had
to repay the loan, on the grounds that the loan had been amended orally by Kerstan to
free Irving from repayment in the event of Kerstan's death. Kerstan's widow, Irma, claimed
that her husband had never changed the original loan agreement. After attempting to
settle the matter amicably, Irma Kerstan brought a civil action against Irving for repayment
of the loan. The court ruled in April 1998 that Irving had to repay the principal sum of
$10,000, along with interest and costs. Irving has yet to repay the money.
Ridicule alone isn't enough, you've got
to be tasteless about it. You've got to say
things like “More women died on the
back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at
Chappaquiddick than in the gas
chambers at Auschwitz.” [Applause]
Now you think that's tasteless, what
about this? I'm forming an association
especially dedicated to all these liars, the ones who try and kid people that they
were in these concentration camps, it's called the Auschwitz Survivors,
Survivors of the Holocaust and other liars, A-S-S-H-O-L-E-S. Can't get more
tasteless than that, but you've got to be tasteless because these people deserve
Irving has also become less discreet in using anti-Jewish language. He has referred to Jews
as “Shylocks” and “our traditional enemy” and has dwelled on the “international Jewish
conspiracy” against him; he says the “big lie” of the Holocaust is “designed to distract attention
from even bigger crimes than what the Nazis did… designed to justify, both in arrears and in
advance, the bigger crimes in the financial world and elsewhere that are being committed by
the survivors of the Holocaust.”
Irving has made some notably racist remarks as well. In a 1994 diary entry (revealed in his
court proceedings against Deborah Lipstadt in 1999), Irving memorialized a poem he
composed for his young daughter (which is, according to Irving, appropriate to use “when halfbreed
children are wheeled past”):
I am a Baby Aryan
Not Jewish or Sectarian
I have no plans to marry an
Ape or Rastafarian.
More prosaically, in 1992 Irving maintained:
I am not anti-colored, take it from me; nothing pleases me more than when
I arrive at an airport, or a station, or a seaport, and I see a colored family
there " the black father, the black wife and the black children… When I see
these families arriving at the airport I am happy, and when I see them leaving
at London airport I am happy. [cheers and laughter] But if there is one thing
that gets up my nose, I must admit, it is this " the way… the thing is when I
am down in Torquay and I switch on my television and I see one of them
reading our news to us. It is our news and they're reading it to me.4
Because many Western democracies have passed laws against Holocaust denial, racial
incitement and defaming the memory of the dead, Irving has frequently come into conflict with
the governments of countries he has sought to enter. In early 1992, German authorities fined
him 10,000 marks (about $6,000) after he violated a federal law against public expression of
the “Auschwitz Lie.” Appealing the fine, an unrepentant Irving declared, “there were no gas
chambers at Auschwitz, I will not change my opinion.” (His fine was subsequently tripled.) In
1993, he was banned from the country. His criminal convictions in Germany led Canadian
authorities to deny him entrance as well; he was deported from Canada in 1992 after he
admitted having lied to a Canadian customs official. Also in 1993 Irving was barred from
visiting Australia on the grounds that he was “likely to become involved in activities disruptive
to, or violence threatening harm to, the Australian community.” Irving fought the ruling for
several years, even threatening defamation proceedings against Australian Prime Minister John
Howard. He failed to win entry to the country, however, which stated in 1996 that “applicants
with comparable criminal records are routinely refused [entry]” by the Australian Department
Along with legal difficulties, Irving has had
trouble with publishers, who have rejected his
manuscripts in recent years. In 1991, Macmillan
UK Ltd chose to stop accepting his new works
and allowed already published books to lapse out
of print. In 1996, St. Martin's Press, a New York
publishing house, canceled its plan to publish
Irving's biography of Joseph Goebbels after
receiving complaints from Jewish organizations.
St. Martin's called the work “effectively anti-
Semitic.” Irving currently self-publishes through
his London-based Focal Point Publications. In
1999, he urged his supporters to invest in Focal
Point, promising a 10 percent return. Whatever
the success of the scheme, he has been able to
reissue several of his out-of-print works,
including Hitler's War.
The Penguin-Lipstadt Trial
His financial needs may have been part of
the motivation for filing suit in a British court
against American Professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University and her British publisher,
Penguin Books, Ltd. in 1996. Irving charged that Lipstadt committed libel when she characterized
him as a Holocaust denier who tended to “misstate, misquote, falsify statistics and falsely
attribute conclusions to reliable sources" in her book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing
Assault on Truth and Memory. Although Lipstadt's book was published in the United States in
1993, Irving waited to sue until it was printed by a British publisher. American law places the
burden of proof on the accuser; to win, Irving would have had to prove that Lipstadt had lied
about him in her book. In addition, under the provisions of American libel law, Irving would
undoubtedly be considered a “public figure,” and thereby would also need to prove that
Lipstadt wrote about him with malice. The libel laws in England, by contrast, place the burden
of proof on the defendant. By suing Lipstadt in his own country, Irving forced her to prove that
her statements about him were truthful.
Lipstadt and Penguin mounted a vigorous defense. They commissioned several expert
witnesses who testified with detailed written reports that Irving systematically misused evidence
to falsify the history of the Holocaust. Richard Evans, Professor of Modern History at the
University of Cambridge, who submitted a 700-page analysis of Irving's work on issues relevant
to the case, testified that he was not prepared for “the sheer depths of duplicity which I
encountered in Irving's treatment of the historical sources, nor for the way in which this
dishonesty permeated his entire written and spoken output.” In the first chapter of the report,
Penetrating beneath the confident surface of [Irving's] prose quickly revealed a
mass of distortion and manipulation in every issue we tackled that was so
tangled that detailing it sometimes took up many more words than had been
devoted to it in Irving's original account. Unpicking the eleven-page narrative
of the anti-Jewish pogrom of the so-called Reichskristallnacht in Irving's book
Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich and tracing back every part of it to the
documentation on which it purports to rest takes up over seventy pages of the
present Report. A similar knotted web of distortions, suppressions and
manipulations became evident in every single instance which we examined. We
have not suppressed any occasion on which Irving has used accepted and
legitimate methods of historical research, exposition and interpretation: there
Evans concurred with what some reviewers had said about Irving as early as 1977:
It is clear from all the investigations which I and my research assistants have
undertaken that Irving's claim to have a very good and thorough knowledge of
the evidence on the basis of which the history of Nazi Germany has to be
written is completely justified. His numerous mistakes and egregious errors are
not, therefore, due to mere ignorance or sloppiness; on the contrary, it is
obvious that they are calculated and deliberate. That is precisely why they are
so shocking. Irving has relied in the past, and continues to rely in the present,
on the fact that his readers and listeners, reviewers and interviewers lack either
the time, or the expertise, to probe deeply enough into the sources he uses for his work to uncover the distortions, suppressions and manipulations to which
he has subjected them.
The trial, in which Irving represented himself, ran from January 11 through March 15,
2000. Justice Charles Gray presided; due to the complexity of the evidence, both sides agreed
to dispense with a jury. Comically compromising his attempt to dismiss Lipstadt's claims that
he admired Hitler, Irving, in a moment of weariness during his closing statement, addressed the
justice as “Mein F┘hrer.”
The mistake presaged Justice Gray's verdict. Ruling for Lipstadt and her publishers, the
justice argued that it was “incontrovertible that Irving qualifies as a Holocaust denier.” He
described Irving as an “anti-Semite,” explaining that “[Irving's] words are directed against Jews,
either individually or collectively, in the sense that they are by turns hostile, critical, offensive
and derisory in their references to Semitic people, their characteristics and appearances.” He
also noted that Irving had associated with the extreme right-wing National Alliance, saying, “In
my view Irving cannot fail to have become aware that the National Alliance is a neo-Nazi and
anti-Semitic organization. The regularity of Irving's contacts with the National Alliance and its
officers confirms Irving's sympathetic attitude towards an organization whose tenets would be
abhorrent to most people.” Finally and most importantly, Justice Gray ruled conclusively on
Irving's historical methods, stating:
I have found that in numerous respects, Irving has misstated historical evidence;
adopted positions which run counter to the weight of the evidence; given
credence to unreliable evidence and disregarded or dismissed credible
evidence.… In my opinion there is a force in the opinion expressed by Evans
that all Irving's historiographical “errors” converge, in the sense that they all
tend to exonerate Hitler or to reflect Irving's partisanship for the Nazi leaders.
If indeed they were genuine errors or mistakes, one would not expect to find
this consistency… Mistakes and misconceptions such as these appear to be by
their nature unlikely to have been innocent. They are more consistent with a
willingness on Irving's part to knowingly misrepresent or manipulate or put a
“spin” on the evidence so as to make it conform with his own preconceptions.
Consistent with British libel law, Irving was ordered to pay the legal fees incurred by the
defense, which amounted to nearly 2 million pounds. An initial payment equivalent of
$250,000 was ordered following Irving's protests that he faced bankruptcy and that he planned
to appeal. On July 20, 2001, an appeals court denied his request for a new trial.
Austrian Prison Term
In February 2006 David Irving was convicted by an Austrian jury of violating that country's law prohibiting the denial or minimization of crimes committed by Nazis, in connection with two speeches Irving had made there in 1989, in which he had denied the Holocaust. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
During the trial, which lasted one day, Irving pleaded guilty to the charges but claimed that he had changed his view on the Holocaust since his 1989 speeches. “I made a mistake by saying there were no gas chambers,” he said according to news accounts. “I am absolutely without doubt that the Holocaust took place.”
Irving explained to the court that he came to reject his earlier denial of the Holocaust in 1991, after reading documents written by Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi official who had overseen part of the extermination of European Jewry during World War II. “The Nazis did murder millions of Jews,” Irving said.
Irving's claim of a 1991 rejection of Holocaust denial are belied, however, by the numerous documented instances in which he denied the Holocaust, often in speeches before neo-Nazi audiences, since that date. Many of those instances were presented as evidence in a 2001 libel trial initiated by Irving, which ended with a British judge ruling that it is “incontrovertible” that Irving is an “active Holocaust denier.” Even in his current trial Irving persisted in stating that the widely accepted figure of six million Jews killed during the Holocaust is “symbolic.”
Irving was apprehended by Austrian police when he entered the country in November 2005, en route to a speaking engagement before a right-wing group. According to his partner Bente Hogh, who was interviewed by news media after the trial, Irving was aware that he might be arrested if he entered Austria but went anyway. “David doesn't take advice from anyone,” she said. “He thought it was a bit of fun, to provoke a little bit.”
Irving was released from prison and deported from Austria in December 2006, after serving 13 months of a three-year sentence. In press interviews the newly released Irving admitted that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz, but perversely insisted that fewer than half of the six million Jews estimated by mainstream historians to have perished under the Nazis were actually killed.
According to Agence France Presse, Irving stated, “I think Mel Gibson is right,” in a telephone interview with reporters while he was still in Austria, awaiting deportation to England. Irving appears to be referring to Gibson's much-publicized allegation that Jews are “responsible for all the wars in the world.” This is consistent with the approach to World War II that Irving has become famous for: accepting Nazi propaganda claims that Jews were themselves to blame for stirring up conflict, and that the suffering inflicted upon them by the Nazis was only a logical defensive position against dangerous and subversive Jews.
Following his 2000 defeat in the libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt and 2006 imprisonment for Holocaust denial in Austria, Irving's public appearances have been limited. Some of his planned speaking events have been cancelled, and others monitored by police. He continues to tour and sell his books, however, especially in less mainstream venues. He has also been called upon to provide a non-mainstream perspective in several public debates on free speech.
On March 15, 2007, Irving delivered a political speech at a Budapest rally of the neo-fascist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP). Irving had previously spoken at a rally of the far-right MIÉP on October 23, 2003. Irving's book Uprising! One Nation's Nightmare: Hungary 1956 argues that the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against the Soviet-backed Communist regime “was primarily an anti-Jewish uprising,” apparently endearing him to the staunchly nationalist and xenophobic party. His willingness to associate with the Hungarian far-right recalls his past alignments with the ultra-nationalist Deutsche Volksunion in Germany and National Alliance in the United States.
On May 18, 2007, organizers of the Warsaw International Book Fair requested that Irving leave the gathering after they were notified of his works' Holocaust denial.
Over the objections of British politicians, Holocaust survivors, anti-fascist groups and students, Oxford University's Oxford Union debating society hosted Irving during a forum on free speech on November 26, 2007. Nick Griffin, the Holocaust-denying national chairman of the far-right British National Party, also spoke at the forum. Dr. Julian Lewis, a senior Conservative Party member of Britain's Parliament, resigned from the Oxford Union in protest, and Defense Secretary Des Browne withdrew from an Oxford Union speaking engagement.
Alerted to Irving's past Holocaust denial, Spanish police were present at a talk Irving gave in a Barcelona bookstore on December 15, 2007. The police did not prevent Irving from speaking, as the local Jewish community had requested, although officers recorded the speech in order to analyze it for Holocaust denial content. Spanish law prohibits xenophobic comments and the defense of genocide. In his remarks, Irving reportedly claimed that “two or three million” Jews were killed by the Nazis.
In January 2008, a scheduled historical conference in Liverpool, England was cancelled when the hotel venue's owners learned that Irving would be among the speakers.
Irving appeared on Ireland's most-watched television program, “The Late Late Show”, on March 7, 2008. Protesters responded by gathering outside the studios of the show's broadcaster and Irish public station, RTÉ. Irving was also interviewed on “Newstalk”, an Irish radio program, on March 9, 2008.
A philosophical society at University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland withdrew its invitation for Irving to participate in a March 10, 2008 debate over free speech following the threat of violent protest against the event. Irving had been previously scheduled to address a gathering at UCC in 1999 but that talk was called off after 600 protestors and guards clashed in front of the speaking venue.
Between May and September 2008, Irving toured the United States giving talks to small groups of his supporters in dozens of cities across the country. Only a few of those gatherings attracted public attention. Two of Irvingz's events, however, were met by public protests and caught the attention of the local media.
On June 9, 2008, Irving spoke on the Eugene, OR campus of the University of Oregon, addressing an audience of 100 people, not all of whom were his supporters. A group of approximately 50 students and other Eugene residents held a protest vigil in response. Irving's talk was hosted by the Pacifica Forum, a “discussion group” sympathetic to Holocaust denial that has previously hosted anti-Semitic speakers such Mark Weber of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR).
Irving's appearance in New York City also drew media attention and public opposition. Irving publicized a July 16, 2008 talk at a church on Manhattan's Upper West Side, but the church refused to host the gathering when it learned of Irving's record of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. He instead addressed supporters at a church on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Irving and his organizers reserved the church's meeting room under the pretense of holding a book discussion, without divulging David Irving's involvement. Representatives of the church expressed “outrage” at being deceived by Irving and condemned his “bigotry.”
During his tour of the United States, Irving also addressed a meeting of the Holocaust-denying Institute of Historical Review in California on June 14, 2008.
Irving also did some speaking in Europe towards the end of 2008. On December 13, he spoke to an audience of fewer than 20 people at a neo-Nazi bookstore in Barcelona, Spain, with around 100 protesters assembled outside. The talk was recorded by Spanish police by order of the local district attorney in order to ascertain whether Irving violated a Spanish law against inciting xenophobia or justifying genocide.
Irving was among eight controversial figures to be featured in Rex Bloomstein's film “An Independent Mind,” screened on British television on December 9, 2008. In the film, Irving alleged that there was "not a single document linking Hitler with decisions on the Holocaust, except negative decisions - ‘This mustn't happen’; ‘That's not to be done’; ‘Spare that man’ - where I say he's putting out his hand to protect Jews or individual Jews.”
1See “David Irving: Information for Counsel on my Background,” on Irving's Web site
2Irving used the phrase, for example, in a videotaped speech he made at a 1993 “Real History” convention in Australia
4See “David Irving's Talk to the Clarendon Club” on Irving's Web site