David Irving has been 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."
Though Irving was sentenced to three years in prison, under the charges filed against him he could have received up to ten years. Austrian prosecutors say the three-year sentence is too lenient, especially in light of Irving's "special importance to right-wing radicals," and are filing an appeal to have the sentence lengthened. For his part, Irving is appealing to have the sentence reduced. He is likely to remain in prison for some time while the appeals work their way through the Austrian legal system.