June 4, 1996
Q & A on David Irving
There has been a storm of controversy surrounding the publishing
of David Irving's most recent book, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich.
A prominent Holocaust denier, pseudo-scholar and Hitler apologist, Mr. Irving
published the book himself in England. It was then scheduled for publication
in this country until St. Martin's Press withdrew its contract after historians,
critics and the Anti-Defamation League brought Mr. Irving's questionable
scholarship and research to light.
Mr. Irving's background and links to the Holocaust-denial movement are described
in the following Q&A, which may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted
with proper credit.
Q: How long have Irving's right-wing views been known?
A: David Irving's allegiance to right-wing causes has been public knowledge
since 1959: in that year he printed a publication at London University which
included a "spirited defense" of South African apartheid, an appreciative
article on Nazi Germany, and the allegation that "the national press"
in Great Britain "is owned by Jews."
Q: What was Irving's reaction to questions about the views expressed in
his 1959 publication?
A: When asked at the time by The Daily Mail about his political beliefs,
he replied, "[Y]ou can call me a mild fascist if you like. I have just
come back from [Francisco Franco's] Madrid...I returned through Germany
and visited Hitler's eyrie at Berchtesgaden. I regard it as a shrine."
Q: What are Irving's qualifications as a historian?
A: David Irving never graduated from college, and has no academic credentials
as a historian.
Q: What are Irving's contacts with the Holocaust-denial movement and the
radical right worldwide?
A: Irving has lent his name and presence to activities sponsored by Gerhard
Frey, publisher of the far- right German newspaper National Zeitung, and
president of Deutsche Volksunion (DVU), or German People's Union, a group
which has expressed sympathy toward the Nazi regime.
Q: Who has served as Irving's leading representative in Germany?
- He has also spoken on at least five occasions since 1983 before the California-based
Institute for Historical Review (IHR), the leading Holocaust-denial organization
in the world.
- Other American appearances in recent years have been sponsored by Holocaust
deniers Robert Countess and Sam Dickson; Holocaust deniers appear to constitute
the bulk of his American and international contacts.
- In November 1994, Irving also shared a platform with former Klan leader
and neo-Nazi David Duke at a conference sponsored by Liberty Lobby, the
leading anti-Semitic organization in America.
- He testified for the defense at the 1988 trial of Ernst Zundel, Canada's
leading Holocaust-denier and neo-Nazi, and has addressed far-right groups
in Australia and South Africa.
A: According to the Evening Standard, Irving's German press relations as
recently as 1993 were handled by Ewald Althans, a neo-Nazi activist convicted
in German courts of violating hate crime laws because of his Holocaust-denying
Q: Has Irving ever been prosecuted for his Holocaust-denial remarks?
A: Irving himself was convicted and fined 10,000 marks--about $6,000--when
a Munich court ruled in May 1992 that he had violated hate crime laws by
asserting that Auschwitz gas chambers were "fakes" built after
the war to attract tourists to Poland.
Q: What are some of the explicit statements made by Irving about the Holocaust?
A: On the witness stand at the May 1988 trial of Ernst Zundel, Irving stated
that he had found "no document whatsoever indicating the Holocaust
occurred." Similarly, the April 1990 IHR Newsletter quoted Irving as
saying, "the holocaust of the Germans of Dresden was real. The holocaust
of the Jews in the Auschwitz gas chambers is a fabrication."
Q: How have Irving's previous publications been altered to reflect his current
espousal of Holocaust denial?
A: After reading the Holocaust-denying document The Leuchter Report, which
argues that no execution gas chambers existed at Auschwitz, Irving pledged
to delete all references to the gas chambers from an upcoming edition of
Hitler's War. He reasoned that because the Holocaust "never occurred,
it did not even warrant a footnote in the new edition of the book."
Q: What has Irving said about survivor testimony and the Holocaust?
A: Responding to the Russian publication of a roster of over 74,000 Auschwitz
victims, Irving asserted in 1989, "I do not think there were any gas
chambers or any master plan. It's just a myth and at last the myth is being
eroded.... Eyewitness evidence is a problem for psychiatrists."
Q: What was Irving's response to the discovery of Adolf Eichmann's post-War
A: In January 1992 Irving attracted public attention by promoting a copy
of Adolf Eichmann's unpublished post-war memoirs. Quoted in the London Daily
Telegraph, he stated, "It makes me glad I've not adopted the narrow-minded
approach that there was no Holocaust. I've never adopted that view. Eichmann
describes in such very great detail that you have to accept that there were
Q: Has Irving characterized his statement on the Eichmann memoirs as a reversal
of previous Holocaust-denying statements?
A: In the February 1992 newsletter of the Institute for Historical Review,
Irving asserted: "My position remains unchanged." Though he referred
to "certain My-Lai like atrocities" against Jews in occupied Soviet
territories, he reiterated his denial of the concentration camp gas chambers.
Q: Has Irving made anti-Jewish remarks recently?
A: Addressing the London Jewish Chronicle, also in February 1992, Irving
warned, "The Jews are very foolish not to abandon the gas chamber theory
while they still have time." He then predicted a new wave of anti-Semitic
violence in response to the way Jews "have exploited people with the
gas chamber legend."
Q: What is the central argument of Hitler's War?
A: His most famous and successful book, Hitler's War, was published by Viking
Press in 1977; it argues that Hitler neither ordered nor even knew about
the genocidal policy known as the "Final Solution."
Q: How did The New York Times Book Review describe this book?
A: Professor Walter Laqueur wrote in The New York Times Book Review 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."
Q: What did The New York Review of Books say?
A: Alan Bullock wrote in The New York Review of Books at the time that "there
is so great a volume of evidence against [Irving's] view that it is astonishing
anyone can seriously suggest it."
Q: Have other historians found fault with the book?
A: John Lukacs wrote in National Review that Irving's book contained "hundreds
of errors: wrong names, wrong dates, and...statements about events...that
did not really take place. These errors, however, are not the result of
inadequate research; they are not technical mistakes or oversights. They
are the result of the dominant tendency of the author's mind."
Q: How have subsequent books been received?
A: David Cannadine, writing of Irving's Churchill's War in The New York
Review of Books, stated "[Irving uses] a double standard of evidence,
demanding absolute documentary proof to convict the Germans (as when he
sought to show that Hitler was not responsible for the Holocaust) while
relying on circumstantial evidence to condemn the British (as in his account
of the Allied bombing of Dresden)."
Q: What is the main argument of Churchill's War?
A: Patterns of Prejudice, a Jewish publication printed in London, described
the author's Churchill's War (1987) as "probably Irving's most crudely
anti-Jewish work to date." It added, "Irving begins to interweave
anti-Americanism with anti-Semitism claiming Churchill was a gentleman of
much mixed blood through his American mother...."
Q: What relationship has David Irving had with the British press?
A: In July 1992, London's The Independent newspaper reported that the London
Sunday Times had hired Irving in connection with the latter paper's publication
of the diaries of Joseph Goebbels. Irving told The Independent that his
contract called for each installment to credit his assistance "in the
transcription, translation and recovery of the diaries." Reportedly,
the Sunday Times had paid Irving 75,000 pounds for his services. In response
to the inevitable controversy Irving's involvement in the project provoked,
the Sunday Times stated that Irving had been hired merely to transcribe
Goebbels' handwriting and that translation and editorial duties would be
performed by Norman Stone, an Oxford professor and Times staff writer. Regardless
of the Times' claim that Irving was needed to decipher Goebbels handwriting,
however, the diaries were, from 1941 on, typed by professional stenographers.
Q: How did Irving respond to the controversy surrounding his role in the
A: Irving told The Independent, "I regard my payment from the Sunday
Times as being in two forms; as payment in the form of cash and payment
in the form of prestige. My reputation is, oddly enough, more important
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