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Press ReleaseAnti-Semitism-USA
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.

  • 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.
Q: Who has served as Irving's leading representative in Germany?

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 statements.

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 memoirs?

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 mass exterminations."

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 Times project?

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 than money."

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