Discover more from Just the Facts with Gerald Posner
"The World According to David Irving"
David Irving's eye raising interview with Gerald Posner: March 19, 2000
'Those are Adolf Eichmann's personal papers and diaries, the ones the Israelis didn't find when they kidnapped him,' says David Irving, casually pointing to a stack of papers strewn on his kitchen table. His flat is overflowing with books, documents, files, as well as World War II memorabilia. 'They are more interesting than the Eichmann papers Israel just released to help the defence. They are desperate and clutching at straws.'
Irving, 62, relishes the limelight and tweaking his foes. He is thoroughly enjoying the fallout from his high-profile libel lawsuit against Penguin publishers and American Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt. After much prodding, he has agreed to a rare break in his round-the-clock trial work to see me in his sprawling Mayfair townhouse flat. 'After my closing argument in the trial,' he declares, 'I shall give no further interviews. This is probably the last one. I need to get back to my writing after a three-year hiatus.'
Irving remains unrepentant. In three weeks time he will discover if his libel action will salvage his reputation or mark him as permanently ruined. Following closing arguments last week, and while the the judge considers his verdict, one might expect Irving to be circumspect and politically correct. But that is not his style. Instead he seems determined to take on his foes and to reiterate his strident views.
He leads me into his study. There, he sat directly in front of a large colour overhead photograph of Crematorium Two at Auschwitz: 'That's the holy of holies,' says Irving, jabbing one of his pudgy fingers toward the photo. 'No one was gassed there. The stories from survivors where someone says they used to take off the manhole covers and then the gas poured in, it's all false.'
He enjoys, as he puts it, 'deglamorising and deromanticising' the Holocaust. 'The Poles have admitted that the only gas chamber at Auschwitz is a reconstruction built by them in 1948. It's only a damn tourist attraction.'
The charges start coming rapid fire. Although Irving relishes his status as a contrarian and historic mischief-maker, he desperately wants to be accepted as a serious historian. And he is anxious to demonstrate that instead of being cowed by the battery of legal talent defending Lipstadt, he is defiant and unbowed. For the next hour, he launches into a rather remarkable defence of his own conclusions as well as an extraordinary attack on the foundations of the Holocaust. In a virtual monologue, peppered occasionally with German phrases, he rattled off contentions almost faster than I could type them into my notebook computer.
'All Auschwitz survivors are now useless witnesses at any trial since they have all seen Spielberg's Schindler's List, and can recite from memory where the supposed shower heads with gas were.' When he says something he particularly likes, his yellow teeth flash as his thin lips part in a devilish grin.
And he does not back away from some of the extreme statements and acts attributed to him, although he often tries to deflect their importance by casting it as prankish humour. Yes, there were swizzle sticks adorned with little swastikas at his 1991 book party, but 'those were really nothing more than copies of Hitler's personal standard that my publisher had made up for the launch of my book.' (The late Alan Clark was according to Irving, 'a great admirer of Hitler. He sat in that very chair that you are in right before my party started and told me in depth about his admiration for Hitler.')
What about a little ditty found in the voluminous personal diaries produced in the trial:
'I am a Baby Aryan,
Not a Jewish or sectarian,
I have no plans to marry,
An Ape or Rastafarian.
'Yes, that was mine. But I wrote it because of the bounce of the words and they rhyme, not the content. They say it makes me a racist. Well, that is all they got from my diaries. There are 20 million words in those diaries, and these are 20. So that makes me what - 0.0001 per cent racist?' After a moment's hesitation, he adds, 'But I do now wish I had used vegetarian instead of Rastafarian.'
He comes alive when he talks about the trial, the forces he sees arrayed against him, and what he believes he is accomplishing in courtroom 73 of the High Court.
'I have been singled out,' Irving says as he sets forth a grand conspiracy he believes operates against him. 'There has been, for years, a co-ordinated effort to demolish my legitimacy as a historian. It is an international endeavour. It is the international network of the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the Austrian Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, and a number of others.
'These are some of the traditional enemies of truth. These are all bodies that Lipstadt thanks in her book. They always use the slime defence against me. It is expensive for them, with so many lawyers and experts, but they mount it. In any case, Jews should be asking not who pulled the trigger, but why? When the Nazis asked the Slovaks, the Hungarians, the Czechs, and others to give over their Jews, everyone did so gladly. Why did the Americans and Roosevelt refuse to let the St. Louis dock? What is it about these people that no one wanted them?'
It is vintage Irving. He deflects the query about why many respected organisations have taken such a keen interest in his handling of history and instead turns the discussion into a rhetorical question about the nature of Jews, one that he is prepared to answer. Although he is adamant that he is not a racist or anti-Semite, no sooner had he posed the question than he provided an answer that is chillingly reminiscent of the anti-Semitic themes that have persisted for centuries. 'Greed.' He pauses, letting the word virtually hang in the room.
'Fifty years from now you might well have the same problem in the United States. The Jewish élite in America is filling the same positions they held in the Weimar republic during the 1920s and 1930s - controlling the big banks, the film business, media, and the like. The Jews disproportionately held all these big positions in Germany. It's a mirror image in the US. And it will evoke howls of rage from the ordinary citizens who are kept out of the power élite.'
Irving's charge about the 'Jewish élite in America' sounds remarkably similar to that made by the most extreme right-wing race baiters in the US, and it is surprising to hear him say it publicly, especially since his courtroom persona has been that of the measured historian who only has a difference of opinion with other historians.
Although he has been forced to admit at trial that he greatly underestimated the number of Jews killed in mobile gas vans (97,000 died that way), he finds solace in his belief - which almost no courtroom observer shares - that he has made great strides in demonstrating that Auschwitz's Crematorium Two, the site of half a million deaths, is 'a mere legend'.
'It is the geocentre of the supposed death factory,' says Irving, his voice rising slightly as he becomes more excited. 'But I have pictures that show there were no holes in the ceiling, so there was no place for the gas to come from.'
'What about the large quantities of Zyklon B gas that were shipped to Auschwitz?' I ask.
His answer is the classic defence of hardcore revisionists. 'Yes, huge quantities of Zyklon B were shipped there. The appropriate quantities for fumigation, especially with the camp's typhus epidemics and problems with pest control.'
My expression shows my skepticism.
'Look,' he continues. 'Zyklon B may have been used against prisoners. I don't know. But I know crematorium 2 was not an enormous gas chamber.' Although he says the debate over how many were killed by the Nazis is not important, he enjoys contending that 'only 100,000 Jews may have died at Auschwitz,' most from diseases, and the rest from shootings and hangings.
Then, as though his very minor concession about the possible use of gas ran against his spirit, he picked up again in a vitriolic mode.
'Jewish leaders have hijacked the word 'holocaust.' It's even spelt everywhere with a capital H. My Jewish editor in New York would not let me use the word in my book Hitler's War to describe the Allied bombing of Dresden. Another writer could not use it to describe the Irish potato famine. It's like it's a registered trademark. You can't open it or tamper with it. You either have to buy it or not, and if you don't buy it, what a headache.'
Now Irving's face is flushed red. His speech is rapid. There is an anger against the forces he thinks are operating against him. Now it seems to boil over as his rhetoric hits new highs. 'The factory of death legend,' he waves his hand dismissively. 'They have hijacked the entire media with their holocaust story. Nobody suffers from it except for me on who they pour their slime.'
He slumps back as though the outburst tired him.
'What if you are completely proven wrong one day?' I ask him. 'Proven wrong even to your satisfaction.'
He sits quietly for a moment. 'I've said it before, and will again - with a sheepish grin, I'll admit I was wrong, but you will have to give me credit for having given them a great run for 40 years. But I certainly don't expect that to happen.'
UPDATE: Three weeks after the publication of this interview, on April 11, 2000, the British court ruled against Irving. The judge concluded Irving had failed to prove any damage to his reputation after Professor Lipstadt had branded him “a Holocaust denier.”
Poster and 'State of Deception' Courtesy of US Holocaust Memorial Exhibit on Nazi Propaganda