There is scarcely a dull moment these days in London’s Royal Courts of Justice, where a Holocaust revisionist is engaged in a landmark libel case against a U.S. Holocaust scholar.
The latest twist came when David Irving announced to the court, just settling in for a protracted three-month trial, that he was anticipating his arrest by British police because a German court is seeking his extradition.
The long-standing warrant for his arrest, he said, relates to his claim that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were not genuine.
Irving cited the extradition as an example of the “the kind of hatred I face and the problems I face because of the repugnant allegations against me” in Deborah Lipstadt’s 1993 book, “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory,” published by Penguin Books.
Irving is claiming that references to him in the book have “blackened” his name and damaged his career as a writer and historian by alleging that he manipulates data to suit his ideological preferences, labeling him a distorter of history and portraying him as a Holocaust denier.
The book, he said, had generated “waves of hatred against me.”
As an example, he showed the judge a Jan. 12 article from the German daily Stuttgarter Zeitung, which reported that a court in nearby Weinheim had asked the British government to facilitate his extradition.
The extradition request stemmed from a lecture Irving had given in Weinheim in which he had asserted that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were a fake.
The lecture was given in September 1990, Irving was indicted for racial incitement in 1996 and extradition proceedings were launched in 1998.
Irving said no attempt had been made to serve a warrant against him, but, he declared, the British government had agreed to cooperate with Germany.
He also conceded that he had been fined $24,000 and barred from Germany in 1992 for making the same statement at a meeting in Munich, also in 1990.
Earlier, in the course of five hours in the witness box, Irving denied that 6 million Jews had died in the Holocaust and told the High Court that it was logistically impossible for the Nazis to have killed millions of Jews in gas chambers.
He also said there was no evidence that Hitler had sanctioned a systematic program of extermination of the Jews.
Irving, 62-year-old author of some 30 books on World War II, conceded that the SS might have undertaken gassing experiments, but he denied that millions could have been killed in this way.
Asked by lawyer Richard Rampton, appearing for Lipstadt, whether he agreed that 6 million had died “in one of the blackest chapters of 20th-century history,” Irving replied, “A lot of the numbers are very suspect.”
Judge Charles Gray told Irving: “It’s said against you that you tried to blame what was done against the Jews by the Third Reich on Jews themselves.”
Irving responded, “I have said on a number of occasions that if I was a Jew, I would be far more concerned not at who pulled the trigger, but why.
“Anti-Semitism is a recurring malaise in society,” he continued. “There must be some reason why anti-Semitic groups break out like some kind of epidemic.”
Rampton asked whether he accepted that the Nazis killed “by one means or another — murdered, hanged, put to death — millions of people during World War II?”
“Yes,” replied Irving, adding: “I hesitate to speculate. It was certainly more than 1 million, certainly less than 4 million.”
Although Irving conceded that the Jews had suffered a tragedy, he said “the people who died were not just Jews but Gypsies and homosexuals, the people of Coventry and the people of Hiroshima.”
Asked how many innocent Jewish people he thought the Germans had killed deliberately, Irving raised the case of Anne Frank, who died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen at the age of 15.
“She was a Jew who died in the Holocaust,” he said, “And she wasn’t murdered unless you take it in the broadest sense.”
Of Hitler, Irving said “there was a time when he was on the right course, but he went off the rails. You can’t praise his racial program or penal methods, but he did pick up his nation out of the mire after World War I, reunified and gave it a sense of pride again.”
Irving said that he had ignored Lipstadt’s book until 1996, when he found that bookstores refused to stock his own new work, “Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich.”
Irving, who is defending himself, acknowledged during an adjournment in the trial that he was aware of the adage that “a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.”
“We shall see,” he commented.
Unlike Lipstadt, who maintains a wary distance from the media on the advice of her attorney, Irving is extremely accessible during breaks in court proceedings.
Approached by a woman who told him that her grandparents had died at Auschwitz, he replied, “You may be pleased to know that they almost certainly died of typhus, as did Anne Frank.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.