DAVID IRVING'S lament for an "old England", in which the national cricket team was white to a man and Jack Warner gave avuncular advice from the steps of Dock Green police station, was played to a rapt High Court yesterday.
The last thing that Anglo-Saxon Englishmen returning from abroad expected to greet them at Heathrow was an immigration officer of Pakistani descent.
When did it all go wrong? who was to blame? Mr Irving wondered.
The answers came thick and fast from the controversial Hitler historian at the end of his cross-examination from the witness box, where he has spent most of the past four weeks of his libel action.
Describing the start of mass immigration as a "body wound" to Britain, he said: "At the end of the war in 1945 the British Empire was at its greatest ever extent. Our armies straddled the globe. We were beginning to get back the territories that we had lost in the Far East through Churchill's foolish military and naval strategy . . . And suddenly the Empire went."
His words, quoted back at him, were delivered in a speech that he made to a gathering of the right-wing Clarendon Club in 1990. At that time, "groping around in the darkness" of an unrecognisable country in which a handful of true English, as well as Irish, Scots and Welsh, furtively exchanged shared sensations and sorrows, he searched for what he called the "guilty men" who had betrayed the land of their fathers.
He said that "Traitor No 1 to the British cause" was Lord Hailsham of St Marylebone. The deputy leader of the House of Lords and chairman of the Conservative Party, as he then was, was said to have told the Cabinet in 1958: "I don't think this coloured immigration is going to be much of a problem in Britain. We only have 100,000 of these immigrants so far, and I don't think the numbers are likely to grow much beyond that. So on chance I am against having any restrictions imposed."
Mr Irving said that in the search for culprits in his changed England, he would like to think that there was "somebody, somewhere, doing what Gilbert and Sullivan would have had the Mikado do: which is making up a little list of names of people . . . ".
Even if the clock were turned back, however, most of the guilty would have passed on, commemorated only by the bronze plaques, statues and memorials scattered around the capital. Not even Mrs Thatcher, he thought in 1990, would be able to put Britain back where it was, and certainly not the Socialist Party.
Mr Irving went on to tell the Clarendon Club: "Nothing makes me shudder more than two or three months, working on a new manuscript, and I arrive back at Heathrow airport - where of course my passport is checked by a Pakistani immigration officer. Isn't that a humiliation for us English?"
Mr Irving is suing Deborah Lipstadt, an American academic, and Penguin Books for libel over a book in which she describes him as a holocaust denier. He was questioned by Richard Rampton, QC, for the defence, about his remarks to the club and a speech that he made at Bow Town Hall, East London, in 1992. In that speech, he spoke of feeling "queasy about the immigration disaster that's happened to Britain" and the infiltration of the England cricket team by black players.
"Why queasy?" Mr Rampton asked.
Mr Irving, the author of Hitler's War, relied: "I was speaking about what a pity it is we have to have blacks on the team and they are better than our whites. I say it's a pity because I am English."
The England he was born in in 1938 was different, he said, and he was imbued with all its values.
In a clash over Mr Rampton's allegations of racism and his own preference to be described as a patriot, Mr Irving said: "Patriotism is respecting the country handed down to you by your fathers. I don't think there is anything despicable or disreputable about patriotism."
He said that blacks were not inferior to whites but were different from them. "I wish I could go to Heathrow airport, take a 747 and fly back ten hours later to find England as it used to be.
"In the 1950s, Britain was a country at peace. We had defeated a major world power, we were licking our wounds and recovering, and for no perceptible reason we then, through the folly and negligence of the Government we had voted into power, inflicted on this country a body wound which only began at that time."
The hearing was adjourned until Monday.
Rampton: Mr Irving, you have made a suggestion to the effect that [SS officer Hans Almayer] gave a fallacious account because he was tortured or threatened with torture by the Brits. You have absolutely no basis for that whatsoever.
Irving: Mr Rampton, when the time comes to cross-examine your expert witnesses, I shall be putting to them documents which show very clearly what methods were used to extract information from witnesses, including some of the most brutal and horrifying descriptions of what happened to the witnesses in the Malmedy trial. I shall invite them to state whether they consider this kind of evidence is dependable.
Rampton: Mr Irving, I am tempted myself to resort to such methods to get a straight answer to my question, I have to say. You have no evidential _
Irving: It included, for example, crushing the testicles of 165 out of 167 witnesses. Is that what you are proposing to do to me?
Rampton: We cannot fit that many witnesses into your witness box up there,
Mr Irving, I am afraid _
Rampton: Would you like a rest? You seem very énervé , if I can use the French word.
Irving: I can carry on if you can.
Mr Justice Gray: Mr Irving, it occurred to me actually whilst watching the film that you said you were up till four or five this morning. I am very concerned that it is a huge physical strain on you and I would be perfectly happy if you said you had had enough.
Irving: I can go as many rounds with Mr Rampton as he wishes.
Rampton: You do not have to
worry going rounds with me, Mr Irving. I have been doing this
for 35 years.
The setting is light and modern - all blondwood tables, laptops and flipcharts. Yet here, everyday from 10.30 till 4, the talk is dark and ancient: of 3,000 years of suffering and of the greatest crime in human history. For Britain's high court is witnessing a trial like no other. In court 73, from now until mid-April at the earliest, truth itself is on trial.
Officially, the defendant is the American academic Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books. The plaintiff is David Irving, pre-eminent historian of the Third Reich or respectable face of international extremism, depending who you ask. He is fighting a one-man libel action against Lipstadt, over her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust, in which she branded Irving "one of the most dangerous" of the men who call themselves "revisionists."
"Familiar with historical evidence," she wrote, "he bends it until it conforms with his ideological leanings and political agenda." He says that is not only a slur on his reputation; it is also untrue.
The result is a daily performance of extraordinary theatre. Moved to one of the high court's largest rooms to accommodate the press and public, Lipstadt sits surrounded by a team of 11, among them solicitor Anthony Julius - who won fame as the divorce lawyer to Princess Diana - and barrister Richard Rampton.
Their opponent sits alone. David Irving, florid in pinstripe suit and bouffant hair, has a PC for company but no-one else. He is acting for himself, a struggle, he likes to believe, of the English David against the Goliath of world Jewry. He has nothing - no tenured professor's job to feed his young family, he protests, no pension - while Lipstadt enjoys the financial support of several affluent Jews. To the plaintiff this is further evidence of that hoary anti-semitic notion, a world Jewish conspiracy - in general and to silence him in particular. To those rooting for the defence, it is proof of the moral gravity of this trial: the Jewish people is uniting to defend the truth of its experience. They could not save their fellow Jews 60 years ago: now they will at least save their memory.
Irving insists he is not a denier of the Holocaust outright. He admits that some Jews were treated badly by the Nazis and that quite a few died. Beyond that, he says, he is not a Holocaust historian and the subject "bores" him. His real specialism is Adolf Hitler. Nevertheless, he reckons he knows enough to deny three key, defining aspects of the Holocaust: first, that Jews were killed in gas chambers at Auschwitz, second, that Hitler directly ordered their slaughter and third that there was any systematic plan to destroy European Jewry. The defence will have to prove Irving wrong. Not to a jury - both sides agreed to dispense with that - but to the satisfaction of Charles Gray, former libel lawyer and now high court judge.
You would think that would be a simple enough task. We've all seen the archive footage of the camps, the shocking images of human skeletons bulldozed into pits. Surely that evidence settles the matter? Not quite. For Irving looks at those bodies and sees the victims of typhus, an epidemic that thrived in what he admits were the "ghastly" conditions of the concentration camps. He claims these victims were not gassed, but died of "natural causes."
What of the countless volumes of testimony provided by the survivors of the Holocaust, the Primo Levis, Elie Weisels and Hugo Gryns who, along with thousands of others, described the same, deathly process? They all witnessed the train rides that ended in "selection," with those deemed unfit to work herded away for "delousing," into showers that proved to be gas chambers. What of them? No, Irving would say, the Jews have made it all up. Either these accounts are "a matter for psychiatric evaluation" - the witnesses were out of their minds - or the more sinister fruit of a worldwide Jewish plot to guilt-trip the human race.
So the defence offers the evidence of the Nazi themselves. On Wednesday, Rampton raised Hans Almeyer, the second highest-ranking Nazi officer at Auschwitz. In his interrogation by British intelligence Almeyer, too, corroborated the witnesses' account of the extermination process.
But that is not good enough for Irving either. "British Army officers ... had ways of making people talk," the plaintiff said, happily reversing the cliché. If a Nazi confesses to the Holocaust then, according to Irving, his words were obviously beaten out of him. They are worthless.
That leaves two types of evidence, physical and documentary. Physical evidence is hard, since the Nazis took great pains to destroy the death camps - completely in the case of Treblinka, Chelmno and Sobibor - or at least to detonate the gas chambers, as they did at Auschwitz. The ones there are intact, but their ceilings have collapsed, allowing Irving to deny their purpose. Since we cannot see them, cannot examine the ceiling holes through which the gas seeped, we cannot prove they were what thousands of witnesses said they were.
All that remains are the documents. Here Irving, acknowledged as a near-obsessive student of Nazi paperwork, takes over. This week he took great delight in cross-examining Robert Jan van Pelt, a Dutch architectural historian who is an authority on the gas chambers. Van Pelt's testimony was crucial to the defence, because he has studied architects' drawings - recently made available - which leave little doubt as to the chambers' function.
Irving grilled van Pelt on one document in particular, questioning its authenticity. He rattled off questions: about a serial number out of sequence, an incorrect rank for the signing officer, the initials of the typist (which Irving said exist on no other document), even the precise location of the margin. All these discrepancies, bragged Irving, suggested a forgery.
This is where Irving is happiest, rolling around in swastika-embossed paper. He knows these documents so well, he knows their mannerisms. On this terrain, Irving can be frighteningly convincing.
It is left to the defence to prove that, despite Irving's intimacy with the Nazi paper mountain, he has deliberately ignored the bits that don't fit his thesis. So they present rebutting documents, an endless supply of them. But Irving either rubbishes these as forgeries or insists he has never seen them. That way he can't be accused of suppressing or distorting them, as Lipstadt wrote. This results in the bizarre spectacle, repeated this week, of Irving claiming never to have read books he owns, even books he has discussed and criticised in public. If occasionally he is forced to admit he has read an authentic document which contradicts his "revisionism" entirely, he simply pleads an innocent, historian's mistake.
The Lipstadt team must prove otherwise: that Irving is a man with an agenda, a motive. To that end, Rampton spent much of this week confronting the plaintiff with his own words, building up a portrait of what he called a "perverted racist."
There was the headline-grabbing ditty Irving sang to his nine-month old daughter: "I am a baby Aryan/not Jewish or sectarian/I have no plans to marry an/Ape or Rastafarian." There was his wish that Trevor McDonald be confined to reading news of drugs busts and muggings, his reflections on God using Aids as "a Final Solution" to wipe out "the blacks and homosexuals." The court listens to all this, the Jewish students and pensioners in the public gallery staring straight ahead, the occasional Irvingite letting out a laugh at one of their hero's racist excuses for a joke.
In diary entries, video tapes and speech transcripts the evidence has been overwhelming: Irving is a man who regards black people as a different "species" and describes Jews as "the traditional enemies of the truth," a people whose elderly would tattoo their own arms in order to make a few bucks in compensation.
Irving tries to slip out of all this, too. An anti-semitic comment is not really that, he says: it's just what he imagines an anti-semite might say. At one point, he explained away a long rant against the Jews as his attempt to put "himself in the skin" of a Jew-hater. Not him, you understand.
The overall effect is maddeningly frustrating. "I'm hacked off," sighed Rampton, tugging off his barrister's wig at the end of a long afternoon's questioning. Wrestling with an opponent who will not recognise the prejudice in a phrase like "hideous Jewish face" had finally pushed Rampton, who cultivates a manner of curmudgeonly irascibility, into a foul mood.
The trouble with Irving is that he refuses to accept the basic rules of evidence. Show him a videotape of a Florida rally by the far right National Alliance, and he'll deny he's ever heard of the organisation - even though the court can see their banner hanging in the very room where Irving was speaking. Irving carries on regardless - denying, denying, denying.
This is how he approaches the entire topic. He dismisses the evidence of the witnesses' own eyes: whether Jew or Nazi, they made it all up. He sets a standard of proof for his enemies which no human event could ever fully satisfy. And this is a challenge not only to Deborah Lipstadt.
As Martin Gilbert, Churchill biographer and Holocaust historian, who has sat in on the trial throughout, puts it: "It's not every day that history itself gets its day in court." He's right. It is history itself which is on trial here, the whole business of drawing conclusions from evidence. If Irving is able to dismiss the testimony of tens of thousands of witnesses, where does that leave history? If we can't know this, how can we know that Napoleon fought at Waterloo or that Henry VIII had six wives? How can we know anything?
This is a challenge
to the law. For if witness evidence is always unreliable, where
does that leave the courts or justice? But it is also a challenge
to us. If we start to doubt corroborated facts, how can we prevent
ourselves being swallowed up in doubt, unable to trust anything
we see? It might all be a conspiracy, a legend, a hoax. This is
the bizarre, never-never world inhabited by David Irving. Now
the court has to decide: is this our world too?
A Holocaust revisionist who is suing a U.S. historian for libel has dismissed eyewitness accounts, drawings and photographs of Auschwitz gas chambers that showed vents in the roof through which lethal gases were introduced.
David Irving, who is suing Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of Jewish studies at Emory University in Atlanta, and her British publisher, Penguin Books, for libel, insisted at his trial last week that there were no such vents and that their absence "totally demolished" evidence that the gas chambers were used to kill inmates at Auschwitz.
He asserted that the Nazis used the Auschwitz gas chambers solely for the purpose of delousing corpses and their clothing.
The comments by Irving, who is representing himself, came in the course of cross-examining Auschwitz expert Robert Van Pelt.
Irving, who is seeking damages, claims to have been professionally ruined after being described as a Holocaust denier and a distorter of historical data to conform with his own ideological disposition in Lipstadt's 1994 book Denying the Holocaust The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.
Van Pelt, a Dutch historian who works at the University of Waterloo in Canada, served as adviser to the Auschwitz authorities on the reconstruction of the site, which was demolished by the Germans in late 1944 and early 1945.
Van Pelt referred to an SS photograph taken in February 1943 that showed openings on the roof of Crematorium II at Auschwitz through which lethal Zyklon-B pellets were introduced into the gas chambers.
But Irving, who is defending himself, claimed that the picture was taken during building works in December 1942 and that the objects on the roof were drums of sealant.
Van Pelt also produced an aerial photograph taken by the Americans in the summer of 1944 that showed "four dots" -- which he described as "introduction devices" -- on the roof of Crematorium II.
Irving questioned the authenticity of the photograph and said that the dots were too big for such a purpose.
Irving also said the testimony of Henryk Tauber, a Jewish inmate forced to work in Crematorium II, stretched "a reasonable historian's credibility."
He dismissed as "lurid" Tauber's eyewitness accounts of how he saw the SS set one Jew on fire and throw another into a pit of boiling human fat -- and he rejected Tauber's description of how he had helped to incinerate the corpses of up to 2,500 Greek, French and Dutch Jews a day in Crematorium II.
He also rejected Tauber's contention that he had seen cyanide pellets poured into the gas chambers through small "chimneys."
He was unmoved, too, by an account of a "field of ashes" from human remains, some of which was spread on icy roads to assist the passage of vehicles.
According to Irving, a number of revisionist researchers had entered the ruins of Crematorium II, where Holocaust historians have determined that 500,000 people were slaughtered.
The revisionists, said Irving, photographed the collapsed underside of the roof but found no vents, which, he contended, "blows holes in the whole gas chambers story."
"I do not accept that the Nazis, in the last frantic days of the camp, when they were in a blue funk, would have gone around with buckets of cement filling the holes that they were going to dynamite," he told the High Court in London.
Irving has denied that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were used for human extermination, and he has insisted that fewer than 100,000 Jews died -- mostly of natural causes -- at Auschwitz, which he has sought to portray as a particularly brutal labor camp.
But Van Pelt told the court there was "a massive amount of evidence" that 1 million Jews were systematicallly exterminated in the death camp by the Nazis.
He said the accumulated evidence and corroborating testimony that had emerged since World War II made it a "moral certainty" that the gas chambers were the main instruments of murder at Auschwitz between the summer of 1942 and the fall of 1944.
"It will be clear that, by early 1947, there was a massive amount of evidence of the use of the camp as a site for mass extermination," said Van Pelt.
"This evidence had become slowly available during the war as the result of reports by escaped inmates," he said. "It had become more substantial through the eyewitness accounts by former Auschwitz inmates immediately after their liberation, and was confirmed in the Polish forensic investigations undertaken in 1945 and 1946.
"Finally," he said, "this evidence was corroborated by confessions of leading German personnel employed at Auschwitz during its years of operation."
Confessions given by leading German personnel at the camp included that of SS officer Pery Broad, who testified to gassings and burning of corpses, and former camp commandant Rudolf Höss.
The court also learned that there was also evidence from the 1961 Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, documentary evidence of the construction of the camp, including workers' time sheets, plans, photographs and scientific studies of cyanide compounds in the walls of the gas chambers.
"In short," Van Pelt said, "it has become possible to assert as moral certainty the statement that Auschwitz was an extermination camp where the Germans killed around 1 million people with the help of gas chambers."
Questioned by Irving, Van Pelt said he had been "more than deeply moved" by his experience of visiting Auschwitz.
"I was frightened," he said. "I don't believe in ghosts. I have never seen any at Auschwitz. But it is an awesome place and an awesome responsibility as an historian."
Asked by Irving about
the dangers of conducting historical work at Auschwitz, Van Pelt
responded, "One's duty is to be unemotional and objective
but to remain human in the exercise.''*
In response to Gene Lichtenstein's editorial last week, the Journal has received about 100 letters addressed to Professor Deborah Lipstadt. We will print excerpts from them in next week's issue. For a report on the Los Angeles Times' retraction to its story on the trial, see Gene Lichtenstein's editorial, Deborah Lipstadt's Trial and Us.
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