Historian labelled a liar over his views on fate of Jews says attack on his reputation robbed him of financial securit
The alleged Nazi apologist David Irving branded survivors of the Auschwitz death camp with the acronym "ASSHOLS" and denied the Holocaust happened, the high court heard yesterday.
Mr Irving was condemned as a liar and "falsifier of history" as the most emotive libel trial for a generation began.
The controversial historian is suing over a book which said he denied the Holocaust as a historical fact, and wilfully manipulated and distorted history.
Mr Irving issued a libel writ against the American academic Deborah Lipstadt, author of Denying the Holocaust: the Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, and its publisher Penguin books.
The defendants say the accusations against Mr Irving, 62, are justified and deny libel.
Opening his case Mr Irving said the book stemmed from "an organised international endeavour" to vandalise his reputation which had led to him being shunned by leading publishers. He claimed that the "waves of hatred" following the book had robbed him and his four children of their future financial security.
Richard Rampton QC, for Professor Lipstadt and Penguin, savaged Mr Irving. He quoted a 1991 speech in which Mr Irving allegedly rubbished the idea that the Auschwitz camp existed to murder Jews.
In the same speech in Calgary, Canada, said Mr Rampton, Mr Irving complained about Jewish protests at his being granted a platform and is alleged to have said: "And it's happening now. They're zeroing in on the university [saying] 'Nazism not welcome here. Self-professed moderate fascist' - I strongly object to that word 'moderate'."
There was standing room only at court 37 at the high court in London.
Mr Irving is representing himself in the trial, expected to last around three months and being heard without a jury because of the complexity of the evidence. He sat impassively as the defence detailed alleged falsehoods from his books about the second world war.
Mr Rampton continued: "Mr Irving is nowadays a Holocaust denier. By this I mean that he denies that the Nazis planned and carried out the systematic murder of millions of Jews, in particular - though by no means exclusively - by the use of homicidal gas chambers, and in particular - though by no means exclusively - at Auschwitz in southern Poland."
Mr Rampton said the tell tale evidence of Mr Irving's attitudes were that he addressed audiences that often consisted of "radical right-wing, neo-fascist, neo-Nazi groups of people".
Mr Rampton said the case was not primarily about whether the Holocaust occurred or Hitler's complicity: "the essence of the case is Mr Irving's honesty and integrity as a chronicler - I shy away from the word historian - of these matters.
"For if it be right that Mr Irving, driven by his extremist views and sympathies, has devoted his energies to the deliberate falsification of this tragic episode in history, then, by exposing that dangerous fraud in this court, the defence may properly be applauded for having performed a significant public service."
Mr Irving likened the charge that he was a Holocaust denier to "a yellow verbal star".
In the book Professor Lipstadt had branded Irving as one of the most prominent and dangerous Holocaust deniers.
He said: "The word 'Holocaust' is an artificial label commonly attached to one of the greatest and still most unexplained tragedies of this past century."
He said Professor Lipstadt had used the phrase 'Holocaust denier' repeatedly and took pride in coining it.
"Meaningless though it is, the phrase has become a part of the English language. It is a poison to which there is virtually no antidote, less lethal than a hypodermic with nerve gas jabbed in the neck, but deadly all the same: for the chosen victim, it is like being called a wife-beater or a paedophile.
Mr Irving, 62, opened his claim for damages in a speech where at times his voice broke with emotion. Sometimes slapping the table in front of him, he said far from denying the slaughter of Jews he had unearthed documents revealing new aspects of the Holocaust.
Mr Irving told Mr Justice Gray: "By virtue of the activities of the defendants ... I have since 1996 seen one fearful publisher after another falling away from me, declining to reprint my works, refusing to accept new commissions and turning their backs on me when I approach.
"Such is the nature of the odium that has been generated by the waves of hatred recklessly propagated against me by the defendants."
He told the court that the book had slashed his earnings which once reached £100,000 a year from his writing.
Mr Irving said that for Professor Lipstadt to win the case and justify the charges of manipulation and distortion, she would have to show that "I knew what happened; and that I perversely and deliberately portrayed it differently from how I knew it to have happened".
Mr Irving condemned laws in Germany aimed at protecting the memory of the Holocaust: "Some good friends of mine are sitting at this very moment in German prisons" after questioning the scale, system and numbers of dead.
He said he felt no "shame" that he himself was fined in Germany under these laws for saying the gas chamber at Auschwitz seen by tourists "is a fake built by the Poles after the war, just like the one established by the Americans at Dachau".
"Fifty years on," said Mr Irving, "it has become a criminal offence to question whether Nuremberg [war crimes trials] got it right. History is to be as defined by the four victorious powers."
Mr Irving is the author of Hitler's War and Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich. The case continues.
March 24 1938, Essex.
Sir Anthony Browne school, Essex; University College, London (never completed his degree).
In 1959 joined August Thyssen as a steelworker in the Ruhr, Germany. Later worked as a clerk with the US Strategic Air Command at an airbase near Madrid. Has been a writer since the early 1960s.
The Destruction of Dresden (1963), The Virus House (1967), The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe (1973), Hitler's War (1977), The Trail of the Fox (1977), Uprising! (1981), Hess: The Missing Years (1987), Göring; a Biography (1989), Goebbels; Mastermind of the Third Reich (1996), Nuremberg: The Last Battle (1997).
City College, New York. Brandeis University, Boston.
Has taught at UCLA and Occidental College, Los Angeles. Currently Dorot Associate Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.
In 1994 President Clinton appointed her to serve on the United States holocaust memorial council.
Member of the American advisory committee on religious freedom abroad since 1996.
Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust (1986), Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (1993).
Research: Sally James
The right-wing historian David Irving, once described by opponents as "the world's highest-profile neo-Nazi" for denying that Hitler ordered the Holocaust, goes to the Royal Courts of Justice today to try to clear his name.
Mr Irving is suing Penguin Books for accusing him of distorting history to make out that the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis did not happen.
The historian is also bringing a libel action against an American author, Deborah Lipstadt, whose book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory was published by Penguin. She occupies the Dorot Chair in Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mr Irving says the book associates him with "extremist Fascist leaders and practices". He believes he is presented to the book's readers as "an Adolf Hitler partisan who wears blinkers, and skews documents and misrepresents data in order to reach historically untenable conclusions, specifically those that exonerate Hitler". He is also angered by an allegation that he destroyed documents he obtained from archives in Moscow.
Penguin says Mr Irving's claims are "nonsense" and several academics are to appear in support of the book. They include Richard Evans, a professor of modern history at Cambridge, Peter Longerich, a history professor at London University and the Canada-based academic Robert Jan van Pelt, author of the book Auschwitz 1270 to the Present.
The publisher said it "very much regrets" Mr Irving has opted to pursue his arguments "through the courts rather than through academic channels". Anthony Forbes Watson, the managing director, said: "Penguin has a history of upholding freedom of speech for itself and its authors. We will vigorously defend David Irving's claim and look forward to the courts vindicating our right to publish this important work."
Mr Irving launched his libel action in 1996 amid a flurry of writs he sent to critics he said had smeared his reputation. Recipients included newspapers, publishers, the author Gitta Sereny and the Board of Deputies of British Jews. "They have all had polite letters. Now they can all have writs," he was reported as saying at the time.
His views have caused outrage around the world. Twenty years ago he wrote Hitler's War, suggesting the extermination of the Jews was carried out without Hitler's knowledge until October 1943. He also disputes six million Jews died in the Holocaust but says: "I'm prepared to accept gassings on a very limited scale."
Mr Irving became an international hate-figure, touring the world and promoting his books with pro-Nazi remarks. But he is now banned from his biggest markets and increasingly relies on self-publishing and donations from far-right sympathisers.
He is a biographer of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda chief, whose diaries The Sunday Times asked him to transcribe in 1992 after the historian gained access to them in a Moscow archive.
Irving 'a liar not an historian', court told
DAVID IRVING, the controversial, right-wing historian, was branded a "falsifier of history and a liar" before a High Court judge yesterday for questioning the massacre of six million Jews by the Nazis.
At the start of a libel battle expected to last three months, he was accused of denying the Holocaust and Hitler's role in the Final Solution.
The accusations were made by Richard Rampton, QC, who is representing Deborah Lipstadt, an American academic, and Penguin Books who published her work, Denying the Holocaust: the Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.
Mr Irving, 62, is suing both for damages for claiming that he is a "Hitler partisan" who has twisted history. In a two-hour opening address he claimed to be the victim of an international conspiracy to ruin him and make him a pariah. Mr Irving, representing himself, said: "Such is the nature of the odium that has been generated by the waves of hatred recklessly propagated against me by the defendants."
He went on to claim that the gas chamber shown to tourists at Auschwitz was a fake built by the Poles after the war. [AAARGH: this is an official truth. See it proclaimed in a 1995 article in the French political magazine L'Express.]
But in an opening statement in reply, Mr Rampton told Mr Justice Gray: "Mr Irving calls himself an historian. The truth is, however, that he is not an historian at all, but a falsifier of history. To put it bluntly, he is a liar."
He accused the author of suppression of evidence, falsehoods and inventions, distortion and manipulation to wilfully mislead. "The lies which the defendants in this case will show that Mr Irving has told concern an area of history in which, perhaps, it behoves any writer or researcher to be particularly careful of the truth: the destruction of the Jews by the Nazis during World War II, the Holocaust, and Adolf Hitler's role in that human catastrophe.
He said that Mr Irving, who has had more than 30 books published including Hitler's War and a biography of Goebbels, went to great lengths and employed "disreputable methods" to achieve his exoneration of the Nazi dictator. In one monstrous distortion of the evidence, he alleged, Mr Irving had falsely used a "not to be liquidated" order, about a particular trainload of 1,000 Jews being deported from Berlin to Latvia in November 1941, to claim that Hitler had generally ordered Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, that there should be no liquidation of Jews at all.
Mr Rampton went on to say that between the first edition of Hitler's War in 1977 and its second edition in 1991 Mr Irving's views about the Holocaust had undergone a sea change. In the latter edition all traces of the Holocaust as an historical truth had disappeared. Auschwitz had been "transformed from a monstrous killing machine into a mere slave-labour camp".
This volte-face was based on "bunk" scientific evidence about traces of the killing agent hydrogen cyanide, used by the SS at Auschwitz. It was part of Mr Irving's campaign to "sink the battleship Auschwitz", Mr Rampton said.
"The essence of this campaign is that the Holocaust, symbolised by Auschwitz, is a myth, legend or lie deployed by Jews to blackmail the German people into paying vast sums in reparations to supposed victims of the Holocaust."
Mr Irving, he said, had frequently addressed neo-Fascist, neo-Nazi groups of people. In September 1991 he spoke to an audience in Calgary, Alberta, at which he complained about pressure from Jews to prevent him speaking.
He alleged that Mr Irving told the meeting: "I don't see any reason to be tasteful about Auschwitz. It's baloney, it's a legend. Once we admit the fact that it was a brutal slave-labour camp and large numbers of people did die, as large numbers of innocent people died elsewhere in the war, why believe the rest of the baloney?
In his statement, Mr Irving rebutted allegations that he was a "Holocaust denier" as described by Ms Lipstadt, 52, [AAARGH: Associate... at her age...] Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, whose book was published in 1993. He said that he had never held himself out to be a Holocaust expert but could be described as an expert in the role that Hitler played in the war.
He said: "These defendants have done very real damage to my professional existence. May I first of all set out the very real pecuniary damage which can be done to an author by an attack on his reputation. It is not merely that he suffers injury and hurt to his feelings from unjustified attacks, whatever their nature. An author, by virtue of his trade, lives a precarious financial existence."
He added: "By virtue of the activities of the defendants I have since 1996 seen one fearful publisher after another falling away from me, declining to reprint my works, refusing to accept new commissions and turning their backs on me when I approach."
He said that as a result of lies told about him he had been expelled from Canada in 1992, a country which had been friendly to him for 30 years which suddenly rounded upon him "as savagely as a rottweiler".
He said that "Holocaust denier" had become one of the "most potent phrases in the arsenal of insult. As a phrase it is of itself quite meaningless. The word Holocaust is an artificial label commonly attached to one of the greatest and still most unexplained tragedies of this past century.
"It is a poison to which there is virtually no antidote, less lethal than a hypodermic with nerve-gas jabbed in the neck, but deadly all the same. For the chosen victim, it is like being called a paedophile. It is a verbal Yellow Star."
The case continues.
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