THE historian David Irving refused to accept yesterday that hundreds of thousands of Jews had been sent to concentration camps as part of Hitler's plan to exterminate them.
His denial that the liquidation of Jews was part of a plan personally approved by the Führer came during a sharp exchange with Richard Rampton, QC, during a libel case at the High Court in London.
Referring to the transportation of Jews from Warsaw and other towns and cities to the villages of Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec, near the Russian border, Mr Rampton suggested that "only a fool and a liar" would suggest that they were being sent there for their health.
No sensible person, Mr Rampton said, would conclude from all the evidence that thousands of Jews were being shipped to the three villages close to the Russian border for benign purposes.
Mr Irving, 62, who is conducting his own
case, replied: "There
could be any number of convincing explanations, from the most
innocent to the most sinister."
He added: "During World War II large numbers of people were sent to Aldershot but no one believes that there they were put into gas chambers."
In another exchange, Mr Irving said he could not accept that 1.2 million Jews had been deliberately murdered at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Mr Irving, who maintains that the gas chamber at Auschwitz was built by the Poles after the war as a tourist attraction, said: "I don't accept that and I have good reason not to."
He indicated that he would justify his belief about what occurred at the infamous camp when he cross-examines Holocaust experts who are to appear in court during the course of the trial, which is expected to last for more than two months.
Speaking from the witness box in Court 73, in front of a packed public gallery in which there were many Jewish people, Mr Irving maintained that Hitler had not been aware of the mass slaughter of the Jews. He said that in the records of the so-called "table talks" between Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, and Joseph Goebbels, his Propaganda Minister, there was no evidence that the Führer knew of the "Final Solution".
Even in 1942, Mr Irving said, Hitler was talking in terms of shipping the Jews to the island of Madagascar to begin new lives but that operation could not be carried out because of the naval war.
Hitler, he said, did not want the Jews transported to Siberia, which would merely toughen up the strain of the Jewish "bacillus". He wished them to be removed totally from the Greater Reich.
Mr Irving said that during the conversations, at which Hitler and his henchmen had discussed the course of the war, there was no suggestion that the Jews should be systematically killed.
Mr Irving, who accepts that hundreds of
thousands of Jews were murdered but denies that the killings were
part of a systematic programme of extermination, accused Mr Rampton
of disregarding evidence which did not concur with his case.
Mr Irving is suing Deborah Lipstadt, an American academic, and Penguin Books for claiming in her book Denying the Holocaust:
the growing assault on truth and memory that he was a "Hitler partisan" who had twisted history.
No "sane" person could conclude that hundreds of thousands of Jews were transported to the middle of nowhere on the Russian border during World War Two to "restore their health", the high court Holocaust libel trial was told today.
Richard Rampton QC, defending American academic Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books against a libel claim brought against them by historian David Irving, told the court in London that anyone making such a suggestion was either "mad or a liar".
Mr Rampton made his comments during his cross-examination of 62-year-old Mr Irving, who claims that Professor Lipstadt's 1994 book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, has generated waves of hatred against him.
Mr Irving is suing over a claim that he is a "Holocaust denier". He says the book alleges he has distorted statistics and documents to serve his own ideological purposes and reach historically untenable conclusions.
The author of Hitler's War says he has never claimed that the Holocaust did not take place. He does, however, question the number of Jewish dead and denies there was a systematic extermination of Jews in concentration camp gas chambers.
Mr Rampton asked him what the hundreds of thousands of Jews transported to "little villages in the middle of nowhere" on the Russian border in eastern Poland in 1942 were going to do there.
Mr Irving replied: "The documents do not tell me."
Counsel asked him to try to construct in his own mind a convincing explanation. Mr Irving said: "There could be any number of convincing explanations. What is the point of that exercise?" Mr Rampton said it was to "show the scale of the operation and in due course to demonstrate that anybody who suggests that these hundreds of thousands of Jews were sent to these tiny villages in order to restore their health is either mad or a liar".
Mr Rampton told Mr Justice Gray that Mr Irving's position on what happened at those villages on the Russian border - Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec - appeared to be an acceptance that hundreds of thousands of Jews were intentionally killed at those places, "but not as the consequence of any policy or system" and that he was not satisfied "that was their dedicated purpose".
Mr Irving told the judge, who is hearing the case without a jury, that this was "a very fair summary" of his position.
The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.
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