Historian David Irving was today accused of basing his rejection of the existence of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz on a report he knew to be "rubbish".
The 62-year-old author of Hitler's War, who is seeking High Court libel damages against American academic Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books over a claim that he is a 'Holocaust denier', firmly rejected the allegation made during cross-examination by their barrister.
Mr Richard Rampton QC dismissed as "rubbish" the 1988 findings in a report written by a man called Fred Leuchter, who had taken samples from various parts of the remains at Auschwitz and concluded that there were never homicidal gas chambers there.
The defendants claim that the Leuchter report was "bunk"; that Mr Irving knew that to be the case, but ignored the "stupidities" of it because he wanted it to be true.
Mr Rampton accused Mr Irving of saying "publicly that which you know to be untrue about the validity of the Leuchter report".
During a visit to Florida in 1995 he was "categorical" in his dependence on the findings of the Leuchter report.
Mr Irving, of Duke Street, Mayfair, central London, who is representing himself during the lengthy trial before Mr Justice Gray in London, replied: "I still am."
He told the court his position remained the same and he would be justifying that during the course of the trial.
Mr Irving, who rejects the claim he a Holocaust denier, is suing Professor Lipstadt and Penguin over her 1994 book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, which he says generated waves of hatred against him.
The author, who does question the number of Jewish dead and denies the systematic extermination of the Jews in concentration camp gas chambers, has been accused by the defendants of being "a liar and a falsifier of history".
At the start of the case Mr Rampton told the court that in 1988 a man of German origin, Ernst Zundel, was put on trial in Canada for publishing material which denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz.
In defence of this charge Mr Zundel's lawyers recruited Mr Leuchter "who seems to have made his living as some kind of consultant in the design of execution facilities in the USA".
He was dispatched to Auschwitz to seek evidence of the use "or otherwise" of homicidal gas chambers. Counsel said his report was declared inadmissible by the Canadian judge on the grounds that Mr Leuchter had no relevant expertise.
Mr Rampton said Mr Irving gave evidence at the trial and during his visit he read the Leuchter report and "shortly thereafter he declared himself convinced that Leuchter was right and that there were never any homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz".
One of the main reasons Mr Leuchter advanced for his conclusion was that it was to be expected that any residual traces of hydrogen cyanide "the killing agent in the Zyklon B pellets used by the SS" should be very much higher in those parts of the remains of Auschwitz which were identified as gas chambers for killing people than in those parts which were known to have been used for killing lice.
Mr Rampton said the report recorded very small traces of hydrogen cyanide in the gas chamber remains and relatively large traces in the delousing remains: "Therefore, said Mr Leuchter, the alleged gas chamber remains could obviously never have been gas chambers at all."
The defendants say that the Leuchter report has been "comprehensively demolished since", but Mr Irving submits that the "broad trend" of the report was substantially borne out by later reports.Mr Rampton said that the Leuchter report was at fault in its assertion that the alleged gas chamber remains could not have been gas chambers because they contained very small traces of hydrogen cyanide " while there were relatively large traces in the delousing remains.
Mr Rampton pointed out that it was possible to kill human beings with a 22 times lower concentration of the poison than was required to kill lice.
Mr Irving said that he accepted that the figures were "flawed" but asserted that the Leuchter report was "substantially substantiated" by later reports.
He said that in 1945, the Poles had carried out tests on metal ventilation gratings and human hair found at Auschwitz.
And in 1989/90, the Auschwitz authorities carried out tests and came up with "unsatisfactory" results which they kept secret.
A third more scientific report written later by a qualified chemist came up with figures which "broadly confirmed" the conclusions which Leuchter had reached.
Mr Rampton told Mr Irving that the court was not concerned with proving or disproving what happened at Auschwitz but "your state of mind and your standards of truth when it comes to reporting history".
Mr Irving said that the remains of cyanide found on the "gas chamber" gratings in the 1945 report was clear evidence that the room was used for "fumigating cadavers" or clothing which were heavily infested with typhus lice.
Alternatively, he added, the room "which had a door fitted with a peep-hole and double-thickness glass" could have been planned for use as a bomb shelter.
Mr Rampton dismissed Mr Irving's theory that Zyklon B was put into a room where people were already dead as "bizarre".
Mr Irving said that the hair of about 500 women, which was mentioned in the 1945 report as bearing traces of cyanide, was actually found in the area of Auschwitz where stolen property was stored.
Mr Irving said that the theory that all the evidence led to the probable conclusion that this was a mass extermination by gassing was "the conclusion of the closed mind".
An invoice in his possession, dating from early 1943, showed, he said, that the chamber was used as a "disinfestation plant" to combat the "appalling plague" that hit Auschwitz in 1942/3.
Mr Rampton said that "notwithstanding this catalogue of fundamental errors" (in the Leuchter report) "you publicly, in your public role, have adhered to it as if it was the Gospel of St John".
Mr Irving said what he had relied on was the chemical part of Leuchter's findings.
The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.
Er heißt ausgerechnet David, wie der israelitische Held aus dem Alten Testament.
Und er gehört ausgerechnet zu den fairen Briten, die als Alliierte das deutsche Rassistenregime besiegen halfen. Auch der Vater des 62-jährigen David Irving diente damals in der Armee. Sein Sohn hat aber hat drei große Probleme, die ihn zu jenem mediokren Monster werden ließen, das derzeit den Royal High Court in London beschäftigt.
Dort klagt der Hobby-Historiker und Hitler-Apologet, ein Mann, der in Italien, Deutschland, Osterreich und Kanada persona non grata ist, gegen Verleumdung" und ,,Rufschädigung" durch die Historikern Deborah Lipstadt. Sein erstes großes Problem:
Irving gehört zu denen, die beweisen wollen, der Führer" habe von allem nichts gewußt" -- gemeint ist der Holocaust. Wer das Andenken eines Massenmörders zu retten trachtet, der will das Gefühl haben, dieser Machtfigur zu gefallen. Er baut sich Wände aus Wahn. Möchte so einer zugleich als Historiker ernst genommen werden, hat er das nächste Problem im Haus: schlechter Umgang. Seriöse Forscher oder Lehrstätten meiden Menschen wie ihn. So kommt es von allein zum dritten Problem: kein Ruf, keine Stelle, kein Geld. Normalerweise bleiben solche Leute unter sich, stöbern in Militarialäden nach Fetischen und stören zwar nicht den öffentlichen Diskurs oder den Fachdiskurs, aber immerhin unser sittliches Empfinden.
Was einen Autodidakten und Paranoiker wie David Irving zum abstoßenden Ärgernis macht, zur Dauerkränkung von Opfern, ist die obsessive Akribie, mit der er zu Werke geht. Zwanzig Bücher über das Dritte Reich hat er verfaßt, in denen er Lügen und Tatsachen miteinander verquirlt. Vor allem leugnet er das Ausmaß der Verbrechen des Dritten Reiches und die Mitwisserschaft wie die Autorschaft Hitlers bei der Shoah. Widerlegt hat ihn am genauesten Deborah Lipstadt, Professorin für jüdische Geschichte und Holocaust Studies an der Emory University in Atlanta. Lipstadts wichtigste Studie Betrifft: Leugnen des Holocaust" (deutsch 1996) unterstellt Irving die Intention, Geschichte zu verzerren. Er leugnet auch das und will jetzt alle seine drei Probleme vor Gericht aus der Welt räumen. Irving, der sich von kleinen Spenden einiger Neonazis über Wasser hält, hat Lipstadt und deren Verlag Penguin verklagt. Als Forscher will er ernst genommen werden, zum Kreis der Anerkannten gehören und große Summen Schmerzensgeld" erstreiten.
Bestürzt verfolgt nicht nur England das absurde Theater, in das Irving den Gerichtssaal 37 des High Court verwandelt. Die Perfidie dieses Verfahrens im Land der Meinungstoleranz, wo das Leugnen des Holocaust -- noch -- nicht wie hierzulande als Straftatbestand gilt, liegt im System der Beweislast. Das Gericht muß nachweisen, daß Irving absichtlich und böswillig historische Tatsachen verfälscht. Der Kläger beharrt darauf, seine Darstellungen seien rein wissenschaftlich. Es laufen doch soviele Überlebende herum", soll er 1991 in einer Rede gesagt haben, die werden sogar immer mehr, das ist zumindest biologisch gesehen ziemlich fragwürdig". In Allianz mit forschenden Komplizen versucht David Irving nun seit 1988 detailliert nachzuweisen, daß Auschwitz zwar ein Arbeitslager war, aber keine Mordmaschine. Seine Webpage nennt er The Fight for Real History" -- und produziert einstweilen Real Hysteria. Weiter nichts, zum Glück.-- Caroline Fetscher.
Of all names he is called David, like the Israelite hero of the Old Testament. And of all nations he belongs to the fairest, the English, who as Allies helped to defeat the racist German regime. And the father of this 62-year old David served in the army at that time. But his son has three big problems, which have changed him into the mediocre monster who is taking up the time of the Royal High Court in London.
There this hobby-historian and Hitler-apologist, a man declared persona non grata in Italy, Germany, Austria and Canada, is plaintiff in an action for "defamation" and "libel" against historian Deborah Lipstadt.
His first big problem: Irving belongs to the ranks of those who want to prove the "Führer" didn't "know a thing about it" -- i.e., the Holocaust. Somebody who plans to rescue the memory of a mass-murderer wants to have the feeling of doing this power-personality a favour. He erects walls of delusion. If that person at the same time wants to be taken seriously as a historian, that at once conjures up the second problem: bad company. Serious researchers and institutions avoid people like him. Thus the third problem arises all by itself: no name, no job, no money. Normally birds of that feather keep together, rummaging around in militaria shops for trinkets, and don't do much to disturb public discussion or expert debate; rather they disturb our sense of morality.
What makes a self-taught paranoid like David Irving a repellent irritation, a permanent source of insult to the victims, is the obsessive dedication to detail with which he goes to work. He's written twenty books about the Third Reich, entangling lies and facts in them. He particularly denies the scale of the crimes of the Third Reich and the complicity or paternity of Hitler in the Shoah. Most accurately Deborah Lipstadt has contradicted him, professor for Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. Lipstadt's important study, "Denying the Holocaust" ( German edition: 1996) imputes to Irving the intention of distorting history. He denies that too, and wants to dispose of all his three problems by court action. Irving, who ekes out an existence with little donations from a handful of neo-Nazis, is suing Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books Ltd. He wants to be taken seriously as researcher, to belong to the circle of the recognized, and to win big bucks in "damages".
Not only England is following with consternation the absurd theatre into which Irving has turned Court 37 at the High Court. The perfidy of bringing this action in a country of free speech, where denial of the holocaust is -- still -- not a criminal offence as it is here [Germany], lies in the burden of proof. The Court must be shown that Irving deliberately and maliciously falsifies historical facts. The plaintiff insists that his history books are strictly scientific. "There are so many survivors running around now," he is alleged to have said in a 1991 speech, "in fact there are more and more, that biologically speaking it is pretty questionable."
In alliance with his research accomplices Irving has been trying since 1988 to prove in detail that while Auschwitz was a labour camp, it was no factory of death. He calls his website "The Fight for Real History," but produces at present Real Hysteria.
Nothing else, thank God -- Caroline Fetscher.
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