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David Irving's Appeal

by David Shermer


David Irving, the irascible British author of Hitler's War, Churchill's War, The Desert Fox, and biographies of Goebbels and Goring, is making one final push into the front line of his enemy after his near-catastrophic defeat last year in one of the biggest Holocaust court cases since the Adolf Eichmann trial. Despite the fact that the defendant -- Deborah Lipstadt --was unable to prove that several of her statements about Irving were true (libel law in England requires that the defendant prove he/she did not libel the plaintiff), the judge ruled in her favor because the overall trend in Irving's work is to whitewash the Nazis and especially Hitler. For example, Lipstadt said that Irving has a portrait of Hitler over his desk. In actual fact, Irving has a small self-portrait of Hitler that was given to him by Hitler's secretary. Irving keeps it under glass in a small wooden box that he occasionally brings with him to his lectures (I have seen it). The judge's decision reminds me of a great quote from Isaac Asimov, from his book The Relativity of Wrong, 1989:

Lipstadt made errors in her book. Irving made errors in his books. But the difference is profound. It brings to mind historian of science Dan Kevles's book The Baltimore Affair, in which he shows that if you look deep enough into any lab or research project you are going to find a fair amount of sloppiness and minor errors. The difference between this and directional deceit is whether the errors are random or directed. As the judge ruled in the Irving case, Irving's errors were systematic and nonrandom.
Irving, however, is a tough soldier and is not about to go down without a fight. He is preparing an appeal and came to Southern California last Saturday (March 3) to give a lecture for the Institute for Historical Review (revisionist central), entitled "How We Will Overturn the Lipstadt Judgment." The event was attended by approximately 120 people and held at a hotel in Orange County, the location of which was kept secret to avoid a not-so-friendly visit from Irv Rubin and his cronies at the Jewish Defense League who make a habit of disrupting such meetings and stirring up trouble. Since I received a personal invitation from Irving to attend, I was allowed in and treated politely by Mark Weber and Greg Raven, the Directors of the IHR.
The demographic profile of this audience was noticeably different from previous IHR events I have attended over the years, which have typically been mostly old white guys complaining about the Jews. At this event were a broad mix of men and women complaining about the Jews (I estimated several dozen women rather than the token attached two or three one usually sees), or "the traditional enemy" in the not-so-coded language of this movement. The IHR had a book table set up displaying their books, back issues, and videos, as did David Irving displaying his, including numerous foreign language translations of his most important books.
Mark Weber opened the evening with his usual evangelical energy, reviewing their most recent legal tangles with the IHR's former head Willis Carto, who has been a prominent thorn in their side for the past decade since they parted company over the controversial "Edison" money (Edison's granddaughter, Jean Farrel Edison, willed 15 million dollars to the IHR, most of which has disappeared--where it went is what is under dispute). Weber discussed the latest legal travails of Canadian-German Ernst Zundel, whose adopted country is once again trying to send him back to his native land, where he dares not go because their draconian laws against "hate speech" would soon find him in jail. The editing of the IHR's Journal of Historical Review is being turned over to Ted O'Keefe, as Weber is overworked with the general running of the IHR.
The next big event, however, is not an IHR sponsored conference. Weber announced that over the first weekend in April a major revisionist conference would be held in Beirut, Lebanon, the first of its kind in an Arab/Muslim country. The "traditional enemy," Weber noted, is up in arms about this, doing everything in its considerable power to squelch the conference. The World Jewish Congress, the ADL, the Simon Wiesenthal Center are all pressuring Lebanon's Prime Minister to put a stop to the conference. The publicity generated by their efforts to stop it, however, will likely give it more press than revisionists could ever purchase. Go to the IHR web page to download all the press articles: <>
Weber wrapped up his comments by discussing the recent book about and lawsuit against IBM and its role in the Holocaust. IBM, it seems, sold punch card technology to German firms, who in turn used this technology to take a census of the German population, from which it was easier for the Nazis to sort out the Jews from the non-Jews. "This is madness!" Weber concluded. "If every company who ever dealt with Germany were to be sued it would be utter chaos. If an alien landed on Earth he would be utterly astonished at the obsession everyone has over the Holocaust." In support of his statement Weber cited Norman Finkelstein's controversial book The Holocaust Industry, in which this second generation child of Holocaust survivors says that the Jews have exploited the Holocaust for financial gain and moral leverage. The book was recently translated into German and quickly shot up the bestseller list in Germany, one of the biggest book-buying markets in the world. The IHR, of course, carries it in their catalogue.
Next up to the podium was Germar Rudolf, who regaled the audience with tales of his flight from an oppressive German government who is after him for publishing works in which he claims to demonstrate that chemical evidence shows that no gassing ever took place at Auschwitz. To escape incarceration Rudolf moved to Britain and changed his name. By the fall of 1999, however, the British government tracked him down and he was nearly nabbed and extradited back to Germany, so he moved to America where we have this seemingly unheard of thing called free speech. Rudolf is now trying to gain political asylum but it is a bureaucratic nightmare to get, so he's laying low for the moment. His purpose at attending this conference was to report on his preparation of an extensive expert witness report for Irving's forthcoming appeal, during which he (Rudolf) intends to prove scientifically that no gassings ever took place at Auschwitz. (At last year's conference the quip "No Holes, No Holocaust" was the rage, referring to the alleged lack of holes on the roof of Krema 2 at Auschwitz-Birkenau where the SS poured the Zyklon-B pellets. When I pointed out to Irving that there are, in fact, holes in the roof and that I have a photo of one in my book, his rejoinder was "those holes are not in the right place." So I suppose the quip should be "No Holes in the Right Place, No Holocaust.") Rudolf also intends to show that one of Lipstadt's expert witnesses -- Robert Jan Van Pelt -- was not an expert in architecture as he was portrayed. In Germany, Rudolf said, to appear as an expert witness onemust have a formal degree or training in that field. Van Pelt has neither, he explained. What that has to do with a trial in England was not made clear.
Since Rudolf is a chemist who was a Ph.D. candidate at the prestigious Max Planck Institute (before he was given the boot when they found out about his revisionist activities), his defense of Irving in the appeal will focus on the chemistry of Zyklon-B staining. He intends to show that in the first trial a number of scientific mistakes were made. For example, it was claimed that Zyklon-B cannot penetrate more than 10 microns into brick, as was portrayed by the chemist interviewed by Earl Morris in his film Mr. Death, the story of Fred Leuchter in which Leuchter chipped off chunks of brick and concrete and sent them to a lab for testing. In fact, Rudolf says, the Zyklon-B staining penetrates deep into the bricks and concrete of the gas chambers. So what? These were strictly used for delousing clothing, not as homicidal gas chambers. He also intends to prove that Kremas 2 and 3 at Auschwitz-Birkenau were built and used as air-raid shelters for both the SS guards and the prisoners whom the Nazis wanted to keep alive for work. At the Irving appeal Rudolf will also attempt to show that Van Pelt's statements that it only takes 3 kg of coke to burn a body is off by an order of magnitude, and that it is actually 30 kg, of which the Nazis did not have enough to burn the number of bodies claimed. Van Pelt says that the SS installed air blowers to make the fire burn hotter, but Rudolf claims that this would mean MORE coke was needed, not less. Rudolf will also present the results of a study made at Treblinka with ground penetrating radar in which the scientists conducting the study were unable to detect any large burial pits.
Finally, Rudolf updated the crowd on his most recent research into the origins of the Holocaust "story" which, he explained, arose in the 1960s during the Auschwitz trial in which 90% of the witnesses were "prepared" by KGB agents and other Soviet organizations, whose purpose it was to continue their war against the Nazis by exaggerating their war crimes. This would account for the "convergence of evidence" I present in Denying History -- of course the stories are all alike; the Russians made 'em all up at the same time.
At last David Irving took the podium to a rousing ovation, as he always does with this audience, despite his public statements about revisionists, such as this one to journalist Ron Rosenbaum:

Irving's appeal (for money in this case) began with his typical militaristic rhetoric: "We lost the battle but we have not lost the war. This is a real battle. The battle for real history." "Real History" is Irving's catch phrase for what he is doing, as opposed to the fake history most historians write. Irving believes in the truth, and his letterhead carries this quote from Goethe: "The main thing is to have a soul that loves the truth and harbours it where he finds it. And another thing: truth requires constant repetition, because error is being preached about us all the time, and not only by isolated individuals but by the masses. In the newspapers and encyclopedias, in schools and universities, everywhere error rides high and basks in the consciousness of having the majority on its side."
Irving, you see, is in the minoritywho seek truth while the rest of the unwashed masses of historians, under the thumb of the ruling elite (the "traditional enemy"), propagate error. "I write real history, 'they' write fake history. It's 'David versus Goliath'!" he quipped. Irving stood all alone against the Lipstadt team backed by a six million dollar donation from none other than Steven Spielberg himself, "the Spielberg campaign against real history," Irving complained. "My appeal will focus on money. Not just the money the witnesses got," Irving continued, referring to the quarter million dollars each of Lipstadt's expert witnesses received for their reports written and submitted into evidence for the trial, "but on the money I need!"
At this moment, just as Irving was warming up and about to burst forth with one of his characteristic paroxysms so eloquently expressed with his commanding vocabulary and formidable rhetorical talents, he suddenly stopped, announced that the real purpose of this lecture was to raise money for his appeal, and that his legal representative would now take the podium. At that point Adrian Davis, Irving's Barrister, stepped in to pinch pitch for dough, explaining that he, in fact, would not be the legal representative of Irving because for that they needed a QC, or Queen's Counsel -- the best lawyering money can buy in England -- at a cost of roughly $250,000. The rest of Mr. Davis's presentation was a rambling and disorganized plea for money, in which he finished by punching home the Irving message: "This is the battle that is the turning point for Real History. This will be the turning point. This will get people to ask questions."
Of course, what questions people will be asking may not be those Irving hopes they will be. Time, and perhaps another trial, will tell.

Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the Director of the Skeptics Society, the host of the Skeptics Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and a monthly columnist for Scientific American. Go to <> to join the Skeptics Society and subscribe to Skeptic magazine.
E-SKEPTIC FOR MARCH 10, 2001 Copyright 2001 Michael Shermer, Skeptics Society, Skeptic magazine, e-Skeptic magazine (<> and <[email protected]>). Permission to print, distribute, and post with proper citation and acknowledgment. We encourage you to broadcast e-Skeptic to new potential subscribers. For newcomers to e-Skeptic you can subscribe for free: just send an e-mail to <[email protected]>

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