Anti-Semitism and Holocaust

British Historian Accused of Denying Holocaust Loses Libel Case
By Patrick Goodenough
CNS London Bureau Chief
11 April, 2000

London ( - The High Court in London ruled Tuesday that an American author and her publisher did not libel British historian David Irving by calling him a "Holocaust denier" for his controversial views on the Second World War.

Jewish groups welcomed the decision, but said they doubted it would stop others from questioning the truth of the Nazis' systematic genocide.

Judge Charles Gray, who heard the case in the absence of a jury because of the complexity of the evidence, said Irving failed to prove his reputation had been damaged.

"The charges which I have found substantially true include the charges that Irving has, for his own ideological reasons, persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence," Gray told the court.

Irving lost his battle to defend his reputation and his views that, while a large number of Jews died during the 1939-1945 war, there was no evidence of a systematic extermination campaign.

Scholars generally accept that six million Jews, or two-thirds of European Jewry, died during the war, most of them at Nazi extermination camps such as Auschwitz in Poland.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews welcomed the decision, saying in a statement that Irving's "aim has been to sanitize Nazism and to absolve Hitler of the guilt of the Holocaust."

Irving sued U.S. author Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books, publisher of her 1994 book Denying the Holocaust, for calling him one of the world's most dangerous "Holocaust deniers."

Lipstadt, who teaches Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in
Atlanta, Georgia, accused him of manipulating historical material to back his beliefs.

The 62-year-old historian and author of 10 books said his academic reputation had been sullied and livelihood jeopardized by the accusations, which he claimed were part of a 30-year "organized international endeavor" to discredit him.

Irving was fined in Germany in 1992 for breaking laws prohibiting the denial of the Holocaust, and has been banned from Germany, Canada and Australia.

He told the court there was no evidence of gas chambers at Auschwitz, and that trains said to transport Jews to the death camps were actually taking them to begin fresh lives in eastern Europe.

While he agreed that between one and four million Jews had died during the war, he said they had either been worked or starved to death, or been shot, beaten or hanged.

Counsel for the defense Richard Rampton accused Irving of using "many different means to falsify history: invention, misquotation, suppression, distortion, manipulation and - not least - mistranslation."

Rampton said Irving was a racist and "rabid anti-Semite," who had addressed and associated with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups in Europe and North America.

Irving had been led "to prostitute his reputation as a serious historian ... for the sake of a bogus rehabilitation of Hitler and the dissemination of virulent anti-Semitic propaganda," he told the court.

An expert witness for the defense, Prof. Richard Evans, submitted a 740-page report to the court in which he said Irving had placed an "almost entirely uncritical" faith in details supplied by former Nazi whom he interviewed.

It was obviously in the interests of former Nazis to deny any knowledge of or participation in genocide, Evans said, and they had seen Irving as a "mouthpiece" in their personal quest for public exoneration.

Evans conceded that some material uncovered by Irving had "contributed in some way to historical knowledge," but said he did not regard him as a "reputable historian."

During the trial, Irving sought to draw a distinction between the alleged libel and the existence of the Holocaust, and suggested free speech was at stake.

"A judgment in my favor does not mean that the Holocaust never happened," he said. "It means only that in England today discussion is still permitted."

Dr. Ephraim Zuroff of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center also praised the verdict Tuesday.

But he told the phenomenon of Holocaust denial would not disappear.

"The deniers will continue to attempt to deny it. The facts never bothered them before. They're doing what they're doing because they're anti-Semites and they very much want to [abolish] whatever sympathy exists for the Jews because of the Holocaust.

"It won't stop them, although it might reduce the number of people willing to listen to them."

In the Arab world, questioning the Holocaust has in recent years become an increasingly common political tool against Israel.

Zuroff noted that when the French author Roger Garaudy went on trial in Paris for claiming in a book, The Founding Myths of Israeli Politics, that the Holocaust was an exaggeration, "it only increased support for him."

"That's another sad reality that we have to deal with here in the Middle East."

In January 1998, a rally was held in the Gaza Strip in support of Garaudy. A Palestinian Authority minister addressing the event urged Palestinians to support Garaudy's views, while the PA's official Voice of Palestine radio station also called for "a widespread solidarity campaign" with the writer.

In another development, a Swiss court on Monday sentenced Gaston-Armand Amaudruz to a one-year jail term for publicly denying the existence of Nazi gas chambers and saying the extermination of six million Jews was "impossible."

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