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David Irving
Born David John Cawdell Irving
24 March 1938 (1938-03-24) (age 71)
Brentwood, Essex, England
Residence London, England
Nationality British
Occupation Writer
Known for Military history of World War II, Holocaust denial, Historical revisionism
Spouse(s) Pilar Irving (nee Stuyck), divorced 1981; Bente Hogh (common law relationship)
Children Five
Parents John James Cawdell Irving and Beryl Irene Newington
Relatives An old brother, John, a twin brother, Nicholas, and a sister, Jennifer

David John Cawdell Irving (born 24 March 1938) is an English writer specializing in the military history of World War II.[1] He is the author of 30 books on the subject, including The Destruction of Dresden (1963), Hitler's War (1977), Uprising! (1981), Churchill's War (1987), and Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (1996).

His work on Nazi Germany became controversial because of a perceived sympathy for the Third Reich and antisemitism. He has associated with far right and neo-Nazi causes, famously seconding British Union of Fascists founder Oswald Mosley in a debate at University College London on immigration during his student days. He has been described as the most skilful preacher of Holocaust denial in the world today.[2]

Irving's reputation as an historian was widely discredited[3] after he brought an unsuccessful libel case against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books in 1996. The court found that Irving was an active Holocaust denier, antisemite and racist, who "associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism,"[4] and that he had "for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence."[4][5]

Irving was arrested during a visit to Austria and convicted of "glorifying and identifying with the German Nazi Party", a crime in that country under the Verbotsgesetz law. He served a prison sentence there from February to December 2006.


Early life

Irving in 1955

Irving, along with his twin brother,[6] was born in Hutton, near Brentwood, Essex, England. His father, John James Cawdell Irving, was a commander in the Royal Navy, and his mother, Beryl, an illustrator (Beryl Irene Newington was born at St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex, on 24 October 1896, the daughter of Captain Charles Newington, formerly of the Indian Army, and his wife Frances (née Dolman)).

During the Second World War, Irving's father was an officer aboard the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh. On 2 May 1942, while escorting Convoy QP-11 in the Barents Sea, the ship was sunk by the German U-boat U-456. Irving's father survived, but severed all links with his wife and their children after the incident.[7] Irving described his childhood in an interview with the American writer Ron Rosenbaum as: "Unlike the Americans, we English suffered great deprivations...we went through childhood with no toys. We had no kind of childhood at all. We were living on an island that was crowded with other people's armies".[8] Irving went on to claim to Rosenbaum that his negationist views about World War II dated to his childhood, particularly due to his objections to the way Adolf Hitler was portrayed in the British media during the war.[8] Irving asserted that his "sceptical" views about the Third Reich were due to his doubts to the cartoonist caricature of Hitler and the other Nazi leaders that appeared in the British press during the war.[8] According to his twin, Nicholas, David has been a provocateur and prankster since his youth.[9]

Student years

After completing A-levels at Brentwood School, Irving briefly studied chemistry (though never graduated, due to financial reasons[6]) at Imperial College London. He gained notoriety by writing for Felix, the student newspaper, and in 1959 served as editor of the University of London Carnival Committee's journal, Carnival Times. Irving's time as editor was controversial because of the contents of a "secret supplement" to the magazine.[10] This supplement contained an article in which he called Hitler the "greatest unifying force Europe has known since Charlemagne", though Irving deflected criticism by characterizing the Carnival Times as "satirical".[11] Opponents also saw a cartoon in the supplement as racist and criticised another article in which Irving wrote that the British press was owned by Jews.[10] Irving has described his motivation in producing the controversial secret issue of Carnival Times as being to prevent the Carnival from making a profit that would be passed on to what he considered "a South African subversive organisation" that opposed apartheid.[12] His actions as editor brought Irving to the attention of the national press. In the 1 May 1959 edition of the Daily Mail, Irving is quoted by a journalist as having told him: "You can call me a mild fascist if you like. I have just come back from (Francisco Franco's) Madrid...I returned through Germany and visited Hitler's eyrie at Berchtesgaden. I regard it as a shrine."[13] Irving has denounced that article as libellous and the "handiwork of an imaginative Daily Mail journalist".[14]

He also stated that "the formation of a European Union is interpreted at building a group of superior peoples, and the Jews have always viewed with suspicion the emergence of any 'master-race' (other than their own, of course)"[15]. He later studied for a degree in political economy at University College London,[12] which he dropped out of after two years due to lack of funds.[16] During his time at university, he seconded British Union of Fascists founder Oswald Mosley in a debate on Commonwealth immigration, and was heckled.[17]

The Destruction of Dresden

Sometime after serving in 1959 as editor of the University of London Carnival Committee's journal, Irving left for West Germany, where he worked as a steelworker in a Thyssen steel works in the Ruhr area and learned German. He then moved to Spain, where he worked as a clerk at an air base. During his time in Spain, Irving married his first wife, a Spanish woman with whom he had five children. In 1962, he wrote a series of 37 articles on the Allied bombing campaign, Wie Deutschlands Städte starben (How Germany's Cities Died), for the German boulevard journal Neue Illustrierte. These were the basis of his first book, The Destruction of Dresden (1963), in which he examined the Allied bombing of Dresden in February 1945. By the 1960s, a debate about the morality of the carpet bombing of German cities and civilian population had already begun, especially in the United Kingdom. There was consequently considerable interest in Irving's book, which was illustrated with graphic pictures, and it became an international bestseller.

In the first edition, Irving's estimates for deaths in Dresden were between 100,000 and 250,000 — notably higher than most previously published figures.[18] These figures became authoritative and widely accepted in many standard reference works. In later editions of the book over the next three decades, he gradually adjusted the figure downwards to 50,000–100,000.[19] According to the evidence introduced by Richard J. Evans at the libel trial of Deborah Lipstadt in 2000, Irving based his estimates of the dead of Dresden on the word of one individual who provided no supporting documentation, used forged documents, and described one witness who was a urologist as Dresden's Deputy Chief Medical Officer. The doctor has since complained about being misidentified by Irving, and further, was only reporting rumours about the death toll.[20] Today, casualties at Dresden are estimated as 25,000–35,000 dead, probably towards the lower end of that range.[21]

1963 burglary of Irving's apartment

By November 1963, Irving was in England when he called the London Metropolitan Police with suspicions he had been the victim of a burglary, perpetrated by three men who had gained access to his Mayfair apartment claiming to be General Post Office (GPO) engineers. Gerry Gable was subsequently arrested and held at Hornsey police station, where on 14 January 1964, along with Manny Carpel and another, Gable admitted breaking in with intent to steal private papers. At the trial, counsel for the defence claimed that this was no ordinary crime, telling the court, "they hoped to find material they could take to Special Branch". The case was reported in the Daily Telegraph, 17 January 1964 and other newspapers.[22] Irving considered this incident important, and in his video 'Ich komme wieder' he describes this as the first indication he had that he was under attack for some reason.[23] Gable is a former member of the British Communist Party, and would later run Searchlight, a magazine devoted to anti-fascist activities. In a letter from Gable to London Weekend Television in May 1977, he would later boast of his "top level security service sources".[24]


Irving at The National Archives, 2003

After the success of the Dresden book, Irving continued writing, including some works of revisionist history. In 1964, he wrote The Mare's Nest, an account of the German secret weapons projects and the Allied intelligence countermeasures against it; translated the Memoirs of Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel in 1965 (edited by Walter Görlitz); and in 1967 published Accident: The Death of General Sikorski. In the latter book, Irving claimed that the plane crash which killed Polish government in exile leader General Władysław Sikorski in 1943 was really an assassination ordered by Winston Churchill, so as to enable Churchill to "betray" Poland to the Soviet Union. Irving's book inspired the highly controversial 1967 play Soldiers by his friend, the German playwright Rolf Hochhuth, where Hochhuth depicts Churchill ordering the "assassination" of General Sikorski. Also in 1967, he published two more works: The Virus House, an account of the German nuclear energy project, and The Destruction of Convoy PQ-17, in which he blamed the British escort group commander, Commander Jack Broome for the catastrophic losses of the Convoy PQ-17. Amid much publicity, Broome sued Irving for libel in October 1968, and in February 1970, after 17 days of deliberation before London's High Court, Broome won. Irving was forced to pay £40,000 in damages, and the book was withdrawn from circulation.

Adolf Hitler. Irving in an interview with Ron Rosenbaum called his work an act of "stone-cleaning" in which Irving removed the "slime" which Irving claimed had been applied to Hitler's reputation.[25]

After PQ-17, Irving largely shifted to writing biographies. In 1968, Irving published Breach of Security, an account of German reading of messages to and from the British Embassy in Berlin before 1939 with an introduction by the British historian D.C. Watt. As a result of Irving's success with Dresden, but prior to the conclusion of the Broome trial, members of Germany's extreme right wing assisted him in contacting surviving members of Hitler's inner circle. In an interview with the American journalist Ron Rosenbaum, Irving claimed to have developed sympathies towards them (referring to them as "the Magic Circle").[26] Many aging former mid- and high-ranked Nazis saw a potential friend in Irving and donated diaries and other material. Irving described his historical work to Rosenbaum as an act of "stone-cleaning" of Hitler, in which he cleared off the "slime" that he felt had been unjustly applied to Hitler's reputation.[25]

In 1969, Irving during a visit to Germany met Robert Kempner, one of the American prosecutors at Nuremberg.[27] Upon his return to the United States, Kempner submitted a memo about Irving to J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI.[27] Kempner wrote in his memo to Hoover that Irving was a "young man, who made a nervous and rather mentally dilapidated impression", and who expressed many "anti-American and anti-Jewish statements".[27] Irving had asked Kempner if the "official record of the Nuremberg was falsified", and told him that he was planning to go to Washington, D.C. to find evidence that the men convicted at Nuremberg had been framed.[28] Kempner went on to write that "completely unsolicited, he [Irving] stressed twice very emphatically that Sirhan Sirhan did the right thing in killing 'that big fat-faced Kennedy'. If he, Irving, were an Arab, he said, he would done the same thing, because of Robert Kennedy's alleged pro-Israel remarks".[29]

In 1971, he translated the memoirs of General Reinhard Gehlen, and in 1973 published The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, a biography of Luftwaffe Marshal Erhard Milch. He spent the remainder of the 1970s working on Hitler's War and the War Path, his two-part biography of Adolf Hitler; The Trail of the Fox, a biography of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel; and a series in the Sunday Express describing the Royal Air Force's famous Dam Busters raid.

In 1975, in his introduction to Hitler und seine Feldherren, the German edition of Hitler's War, Irving attacked the diary of Anne Frank as a forgery, claiming falsely that a New York court had ruled that the diary was really the work of an American scriptwriter Meyer Levin "in collaboration with the girl's father".[30] In fact, Levin had been commissioned by Otto Frank to serve as his American literary agent in 1952, whom Frank had then fired and turned over the literary rights to The Diary of Anne Frank to Kermit Bloomgarden.[31] Bloomgarden produced a successful play version of the diary in 1955, leading Levin to sue over alleged plagiarism of his unproduced theatrical version of The Diary of Anne Frank.[31] In 1959, a court ruled against Levin, leading him to appeal; the case was settled out of court in 1963.[31] Lipstadt argued in her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust that those like Irving who claim that Levin was the real author of The Diary of Anne Frank are engaging in a wilful misrepresentation of the facts.[31]

Description of Irving as a historian, rather than a historical author, is controversial, with some publications continuing to refer to him as a "historian"[32] or "disgraced historian",[33] while others insist he is not a historian, and have adopted alternatives such as "author" or "historic writer".[1] The military historian John Keegan has praised Irving for his "extraordinary ability to describe and analyse Hitler's conduct of military operations, which was his main occupation during the Second World War".[34] Donald Cameron Watt, Emeritus Professor of Modern History at the London School of Economics, wrote that he admires some of Irving's work as a historian, though he rejects his conclusions about the Holocaust.[35] At the libel proceedings against Irving, Watt declined Irving's request to testify, appearing only after a subpoena was ordered.[36] He testified that Irving had written a "very, very effective piece of historical scholarship" in the 1960s, which was unrelated to his controversial work; he also suggested that Irving was "not in the top class" of military historians.[36]


Hitler's War

The Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. A note in Himmler's telephone log from 30 November 1941 saying "no liquidation" was to be the centrepiece of Irving's efforts in Hitler's War to prove that Hitler was ignorant of the Holocaust

In 1977 Irving published Hitler's War, the first of his two-part biography of Adolf Hitler. Hitler's War had been first published in German as Hitler und seine Feldherren (Hitler and his Generals) in 1975.[37] Irving's intention in Hitler's War to clean away the "years of grime and discoloration from the facade of a silent and forbidding monument" to reveal the real Hitler, whose reputation Irving claimed had been slandered by historians.[38] In Hitler's War, Irving tried to "view the situation as far as possible through Hitler's eyes, from behind his desk".[38] He portrayed Hitler as a rational, intelligent politician, whose only goal was to increase Germany's prosperity and influence on the continent, and who was constantly let down by incompetent and/or treasonous subordinates.[38] Irving's book faulted the Allied leaders, most notably Winston Churchill, for the eventual escalation of war, and claimed that the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 was a "preventive war" forced on Hitler to avert an alleged impending Soviet attack (supported by some, notably Soviet GRU defector Victor Suvorov, and others; see Icebreaker). Irving commented that in light of the "preventive war" that he felt Hitler was forced to wage, the Kommissarbefehl was merely something that Stalin forced on Hitler.[39] He also claimed that Hitler had no knowledge of the Holocaust; while not denying its occurrence, Irving claimed that Heinrich Himmler and his deputy Reinhard Heydrich were its originators and architects. Irving made much of the lack of any written order from Hitler ordering the Holocaust, and for decades afterward offered to pay £1000 to anyone who could find such an order.[40] In addition, citing the work of such historians as Harry Elmer Barnes, David Hoggan, and Frederick J.P. Veale, Irving argued that Britain was primarily responsible for the outbreak of war in 1939.[41]

In a footnote in Hitler's War, Irving first introduced the thesis later popularized in the 1980s by Ernst Nolte that a letter written by Chaim Weizmann to Neville Chamberlain on 3 September 1939, pledging the support of the Jewish Agency to the Allied war effort, constituted a "Jewish declaration of war" against Germany, thus justifying German "internment" of European Jews.[42] In 1975, when without Irving's permission the firm Ulstein-Verlag removed the passages claiming Hitler had no knowledge of the Holocaust from the German edition of Hitler's War, Irving sued Ullstein-Verlag.[37] Despite his much-vaunted disdain for professional historians (most of whom Irving accused of slandering Hitler), Irving attended a historians' conference in Aschaffenburg in July 1978 to discuss "Hitler Today - Problems and Aspects of Hitler Research".[43] Irving spent his time at the conference attacking all of the historians present for alleged sloppy research on Hitler, and promoting Hitler's War as the only good book ever written on the Führer.[44] Ian Kershaw wrote that although Irving's thesis of Hitler's ignorance of the Holocaust in Hitler's War was almost universally rejected by historians, his book was of value in that it provided a huge stimulus for further research on Hitler's role in the Holocaust (which had not been widely explored until then) as a way of rebutting Irving.[45]

Reactions and criticisms

Reaction to Hitler's War was polarized. Various historians such as Gitta Sereny, Martin Broszat, Lucy Dawidowicz, Gerard Fleming, Charles W. Sydnor and Eberhard Jäckel wrote either articles or books rebutting what they considered to be erroneous information in Hitler's War. Writing in the Sunday Times, Sereny called Irving's work "closer to theology or mythology" than history, while Broszat labeled Irving a "Hitler partisan wearing blinkers".[46] Lance Morrow wrote in Time that Irving's picture of the "Führer as a somewhat harried business executive too preoccupied to know exactly what has happening in his branch offices at Auschwitz and Treblinka" was hard to accept.[47] In an article published in the Sunday Times under the title "The £1,000 Question" on 10 July 1977, Sereny and the journalist Lewis Chester examined Irving's sources and found significant differences from what Irving published in Hitler's War.[40] In particular, while interviewing one of Irving's primary informants, Otto Günsche, the latter stated that "one must assume that he [Hitler] did know" about the Holocaust.[40]

Some historians, such as John Keegan and Hugh Trevor-Roper, praised the book as well-written and well-researched[47] - although they disputed Irving's claim that Hitler had no knowledge of the Holocaust, and Trevor-Roper was strongly critical of Irving's repeating the "stale and exploded libel" about Churchill ordering the "assassination" of General Sikorski[48]). Keegan wrote that Hitler's War was "Irving's greatest achievement... indispensable to anyone seeking to the understand the war in the round".[47]

Hugh Trevor-Roper

Trevor-Roper's praise was circumspect. Trevor-Roper commended Irving's "indefatigable, scholarly industry" and wrote "I have enjoyed reading his long work from beginning to end", but he also went on to note that many of the conclusions Irving drew were not supported by the evidence.[47][49] Trevor-Roper objected to Irving's argument that one entry from Heinrich Himmler's phone log on 30 November 1941, ordering Heydrich to ensure that one train transport of German Jews to Latvia not be executed on arrival, proved that Hitler was opposed to genocide.[49] Trevor-Roper argued that the message concerned only the people aboard that particular train and was not about all the Jews in Europe.[49] Trevor-Roper noted the contradiction in Irving's argument, based on the assumption that it was Hitler who ordered Himmler to spare the people aboard that train and the claim that Hitler was unaware in the fall of 1941 that the SS were rounding up German and Czech Jews to be sent to be shot in Eastern Europe (the first gassings via gas vans started on 8 December 1941)[49] Trevor-Roper commented about Irving's claim that Hitler was unaware of the mass murders of Jews carried out by the SS while at the same time intervening to save Jewish lives that: "One does not veto an action unless one thinks that it is otherwise likely to occur".[49] Finally, Trevor-Roper complained about Irving's "consistent bias" for Hitler and that "Mr. Irving's sympathies can hardly be doubted".[50]

Alan Bullock

The British historian Alan Bullock writing in The New York Review of Books on 26 May 1977 dismissed Irving's depiction of Hitler as a leader too busy with the war to notice the Holocaust as contrary to all of the historical evidence.[51]

Eberhard Jäckel

The German historian Eberhard Jäckel wrote a series of newspaper articles later turned into the book David Irving's Hitler: A Faulty History Dissected, attacking Irving and maintaining that Hitler was very much aware of and approved of the Holocaust. Jäckel attacked Irving for claiming that a note from Heinrich Himmler's notebook - "Jewish transport from Berlin, not to be liquidated", dated 30 November 1941 - proved that Hitler did not want to see the Holocaust happen.[52] Jäckel maintained that the order referred only to that train, and argued that if Hitler had ordered the people on that train to be spared, it must stand to reason that he was aware of the Holocaust.[52] Jäckel went on to argue that because the "Final Solution" was secret, it is not surprising that Hitler's servants were ignorant of the Holocaust, and that anyhow, five of Hitler's servants interviewed by Irving later claimed that they believed that Hitler was aware of the Holocaust.[53] Jäckel argued on the basis of Hitler's statements in Mein Kampf that the Führer was always committed to genocide of the Jews, and that because Hitler later attempted to execute the foreign policy he outlined in Mein Kampf, it is a reasonable assumption that Hitler was always committed to genocide, which in Jäckel's opinion disproves Irving's claim that Hitler was unaware of the Shoah.[54] Jäckel used Hitler's tendency to involve himself in minutiae to argue that it is simply inconceivable that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust.[55] As evidence against Irving, Jäckel used Hitler's "Prophecy Speech" of 30 January 1939, where Hitler declared:

"I shall once again be your prophet: if international Jewry with its financial power in and outside of Europe should manage once more to draw the peoples of the world into world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevization of the world, and thus the victory of Jewry, but rather the total destruction of the Jewish race in Europe."[55]

Likewise, Jäckel used Himmler's Posen speeches of 1943 and certain other statements on his part in 1944 referring to an "order" from an unnamed higher authority as proof that Hitler had ordered the Holocaust.[56] In the same way, Jäckel used Hitler's order of 13 March 1941, ordering that the Einsatzgruppen be reestablished for Operation Barbarossa, as proof of the Führer's involvement in the Holocaust.[57] Jäckel also cited the entry in Joseph Goebbels's diary on 27 March 1942 - mentioning that the Führer's "Prophecy" of 1939 was coming true - as a sign that Hitler had ordered the Holocaust, and accused Irving of dishonesty in claiming that there was no sign in the Goebbels's diary that Hitler knew of the Holocaust.[58] Finally, Jäckel noted the frequent references to the "Prophecy Speech" in Hitler's wartime speeches as a sign that Hitler had ordered the Holocaust, thereby disproving Irving's claim that Hitler was ignorant of the "Final Solution".[59]

In response to Jäckel's first article, Irving announced that he had seen a document from 1942 proving that Hitler had ordered the Holocaust not to occur, but that the document was now "lost"[60] Jäckel wrote that he had "easily" discovered the "lost" document, in which the head of the Reich Chancellery, Hans Lammers, wrote to the Justice Minister Franz Schlegelberger that Hitler ordered him to put the "Jewish Question" on the "back-burner" until after the war.[60] Jäckel noted the document concerned was the result of a meeting between Lammers and Schlegelberger on 10 April 1942 concerning amendments to the divorce law concerning German Jews and Mischlinge[61] Jäckel commented that in 1942, there was a division of labour between the representatives of the Rechtsstaat (Law State) and the Polizeistaat (Police State) in Nazi Germany[62] Jäckel argued that for the representatives of the Rechtsstaat like the Ministry of Justice, the "Final Solution" was a bureaucratic process to deprive Jews of their civil rights and to isolate them, whereas for representatives of Polizeistaat like the SS, the "Final Solution" was genocide.[62] Jäckel argued that Hitler's order to Lammers to tell Schlegelberger to wait until after the war before concerning him about the "impracticable" details of the divorce laws between German Jews and "Aryans" was simply Hitler's way of putting Schlegelberger off.[63] Jäckel maintained that since Hitler expected to win the war, and to complete the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" by killing every single Jew in the world, Hitler would have had no interest in amending the divorce law to make it easier for those in mixed marriages to divorce their Jewish or Mischlinge spouses.[64] Moreover, Jäckel noted that Hitler disliked dealing with the officials of the Justice Ministry, and Schlegelberger in particular. Hitler was to sack him as Justice Minister later in 1942, so it was understandable that Hitler would not want to see Schlegelberger.[65] Jäckel ended his essay arguing that the "lost" document in no way proved that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust, and accused Irving of deceitfulness in claiming otherwise.[65]

John Lukacs

The American historian John Lukacs in a very unfavourable book review in the 19 August 1977 edition of National Review called Hitler's War a worthless book while Walter Laqueur when reviewing Hitler's War in the The New York Times Book Review of 3 April 1977 accused Irving of selective use of the historical record in Hitler's favour.[51] Laqueur argued that Hitler's War read more like a legal brief written by a defense lawyer who was attempting to exonerate Hitler before the judgement of history, than a historical work.[51]

Lukacs called Irving an "amateur historian" whose determination to defend Hitler had resulted in an "appalling" book.[66] Lukacs complimented Irving's industry in tracking down hundreds of people who knew Hitler, but went on to note personal recollections are not always the best historical source, and that Irving manufactured battles; for instance, crediting Field Marshal Ferdinand Schörner with a victory in April 1945 against the Red Army for the control of Ostrava, a battle which did not, in fact, take place.[67] Lukacs took issue with Irving's language, which he described as conveying moral judgements that were not supported by the facts.[67] Lukacs was very critical of Irving's claims that Poland had planned to invade Germany in 1939 and likewise, that the Soviet Union was on the verge of attacking the Reich in 1941, in both cases justifying German "preventative wars" against those states.[67]

Bradley Smith

In a review published in the German Studies Review, the American historian Bradley Smith noted that Irving had uncovered some new documents and was correct in arguing against those Germans who sought to place all of the blame for the Holocaust onto Hitler, but went on to note that Irving's determination to tell World War II from Hitler's point of view had apparently led him to totally identify himself with Hitler.[68] Smith noted it was often impossible to tell where Hitler's views ended and where Irving's began.[68]

Martin Broszat

In an article first published in the Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte journal in 1977, Martin Broszat wrote that:

"He [Irving] is too eager to accept authenticity for objectivity, is overly hasty in interpreting superficial diagnoses and often seems insufficiently interested in complex historical interconnections and in structural problems that transcend the mere recording of historical facts, but are essential for their evaluation".[69]

Broszat argued that in writing Hitler's War, Irving was too concerned with the "antechamber aspects" of Hitler's headquarters, and accused Irving of distorting historical facts in Hitler's favour.[70] Broszat complained that Irving was focused too much on military events at the expense of the broader political context of the war, and that he had offered false interpretations such as accepting at face value the Nazi claim that the Action T4 "euthanasia" program was launched in September 1939 to free up hospital spaces for wounded German soldiers, when in fact the program was launched in January 1939.[71]

In particular, Broszat criticized Irving's claim that because of one telephone note written by Himmler stating "No liquidation" in regards to a train transport of German Jews passing through Berlin to Riga (whom the SS intended to have all shot upon arrival) on 30 November 1941 that this proved that Hitler did not want to see the Holocaust happen.[72] Broszat argued that this was not proof that Hitler had given any such order to Himmler to stop the killings of Jews, but rather that the comment "No liquidation" referred only to that particular train, and was mostly likely related to concerns about questions American reporters were asking about the fate of German Jews being sent to Eastern Europe.[73] Broszat questioned whether Hitler had given Himmler any order about the train, given that the phone call Himmler made from the Wolfsschanze to Heydrich in Prague took place at about 11: 30 A.M., and the records show that Hitler did not get up until about 2: 00 P.M on 30 November 1941.[73]

Likewise, Broszat criticized Irving for accepting the "fantastic" claims of the SS Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff that he did not know about the Holocaust (Irving's argument was that if Wolff did not know about the Holocaust, how could Hitler have known), despite the fact that Wolff was convicted of war crimes in 1963 on the basis of documentary evidence implicating him in the Holocaust.[74] Broszat accused Irving of seeking to generate a highly misleading impression of a conference between Hitler and the Hungarian Regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy in April 1943 by re-arranging the words to make Hitler appear less brutally anti-Semitic than what the original notes showed.[75] Along the same lines, Broszat maintained that the picture of World War Two drawn by Irving was done in a such way to engage in moral equivalence between the actions of the Axis and Allied states, leading to Hitler's "fanatical, destructive will to annihilate" being downgraded to being " longer an exceptional phenomenon".[76] The criticism by Broszat was considered to be especially damaging to Irving because Broszat had based his critique largely by examining the same primary sources Irving had used for Hitler's War.

Charles Sydnor

Another equally scathing review was published by the American historian Charles Sydnor who argued that Hitler's War was marred by Irving's efforts to present Hitler in the most favorable light possible.[77] Sydnor commented that Irving wrongly and bizarrely presented SS massacres in Poland in September 1939 as the legitimate response to the British rejection of Hitler's peace offer of October 1939 , and that Irving seemed to imply that Hitler's anti-Semitism was justified by the Anglo-American strategic bombing offensive against German cities.[78] Sydnor noted numerous errors in Hitler's War such as Irving's claim that Andreas Hofer was shot by the French in 1923 for opposing the French occupation of the Ruhr (Irving probably had Albert Leo Schlageter in mind), and that the 1945 film Kolberg, which dealt with the theme of a Prussian fortress besieged by the French in 1806, was set in the Seven Years' War.[79] Sydnor also speculated about just what motivated the East German government to allow Irving entry into the German Democratic Republic to search for information about Hitler, commenting "That the East Germans assisted Mr. Irving in an effort that would culminate in a revisionist interpretation of Hitler is a fact of real interest - and some amusement if one speculates on the question of who may have been taken in by whom."[80]

Sydnor was highly critical of Irving's unreferenced statement that the Jews who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 were well supplied with weapons from Germany's allies.[81] In the same light, concerning Irving's claim that Hitler was ignorant of the Holocaust prior to October 1943, Sydnor commented that Hitler had received a SS report in November 1942 which contained a mention of 363,211 Russian Jews executed by the Einsatzgruppen between August-November 1942.[82] Similarly, Sydnor charged Irving with misquotation such as having Hitler say on 25 October 1941 "...with the Jews too I've found myself remaining inactive", thereby implying that Hitler wanted to be "inactive" against the Jews for the rest of the war, when the documents show Hitler's remarks to be "Even with regard to the Jews I've found myself remaining inactive", and that Hitler's remark was referring to the past when Hitler was criticizing himself for his past "inactivity" against the Jews.[83]

Likewise, Sydnor argued that Irving's statement that all previous Hitler biographies were compromised by their hostility towards der Führer is not supported by an examination of said biographies.[84] Sydnor remarked that Irving's statement that the Einsatzgruppen were in charge in the death camps seems to indicate that he was not familiar with the history of the Holocaust as the Einsatzgruppen were in fact mobile death squads who had nothing to do with the death camps.[85] Moreover, Syndnor noted that Irving falsely claimed that the Einsatzgruppen operating in Poland in 1939 were under the authority of SS General Udo von Woyrsch, when in fact the Einsatzgruppen were divided into two groups, one of which reported to Heydrich and another to Theodor Eicke (General Woyrsch commanded a group reporting to Heydrich).[86] Sydnor commented acidly in light of Irving's claim of Hitler's ignorance of the massacres of Poles that Eicke commanded Einsatzgruppe III and the SS Death's Head Regiment Brandenburg during the Polish campaign from Hitler's headquarters train "Amerika".[87]

Continuing on the theme of the Einsatzgruppen, Sydnor criticized Irving for his statement that the Babi Yar massacre of September 1941 was the first massacre carried out by the Einsatzgruppen in 1941, when in fact the Einsatzgruppen had been staging massacres of Soviet Jews since the beginning of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941.[88] Sydnor charged Irving with offering a false interpretation of Hitler's reaction to Konrad Morgen's report of October 1944 about widespread corruption in the SS as marking Hitler's moral outrage at the Holocaust; Sydnor asserted that Hitler's outrage had nothing to do with the murder of the Jews, and everything to do with the revelation of SS corruption.[89] Concerning Irving's claim that General Friedrich Olbricht was engaged in an orgy on the night of 20 July 1944 in reaction to the news of Hitler's apparent assassination, Sydnor noted that Irving does not explain how General Olbricht could have been engaged in directing a putsch at the Bendlerblock on the night of 20 July while at the same time engaging in an orgy at his home.[90] Sydnor accused Irving of selective quotation from the memoirs of Joachim von Ribbentrop, noting that Irving quoted the passage: "How things came to the destruction of the Jews, I just don't know...But that he [Hitler] ordered it, I refuse to believe, because such an act would be wholly incompatible with the picture I always had of him", but did not quote the next sentence where Ribbentrop wrote: "On the other hand, judging from his [Hitler's] last will, one must suppose that he at least knew about it, if, in his fanaticism against the Jews, he didn't also order it".[91] Finally, Sydnor argued that Irving's account of the final days of Hitler appeared to comprise little more than a rehashing of Hugh Trevor-Roper's 1947 book, The Last Days of Hitler, only with Hitler as an object of sympathy, rather than scorn.[92]

Lucy Dawidowicz

In her 1981 book The Holocaust and Historians, the American historian Lucy Dawidowicz called Irving an apologist for the Third Reich with minimal scholarly standards.[93] Dawidowicz wrote that she believed that the term revisionist was inappropriate for Irving because revisionism is a legitimate historical method whereas Irving was not entitled to call himself a historian, revisonist or otherwise, and only deserved the label apologist.[93] Dawidowicz maintained that the "No liquidation" message in Himmler's phone log refers not to the German Jews being deported to be shot in Riga, but rather to a Dr. Jekelius, whom Himmler believed to the son of Soviet Foreign Commissar Vyacheslav Molotov, who was also travelling on that train, and whom Himmler wanted to see arrested, but not executed.[93]

Gordon A. Craig

The American historian Gordon A. Craig complained that of Irving's double standard in Hitler's War of crediting all of the German victories to the Führer while blaming all of the German defeats in the war on Hitler's unworthy and incompetent generals.[38] Craig wrote that in his opinion some of Irving's language was inappropriate, such as Irving's remark that "Hitler was cheated of the ultimate winter victory", and that Irving totally ignored Hitler's own incompetence as a military leader.[38] Craig charged that it was simply wrong on the part of Irving to write that Hitler in October 1941 was in a state of pain over German losses on the Eastern Front with Hitler supposedly thinking "What would be left of Germany and the flower of her manhood?"[94] As a way of rebuttal to this picture of Hitler, Craig quoted Hitler's remark later in 1941 when told of heavy German losses, "But that's what the young people are there for!".[94] Like many other historians, Craig was critical of Irving using the "no liquidation" comment in Himmler's telephone logbook from 30 November 1941 to prove that Hitler was opposed to the Holocaust.[94] Citing Lucy Dawidowicz, Craig argued the phrase "no liquidation" referred only to Dr. Jekelius.[94] Finally, to prove that Hitler was aware of the Holocaust, Craig quoted Hitler's remark to the Czech foreign minister in January 1939 that "We are going to destroy the Jews!...The day of reckoning has come!" plus the broad hints that Hitler dropped in his speeches of 30 January 1941; 30 January 1942; 24 February 1942; 30 September 1942, and 8 November 1942 that he knew of the Holocaust[94] Finally, Craig cited Himmler's remark of May 1944 where he stated he had orders from an unnamed higher authority (who Craig argued could only be Hitler) for the "Final Solution"[94]

Because of the controversy Hitler's War generated, it was a best-seller in 1977.

Irving's work of the late 1970s and early 1980s

Just months after the initial release of Hitler's War, Irving published The Trail of the Fox, a biography of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. In it, Irving attacked the members of the 20 July Plot to assassinate Hitler, branding them "traitors", "cowards", and "manipulators", and uncritically presented Hitler and his government's subsequent revenge against the plotters, of which Rommel was also a victim. Irving painted the men and women involved in the plot in the blackest of colours, and argued that their fate after 20 July was fully deserved. Irving challenged the popular notion that Rommel was one of the leaders of the rebellion: Rommel stayed loyal to Hitler until the end, Irving claimed, and the real blame for his forced suicide lay with his associates, who schemed against him so they could save their own lives and because they were jealous of Rommel's medals. In particular, Irving accused Rommel's friend and Chief of Staff General Hans Speidel of framing Rommel in the attempted coup. One reviewer of The Trail of the Fox noted that Irving celebrated German victories in North Africa with more gusto than one would expect from a British author, and that Irving had an evident dislike for the "criminals" Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, General Ludwig Beck and Carl Friedrich Goerdeler.[95] The British historian David Pryce-Jones in a book review of The Trail of the Fox in the 12 November 1977 edition of The New York Times Book Review accused Irving of taking everything Hitler had to say at face value.[51]

The Hungarian Communist leader Mátyás Rákosi. Irving's controversial 1981 book Uprising! depicted Hungary's Communist regime as a Jewish dictatorship oppressing Gentiles, leading to charges of anti-Semitism against him.[96]

In 1978, Irving released The War Path, the companion volume to Hitler's War which covered events leading up to the war and which was written from a similar point of view. Again, professional historians such as D.C. Watt noted numerous inaccuracies and misrepresentations. Despite the criticism, the book sold well, as did all of Irving's books to that date. The financial success of his books enabled Irving to buy a home in the prestigious Mayfair district of London, own a Rolls-Royce car, and to enjoy a very affluent lifestyle.[97] In addition, Irving, despite being married, became increasing open with his affairs with other women, all of which were detailed in his self-published diary.[98] Irving's affairs were to cause his first marriage to end in divorce in 1981. In 1982, Irving began a common-law relationship with a Danish model, Bente Hogh.

In the 1980s Irving started researching and writing about topics other than Nazi Germany, but with less success. He began his research on his three-part biography of Winston Churchill. In 1981, he published two books. The first was The War Between the Generals, in which Irving offered an account of the Allied High Command on the Western Front in 1944-45, detailing the heated conflicts Irving alleges occurred between the various generals of the various countries and presenting rumours about their private lives. The second book was Uprising!, about the 1956 revolt in Hungary, which Irving characterized as "primarily an anti-Jewish uprising", supposedly because the Communist regime was itself controlled by Jews. Irving's depiction of Hungary's Communist regime as a Jewish dictatorship oppressing Gentiles sparked charges of anti-Semitism.[96] In addition, there were complaints that Irving had grossly exaggerated the number of people of Jewish origin in the Communist regime and had ignored the fact that Hungarian Communists who did have a Jewish background like Mátyás Rákosi and Ernő Gerő had totally repudiated Judaism and sometimes expressed anti-Semitic attitudes themselves.[99] Critics such as Neal Ascherson and Kai Bird took issue with some of Irving's language that seemed to evoke anti-Semitic imagery, such as his remark that Rákosi possessed "the tact of a kosher butcher".[96]

Hitler Diaries

In 1983, Irving played a major role in the Hitler Diaries controversy. Irving had long been an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia, and in October 1982 purchased 800 pages of documents relating to Hitler, only to discover that many of the documents were forgeries.[100] Irving was an early proponent of the argument that the diaries were a forgery, and went so far as to crash the press conference held by Hugh Trevor-Roper at the Hamburg offices of Der Stern magazine on 25 April 1983 to denounce the diaries as a forgery and Trevor-Roper for endorsing the diaries as genuine (Trevor-Roper had called the press conference to announce his withdrawal of his endorsement, arguably rendering Irving's attack on him irrelevant).[101] Irving's performance at the Der Stern press conference where he violently harangued Trevor-Roper until ejected by security led him to be featured prominently on the news; the next day, Irving appeared on Today television show as a featured guest.[102] Irving had concluded that the alleged Hitler diaries were a forgery because the diaries had come from the same dealer in Nazi memorabilia that Irving had purchased his collection from in 1982.[100] At the press conference in Hamburg, Irving announced "I know the collection from which these diaries come. It is an old collection, full of forgeries. I have some here".[100] Irving was proud of the "trail of chaos" he had caused at the Hamburg press conference and the attendant publicity it had brought him, and in particular took a great deal of pride in his humiliation of Trevor-Roper, whom Irving strongly disliked for his criticism of Irving's methods and conclusions.[103] Irving also noted internal inconsistencies in the supposed Hitler diaries such as diary entry for 20 July 1944 which would have been unlikely given that Hitler's right hand been badly burned by the bomb planted in his headquarters by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg earlier that day.[104]

However, a week later on 2 May, Irving reversed himself and claimed the diaries were genuine; at the same press conference, Irving took the opportunity to promote his translation of the memoirs of Hitler's physician Dr. Theodor Morell.[103] Robert Harris in his book Selling Hitler suggested that an additional reason for Irving's change of mind over the authenticity of the alleged Hitler diaries was that the fake diaries contain no reference to the Holocaust, thereby buttressing Irving's claim in Hitler's War that Hitler had no knowledge of the Holocaust.[105] Subsequently Irving reversed himself again when the diaries were revealed as a forgery. At a press conference held to withdraw his endorsement of the diaries, Irving proudly claimed that he was the first to call the diaries a forgery, to which a reporter replied that he was also the last to call the diaries genuine.[103] In his later accounts of his role in the Hitler Diaries matter, Irving has always mentioned his role as proponent of the theory that the diaries were fake, while ignoring his change of opinion about their authenticity.


By the mid-1980s, Irving had not had a successful book in years, and was behind schedule in writing the first volume of his Churchill series, the research for which had strained his finances.[106] He finished the manuscript in 1985, but the book wasn't published until 1987, when it was released as Churchill's War, Volume I. In it, Irving writes a revisionist portrayal of Churchill as a corrupt, racist alcoholic servile to Zionist forces. Irving also accused Churchill of "selling out the British Empire" and "turning Britain against its natural ally, Germany".

Ernst Nolte

In 1986, Irving was one of the few English language authors to endorse the controversial thesis of the German philosopher Ernst Nolte who, in a 1986 article named Die Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen will ("The Past That Does Not Want to Go Away"), claimed that because the President of the World Zionist Organization Chaim Weizmann wrote a letter to the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain pledging the full support of his organization to the British war effort on 3 September 1939, that this constituted a "Jewish declaration of war" against Germany, and thus the German government was fully justified in "interning" the Jews of Europe in concentration camps.[42] Nolte in his turn, had received his notion of Weizmann's letter to Chamberlain as a "Jewish declaration of war" from Irving, who had first introduced this theory in Hitler's War.[42][107] Nolte commented that since Irving had made that point in Hitler's War, he felt that proved that the point was historically valid.[42] Many other historians attacked Nolte's argument (and those, like Irving, who supported Nolte's views) as misleading, intentionally or not, and as coming very close to justifying the Holocaust. Nolte in his turn has been a great admirer of Irving and has often cited Irving's work in his writings.[108][109]


In 1989, Irving published his biography of Hermann Göring, in which he largely portrayed the Reichsmarschall as an overweight drug addict largely concerned with his own wealth and personal pleasures rather than his duties within the Third Reich. Irving downplayed Göring's role in the Holocaust, describing instead Göring's jovial personality and offering a wealth of lesser-known facts about his life. Irving also recounts various incidents and produces documents as evidence that Göring disapproved of the persecution of Jews and other Nazi crimes.


In 1992, Irving signed a contract with Macmillan for a biography of Joseph Goebbels entitled Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich. Following charges that Irving had selectively "edited" a recently discovered complete edition of Goebbels's diaries in Moscow, Macmillan cancelled the book deal.[110] The decision by Sunday Times (who had bought the rights to serialized extracts from the diaries before Macmillan published them) in July 1992 to hire Irving as a translator of Goebbels's diary was criticised by historian Peter Pulzer, who argued that Irving, because of his views about the Third Reich, was not the best man for the job.[111] Andrew Neil, the editor of the Sunday Times, called Irving "reprehensible", but defended hiring Irving because he was only a "transcribing technician".[111] Pulzer argued that it absurd to describe Irving as a "mere technician" translating the diaries from German into English, asserting that a translator working on a "set of documents others had not seen, you took on the whole man".[111]

During his time in Moscow, Lipstadt claimed in her book Denying the Holocaust, Irving was given access to two microfiche plates containing 90 pages of previously unknown pages of Goebbels's diaries.[111] Though Irving was only supposed to translate the diaries, she charged, he stole the plates, smuggled them out of Russia, and copied them without permission.[111] Lipstadt expressed concern that Irving may have destroyed or damaged the plates, thereby depriving the world of knowledge of what was on those plates.[111] In the 2000 ruling on Irving's libel case against Lipstadt, the judge ruled that Lipstadt had failed to prove these charges.[112]

In 1995, St. Martin's Press of New York City agreed to publish the Goebbels biography.[106] By this time, Irving's financial state was such that he very much needed this book deal to be completed in order to pay down the massive arrears on his mortgage.[106] In March 1996, following widespread protests over allegations of antisemitism in Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich, St. Martin's cancelled the contract, and left Irving in a situation where he was desperate for both publicity and the need to re-establish his reputation as a historian.[113]

Holocaust denial

Drift towards Holocaust denial

Over the years, Irving's stance on the Holocaust changed significantly. From 1988, he started to espouse Holocaust denial openly; he had previously not denied the Holocaust outright and for this reason, many Holocaust deniers were ambivalent about him.[114] They admired Irving for the pro-Nazi slant in his work and the fact that he possessed a degree of mainstream credibility that they lacked, but were annoyed that he did not openly deny the Holocaust. In 1980, Lucy Dawidowicz noted that although Hitler's War was strongly sympathetic to the Third Reich, because Irving argued that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust as opposed to the denying the Holocaust, that his book was not part of the "anti-Semitic canon".[115] In 1980, Irving received his invitation to speak at a Holocaust-denial conference, which he refused under the grounds that his appearance there would damage his reputation.[114] In a letter, Irving stated his reasons for his refusal as: "This is pure Realpolitik on my part. I am already dangerously exposed, and I cannot take the chance of being caught in Flak meant for others!"[114] Though Irving refused at this time to appear at conferences sponsored by the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review (IHR), he did grant the institute the right to distribute his books in the United States.[114] Robert Jan van Pelt suggests that the major reason for Irving wishing to keep his distance from Holocaust deniers in the early 1980s was his desire to found his own political party called Focus.[114] Typical of the ambiguity felt at the time was a letter written in 1984 by the French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson in the Journal of Historical Review, the official journal of the IHR. In an open letter entitled "A Challenge to David Irving", Faurisson praised Irving as a historian but criticised him for maintaining that the Holocaust had taken place, and challenged him to take up the cause of Holocaust denial.[116] In his letter, Faurisson proclaimed his admiration for Irving, but argued he would be a better historian if he denied the Holocaust.[117] It has been alleged by the Anti-Defamation League that the original draft of Faurisson's open letter was more critical of Irving, but Willis Carto persuaded Faurisson to tone down the criticism, lest it alienate Irving (who had spoken at an IHR-sponsored conference in September 1983) from the IHR[118] It is not known what Irving's response to Faurisson's letter was.[118]

Until 1988, Irving seemed torn between a desire to be taken seriously as a historian and to associate with those he seemed to share an ideological affinity with. In the first edition of Hitler's War, Irving footnotes, "I cannot accept the view… [that] there exists no document signed by Hitler, Himmler or Heydrich speaking of the extermination of the Jews". In 1982, Irving made an attempt to unify all of the various neo-Nazi groups in Britain into one party called Focus, in which he would play a leading role.[39] Irving described himself as a "moderate fascist" who through his leadership of Focus would become the future fascist Prime Minister of Britain.[46] The effort failed due to fiscal problems.[39] One of the main writers for Irving's magazine Focal Point in the 1980s was John Tyndall, the leader of the British National Party.[39] At the time, Irving told the Oxford Mail of having "links at a low level" with the National Front.[39] Irving described Spotlight, the main journal of the Liberty Lobby, as "an excellent fortnightly paper".[39] At the same time, Irving put a copy of Hitler's "Prophecy Speech" of 30 January 1939, promising the "annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe" if "Jewish financiers" started another world war, onto his wall.[119]

Following the failure of Focus, in September 1983, Irving for the first time attended a conference of the IHR.[114] Van Pelt has argued that with the failure of Irving's political career, he felt freer to associate with Holocaust deniers.[114] At the conference, Irving did not deny the Holocaust, but did appear happy to share the stage with Robert Faurisson and Judge Wilhelm Stäglich, and claimed to be impressed with the allegations of Friedrich Berg that mass murder via diesel gas fumes at the Operation Reinhard death camps was impossible.[120] At that conference, Irving repeated his claims that Hitler was ignorant of the Holocaust because he was "so busy being a solider".[121] In a speech at that conference, Irving stated: "Isn't it right for Tel Aviv to claim now that David Irving is talking nonsense and of course Adolf Hitler must have known about what was going in Auschwitz and Treblinka, and then in the same breath to claim that, of course our beloved Mr. Begin didn't know what was going on in Sabra and Chatilla".[121] During the same speech, Irving proclaimed Hitler to be the "biggest friend the Jews had in the Third Reich".[122] In the same speech, Irving stated that he operated in such a way as to bring himself maximum publicity. Irving stated that: "I have at home...a filing cabinet full of documents which I don't issue all at once. I keep them: I issue them a bit at a time. When I think my name hasn't been in the newspapers for several weeks, well, then I ring them up and I phone them and I say: 'What about this one, then?'"[121]

A major theme of Irving's writings since the 1980s was his belief that it had been a great blunder on the part of Britain to declare war on Germany in 1939, and that ever since then and as a result of that decision, Britain had slipped into an unstoppable decline.[46] Irving also took the view that Rudolf Hess should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his flight to Britain in 1941, and that Hitler often tried to help the Jews of Europe.[46] In a June 1992 interview with the Daily Telegraph, Irving stated his belief that "Marriage is a detour" that prevents men from getting ahead in life, and praised Hitler for understanding this.[46] In the same interview, Irving claimed to have heard from Hitler's naval adjutant that the Führer had told him that he could not marry because Germany was "his bride".[46] Irving then claimed to have asked the naval adjutant when Hitler made that remark, and upon hearing that the date was 24 March 1938, Irving stated in response "Herr Admiral, at that moment I was being born".[123] Irving used this alleged incident to argue that there was some sort of mystical connection between himself and Hitler.[123]

In 1985, the German-Canadian Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel was brought to trial in Toronto for publishing false statements.[124] At the time, Zündel wrote to Irving asking him to come to Toronto to act as a defense witness.[124] Irving wrote back he willing to do so, but warned Zündel that "in some respects my evidence may be disadvantageous, but on balance it would help".[124] Zündel decided not to use Irving as a defense witness.[124]

In a 1986 speech in Australia Irving argued that photographs of Holocaust survivors and dead taken in the spring of 1945 by Allied soldiers were proof that the Allies were responsible for the Holocaust, not the Germans.[125] Irving stated:

We had deliberately created the conditions of chaos inside Germany. We had deliberately created the epidemics, and the outbreaks of typhus and other diseases, which led to those appalling scenes that were found at their most dramatic in the enclosed areas, the concentration camps, where, of epidemics can ravage and run wild. And so it is symbolic of the hypocrisy that existed at the end of the Second World War that we picked on those awful photographs, which were of course good television one would say nowadays, they were good newsprint, they were good photos, they were very photogenic these scenes, those piles of corpses. We picked on them as being evidence that the war was a just war, and that our journey had not been in vain.

[125] In the same speech, Irving claimed that the Holocaust was not the work of Nazi leaders, but rather of "nameless criminals".[125] Irving claimed that:

They [the Jews] were the victims of a large number of nameless criminals into whose hands they fell on the Eastern Front. Mostly around Eastern Europe, the liquidations occurred. And these men acted on their own impulse, their own initiative, within the general atmosphere of brutality created by the Second World War, in which of course Allied bombings played a part"[125]

By the mid-1980s, Irving associated himself with the IHR, began giving lectures to groups such as the far-right German Deutsche Volksunion (DVU), and publicly denied that the Nazis systematically exterminated Jews in gas chambers during World War II.[126] Irving was a frequent speaker for the DVU in the 1980s and the early 1990s, but the relationship ended in 1993 apparently because of concerns by the DVU that Irving's espousal of Holocaust denial might lead to the DVU being banned.[116] He also alleged that parts of The Diary of Anne Frank might have been forged by her surviving father.

In 1986, Irving visited Toronto, where he was met at the airport by Ernst Zündel.[127] According to Zündel, Irving "...thought I was 'Revisionist-Neo-Nazi-Rambo-Kook!'", and asked Zündel to stay away from him.[127] Zündel and his supporters obliged Irving by staying away from his lecture tour, which consequently attracted little media attention, and was considered by Irving to be a failure.[127] Afterwards, Zündel sent Irving a long letter in which he offered to draw publicity to Irving, and so ensure that his future speaking tours would be a success.[127] As a result, Irving and Zündel become friends, and Irving agreed in late 1987 to testify for Zündel at his second trial for denying the Holocaust.[128] In addition, the publication in 1987 of the book Der europäische Bürgerkrieg 1917–1945 by Ernst Nolte, in which Nolte strongly implied that maybe Holocaust deniers were on to something, encouraged Irving to become more open in associating with Zündel.[127]

The Zündel trial

In January 1988, Irving travelled to Toronto, Canada to assist Douglas Christie, the defence lawyer for Ernst Zündel at his second trial for denying the Holocaust.[46] Working closely with Robert Faurisson, who was also assisting the defence, Irving contacted Warden Bill Armontrout of the Missouri State Penitentiary who recommended that Irving and Faurisson get into touch with Fred A. Leuchter, a "self-proclaimed execution expert"[129] living in Boston.[122] Irving and Faurission then flew to Boston to meet with Leuchter, who agreed to lend his alleged technical expertise on the behalf of Zündel's defense.[46] Irving argued that an alleged expert on gassings like Leuchter could prove that the Holocaust was a "myth"[46] After work on the second Zündel trial, Irving declared based on his exposure to Zündel's and Leuchter's theories that he was now conducting a "one-man intifada" against the idea that there had been a Holocaust.[130] Subsequently, Irving claimed to the American journalist D.D. Guttenplan in a 1999 interview that Zündel had convinced him that the Holocaust had not occurred.[131]

In the 1988 Zündel trial, Irving repeated and defended his claim from Hitler's War that until October 1943 Hitler knew nothing about the actual implementation of the Final Solution. He also expressed his evolving belief that the Final Solution involved "atrocities", not systematic murder:

I don't think there was any overall Reich policy to kill the Jews. If there was, they would have been killed and there would not be now so many millions of survivors. And believe me, I am glad for every survivor that there was.[132]

Irving testified for Zündel between April 22–26, 1988, where he endorsed Richard Harwood's book Did Six Million Really Die? as "over ninety percent...factually accurate".[133]

As to what evidence further led Irving to believe that the Holocaust never occurred, he cited the Leuchter report by self-styled execution expert Fred A. Leuchter, which claimed there was no evidence for the existence of homicidal gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp. In Errol Morris' 1999 documentary about Leuchter, Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., Irving said, "The big point [of the Leuchter report]: there is no significant residue of cyanide in the brickwork. That's what converted me. When I read that in the report in the courtroom in Toronto, I became a hard-core disbeliever".[134] In addition, Irving was influenced to embrace Holocaust denial by the American historian Arno J. Mayer's 1988 book Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?, which did not deny the Holocaust, but claimed that most of those who died at Auschwitz were killed by disease; Irving saw in Mayer's book an apparent confirmation of Leuchter's and Zündel's theories about no mass murder at Auschwitz.[135]

Did Six Million Really Die? by Richard Harwood (also known as Richard Verrall), published by Ernst Zündel's Samisdat Publishers . At Zündel's trial in 1988, Irving testified that Did Six Million Really Die? was "over ninety percent...factually accurate".[133]

After the trial, Irving published Leuchter's report as Auschwitz The End of the Line: The Leuchter Report in the United Kingdom in 1989 and wrote its foreword.[130] Leuchter's book had been first published in Canada by Zündel's Samisdat Publishers in 1988 as The Leuchter Report: The End of a Myth: An Engineering Report on the Alleged Execution Gas Chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdenek.[136] In his foreword to the British edition of Leuchter's book, Irving wrote that "Nobody likes to be swindled, still less where considerable sums of money are involved".[130] The alleged swindle was the reparations money totating 3 billion DM paid by the Federal Republic of Germany to Israel between 1952-1966 for the Holocaust. Irving described the reparations as being "essentially in atonement for the 'gas chambers' of Auschwitz", which Irving called a "myth" that would "not die easily".[130] In his foreword, Irving praised the "scrupulous methods" and "integrity" of Leuchter.[130]

For publishing and writing the foreword to Auschwitz The End of the Line, on 20 June 1989 Irving together with Leuchter was condemned in an Early Day Motion of the House of Commons as "Hitler's heirs".[137] The motion went on to describe Irving as a "Nazi propagandist and longtime Hitler apologist" and Auschwitz The End of the Line as a "fascist publication".[111] In response to the House of Commons motion, Irving in a press statement challenged the MPs who voted to condemn him that: "I will enter the "gas chambers" of Auschwitz and you and your friends may lob in Zykon B in accordance with the well known procedures and conditions. I guarantee that you won't be satisfied with the results!".[138]

In a pamphlet Irving published in London on 23 June 1989 Irving made the "epochal announcement" that there was no mass murder via gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp.[139] Irving labeled the gas chambers at Auschwitz a "hoax", and writing in the third person declared that he "has placed himself [Irving] at the head of a growing band of historians, worldwide, who are now sceptical of the claim that at Auschwitz and other camps were 'factories of death', in which millions of innocent people were systematically gassed to death".[139] Boasting of his role in criticizing the Hitler diaries as a forgery in 1983, Irving wrote "now he [Irving] is saying the same thing about the infamous 'gas chambers' of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Majdanek. They did not exist – ever – except perhaps as the brainchild of Britain's brilliant wartime Psychological Warfare Executive".[139] Finally, Irving claimed "the survivors of Auschwitz are themselves testimony to the absence of an extermination programme".[139] Echoing the criticism of the House of Commons, on 14 May 1990 a leader in The Times described Irving as a "man for whom Hitler is something of a hero and almost everything of an innocent and for whom Auschwitz is a Jewish deception".[111]

The Holocaust denial lecture circuit

Interior of the gas chamber of Auschwitz I camp. In a 1990 speech, Irving stated: "I say the following thing: there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz. There have been only mock-ups built by the Poles in the years after the war".[140]

In the early 1990s, Irving was a frequent visitor to Germany, where he spoke at neo-Nazi rallies.[126] The chief themes of Irving's German speeches were that the Allies and Axis states were equally culpable for war crimes, that the decision of Neville Chamberlain to declare war on Germany in 1939, and that of Winston Churchill to continue the war in 1940 had been great mistakes that set Britain on a path of decline, and the Holocaust was just a "propaganda exercise".[126] In June 1990, Irving went on a much publicized tour of East Germany entitled "An Englishman Fights for the Honour of the Germans", where Irving accused the Allies of using "forged documents" to "humiliate" the German people[138] Irving's self-proclaimed mission was to guide "promising young men" in Germany in the "right direction" (Irving has often stated his belief that women exist for a "certain task, which is producing us [men]", and should be "subservient to men"; leading, in Lipstadt's view, to a lack of interest on Irving's part in guiding young German women in the "right direction").[141] German nationalists found Irving, as a non-German Holocaust denier, to be particularly credible.[141]

In January 1990, Irving gave a speech in Moers where he asserted that only 30,000 people died at Auschwitz between 1940–45, all of natural causes, which was equal—so he claimed—to the typical death toll from one Bomber Command raid on German cities.[140] Furthermore, Irving claimed that there were no gas chambers at that death camp.[140] In that speech, Irving said: "I say the following thing: there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz. There have been only mock-ups built by the Poles in the years after the war".[140] On 21 April 1990 Irving repeated the same speech in Munich, which led to his conviction for Holocaust denial in Munich on 11 July 1991.[140] The court fined Irving DM 7,000.[140] Irving appealed the judgement, and received a fine of DM 10,000 for repeating the same remarks in the courtroom on 5 May 1992.[140] During his appeal in 1992, Irving called upon those present in the Munich courtroom to "fight a battle for the German people and put an end to the blood lie of the Holocaust which has been told against this country for fifty years".[130] Irving went on to call the Auschwitz death camp a "tourist attraction" whose origins Irving claimed went back to an "ingenious plan" devised by the British Psychological Warfare Executive in 1942 to spread anti-German propaganda that it was the policy of the German state to be "using 'gas chambers' to kill millions of Jews and other undesirables".[130] During the same speech, Irving denounced the judge as a "senile, alcoholic cretin".[142] Following his conviction for Holocaust denial, Irving was banned from visiting Germany.[143]

The main gate of Auschwitz II-Birkenau. In 1992 during his appeal for his conviction for Holocaust denial, Irving called Auschwitz a "tourist attraction".[130]

Expanding upon his thesis in Hitler's War about the lack of a written Führer order for the Holocaust, Irving argued in the 1990s that the absence of such an order meant that there was no Holocaust.[144] In a speech delivered in Toronto in November 1990 Irving claimed that Holocaust survivors had manufactured memories of their suffering because "there's money involved and they can get a good compensation cash payment out of it".[116] During the same 1990 speech in Toronto, Irving claimed that "more people died on the back seat of Senator Edward Kennedy's motor car in Chappaquiddick than died in the gas chamber of Auschwitz".[145] In that speech, Irving used the metaphor of a cruise ship named Holocaust, which Irving claimed had " wall to wall fitted carpets and a crew of thousands… marine terminals established in now virtually every capital in the world, disguised as Holocaust memorial museums".[145] Irving went on to assert that the "ship" was due for rough sailing because recently the Soviet government had allowed historians access to "the index cards of all the people who passed through the gates of Auschwitz", and claimed that this would lead to "a lot of people [who] are not claiming to be Auschwitz survivors anymore" (Irving's statement about the index cards was incorrect; what the Soviet government had made available in 1990 were the death books of Auschwitz, recording the weekly death tolls).[145] Irving claimed on the basis of what he called the index books that, "Because the experts can look at a tattoo and say 'Oh yes, 181, 219 that means you entered Auschwitz in March 1943" and he warned Auschwitz survivors "If you want to go and have a tattoo put on your arm, as a lot of them do, I am afraid to say, and claim subsequently that you were in Auschwitz, you have to make sure a) that it fits in with the month you said you went to Auschwitz and b) it is not a number which anyone used before".[145]

In his 1991 revised edition of Hitler's War he had removed all references to death camps and the Holocaust. In a speech given in Hamburg in 1991, Irving stated that in two years time "...this myth of mass murders of Jews in the death factories of Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka...which in fact never took place" will be disproved (Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Treblinka were all well known Vernichtungslager).[146] Two days later, Irving repeated the same speech in Halle before a group of neo-Nazis, and praised Rudolf Hess as "that great German martyr, Rudolf Hess".[146] At another 1991 speech, this time in Canada, Irving called the Holocaust a "hoax", and again predicted that by 1993 the "hoax" would have been "exposed".[145] In that speech, Irving declared, "Gradually the word is getting around Germany. Two years from now too, the German historians will accept that we are right. They will accept that for fifty years they have believed a lie".[145] During that speech given in October 1991, Irving expressed his contempt and hatred for Holocaust survivors by proclaiming that:

Ridicule alone isn't enough, you've got to be tasteless about it. You've got to say things like 'More women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.' Now you think that's tasteless, what about this? I'm forming an association especially dedicated to all these liars, the ones who try and kid people that they were in these concentration camps, it's called the Auschwitz Survivors, Survivors of the Holocaust and other Liars, A-S-S-H-O-L-E-S. Can't get more tasteless than that, but you've got to be tasteless because these people deserve our contempt.[147]
A mass grave in Treblinka opened in March 1943 to allow the bodies to be removed for burning. In the background can be seen dark colored material believed to be ash from cremated bodies. In a 1991 speech, Irving claimed that in two years time, "...this myth of mass murders of Jews in the death factories of Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka...which in fact never took place" will be disproven.[146]

In November 1992, Irving was to be a featured speaker at a world anti-Zionist congress in Stockholm that was cancelled by the Swedish government.[126] Also scheduled to attend were fellow Holocaust-deniers Robert Faurisson and Fred A. Leuchter, and Louis Farrakhan, together with representatives of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, the Lebanese militant Shiite group Hezbollah, and the right-wing Russian antisemitic group Pamyat.[126] In a 1993 speech, Irving claimed that had been only 100,000 Jewish deaths at Auschwitz, "but not from gas chambers. They died from epidemics".[148] Irving went on to claim that most of the Jewish deaths during World War II had been caused by Allied bombing.[148] Irving claimed that "The concentration camp inmates arrived in Berlin or Leipzig or in Dresden just in time for the RAF bombers to set fire to those cities. Nobody knows how many Jews died in those air raids".[148] In a 1994 speech, Irving lamented that his predictions of 1991 had failed to occur, and complained of the persistence of belief in the "rotting corpse" of the "profitable legend" of the Holocaust.[145] In another 1994 speech, Irving claimed that there was no German policy of genocide of Jews, and that only 600,000 Jews died in concentration camps in World War II, all due to either Allied bombing or disease.[142] At the same time, Irving started to appear more frequently at the annual conferences hosted by the IHR.[149] In a 1995 speech, Irving claimed that the Holocaust was a myth invented by a "world-wide Jewish cabal" to serve their own ends.[150] Irving also spoke on other topics at the IHR gatherings. A frequent theme was the claim that Winston Churchill had advance knowledge of the Japanese plans to attack Pearl Harbour, and refused to warn the Americans in order to bring the United States into World War II.[151]

At the same time, Irving maintained an ambivalent attitude to Holocaust denial depending on his audience. In a 1993 letter, Irving lashed out against his former friend Zündel, writing that: "In April 1988 I unhesitatingly agreed to aid your defence as a witness in Toronto. I would not make the same mistake again. As a penalty for having defended you then, and for having continued to aid you since, my life has come under a gradually mounting attack: I find myself the worldwide victim of mass demonstrations, violence, vituperation and persecution". (emphasis in the original)[148] Irving went on to claim his life had been wonderful until Zündel had gotten him involved in the Holocaust denial movement; van Pelt argues that Irving was just trying to shift responsibility for his actions in his letter.[148] In an interview with Australian radio in July 1995, Irving claimed that at least four million Jews died in World War II.[142] In 1995, Irving stated in another speech that "I have to take off my hat to my adversaries and the strategies they have employed—the marketing of the very word Holocaust: I half expected to see a little TM after it".[142] Likewise, depending on his audience, Irving during the 1990s has either used the absence of a written Führerbefehl (Führer order) for the "Final Solution" to argue that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust, or that the absence of a written order meant there was no Holocaust.[149]

In October 2007 Irving threatened to sue The Jewish Chronicle for describing him as a "Holocaust denier". The Jewish Chronicle responded by printing their solicitor's name and address on its front page.[152]

Racism and antisemitism

Irving has expressed racist and antisemitic sentiments, both publicly and privately. Irving has often expressed his belief in the theory of a sinister Jewish conspiracy ruling the world, and that the belief in the reality of Holocaust was manufactured as part of the same alleged conspiracy.[98] Irving uses the label "traditional enemies of the truth" to describe Jews, and in a 1963 article about a speech by Sir Oswald Mosley wrote that "Yellow Star did not make a showing".[98] In 1992, Irving stated that "...the Jews are very foolish not to abandon the gas chamber theory while they still have time" and claimed he "foresees a new wave of antisemitism" the world over due to Jewish "exploitation of the Holocaust myth".[111] During an interview with the American writer Ron Rosenbaum, Irving stated his belief that Jews were his "traditional enemy".[153]

Several of these statements were cited by the judge's decision in Irving's lawsuit against Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt.[154] For instance, in his diary entry for 17 September 1994, Irving wrote about a ditty he composed for his young daughter "when halfbreed children are wheeled past":

I am a Baby Aryan
Not Jewish or Sectarian
I have no plans to marry an
Ape or Rastafarian.

Christopher Hitchens writes that after having dinner in his Washington apartment, Irving sang the rhyme to his daughter once they were alone in the building's elevator.[155] In one interview cited in the lawsuit, Irving also stated that he would be "willing to put [his] signature" to the "fact" that "a great deal of control over the world is exercised by Jews".[154]

And from a speech in 1992, given to the Clarendon Club:

I am not anti-coloured, take it from me; nothing pleases me more than when I arrive at an airport, or a station or a seaport, and I see a coloured family there—the black father, the black wife and the black children. I think it is just as handsome a spectacle as the English family, or the French family, or the German family, or the South African family, or whatever. I think that is the way that God planned it and that is the way it should be. When I see these families arriving at the airport I am happy (and when I see them leaving at London airport I am happy).

But now we have women reading our news to us.

If they could perhaps have their own news which they were reading to us, I suppose, it would be very interesting.

For the time being, for a transitional period I'd be prepared to accept that the BBC should have a dinner-jacketed gentleman reading the important news to us, following by a lady reading all the less important news, followed by Trevor McDonald giving us all the latest news about the muggings and the drug busts...[156]

In 2007, The Guardian reported that Irving said, "The Jews are the architects of their own misfortune, but that is the short version A–Z. Between A–Z there are then 24 other characters in intervening steps".[157]

Libel suit

In November 1994, Irving had his first encounter with Deborah Lipstadt at DeKalb College in Atlanta, where Lipstadt was lecturing on Holocaust denial.[158] Irving stormed into the lecture hall, did his best to disrupt Lipstadt's lecture by challenging her to a debate, waved about a large amount of money in his hands, and announced he had $1,000 to give right here and now to the first person who could find a written order from Hitler for the Holocaust.[158] Lipstadt ignored Irving, despite his repeated attempts to draw her into a debate.[159] After Lipstadt's lecture had ended, Irving announced that Lipstadt's refusal to debate him or produce a written order from Hitler for the Holocaust despite his promise to pay $1,000 on the spot proved that her criticism of him in Denying the Holocaust was invalid, and he proceeded to hand out free copies of his Göring biography to Lipstadt's students.[159]

On 5 September 1996, Irving filed a libel suit against Lipstadt and her British publisher Penguin Books for publishing a British edition of Lipstadt's book, Denying the Holocaust, which had first been published in the United States in 1993.[160] At the same time, Irving also sued Gitta Sereny for libel for an article she had written about him entitled "Spin Time for Hitler" in The Observer newspaper on 21 April 1996.[161][162] As of 2008, the claim has yet to be heard in a court. In letters of 25 October and 28 October 1997 Irving threatened to sue John Lukacs for libel if he published his book, The Hitler of History without removing certain passages highly critical of Irving's work.[161] The American edition of The Hitler of History was published in 1997 with the alleged libelous passages included, but because of Irving's legal threats, no British edition of The Hitler of History was published until 2001.[161] As a result of the threat of legal action by Irving, when the British edition of The Hitler of History was finally published in 2001 the passages containing the criticism of Irving's historical methods were expunged by the publisher.[163][164]

In her book, Denying the Holocaust, Lipstadt called Irving a Holocaust denier, falsifier, and bigot, and said that he manipulated and distorted real documents. Irving claimed to have been libeled under the grounds that Lipstadt had called him a Holocaust denier when in his opinion there was no Holocaust to deny, as well as suggestions that he had falsified evidence or deliberately misinterpreted it. Though the author was American, Irving filed his suit in the English High Court, where the burden of proof in libel cases is on the defendant, unlike the U.S. where the burden is on the plaintiff. He was able to file the lawsuit in the UK because the book was published there (before 1996, if Irving had wished to sue Lipstadt, he would have had to launch his legal action in an American court; British libel law applies only to alleged acts of libel committed in Britain). As explained by the trial judge, Mr Justice Gray:

4.7 ... the burden of proving the defence of justification rests upon the publishers. Defamatory words are presumed under English law to be untrue. It is not incumbent on defendants to prove the truth of every detail of the defamatory words published: what has to be proved is the substantial truth of the defamatory imputations published about the claimant. As it is sometimes expressed, what must be proved is the truth of the sting of the defamatory charges made.

Irving approached Penguin and offered to drop them from his lawsuit if they would pull the book from publication in the UK, deny all of Lipstadt's conclusions and make a charitable donation in the name of Irving's daughter (who is disabled); he made clear he would not settle the lawsuit with Professor Lipstadt if Penguin settled with him. The publisher rejected his terms and the case went to trial.[165]


Lipstadt hired the British solicitor Anthony Julius to present her case, while Penguin Books hired Kevin Bays and Mark Bateman, libel specialist from media firm Davenport Lyons. They briefed the libel barrister, Richard Rampton QC and Penguin also briefed junior barrister Heather Rogers. The Defendants (with Penguin's insurers paying the fee) also retained Professor Richard J. Evans, historian and Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, as an expert witness. Also working as expert witnesses were the American Holocaust historian Christopher Browning, the German historian Peter Longerich and the Dutch architectural expert Robert Jan van Pelt. The latter wrote a report attesting to the fact that the death camps were designed, built and used for the purpose of mass murder, while Browning testified for the reality of the Holocaust. Longerich testified about Irving's links to neo-Nazi groups in Britain, the United States, France, Australia, Germany and Austria.

Evans and his two assistants spent more than two years examining Irving's work. This research found that Irving had misrepresented historical evidence to support his prejudices. Evans suggested that Irving had knowingly used forged documents as sources, and that for this reason he could not be regarded as a historian. Evans' report was the most comprehensive, in-depth examination of Irving's work:

Not one of [Irving's] books, speeches or articles, not one paragraph, not one sentence in any of them, can be taken on trust as an accurate representation of its historical subject. All of them are completely worthless as history, because Irving cannot be trusted anywhere, in any of them, to give a reliable account of what he is talking or writing about. ... if we mean by historian someone who is concerned to discover the truth about the past, and to give as accurate a representation of it as possible, then Irving is not a historian.[166]

Evans later described in 2001 to the Canadian columnist Robert Fulford his impression of Irving after being cross-examined by him as: "He [Irving] was a bit like a dim student who didn't listen. If he didn't get the answer he wanted, he just repeated the question".[167]

Longerich testified to the meaning of the often euphemistic language used by German officials during the war regarding the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question", and argued that from 1941 onwards, the term "resettlement in the East" was a metaphor for deportation to the death camps.[168] During his exchanges with Irving, Longerich insisted that the term "resettlement" was a euphemism for extermination and nothing more, and used Heinrich Himmler's Posen speeches in October 1943 as proof of the Nazi state's genocidal policy.[169] Irving by contrast argued for a literal interpretation of the phrase "resettlement in the East".[169]

During his testimony and a cross-examination by Irving, Browning countered Irving's suggestion that the last chapter of the Holocaust has yet to be written (implying there were grounds for doubting the reality of the Holocaust) by replying: "We are still discovering things about the Roman Empire. There is no last chapter in history".[170] Browning countered Irving's argument that the lack of a written Führer order proves the Holocaust did not occur by arguing that, although no such order was ever written down, Hitler had almost certainly made statements to his leading subordinates indicating his wishes in regards to the Jews of Europe during the war, thus rendering the need for a written order irrelevant.[171] Browning testified that several leading experts on Nazi Germany believe that there was no written Führer order for the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question", but no historian doubts the reality of the Holocaust.[172] Browning went on to assert that Irving was attempting to falsely equate doubts about the existence of a written Führer order with doubts about the Holocaust.[172] Browning used to support his thesis the example of Hitler's secret speech to his Gauleiters on 12 December 1941, in which Hitler strongly alluded to genocide as the "Final Solution".[173] Browning testified that the Madagascar Plan of 1940-41 was "fantastic" and "bizarre", but countered Irving's suggestion that this proves the alleged impossibility of the Holocaust by stating: "...I do think they took it seriously. It is fantastic, but of course, Auschwitz is fantastic, too".[174] Browning testified that the Madagascar Plan was not "Hitler's pipe dream" as Irving claimed, and that:

I would not call it a pipe dream, because I think, if England had surrendered, they would have tried to do it. They would have to tried to implement it just as they tried to implement the Lublin reservation plan [Browning was referring to the Nisko Plan here] and just as they tried and succeeded in implementing the death camp plans.

Browning categorically rejected Irving's claim that there was no reliable statistical information on the size of the pre-war Jewish population in Europe or on the killing processes, and argued that the only reason historians debate whether five or six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust is due to a lack of access to archives in the former Soviet Union.[175] Likewise, Browning argued that it is possible to become soaked in human blood after shooting people at close range based on his research for his 1992 book Ordinary Men, and dismissed Irving's argument that accounts of German personnel being soaked in blood were improbable because it is not possible to have a blood splattered uniform after shooting people at close range.[176] Browning responded to Irving's claim that because Browning had done work for the Yad Vashem center in Jerusalem that made him an "Israeli agent" and thereby compromised his scholarly abilities by stating:

If that was the case, then since I had been at the [US] Holocaust Museum, I would also have been an agent of the American government, and since I have received scholarships in Germany, I would be an agent of the German government, so I must be a very duplicitous fellow to be able to follow these regimes.

Irving seemed anxious for Browning's approval, and Browning later recalled that Irving behaved like the two of them were on "a joint journey of exploration and discovery".[167][170]


In the trial, Irving represented himself. He called the American Kevin B. MacDonald, an evolutionary psychologist, to testify on his behalf. Irving made much of the statement by the American historian Arno J. Mayer, who Irving went to pains to point out was both a Marxist and a man who would have been considered Jewish in Nazi racial theory, in his 1988 book Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?, that most of the people who died at Auschwitz were the victims of disease rather than murder.[177] In response, Peter Longerich argued that Mayer did not deny the Holocaust in his book, and that he was simply wrong about more Jews dying of "natural" as opposed to "unnatural" causes of death at Auschwitz.[178]

Hans Lammers, the Chief of the Reich Chancellery. A 1942 memo by him to the Justice Minister saying that Hitler wanted the "Jewish Question put on the backburner" until after the war was one of the chief pieces of evidence for Irving during Lipstadt's libel trial in 2000

During the trial, Richard J. Evans was cross-examined by Irving. The cross-examination of Evans by Irving was noted for the high degree of personal antagonism between the two men.[179] Such was the degree of antagonism that Irving challenged Evans on very minor points, such as Evans doubting that a 1938 German plebiscite which the Nazi regime received 98.8% of the vote was fair or not[180] A flashpoint for Irving and Evans in a debate was a 1942 memo by the Chief of the Reich Chancellery Hans Lammers to the Reich Justice Minister Franz Schlegelberger in which Lammers wrote that Hitler ordered him to put the "Jewish Question" on the "back-burner" until after the war[181] Evans chose to accept the interpretation of the memo put forward by Eberhard Jäckel in the 1970s.[182] Irving who chose to interpret the memo literally and taunted Evans by saying "It is a terrible problem, is it not that we are faced with this tantalizing plate of crumbs and morsels of what should have provided the final smoking gun, and nowhere the whole way through the archives do we find even one item that we do not have to interpret or read between the lines of, but we do have in the same chain of evidence documents which...quite clearly specifically show Hitler intervening in the other sense?".[183] In response, Evans stated "No, I do not accept that at all. It is because you want to interpret euphemisms as being literal and that is what the whole problem is. Every time there is an euphemism, Mr. Irving...or a camouflage piece of statement or language about Madagascar, you want to treat it as the literal truth, because it serves your purpose of trying to exculpate Hitler. That is part of... the way you manipulate and distort the documents."[184]

Irving also subpoenaed the diplomatic historian Donald Cameron Watt and the military historian John Keegan to testify in his case against Lipstadt; both men had refused an earlier invitation to testify for Irving on their own and appeared to be very reluctant on the stand.[citation needed] Rather than focus on the defence's evidence against him, or on whether or not Lipstadt had defamed him, Irving seemed to focus mainly on his "right to free speech".[citation needed] In his closing statement, Irving claimed to have been a victim of an international, mostly Jewish, conspiracy for more than three decades.[citation needed]


Irving unsuccessfully represented himself and his work during the trial. The Court found that Lipstadt did not libel Irving when she called him a Holocaust denier in her book.

Justice Gray concluded that Lipstadt's book represented a "deliberate attack" on Irving to discredit him and undermine credibility that might otherwise be given to his Holocaust denial claims. Justice Gray also concluded that the (contested) passages did in fact bear meanings defamatory to Irving, including: "Irving is an apologist for and partisan of Hitler"; "Irving is one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial"; and "Irving is discredited as a historian."[185]

In presenting his ruling, Mr. Justice Gray concluded[186] that he found the following claims against Irving to be "substantially true" and of "sufficient gravity" to render the remainder of no "material effect on Irving's reputation.":

Irving has for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence; that for the same reasons he has portrayed Hitler in an unwarrantedly favourable light, principally in relation to his attitude towards and responsibility for the treatment of the Jews; that he is an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-Semitic and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.

Irving lost subsequent attempts at appeal, the appeal finally being rejected by Lord Justice Sedley.

A 2001 episode of PBS' NOVA (titled "Holocaust on Trial") focused on the case, and showed re-enactments of events in the courtroom. Irving was played by British actor John Castle.


Not only did Irving lose the case, but in light of the evidence presented at the trial a number of his works that had previously escaped serious scrutiny were brought to public attention. He was also liable to pay all of Penguin's costs of the trial, estimated to be as much as £2 million (US$3.2 million).[187] When he did not meet these Davenport Lyons moved to make him bankrupt on behalf of their client. He was forced into bankruptcy in 2002.

Criticism by historians

Irving was once highly regarded for his expert knowledge of German military archives. Much of his scholarship was disputed by historians to the point that his standing as a historian was challenged from his earliest publications.[1] Contentious in large part for advancing interpretations of the war considered favourable to the German side and for association with far-right groups that advanced these views, by 1988 he began advocating the view that the Holocaust did not take place as a systematic and deliberate genocide, and quickly grew to be one of the most prominent advocates of Holocaust denial, costing him what scholarly reputation he had outside those circles. A marked change in Irving's reputation can be seen in the surveys of the historiography of the Third Reich produced by Ian Kershaw. In the first edition of Kershaw's book The Nazi Dictatorship in 1985, Irving was called a "maverick" historian working outside of the mainstream of the historical profession[188] By the time of the fourth edition of The Nazi Dictatorship in 2000, Irving was described only as a historical writer who had in the 1970s engaged in "provocations" intended to provide an "exculpation of Hitler's role in the Final Solution"[189]

Reaction to Irving's work (1960s–1970s)

In a review of 1977, the British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote that "no praise can be too high for his [Irving's] indefatigable, scholarly industry".[190] Trevor-Roper followed up his praise by expressing severe doubts about Irving's methodology. Trevor-Roper argued that: "He [Irving] seizes on a small, but dubious particle of 'evidence'; builds upon it, by private interpretation, a large general conclusion; and then overlooks or re-interprets the more substantial evidence and probability against it. Since this defective method is invariably used to excuse Hitler or the Nazis and to damage their opponents, we may reasonably speak of a consistent bias, unconsciously distorting the evidence".[49] Finally, Trevor-Roper commented: "When a historian relies mainly on primary sources, which we can not easily check, he challenges our confidence and forces us to ask critical questions. How reliable is his historical method? How sound is his judgment? We ask these questions particularly of a man like Mr. Irving, who makes a virtue of—almost a profession—of using arcane sources to affront established opinions".[190][191] Trevor-Roper ended by writing "He may read his manuscript diaries correctly. But we can never be quite sure, and when he is at most original, we are likely to be least sure".[191]

The British historian A. J. P. Taylor called Irving in 1978 an author of "unrivaled industry' and "good scholarship" regarding research in the archives.[190] Taylor criticized Irving's double standard with historical judgements, using as an example Irving's claim that the lack of a written Führer order proves that Hitler did not know about the Holocaust while at the same time claiming that the lack of a written order "proved" that Churchill ordered the "murder" of General Sikorski (In Accident, Irving claimed that there was a written order for Sikorski's "murder", but that Churchill had it destroyed). The British historian Paul Addison in 1979 described Irving as a "colossus of research", but criticized him for his view of "Churchill as wicked as Hitler" and "a schoolboy in judgment".[190] In a book review published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 18 June 1979, the German historian Andreas Hillgruber for the most part offered a highly unfavorable judgment of Irving's work.[192] Despite his criticism, Hillgruber ended his review with the comment that Irving's work "amounts to an indubitable and in no way small merit of Irving".[192] In 1979, the German historian Jost Dülffer wrote that Irving was very good at tracking down and interviewing Hitler's former servants, but went on to write that "One can draw no appropriate picture of Hitler from the perspective of his domestic personnel. What kind of importance has a questioning of Hitler's valet or of other such persons?".[193]

Reactions to Irving (1980s–1990s)


In a review of Irving's 1988 book Churchill's War, David Cannadine criticised Irving's "double standard on evidence", accusing Irving of "demanding absolute documentary proof to convict the Germans (as when he sought to show that Hitler was not responsible for the Holocaust), while relying on circumstantial evidence to condemn the British (as in his account of the Allied bombing of Dresden)".[194]

Writing in 1989 about Irving's Göring biography, the German-Canadian historian Peter Hoffmann declared:

Mr. Irving's constant references to archives, diaries and letters, and the overwhelming amount of detail in his work, suggest objectivity. In fact they put a screen behind which a very different agenda is transacted… Mr. Irving is a great obfuscator…Distortions affect every important aspect of this book to the point of obfuscation… It is unfortunate that Mr Irving wastes his extraordinary talents as a researcher and writer on trivializing the greatest crimes in German history, on manipulating historical sources and on highlighting the theatrics of the Nazi era".[195]

Hoffman went on to write that though Irving had at one time played a useful role in the historical profession by making outrageous assertions that at least had the benefit of inspiring historians to undertake research to rebut him, the time for that had now passed, and that Irving was simply irrelevant to the study of the Third Reich.[195]

In a feuilleton published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 18 October 1989 the German historian Rainer Zitelmann praised Irving for having "struck a nerve" with his provocative style and aggressive assertions.[196] Zitelmann found much to be praised about Irving's claim that the lack of a written Führer order for the Holocaust suggests that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust, and argued that if that was true, then historians should stop holding the Holocaust against Hitler.[196] Zitelmann ended his article with the claim that "Irving must not be ignored. He has weaknesses [but he is] one of the best knowers of sources…[and has] contributed much to research".[196] The British historian John Charmley commented that "Irving's sources, unlike the conclusions which he draws from them, are usually sound", and that Irving "has been unjustly ignored".[190]


In 1990, the American historian Peter Baldwin called Irving a historian who "…has made a career of seeking to shift culpability for the worst atrocities from Hitler and to draw also the Allies into proximity with the outrages of the war"[197] In his 1994 book, A World At Arms, the American historian Gerhard Weinberg described Irving as "notoriously unreliable", and criticized those historians who used Irving to support their arguments[198]

Prominent British historian Sir John Keegan wrote in 1996 in his book The Battle for History, "Some controversies are entirely bogus, like David Irving's contention that Hitler's subordinates kept from him the facts of the Final Solution, the extermination of the Jews". In an 20 April 1996 review in The Daily Telegraph of Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich, Keegan wrote that Irving "knows more than anyone alive about the German side of the Second World War", and claimed that Hitler's War was "indispensable to anyone seeking to understand the war in the round".[194]

During Lipstadt's libel trial, Keegan—whom he had subpoenaed to appear as a witness—lambasted Irving by saying: "I continue to think it perverse of you to propose that Hitler could not have known until as late as October 1943 what was going on with the Jewish people" and, when asked if it was perverse to say that Hitler did not know about the Final Solution, answered "that it defies common sense".[199] In an article in The Daily Telegraph of 12 April 2000, Keegan spoke of his experience of the trial, writing that Irving had an "all-consuming knowledge of a vast body of material" and exhibited "many of the qualities of the most creative historians", that his skill as an archivist could not be contested, and that he was "certainly never dull". However, according to Keegan, "like many who seek to shock, he may not really believe what he says and probably feels astounded when taken seriously".[200]

In the 1990s, Irving featured on his Web site a translation of a letter by the prominent German historian Hans Mommsen, praising Irving's skill as a researcher.[2] Mommsen, who had written the letter in 1977, unsuccessfully attempted to have it removed, but did succeed in forcing Irving to feature a second letter from him written in 1998 in which Mommsen completely disavowed his 1977 letter under the grounds that he did not wish to be associated with Irving's recent statements about the Holocaust.[2]

In a six-page essay in The New York Review of Books published on 19 September 1996 the American historian Gordon A. Craig, a leading scholar of German history at Stanford University, noted Irving's claims that the Holocaust never took place and that Auschwitz was merely "a labor camp with an unfortunately high death rate".[201] Though "such obtuse and quickly discredited views" may be "offensive to large numbers of people", Craig argued that Irving's work is "the best study we have of the German side of the Second World War" and that "we dare not" disregard his views. Craig called Irving a "useful irritant"; a devil's advocate historian who promoted what Craig considered to be a twisted and wrong-headed view of history, with a great deal of élan, but his advocacy of these views forced historians to make a fruitful epistemological examination about the current state of knowledge about the Third Reich. In his 2000 book The Holocaust Industry, Norman Finkelstein quoted Craig's testament to Irving's value in part thus: "His book Hitler's War remains the best study we have of the German side of the Second World War and, as such, indispensable for all students of that conflict..."[202]

The Hungarian-American historian John Lukacs in his 1997 book The Hitler of History has labelled Irving an apologist for Hitler who consistently mishandled historical evidence in Hitler's favor.[37] Lukacs maintains that over the years, Irving's treatment of Hitler has gone from a barely concealed admiration to a Great Man treatment of Hitler.[203] Lukacs argues that Irving's picture of Hitler is defective because of his tendency to confuse asserting that Hitler was a great warlord as being the same thing as proving Hitler was a military genius, which leads to a total neglect of the crucial question of why Hitler took particular decisions at particular times.[204] Lukacs condemned Irving as a historical writer for his "twisting" of evidence (i.e. labelling Adolf Eichmann's statement before an Israeli court in 1961 that he heard from Himmler that Hitler had given a verbal order for the Holocaust as mere "hearsay").[37] Lukacs described Irving in the 1997 American edition of The Hitler of History as the most influential of Hitler's apologists, and found it "regrettable" that many professional historians cite Irving as a source.[108] Lukacs called Irving's historical opinions objectionable and inexcusable, and complained that too many of Irving's opinions were supported by footnotes that referred either to sources that did not exist or said something different from what Irving wrote.[205] Some of the examples Lukacs cited in support of his claim was Irving's contemptuous statement mocking the Polish cavalry for charging German tanks (a legend discredited even in the 1970s when Irving wrote Hitler's War), asserting with no source that Hitler refused a lavish banquet prepared for him in Warsaw in 1939 out of the desire to eat the same rations as the ordinary German soldier, for crediting a statement again with no source to Hitler in August 1940 that he would let Churchill live in peace after defeating Britain, for falsely claiming Operation Typhoon, the German drive onto Moscow in 1941, was forced on him by his General Staff, and for putting his own words in a speech of Hitler in September 1943 implying Churchill was a decadent homosexual (not something that was in Hitler's speech).[206] Lukacs asserted too many of the crucial statements by Irving in Hitler's War such as his claim that Hitler foresaw Operation Uranus, the Soviet counter-offensive at the Battle of Stalingrad, or his claim that the Hungarian leader Major Ferenc Szálasi wanted to fight to the bitter end in 1944-45 (when he wished for a German-Soviet compromise peace) were completely dishonest and untrue statements supported by references to non-existent documents.[207]

American writer Ron Rosenbaum questioned Irving about a memoir in his possession that was alleged to have been written by Adolf Eichmann in the 1950s. The precise authenticity of the Eichmann Memoirs is in doubt, but parts of the book, according to the German Federal Archives, appeared to be genuine (though the book was apparently the result of an interview between Eichmann and an Argentine journalist in the 1950s).[208] Irving had received the alleged memoir during a visit to Argentina in December 1991, when it was presented to him after he had spoken at a neo-Nazi rally and was quite proud of his find.[208] In The Eichmann Memoirs, Eichmann claimed to have heard from Himmler that Hitler had given a verbal order authorizing the Holocaust, thereby contradicting Irving's claim in Hitler's War that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust. Irving's response to the claim that Hitler ordered the Holocaust in The Eichmann Memoirs was to claim that Eichmann wrote his memoirs in 1956 at the time of the Suez War, and was fearful that Cairo, Egypt might fall to Israel.[209] Irving told Rosenbaum that his philosophy of history is a strictly empirical one, and that: "I tried to apply the three criteria that Hugh Trevor-Roper thought were indispensable to reading documents. Three questions you ask of a document: Was it genuine? Was it written by somebody who was in a position to know what he's writing about? And why does this document exist? The third one is the crucial one with the Eichmann papers. He's writing in 1956 at the time of the Suez crisis; we know because he refers to it".[209] Irving's reasoning is that if Cairo was taken by the Israeli Defence Forces, then the Israelis might discover the "rat-line", as undercover smuggling networks for Nazis were known, that had allowed Eichmann to escape to Argentina, and that therefore Eichmann had written his memoirs as a potential defence in the event of being captured by the Israelis.[209] In this way, Irving argued that The Eichmann Memoirs were genuine but that the claim that Hitler ordered the Holocaust was false—made only to reduce Eichmann's responsibility for the Holocaust. Also in the same interview, Irving claimed wanting acceptance as a scholar by other historians and bemoaned having to associate with what he called the lunatic fringe anti-Semitic groups; he claimed he would disassociate himself from these groups full of "cracked" people as soon as he was accepted by the historians' community.[144] Rosenbaum sarcastically wrote in his book Explaining Hitler that if Irving wanted to be considered a historian, he was going about it in a rather strange way by denying the Holocaust at neo-Nazi rallies.[144]

Persona non grata

Irving as he was deported from Canada in 1992

After Irving denied the Holocaust in two 1989 speeches given in Austria, the Austrian government issued an arrest warrant against him and barred him from entering the country. This case came up again in 2005 when Irving was arrested and brought to trial (see next section).[210] In early 1992 a German court found him guilty of Holocaust denial under the Auschwitzlüge section of the law against Volksverhetzung (a failed appeal by Irving would see the fine rise from 10,000 DM to 30,000 DM), and he was subsequently barred from entering Germany.[211] Other governments followed suit, including Austria, Italy and Canada,[212] where he was arrested in November 1992 and deported back to the United Kingdom.[211] In an administrative hearing surrounding those events, he was found by the hearing office to have engaged in a "total fabrication" in telling a story of an exit from and return to Canada which would, for technical reasons, have made the original deportation order invalid. He was also barred from entering Australia in 1992, a ban he made four unsuccessful legal attempts to overturn.

On 27 April 1993 Irving was ordered to attend court to be examined on charges relating to the Loi Gayssot in France. The law, however, does not permit extradition and Irving simply refused to travel to France.

Then, in February 1994, Irving spent 10 days of a three month sentence in London's Pentonville prison for contempt of court following a legal wrangling over publishing rights. Irving's legal troubles continued as a Mannheim court indicted him for defaming the dead; because of this action, he would be fined 20,000 DM in mid-1997.

Early in September 2004, Michael Cullen, the deputy prime minister of New Zealand, announced that Irving would not be permitted to visit the country, where he had been invited by the National Press Club to give a series of lectures under the heading "The Problems of Writing about World War II in a Free Society". The National Press Club defended its invitation of Irving, saying that it amounted not to an endorsement of his views, but rather an opportunity to question him. The intended visit provoked an outcry among Jewish groups, who were not appeased by Irving's promise not to speak about the Holocaust.

Irving had visited New Zealand twice before in the 1980s. His intended 2004 visit was refused on the grounds that he had been convicted of offences by a German court, and that at various times had been deported from, and/or refused entry to, Canada, the United States, Italy, and South Africa. "Mr. Irving is not permitted to enter New Zealand under the Immigration Act because people who have been deported from another country are refused entry", government spokeswoman Katherine O'Sullivan had told The Press earlier. Irving rejected the ban and attempted to board a Qantas flight for New Zealand from Los Angeles on 17 September 2004. He was not allowed on board. "As far as I'm concerned, the legal battle now begins", he was quoted as saying.

Arrest and imprisonment in Austria

On 11 November 2005, the Austrian police in the southern state of Styria, acting under a 1989 warrant, arrested Irving. Four days later, he was charged by state prosecutors with the speech crime of "trivialising the Holocaust". His application for bail was denied on the grounds that he would flee or repeat the offence. He remained in jail awaiting trial. On 20 February 2006 Irving pleaded guilty to the charge of "trivialising, grossly playing down and denying the Holocaust".


Before Irving's sentencing hearing, he stated through his lawyer that he had changed his views and his ways. At the trial, Judge Liebtreu quoted numerous statements of Irving's, including "there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz" and "it makes no sense to transport people from Amsterdam, Vienna and Brussels 500 kilometres to Auschwitz simply to liquidate them when it can be more easily done 8 km from the city where they live". Irving informed Judge Liebtreu that he "regretted the formulation".

Towards the end of the hearing, Irving again publicly recanted, saying that "I've changed my views. I spoke then about Auschwitz and gas chambers based on my knowledge at the time, but by 1991 when I came across the Eichmann papers, I wasn't saying that any more and I wouldn't say that now. The Nazis did murder millions of Jews. ..I made a mistake by saying there were no gas chambers, I am absolutely without doubt that the Holocaust took place. I apologise to those few I might have offended though I remain very proud of the 30 books I have written". However, Irving continued to insist that Hitler knew nothing of the death camps, and that "The figure of six million killed Jews is just a symbolic number".

Michael Klackl, the prosecuting attorney, stated:

David Irving only uses words, but these words are used by right-wing extremists to give them an ideological position. Mr Irving might have said he has changed his views, but that has all been a show for you. Theatrical exhibition to save himself from the maximum sentence. He has played a role for you today. The thread of anti-Semitism runs through him.[213]

The judge, Peter Liebtreu, summarized:

He showed no signs that he attempted to change his views after the arrest warrant was issued 16 years ago in Austria.... He served as an example for the right wing for decades. He is comparable to a prostitute who hasn't changed her ways.... Irving is a falsifier of history and anything but a proper historian. In the world of David Irving there were no gas chambers and no plan to murder the Jews. He's continued to deny the fact that the Holocaust was genocide orchestrated from the highest ranks of the Nazi state.[214]

At the end of the one-day hearing, Irving was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in accordance with the Austrian Federal Law on the prohibition of National Socialist activities (officially Verbotsgesetz, "Prohibition Statute") for having denied the existence of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps in several lectures held in Austria in 1989. Irving sat motionless as Liebtreu asked Irving if he had understood the sentence, to which Irving replied "I'm not sure I do" before being bundled out of the court by Austrian police. Later, Irving declared himself shocked by the severity of the sentence. He reportedly had already purchased a plane ticket home to London.

After the sentencing, Liebtreu told the audience that "The court did not consider the defendant to have genuinely changed his mind. The regret he showed was considered to be mere lip service to the law".

On 28 February, Irving once again questioned the Holocaust, asking "Given the ruthless efficiency of the Germans, if there was an extermination programme to kill all the Jews, how come so many survived?" He claimed that the number of people gassed in Auschwitz was relatively small, and that his earlier claims that there had been no gassing at all had been a "methodological error". According to Irving, "You could say that millions died, but not at Auschwitz".[215] Within hours, the Austrian government reacted by barring Irving from further communication with the media.

Time in prison

While in jail Irving wrote an account of his imprisonment and the Austrian justice system, which has now appeared online: Banged Up.

Deborah Lipstadt, upon hearing of Irving's sentence to three years' imprisonment, said, "I am not happy when censorship wins, and I don't believe in winning battles via censorship... The way of fighting Holocaust deniers is with history and with truth".[216]

Concerning the Austrian 'Prohibition Statute,' the Austrian Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs insisted that it conforms with international law and international human rights standards, and that it is not contrary to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950, that being a statute "...necessary in a democratic society (inter alia)... for the prevention of disorder or crime,... [and]... for the protection of the rights of others".


Both Irving, hoping to have the verdict overturned, and the Austrian prosecutor, calling for a longer sentence, served appeals on 22 April 2006. The Austrian Supreme Court considered Irving's appeal but ultimately ruled against him in September 2006.[217][218] The appeal over the length of sentence was heard and concluded on 20 December. The court replaced two-thirds of Irving's jail sentence with probation. Since he had already served the balance of his sentence in jail, he was released from prison.[219][220][221][222] On 21 December 2006, Irving was technically "expelled" from Austria; he was banned from ever returning to the country again.[223] Upon Irving's arrival in the UK he reaffirmed his position, stating that he felt "no need any longer to show remorse" for his Holocaust views.[224]


His imprisonment caused some controversy and has been criticized on the grounds of free speech issues. The German historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler supported Irving's imprisonment under the grounds that "The denial of such an unimaginable murder of millions, one third of whom were children under the age of 14, cannot simply be accepted as something protected by the freedom of speech".[225] By contrast Deborah Lipstadt argued that Irving should not be imprisoned for expressing views that she finds odious and wrong.[226] Others have stated that "nothing could be more fatal to our rights to speak and to write than for us to deny others the right to deny our dearest beliefs".[227] Opponents of Irving's imprisonment argue that free speech should be applied to everyone regardless of their viewpoints and that it is a slippery slope to imprison someone due to the lack of factual accuracy or unpopularity of their opinions.[228] It has also been argued that by imprisoning Irving the Austrian courts made a martyr out of Irving and did more damage than good, and that it would have been better to simply "let him go home and let him continue talking to six people in a basement", and "let him fade into obscurity where he belongs".[229]


Irving appeared in Hungary in 2007, where on 15 March he took part in and gave a speech for a far-right nationalist rally.[230]

On 18 May 2007, he was expelled from the 52nd Warsaw International Book Fair in Poland because books he took there were deemed by the organizers as promoting Nazism and antisemitism, which is in violation of Polish law.[231]

Irving and BNP leader Nick Griffin were invited to speak at a forum on free speech at the Oxford Union on 26 November 2007, along with Anne Atkins and Evan Harris.[232] The debate took place after Oxford Union members voted in favour of it,[233] but was disrupted by protesters.[234]

Snubbed by Norwegian arts festival

In October 2008 a controversy erupted in Norway over Irving's invitation to The Norwegian Festival of Literature taking place between 26–31 May 2009 in Lillehammer. The festival is the largest literature festival in the Nordic countries. Several of the country's most distinguished authors protested the invitation. (see article on Festival for details)

In a matter of days after the controversy had started, the invitation was withdrawn. This led author Stig Sæterbakken, who had invited Irving, to resign from his position as director of program content for the festival in protest of the decision. The head of the festival, Randi Skeie, deplored what had taken place, stating "Everything is fine as long as everyone agrees, but things get more difficult when one doesn't like the views being put forward".[235]

Involvement in Williamson controversy

As Bishop Richard Williamson came under pressure from the Vatican to retract his statements denying the Holocaust as genocide and support revisions, he contacted Irving for guidance. Irving advised Williamson to admit to "mass killings" at Treblinka, Sobibor, and Belzec from the spring of 1942 to October 1943. Irving further argued that the issue had been played up to distract public attention from Israel's actions against Hamas in Gaza and the resulting loss of civilian Palestinian life. Irving indicated that, "There is much dispute over numbers and methods of killing", but he "should not dispute that there were such killings".[236]

Views condemned by the Spanish foreign minister

In September 2009 Irving was interviewed by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, the first in a six-part series of interviews that offered a retrospective on the start of World War II. The article ran for one and a half pages, with Irving answering 31 questions about the war ranging from historical causes to Hitler's role in the Holocaust.[237] The article featured a profile of Irving's career in which his views were identified as "more or less pro-Nazi",[238] and the newspaper staff also wrote an editorial disavowing Irving's "vicious anti-Semitic discourse" but defending his right to be heard, citing freedom of expression.[239]

The Israeli ambassador to Spain, Raphael Schutz, complained about the interview although he did not try to stop its publication.[240] The day after the article was published, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos issued a public statement saying he regretted that any space was given to Irving's views.

Destruction of Irving's Web sites

On 13 November 2009, hackers broke into Irving's website and email account.[241] They posted the lists of people who had donated money or purchased books or tickets to the book tour on Wikileaks then destroyed the original files.[242]

2009 book tour

Irving conducted a nationwide book tour of the United States in late 2009. Rather than touring a circuit of locations, Irving flew into the country several times and visited a handful of cities on each stint.[citation needed] This did not stop his critics from organising protests against his lectures.

A man was stabbed during an appearance by Irving at an invitation-only event held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Manalapan, Florida, on 27 October 2009.[243]

A private meeting of Irving's at the Edelweiss Restaurant in Norridge, Illinois, was invaded on 23 November 2009, by eight masked intruders. Convicted Internet Web site hacker Jeremy Hammond was apprehended with four other occupants of a vehicle identified by witnesses of the attack, by River Grove, Illinois, police later the same evening.[244] Hammond and the other occupants of the vehicle were each charged with two counts of disorderly conduct. Their trial was scheduled for 6 January 2010.

The Catholic Kolping Society in New York cancelled a booking of their auditorium made under a false name when they discovered it was intended to be used by Irving. Irving had kept the location secret in keeping with his standard practice (to avoid disruption by protesters) for such gatherings. A talk at an American Legion hall in New Jersey was subsequently cancelled as well.[245] A group calling themselves New Yorkers Against David Irving bought up tickets to one of his lectures in New York and planned to demonstrate.[246]




  • The Memoirs of Field-Marshal Keitel (1965)
  • The Memoirs of General Gehlen (1972)


  • The Night the Dams Burst (1973)
  • Von Guernica bis Vietnam (in German only) (1982)
  • Die deutsche Ostgrenze (in German only) (1990)
  • Banged Up (online only) (2008)

Collected articles in German

  • Und Deutschlands Städte starben nicht (1963)
  • Nürnberg: Die letzte Schlacht (1979)
  • Wie krank war Hitler wirklich? (1980)

See also


  1. ^ a b c David Irving is not a historian in the academic sense of the term. While some media refer to him as a "historian" ("Holocaust denier Irving is jailed". BBC News Online. 20 February 2006. Retrieved 2 January 2010. ), and Judge Charles Gray commented that "his knowledge of World War 2 is unparalleled", and refer to him as a "military historian" (Gray. "Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Judgment: Electronic Edition". Emory University. ) others have chosen not to consider him as one:
    • "In 1969, after David Irving's support for Rolf Hochhuth, the German playwright who accused Winston Churchill of murdering the Polish wartime leader General Sikorski, 'The Daily Telegraph issued a memo to all its correspondents. 'It is incorrect,' it said, 'to describe David Irving as a historian. In future we should describe him as an author.'" Ingrams, Richard (25 February 2006). "Irving was the author of his own downfall". 
    • "It may seem an absurd semantic dispute to deny the appellation of 'historian' to someone who has written two dozen books or more about historical subjects. But if we mean by historian someone who is concerned to discover the truth about the past, and to give as accurate a representation of it as possible, then Irving is not a historian. Those in the know, indeed, are accustomed to avoid the term altogether when referring to him and use some circumlocution such as 'historical writer' instead. Irving is essentially an ideologue who uses history for his own political purposes; he is not primarily concerned with discovering and interpreting what happened in the past, he is concerned merely to give a selective and tendentious account of it in order to further his own ideological ends in the present. The true historian's primary concern, however, is with the past. That is why, in the end, Irving is not a historian." Irving vs. (1) Lipstadt and (2) Penguin Books, Expert Witness Report by Richard J. Evans FBA, Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge, 2000, Chapter 6.
    • "State prosecutor Michael Klackl said: 'He's not a historian, he's a falsifier of history.'" Traynor, Ian (21 February 2006). "Irving jailed for denying Holocaust".,,1714403,00.html. 
    • "...Irving has never examined and interpreted facts for the simple reason that he is not a historian. He twists or suppresses evidence to fit a foregone conclusion—the opposite of what any reputable historian does." Taylor, Charles (24 May 2001). "Evil takes the stand". Retrieved 30 May 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c Shermer & Grobman 2002, p. 49.
  3. ^ Discredited:
  4. ^ a b "The ruling against David Irving". 11 April 2000.,,181049,00.html. 
  5. ^ "Hitler historian loses libel case". BBC News Online. 11 April 2000. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Guttenplan 2001, p. 41.
  7. ^ Guttenplan 2001, p. 40.
  8. ^ a b c Rosenbaum, Ron (1999). Explaining Hitler. p. 227.
  9. ^ interview
  10. ^ a b The Independent, July 11, 1992
  11. ^ Wyden, Peter The Hitler Virus: The Insidious Legacy of Adolf Hitler, New York: Arcade Publishing, 2001 page 159
  12. ^ a b
  13. ^ "David Irving File". Anti-Defamation League. June 1996. Retrieved 2008-12-16. 
  14. ^ Real History and the 1942 North Russian Convoys
  15. ^
  16. ^ "David Irving: Propagandists' Poster Boy". Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  17. ^ Mosley packs them in.Pi magazine, 22 February 1961.
  18. ^ Guttenplan 2001, pp. 225–226.
  19. ^ Guttenplan 2001, p. 43.
  20. ^ Guttenplan 2001, p. 225.
  21. ^ Evans, Richard J (2001). Lying About Hitler. p. 170.
  22. ^ ""Searchlight" & the State". Kate Sharpley Library. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  23. ^ David Irving's World of Real History.
  24. ^ Fighting the Holocaust deniers
  25. ^ a b Rosenbaum, Ron (1999). Explaining Hitler. p. 232.
  26. ^ Rosenbaum, Ron (1999). Explaining Hitler. pp. 227–229.
  27. ^ a b c Lipstadt 2005, p. 293.
  28. ^ Lipstadt 2005, pp. 293–294.
  29. ^ Lipstadt 2005, p. 294.
  30. ^ Lipstadt 1993, p. 232.
  31. ^ a b c d Lipstadt 1993, p. 231.
  32. ^ e.g. The Guardian
  33. ^ Philippe Naughton and agencies in Vienna. "Irving jailed for three years, despite Holocaust U-turn", The Times, 20 February 2006.
  34. ^ The trial of David Irving—and my part in his downfall, by John Keegan, Defence Editor, Daily Telegraph (UK) ISSUE 1783 Wednesday 12 April 2000
  35. ^ "History needs David Irvings" by Donald Cameron Watt, The Evening Standard, 11 April 2000.
  36. ^ a b Guttenplan 2001, p. 128.
  37. ^ a b c d Lukacs, John (1997). The Hitler of History. p. 178.
  38. ^ a b c d e Craig 1982, p. 72.
  39. ^ a b c d e f Evans, Richard J (1989). In Hitler's Shadow. p. 166.
  40. ^ a b c Guttenplan 2001, p. 46.
  41. ^ Stauber, Roni. l "From Revisionism to Holocaust Denial David Irving as A Case Study". l. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  42. ^ a b c d Lipstadt 1993, p. 111.
  43. ^ Craig 1982, pp. 72–73.
  44. ^ Craig 1982, pp. 73–74.
  45. ^ Kerhshaw, Ian The Nazi Dictatorship, London: Edward Arnold 1985 page 95
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lipstadt 1993, p. 161.
  47. ^ a b c d Guttenplan 2001, p. 45.
  48. ^ Syndnor, Charles "The Selling of Adolf Hitler: David Irving's Hitler's War" pages 169–99 from Central European History Issue # 2, Volume 12, June 1979 page 173.
  49. ^ a b c d e f Pelt, Robert Jan van (2002). The Case for Auschwitz. p. 20.
  50. ^ Evans, Richard J (2001). Lying About Hitler. p. 41.
  51. ^ a b c d "David Irving: Propagandists' Poster Boy". Anti-Defamation League. doi:2001. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  52. ^ a b Jäckel 1993, p. 21.
  53. ^ Jäckel 1993, p. 22.
  54. ^ Jäckel 1993, p. 23.
  55. ^ a b Jäckel 1993, p. 24.
  56. ^ Jäckel 1993, pp. 26–27.
  57. ^ Jäckel 1993, p. 28.
  58. ^ Jäckel 1993, pp. 30–31.
  59. ^ Jäckel 1993, pp. 31–32.
  60. ^ a b Jäckel 1993, p. 34.
  61. ^ Jäckel 1993, p. 36.
  62. ^ a b Jäckel 1993, p. 37.
  63. ^ Jäckel 1993, pp. 36–38.
  64. ^ Jäckel 1993, pp. 37–38.
  65. ^ a b Jäckel 1993, p. 38.
  66. ^ Lukacs, John "Caveat Lector" pages 946-950 from National Review, Volume XXIX, Issue # 32, 19 August 1977, page 946
  67. ^ a b c Lukacs, John "Caveat Lector" pages 946-950 from National Review, Volume XXIX, Issue # 32, 19 August 1977, page 947
  68. ^ a b Smith, Bradley "Two Alibies for the Inhumanities: A. R. Butz, "The Hoax of the Twentieth Century" and David Irving, "Hitler's War"" pages 327-335 from German Studies Review, Volume 1, Issue # 3. October 1978
  69. ^ Broszat, Martin "Hitler and the Genesis of the 'Final Solution': An Assessment of David Irving's Theses" pages 390-429 from Aspects of the Third Reich edited by H.W. Koch pages 392-393.
  70. ^ Broszat, Martin "Hitler and the Genesis of the 'Final Solution': An Assessment of David Irving's Theses" pages 390-429 from Aspects of the Third Reich edited by H.W. Koch pages 393 & 413-419
  71. ^ Broszat, Martin "Hitler and the Genesis of the 'Final Solution': An Assessment of David Irving's Theses" pages 390-429 from Aspects of the Third Reich edited by H.W. Koch page 394.
  72. ^ Broszat, Martin "Hitler and the Genesis of the 'Final Solution': An Assessment of David Irving's Theses" pages 390-429 from Aspects of the Third Reich edited by H.W. Koch pages 413-415
  73. ^ a b Broszat, Martin "Hitler and the Genesis of the 'Final Solution': An Assessment of David Irving's Theses" pages 390-429 from Aspects of the Third Reich edited by H.W. Koch pages 414-415
  74. ^ Broszat, Martin "Hitler and the Genesis of the 'Final Solution': An Assessment of David Irving's Theses" pages 390-429 from Aspects of the Third Reich edited by H.W. Koch pages 420-421
  75. ^ Broszat, Martin "Hitler and the Genesis of the 'Final Solution': An Assessment of David Irving's Theses" pages 390-429 from Aspects of the Third Reich edited by H.W. Koch pages 427-428.
  76. ^ Broszat, Martin "Hitler and the Genesis of the 'Final Solution': An Assessment of David Irving's Theses" pages 390-429 from Aspects of the Third Reich edited by H.W. Koch page 395.
  77. ^ Sydnor, Charles "The Selling of Adolf Hitler: David Irving's Hitler's War" pages 169-99 from Central European History Issue # 2, Volume 12, June 1979 pages 172-173.
  78. ^ Sydnor, Charles "The Selling of Adolf Hitler: David Irving's Hitler's War" pages 169-99 from Central European History Issue # 2, Volume 12, June 1979 page 173.
  79. ^ Syndnor, Charles "The Selling of Adolf Hitler: David Irving's Hitler's War" pages 169-99 from Central European History Issue # 2, Volume 12, June 1979 pages 178.
  80. ^ Syndnor, Charles "The Selling of Adolf Hitler: David Irving's Hitler's War" pages 169-99 from Central European History Issue # 2, Volume 12, June 1979 pages 175.
  81. ^ Sydnor, Charles "The Selling of Adolf Hitler: David Irving's Hitler's War" pages 169-99 from Central European History Issue # 2, Volume 12, June 1979 pages 179.
  82. ^ Syndnor, Charles "The Selling of Adolf Hitler: David Irving's Hitler's War" pages 169-99 from Central European History Issue # 2, Volume 12, June 1979 pages 182-183.
  83. ^ Sydnor, Charles "The Selling of Adolf Hitler: David Irving's Hitler's War" pages 169-99 from Central European History Issue # 2, Volume 12, June 1979 pages 184.
  84. ^ Sydnor, Charles "The Selling of Adolf Hitler: David Irving's Hitler's War" pages 169-99 from Central European History Issue # 2, Volume 12, June 1979 pages 175-176.
  85. ^ Sydnor, Charles "The Selling of Adolf Hitler: David Irving's Hitler's War" pages 169-99 from Central European History Issue # 2, Volume 12, June 1979 page 176.
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  134. ^ Mr. Death: Transcript
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  163. ^ Adams, Tim (24 February 2002). "Memories are made of this". Observer. Retrieved 2008-12-21. 
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  166. ^ Holocaust Denial On Trial
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  185. ^ Paragraph 2.15.
  186. ^ Paragraph 13.167
  187. ^ Irving defiant over libel defeat BBC April 12, 2000
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  189. ^ Kershaw 1985, p. 268.
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  193. ^ Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Lukacs_1997_27; see Help:Cite error.
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  198. ^ Weinberg, Gerhard A World At Arms, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994 page 1067.
  199. ^ Day 16 of David Irving vs Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt
  200. ^ The trial of David Irving - and my part in his downfall
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  210. ^ "Irving jailed for denying Holocaust | World news | The Guardian". The Guardian<!.,,1714403,00.html. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  211. ^ a b "In early 1992, German authorities fined him 10,000 marks (about $6,000) after he violated a federal law against public expression of the "Auschwitz Lie". Appealing the fine, an unrepentant Irving declared, "there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, I will not change my opinion". (His fine was subsequently tripled.) In 1993, he was banned from the country. His criminal convictions in Germany led Canadian authorities to deny him entrance as well; he was deported from Canada in 1992 after he admitted having lied to a Canadian customs official". David Irving: Propagandists' Poster Boy, Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
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  215. ^ Irving goes on denying Holocaust
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  217. ^ Holocaust denier verdict upheld – BBC News
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  219. ^ Holocaust Denier Freed, Gets Probation – Salon
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  • "Two Alibies for the Inhumanities: A. R. Butz, "The Hoax of the Twentieth Century" and David Irving, "Hitler's War"" by Bradley Smith pages 327-335 from German Studies Review, Volume 1, Issue # 3. October 1978.
  • "Caveat Lector Review of Hitler's War" by John Lukacs pages 946-950 from National Review, Volume XXIX, Issue # 32, 19 August 1977.
  • "David Irving: The Big Oops" pages 221–236 from Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil by Ron Rosenbaum New York: Random House, 1998. ISBN 0-679-43151-9
  • "Hitler and the Genesis of the 'Final Solution': An Assessment of David Irving's Theses" pages 73–125 from Yad Vashem Studies by Martin Broszat, Volume 13, 1979; reprinted pages 390-429 in Aspects of the Third Reich edited by H.W. Koch, London: Macmillan, 1985, ISBN 0-333-35272-6; originally published as "Hitler und die Genesis der "Endlösung". Aus Anlaß der Thesen von David Irving", pages 739-775 from Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, Volume 25, 1977.
  • "David Irving and the 1956 Revolution" by András Mink pages 117-128 from Hungarian Quarterly, Volume 41, Issue #160, 2000.
  • Felix Müller. Das Verbotsgesetz im Spannungsverhältnis zur Meinungsfreiheit. Eine verfassungsrechtliche Untersuchung; Verlag Österreich, 2005, 238 Seiten, br., ISBN 3-7046-4685-7
  • Schiedel, Heribert. Irving sitzt in Österreich in Jungle World, 23 November 2005. ISSN 1613-0766
  • Wikisource:David Irving vs Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt
  • Amarasingam, Amarnath (July 2007). "Who Denies the Holocaust And Why Do They Deny It?". The Jewish Magazine. Retrieved 9 February 2009. 



External links

Irving v. Penguin Books Limited and Deborah E. Lipstadt trial


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Has a historian the right to offend? Definitely, yes.

David John Cawdell Irving (born 1938-03-24) is a British writer specializing in the military history of World War II. He is the author of 25 books, including The Destruction of Dresden (1963), Hitler's War (1977), Churchill's War (1987), and Goebbels — Mastermind of the Third Reich (1996). His books are considered sympathetic to Nazi Germany and Irving himself is considered a Holocaust denier by 11 countries and many scholars. He served a prison term in Austria for Holocaust denial.


  • I say the Nazis quite clearly killed millions of Jews, but the interesting questions are what did Hitler know, did Himmler conceal it, did he conceal it from Hitler, where was the killing done...
    • Interview with John Humphrys on The Today Program (23 December 2006)
  • I am not anti-coloured, take it from me; nothing pleases me more than when I arrive at an airport, or a station, or a seaport, and I see a coloured family there — the black father, the black wife and the black children… When I see these families arriving at the airport I am happy, and when I see them leaving at London airport I am happy.
    But if there is one thing that gets up my nose, I must admit, it is this — the way… the thing is when I am down in Torquay and I switch on my television and I see one of them reading our news to us. It is our news and they’re reading it to me. If I was a chauvinist I would say I object even to seeing women reading our news to us.
    But now we have women reading our news to us. If they could perhaps have their own news which they were reading to us, I suppose [laughter], it would be very interesting.
    For the time being, for a transitional period I'd be prepared to accept that the BBC should have a dinner-jacketed gentleman reading the important news to us, following by a lady reading all the less important news, followed by Trevor McDonald giving us all the latest news about the muggings and the drug busts…


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