Respectful Insolence

I knew it!

I knew it was just a matter of time until arch-Holocaust denier David Irving emerged from whatever rock he’s been hiding under ever since he was released after his prison term in Austria for having denied the Holocaust, decided he wanted to be in the limelight again. Back in December, I made a little bet about just how long it would take Irving to mount a comeback tour. I guessed weeks. I was wrong. I’ll give Irving credit; he held out nine months before making a play for vindication:

Ten months ago he was languishing in an Austrian jail, less than halfway through a three-year sentence with his career – and professional reputation – in tatters.
This week David Irving, the discredited British historian who was described by a high court judge as a Holocaust denier and a racist, says he is launching a comeback with a speaking tour of British cities and a series of new books. “I have kept a low profile for several months because I have had to sort out where to live and to address my financial situation,” said Mr Irving, who was declared bankrupt in 2002 after an unsuccessful libel action over claims he was a Holocaust denier. “But now I am ready to start again.”

Oh, goody. I can hardly wait. (Yeah, that’s sarcasm.) Why on earth, though, did The Guardian dignify a Holocaust denier with the appellation “historian”? Especially when he starts out his interview with a blast of pure anti-Semitism (in other words, the real David Irving reveals himself):

However, drinking tea on the sofa of a 10-bedroom house he has begun renting near Windsor, Mr Irving says that his views on the Holocaust have crystallised rather than changed. He says that he believes the Jews were responsible for what happened to them during the second world war and that the “Jewish problem” was responsible for nearly all the wars of the past 100 years: “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.”

What I find rather interesting, though, is that David Irving is so enamored of Adolf Hitler that, in admitting that there was indeed a Holocaust (although denying that Auschwitz produced a major component of the death toll), he’s ready to throw Heinrich Himmler under the bus:

He added: “In my opinion now the real killing operations took place at the Reinhardt camps west of the Bug river. In the three camps here [Sobibor, Belzec, and Treblinka] Heinrich Himmler’s men (mostly Ukrainian mercenaries) killed possibly as many as 2.4 million in the two years up to October 1943. There is now nothing to be seen of the Reinhardt camps, neither stick nor stone, so few tourists go there. I have visited all four sites earlier this year.”

Pressed as to whether this change undermined his previous stance, Mr Irving replied: “It is a crystallisation of my view.” Asked if he now accepts there had been a Holocaust against the Jewish people he said he was “not going to use their trade name”. He added: “I do accept that the Nazis quite definitely, that Heinrich Himmler, organised and directed a programme, a clandestine programme, for the liquidation of European Jews … and that in 1942-43 alone over 2.5 million Jews were killed in those three camps.” He added that Hitler was “completely in the dark” about the programme.

Yep, according to David Irving, as unbelievable as it sounds, Hitler knew nothing about the Holocaust (which David Irving dismisses as “their trade name”). It was all Himmler, doing it in secret. Like Deborah Lipstadt, I wonder what his former admirers in the Holocaust denial movement will think of his latest statements.

Truly, Oliver Kamm got it just right when he referred to David Irving as the “unsinkable rubber duck,” at the same time pointing out that in April 1945 Hitler explicitly “declared that National Socialism would earn eternal gratitude for exterminating the Jews of Germany and Central Europe (“So gesehen wird man dem Nationalsozialismus ewig dafür dankbar sein, daß ich die Juden aus Deutschland und Mitteleuropa ausgerottet habe“). In this, Irving is like psychics and astrologers, whom the Amazing Randi also termed “unsinkable rubber ducks.” No amount of evidence will sway him. No matter how outrageously obvious the internal inconsistencies of his ever-shifting claims, it does not deter him. Truly, David Irving is unsinkable in his Holocaust denial.

Comments

  1. #1 Gerard Harbison
    October 2, 2007

    Maybe he can speak at Columbia. Apparently there’s an audience for this sort of thing there.

  2. #2 NoAstronomer
    October 2, 2007

    Mr Irving still insists he is a respected academic.
    Respected by who? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

    Wonder where Mr Irving is getting the money to rent a 10 freakin’ bedroom house (apparently fully furnished) near Windsor from.

  3. #3 Bronze Dog
    October 2, 2007

    And just to mention it, since it always comes up: Anti-free speech laws, including those that ban stupid stupidity like Holocaust denial, are wrong.

  4. #4 Jess
    October 2, 2007

    I’m still stuck on “Hitler never knew”. I’m not sure I can wrap my mind around the thought process that got to that.

  5. #5 Obdulantist
    October 2, 2007

    I feel sorry for his daughter.

  6. #6 James
    October 3, 2007

    I feel sorry for everyone who shares a planet with him.

  7. #7 Chris Noble
    October 3, 2007

    What did Irving state at the trial in his attempt to stay out of jail? I thought he said that he accepted that the Holocaust did happen.

    Do these statements contradict his current views.

  8. #8 Thony C.
    October 3, 2007

    did The Guardian dignify a Holocaust denier with the appellation “historian”?

    Orac:

    You always pull the paper bag over your head when exposing other members of your profession who deny evolution. Unfortunately we historians also have to keep a supply of paper bags to hand for the public appearances of Mr Irving. What ever his qualifications might or might not be or what ever his current status is, Irving was for a time of his live recognised as a working historian with a “good” reputation. Much as we would love to disown him we (the historians) have to some how live with the fact that he is one of ours. Pass the paper bag somebody I have to go out!

  9. #9 Thony C.
    October 3, 2007

    was for a time of his live recognised

    Should of course read: was for a time of his life! Sorry.

  10. #10 Matt Penfold
    October 3, 2007

    There was a time when Irving was considered to be a good military historian by some: John Keegan comes to mind. I know his work on the holocaust was scrutinised during the libel trial and found to contain distortions and outright lies, and that his work on the bombing of Dresden has been criticised for inaccuracies, but does anyone know if his other work has had the same scrutiny. In other words, has the lying scumbag ever told the truth ?

  11. #11 Coin
    October 3, 2007

    In other words, has the lying scumbag ever told the truth ?

    It would be nice to get Thony C’s more informed perspective on this, but…

    Looking over the wikipedia article, y’know, it doesn’t really sound like it. Actually it’s kind of shocking to look over Irving’s history as presented there and realize, with the full clarity of hindsight, what some of the things he said and did must have really meant. From the timeline wikipedia lays out it doesn’t really sound like his scholarship was ever really legitimate, it just sounds like there was a period where he was widely given the benefit of the doubt on certain things.

    And apparently he’s been asserting the “Hitler never knew” thing since 1977…

  12. #12 Thony C.
    October 3, 2007

    In other words, has the lying scumbag ever told the truth ?

    It would be nice to get Thony C’s more informed perspective on this, but…

    Thank you for the compliment but it is in this case unearned. Although I am a historian my area of expertise is literally hundreds of years and several disciplines removed from Irving’s activities (history of Renaissance science actually) so I am no better informed as to the current standing of Irving’s earlier work on which his (dubious) reputation as a historian is based. I strongly suspect however that a lot of his earlier research would not stand up to modern scrutiny but I don’t know for certain. As to Hitler’s knowledge of the Endlosung it is a hotly debate theme in the history of Nazism and the evidence is not 100% conclusive thus allowing people like Irving to make his claims knowing that he can’t be totally refuted. Whatever, historians still have to live with the fact that a scum bag like Irving does have a legitimate claim to being called a historian no matter how embarrassing this may be.

  13. #13 Uncle Dave
    October 3, 2007

    On a more somber note;

    http:
    //www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/10/03/frank.tree.ap/index.html

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.