Archive for January 10th, 2007|Daily archive page

Not Christmas Unless the Nazis Go Free

I was going to write a post about the fact that Deborah Lipstadt is blogging again but some of her first posts pointed me to a different topic.

In case you don’t know, Deborah Lipstadt is a professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. One of her major research areas is studying holocaust denial and one of the biggest holocaust deniers is David Irving. When Professor Lipstadt published her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, she didn’t think too much about the occasional comment about David Irving. She assumed he was proud of denying history. That was until her book was put on sale in England.

Around the time Lipstadt’s book came out, bookstores in Britain had had just about enough of Mr. Irving’s right-wing Nazi (not neo-Nazi, he does the original stuff) propaganda. Therefore they refused to carry his then newest book work scribblings screed about Josef Goebbels. Irving smelled Jewish conspiracy and looked around for someone to blame. He found a target in Professor Lipstadt and her British publisher Penguin books.

British libel law is almost the exact reverse of the American version. If someone sues for libel, it is the defendant who must prove the truth of the matter and not the plaintiff to show untruth. Irving sued, represented himself (what was that comment about people who represent themselves having fools as clients?) and lost spectacularly. In a damning judgment, Judge Sir Charles Gray blasted Irving,

The charges which I have found to be substantially true include the charges that 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.

If you want to learn about Holocaust denial, what claims are made and how wrong they are, you can get everything for free at the Holocaust on Trial website, a project supported by Emory. The site includes almost all the expert reports produced for Professor Lipstadt, the trial transcripts and the complete judgement. (As entertaining and educational as the Dover judgement.) You could of course also buy either the book by Deborah Lipstadt or, for a slightly different perspective, you could read Michael Shermer’s excellent Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?

Why is any of this relevant now?

Over a year ago, David Irving was sentenced to 3 years in an Austrian prison for having denied the Holocaust in Austria. (Actually, it’s not quite that easy. Irving denied the Holocaust long ago at some neo-Nazi meeting in Austria; the Austrian state department declared him persona non grata and denied him entry into the country; he entered; about two years ago he was put on trial and put in prison. Phew!) Holocaust denial is a crime in many European countries including France, Germany and Austria and Irving is denied entry in these and a couple of other countries. Irving, after serving 13 months of his sentence, was released and, on December 21, sent back to England (who have to let him in). It was a repent David Irving that appeared before the Austrian courts. The Telegraph brought the following heart rending rendition,

The appeal court said it had made its decision to release Irving early due to the “exceptional long time since the crime”, as well as his defence that he no longer denied the Holocaust.

The judge, Ernest Maurer, said: “We expect Irving will leave Austria immediately. We don’t suspect he will commit another offence.”

Appearing handcuffed in court for the appeal verdict, Irving looked at the judge and said in German: “Thank you, your Honour.”

Of course, an almost unrecognizable, repentant David Irving isn’t something you see very often – or it appears – for very long. Shortly after landing back in Britain, Irving was also back in the business of anti-Semitism, racism; in short, all the things we recognize him for. The Guardian pointed out on December 23,

The discredited British historian David Irving came under fire last night for making racist comments a day after flying back to Britain following a year in prison in Austria for Holocaust denial.

Mr Irving, 68, who was released from a three-year sentence in Austria after undergoing what the judge said was an “impeccable conversion”, told a press conference that he supported the drunken anti-Semitic comments made by Mel Gibson that Jews were responsible for all modern wars. He also boasted about his success as an author during the 1970s by referring to his cash purchase of a “nigger brown” Rolls-Royce.

Well, at least he managed almost 24 hours.

According to the Austrian newspaper, Der Standard (German), the *cough* ‘activist’ judge involved in the case isn’t a completely unwritten page himself. He has close ties to the FPÖ, the far right political party run by Jörg Haider. As a matter of fact, he has made enough right-wing judgements, that he even managed to have a book written about one of his cases dealing with a neo-Nazi detractor. From the publisher,

The court battle handled [in this book] touches on the important themes, right-wing extremism, Social Darwinism [Biologismus] and national socialism. And the sole judge [as opposed to a panel] in the case, Ernest Mauer, is neither unknown nor uncontested.

So where all this does that leave us? Not far from where we started a couple of years ago. The judge in Austria is remaining true to form as is David Irving. Deborah Lipstadt is blogging again (although it is difficult to tell on which blog).

And Michael Shermer? Is there anything we can do for one of the leading sceptics of our age, one of the people who goes around bashing frauds and psychics, doing online debates with the likes of Deepak Chopra? Professor Lipstadt found a present for him too. You see there is this channeler in Florida who claims Anne Frank has forgiven Hitler…

So, I may have missed these Christmas doings last year, but hey, here’s a belated Merry Christmas to all. To all except the neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denying slugs out there.