Talk of the devil: only yesterday I referred to my reader David Irving, the Holocaust denier and racist. Today The Guardian recounts Irving's unvanquished ambitions:
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."
I am a fierce supporter of Irving's right to express his views without legal hindrance and the threat of prosecution. That doesn't mean I pay attention to his views, and I confess I had lost track of, and any interest in, the tergiversations of his account of the genocide of European Jewry. In his disastrous libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books in 2000, Irving - faced with at least the nominal requirement to be seen to pay some attention to documentary sources - "radically modified his position: he accepted that the killing by shooting had been on a massive scale of between 500,000 and 1,500,000 and that the programme of executions had been carried out in a systematic way and in accordance with orders from Berlin" (The Irving Judgment, 2000, p. 116). This opportunistic revision didn't prevent Mr Justice Gray, whose words I've just quoted, from concluding that Irving was indeed a Holocaust denier.
Now, Irving tells The Guardian, his views have "crystallised":
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.
What is there left to say about such arrant nonsense by a discredited and dishonest man? On 2 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"). The words were recorded by his secretary and appear in Hitler's Politisches Testament : Die Bormann Diktate vom Februar und April 1945, edited by the late Hugh Trevor-Roper.
One of the many damning features of The Irving Judgment concerns "Irving's readiness to challenge the authenticity of inconvenient documents and the credibility of apparently credible witnesses" (paragraphs 13.148-13.150, pp. 342-3). Mr Justice Gray declares:
I accept that it is necessary for historians, not least historians of the Nazi era, to be on their guard against documents which are forged or otherwise inauthentic. But it appeared to me that in the course of these proceedings Irving challenged the authenticity of certain documents, not because there was any substantial reason for doubting their genuineness but because they did not fit in with his thesis.
There are thus no prizes to my other readers for guessing how Irving deals with the documentary evidence I have just quoted. Not long ago Mr Irving urged his tiny band to write to me and the editor of The Times to complain about the injustice of a brief reference to him in an article of mine about the late Kurt Vonnegut. If he wishes to complain again, I can assure him he will have my undivided inattention.