Irving has relied in the past, and continues to rely in the present, on the fact that his readers and listeners, reviewers and interviewers lack either the time, or the expertise, to probe deeply enough into the sources he uses for his work to uncover the distortions, suppressions and manipulations to which he has subjected them. Sydnor, Jr. The detailed analyses in this Report are all illustrative of the points made at the beginning of this Introduction, but inevitably in some cases they also go beyond them.
It should be noted that this Report deals both with Irving's writings and speeches before the publication of Lipstadt's book in Britain in , and in the years since then, up to As will become apparent, Irving's methods have not changed substantially since Lipstadt completed her book; indeed, however much his views have changed over the years, his methods have remained substantially the same. It is these methods which form the main object of scrutiny in this Report. The fundamental question to which Irving's historical writings and speeches will be subjected is this: do they conform to generally accepted standards of historical scholarship?
It is seldom, if ever, the case that one particular interpretation of a past event or a process is irrefutably right and all the others wrong. The records left to us by the past are fragmentary and incomplete and susceptible of a variety of interpretations. Historians have to take all kinds of evidence into account: immediate sources written at the time, eyewitness accounts written down shortly after the event in question, interviews and testimony from long afterwards - all these have their problems, and although historians generally give a greater weight to a source the nearer it is to the event with which it deals, this means neither that such proximate sources are entirely unproblematical, nor that more distant sources are to be dismissed out of hand.
That is why gathering as many sources as possible relating to an event, whatever their nature, and comparing them with one another, is the basis of the historian's reconstruction of the past. However, such differences of opinion are generally confined within the limits set by the evidence: the number of possible interpretations of an event is not limitless, and historical controversy usually reveals some to fit more closely with the historical evidence than others.
Thus for example there has long been a considerable difference of opinion amongst historians as to when the Nazis reached a decision to undertake a systematic extermination of all the Jews in Europe; some, though not many, have put the decision early in ; rather more have argued for a date in late July or early August ; some have favoured October ; more recently one younger German scholar has argued for December and another for late March or early April All these estimations have their merits and demerits, and the argument continues, based on a detailed examination and comparison of the documentary record.
However, the position can broadly be summed up by saying that there is a general consensus that a decision was taken at the highest level some time between the beginning of and the Spring of , and most probably between June and April The limits set by the available evidence do not allow of a date, say, in January , or January The view that, for example, no decision was ever taken, or that the Nazis did not undertake the systematic extermination of the Jews at all, or that very few Jews were in fact killed, lies wholly outside the limits of what it is reasonable for a professional historian to argue in the light of the available evidence.
In this Report, these differences will be spelled out repeatedly and in very considerable detail in the course of subjecting Irving's historical work to critical scrutiny. His philosophy of history, such as it is, was revealed in a press conference held in Brisbane, Australia, on 20 March Journalist: It could be argued, couldn't it, that history is always subjective, and your view of history too.
Irving: Oh yes. In writing that, I used two thousand letters that he wrote to his wife over his entire life Well, two thousand letters, that manuscript was probably six hundred pages long when it was finally completed , you're doing a lot of condensing, you're condensing an entire man's life into six hundred pages of typescript, and that process of condensing it is the nice way of saying, "but of course you're selecting, you're selecting how to present this man.
And this is why I hope that the readers look at the overall image presented of David Irving by the media and they think to themselves: "Well, on balance we can probably trust him better than we can trust Professor Hillgruber, or Professor Jacobsen, or any of the other historians who write on the same kind of period. Journalist: Surely the same argument that you're putting up against the bulk of historians could be levelled at you. Irving: Ah, but then, you see, but this is the difference: they can't prove their points, they can't prove their points. I can prove all my points because I've got all the documents and the evidence on my side, but they can't find even one page of evidence to attack me, and that is why they're beginning to rant and rave instead.
This Report takes him at his word and asks whether there is indeed any evidence available to disprove his points, or in other words, to demonstrate that his arguments are specious and arrived at not through an accumulation of documents and evidence but by manipulation, falsification, suppression, distortion, mistranslation, misinterpretation and other wilful violations of the basic methods of the professional historian in dealing with the sources on which historical reconstruction and interpretation are based.
In the course of the discussion, this section deals on a general level with Irving's use of historical evidence and the criteria to which he subjects it. The second part of the Report then turns to the question of whether Irving is, or is not, a Holocaust denier. This requires an outline of what is the generally accepted definition of the Holocaust and what Irving's attitude is to that definition.
This part of the Report goes on via a survey of the literature on Holocaust denial to establish four criteria by which, it is argued, it is reasonable to judge whether or not someone denies the Holocaust, and then applies each of these criteria to Irving's work as a whole. The purpose of this third part is to demonstrate at length, and as exhaustively as possible, Irving's admiration for Hitler and his determination to manipulate the available historical evidence in the service of this admiration. In case it might be thought that Irving's manipulations of the historical record in this respect are an exceptional aspect of an otherwise reliable historical oeuvre , the product of a peculiar bee in the bonnet of a generally honest and competent professional historian, the fourth part of the book turns to three other aspects of Irving's work and uncovers a similar story of lies and deceptions in Irving's presentation of past history.
It begins by comparing all the available versions of Irving's account of the Allied bombing of Dresden early in with the evidence on which they rest and the researches carried out by competent and reasonably objective British and German historians of this event. It moves on to illustrate Irving's method by studying a sample of the members of Hitler's entourage on whose testimony, often elicited in personal interviews with Irving himself, he so frequently relies.
And it concludes by taking some examples of Irving's explanation of those aspects of Nazi antisemitism which he is prepared to admit actually existed. On the contrary, his account of the bombing of Dresden was selected for scrutiny because his book on the subject has been reprinted many times and did much to establish his reputation. His use of the evidence of Hitler's adjutants was chosen for examination because his access to their private papers, and his use of exclusive interview material generated in his meetings with them, have been presented as strengths of Irving's research not just by himself but by others as well.
And finally, his analysis of the reasons for Nazi antisemitism was singled out for investigation because it seemed on the face of it that this might cast light on, or in some way modify or relativise, his insistence that Hitler was not involved in it. In every case, however, as this Report will demonstrate, Irving has fallen so far short of the standards of scholarship customary amongst historians that he does not deserve to be called a historian at all.
The great majority of them are about the Second World War, and in particular about Nazi Germany and its leaders. Despite their somewhat specialized titles, these books in many cases aroused widespread controversy and made Irving into a well-known figure. The Destruction of Dresden created a storm by alleging that the bombing of Dresden by Allied airplanes early in caused many more deaths than had previously been thought.
The Destruction of Convoy PQ 17 aroused serious objections on the part of a British naval officer criticized by Irving in his book. Accident generated considerable outrage by its suggestion that the Polish exile leader in the Second World War, General Sikorski, had been assassinated on the orders of Winston Churchill.
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By the end of the s Irving had already made a name for himself as an extremely controversial writer about the Second World War. In this book, he argued that far from ordering it himself, Hitler had not known about the extermination of the Jews until late in , and both before and after that had done his best to mitigate the worst antisemitic excesses of his subordinates. Irving heightened the controversy by publicly offering a financial reward to anyone who could come up with a document proving him wrong. In he published two more books, one, The War Between the Generals , devoted to exposing differences of opinion between the commanders of Hitler's army during the Second World War, the other, Uprising!
The same year, Irving also produced a book to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, Nuremberg: The Last Battle , based on an earlier work. He has given many hundreds of speeches and lectures in many different countries; the overwhelming majority of them have been on aspects of the Second World War and Nazi Germany; a very large number of these have been recorded on videotape or audiocassette.
He has also made his views clear in a variety of periodical publications he himself has put out or contributed to, and in recent years he has built up a substantial website on the Internet to disseminate his views, again principally on aspects of the area of history with which he has always concerned himself. This is constantly changing, but it includes lengthy documents and analyses produced or reproduced by Irving himself as well as by others whose views are congenial to him.
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Elsewhere he has declared:. As an independent historian, I am proud that I cannot be threatened with the loss of my job, or my pension, or my future. Other historians around the world sneer and write letters to the newspapers about 'David Irving, the so-called historian', and they demand, Why does he call himself a Historian anyway? Where did he study History? Where did he get his Degree? What, No Degree in History, then why does he call himself a Historian? Was Tacitus? Did he get a degree in some university? Did he get a degree? And yet we unashamedly call them historians - we call them historians because they wrote history which has done recte : gone down the ages as accepted true history.
As he suggests in the above passage, he has no academic qualifications as a historian and has never held a university or other academic post in a history department or institute or indeed in any other subject area. However, although these are serious initial disadvantages for becoming a professional historian, there are plenty of examples of reputable and successful historians whose lack of formal academic qualifications is as striking as Irving's.
It is possible to learn the trade over a number of years, and there are many journalists and freelance writers who have clearly done so. It would be quite wrong to argue, as a general principle, that writers on historical subjects who have no academic qualifications in history, or who do not have, and have never had, a university of other academic post in history, do not deserve to be called historians.
Any assessment of Irving's status as a writer on historical subjects has to be based squarely on an assessment of what he has written; he cannot be dismissed simply and solely because he is unqualified in a formal sense. These include interviews with survivors, where the subject is very recent history; published collections of documents and texts of various kinds; memoirs and reminiscences of contemporaries; photographs, drawings, maps and plans, particularly where contemporaneous with the subject under investigation; and many other kinds of material.
Most important of all are archival sources, that is, unpublished official and private, manuscript or typescript material stored in repositories designed for the purpose and administered by the state or by non-governmental institutions and organizations or in some cases by private individuals. If I express an opinion it's probably a reasonable sic accurate opinion which I have arrived at, over a period of years I have burrowed deep into the contemporary writings of his closest personal staff, seeking clues to the real truth in diaries and private letters written to wives and friends.
For the few autobiographical works I have used I have preferred to rely on their original manuscripts rather than the printed texts, as in the early postwar years apprehensive publishers especially the "licensed" ones in Germany made drastic changes in them But historians are quite incorrigible, and will quote any apparently primary source no matter how convincingly its pedigree is exposed. Irving argued in the Introduction to the edition of Hitler's War that other historians had been almost uniformly 'lazy' in their attitude to the sources and that therefore everyone else's work on Hitler was unreliable.
All these falsifications, he argued, were to the disadvantage of Hitler. Yet his 'idle predecessors' in writing about Hitler had failed to detect them. And they never troubled to consult the most basic documentation. In a debate held in in the German town of Aschaffenburg, Irving attacked establishment historians for allegedly simply copying out of each other's books, while he was the only Hitler specialist who actually consulted the original sources.
They have all just been quoting what each other historian has written. But I've trained myself to take the line of most resistance and I go for the handwriting. He points out that he is 'well known for providing every assistance to and answering the queries of his colleagues, regardless of their attitude to his works', and that he has made his research materials generally available for historical study at the German Federal Archives and at the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich.
He has published some of his documentary discoveries, including the diaries of Hitler's personal physician, Dr. Morell, in All this adds up, in Irving's self-presentation to the court, as he says, referring to himself in the third person, 'to the scrupulous diligence for which he had already earned a justifiable reputation'. He is certainly right to criticise those who have written biographies of Hitler.
From the early and for its time very creditable biography by Alan Bullock through the stylish, but overblown and overpraised study by Joachim Fest, to the hopelessly inaccurate life by John Toland, biographies of Hitler have been more notable for their number than for their quality. There are hundreds of historians - German, British, American, Israeli, Swiss, French, Dutch, Canadian and so on - and thousands of books and learned articles which have treated in detail, and on the basis of the most painstaking archival investigations, the subjects with which Irving concerns himself.
Already in the immediate aftermath of the war, Allied war crimes prosecutors sifted through tons of captured German documents to prepare their indictments in the Nuremberg Trials. Many of these were printed in the published record of the trials. Since then vast new masses of documents, both official and private in provenance, have become available.
They are widely available to scholars in a variety of public state archives in Germany and other countries. This is not an area of history like, say, the fifth century, when historians have to make do with sparse and obscure source material to reconstruct what happened. Historians of the 'Third Reich' and the Second World War are more in danger of drowning in a sea of sources. There is no reason for historians of Nazi Germany to copy from each other, nor in fact does Irving anywhere present any solid evidence that they do so.
This is in many ways one of the easiest areas of history to research. The British Government, for example, still keeps many documents of the s and s classified and bars access to them by researchers. This is not the case with German government records of the time, nor has it been for many years.
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The techniques of documentary investigation in which Irving presents himself as the master are in fact a normal part of the stock-in-trade of every trainee professional historian. Of course, Irving has discovered new documents and obtained new evidence, for example, by interviewing surviving eyewitnesses of the time. But this is true of a vast number of other historians too.
The difference is that normal professional historians do not make such a fetish of it. Moreover, new discoveries in this field are quite normal. Such is the vastness of the documentary legacy left by Nazi Germany - twelve years in the life of a major, modern industrial state - that much of the archival record still remains to be worked through, though the main outlines have long been known. All historians are trained to adopt such an attitude.
Of course, like everyone else, historians make mistakes. But it is quite misleading to give the impression that historians in general are incapable of properly evaluating historical documents, gullible about forgeries and falsifications, or content to accept each other's opinions on these matters.
Irving is quite correct to say that it is necessary to inquire of every historical document whether it is authentic, why it came into being, and what was the vantage point of its author. To put it another way, historians need to know what were the motives behind a particular document coming into existence, so that they can control it for possible bias, tendentiousness, or downright intention to mislead. Obviously, however, every historical document must be subjected to the same critical scrutiny in this way.
This is where it begins to become clear that Irving is no ordinary professional historian in this sense. Instead of observing them as scrupulously as he claims, Irving in fact abuses the professional conventions to which he pretends to subscribe. For, as this Report will demonstrate in detail, he does not apply the normal criteria of source-criticism in a consistent or professional way. Clearly, primary sources are prima facie regarded as more reliable, although they must of course be assessed critically as to their authenticity, their authorship and their purpose.
As far as secondary sources are concerned, the greater the distance in time from the events to which they relate, the more critically they must be examined. On the other hand, evidence given after the event in the form of testimony in a public trial is relatively sound because it has been given in public, participants in the trial have had the opportunity to challenge it, and their challenges are available as a matter of public record.
This testimony too must of course be assessed by the historian as to the purpose or purposes with which it was given. Memoirs and reminiscences have also generally been subject to a process of verification in public through the means of publication and review, though the same principles of source-criticism apply to them too. Finally, there are interviews conducted with participants after the event by the historian. This is perhaps the most problematical kind of evidence. Historians must avoid leading questions; they must not suggest the answers they are looking for; they must try to probe the motives and purposes of those whom they are interviewing; and they must not take everything they are told at face value.
Above all, they must interview at length, and in depth. A brief questioning conducted with the obvious aim of eliciting answers favourable to the historian's own arguments will convince no-one. There is nothing wrong with this, where the work relied on conforms to the accepted canons of scholarly research and rests on thorough, transparent and unbiased investigation of the primary sources.
So vast is the material with which historians deal, so numerous are the subjects they cover, so consuming of time, energy and financial resources is the whole process of historical research, that it would be completely impossible for new historical discoveries and insights to be generated if every historian had to go back to the original sources for everything he or she wanted to say. This need to rely on each other's work has nothing to do with copying or plagiarism: on the contrary, the conventions of scholarship ensure that footnote and other references are used in scholarly historical work to pinpoint precisely where the historian has obtained information, and to allow the reader to check up on this if so desired.
Thus for example the documentation on which this Report rests is extremely voluminous; frequent reference has to be made to works by other scholars on the historical matters with which it deals; the central concern of this Report is in the end with historiographical issues, that is, with the methods used by Irving in writing about the past, and its use of historical subjects is only intended to provide illustrations of these historiographical points.
If they were defendants in a war crimes trial, then they would distort the truth in order to save themselves. If they were witnesses, they may have exaggerated their sufferings as an act of revenge. These are reasonable enough points; but they do not completely invalidate the testimony in question, otherwise all testimony given to a court after an offence had been committed would have to be ruled completely useless as a guide to the truth, an extreme point of view which no reasonable person would surely uphold.
If Irving is claiming that war crimes trials evidence is inadmissible because it is oral testimony based on memory, he is incorrect. The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials amassed and used a huge quantity of contemporary written evidence on the basis of which the defendants and witnesses were questioned and which served in a variety of ways to underpin their testimony. Irving himself relies extensively on this documentation in his work. In any case, Irving does not automatically disqualify oral testimony based on memory.
On the contrary, he makes massive use of oral testimony: in particular, over the years he has interviewed a large number of Hitler's former aides and other leading former Nazis, and he places, as this Report will demonstrate repeatedly and in detail a faith in the reliability of their testimony that is almost entirely uncritical. If they were talking to him, after all, they must have been telling the truth! No need therefore to probe too deeply, or to interview for too long. But here too a genuine professional historian has to bring a critical attitude to bear.
Former Nazis of all kinds had to construct a version of their own history that would allow them to live in relative peace in the postwar world. In particular, it was in their interest to deny all knowledge of, let alone participation in, the crimes of Nazism, including the extermination of the Jews. If they were part of Hitler's entourage, then it was in their interest to deny Hitler's knowledge or involvement as well, since admitting it would have been to incriminate themselves. If they had an incentive to avoid implicating themselves before a court, they had a motive for persuading Irving to be their mouthpiece in continuing their personal quest for public exculpation at a later date.
Their motives for denying their or Hitler's involvement in the extermination of the Jews were the same when they were talking to Irving as they were when they were being interrogated by Allied officers preparing for the Nuremberg trials. Their testimony has to be subjected to particularly searching critical scrutiny. The need for a critical attitude is borne out by the evidence of the memoirs that many of them published - self-serving, mendacious, dishonest, and designed to minimise their own involvement in the crimes of Nazism.
This Report will examine many examples of this kind of evidence, much of it relied on by Irving in an entirely uncritical way. As a result, serialization of an English translation began in The Sunday Times. Confronted with doubts about the diaries' authenticity from a number of historians, Stern organized a press conference on 25 April. Irving had come into contact with the diaries through August Priesack, an old Nazi who had been one of the first to be approached by the forger in his quest for authentication.
Priesack's collection of Nazi memorabilia consisted, as Irving immediately recognized, of obvious forgeries. This made it overwhelmingly likely that the 'diaries' were forgeries too. Funded by rival newspapers who wished to preserve their circulation in the face of a threatened scoop, Irving appeared at the Stern press conference and denounced them as a forgery. I have some here'. Within a short time he was proved right. The diaries were quickly shown by tests carried out on the ink and paper by the German Federal Archives in Cologne to be postwar products.
Their author, Konrad Kujau, was eventually sent to prison for his offence. Thus while eminent academics had authenticated them, he proved his superior knowledge of the original documents by recognising them for what they were - a crude fake. In fact, however, one of the reasons why the forgery got as far as being printed as authentic in the national press was the fact that eminent academics had not been allowed near them. Even Hugh Trevor-Roper had changed his mind about them immediately after he had sent off his article to the Sunday Times authenticating them, and had used the Stern press conference, much to the discomfiture of the organizers, to give voice to his new-found scepticism.
According to Robert Harris, he did this because he was uncomfortable at being aligned with majority, respectable historical opinion, because he was impressed by the sheer size of the diaries - sixty volumes - which seemed almost beyond the capacity of any one individual to forge, and because having finally seen the diaries for himself, they looked more convincing than he had expected. Whereas most historians held Hitler responsible for the antisemitic pogrom of the 'Reichkristallnacht' in November , the diaries showed him ordering a stop to it as soon as he found out about it.
Whereas most historians thought the flight of Rudolf Hess to Scotland in the act of a madman, the diaries revealed him to have been acting on Hitler's orders in pursuit of a genuine peace mission. When forensic tests shortly afterwards revealed them definitively as fakes, Irving issued a statement accepting the finding but drawing attention to the fact that he had been the first person to unmask them as forged.
If an obvious forgery like the 'Hitler diaries' gives credence to his views, he will use it. This Report will detail other, less spectacular but no less telling examples of this unscrupulousness below. Irving will use any argument, no matter how flimsy, to try and discredit genuine source material if it runs counter to his arguments. And if he cannot dismiss it, then he will manipulate it to the point of falsification, or suppress or ignore it altogether.
Often he will attempt to disguise what he is doing by rendering his footnote references opaque rather than transparent, flouting one of the most basic requirements of historical scholarship in the process. These arguments will be substantiated at length in the course of this Report.
But, by jove, I've got my facts right. In he said: 'They aren't lies, what I publish: they are true, at any rate the truth as I perceive it Even the most erudite and hard-working historian is never going to obtain one hundred percent truth; he is only going to approximate it I am not so arrogant as to say "thou shalt have no other version of history but mine. Nobody has the right to stand up and say, only my version of history is right: all other versions are wrong: and nobody has the right to propagate alternative versions And that's what I say about my book Hitler's War; it may be right, it may be wrong!
But is certainly a magisterial work It is not what you would call revisionist history at all, it is a staid, stable, traditional look at history with magnificent photographs He does not really believe that he is wrong, because he does not really think that other historians can come up with evidence that will make him change his mind. Asked in whether he was a partisan historian, he replied:.
Every historian has to be selective; If I write a biography about Adolf Hitler, then the archives have got about ten tons of documents on Adolf Hitler, and you have to select which documents you present. And if you're a Jewish historian, you present the facts one way, because they have an agenda to present.
I don't have any kind of political agenda, and really, it's rather defamatory for people to suggest that I do have an agenda. The agenda I have, I suppose, is, all right, I admit it, I like seeing the other historians with egg on their face. And they're getting a lot of egg on their face now, because I'm challenging them to produce the evidence for what they've been saying for fifty years.
Rather, he believes that there is an international campaign orchestrated by the 'Jewish community' 'our traditional enemies' in many countries to stop him from speaking and selling his books because he writes and talks about 'Real History' based on the sources, while they purvey lies and falsehoods about the 'Holocaust', about Hitler, and about other topics in the history of the Second World War. These lies can only be defended against Real History by underhand methods, suppression and censorship, because they cannot be defended by normal historical procedures such as reference to the original sources; because, in other words, they are not 'Real History' but false history.
He presents himself as almost obsessive in his pursuit of the real facts. It is the word real that frightens my opponents, because they have got away with it now for the last fifty years, with their Madison-avenue, their Hollywood versions of history, their television versions of history. Real history is what we find in the archives, and it frightens my opponents because it takes the planks out from beneath their feet. Irving actually is saying that in crucial respects all other versions of the history of the Second World War apart from his own are wrong, because they are not based on 'what we find in the archives'.
Only 'Real History' is correct. He claims that he himself has earned the right to be recognized as a reputable historian by the many plaudits he has received from eminent academic practitioners of the trade such as the late Professor Sir Harry Hinsley, of Cambridge University, author of the official history of British Intelligence in the Second World War, from Professor Gordon A.
The headed notepaper of Irving's publishing house 'History in the Making: Focal Point' indeed has in recent times carried a standard quotation from Professor Craig to illustrate this point 'Such people as David Irving have an indispensable part in the historical enterprise, and we dare not disregard their views', Professor Gordon A. A similar quotation from Professor Hans Mommsen, an eminent German historian, heads Irving's website. Irving underlines his claim to reputable status by citing a 'secret report' on him by the Board of Deputies of British Jews in , acknowledging 'Irving's reputation as one of the world's most thorough researchers and an exciting and readable historian'.
He cites 'scores of newspaper articles by British and international experts which treat both him and his writings with distinction'. To get a really accurate perception of the way Irving's work has been received over the years, it is necessary to distinguish between different kinds of reviewers in the historical profession. In particular, there have been those with a general knowledge of modern German and European history, but no direct experience of researching in the subjects on which Irving has written, and no first-hand knowledge of the sources in the field in which Irving has worked; and those with a specific knowledge of the precise area of whichever of Irving's books they have been considering, or at least part of that area, or a very closely related one.
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Paul Addison, an expert on British history in the Second World War, heavily criticized what he saw in as Irving's tendency to approach the view 'that Churchill was as wicked as Hitler', and concluded that while Irving was 'usually a Colossus of research, he is often a schoolboy in judgment'. Hinton Thomas, Professor of German at Birmingham University, whose knowledge of the social and political context of twentieth-century German literature was both deep and broad, dismissed the book as 'unoriginal' and its 'claims to novelty' as 'ill-based', but could do no more than speculate about other possible meanings cited by Irving in his attempt to show that Hitler urged restraint in the pogrom of the Reichskristallnacht in , commenting that 'it would be more pertinent to stress Hitler's many venomous statements about Jews over many years'.
Nevertheless, Gilbert concluded by describing Irving's treatment of this issue as 'a grave blemish on an otherwise scholarly work, the fruit of a decade of wide researches. Howard pointed out that Irving's account of an episode such as the enforced resignation of Generals Blomberg and Fritsch before the outbreak of the Second World War was not as original as he claimed and added nothing to the story already told by other historians.
Irving occasionally recognised that other men had been there before him and done a competent job of work.
He seemed at first glance full of praise for Irving's work:. Silencing Mr Irving would be a high price to pay for freedom from the annoyance that he causes us. The fact is that he knows more about National Socialism than most professional scholars in his field, and students of the years owe more than they are always willing to admit to his energy as a researcher Hitler's War It is always difficult for the non-historian to remember that there is nothing absolute about historical truth.
What we consider as such is only an estimation, based upon what the best available evidence tells us. It must constantly be tested against new information and new interpretations that appear, however implausible they may be, or it will lose its vitality and degenerate into dogma or shibboleth. Such people as David Irving, then, have an indispensable part in the historical enterprise, and we dare not disregard their views. Recently for example he was taken to task for his favourable review of a controversial book by the young political scientist Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners , a book which argued in a crude and dogmatic fashion that virtually all Germans had been murderous antisemites since the middle ages, had been longing to exterminate the Jews for decades before Hitler came to power, and actively enjoyed participating in the extermination when it began.
The book has since been exposed as a tissue of misrepresentation and misinterpretation, written in shocking ignorance of the huge historical literature on the topic and making numerous elementary mistakes in its interpretation of the documents. Faced with mounting evidence of its unscholarly nature, Craig was forced to publish what amounted to a withdrawal of his first, positive reaction.
Irving's research and his intelligence' have found 'too many avoidable mistakes Irving's assiduity, energy, and courage', and says that 'Mr. Irving's sources, unlike the conclusions which he draws from them, are usually sound', but also notes: 'Mr. Irving is cited only when his sources have been checked and found reliable. While praising Irving's hard work, and acknowledging a 'considerable debt' owed to him 'for the hidden, lost, and missing records of Nazi Germany that he has unearthed by his patient and eager courtship of many of the surviving servants of the Reich or their descendants', Cosgrave considered that he had an 'uncritical attitude to his own documentation' and went on:.
Irving is ready and willing to change the rules governing his use of evidence any time it suits him; and when one of his characters and Hitler in particular does something which even Mr Irving finds reprehensible his whole position in the story is adjusted to shift responsibility. When, on the other hand, he is doing something Mr Irving is prepared openly to approve of, his central responsibility is fully, and even extravagantly, stated.
Taylor had pointed out, Irving considered that Churchill could be proven guilty of murdering General Sikorski even though there was no direct documentary evidence of an order from him to do so, but he simultaneously insisted that Hitler was not guilty of murdering the Jews because no single document in which he signed an order to do so could be found. An early, prominent instance of criticism from such a quarter came with Hugh Trevor-Roper's review of Hitler's War in Trevor-Roper, originally a specialist in seventeenth-century English history, had worked in British Intelligence during the war and had been charged with heading an official mission to find out the true facts about the death of Hitler.
The result of his researches, published in as The Last Days of Hitler , immediately established him as a leading authority on Nazi Germany. Over the coming years, despite his limited speaking knowledge of German and his relative lack of familiarity with manuscript sources, Trevor-Roper, appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford in , continued to write on Hitler and Nazism, and his view that the German dictator was not, as was often supposed, merely interested in power for its own sake, but was driven by strong ideological convictions, has stood the test of time.
Trevor-Roper continued:. When a historian relies mainly on primary sources, which we cannot 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 any man who, like Mr. Irving, makes a virtue - almost a profession - of using arcane sources to affront established opinions.
What, Trevor-Roper asked, of the Austrian Chancellor Dollfuss, who many argued had been murdered by Hitler's personal bodyguard unit, the SS, in , or 'the Danish pastor Kaj Munk, whose "assassination" is directly ascribed to Hitler later in this book?
As Trevor-Roper pointed out:. Not a shred of evidence or probability has ever been produced for this theory, and when it was tested in the courts, Mr. Irving's only "evidence" which was very indirect at best was shown to be a clumsy misreading of a manuscript diary I have myself seen the diary and feel justified in using the word "clumsy".
And yet here is this stale and exploded libel trotted out again, as if it were an accepted truth, in order to support a questionable generalisation. I have dwelt on this trivial detail because at once it puts us on our guard. In all the rest of his book Mr. Irving may be an exact and scrupulous historian. He may read his manuscript diaries correctly.
But we can never be quite sure, and when he is most original, we are likely to be least sure. Irving's argument about the Jews typifies his greatest weakness as a historian. Here, as in the Sikorski affair, he seizes on a small and 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.
Thus Irving's claim to be a scrupulous and objective historian was, in Trevor-Roper's view, entirely false. Broszat began his critique of Hitler's War by criticizing Irving's much-vaunted list of archival discoveries. The evidence Irving had gathered from Hitler's entourage might provide more exact detail of what went on at Hitler's wartime headquarters, he wrote, and it might convey something of the atmosphere of the place, but it did little to enlarge our knowledge of the important military and political decisions which Hitler took, and so did not live up to the claims Irving made for it.
Professor Gita Mishra
He pointed out, like Trevor-Roper, that Irving misrepresented a specific ban ordered by Himmler on the execution of a particular trainload of Jewish deportees on 30 November as a general ban on all such executions, and that Irving's idea that he had done this after talking to Hitler was thoroughly questionable.
The point here is that already in , Irving's work was clearly recognized by a leading authority on Nazi Germany as biased, factually incorrect and based on the manipulation and falsification of the documentary evidence. Watt praised Irving's 'uncanny gift for ferreting out new sources of evidence, and the assiduity with which he has mined the vast collection of captured documents before which lesser mortals quailed'. A real specialist on the history of German foreign policy in the s, who had himself brought out and added a commentary to an English translation of Hitler's Mein Kampf , Watt also criticised Irving because, he wrote, 'by avoiding the work of other historians, he has missed any indication that there are questions that need answering'.
He went on to list the most important of these in the following three paragraphs of his review before criticising Irving for concentrating on 'inconsequentials' and concluding that The War Path gave no more than 'a readable rehash of what is generally known'. Taylor, praised Irving's 'unrivalled industry' in research and his 'good scholarship', but dismissed his documentary discoveries as adding little to what was already known. Moreover, Taylor noted severely, 'A scholar who condemns the inaccuracies of others should be accurate himself', and Irving wasn't: Taylor had space to note three errors of fact in The War Path and also criticized the vagueness of one of his footnote references and the misleading impression given of Germany in the last days of the war in a passage in which, he commented caustically, Irving 'abandons his researches and goes in for fine writing'.
When specialists with a first-hand knowledge of the sources for the history of the Second World War came to consider the edition of Hitler's War , they found far more to criticise. Most critical of all was the American Charles W. Sydnor's thirty-page demolition of Irving's book deserves lengthy consideration because it is one of the few reviews of any of Irving's books for which the reviewer has manifestly undertaken a substantial amount of original research. To assume, as Mr.
Irving does, that the most important books of Hitler scholarship consist only of the biographies, and that the best works of historical literature related to Hitler, which he anonymously dismisses, were not worth consulting, is - to put it generously - naively amateurish. By seeking to discredit the literature, Mr. Irving evidently excused himself from a good deal of reading, and thus from any confrontation with inconvenient facts contradictory to his thesis.
This appears to make the revisionist task easier, but at the same time has led Mr. Irving into a series of egregious errors and has demonstrated either his ignorance or his disregard of basic aspects of Hitler's role in German history. To give an indication of the seriousness of Sydnor's criticisms it is worth quoting them at some length:. Hitler, not Himmler and Heydrich, initiated the campaign of terror and mass murder in Poland, as is clear from the records of Hitler's Berghof speech to his assembled generals on August 22, The Einsatzgruppen used in Poland did not later run the extermination camps in the east p.
There were in fact two separate categories of Einsatzgruppen in Poland in , neither of which was subordinated directly to the Army generals, and neither of which was commanded by SS General Udo von Woyrsch, who directed only a single Einsatzgruppe p. Their primary functions were not intelligence gathering, seizure of documents, and counterinsurgency operations p. These ranged from Irving's misidentification of the early nineteenth-century Tyrolean peasant leader Andreas Hofer as a German nationalist shot by the French in the Ruhr in p.
But, he went on: 'Inaccuracy becomes distortion in Mr. Irving's handling of Hitler's basic racial and ideological objectives.
Irving's account of the Wannsee Conference, wrote Sydnor, was 'brief, incomplete and wholly misleading', omitting key passages from the relevant documentation and drastically underplaying its importance. Irving employs in the effort to exculpate Hitler is the mistranslation of the German language to misrepresent the meaning of Nazi terminology for the destruction of the European Jews.
Hitler, he reported, agreed with this, adding that the Jews had caused the war and so it was not surprising that they would suffer the consequences. Irving leaves out the later part of the report, relegates the first part to a footnote, and translates the key phrase as 'I took the view that I shouldn't mention the stamping out of Judaism. Sydnor noted that when the terms Ausrottung and ausrotten were used by people other than Hitler, such as Himmler's adjutant Rudolf Brandt and indeed Himmler himself on pages and of the book , Irving translates them without equivocation as 'extermination' and 'exterminate'.
He pointed out that for example Karl Wolff, chief of Himmler's personal staff and liaison officer at Hitler's headquarters, who Irving said had told him that Himmler conducted the "Final Solution" without Hitler's knowledge and that he himself had been ignorant of the killings, had been exposed as a liar when evidence emerged of visits he paid to Auschwitz and Lublin in Summer and of a letter he had received in April describing the killing of Serbian Jews in mobile gas vans. As for Heydrich himself, Sydnor demonstrated in a lengthy demolition of Irving's account of the circumstances surrounding his assassination that almost everything that Irving wrote on the subject was demonstrably wrong as well as being completely undocumented.
Moreover, Irving omitted to mention in his account that Hitler himself had ordered first ten thousand Czechs to be executed as a reprisal for the assassination, then the obliteration of the village of Lidice, which Irving presented without any evidence as having harboured the assassins. Irving feels about them. Irving's revisionist edifice. And Irving's description of Hitler's final days followed the first edition of H. Trevor-Roper's The Last Days of Hitler so closely, paragraph for paragraph, that he even repeated minor mistakes which Trevor-Roper corrected in later editions of his book, although he never cited Trevor-Roper in his notes, only the sources which Trevor-Roper had used, thus giving the unwary reader the impression he had done the research himself.
Irving's constant references to archives, diaries and letters, and the overwhelming amount of detail in his work, suggest objectivity. In fact they put up a screen behind which a very different agenda is transacted 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.
Irving's thesis as a useful provocation'. Irving, he charged, misrepresented the course of events and misinterpreted key documents. Mr Irving's factual errors are beyond belief. He says that "forty percent of the prisoners in southern France turned out to be Russians who had volunteered to fight for Germany against Stalin. He writes that the Battle of Verdun "annihilated hundreds of thousands of both British, French and German youth. An eighteen-year-old Austrian corporal named Adolf Hitler was wounded there. Adolf Hitler never fought at Verdun.
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Dhwani Shah is an illustrator and graphic designer from Mumbai. She studied design from Sir J. She enjoys working on editorial illustrations, non fiction comics and publication design projects. Rohini Srinivasan is an editorial assistant at Tara Books. Currently living in Chennai, she is originally from Kolkata where she graduated with honours from Jadavpur University.
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