Lying About the Holocaust: Inside the Denial Movement
In 1993, two books appeared about Holocaust denial, my own (Holocaust Denial) and, more significantly, that of Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt.
Entitled Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, she called Irving, among other things, "one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial." In 1994, her book was also published in Great Britain by Penguin, Ltd.
Irving, who was by now finding it more difficult to have major publishers print his work, sued Lipstadt in London for libel. He could not have done so successfully in the United States, since libel laws make it very difficult for plaintiffs — especially public figures — to prevail here.
But in Great Britain, once the plaintiff shows that a book was published which is defamatory, even if true, the burden shifts to the defendant, under the principle of "you wrote it, now back it up."
Between January and April 2000, the case of Irving v. Penguin and Lipstadt was heard before Mr. Justice Gray at the High Court in London.
In the months that led up to the trial, defense experts pored over Irving's books, tracking his footnotes back to their sources — something that had not been done systematically before. What emerged was a consistent pattern of distortion that exonerated the Nazis in general, and Hitler in particular.
Every historian, of course, makes mistakes. But, as the defense experts made clear, Irving's factual errors were always in one direction.
On April 11, 2000, the court issued a 349-page decision, declaring complete victory for Lipstadt and her publisher.
"It appears to me," Justice Gray wrote, "that Irving qualifies as a Holocaust denier. ... Irving is anti-Semitic. ... Irving is a racist. ... Irving [is] a right-wing, pro-Nazi polemicist."
Truth, Memory and Evidence, Too
The trial was not only a victory for "truth and memory," as Lipstadt had so eloquently put it. It also produced extensive evidence — largely in the form of Irving's meticulously detailed diaries, which the court gave the defense access to — of Irving's international connections, and of his frequent disingenuousness.
For example, Irving denied any contact with the National Alliance, the West Virginia-based organization headed by William Pierce, a key former member of the American Nazi Party and the author of The Turner Diaries, a novel of race war that served Timothy McVeigh as a blueprint for the Oklahoma City bombing.
But the defense was able to show that Irving not only had corresponded with National Alliance members (at least one of whom had written to Irving on National Alliance stationery), but also that the group had regularly organized events for Irving in the United States, including at least two in 1995, three in 1996 and two in 1997.
In fact, Irving's diaries gave proof positive of his close association with far-right racist and anti-Semitic parties and figures around the world, including nearly two decades of involvement with the major figures at the IHR (Willis Carto, Mark Weber, Tom Marcellus, Greg Raven and others), whose conferences he attended six times.
Irving also had connections to the neofascist British National Party, the [British] Clarendon Club and many German Nazis and neo-Nazis including Ernst Zündel; Ewald Bela Althans; the far-right party, Deutsche Volksunion, and its leader Gerhard Frey; Ostrat Günter Deckert; Karl Philipp; Ernst Otto Remer; Christian Worch; Ingrid Weckert; Michael Swierczek, Udo Walendy and others.
That wasn't all. One of Irving's contacts was Ahmed Rami, head of Sweden-based Radio Islam and a key promoter of anti-Semitism worldwide.
(Rami's Web site contains a treasure trove of antisemitica, including the notorious Czarist forgery, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and speeches by American Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the black separatist Nation of Islam (NOI). The NOI publishes materials blaming Jews for the slave trade and even invited Holocaust denier Arthur Butz to address its "Saviour's Day" celebration.)
Rami, along with certain Arab governments and groups, has used Irving's and IHR's materials as anti-Israel propaganda.
Presented at trial with extensive evidence as to the nature of IHR, Irving had to concede that it contained "some elements which are cracked anti-Semites," but he maintained that he had only been an occasional speaker at the IHR's conferences.
Yet his diaries showed that his lengthy association with the institute was so close that when it split into Carto and anti-Carto factions in 1993, it was Irving — a foreign guest speaker — who attempted to resolve the Americans' differences.
The wealth of fundraising opportunities in America is another aspect of this country's importance in the international Holocaust denial business — a fact reflected in Irving's diaries.
In 1993, for instance, Irving was invited by IHR to participate in a press conference attacking the April opening of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Irving agreed — in return for a fee, air fare, and an advertisement in the IHR's Journal of Historical Review for his "fighting fund," set up to finance Irving's battle to avoid being banned from Canada and Australia.
In May 1993, Irving wrote to IHR principals Mark Weber and Greg Raven, saying that "[l]ast month's appeal for Fighting Fund brought in $2,270: thanks, America!"
His diaries are replete with similar entries. "October 1, 1995 [at a Cleveland meeting organized by the National Alliance] ... Fine meeting, around 150 people, many ethnic Germans, gate of $500 as agreed, plus $1700 book sales." And again, at another Alliance event: "September 21, 1996 ... started to talk to small audience ... about seventeen people ... Book sales $1,300 plus $500 fee."
A decade ago, Irving could count on groups of neo-Nazis in Australia, Canada, Germany and elsewhere to come hear his lectures and buy his books. He is now banned from those countries and has been discredited in the United Kingdom.
While he has still been able to raise funds elsewhere, Irving increasingly has had to rely on his American audiences for political and, especially, financial support.
Coming to America
Earlier this year, the IHR was scheduled to hold its annual conference in Beirut, in conjunction with a Swiss denier named Jürgen Graf who has found asylum in nearby Iran.
Lebanese authorities, responding to international pressure, ordered the meeting cancelled, but it was recently reported that new Syrian President Bashar Assad (who during a recent papal visit revived the accusation that the Jews had killed Christ) may approve such a meeting in Damascus before the end of the year.
Whether or not that occurs, the trouble in Lebanon reflected the difficulties that deniers face in many countries — and the resulting attraction of the United States.
Take Ernst Zündel, the German national who fought for years to win Canadian citizenship. Recently, he gave up on his Canadian application, moved to Tennessee and married Ingrid Rimland, the American who for many years has run his Web site from there in order to obtain First Amendment protections. Still, coming to America has hardly changed Zündel's global focus.
"Revisionism has broken out of the Arab beachhead," Zündel exulted recently, "and is now spreading into the vast desert beyond, much like Erwin Rommel. ... If Revisionism spreads in the Middle East, I foresee scenes in Tel Aviv ... reminiscent of the Americans abandoning Saigon — with [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon climbing into a helicopter gunship from the rooftop of the Tel Aviv Hilton!"
Germar Rudolf, a German convicted in that country of Holocaust denial, is another example. Rudolf is now asking for political asylum in the United States, saying he is being persecuted for his beliefs.
Rudolf lives in Alabama, apparently near IHR board member Robert Countess, who has been promoting his work. He was recently appointed to the advisory committee of the IHR's Journal of Historical Review.
And this summer, Rudolf submitted a 300-plus-page affidavit to Irving to support the Briton's application for the right to appeal the Lipstadt trial findings.
Finally, Irving himself, who reportedly spends a good part of the year in Florida, has begun holding so-called "real history" conferences in Cincinnati. The first two conferences, held in 1999 and 2000, were addressed by Germar Rudolf. Irving's third conference is set for Labor Day weekend, again in Cincinnati.
It seems clear today that the machinery and main proponents of Holocaust denial increasingly will operate from American soil. The IHR (which recently won its 8-year-old battle with Carto, see The Spotlight, Extinguished) shows no sign of abating its activities, and in fact still functions as a connecting point for anti-Semites from around the world.
David Irving may consider himself a proud Briton. David Duke may see himself as a loyal American. But for these two anti-Semites, race — a classification that transcends national boundaries — is more important than any other factor.
That view, typical of the radical right today, makes it clear that a significant part of anti-Semitic and racial hatred in the 21st century will be an international affair.
Kenneth S. Stern is the author of three books, including Holocaust Denial, and is the American Jewish Committee's expert on anti-Semitism and political extremism. He was a special adviser to the defense in the Irving V. Penguin and Lipstadt trial, the record of which is available at www.holocaustdenialontrial.org.