David Irving Trial Project Page
Review of Lying about Hitler
by Richard J. Evans
Review by Jessica Sonquist, Dec. 2003
The Holocaust is an event that will never be forgotten. It destroyed families and changed the lives of many. How is it then that one can deny such an event? David Irving, a scholar and author of several books, has done just that along with a handful of others. In the book, Lying About Hitler, Richard J. Evans takes a look at Irving’s arguments to determine whether or not he truly is a Holocaust denier.
Irving sued Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, for libel in 1996. He claims that in her book, Denying The Holocaust, she questions his competence as a historian as well as his motives. Richard J. Evans spent much time researching David Irving, trying to determine himself whether or not he was in fact a Holocaust denier, and what he found was only further support for Lipstadt’s argument.
Perhaps what discredits Irving the most is his lack of consistency. In the 70s when he wrote the book Hitler’s War, he acknowledges the mass extermination of the Jews and in fact refers to some of the concentration camps as "extermination camps". There was nothing about his book that led people to believe he was a denier. That is until he revised the book and had a new version published in 1991. In 1988 he testified at the trial of Ernst Zündel, an anti-Semitic Holocaust denier and admitted admirer of Hitler. It was here that Irving began to change his view on the Holocaust. In the 1991 edition of his book, the word "extermination" had been completely removed and he began to claim that the number of deaths was far less than 6 million. In an even bolder move, he went on to claim that Jews had not died in gas chambers at the camps, they had died from epidemics. Many portions of the book were changed giving new meaning to its message. This revision is more proof in support of Lipstadt’s accusation.
Irving cited that lack of evidence and proof that many Jews existed. He accepted only the Jews who were listed as dead to in fact be dead. Those who were killed in gas chambers and not recorded as dead he claimed were secretly transported to Palestine. He claimed that the gas chambers in the camps were merely dummies and that they were used it all, it was just for delousing. He also pointed to that fact that there were not enough bodies found to account for all of the Jews that had been said to be killed. This shows his denial of the existence of crematoria. So many times Irving has denied the use of such devices, yet in his submission to the court he claims he never denied any of these mass extermination techniques. This, again, is where Evans exposes Irving’s inconsistency.
Irving also believed that the eyewitness testimonies of those who survived were simply distortions of the mind ant that they had voiced such distortions under pressure. He also cited mass hysteria as a reason for such testimonies. He made attempts to discredit the survivors saying that they claimed to have seen the gas chambers only to reap cash rewards. I, along with Evans, find it hard to believe any of Irving’s claims. Having spoken to survivors and hearing their stories, I find it hard to believe that anyone could dream up such terrible events. Richard J. Evans collected many speeches and articles that discredit Irving through inconsistency and show his true sentiments towards Jews and the Holocaust. Irving bases his arguments not on evidence, but on a lack of evidence, making it hard for any of his claims to seem concrete. Lipstadt made no false accusations about Irving, and I think Irving’s actions have only strengthened her claim.
The term "Holocaust denier" provokes anger among many of us. Anger that stems from the inability to understand how one can deny an event that harmed so many. It is easy to see why Irving became defensive over such an accusation, but with everything he has said and done, I don’t believe he will ever escape such a name.