David Irving Trial Project Page
Review of The Holocaust on Trial
by D.D. Guttenplan
Review by Joanna Funke, Dec. 2003
source: 4 (amazon)
The Holocaust on Trial a book by D.D. Guttenplan about the David Irving trial. The book is basically an annotated transcript of the trial, obviously incomplete but also infused with information about the Holocaust according to Guttenplan. Granted, we do not see the entire transcript, and also much of the evidence considered by the judge is not available for readers such as myself to see. Most of it was submitted in written reports, not available to the press, which the judge read before the testimonies were given. (p164) However, I feel able to give my opinion concerning the case and the book, based on the cross-examination of the defense witnesses, the transcript that I do see, and Guttenberg’s additions and observations. Ultimately, I agree with the judge’s verdict against Irving. I will present the judge’s verdict, show why I agree with him, and finally uncover the importance of this case.
Justice Gray claimed to not be a historian, but he had to step into those shoes for a moment to judge this case; one can see this by the verdict. (p280) His verdict can be summarized in the following points: Yes, gassing in Auschwitz did occur. Partially due to that, his denial of the Holocaust is unsubstantiated, including his claims that eyewitnesses are liars, because they do seem credible. Furthermore, he purposefully misrepresented the facts about the Holocaust in order to substantiate his claims. And finally, Gray could not find any other reason for a historian to believe the clearly faulty revisionist claims, Irving must be an anti-Semite and a racist. (p280-81)
5 blueprints: general plan for Auschwitz I – Feb 19, 1942
I do agree with the judge’s verdict, based on trial evidence given in the book. Rampton, the defense lawyer, laid the groundwork of the Auschwitz argument. Irving generally agreed when Rampton said that the Fuhrer wished to be rid of Jews, and that it must have a bureaucratic system for such large-scale killing. (p140-1) Irving, however, ultimately insisted that there was no "smoking gun," so nothing about Auschwitz as a death camp could be proven. (p142) Irving provided the alternate story that these reports of the gas chambers are merely British propaganda. He offered no direct evidence supporting this. (p144) He does use Fred Leuchter’s report to claim that there was no gassing. Again, he is scant on the evidence: He never supplies the court with a full report. Rampton then exposed two major flaws in Leuchter’s report that apparently Irving did not notice. (p152) Irving’s arguments also
6 gas chamber at Auschwitz
include that the gas chambers were used for fumigating cadavers and objects only, and that the gas-tight door with peephole and double 8mm glass was because they were under fear of attack at the time, even though they were built in ’43 and the first attack wasn’t even close until late ’44. (p154-5) Later, when faced with the numbers of 97,000 people gassed in 3 trucks in 1 month, from a document, he says he simply hadn’t seen this document when he wrote his book or read Lipstadt’s book. (145-6) During the cross-examination of Robert Jan Van Pelt, the architecture/ cultural historian who wrote the report for the defense, Irving brings up more facts about how Auschwitz was too small to gas that many people, and how there wasn’t enough fuel. Van Pelt did not hold up on the stand very well concerning these points, but is much stronger in his written report and under Rampton’s questioning. (p168, 181) Rampton finally says that he is not there to prove that gas chambers existed at Auschwitz, that everyone should just believe the testimony. (p147) Irving’s response is that eyewitnesses are "liars." He says in his closing arguments that those who believe them have been "duped." (p266) I am not going to go into any more of the details here, but one can see both good and unsubstantiated points made by both sides. I think that the defense was much more convincing. They actually were able to prove more happened, whereas Irving was only able to point out small facets of the argument that perhaps are not clear. Also, it seemed to me that Irving provided less documentation or proof for his allegations. He is not convincing to me, and was not to the judge either.
I also agree with the judge on the fourth point, in which he claims Irving’s anti-Semitism. This is a key part of the defense’s argument because Irving’s anti-Semitism is the reason given for his falsifying evidence to insist that the Holocaust did not occur. (p258) If this is true, then what Lipstadt wrote is defensible. I agree with the judge that the facts are such that a reasoned historian would make the decision that the Holocaust did exist. I think that one can see by how much Irving did evade the truth, that obviously truth was not the reason why he was revising history. What could the reason be? Perhaps it could be fame or recognitions. Revising history is a quick and easy way to get recognition. In his case, it wasn’t the kind he wanted, and so this answer goes along with his claims that he’s suing for a clean reputation. However, I don’t think that hiding the facts will build anyone’s reputation up, and even Irving must have known this. Therefore, there must have been some anti-Semitic motivations as well. Learning that he spoke at neo-Nazi rallies and had been becoming more political with his history confirms that. (p281)
Trial vs. Denial
|7 Emblem for the White National Resource Page|
This book and the trial itself brought to the forefront an important issue; it was not merely a trial on the character of David Irving. Irving of course insists that this trial is about protecting his reputation as a scholar and a historian from the licentious and far-fetched words of Deborah Lipstadt. (14) However, it is obvious to myself, and to Guttenberg, that this trial is about much more. Guttenberg claims it to question if we should provide politically protection to a part of history, if the Holocaust is important to Jewish identity, how much it matters at all, how we obtain our knowledge, and especially how history is written. (14-15) I think it especially touches upon the last three issues. I believe that the outcome of this trial was very significant as well. If Irving were to have emerged victorious, this case would have been an encouragement to the anti-Semitic and racist ideologies that exist today. Irving represents a "school" of deniers who are revising Holocaust History. They are "placing seeds of doubt" (Marcuse, Lecture 11/19) just as Irving did. One can see this in the introduction to the "Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust," which states the following: "If you develop doubts about the Holocaust, isn’t the only way to get rid of these doubts by asking questions?" The Institute for Historical Review claims that they do "not deny the Holocaust," but instead claim evaluations of evidence caused them to disbelieve all of the propaganda that made the Holocaust such an issue. Holocaust deniers who call themselves scholars already contribute in a major way to the deniers who are also or purely racist. They provide "legitimacy," which helps to fuel the hatred against the group (Jews) that supposedly has been lying all of these years about an Aryan group (Nazis). One can see that the "White Nationalist Resource Page," a racist site, has many links to the revisionist history done bythe scholarly groups. This could lead to a higher number of hate crimes, also making a policy such as genocide easier to develop once more.
Another reason why Irving’s defeat is important is that he based a large part of his denial of the Holocaust on the basis that the eyewitness testimony was false. (p280) This is dangerous to historians because much Holocaust evidence is based on eyewitnesses. If that lost it’s credibility, even for just a moment in court, so too would much of the research on the Holocaust lose it’s credibility. Another adverse aspect is that the witnesses and survivors would not feel that they would be able to tell their stories, and not be able to educate the new generations. This would be tragic to education and to the future.
I feel that D.D. Guttenberg’s The Holocaust on Trial is a very interesting and straightforward. Of course, one must remember that I am basing my judgments of the trial on one book, in which the author clearly agrees with the judge. I am receiving only the information and supplementation that he chooses to supply. However, I still feel that the book was objective enough to merit my analysis. Guttenberg portrayed both Rampton and Irving in whatever light they put themselves in: if it was flattering he noted this, and if they made a mistake they noted this. More importantly, the book provides a basis for students such as myself and citizens of the world everywhere to think about what denial of the Holocaust entails and what its effects are. I am relieved that Irving lost his case, for although they claimed that History itself was not on trial, this trial certainly was about history and it’s importance.
|8 Entrance to Auschwitz – one of the reasons revisionists cite for saying it was not a death camp, merely a work camp.|