Wednesday, February 22, 2006

David Irving Decides Against Martyrdom

David Irving has long been the respected elder historian of the holocaust denial scene. At one point he was a fairly respected British academic, but eventually fell in with the anti-Semitic far right, and began publishing books which minimized the crimes of the Third Reich. His subtle pro-Nazism lead author Deborah Lipstadt to savagly attack his resarch in her book “Denying the Holocaust”. Irving sued Lipstadt for lible in a U.K. court and lost. In writing his dissmissal of the case, the presiding judge noted that:

"Irving has for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence; that for the same reasons he has portrayed Hitler in an unwarrantedly favourable light, principally in relation to his attitude towards and responsibility for the treatment of the Jews; that he is an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-Semitic and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism."

After this rather stinging rebuke, Irving busied himself with various speaking tours, mainly in the United States. Last November, he was arrested in Austria and charged with holocaust denial. Yesterday, he plead guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison. Appealing to the court for mercy, Irving stated that “I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz”, and that he had changed his views on the holocaust in light of new documents he had uncovered. The white power people have been surprisingly sympathetic to Irving’s change of heart, correctly noting that the renunciation of his beliefs was the only way for him to avoid what, at age 67, was likely to be a de facto life sentence. I for one will be interested to see if the neo-Nazis will be willing to overlook this renunciation upon Irving’s release, and if he will try to reintegrate himself into that subculture.

Irving’s general creepiness aside, as an American I find his imprisonment for making historically controversial remarks to disturbing. It also, as some have pointed out, makes the European community’s claim that the publishing of anti-Islamic cartoons should be considered a protected expression of free speech seem rather hypocratical. How many of the papers that reprinted the cartoons will protest Irving’s unlawful imprisonment?

On a side note, many on the far right suggest that the Jews are behind the laws in Europe outlawing holocaust denial. This must be an easy connection for anti-Semites to make, but it is a false one. As William F. Buckley recently wrote, if the holocaust had occurred in Missouri, it is likely that the Constitution would have been amended to allow for similar laws here. Nazism is a touchy subject in Europe, particularly in Germany and Austria. The U.S. on the other hand has a much higher Jewish population than central Europe, yet every halfwit racist is still allowed to publicly manipulate historical events as he sees fit.


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