Text size

David Irving is a despicable man, but he's not stupid. In fact, he began his career as a respectable historian. Therefore some believe he is more dangerous than most other Holocaust deniers. Meanwhile, however, this opinion has been refuted: this is a racist who deserves his punishment.

It is not easy to tie Adolf Hitler to a direct order to exterminate the Jews, but neither is it difficult to prove their extermination. There is plenty of solid evidence, written and oral. Therefore there is no danger of the Holocaust ever being forgotten, even after the last survivor passes on. In fact, Holocaust awareness is increasing every year, and is accepted today as a universal code for absolute evil. Denying the Holocaust takes place mainly on the Internet and is typical, mostly, of hallucinatory fringe groups who do not pose any real danger.

There is room to argue whether the rules against denying the Holocaust are still necessary today. Still, Holocaust denial is recognized as a sort of anti-Semitic racism sometimes reflected also in negating the Jews' right to live in a state of their own. During the trial on the libel suit he brought against historian Deborah Lipstadt, Irving explained to me that had the Jews not received the State of Israel but been sent to Madagascar, in keeping with the plan he attributed to Hitler, the world would have been a happier place.

Irving's image as a serious historian first imparted a certain respectability to his pseudo-scientific arguments, but eventually he associated himself with neo-Nazi movements, appeared at their meetings and turned from historian to anti-Semitic propagandist.

He is frequently asked whether he thinks the Jews are to blame for what happened to them, he told me. He would not reply with a simple "yes" or "no," because the causality is more complex, but the Jews should ask themselves why they are hated so much. He added: "Today they are hated in part because of all the 'Holocaust propaganda' they are constantly spreading. It's become impossible to open a newspaper or see a television program these days without coming across the Holocaust. Holocaust, Holocaust, everywhere Holocaust.

He kept a self portrait by Hitler at home and during the interview with him, he sent his small daughter to fetch a teaspoon that had been in Hitler's use and had the letters A-H engraved on it. The child refused, so to this day I don't know if the teaspoon is kept in Irving's historic collection or is used by his daughter to eat porridge.

It is somewhat ironic that a court in Austria, of all places, imposed such a severe penalty on the Holocaust denier. After all, like Communist Germany the Austrians for years used to pretend they had no part in the Nazis' crimes. It was all Germany's fault. The verdict indicates the change that Austrian society has undergone in recent years. Irving could take advantage of his incarceration to try to build himself up as a hero of freedom of expression. Perhaps he'll write a book in jail. Like Adolf Hitler.