London, April 12, 2000
Racist historian faces £2m bill for libel defeat
Advice from Hitler sends ally on road to defeat
By Neil Tweedie
IF David Irving loses everything as a result of his defeat in his libel action against Deborah Lipstadt he will have no one but himself to blame -- except, that is, the Fuhrer.
In an interview with The Telegraph before yesterday's verdict, the author was asked how he would meet the enormous legal costs now being sought by her and Penguin Books. He said: "It will be a total wipe-out. Being totally confident in victory, I have not done what Aitken did. I have not put property in any other people's names."
He said that, in making his decision, he had followed Hitler's advice. "If people say why have I not done so I would say this is a lesson of World War II, of Adolf Hitler. He criticised his generals for wanting to be in [sic. build] rear defensive positions -- in an East Wall. He said as soon as you build an East Wall you are going to fall back on it in double-quick time. If they had no East Wall to fall back on, then they'd fight harder. So the knowledge that I have no fall-back position makes me fight that much harder. Of course, Hitler lost."
History does indeed have a way of repeating itself. Mr Irving is now confronted with the loss of his main asset, his first-floor flat in Mayfair. Prof Lipstadt's and Penguin's lawyers believe it to be heavily mortgaged. Mr Irving shares it with Bente Hogh, a 36-year-old Danish blue-eyed blonde. They have a daughter, Jessica, six. The couple met after Miss Hogh and a friend rented the flat while Mr Irving was away.
Mr Irving married in 1961 and had four daughters by his Spanish wife. They divorced in 1981. One daughter died last year at 18. Miss Hogh is counting cheques sent by wellwishers. Mr Irving claims total donations to his "fighting fund" of $500,000 (about £340,000).
He said: "There are 5,400 people around the world who give me loads of money. They're in America, Australia. It all goes into the battle. It goes from about $2, where it's hardly worth the postage -- they always get a personal letter of thanks from me -- up to $50 or $60 or $70 or $80,000." So who thought him worth $80,000? "A wellwisher with no political bent."
Mr Irving had denied in court being academic. Was that true? One should have known better than to expect a yes or no. He replied: "If I was a member of a Jewish family in Riga in 1941 being dragged towards pits on the edge of a forest, I would want to know why. And then I would look around and I would not necessarily say well, it's because the Nazis or the Lithuanian and Latvian collaborators are gangsters determined to kill us all.
"I would possibly -- and I should possibly -- say well, it may be the way a number of my co-religionists joined the NKVD during the year when the Russians were here in power and carried out bestial murders of the non-Jewish population. This may be possibly why I, an innocent Jew, am now finding myself being dragged with my wife and children towards the edge of that pit."
Presumably, there were Gentiles in the NKVD? "Very few. The leadership was almost entirely Jewish. And this is one of the little facts of history you won't find very widely reported."
Why Mr Irving turned out like this is hard to know. His upbringing was relatively conventional. He was born in 1938. His father, who served in the Royal Navy during the war, left home when he was a boy. His mother had to raise him, his twin brother and older brother with little money.
He attended public school in Brentwood, Essex, before going to Imperial College, London. He failed to finish his degree, opting instead to work as a steelworker in the Ruhr. The still obvious bomb damage inspired his first book on the destruction by the Allies of Dresden, published in 1963. Mr Irving tried to claim it as a war crime equivalent to those committed by the Nazis.
Both his brothers were in the RAF and were called to the Air Ministry for a "wigging" about his attack on Bomber Command. What motivated his desire to prove the non-existence of the Holocaust?
"I am totally uninterested in the Holocaust. I'm totally uninterested in the survival of the story of the Holocaust or the survival or cohesion of the Jewish people or the Israeli government, or the big corporations who depend on it. My great consuming interest at the moment is my six-year-old daughter."
Does he regret composing the verse Prof Lipstadt's defence team uncovered in his diaries? I am a Baby Aryan / Not Jewish or sectarian / I have no plans to marry / An Ape or Rastafarian. He said he regretted using Rastafarian and should have used vegetarian.
What would you say to those who say you are polluting your daughter's mind? "Right. Out you go!" he replies and with that he is gone.
Bente makes a softly-spoken apology and the interview is over.