London, April 12, 2000
'Holocaust denier, falsifier of history and racist'
MR Justice Gray delivered a damning, 333-page judgment against Mr Irving, branding him a Holocaust denier, falsifier of history, a racist and an anti-Semite. This is an edited version:
The judge said it appeared to him to be "incontrovertible that Irving qualifies as a Holocaust denier". He added: "Not only has he denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz and asserted that no Jew was gassed there, he has done so on frequent occasions and sometimes in the most offensive terms.
"By way of examples, I cite his story of the Jew climbing into a mobile telephone box-cum-gas chamber; his claim that more people died in the back of Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz; his dismissal of the eyewitnesses en masse as liars or as suffering from a mental problem; his reference to an Association of Auschwitz Survivors and Other Liars or 'ASSHOLS' and the question he asked of Mrs Altman how much money she had made from her tattoo."
He rejected as untrue the claim by Irving that in his denial of the existence of any gas chambers at Auschwitz he was referring solely to the gas chamber constructed by the Poles after the war for the benefit of visitors to the site or, as Irving put it, as a "tourist attraction".
The judge said it appeared to him "undeniable" that most, if not all, of the statements cited by the defendants as demonstrating Irving's anti-Semitism, revealed "clear evidence that, in the absence of any excuse or suitable explanation for what he said or wrote, Irving is anti-Semitic".
He added: "His words are directed against Jews, either individually or collectively, in the sense that they are by turns hostile, critical, offensive and derisory in their references to Semitic people, their characteristics and appearances."
Examples included Irving's claims that the Jews deserve to be disliked; that they brought the Holocaust on themselves; that Jews generate anti-Semitism by their greed and mendacity; that Jews are among the scum of humanity and that they scurry and hide furtively, unable to stand the light of day.
Irving's principal explanation or justification for his comments about Jews was that he was seeking to explain to Jews why anti-Semitism exists and not himself adopting the anti-Semitism, said the judge. "But I do not think that this was the message that Irving was seeking to convey to his audiences and it was certainly not the sense in which his remarks were understood." He said he had more sympathy for Irving's argument that Jews were not immune from his criticism.
The judge agreed that Jews were as open to criticism as anyone else. "But it appears to me that Irving has repeatedly crossed the divide between legitimate criticism and prejudiced vilification of the Jewish race and people." He added: "I can well understand too, that because of his perceived views, Irving and his family have from time to time been subjected to extreme pressure, for example when his flat was besieged by rioters in 1994."
The judge concluded that the allegation that Irving is a racist was also established. Sample quotations provided ample evidence of racism: "The ditty composed by Irving for his daughter is undeniably racist in putting into her mouth the words 'I am a baby Aryan . . . I have no plans to marry an ape or Rastafarian'.
"Similarly, Irving's reference to 'one of them' reading the television news strikes me as evidence of racism of a more insidious kind. The same applies to Irving's proclaimed queasiness on seeing black men playing cricket for England."
He said: "I accept that Irving is not obsessed with race. He has certainly not condoned or excused racist violence or thuggery. But he has on many occasions spoken in terms which are plainly racist."
The judge, who stressed it was no part of his function to attempt to make findings as to what actually happened during the Nazi regime, said he had concluded that the defendants were justified in their assertion that Irving had seriously misrepresented Hitler's views on the Jewish question.
"He has done so in some instances by misinterpreting and mistranslating documents and in other instances by omitting documents or parts of them. In the result the picture which he provides to readers of Hitler and his attitude towards the Jews is at odds with the evidence."
In the instances he had found the defendants' criticisms to be justified, Irving had "treated the historical evidence in a manner which fell far short of the standard to be expected of a conscientious historian". He added: "Irving in those respects misrepresented and distorted the evidence which was available to him."
The judge said the central question which fell to be determined in the case was whether or not the evidence supported the defendants' contention that the number of deaths ran into hundreds of thousands or whether Irving was right when he claimed that the killing by gas was on a modest scale.
He commented: "I have to confess that, in common I suspect with most other people, I had supposed that the evidence of mass extermination of Jews in the gas chambers at Auschwitz was compelling.
"I have, however, set aside this preconception when assessing the evidence adduced by the parties in these proceedings." He said it appeared to him that the cumulative effect of the documentary evidence for the genocidal operation of gas chambers at Auschwitz was "considerable".
In conclusion he said: "Having considered the various arguments advanced by Irving to assail the effect of the convergent evidence relied on by the defendants, it is my conclusion that no objective, fair-minded historian would have serious cause to doubt that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz and that they were operated on a substantial scale to kill hundreds of thousands of Jews."
Irving as historian
"My assessment is that, as a military historian, Irving has much to commend him. For his works of military history Irving has undertaken thorough and painstaking research into the archives. He has discovered and disclosed to historians and others many documents which, but for his efforts, might have remained unnoticed for years."
He added: "It was plain from the way in which he conducted his case and dealt with a sustained and penetrating cross-examination that his knowledge of World War Two is unparalleled. His mastery of the detail of the historical documents is remarkable. He is beyond question able and intelligent."
He added: "But the questions to which this action has given rise do not relate to the quality of Irving's military history but rather to the manner in which he has written about the attitude adopted by Hitler towards the Jews and in particular his responsibility for the fate which befell them under the Nazi regime."
The judge said the defendants had selected 19 instances where they contended Irving had distorted the evidence. "I have come to the conclusion that the criticisms advanced by the defendants are almost invariably well-founded". He was satisfied that "in most of the instances cited by the defendants Irving has significantly misrepresented what the evidence, objectively examined, reveals."
He was unable to accept Irving's contention that his falsification of the historical record was the product of innocent error or misinterpretation or incompetence on his part. The inevitable inference must be that for the most part the falsification of the historical record was deliberate and that Irving was "motivated by a desire to present events in a manner consistent with his own ideological beliefs, even if that involved distortion and manipulation of historical evidence".
The judge said the charges he had found to be substantially true were 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".
He found that Irving "is an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-Semitic and racist and that he associates with Right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism".