London, April 13, 2000
Smooth veneer of racist Irving
SIR -- David Irving has been found by a British court to be a Holocaust denier and racist.
It was therefore enlightening to read Neil Tweedie's accounts of the trial and his post-trial meeting with Mr Irving, where he let the mask slip once again. What a pity that John Keegan (article, April 12) still seems so beguiled by a man who masks his extreme views with a veneer of courtesy and "old-Englishness".
I was forcibly struck by how Sir John tried to justify his having to be subpoenaed to appear in court, the root of which seemed covered by his words " . . . nothing but trouble comes of taking sides over Irving" -- It is a pity that John Keegan's sense of what is right did not extend to those whose deaths Mr Irving was seeking to slur.
I was also struck by the contrasting styles that he used when describing Mr Irving and Prof Lipstadt. Mr Irving is described as "strong, handsome.. with the appearance of a leading QC. He [has] a firm but courteous voice, [asking] precise questions which demonstrate his detailed knowledge of an enormous body of material".
Contrast that with, "Fortunately, I did not have to give my opinion of Prof Lipstadt's work", and "Prof Lipstadt, by contrast, seems as dull as only the self-righteously politically correct can be".
It seems to me hardly politically correct for Prof Lipstadt to seek to defend her work and, by default, the memory of the six million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis -- in gas chambers and extermination camps -- which Mr Irving sought to deny ever took place.
John Keegan seems sorry that Mr Irving lost. It would appear that he has been taken in by a star performer, who also happens to be a Holocaust-denier, racist and neo-Nazi sympathiser who fabricates history (particularly the Holocaust) to suit his own warped views.
SIR &emdash; I do not condemn David Irving, and this is not to say that I agree with him either, but surely he has fulfilled every historian's dream of being so widely criticised. He is in my eyes the present-day A. J. P. Taylor, whose book The Origins of the Second World War caused just as much controversy.
He will prove to be a central point of historical debate, just as the late Geoffrey Elton has proved to be for Tudor historians.
SIR&emdash;We read that "Mr Justice Gray delivered a damning, 333-page judgment" against Mr Irving. How much more apt if it bad been a 666-page one.