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London, April 12, 2000


Racist historian faces £2m bill for libel defeat

By Neil Tweedie




DAVID IRVING, the historian and author, was facing financial ruin last night after defeat in his libel action against an American academic who accused him of denying the existence of the Holocaust.

A High Court judge branded him a racist, anti-Semite and associate of neo-Nazi extremists who falsified history in order to disprove the existence of the gas chambers and exonerate Hitler from involvement in the mass murder of Jews.

Mr Irving, 62, the author of some 30 works, faces a legal bill of about £2.3 million for the three-month trial. Mr Justice Gray, who decided the case without a jury, warned him that he would be held liable for most of the costs. The verdict was applauded by Jewish groups around the world. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre described it as "a victory of history over hate".

Mr Irving had sued Prof Deborah Lipstadt, an American Jewish scholar, and her British publishers, Penguin Books, for remarks made in her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. She accused him of being one of the most dangerous "Holocaust deniers", a "Hitler partisan" who falsified, misrepresented and distorted history.

Mr Irving denied the allegations, claiming that they had resulted in his being subjected to a wave of hatred. He said he had never claimed that the Holocaust did not occur, but did question the number of Jewish dead and denied their systematic extermination in gas chambers.

Delivering his judgment to a packed court, Mr Justice Gray said the defendants had largely justified their allegations. "The charges which I have found to be substantially true include the charges that Mr 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."

Prof Lipstadt and Penguin had failed to justify some allegations, he said, but set against the findings of the court, they did not have any material effect on Mr Irving's reputation.

Mr Irving, who had represented himself against a formidable legal team headed by Richard Rampton, QC, was forced to remove his jacket after an egg was thrown at him as he entered court. Following the two-hour hearing he said: "I would describe the judgment in two words: firstly, indescribable, and secondly, perverse."

He attacked some of the judge's conclusions as "historically incredible" and poured scorn on the testimony of historians and other expert witnesses called by the defence. He said: "Their experts were speaking a load of baloney, but mine spoke from the heart."

Mr Irving, whose work as a military historian was praised by the judge, said he would not be able to meet the costs. He plans to appeal. His flat in Mayfair, west London is believed to be heavily mortgaged, and his opponents believe Mr Irving might move to America. He said: "Why is everyone talking about money? I'm not interested in money. It is all about reputation."

Prof Lipstadt, 53, who did not testify, said: "I feel incredibly vindicated by the judge's ruling. It was a an incredible relief. It went further in talking about Irving than I did. It left no doubt that this man distorts, manipulates, perverts the historical record, and its left his reputation as a man who has anything to say about the Holocaust completely in tatters. The racist statements he has made and the way he tried to justify them in court was horrible. It was evil."

Anthony Forbes Watson of Penguin said they had never been tempted to settle out of court. He said: "There are certain interests that supersede commercial interests."

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