- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 15, 2000

When British historian David Irving set out to sue American author Deborah Lipstadt for libel, he brought suit in Great Britain, where the libel law puts the burden of proof on the defendants in this case, Ms. Lipstadt and her British publisher, Penguin Books. In the 1993 book under contention, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory," Ms. Lipstadt labeled Mr. Irving "one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial," and said that "he is at his most facile at taking accurate information and shaping it to conform to his conclusions." In the court case that concluded this week in London, it was up to her to prove these assertions.

According to Justice Charles Gray of the British high court, Mr. Irving is all that Ms. Lipstadt said he was, and more. In a scorching judgment against Mr. Irving that upholds the interests of truth and the memory of those millions who perished at the hands of Hitler's Third Reich, the judge called Mr. Irving "a pro-Nazi polemicist" whose political agenda leads him "to manipulate the historical record in order to make it conform with his political beliefs." In dismissing the suit, the judge declared Mr. Irving to be both an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier and accused him of using "double standards" to weigh the evidence, further adding that Mr. Irving "appears to take every opportunity to exculpate Hitler."

Exculpating Hitler a twisted endeavor, to say the least. But that is what appears to inspire the body of Mr. Irving's work chronicling the military history of Nazi Germany. According to Mr. Irving's proven claptrap, Hitler did not order the extermination of Europe's Jews; indeed, he says there was no systematic plan for their annihilation. He dismisses Holocaust eyewitness accounts, both Nazi and Jew, as "worthless" and worse, has called the Holocaust itself a myth used by Jews to blackmail Germany for reparations. According to his figures, six million Jews did not die during World War II; one million, he thinks, succumbed to typhus and other diseases, as well as some sporadic violence. As for the gas chambers according to David Irving, there weren't any. Cyanide traces found in the camps came rather from the Nazis "hygienic methods" to combat disease, he says. Of course, when asked during the trial what Adolf Eichmann meant by Gaseinlage (gassing camps), a term used in the Eichmann memoirs released by Israel in February, Mr. Irving replied that he hadn't had a chance to look at them.

Given what has now been introduced into the record about Mr. Irving's dishonest manipulation of facts, it is unlikely that even Eichmann's words would affect his bizarre and repulsive almost cartoonishly so allegiance to Adolf Hitler that seems to drive his efforts to minimize the colossal events known as the Holocaust. No wonder Ms. Lipstadt was jubilant in victory. The trial, she told the Times of London, both "demonstrated the degree to which Irving manipulates historical truth" and "reaffirmed the fact that the Holocaust can be easily and fully documented by historians through the use of primary sources."

It may strike one as somewhat perplexing that the Holocaust would even require establishment by the laws of evidence, as though its reality were somehow open to question. But such are the rules of engagement in a clash between historical truth and encroaching political fiction. The dishonest seeds of doubt must be uprooted to make room for the facts, paving the way for an honest discussion of the record. "We are not dealing here with sacred canon, and I defend the right of historians to re-examine and ask questions," said Ms. Lipstadt. "But it must be based on the evidence, not on what they want it to say." In beating down Mr. Irving's indefensible charge of libel, Ms. Lipstadt has served her profession and history well.

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