- The Washington Times - Monday, February 20, 2006

VIENNA, Austria — Right-wing British historian David Irving pleaded guilty yesterday to denying the Holocaust and was sentenced to three years in prison, even after conceding that he wrongly said there were no Nazi gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Irving, handcuffed and wearing a blue suit, arrived in court carrying a copy of one of his most controversial books — “Hitler’s War,” which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.

“I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz,” Irving told the court before his sentencing. He faced up to 10 years in prison. He also expressed sorrow “for all the innocent people who died during the second world war.”

But he insisted that he never wrote a book about the Holocaust, which he called “just a fragment of my area of interest.”

“In no way did I deny the killings of millions of people by the Nazis,” testified Irving, who has written nearly 30 books.

Irving’s lawyer immediately announced that he would appeal the sentence.

“I consider the verdict a little too stringent. I would say it’s a bit of a message trial,” Elmar Kresbach said.

Irving, 67, has been in custody since his November arrest on charges stemming from two speeches that he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the Nazis’ extermination of 6 million Jews. He has contended that most of those who died at concentration camps such as Auschwitz succumbed to diseases such as typhus rather than execution.

The court convicted Irving after his guilty plea under the 1992 law, which applies to “whoever denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity in a print publication, in broadcast or other media.”

Irving’s trial came amid new debate over freedom of expression in Europe, where the printing of unflattering caricatures of the prophet Muhammad has triggered deadly protests worldwide.

Mr. Kresbach said last month that the controversial Third Reich historian was receiving as many as 300 pieces of fan mail per week from supporters around the world and was writing his memoirs in detention under the working title “Irving’s War.”

Irving was arrested Nov. 11 in the southern Austrian province of Styria on a warrant issued in 1989.

Within two weeks of his arrest, he asserted through his lawyer that he had come to acknowledge the existence of Nazi-era gas chambers. Before the trial began, Irving told reporters that he now acknowledges that the Nazis systematically slaughtered Jews during World War II.

In the past, however, he has claimed that Adolf Hitler knew little, if anything, about the Holocaust, and he has been quoted as saying there was “not one shred of evidence” that the Nazis carried out their “Final Solution” to exterminate the Jewish population on such a massive scale.

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