Irving v. Lipstadt

Defense Documents

David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial: Electronic Edition, by Richard J. Evans

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(3) Dresden and Holocaust Denial

1. Even as a young writer Irving seems to have used his manipulations of the evidence on the bombing of Dresden to peddle an as then relatively inarticulate and 'soft' form of 'revisionism'. Irving has variously claimed that his interest in Dresden was first awakened by 1) reading an article in the German magazine Stern in March 1960 or 2) conversing with fellow workers whilst employed at a steel mill in Mülheim. In April 1961 he placed adverts in British and American   newspapers to trace the surviving air personnel. William Kimber was one of the people to answer his advertisement and subsequently became his publisher.222
2. That Kimber's relationship with Irving was an uneasy one is borne out by the documents. Kimber wrote to Irving on 3 April 1963, after his legal advisers had suggested he check the proofs for 'certain allegedly historical statements'. Once they had started, wrote Kimber,
it became abundantly clear that the first proofs were riddled with falsifications of the historical facts. The picture painted by these falsifications led to the inescapable conclusion that your book could be interpreted as the work of a propagandist for Nazism who had not scrupled to distort many facts and omit numerous others in order to vilify the British War Government and in particular Winston Churchill.... I have no doubt that it was a scoop for the Germans to find an Englishman prepared to concoct a mixture of fact and fiction which would vindicate or extenuate Nazi actions (because of course there is an extensive movement trying to achieve this aim in Germany and elsewhere) and at the same time to denigrate English leaders.223
3. Irving stiffly denied this and argued that in Germany he had been accused of being a lackey of British Air Command and that now Kimber was branding him a Nazi propagandist.224
4. According to Irving Kimber then instituted a number of textual changes against his wishes. He altered chapter headings, softened criticism of Churchill and Harris, and erased the more 'harrowing' details of the attack; all testimony to Kimber's 'sincerely held belief that, after all, perhaps the Germans had merely been repaid, with interest in their own coin.'225 Although   Irving told his readers in 1995 that it was 'several years before I noticed these little modifications' we have documents to the contrary. In the same letter of April 1963 Kimber had written to Irving informing him that after 'intensive work' by the office staff checking and changing the proofs 'we now believe the book to be cleansed of its somewhat evil undercurrents'. Later in April Irving berated Kimber for changing some of the historical sections in the book.226
5. Irving wrote to Kimber in 1963 that the crime of World War Two was not genocide but 'innocentocide' (sic), the killing of civilians, and that therefore the Eastern and Western powers were equally guilty in his eyes as the Germans and the Japanese. For him Dresden was a crime.227 Nowhere in the earlier editions though was there an explicit effort to draw the parallel, but the whole tenor of the argument was unmistakably in this direction. In his own notes Irving commented on his discovery of TB 47 that put the death-roll at 202,040 that the document, if authentic, showed that the Dresden death-roll 'was well over the combined death-rolls of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Tokyo.'228
6. Instead, Irving allowed others to draw this obvious conclusion and then somewhat disingenuously congratulated them on their independence of mind. Thus he wrote to Sydney Silverman MP, who had reviewed the book in Tribune: 'I am not someone who holds political views similar to your own, but I really must congratulate you - in spite of this - for having stuck your neck out so firmly and unmistakably by drawing a parallel between the Nazis'   atrocities and what happened in Dresden; this is something I myself did not claim in my book'.229 This may be literally the truth, but as we have already seen with reference to his presentation of the history of the bombing raid on Pforzheim, there can be no doubt that Irving actually did, and does, believe in a parallel of this kind between Allied bombing raids, of which Dresden was the most famous, and Nazi war crimes.
7. In 1995 the 'innocenticide' refrain was repeated. In answer to the rhetorical question if there is a parallel between Dresden and Auschwitz Irving replied: 'To my mind both teach one lesson: that the real crime of war and peace alike is not Genocide - with its implicit requirement that posterity reserve its sympathy and condolences for a chosen race - but Innocenticide. It was not the Jewishness of the victims that made Auschwitz a crime; but their innocence.'230 There is of course no implication in the concept of genocide that posterity should reserve its sympathy and condolences for a 'chosen race' - this is purely Irving's invention, for the concept can apply, and has been applied, to many other victims of genocide besides the Jews.
8. Whilst to his readership Irving has always maintained a more balanced tone, in his public speaking Irving's opinions have become increasingly strident. Despite his frequent rhetoric against the propagating of other myths in history, especially the 'myth' of the Holocaust, and despite his earlier pronouncements to the contrary, Irving is proud of his own role in keeping alive the very real legend of the Dresden death roll.231 At a speech in South Africa in 1986 he told his audience:  
I realised that I was being told [about Dresden] of what we would now call a Holocaust I suppose, of which we English at that time, 1961, knew absolutely nothing at all. Of course now everybody talks about Dresden in the same breath as they talk about Auschwitz and Hiroshima. That's my achievement ladies and gentlemen. I'm a little bit proud when I look at the newspapers every 15th or 14th of February, when the anniversary comes and they mention Dresden, because until my book was published on that subject the outside world had never heard of what happened in Dresden when 100,000 people were killed in one night by an RAF and American air force air raid on one undefended German town at the end of the war.232
9. In Ontario in 1991 Irving told his audience:
...Germany, a country that should be grateful to me, the Englishman who first revealed to the outside world what we British and Americans did to Dresden, where we killed over 100,000 people, burned them alive in three hours in one night in February 1945. Nobody outside Germany knew about it until my book The Destruction of Dresden was published. The country which should have given me every medal I suppose." [Applause]233
10. It would seem to be more than coincidence that Irving, his mind perhaps constrained by a convenient symmetry, has stubbornly maintained a false figure of 100,000 deaths in Dresden in the face of all evidence to the contrary, while at the same time he has manipulated his figure of deaths at Auschwitz down to a similar number. In a television documentary screened on 28 November 1991 Irving made the comparison explicit in the following interchange:
Interviewer: "So what's the point in quibbling about the exact number of Jews that were killed by Hitler?
Irving: "Exact numbers are important. Look at Auschwitz. About 100,000 people died in Auschwitz. Most of them died of epidemics, as we now know, from code breaking. So even if we're generous and say one quarter of them, 25,000, were killed by hanging or shooting. 25,000 is a crime, that's true. 25,000 innocent people executed by one means or another. But we killed that many people burning them alive in one night, not in three years, in a city like Pforzheim. We killed five times that number in Dresden in one night.

Interviewer: "So we're as bad as that?

Irving: "I've pleaded for equality in the writing of history. Not just truth but also equality.

Interviewer: "So lining up Jews in pits and machine gunning them was as bad as bombing Dresden?

Irving: "I see very little difference.234
11. In addition Irving's utterances connecting Dresden and Auschwitz have become increasingly bizarre. Launching the 'Leuchter Report' in 1989 he told journalists:
Obviously if the gas chamber now turns out to have been phoney then we have to try and explain what happened to the figures. Now, one possible reason is the large number that turned up in the state of Palestine, what's now the state of Israel. The Jews that were in Israel didn't come from nowhere. Another part of them, when Auschwitz was liberated were set out on the roads to be shipped westward where they ended up in cities like Dresden. I don't have to tell you what happened in Dresden three weeks after Auschwitz was evacuated by the Germans. There were one million refugees in the streets of Dresden at the time that we burned Dresden to the ground, killing anything between 100,000 and 250,000 of them. Large numbers of people on the streets in Europe that winter also suffered normal deaths of exposure and starvation epidemic. I'm offering to you alternative solutions to where the people went.235
12. Irving repeated this explanation in a 1993 promotional video intended for Australia:  
Many concentration camps as the Russians approached were evacuated and set out on the long cold march through the European winter of December 44, January 1945 to the West. The concentration camp inmates arrived in Berlin or in Leipzig or in Dresden just in time for the RAF bombers to set fire to those cities. In Dresden million-and-a-half people camping out in the streets on the night of February 13, 1945. Nobody knows who they were. Refugees, concentration camp prisoners, citizens of Dresden itself. After the bombers retired, 45 minutes later another wave came, and at then at noon on February 14 the American air force joined in. Over 130,000 people died in that particular air raid The same kind of raids took place on Leipzig, Berlin, Cottbus: refugee centres up and down the centre of Germany. Nobody knows how many Jews died in those air raids, nobody knows how many Jews died on the roads of hunger or starvation or just sheer cold.236
13. The so-called death marches took place in the closing months of the war as the Nazi authorities cleared concentration camps and ghettos in the East in the face of the victorious Red Army. Between 17 and 23 January 1945 some 60,000 prisoners of Auschwitz were evacuated, mainly on foot. Many of them died of cold, physical exhaustion, thirst and hunger, or were beaten or shot to death on their way to other concentration camps within the Reich. There is no evidence that those prisoners forcibly evacuated from Auschwitz passed through Dresden, and although Dresden had its own prisoner-of-war camps, it would seem incredible that the deporting authorities would have quartered thousands of starving and emaciated Jews in the historic heart of Dresden. The suggestion that the Allies were somehow responsible for killing Auschwitz prisoners in Dresden in what were their last agonising weeks of suffering is completely fantastic.


222. Doc. 1340, Obituary for William Kimber by Irving, 1 May 1991, published in The Daily Telegraph.
223. Doc. 1866.
224. Doc. 143. Doc. 140 is presumably the list of extracts from Und Deutschlands Stadte starben nicht to prove to Kimber that he was not biased in his censures.
225. Focal Point, edn., preface.
226. Focal Point, edn., p. xiv; doc. 1866, Kimber to Irving, 3 April 1963; doc. 143, Irving to William Kimber, 25 April 1963.
227. Doc. 143, Irving to William Kimber, 4 April 1963.
228. DJ 10, New information on death toll in Allied air raids on Dresden, 1945, introduction, dated November 1964.
229. Doc. 147, Irving to Sydney Silverman, 2 June 1963.
230. Focal Point, edn., viii.
231. For instance hi claim to The Times on 7 July 1966 that he had 'no interest in promoting or perpetuating false legends' See doc. 180, Irving to The Times, 7 July 1966.
232. Videotape 175, David Irving, 'A return to honesty and truth in history,' Elangani Hotel, Durban, South Africa, 5 March 1986.
233. Videotape 190, Irving at Bayerischer Hof, Milton, Ontario, 5 October 1991.
234. Videotape 226, unedited material from the "This Week" programme, 28 November 1991.
235. Videotape 184, 'Leuchter Report press conference,' London [?], 23 June 1989. Titles read: 'The Truth at Last, Six Million Lies, Focal Point Video'.
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