Professor Barry Steiner’s claims that had I written more extensively about David Irving in “Denying the Holocaust” this lawsuit might have been avoided is completely unfounded (Letters, Mar. 11). He might have better served his argument by offering some proof, however paltry.
Secondly, his question suggests to me that he has neither read “History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving” nor the trial record. He asks: “Is it possible for a Nazi sympathizer or any other political extremist to be a good historian?” It may be, but in Irving’s case, the answer is no.
Judge Gray’s words to describe Irving’s writings about the Holocaust were unambiguous: “perverts,” “distorts,” “misleading,” “unjustified,” “travesty” and “unreal.”
Gray wrote: Irving’s “falsification of the historical record was deliberate and ... motivated by a desire to present events in a manner consistent with his own ideological beliefs, even if that involved distortion and manipulation of historical evidence.”
Steiner contends that Irving’s earlier writings are not fraudulent. I urge him to look at the section of “History on Trial” devoted to Irving’s distortions regarding the bombing of Dresden, about which Irving began writing in the 1960s.
He might also check www.hdot.org and read the sections of the trial devoted to the topic. Gray found Irving’s treatment of the evidence about Dresden to be “absurd” and a “travesty.”
Given Irving’s distortions of both the Holocaust and Dresden, I believe any good historian would be skeptical about Irving’s other work and would, before relying on his findings, do what my defense team and I did for this legal battle: follow his footnotes.
Finally, regarding Irving’s ideological views, I again rely on Gray’s words: Irving had “repeatedly crossed the divide between legitimate criticism and prejudiced vilification of the Jewish race and people.”
If Steiner wishes to rely on Irving, that’s his choice. I just worry about what he teaches his students.
Deborah E. Lipstadt