Thursday, November 17, 2005 · Last updated 11:51 a.m. PT
Historian charged with denying Holocaust
By WILLIAM J. KOLE
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
VIENNA, Austria -- Right-wing British historian David Irving, who once famously said that Adolf Hitler knew nothing about the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews, has been arrested in Austria on a warrant accusing him of denying the Holocaust.
Irving, 67, was detained Nov. 11 in the southern province of Styria on a warrant issued in 1989 under Austrian laws making Holocaust denial a crime, police Maj. Rudolf Gollia, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said Thursday.
Austrian media said the charges stemmed from speeches Irving delivered that year in Vienna and in the southern town of Leoben.
Irving in the past has faced allegations of spreading anti-Semitic and racist ideas. He is the author of nearly 30 books, including "Hitler's War," which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.
Besides his assertion that Hitler knew nothing about the Holocaust, he also has been quoted as saying there was "not one shred of evidence" that the Nazis carried out their "Final Solution" on such a scale.
Irving remained in custody Thursday at a prison in Graz, 120 miles south of Vienna, the Austria Press Agency reported, although that could not be confirmed.
If formally charged, tried and convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison, said Otto Schneider of the public prosecutor's office.
But Schneider said it was unclear whether there were sufficient legal grounds to continue holding Irving on such a charge so many years after the alleged offense was committed. A decision was expected by the end of next week on how to proceed, Schneider said.
In March, more than 200 historians from around the world petitioned C-SPAN to cancel a project that would have included a speech by Irving as a counterpoint to a lecture by Deborah Lipstadt, a renowned Holocaust expert at Emory University.
Irving once sued Lipstadt for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier, but his lawsuit was dismissed in 2000 by a British court, which ruled that Irving was anti-Semitic and racist and misrepresented historical information.
Irving has had numerous run-ins with the law over the years. In 1992, a judge in Germany fined him the equivalent of $6,000 for publicly insisting the Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz were a hoax.
Other media reporting on this include the U.K.'s Guardian, BBC and TimesOnline. The latter notes:
Christoph Poechinger, a spokesman for the Austrian Justice Ministry, said it was likely that charges would be pressed against Irving and that he would be kept in custody until the case came to court.
"There is a grave danger that he will repeat the offence, therefore it is likely he will be kept in custody until it comes to court. A warrant has been outstanding since 1989 and the case will probably be made a priority, but I doubt it will come to court before Christmas," Herr Poechinger told the Austrian newspaper Der Standard.