Thursday, March 17, 2005

The CSpan Storm

People have asked for an update. I have watched and been quite amazed by the reaction. While Jewish groups and individuals have weighed in strongly, my academic colleagues have also made their voices heard. The David Wyman Institute has circulated a petition to be signed by historians and academics [see previous post] and, as of this morning, I am told it has well over 200 signitures.

Rumor has it that CSpan may have decided to drop the idea of screening Irving's presentation in Atlanta [which they filmed]. Maybe by now they have had a chance to watch it and they saw what Irivng said.

According to two different people who were there the meeting was attended by perhaps 35 to 40 people, if that. The following is a report from one of the attendees:

All appeared to be affluent and well-dressed but almost all of them were older and apparently Irving’s devoted followers. There were two limousines out front. One very long white stretch limo and another regular black limo. [The Landmark Diner is a family restaurant and not a limousine-type venue.]

Irving had informed attendees in the letter he sent out a few days before that CSpan would be there and laid down rules: “No t-shirts with slogans, no emblems, and no leaflets; and I know I can rely on you to show due propriety in behavior and in any questions you ask in the discussion at the end.”

The low attendance appeared to cause Irving some anxiety. He looked tired and kept scanning the participants as if counting head. By 7 pm (dinner time) the room was only loosely 2/3 thirds full. This meeting featured free complimentary champagne and a buffet with shrimp, beef bourguignon, fish, chicken, pasta, rice, salad, steamed vegetables and a special dessert. The cost was $25. It was catered.

Irving paid little attention to his book table where he usually makes good money on sale of his own books and tapes and the resale of other materials. Irving didn’t circulate around the room shaking hands and visiting each table [as he often does], but huddled with several older men at the center table from 6 pm to 7 pm.

On the book table he featured his newly reprinted Hitler’s War (2002), newly reprinted Nuremberg: The Last Battle, several videos of himself or in programs in which he took part. Irving has produced a DVD (with a VHS version) of his book Hitler’s War, which he had for sale for $40 each. The DVD was professional produced by a Lamancha Productions. Irving told the person who described the meeting to me that the newest version of his Dresden book is due out in just three weeks with the Goebbels biography following soon after.

Irving also had pictures of himself and his family there for people to pick up and others he intended to use in his talk.

C-SPAN had two cameras set up, with numerous sound boards and lights. There were about 4 people there from C-SPAN. The attendees were warned by CSpan that if they didn’t want to be on camera they needed to move to the back of the room by the bar and behind the cameras. Some people did.

[DEL: I would guess that this is one of the first times CSpan prefaced a filming with this kind of announcement. ]

In fact, before Irving did begin to speak he requested that everyone come forward and fill the empty chairs at the front tables so that it would look full for the cameras. I ate dinner and sat with two gentlemen. One was a book dealer from Tucker, Georgia who features Irving books on his website and E-Bay. He was going to pick up 30 books from Irving for resale that night. Irving thanked us all for coming and compared his situation to that of Mozart’s who relied on the patronage of courts and kings to support him while he worked. So, too, we supported him in his work.

Irving showed us the pictures of his family including one of his father whom he extolled as a war hero and for whom he proclaimed great pride. He also showed pictures of Jessica (his daughter) as a baby and now as a 12 year old and her mother, Bente.

Irving then segued into a discussion of the long history of his ‘persecution’ by the ‘Traditional Enemies of the Truth’ (TEOTT), that is, the Jews. According to Irving, it began in 1963 (!) when he published his first book on the bombing of Dresden. He claimed that all the reviews of the book proclaimed it to be superior and a real bombshell. It was a best seller. In all the hundreds of reviews there was just one that trashed it: it was clearly written by a man (whose name I didn’t catch) who he insinuated therefore had to be a member of the Traditional Enemy of the Truth. Irving proclaimed that this proved that his enemies had targeted him all the way back to 1963, recognizing him as a threat to their picture of the Holocaust even at that early stage. The TEOTT have been persecuting him ever since.

Dr. Lipstadt was the person who was chosen to finally bring him down with her book, Denying the Holocaust, which was published by Penguin UK in England in 1995.

Irving then told a story about his first contact with Dr. Lipstadt at DeKalb Community College in Georgia in 1994. He claimed she spoke to a packed room and the people had clearly been dragooned to be there. He sat in the back quietly listening to her talk about him disparagingly. At the end he then stood up and introduced himself as David Irving and the historian in question and challenged her to show any proof that Hitler knew about or ordered the Holocaust. He said that one black man turned around in his seat and said to him, “Man, this is finally going to get interesting.” (He did it in an accent.) He explained how he then waved $1,000 in the air and offered to give it to anyone who could prove there was a Hitler order. (This is a long time stunt of his.) At DeKalb Community College Irving dug money out of his own pocket and waved it at the current crowd to make his point. Then he claimed that Dr. Lipstadt had turned and whispered to someone behind her and security came and immediately evicted him.

[DEL: What I actually said to the security officials was: "DON'T throw him out. Don't make him a martyr.]

That Irving said proved that Dr. Lipstadt had refused to debate him from the beginning. Then he went into a long explanation of how Dr. Lipstadt was a coward for not testifying at the trial even though he did admit that he believed her lawyers had made the decision. He had just been waiting to get her up on the stand and question her on her views of Judaism, and race, and intermarriage. He claimed that he would have demolished her and that he pretty much lost the trial right there because she would not testify so he could destroy her on the stand.

Irving claims that he knew nothing of Dr. Lipstadt’s book Denying the Holocaust until it was published in England in 1995 and people began calling and writing him about being a ‘Holocaust denier.’ He claims that he then hunted it down and read it for himself. He listed all the things Dr. Lipstadt wrote about him in quick order (he was a denier, he had stolen plates from Moscow and damaged them, and that he consorted with right-wing extremists including Hamas and Hezbollah). He claimed that she was funded by Yad Vashem and others who were out to get him. He cited a letter from Dr. Yehuda Bauer to “Debbie” noting that she hadn’t talked about Irving in her manuscript and she should put him in. Then “Debbie” feverishly went to work at the behest of her paymasters to collect her “sources” (which according to him were only newspaper clippings). He claimed that she never called him and if she had he could have set her straight in 15 seconds. (The implication: the whole trial was her fault.) In fact, Irving stated that Dr. Lipstadt was solely responsible for getting his Goebbels biography removed from St. Martin’s list, forcing him to publish it himself later. He also mentioned in suit against Gitta Sereny and the Observer for writing about his Goebbels book. Irving stated that he was just waiting for Dr. Lipstadt to publish her current book in England and he would immediately sue.

Irving stated that in an interview with Deutsche-Welle just two days ago, Dr. Lipstadt had stated that her lawyers “had set out to destabilize him” (direct quote from Irving) before the trial in an attempt to get him to toss in his hat. Then he produced the picture of the wreath that was sent to his daughter Josephine’s funeral service. The funeral directors (they had buried Lord Nelson so he knew they were good folk) called afterward and told him an expensive wreath had arrived and what did he want to do with it? He told to funeral directors to deliver it. It was huge, expensive, and made of white lilies. There was a card attached that implied that her death (she was disabled and died after a very long illness) was a “mercy killing.” It was signed by Philip Bouhler. He explained that Philip Bouhler had been the head of the euthanasia program in Germany that murdered disabled and undesirable people. Irving was visibly distressed, his voice rose and he shook the picture of the card as he read what it said to the audience. He said he had tracked down the florist and found that the clerk had written the card because the person who sent it said he had injured his wrist in a skiing accident and couldn’t write the card. He claims the florist shop turned out to be 100 yards from Dr. Lipstadt’s attorney’s office (Mishcon de Reya). To him that was proof that it had been sent by her attorneys to “destabilize him.” He mentioned the “destabilization” issue at least three times.

Irving then moved on to the general history of the action. Hecast himself in the role of the underdog who had no choice but to finally pursue and confront his long-time persecutors, the TEOTT, now spearheaded by Dr. Lipstadt. He also ran down Anthony Julius as just a lawyer out for money.

Irving noted how quickly Dr. Lipstadt had assembled massive financial resources. She found funding with Stephen Spielberg and a host Jewish financiers—one called Trevor Chinn who he called as “big as crook as Marc Rich.” He also mentioned a Maxwell Clark. (?) Irving was very angry at how much the expert witnesses had been paid and he insinuated that the defense did it on purpose just to ring up the bills to impossible heights. When Irving started discussing the costs of the trial they rose alarmingly over the course of the talk. In the beginning of the speech they started at $2 million, later in the speech they became $5 million, still later $7 million and in the last 15 minutes $12 million.

Irving seems to hate Richard Evans (one of the expert witnesses in the trial). Evans had disassembled Irving’s historiographical skills in his expert witness report. Irving described Evans’ performance in court with dripping contempt and stated that Evans lied when he claimed he was neutral on Irving. Irving pointed out that expert witnesses are supposed to make up their reports without being beholden to either side, but in this case they clearly were because of the amount of money they were paid. He described Professor Evans’ conduct in court as contemptuous of him and showed the audience how he stood with his hands in his pockets with his back turned to him.

Interestingly, he praised Robert Jan van Pelt as a fine gentleman, disliked the Judge (who he claimed had started writing the Judgment one month into the trial), and found Mr. Rampton to be very competent. He said he had the choice of hiring an attorney and trying to get him up to speed as an historian or having as historian (himself) as a lawyer. He claimed he was the only one who could understand the complexities. At that point, he mentioned how the judge praised him having a fine mind and as having performed as well as any attorney. He was plainly very pleased with this praise.

Irving described how Dr. Lipstadt’s side had four benches full of attorneys and helpers (40 or more) and he was on the other side with just one person.

[DEL: Actually at tops we had about 20 people working on the case. Not a small number, but not 40 people. Of course, I have learned that it is best not to depend on Irving for accurate numbers.]

He claimed that everyday he worked into the wee hours (up until 3 am) preparing for the next day and was always behind. He claimed he didn’t even have a chance to read the expert witness reports and often went into court without having read the pages he was going to cover that day. (However, in the matter of the Evans Report, Irving posted that report on his website months in advance of the trial.) He claimed that he had help from around the world by email preparing his defense daily (from what he called the ‘antipodes’).

Irving said that in her book Dr. Lipstadt had not called him a racist or an antisemite but that these matters were part of the trial. He claimed that he was no a racist, just a patriot of the England of his father’s day.

Irving then moved on to Auschwitz. He said that he believed that some 200,000 people had died there, which is a higher figure than he usually admits. He said that the numbers of people murdered had Auschwitz had been lowered dramatically over the years by the Auschwitz Museum’s own authorities and they weren’t considered deniers. But someone like him who questioned anything about the trademarked Holocaust was an out and out denier. He went into detail about what the gas chambers really were—they were air raid shelters. He waved around pictures of pages of a German book that he said was current during the war years and which described the architectural standards for air raid shelters. He claimed that the gas tight doors (which are clearly ordered in the surviving primary documents) were simply an air raid shelter requirement as written right in that book; that the modified door swing (originally into the room but then changed to open out) was also a requirement; and that a peep hole was also required.

Then he made a sarcastic remark about the peep holes: “Why,” he asked, “would anyone want a peep hole in a door just to look in at dead bodies?” Everyone laughed. Irving insisted that there was no proof these buildings were gas chambers and reiterated that there was NOT ONE SINGLE PROOF OF EVIDENCE that they ever were. He recalled how he has stated time and again that if they could prove there were gas chambers he would have backed down and called it all off. All of these matters were dealt with at trial and the idea that they were air raid shelters was discredited.

Irving also mentioned the bombing of Dresden again as proof that the Allies had also committed wartime atrocities and insisted that the death toll was over 130,000. This is despite the fact that at trial the document he bases these figures on was clearly proved to be a forgery. The figure is probably 25,000 or so, which is bad enough. But despite all evidence to the contrary he continues to insist on higher death tolls.

Irving moved on to the aftermath of the trial. He spoke about Dr. Lipstadt’s vindictive attempt to keep his possessions from him which were taken in the bankruptcy. He complained that she wanted to keep from his all his original and valuable papers he had collected and which constituted his work product—the loss of which would be crippling.

[DEL: We only wanted those papers that were of some value. He owed me and my defense fund over a million dollars and we wanted to sell these papers to a library or archive in order to recoup some of our costs. Eventually, as I describe in the book, I gave up the fight because the costs were too high.]

Irving concluded by remarking that he was embattled but unbowed. He had endured all manner of calumnies at the hands of his enemies and he was still fighting. In the last five minutes, he got quite impassioned over his victimization. Then he did something surprising: in front of the C-Span cameras he announced straight out that the Jews had tried to destroy him but they had failed. Irving and most deniers never refer to their “tormenters” straight out; they use code words such as Traditional Enemies of the Truth. I was very surprised when he said it straight out in front of cameras. I think this might have been a slip of the tongue as he was getting a little carried away in the summary.

Irving wrapped up to enthusiastic applause. C-Span announced a 10 minute break and then questions.

I got the clear impression this was gathering was meant to be a triumphant return to the lair of the beast—complete with expensive champagne and catered food. It was to be a celebration of sorts. The low attendance was therefore disconcerting and disappointing.


Anonymous said...

Blogger Roger L. Simon has a few things to say about this matter:

Let's hope that a few more bloggers jump on the bandwagon.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand- it's somehow wrong of CSpan to broadcast a lecture by David Irving in his own words but it's acceptable for you to publish a long account of that same lecture provided by an anonymous party (whose credibility we therefore cannot evaluate)? I'm sorry to say so but this seems somewhat hypocritical to me.

I was also confused by how you actually used this opportunity to debate David Irving by entering the narrative to refute some (not all) of his points. If you had remained silent throughout the piece or had methodically responded to each of the points he made it would have been considerably less bewildering to me. But because you responded to only a few of his points it makes me wonder if we are to assume that you do not contest the truth of his other remarks (for example, about your lawyers' attempt to "destabilize" him). Is this true?

david gehrig said...

Looks like she only commented on lrving's newest lies. The other ones she's already refuted in her book.


David H Lippman said...

Maybe Deborah Lipstadt didn't comment on Irving's ridiculous claim that her solicitors tried to "destabilize" David Irving because it was too ridiculous to dignify with an answer.

david gehrig said...

I'd also argue that it's no more possible to destabilize David Irving than it is to melt water.


Dave said...

This is one of the most fascinating essays on the page to me, because it shows Irving's character and supporters in a very clear lens. It reveals just how bitter, paranoid, and self-righteous Irving is, and how tawdry his supporters and life is now.

At some levels, one of his biggest complaints has to be sheer envy -- Deborah Lipstadt lectures at Harvard, serves on presidential commissions, and signs her books at Barnes and Noble.

Irving lectures to small groups of Fascists in diners, and sells his books out of the trunk (boot) of his car.

As a guy who has trouble selling magazine articles, I know the sense of envy. The difference is -- I don't blame a worldwide conspiracy to get me. Just my math teachers.