Friday, November 18, 2005

My reaction to Irving's arrest

In the past 24 hours I have been repeatedly asked about my reaction to David Irving's arrest.

I do not know if Irving wanted to be arrested for the PR value of it [his name has now appeared in the media far more than in many previous months] or if he felt that he was “unstoppable” and the Austrian police would never find him.

He may have thought that this was a means, in fact, of gaining some sympathy even from those who have no patience with his Holocaust denial, anstisemitic, and racist comments. I have received a number of emails from people who have little – if any—sympathy for him. Yet they are troubled by what appears to them as an infringement of his civil rights. Ironically, some of these people support hate speech and hate crime legislation. [They don’t seem to grasp the inherent contradiction in their views. Irving was arrested under a form of hate speech regulation.]

I am personally opposed to making Holocaust denial a crime. [This would of course be impossible in the US.] However, I understand Germany and Austria’s sensitivity about this matter. Their history is unique when it comes to the Holocaust.

In the course of my court battle all of his fancy claims about no gas chambers, no plans for annihilation of the Jews, no Hitler complicity and so much more were dismissed by the judge a complete bunk. He did not prevail on even one of his contentions about the historical record.

Some people who have attended his talks since the end of the trial have come away with the impression of a pathetic figure whose only audience is a sorry group of extremists, haters, and losers.

Many historians who have read my book and looked at Judge Gray’s decision -- John Keegan and D.C. Watts excepted – have concluded that when it comes to history they can trust nothing Irving says without checking it out on their own first.

I close with something Anthony Julius said to me at one point during the lengthy preparations for this trial when I was tired and frustrated by the disruption to my life this legal battle had caused. After listening to me rail against Irving, Anthony said: “Think of fighting David Irving as you would the shit you step in on the street. It has no relevance unless you fail to clean it off your feet prior to reentering you home or office.”

My feet are clean, i.e. my fight with him is over. What Austria decides to do is its business.

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