Irving Describes His Austria Arrest and Imprisonment at IHR Meeting

News from the Institute for Historical Review

In an engaging, heart-felt talk at a memorable IHR meeting on Saturday evening, June 14, 2008, British historian David Irving described his harrowing arrest in Austria, his sensational trial in Vienna, and his 13 months of imprisonment. Among those who packed the hotel meeting room in southern California to hear talks by Irving and American historian Mark Weber were educators, engineers, students, film-makers and writers, some of whom were from as far away as Canada, New York and Asia.

Irving explained why he decided to visit Austria in November 2005 to speak to a student group, in spite of an outstanding warrant for his arrest for the "crime," committed 16 years earlier, of having expressed dissident views about the wartime treatment of Europe's Jews. His arrest, he said, may have been part of a "set up" organized by Austrian police.

He was sentenced to three years in prison on the basis of a law imposed by the occupation authorities in 1945 to prevent a revival of National Socialism. This "elastic" law, he went on, is now used to punish people who utter any one of a long list of forbidden phrases. Irving's arrest and trial generated tremendous media attention, including editorials and opinion pieces in newspapers around the world condemning the "Holocaust denial" laws under which he, and many others in Europe, have been imprisoned, fined or forced into exile.

During his imprisonment it was noted that German-language editions of Irving's own books were available to inmates through the prison library. Austrian authorities responded by confiscating 150 books by Irving from prison libraries across the country, and burning them. The authorities seemed unimpressed by the irony of burning books to prove to the world that Austria is not a "Nazi" state.

In describing his daily prison routine, Irving related humorous anecdotes about the sometimes bizarre behavior of other prisoners, many of whom were non-Europeans. In spite of the loss of freedom and some unpleasant aspects of his imprisonment, he said that his 400 days behind bars was a "wonderful" opportunity for productive work. "I've done some of my finest writing in that prison cell," he said. All but two of the 2,000 letters he received during his imprisonment were supportive, he noted.

David Irving makes a point at the IHR meeting, June 2008

Mark Weber holds up a copy of Pat Buchanan's new book.

Irving and Weber at the meeting of
June 14, 2008.

During the second half of his presentation, the self-described "independent" and "non-conformist" historian spoke about aspects of wartime Germany's treatment of Jews. This was based largely on what he's learned going through many thousands of "intercepts" of secret German wartime radio messages that were monitored and decoded by decryption specialists at Britain's famous Bletchley Park center.

These messages confirm mass shootings of Jews in the German-occupied Soviet territories. They also show, he said, that these brutal measures were carried out behind Hitler's back. Himmler and other high-ranking officials, said Irving, deliberately kept Hitler "out of the loop" about the anti-Jewish measures that we now associate with the term "Holocaust."

Irving's view of "the Holocaust," as presented at this meeting, is essentially the same one he laid out more than 30 years ago in the first edition of his book Hitler's War.

He quoted from a confidential document found after the war in the files of the Reich Ministry of Justice that records the German leader's thinking. In this memorandum, which was written in the spring of 1942, State Secretary Schlegelberger noted that Hitler's Chief of Chancellery, Dr. Hans Lammers, had informed him that "the Fuehrer [Hitler] has repeatedly declared to him [Lammers] that he wants to see the solution of the Jewish problem postponed until after the war is over."

Irving also cited Hitler's "Political Testament," dictated just hours before his death, in which he wrote:

"But I left no one in any doubt that if the peoples of Europe were once again to be treated by these international conspirators in money and finance as mere shares to be bought and sold, then the people that is really guilty for this murderous conflict would be called to account: Jewry! I also left no one in any doubt that if this time millions of children of Europe's Aryan nations were starved to death, and millions of grown men were to suffer death, and hundreds of thousands of women and children were burned and bombed to death in the cities, the really guilty ones would have to atone for their guilt, even if by more humane means."

In Irving's view, Hitler was referring here to a policy of deportation, forced emigration and internment of Europe's Jews.

Mark Weber, who was the first of the two featured speakers to address the meeting, devoted much of his talk to telling about two recently published books: Human Smoke, by Nicholson Baker, a pacifist, and Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War, by Patrick J. Buchanan, the well-known paleo-conservative commentator. The IHR director praised these non-conformist books as important antidotes to the hallowed portrayal of World War II that has been systematically promoted for decades in motion pictures, on television, by teachers, and by our political leaders.

Many Americans, said Weber, are now much more willing to take a skeptical look at the familiar, iconic narrative of World War II in the aftermath of their bitter disillusionment over the way that President Bush and many other politicians, along with much of the media, deceived the public about the Iraq war.

Both Baker and Buchanan, said Weber, are fierce critics of Winston Churchill. Each presents quotations, anecdotes and other information that offset the flattering, reverential portrayal of the British leader by politicians and the media.

Both authors, noted Weber, take seriously Hitler's numerous proposals for peace. They cite, for example, his major address in October 1939, in which he warned that if the pro-war, Churchill faction prevails in Britain, the result would be a devastating, large scale war that would be a catastrophe for everyone. "In the course of history," said the German leader, "there have never been two victors, but very often only losers."

Baker and Buchanan also discuss, and take seriously, Germany's peace initiatives after the fall of France. Each author cites Hitler's historic address to the Reichstag on July 19, 1940, in which he noted Churchill's adamant rejection of any talk of peace, but nonetheless appealed to Britain to cooperate to end the fighting. "A great world empire will be destroyed, a world empire which it was never my intention to destroy or damage," said Hitler. "But I am fully aware that the continuation of this war will only end with the complete destruction of one of the two warring parties ... I see no reason that should compel us to continue this war."

Weber took aim at the national mythology of America's role in the war, expanding on points he had made in his talk at the IHR meeting on May 24, 2008. (The text of his address, "The 'Good War' Myth of World War Two," is posted at )

In assessing the legacy of World War II, said Weber, one thing that can now be said with certainty is that it "was not a victory for European culture or Western civilization." That's entirely understandable, he went on, because the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union - the main victors in the war -- openly proclaimed their intention of creating a new world order based on egalitarian-universalist principles. European cities are filling with people from southern Asia, northern and western Africa, and other Third World regions. This was predictable and inevitable, said Weber, given that Europe's prevailing ideology is universalist and egalitarian, and its social-political system is liberal-democratic.

A question and answer period, during which Irving tackled several pointed questions, and some closing remarks by Weber, concluded the meeting.