The International Campaign for Real History

Posted Monday, January 1, 2007

[] Index to the Traditional Enemies of Free Speech
[] Alphabetical index (text)

Quick navigation

London, February 25, 2006

'David, what on earth would Mother think?'

By Olga Craig

FOR 68 years, Nicholas Irving has lived in the shadow of his twin, the reviled historian and Hitler apologist who was jailed last week for three years. Here, he tells of the trials of growing up with a brother who even at the age of six was giving the Nazi salute.

click for origin

David Irving comments:

NICKY has a broad sense of humour and -- says my other brother John -- was pulling Olga Craig's leg throughout this interview. In case some of her stories end up chiseled in stone like the "call me a mild fascist" quotation, here are just a few comments.
   The only Jewish publisher I know, George Weidenfeld (who published my Rommel biography and other works) never dined with us; we don't keep kosher, for one reason.
   I have one Berghof table spoon, known to us as "the birdie spoon," which gets used along with all the rest; a gift from Henriette von Schirach who nicked it from Hitler's table.

Nicholas Irving with David's ill-fated oldest daughter Josephine, 1965

   No German bomber destroyed a nearby house, nor was there any salute, either then or later; at six, neither Nicky nor I would have known what such a salute was; nor of course was our pram ever fired on by a bomber.
   The "black man" incident is pure fiction; Nicky was never, ever, a passenger in my Rolls-Royce. He lived at the other end of London. At school I did not torment Hector Higgs, our reputedly 200-year-old Latin teacher; he tormented us. I managed to pull a violent nosebleed the first time Higgs hit me, and that bought me some immunity from future assaults.
   The French teacher, M Jacottet -- yes, I admit to making the Meccano model (see picture).
   The rest is an appalling muddle by the journalist: I was out of the country at the time Paloma's child was born, so I cannot have visited the hospital. The "invitations" story is a myth. At the school elections in 1955 I did not lead a "neo fascist party" -- I was the Labour Party candidate. Okay, that's gone fascist now too, but even so. . .
   Alas, I can imagine Nicky peering out from behind his curtains as the departing journalist walked down the garden path up which he had just led her, and cackling loudly.

Nicholas Irving leans forward, rubs his brow and runs a hand over his bald head as though the unconscious gesture might help him put his thoughts in order. "It has been something of a trial being David Irving's twin," he says, as he begins to recount life growing up with the infamous historian, reviled author and Hitler apologist.

"Let me try to explain my brother. Some years ago, he invited his publisher and wife, a Jewish couple, to his home for dinner. He was rather bewildered when the chap stormed out before the meal had even begun. David simply could not understand why this Jewish gentleman was offended when he sat at the table to discover that it was laid with cutlery embossed with the Nazi swastika.

David told the man that he had bought it in Russia, that it originally came from Hitler's bunker. Hardly surprising that the poor man stalked off. David told me that himself. And to him it was nothing more than a merry jape. He has a somewhat warped sense of humour and he truly thought it was hilarious."

Even as a child, David had a horribly malicious sense of humour. He loved to play cruel pranks, particularly on those in authority, says Nicholas. "It has all been really distressing for me; we were always so very, very different. As children, he was always trying to drag me into his devilment. Like the time, when we were six, that he gave a 'Heil Hitler' salute when a German bomber destroyed a nearby house. I knew it was wrong, I wouldn't do it, but David went right ahead. Anything to outrage, anything for attention."

And as in youth, so in adulthood. David and Nicholas Irving are not identical twins and there is little similarity in their lives. David, whose denial of the Holocaust and insistence that the Nazi gas chambers were a mere myth led to his incarceration in an Austrian jail last week, is a bombastic racist. The home he shared with his girlfriend, Bente Hogh, and their daughter, Jessica, 12, before he went bankrupt, was a £1 million apartment in Mayfair.

Even after he lost a £2 million libel battle against the American academic Deborah Lipstadt, who had accused him of Holocaust denial, he still managed to rent a £6,000-a-month Kensington home. Nicholas, by contrast, is a balding, mild-mannered and self-effacing former civil servant who lives in a £70-a-week maisonette in a shabby council block by the Barbican.

Nicholas Irving, John IrvingThe man David Irving once described as "balding and boring …the sort of person upon whom this country depends", could scarcely hold more opposing views than those of his brother. "I am the sort who says good morning to everyone," Nicholas says. The twins' older brother, John, [carving Turkey, 1970, with Nicky in the background] 73, who is the chairman of Wiltshire's racial equality council, has also distanced himself from David's views.

As he settles into a dusty draylon armchair in his cramped, one-room home, Nicholas, in his military tie and checked jacket, surveys his domain and says happily: "Spartan? It is. Just as I like it. Marriage just didn't happen for me." His home, that of a solitary bachelor who now spends much of his time on his genealogical hobby, is a clutter of organised chaos.

Teetering stacks of pamphlets, books and folders cover every surface. Even his single bed is surrounded by boxes packed with books. In his kitchen sit a cup and a microwave oven. A dog-eared envelope marked "to be opened in the event of the death of Nicholas Irving" is in a corner of the hall.

"All my life I have thought of my relationship with David as akin to looking after a sick relative," Nicholas says. "I'm sad he's in jail for three years, after all he's my brother, but I thought he would get at least five. He antagonised the court - but then he's been antagonising people all his life.

"Take the driving incident, for example," he says. A few years ago David was driving his Rolls-Royce with Nicholas in the passenger seat when they were overtaken by a small, battered car. David honked his horn and yelled at its driver. When the car stopped and its irate driver got out, David turned to his twin and said: "I'm not being overtaken by a black man." Then, Nicholas recalls, David said simply: "You sort him out."

David Irving's latest claim to infamy was to enter Austria, the country of Hitler's birth, from which he was barred in 1989 after he asserted that the Auschwitz gas chambers never existed. "I mean, what part of 'you cannot come here' didn't he understand," says Nicholas.

"Overshadowed by David? Oh, yes, all my life," he says without a hint of envy. "I liken it to John Masefield's poem Cargoes. David is the stately Spanish galleon, dipping through the tropics, that grounds on the rocks and sinks. Me, I'm the 'dirty British coaster with the salt-caked smoke stack'. And that's what I prefer." Throughout their 68 years, while David has striven to shock, Nicholas has sought anonymity.

"The only time I came first was when I popped out of the womb at 5pm and David 10 minutes later. He was supposed to be first, but we shifted before the birth. When I was born I had the umbilical cord around my neck - I've often wondered if that was David trying to hold me back. It was always a great source of annoyance to him that I was first. He thought he should have been. And," Nicholas adds with another weary sigh, "so he should. He is, after all, the bright one."

The twins, the last of four children, were born in 1938 and grew up during the Second World War. "There was nothing unpatriotic about David's views then," says Nicholas. "But, like now, he liked to shock, to scandalise. When the house down the road was bombed and he gave his Nazi salute, he egged me on to do it, too. I remember him saying: 'Like this Nicholas, click your heels together like this.'

Another time, when we were little more than two, our double pram was fired upon by a bomber. The nanny dragged us into the hedge. I was petrified. David, of course, wasn't. I don't think he's ever been scared of anything in his life. Then, of course, there was the time he chose Mein Kampf, Hitler's book, as his school prize. Yet for all that, our best friends were another pair of twins, friends of the family - and they were Jewish."

At school, David, unlike Nicholas, was something of a loner who specialised in playing malicious pranks on teachers. "David was incredibly clever but instead of doing homework he would be up in his room plotting ever more cruel pranks." The twins' Latin teacher was an elderly man suffering from sciatica who needed to relieve the pain by leaning on things every few moments when he walked.

Jacottet with hat and Meccano model
In 1955 M Jacottet, Brentwood School's French teacher, conducted his last lesson. Mr DJC Irving constructed a Meccano model of the teacher which was concealed under a towel on the shelf behind the teacher. Its mechanism mimicked all the teacher's idiosyncrasies; don't ask who took the photo. [click for hi-resolution copy]

"David worked out where he would stop and he would take the peg out of the blackboard so that, when the master leaned on it, he and it crashed to the ground. Then there was our French master. David spent hours making an intricate model of him that tapped a pencil as was his habit and left it on his desk to humiliate him." When pupils were allowed to stage mock elections, David led a neo-fascist party.

Sibling rivalry, on David's part, was never resolved. "If I was dancing with a pretty girl he would cut in," Nicholas says, "just because he could I suppose. He always felt he had to be better."

It was an obsession clearly illustrated when David's first grandchild was born in 2000. The family had begged him to visit his daughter, Paloma - one of four from his failed marriage to Pilar, a Spaniard - and her child, but he pleaded the pressure of work. "I went to see my niece and new baby and David walked into the ward. He went hysterical, kept shouting: 'What is he doing here?' He was furious I had seen the baby first.

Two male nurses had to drag him out. That was the first time I began to think David was losing it. After his bankruptcy he was insufferable. He saw it as an interference with his 'next big project'. He was furious that he couldn't afford staff." It was the sort of attitude David had displayed all his life. During the 10 years that Nicholas was an Army officer, before joining the civil service, his brother's first book was published.

Fellow officers wanted to meet him, but when Nicholas invited his twin to a mess cocktail party he turned up hours late. "He specialised in that," says Nicholas. "I've lost count of the times he has invited me for dinner and not turned up."

Since David Irving's imprisonment, Nicholas has tried to avoid the media coverage. "My big fear is that a spell in jail will only make him more angry and resentful," he says, "that he will come to a tragic end. But then David never wanted the little life: he embraced the big, the exciting, the shocking. I see what he does and listen to his outrageous views - none, I think, are genuine, merely designed to cause controversy - and I shake my head in despair.

"I want to say to him: 'David, what on earth are you doing? And what on earth would Mother think?' ".

helpDonate | regular

David Irving imprisoned in Austria: dossier: index

The mock election at Brentwood school in 1955: photos of David Irving and other candidates

The above item is reproduced without editing other than typographical

 Register your name and address to go on the Mailing List to receive

David Irving's ACTION REPORT

or to hear when and where he will next speak near you

© Focal Point 2007 F Irving write to David Irving