The Legal Battles

Doing Time


In which Michael Naumann reassures an American friend that it was not he who enforced Mr Irving's consignment to London's Pentonville Prison in February 1994.


Michael Naumann, who was publishing director of Rowohlt Verlag, Hamburg, at the time of this episode, later became chief executive of Henry Holt Publ. Inc., in New York: endeavouring to publish Ruth Bettina Birn's critique of the Daniel Goldhagen book Hitler's Willing Executioners he fell foul of the Traditional Enemies of Free Speech all by himself. He is currently (1999/2000) German Minister of Culture, the position once occupied by Dr Joseph Goebbels.

See Mr Irving's letter January 3, 1998

 Related document: Mr Irving to Naumann, August 27, 1994, with transcript of High Court hearing ordering Mr Irvng's committal to Pentonville.

 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 2. März 2000: Warum Michael Naumann einen Brief an David Irving schrieb

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February 9, 1998

Dear Andrew,

This is strictly to put to rest the lies David Irving has decided to spread about me in his letter to you of January 3rd. I do not wish to be involved in any further correspondence either with you or him in this matter. Nor, to be frank, in any other matter. I write this in order to clear my name and to formally request that you abstain from spreading anything that I have written to you in the past and from relaying messages of my office which were clearly meant for your "consumption" alone to third parties.

I have never asked "an author to be sent to prison" and that includes David Irving. The fact that he ended up in prison indeed, came as a major surprise to me. As far as I know. he had consistently failed to comply with legal requests by Rowohlt's British lawyers and the High Court in London. The whole litigation took its due course without any further input by Rowohlt, once it was started.

It is simply not true that I said to Irving "I would not care if you were the Gauleiter of Vienna, this is a book I want to publish." Why would I have compared Irving to the "Gauleiter of Vienna"? At the time I met him in 1985 I had no idea that he had indeed moved sharply to the right and was, in fact, expelled by Austrian authorities (this had happened while I was living in Washington D.C.). He had previously been published by Rowohlt Taschenbuchverlag, amongst others.

There were no threats of "industrial action" in connection with Irving's planned Churchill biography at Rowohlt; there were editorial discussions, but not threats by anyone on anything. This is hear-say from a dubious source, indeed -- a man, who could not wait to publish Irving and whose political right-wing leanings were well known, Fleissner. David Irving had contracted for a two-volume biography of Churchill, to be delivered completely and in toto sometimes in 1986. It was made clear to him that to publish a biography of Churchill that ended in 1938 would make no sense; we needed the complete work. Despite several extensions, the second volume was not delivered, whereupon Rowohlt cancelled the contract and demanded reimbursement. This is totally normal in the publishing industry. When our advances were not returned, we litigated and won. The Landgericht in Luebeck, no big surprise, granted us the exact amount of royalty advanced to David Irving; not nearly "ten years net income as an author". The author again refused to pay. Rowohlt hired a law firm in London. Irving avoided taking documents and obviously obstructed the due process of law -- as Rowohlt found out later. Clearly, Rowohlt was not in the position to take an author "straight to prison"; it rather seems that a High Court judge had lost patience with Irving's contempt of court. Whatever went on between our lawyers, the High Court and him -- I trust that nobody is thrown into jail in England because a foreign publisher wants to get his advance back. Rowohlt certainly did not request this admittedly harsh action.

In short, if David Irving were interested in the truth, he would have sent you the verbatim transcript of the High Court Hearing in London he claims to be in possession of -- and the true reason for his arrest would have become obvious: It surely is, I assume, his refusal to comply with court orders, and, for that matter, to comply with the rulings of the German Landgericht in Luebeck. I myself never saw the transcript, which may, by the way, indicate how unimportant this whole affair had become to Rowohlt (and to me). I don't know how long David Irving stayed in prison. I assume three days. I remember no furious newspaper editorials. In fact, considering the obfuscating of facts I glean from his letter to you. I must assume that this technique is exactly what he has become in expert in.


Michael Naumann

©Focal Point 2000 e-mail:  write to David Irving