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Posted Monday, December 25, 2006

A very filthy cell. . . I lie down and wait for the glaring ceiling light to go out. It stays on all night.

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December 20, 2006 (Wednesday)
Vienna prison (Austria)

APPEAL hearing this morning at 9:15 a.m. At six a.m. I am wakened, and I dress in "best" clothes, such as they are.

In view of last night's remarks by Officer Grobmann, I now have little hope of the appeal succeeding: only three have succeeded at the OLG in recent years, he said; Dr Herbert Schaller [my new defence lawyer] had humanely kept that little statistic from me.

Fetched at eight by prison escort party and searched by very friendly officer with a walrus moustache (see the press photos). I have tucked an Agatha Christie paperback into my blazer pocket, peeping out of the flap; "What's that book?" he asks, clearly having been told not to let me carry Hitler's War again. I still slip an open fountain pen into my handcuffed hands: Warenzeichen, I explain to The Walrus: I am a writer…

Across Vienna to the Oberlandesgericht at nine in a prison van shared with an unpleasant Eastern European hoodlum; it is unusual to see people, crowds, cars, trees, birds, children. I had forgotten all about them.

In the courtroom I am faced by the usual (to an English eye, unusual) crush of press photographers and television cameras in the court room; I am obliged to stand there for fifteen minutes while they shoot away with their cameras with the court's permission.

The judge is Maurer, who looks disconcertingly like me, and throughout the two hours he runs his tongue around his lips as though dying or at least in need of water; he looks very frightened. It does not encourage me.

In the public gallery about fifty members of the public have packed in; I spot Réka in the back row, very fetching in a powder blue suit. I invite her over and shake hands before the uniformed heavies surrounding me can stop it. She does not understand a word of course; I indicate I am wearing the tie, trousers, and socks she had given for the cause -- mostly bought in China. Wolfgang Frölich turns up and takes photos, and I think illegally films from the back until he is stopped; lucky they do not realise he has just finished a seven year sentence.

Rather alarmingly the young woman Beisitzer (there are five judges) reads out the whole of the Urteil (Judgment) of February 20, in a toneless unaccentuated voice. At one point where I quoted in my 1989 lectures a particularly shocking 1942 Foreign Office admission that they had invented the gas chamber story for war propaganda (Auch das war eine Lüge), I interject: "Zitat" -- a quotation, i.e., it was not I who had said it.

The Oberstaatsanwältin, public prosecutor, speaks for half an hour demanding a stiffer penalty than the three years (and no doubt wishes for a death sentence if humanly possible). My Dr Schaller follows, an oddly droll, proud looking little man, wiry, red faced and tough, speaking unlike her without notes -- because he is an expert -- and with great force. How dare the prosecution, he asks, add-in my lectures around the world (which were not about the Holocaust anyway)? They were not illegal anywhere except Austria. Austria can not police the world. He repeats twice that I was not properly defended at the lower level, in February. Quite so.

At Judge Maurer's invitation I speak for two minutes, pointing out

  • that Judge Peter Liebetreu's February 2006 Urteil as read out of course only quoted the "prosecutable" parts of my two 1989 lectures, but that if taken as a whole they had been properly balanced pro and con, and that this was why the police officials who actually attended at our invitation each time found (and recorded) that I had not broken the law;
  • that I had been 400 days in Einzelhaft,
  • that Bente is very ill, and
  • that there could be no exchange of prisoners to the UK as this Austrian law does not exist in the UK -- one of the conditions. I.e., I would not see my family for three years, if then.

The panel retires to consider their verdict, and I chat with Réka. I have decided it is hopeless, and say goodbye to my friends. I expect the figure to increase to five years now.

David Irving, Hajo Herrmann, Herbert Schaller at Munich trial, 1993 [click for 500 DPI version]

David Irving, Hajo Herrmann, Herbert SchallerTO my surprise however Judge Maurer reads out a verdict -- it even seems to me to have been pre-typed -- immediately dismissing the prosecution's case 100 percent, and accepting ours. He licks his lips more frantically than before. I wink at Schaller. They can not overturn the monstrous Judge Liebetreu's judgment -- because Austria would then have to pay major compensation to me -- but they do adjust the sentence to effect an immediate release; time served, in other words. Still an injustice, but what the hell. The gallery takes it very quietly. The press cling around asking questions with an altogether different hue now. Open season seems to have ended.

"Give no interviews in Austria!" demands Dr Schaller loudly, protecting my interests: journalists, as we have found, have a tendency to distort things to create fresh stories. Réka dashes forward and affords me a warm hug which is nice. Fly Hungarian!

At 10:30 a.m., the police drive me back across Vienna to the prison, cracking jokes of an off-colour nature, and educating me that everybody knows I have been the victim of a small religious Menschengruppe, (clique), a people not like us at all. They were the ones really behind my arrest; go on, you don't say; and I make no response. They clearly like driving around with the notorious; one boasts he has seen Robert Mang, the 4 million euro Saliera thief, a few days ago in the prison building.

helpBack in Josefstadt prison I am a free man, but I am not. Shortly -- despite what Dr Schaller has assured me -- I am escorted before the Fremdenpolizei for expulsion proceedings. The aforementioned clique has evidently leapt into action again. Schaller has already left for Mannheim. I refuse to sign any documents, on advice, and am then kept hanging around in the foyer of our cell block until 2:30 pm. I use the time to phone the Press Association to arrange a press conference in London at 7 pm this evening, and brother John. This call to the PA might easily have become another undoing, as I might still be under Liebetreu's phone prohibition order; and not allowed to call the press.

I am handed today's mail, thirty more letters; including one from Rym (my long-lost Tunisian friend from 1982), and others of great interest.

I also get through eventually to Bente who is somewhat hostile -- because the press are now phoning her -- but softens when I mention that (a) I am bringing cash and (b) Vincent B., a landscape gardener, has named me in his will; I ask her to look him up on my supporters' list. . . Bente says the BBC is reporting that Judge Liebetreu is livid at the overturning of his judgment and is searching for ways to detain me pending a fresh prosecution. Inspector Hornicek [our cell block chief] confirms, Liebetreu is refusing the release pending the arrival of the paper warrant -- it is just a pretext.

AT 2:30 pm a very unpleasant period begins; Hornicek has shown up again and smilingly invites me to return to my old cell, and locks me back in. They are all going off duty at usual at this hour. The whole jailhouse is about to be buttoned down for the night.

No longer am I here in solitary: My cell home of the last 400 days has a chain smoking Viennese thug, mentally unbalanced and already angry about it. He looks likes another candidate for the rope, like last week's two "C"-Block unfortunates. I make diary notes of the day on scraps of paper.

At 4:30 pm however, I am extricated and driven across Vienna by another squad of happy cops to the Police Building. There is a perceptibly inflated evening shift of officers waiting to receive their notorious prisoner. I am now told I will be held here for one or two more days pending, uh, things. Stripped, searched, my dwindling property registered, all the usual chicanery; but I am philosophical now -- been there, done that before. Police driver says thirty more letters have already arrived today for me. I may not get them now.

He asks, "Who was the beautiful young Hungarian girl in court?" -- everybody was commenting on her. Prison-visitor, I tell him; and he makes a mental note to become a writer too, perhaps. I now weigh in at 110 kg,, six less than when I was arrested, and height 186 cm; I would have just made it into the Leibstandarte but for the weight perhaps. Locked down again for the night; getting tired of this.

At 5 pm all my effects are opened and re-boxed. The rest of the money in the canteen fund will be brought over from Josefstadt prison tomorrow. At 5:30 I phone Bente to tell her I will not be home tonight after all, I am back in a jail. "Are you bringing money?" she asks, as there is none left there. I tell her I will now hold the press conference December 22, as I cannot even bank on being back tomorrow. Clouds are gathering, it seems. She has not been able to identify B. on my list.

Then I phone John again. (My phone card is nearly empty): Call the Marriott to rebook the conference, I say. He does, says they have no vacancy for Thursday. I say, no -- Friday. TV Channel Four, an Ellen Caccachee, is trying to reach me. After this I phone the Press Association in London direct, still from the very obliging Police HQ, and postpone the press conference to Friday. News Desk asks if I am looking forward to returning to Blighty. I reply, "After 400 days in solitary confinement, uh, yes."

The B. letter, which I so nearly missed, is the modest icing on the cake. The legacy will become payable in February. How clever of B's executor to have found me; his letter to our old address in Hertford Street was returned undeliverable. The building has been taken over completely by Russian hookers. High-class, no doubt; even putes de luxe. Jailers have put a dish with three Semmeln and three cheese-quarters into the cell and a pouch of toilet articles. A very filthy cell, but it has clean sheets; I am tempted to stand up all night, but I am hungry and exhausted. I lie down and wait for the glaring ceiling light to go out.

It stays on all night. continued

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