David Irving

[Photo by Michael Hentz, for The New York Times]

Letter to the Editor of The Observer

[Not published]

Because the newspaper refused to publish this letter, Mr Irving issued a libel writ in the High Court which is still being contested by Guardian Newspapers Ltd and Gita Sereny.

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London, April 23, 1996

M AY I comment on Gitta Sereny's entertaining article (Review, Apr.21). She is right in exposing "Gregory Douglas," who has crafted the latest historical forgery -- a book of supposed post-war interrogations of the missing Gestapo chief Heinrich Müller, as Peter Stahl the well-known American counterfeiter and forger. I first encountered this impostor in 1980, eight years before Ms. Sereny, and saw through the documents he was then offering me after making a few simple cross-checks (in that case with the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, and the Library of Congress). I have been warning everybody about him since -- including, it is proper to say, Ms Sereny herself who was at first taken in by Stahl when researching an article about the Nazi mass-murderer Odilo Globocnik which she published in The New York Times Sunday, Jul 19, 1992; it was no doubt thanks to the five page letter which I wrote to that newspaper exposing Stahl that Ms Sereny realised she had been conned.

I also wrote to the German publishers of this latest book, warning them that many of the Müller "1945 interrogations" reproduced almost verbatim chunks of Stahl's 1980 conversations with me (which I had taped); the result was a string of abuse from the publishers accusing me of envy and malice, and they went -- or should I say forged? -- ahead with their publication plans.

As for the Goebbels diaries, Ms. Sereny's animus toward me will be evident, but I must correct a few points which she could readily have checked with me -- I am known for being open in all my dealings with colleagues and the media.

Firstly, she writes that "reputable publishers will no longer touch him." This spiteful nonsense was first espoused in your pages by Mr Chaim Bermant in August 1992, and he subsequently withdrew and apologised. Rights in Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich have been sold to Japanese, German, Czech, Polish, Swedish, and Italian publishers. In the U.K., Macmillan Ltd., who published most of my recent books, also signed up this work; when as we have now learned (see The Daily Telegraph , April 18) Jewish organisations started putting pressure on Macmillan in 1991 to violate this contract, the company to their credit refused.

I had however founded my own imprint some years before, to reprint lavishly-illustrated editions of my older books. After its success in reprinting my flagship work Hitler's War in 1992 I wrote to Macmillan and persuaded them to revert all rights in Goebbels to me. The initiative came from me.

In the United States, Saint Martin Press bought the rights in my Goebbels biography and the Military History Book Club made it their main May 1996 selection. Within three hours of their sudden capitulation on April 3 to a three-month campaign of death threats and obscene calls and their announcement that they were halting production, an even more reputable U.S. publishing firm telephoned me to ask about acquiring the rights. I would have told this to Ms Sereny, and perhaps even in confidence revealed the company's name.

I must refute too her suggestion that I ever claimed for myself the credit for discovering the missing Goebbels diaries in the Moscow archives. I scrupulously stated, as the news clippings will confirm, that it was a colleague who stumbled across the glass plates in Moscow and provided me with the necessary data to go in and get them after her own institute in Munich refused to provide funds to enable her to exploit the discovery. Threatened with disciplining, she urged me not to reveal her actual identity.

In a remarkable act of trust, the Russian archives allowed me to borrow several of the glass plates and copy them since they had no such facilities.

Yours faithfully,
David Irving

© Focal Point David Irving 1998