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The Australian

July 25, 1994

An article written by Frank Devine (a former editor of the newspaper).


DEBORAH LIPSTADT persuades me that denial of the Nazi Holocaust is "a clear and future danger". Four per cent of Australians believe it did not occur - more than 300,000 adults and a strong base from which to launch a gigantic lie.
Lipstadt, in Australia on a speaking tour, is author of Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (published by Macmillan). Until fairly recently she was "an ardent advocate" of ignoring nuts and villains whom she once thought nobody would believe.
The book is an account, not of any aspect of the Holocaust, but of the history of denial. Lipstadt's methodical dissection of falsehoods includes a number that were unequivocally disproven at the time of utterance, but continue to be cited by practitioners of denial.
It was these examples of deception that jolted me out of my own inclination to ignore nuts and villians, and made me feel guilty about recent inaction.
Last year, in the process of arguing for the admission to Australia of David Irving, the revisionist British writer on the Holocaust, I made reference to The Diary of Anne Frank, which I had forced myself to read after a lifetime of squibbing it.
Irving wrote a letter to the editor, which was published, beginning: "This is not the place to refute all the untruths levelled at me by Frank Devine but I'll just swat the one about the Anne Frank diary, a sad document that testifies as must to the business sense of her father as to the intrinsic evilness of the Nazis."
I had given Irving an opening by carelessly attributing to him a share of the actions of the publisher of his book Hitler and His Generals, in which he described the diary as a forgery. On the complaint of Anne's father, Otto Frank, the publisher excised the passage from later editions, apologised and made a financial contribution, not to Herr Frank, but to the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam.
Irving conceded in his letter that he had called the diary a forgery but said he had never retracted or apologised.
What, though, of the arguments Irving then offered as justification for his accusation of forgery - not to mention his snide remark about Otto Frank's "business sense"?
Subsequent to the publication of Irving's letter, a friend obtained for me in New York (sidestepping our dimwitted requirement that American books first be screened by British publishers) a copy of Doubleday's translation of The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition, prepared and originally published in Dutch by the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, with the assistance of the Ministry of Education.

This gigantic work, voluminously researched, proves beyond doubt that the diary is the work of a little girl named Anne Frank who spent two years hiding from the Nazis in an attic of an Amsterdam warehouse, and who died in a concentration camp.
It is improbable that Irving was unaware of the existence of The Critical Edition when he wrote to The Australian, which makes the - what shall I say? - disingenuousness of his action all the more odious.
Using The Critical Edition as my reference, here is what I should have written months ago:
Irving declared in his letter: "In one lawsuit in Lubeck he (Otto Frank) even tabled a graphological affidavit swearing that the diary's handwriting was all by the same person."
The truth: During the prosecution in Lubeck in 1959 of two men who had asserted the diary to be a forgery, expert witnesses testified that all the handwriting in the diary manuscript was Anne Frank's. They phrased their report in such a way that (if you really wanted to) you could try to discredit them by claiming they had said Anne also wrote a letter, a postcard and a birthday greeting which she received from friends and pasted into the diary.
The Lubeck case was settled when the defendants withdrew their forgery accusations and publicly expressed regret for them.
Proceeding from his misleading reference to the Lubeck case, Irving wrote: "Alas, in 1981, the West German police laboratory at Wiesbaden was called in at one court's direction to test the diaries ... Frank refused to allow the diaries out of Switzerland, so the judge ordered the Wiesbaden experts thither ... They determined, as reported in Der Spiegel at the time, that parts of the diary were written in ballpoint ink - a pen invented some years after Anne's cruel death..."
The truth: In 1981, the diary manuscript was not in Switzerland, having been delivered in November 1980 to the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, under the terms of Otto Frank's will.
The "parts of the diary" confirmed by the Dutch as being written in ballpoint ink were two slips of paper, each written in a different hand and neither in Anne's, inserted as bookmarks into folders into which its Swiss custodians placed the manuscript long after the war.
The Wiesbaden police report was four pages long, compared with more than 250 for the report made by the State Forensic Science Laboratory in Amsterdam, which the editors of The Critical Edition briefed.
The Wiesbaden experts confirmed that the paper and glue in the manuscript predated the period in which Anne Frank wrote the diary, but mentioned - without stating their number or location - some ballpoint "corrections". They may have been referring to page-numbering done by the handwriting experts in the Lubeck case, although this was subsequently found by the Dutch not to be in ballpoint.
Most importantly, the Wiesbaden police were not briefed to conduct any handwriting tests and did not do so, despite the implication Irving creates with his craftily juxtaposed reference to the Lubeck "graphological affidavit". Handwriting analysis was one of the Dutch forensic lab's chief tools.
Irving wrote: "(Otto Frank) did not sue me ... He sued several others, winning large sums of money."
The truth: Otto Frank was a reluctant litigant, persuaded on only a handful of occasions to act against challengers of the diary's authenticity. The sole action involving "large sums of money" was one undertaken with the producer and writers of a successful Broadway play based on Anne's diary. This was to free royalties that had been frozen pending resolution of a plagiarism claim.
Anne Frank's diary has sold 20 million copies. Otto Frank, who lost his wife and both daughters in the concentration camps, made the first typed copy of the diary to send to his mother. A giant oak has, indeed, grown from a small planting and, thankfully, David Irving's feeble scrabblings will not uproot it.

[ see David Irving's Reader's Letter replying to this article ]

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