Documents on the International Campaign for Real History


"Do You Want Total Truth?"
COMMANDER JOHN IRVING, RN, David Irving's father, was an author, Arctic explorer and naval gunnery officer who served in the Battle of Jutland in 1916 and in the harrowing North Russian convoys of World War II. His many books, including histories of the royal yacht The King's Britannia and of great naval actions like Coronel and the Falklands. These and his glossary of naval slang Royal Navalese are standard works in naval libraries. Father and son collaborated on his last work The Smokescreen of Jutland    

[The ship is HMS Marlborough]

 Universal Pictorial Press & Agency
Ltd, London. Photo approx 1970.

Irving in 1975BEFORE AN AUDIENCE of 2,000 Germans attending a Hitler symposium at Aschaffenburg David Irving once challenged their historians, "Do you Want Total Truth?"

Born in Essex, England, on March 24, 1938, he is the son of an illustrator and a naval officer. Irving is author of widely reviewed and sometimes controversial major works of modern history including biographies of Hitler, Churchill, the field marshals Rommel and Milch.

Some say his books have established a new school of history. Rolf Hochhuth, Germany's leading liberal Left-wing playwright, and a close friend since 1965, has written:

"We may not like what he writes, but historians a hundred years hence will find it impossible to ignore the works of David Irving."

Through books closely researched from original documents that have often been made exclusively available to him, Irving has won admirers worldwide but has also set himself at loggerheads with the established body of historians. When British and West German students cite his works, they often do so at their own risk, earning chagrin and disapproval of their teachers.

After an Arts education at four-hundred year old Sir Anthony Browne's school in Brentwood, Essex, he won an I.C.I. scholarship to read physics at London university. In 1959 he joined August Thyssen steelworkers in the Ruhr, the industrial heartland of Germany, to perfect his knowledge of their language, then worked as a clerk-stenographer with the U.S. Strategic Air Command at an airbase near Madrid before returning to London to read political economy.

Encouraged by Werner Höfer, who was then editor of the Cologne-based magazine Neue Illustrierte, to compile a 37-part serial about air warfare -- which was then a taboo subject for Germans -- Irving began to write.

His first book was an immediate worldwide best-seller: The Destruction of Dresden, published in 1963, marked a milestone in the British public's attitude to air warfare against non-combatants. At the time, the 1945 air raids that had taken place on Dresden were not widely known.

Irving has been a professional historian ever since [booklist].

Father of four daughters, [since 1994: five daughters] he lives in Mayfair in London's West End.

BY RESEARCHING WORLDWIDE in archives, including several behind the Iron Curtain, Irving has been able to establish theories that often differ widely from those of rival historians who, he says, lack either the taste, the time or the resources for such labours.

He relies as far as possible on original source material like diaries, letters and documents. This enables him to lay aside the printed works of reference more commonly used. Thus he avoids the errors and prejudices of other authors.

Results are often startling, and frequently hotly contested.

His 1967 history of the disastrous Anglo-American convoy PQ.17 attracted one of the costliest libel actions in British legal history. The British convoy escort commander Captain Jack Broome accused Irving of blaming him for the disaster. Both author and publisher (Cassell & Co) denied this, pleaded justification, and appealed the verdict to the House of Lords. Broome, though winning the action on a 4:3 vote (Lord Hailsham giving the casting vote as Lord Chancellor), was ordered to pay a substantial and crippling share of the costs. This case, a legal landmark remains the only libel action brought successfully against David Irving in twenty-five years of writing.


HIS RIVALS HAVE used various methods in their attempts to dispose of him:

  • burglary. Gerald Gable, a former Communist election candidate who is now a London Weekend Television producer, was convicted for burglarising Irving's flat, using a stolen Post Office identity card. He admitted membership of an underground organisation which had ordered him to steal Irving's research papers to prevent work on his next book.
  • arson. The Sussex printing works where Irving's magazine Focal Point was produced was burnt to the ground by one of Gable's associates, who was caught red-handed and received a prison sentence.
  • false arrest. At Gable's behest, Austria's far-left Minister of the Interior ordered state police officials to arrest Irving when he arrived in Vienna to deliver four lectures to academic bodies in Austria in 1983.

Irving instructed Viennese lawyers to pursue the matter on his behalf against the Austrian government and in the Court of Human Rights.

Hitler's WarIn 1977 after ten years' research Irving published his best known work, Hitler's War. Its carefully documented theory that Hitler may not even have known of the Holocaust has been widely discussed around the world.

Television personality David Frost attempted to demolish this theory in one of his most spectacular television shows on June 7, 1977, and fell flat on his face. Irving was wise to Frost's methods, having been his guest three times before; he ripped pages out of the bulky, 1,000-page Hitler biography in a pre-arranged gesture, steamrolled Frost's arguments and invited experts aside, and was acclaimed the clear winner by next day's newspapers.

Said the Daily Mail: "If you saw author David Irving defending himself and his theory on the Frost Programme this week, you would have witnessed that he has the nerve and the obsession to make such a statement [that there is no proof Hitler even knew of the Holocaust]. He fought his case with fanatical courage, taking on David Frost, rival anti-Hitler historians and a highly partisan audience."

  June 18, 1977


"QUITE WHY Golden Boy Frost, having lost one bout on points some years ago against 'Battler Irving' should have sought a re-match, I do not know... Anyway, television's ageing boy wonder looked shockingly out of condition when he appeared in the ring, and Battler was clearly fighting fit. The first round was Battler's since he dodged Frosty's leads and replied with a flurry of punches which certainly had him hanging onto the ropes... Then Frosty called time -- at least it saved him having to throw in the towel."

IRVING CONSIDERS HIMSELF a "dissident" rather than revisionist historian. His politics are ultra-conservative. In 1980 he founded a small London-based political group, Focus. Its magazine Focal Point was widely read for two years, publishing scoops that included Idi Amin's personal investigation file on the Israeli Entebbe raid; the Tyler Kent espionage case, and (April 1982) disclosures about Hitler diaries said to be about to surface in West Germany.

His hobbies are oil-painting, travel, cinematography. He lectures to right and left-wing groups, to university students and to American and German army officers, attracting large audiences (and not infrequently extremist demonstrations) whenever he appears.

He has been working since 1974 on a biography of Churchill's war years. As that manuscript, now finished, has attracted the rancour of its contracted publishers, he is diversifying as a safety measure into worldwide journalism too.

His articles are regularly published in sixty British and foreign newspapers ranging from the Yorkshire Post and Basler Zeitung to the Mainichi Shimbun in Tokyo. His books have been serialised in Der Spiegel, the Sunday Express, the Sunday Telegraph, and Neue Illustrierte. His writing has won awards including the Sir Arthur Acland English Essay Prize at London University to the Hungarian Freedom Fighter's Pro Libertate Hungariae in 1981 and the European Freedom Prize of the German People's Union in 1982.


"DAVID IRVING TAKES his place in the first rank of historical chroniclers" -- The Times, London, March 14, 1971

"When it comes to original sources," wrote Australia's National Times after interviewing him, "Irving is not just meticulous, but indefatigable." He has made no mumbo-jumbo about his research files: he has donated his entire archives to the Munich Institute of Contemporary History where they are already available to other writers without restriction; microfilm copies are freely obtainable also from a West Yorkshire company, Microform Ltd of East Ardsley. No other historian has ever been so generous with expensively assembled document collections.

In Fleet Street, London's newspaper district, Irving is the object of much envy and some spite. In 1967 the satirical magazine Private Eye found out that the conservative Daily Telegraph -- piqued by Irving's revelations on Winston Churchill's role in assassination plots -- had solemnly briefed sub-editors in an internal memorandum not to refer to him in future as the "historian," but as the "writer"; to their credit, they have long ago removed that directive. (Irving had written to chief editor Maurice Green saying he would not personally object if the Telegraph referred to him as a Council dustman).

The Left-wing and Liberal newspapers have not given up trying to demolish him.

After columnist Alan Rusbridger of The Guardian linked Irving's political secretary tortuously with the name of "a wanted Italian terrorist," the newspaper had to publish a cringing, abject apology.

Unable to destroy him by objective means, The Guardian sent Irving's handwriting anonymously to graphologist Gloria Hargreaves, and got back the report:

"A perfectionist, difficult to work for, very clever."

Not what they had wanted, but they printed it all the same.  


The Phoenix, Imperial College, London SW7, magazine. Summer 1959

David Irving, "Men Behind Germany's Miracle," Daily Telegraph, September 6, 1960

Paris Match, June 1, 1963

Der Spiegel, June 19, 1963

Susan Barnes, "Portrait of a Gentleman", Sunday Times Supplement, September 6, 1970

David Irving, "Potsdam Notebook," Sunday Times, February 21, 1971

Susan Barnes, Behind the Image (London, 1974)

Peter Lewis in The Daily Mail, June 11, 1977

Janet Watts, "The Wednesday Page," The Guardian, June 8, 1977

Guido Knopp (ed.) Hitler Heute (Aschaffenburg, 1979)

Naomi Bliven, "The Naked Emperor," New Yorker, August 29, 1977

BBC TV The Frost Programme, June 7, 1977

West Deutscher Rundfunk Monitor, December 5, 1979

Kai Bird, "The Secret Policeman's historian," New Statesman, April 3, 1981

David Irving: "Reviewed vs. Reviewer," New Statesman, May 8, 1981

Glennys Bell, "Life with the Führer and seventy feet of files," The National Times (Australia) February 20-25, 1978

"David Irving: A Man Meets his Destiny", in Searchlight, March 1982

Professor A. Clare; The Listener, August 12, 1982

C.C. Aronsfeld, "David Irving in Germany," in Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 16, no. 2, 1982

NBC To-day programme, April 25, 1983

ABC Nightline April 25, 1983; ABC 20:20 May 1983 Jerry Bauer, "David Irving. Conversazione senza complessi con lo storico del 'sensazionale'," Playmen, Rome, March 1983

The Guardian, June 4th, December 8th, 1983

David Hooper: Public Scandal, Odium and Contempt (Secker & Warburg, London 1984

Professor A. Clare, In the Psychiatrist's Chair (London, 1984)

Robert Harris, "Meeting Mr Reich," The Tatler, September 1984

Nicholas Leonard, "Churchill -- the Book they Dare not Publish," in Sunday Independent, Dublin, May 5, 1985

Torpedo Running Index

© Focal Point 1998 write to David Irving