Posted Friday, June 2, 2000

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 June 2, 2000 - 28 IYAR, 5760

Promoting Holocaust Denial

The gross inaccuracies of the Los Angeles Times - again.

By Michael Berenbaum


To quote Yogi Berra, it is déjà vu all over again. There is an eerie consistency to the mishandling of the David Irving story in the Los Angeles Times, which again on May 30, as on January 7, allowed itself to be used as a propaganda instrument for Holocaust denial.

From the teaser on the front page and the headline on page 16 to the actual content of the opening parts of the May 30 story, the Times and its reporter Kim Murphy give credibility, both tacitly and explicitly, to a man who has been completely discredited by the British courts after a lengthy and fair trial. In the 14-word front page teaser alone are two blatant inaccuracies, if not outright falsifications. It reads: "Holocaust Speaker David Irving, the controversial World War II historian, has started a U.S. visit."

Holocaust speaker? Surely even Irving himself would not call himself a Holocaust speaker. He denies it happened! But calling him a speaker gives him the credibility of an expert. He is also not a "controversial historian." He is a discredited and disgraced historian. In fact, by any reasonable definition of the word, he is not a historian at all. Found the British Court:

  • "Irving has misstated historical evidence; adopted positions which run counter to the weight of the evidence; given credence to unreliable evidence and disregarded and dismissed credible evidence."
  • "Irving has significantly misrepresented what the evidence, objectively examined, reveals."
  • "No objective, fair-minded historian would have serious cause to doubt that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz and that they were operated on a substantial scale to kill hundreds of thousands of Jews."
  • "For the most part, the falsification of the record was deliberate."
  • "Irving's historical 'errors' converge, in the sense that they all tend to exonerate Hitler and reflect Irving's partisanship for the Nazi leader."

This is not the behavior of a historian. Apparently the L.A. Times feels differently.

The headline on page 16 reads: "Holocaust Revisionist Begins U.S. Tour." "Revisionist" is Irving's preferred self-description because revisionism is an honorable task of the historian. Holocaust denier is the accurate term. It is the one used in [Deborah] Lipstadt's book and now established as accurate by a British court.

In the first paragraph of the article, Irving vows to appeal Judge Charles Gray's decision. As Murphy later documents, the judge went overboard to make sure that the decision could not be appealed. He gave Irving vast leeway during the trial. His findings of fact are 287 pages in length and precise in every detail. Irving's grounds for an appeal are virtually zero. Should a man making meaningless vows deserve the credibility of a major L.A. Times story?

In the body of the article, four paragraphs of quotes are given to Mark Weber, the head of the Institute of Historical Review, whose innocuous title masks its true function -- furthering Holocaust denial. No effort is made to identify the "Institute." Murphy did not tell us why its meetings were held at a secret location to promote its demands for new investigations to prove that there was no mass extermination of European Jews during World War II. One would have imagined that even a cub reporter would have asked why the conclusions of the investigation should be foretold before any objective historical investigation was held. Imagine for a moment if the headline had been accurate:

"Discredited Holocaust Denier to Speak: David Irving, whom a British court recently described as a racist, anti-Semitic propagandist, will address his supporters in California."

Is that a story worthy of the front page of a major U.S. newspaper? But at issue here, even more than the many inaccuracies in this article, is the following question: Does a man who has been exhaustively and fairly proven a liar, an anti-Semite, and a propagandist deserve continued coverage in the media? One wonders what it will take for the media to cease giving standing and credibility to a racist anti-Semite who falsifies evidence to make Hitler look good. This article gives David Irving the credibility of some kind of poor, persecuted soul, beset by powerful forces too great for one man. It was he himself who brought the suit against Deborah Lipstadt in a British court where the burden of proof rests on the defendant. She met her burden and then some, as the judge's finding details. Irving brought his downfall upon himself.

Readers have every right to expect accuracy of the Los Angeles Times. It now has a serious credibility problem with this reader. After two tries it can't seem to get the story right. Why?


Michael Berenbaum is the author and editor of 12 books on the Holocaust and has served as president of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation and as director of the Research Institute of the United States Holocaust Memorial.


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