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 Posted Tuesday, October 27, 1998

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THE Chairman stutters, 'Nobody is frightened of debate ...'

For 35 years David Irving has kept a private diary, of which he publishes extracts in his newsletter as, "Inside Right -- A Radical's Diary." We reproduce here the description of a German "academic's" lecture on the Decision concerning the Final Solution, and how that worthy gentleman ducked out of free debate when the question was too difficult to answer.

THE SKETCH, below, is a detail from an unflattering cartoon published in The Guardian when it reviewed David Irving's book Hitler's War. He purchased the original from artist David Smith, from whom FOCAL POINT commissioned several skilfully executed caricatures.

A Radical's diary



OCTOBER 27, 1998

I TAKE A CAB at 5 p.m. to the German Historical Institute in Bloomsbury Square to hear a lecture by Dr Peter Longerich, Reader in German at the Royal Holloway College in London. His latest book, Politik der Vernichtung, is on display behind glass in the lobby. Electronic security doors control the intake into the building. As I quietly take a seat in the most distant corner of the elegant upstairs salon, along with about fifty or sixty other listeners, I notice one or two heads nod in my direction. Shortly, a burly man in a turtleneck sweater stands up, and calls out to the chairman in an East-End barrowboy voice, "I don't know if you know this, but there is in our midst a Holocaust Denier and Nazi, and I don't think he should be allowed to stay." At this, heads turn in my direction. I sit tight in my corner. The man next to me gets up and also shouts something.

The chairman, embarrassed, stutters that nobody is frightened of debate, and he, as a German, is proud to be representative of a new Germany where freedom of speech is encouraged, unlike the dark days of the past. Unfortunately Mr Günter Deckert and several hundred other German citizens currently in jail are in no position to hear this encouraging gloss on Germany's current policies.

Since it is obvious that I am not going to respond to the provocations, the two interrupters do the only thing open to them: they stalk out with as much dignity as barrowboys can muster. A gentleman calls out that he feels it is quite proper that I should be there.

Short, dark-haired and fortyish, Dr Longerich begins a lengthy, ramshackle, aimless lecture, reading monotonously from a paper, about the decision-making process in the Holocaust -- except that there is nothing he can tell us whatsoever, since he admits there is a total absence of documents ("the Nazis took care that no documents survived," he hisses meaningfully). He does offer the innovative notion that "because these things happened," therefore "somebody somewhere must have made a decision." This is proof enough for him. The Decision had itself decided, evidently: cogito ergo sum.

He admits from the start that Hans Mommsen and Martin Broszat adopted the position in "the 1970s" (in fact in 1978 in consequence of the publication of my Hitler biography, which Broszat was reviewing), that there was indeed probably "no Führer decision." Other researchers, says Longerich, trying to identify and isolate The Decision, concentrate on the year 1941.

Dismissing the Wannsee Conference in this context, Longerich himself sets out at length four different stages in the development of what he calls "the policy of extermination."

  • October 1939, the resettlement programme;
  • Summer 1941, the resettlement in the occupied Soviet Union, the transition from terrorism to ethnic cleansing;
  • September 1941, Hitler's decision to deport Jews from the Reich, first to occupied Poland, then further east in the spring of 1942;
  • End of April 1942 or early May 1942, The Decision to murder all Jews regardless.

It is this specific allegation -- that Hitler at this time took the definitive decision to kill all the Jews during the war, rather than just deport them or wait until the war was over -- that obliges me to speak. I wait first for a dozen other questioners to make their points, and as they run out of steam I then make my question.

DocumentLongerich may be an expert on the Final Solution, I flatter him, but having spent twenty years or more researching the actual decision making process at the very highest level, I find myself troubled by the way he has skipped around the issue of The Decision. Why has he ignored the existence of documents of that very period, April/May 1942, which show Hitler actively intervening in a negative sense? I read out the brief Reichs Ministry of Justice [Franz Schlegelberger was acting minister] memorandum of the spring of 1942, in which Hans Lammers, head of the Reich Chancellery, tells the ministry that the Führer has repeatedly ordained that he wants the Final Solution postponed until after the war is over.

How can the speaker possibly square that with his theory of an April/May 1942 decision? It may be that he has quoted and dealt with the document in his book, I purr (though he obviously has not). But these documents cannot just be ignored. They have to be properly, and academically, addressed.

The audience looks to Longerich with curiosity for his answer. Instead, the chairman speaks:

"Dr Longerich has asked me to state that he is not prepared to answer questions from you, Mr Irving. We have freedom to speak here," he adds, "but he has the freedom to refuse to reply." "Are there any other questions..?"

Deutsche Historiker: Lügner und FeiglingeThere is a little gasp from the audience. I say simply, "Eine grosse Feigheit," -- in German so that he can understand it: then translate for the rest of the audience, "A rotten coward."

True: what moral cowards infest the German world of Academe. Afterwards several members of the audience come up to me, asking to have a look at the document I mentioned. For Longerich -- it does not exist. There is no debate. He wants to preach only to believers. A true and pious follower of the Deborah Lipstadt School of History: a belief in the ability of what should have happened to replace what probably did. Nietzsche said something similar, but modern German academics are probably ignorant of that too.

PICTURE: David Irving (centre) and Spanish publisher Pedro Varela demonstrating outside the Sender Freies Berlin radio building against cowardly German historians, October 3, 1989.

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