Nuremberg, the Last Battle

Quick navigationpulldown menu

Daily Telegraph

London, Saturday, 9 November 1996

Guilty of falsifying history

Ann Tusa puts the prosecution's case

Nuremberg: The Last Battle by David Irving
Focal Point, £20

FOR YEARS David Irving has been criticised for erratic logic and obnoxious conclusions, but credited with finding interesting, previously unknown documents. However, in this latest rewriting of history, he fails even on that score. Nuremberg is a sloppily written, tendentious essay on the International Military Tribunal which, from November 1945 to September 1946, tried 22 alleged Nazi war criminals and finally sentenced 12 of them to hang, sent seven to prison, and acquitted three -- results which show the falsity of Irving's thesis that this was a political rather than a judicial proceeding.

Much of his "new material" consists of diaries and letters by the accused and by witnesses, themselves later tried for war crimes, plus complaints by defence counsel -- all very self-pitying and self-serving. Its liberal use shows that Irving, like most of the Nazis in the box, cannot distinguish between the short-term discomfort and fear of the defendants and the destruction and anguish they wrought on millions of others, or face up to the enormity of the crimes they committed.

Furthermore, he cherry-picks from sources long available for those who want an objective assessment of Nuremberg. To back his claim that the prisoners were ill-treated, he quotes Julius Streicher, editor of the obscene newspaper Der Stürmer (what he said was an obvious example of his sado-masochistic fantasies). He does not mention the gratitude of Hans Fritzsche, for the apology he received on arrival at Nuremberg Jail for the kitchens being closed for the night and the hunk of cake sent to his cell; nor some of the last words from the scaffold of Hans Frank, the murderous Governor-General of Poland: "I am grateful for the treatment I have received in prison."

Irving is guilty of far greater abuse of sources, however, when he mentions Auschwitz: "It was clear that tens of thousands had died in the typhus epidemics since 1942." What about the millions gassed, worked to death, subjected to foul medical experiments? (This last horror being one of the answers to the author's revealing and revolting question: "Why was a hospital needed at an 'extermination camp'?")

Why not quote more fully from the evidence in court of Rudolf Hoess, the commandant of Auschwitz, and show his pride in using quicker killing methods than those at Treblinka? Irving alleges that Hoess had a dodgy set of statistics. He should mention the more meticulous tallies of murder kept in other death camps, which were cited at the trial. He airily (breathtakingly) claims that the figure of six million Jewish dead was simply picked out of a hat -- and leaves it at that. Are we supposed to conclude that three million, for example, would have been morally nugatory?

Worst of all, Irving deliberately chooses not to use the 22 printed volumes of the proceedings of the Nuremberg Tribunal -- just about every word spoken in court (and backed by 20-odd more volumes of the full documents from which extracts were read as evidence). His excuse is that this record is inaccurate and incomplete.

In fact, intentionally or not, he often confuses it with the daily transcript distributed within 48 hours for quick reference by all in court. The published version was checked against the original shorthand and wire recordings and corrected by defendants and prosecution alike.

This version, published so that the Nuremberg Trial could itself be judged, presents the vast weight of the evidence against those on trial and leaves no doubt whatsoever about their guilt. Most of it was in their own words and they offered no satisfactory rebuttal; several of them were lucky to get off with light sentences. No wonder Irving ignores it. He hammers on about the contentious nature of some of the law on which defendants were charged. They were not hanged or imprisoned for conspiracy or waging aggressive war but for murder. That is a crime in anyone's book -- except, seemingly, his.

Related files:

It would perhaps have been more honest if The Daily Telegraph had revealed that authors John and Ann Tusa had published their own potboiler history of the Nuremberg Trial several years before and that a new edition was just reaching the U.K. bookstores. See David Irving's letter to John Tusa, April 11, 1998.
©Focal Point 1998  e-mail:  write to David Irving