Who is David Irving?

written by Jamie McCarthy

David Irving has been unable to find any errors in this pamphlet.

He has a webpage reprinting the pamphlet, but he has had no rebuttal except to add nine links to elsewhere on his site. We have reproduced those links here with the D.I. Reply icon. Where you see it below, click it to be taken straight to Irving's website, where you can decide for yourself if our pamphlet is wrong. As of March 1999, you will find that none of his links directly address the issues raised here.

On the left is the original text of the pamphlet Who is David Irving?, with additional notes on the right.

Pamphlet - Annotation

Who is David Irving?

This pamphlet is too small to list all the lies and distortions David Irving has told about the Holocaust. Instead, it presents some analysis of a few of them.

Holocaust-denial is not a field of history. Irving has written many popular books, but is not a trained historian and his view of history is very selective.

For more information and references, visit the world wide web URL given inside.

This pamphlet was written to be handed out at a speech Irving gave on April 13, 1998, at Washington State University.

D.I. Reply (Irving's clippings and notes on the speech.)

If the people I spoke with at the Jewish Student Organization are any indication, it seems there are many at WSU who believe that his lies are best countered with facts, not censorship. In the interest of informing his audience, I wrote a trifold pamphlet suitable for handing out.

But here on the web, I'm not limited to one sheet of paper, and so will provide more detail about the items mentioned. This webpage is a companion to the brochure.

Regarding Irving's training as a historian, it is worse than nonexistent. He failed elementary history, according to his testimony in 1988: "I have no academic qualifications whatsoever."

D.I. Reply (His self-description: "Imperfectly educated...")

The reader is also urged to visit Nizkor's information on Irving, which is quite extensive and is referenced below.

Jamie McCarthy
The Holocaust History Project
April 12, 1998
annotation revised March 6, 1999

Irving Misuses Evidence

In a speech in 1993, Irving quotes Adolf Eichmann talking about how the Holocaust was ordered. Eichmann meets Reinhard Heydrich, and, according to Irving:

Heydrich utters to him the fateful words, "I've come from the Reichsführer SS [Himmler]. The Führer [Hitler] has given the order for the physical destruction of the Jews."

Irving admits here that Hitler ordered the physical extermination of the Jews. But for the past 20 years he's become famous for arguing that Hitler never did this!

D.I. Reply (General information on Eichmann.)

D.I. Reply (Wannsee Conference.)

This is taken from the website of the Holocaust-denial group CODOH. It is part of Irving's speech The Suppressed Eichmann and Goebbels Papers. The full text of what Irving said is:

Heydrich utters to him the fateful words, "Ich komme vom Reichsführer SS. Der Führer hat den Befehl zur physischen Vernichtung der Juden gegeben." ("I've come from the Reichsführer SS [Himmler]. The Führer has given the order for the physical destruction of the Jews.")

That, of course -- given in quotation marks in the manuscript -- is what gave me pause for thought. I've always said, "Hitler wasn't involved, whatever happened -- Hitler gave no orders, there's no proof of it." Here we have Eichmann writing something very specific indeed. What is the explanation?

D.I. Reply (Introduction to future Eichmann book with the above quote included.)

He has to find a way out, so he says:

Well, if you look just at that sentence, we can say that you've only got to change one or two words and you get a completely different meaning. If it wasn't "The Führer has ordered the PHYSICAL DESTRUCTION of the Jews," but rather "the extirpation of Judaism," you've only changed the words by a fraction and yet you've got a totally different meaning.

Historians shouldn't change words if their documents contradict their claims.

Irving continues:

Well, if we look just at that sentence, we can say that you've only got to change one or two words and you get a completely different meaning. If it wasn't "The Führer has ordered the physische Vernichtung [physical destruction], of the Jews," but rather "die Ausrottung des Judentums," you've only changed the words by a fraction and yet you've got a totally different meaning. You get something which is much more similar to Adolf Hitler's public utterances and speeches. Ausrottung des Judentums, the destruction of Judaism, is something totally different. You don't do that by gas chambers and the machine gun, any more than destroying Christianity or destroying usury can be done by the gas chamber and the bullet. They're different concepts.

That is not more similar to Hitler's public speeches. Just the opposite. Hitler occasionally spoke of the Ausrottung des Judentums, which is less explicit, but he also spoke frequently of the extermination of the Jewish people, the jüdische Volk or jüdische Rasse - not "Judaism."

The first time was on January 30, 1939, before the war, when he prophesied "the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe" (die Vernichtung der jüdischen Rasse in Europa). He reaffirmed this prophecy in almost the same words on January 30, 1941; January 30, 1942; and September 30, 1942. See also our collection In the Nazis' Words.

It is the height of dishonesty for Irving, intimately familiar with Hitler's speeches and writings, to ignore and contradict these facts.

Immediately afterward, Eichmann said that ditches were being dug to carry out Hitler's order. How would the Nazis have buried "Judaism" in a ditch? Irving doesn't say.

Irving continues, just six paragraphs later:

What else is there in the Eichmann papers? Well, he describes how, after Heydrich called him to Berlin and uttered this fateful sentence about the Führer having given the order, Heydrich said that Himmler has ordered Odilo Globocnik to carry out this task, and that Himmler had actually ordered that the Russian anti-tank ditches were to be used for disposing of the bodies.

I wrote Irving a letter on this subject in 1996, noting no fewer than five places where Eichmann used exactly the words "physical extermination" -- the same words that Irving finds necessary to change.

Irving's reply was to send a draft from his upcoming book, in German, that did not address this question. He later suggested that I "find something better to do with my life."

D.I. Reply (The same draft from the same book, two years later, and it still does not address the question.)

Irving Tells Outright Lies

Goebbels' diary on the Jews:

...the greater the number of Jews liquidated, the more consolidated will the situation in Europe be after this war.

Joseph Goebbels,
March 6, 1942

The procedure is a pretty barbaric one and not to be described here more definitely. Not much will remain of the Jews. On the whole it can be said that about 60 per cent of them will have to be liquidated whereas only about 40 per cent can be used for forced labor.

Joseph Goebbels,
March 27, 1942

Short shrift is made of the Jews in all eastern occupied areas. Tens of thousands of them are liquidated.

Joseph Goebbels,
April 29, 1942

Irving on Goebbels' diary:

I am very familiar with the Goebbels diaries... There is no explicit reference either implicit in these documents or legible in these documents to liquidation of Jews.

David Irving,
April 22, 1988
(in sworn testimony!)

For quotes from the Goebbels diary, and others in the same vein, see our collection In the Nazis' Words or the Nizkor website.

The Irving quote is from his sworn testimony as quoted on the "revisionist" Zundelsite. Irving said:

"I am very familiar with the Goebbels diaries insofar as they have been publicly available..."

Did those sources - the Posen speech, the Goebbels diary, the Wannsee Conference and the letter of July 31, 1941 - indicate any plan to exterminate European Jews?, asked Christie.

"No," said Irving. "There is no explicit reference either implicit in these documents or legible in these documents to liquidation of Jews. They are all equally applicable to any other solution. Of course, relocation of the Jews in the middle of a war was a radical solution but it is not what is described as the 'Holocaust.'"

Obviously Irving is lying when it comes to the Goebbels diary. I quoted it here because it makes the contrast most clear, using the same word "liquidation" as Irving uses.

But I could have used some of the other documents he names, as well. The Wannsee conference and the July 31 letter referencing it use cloaked language to refer to extermination, so the contrast would not be striking without making use of later testimony about Wannsee from, say, Eichmann:

The discussion covered killing, elimination, and annihilation.

Eichmann was present at Wannsee. Irving was not. Whom should we believe? (Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution, 1984, p. 92.)

D.I. Reply (Text of the Wannsee minutes reproduced.)

I could also have used the Posen speech:

I am talking about the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. It is one of those things that is easily said. "The Jewish people is being exterminated," every Party member will tell you, "perfectly clear, it's part of our plans, we're eliminating the Jews, exterminating them, a small matter". [...]

We have the moral right, we had the duty to our people to do it, to kill this people who would kill us. We however do not have the right to enrich ourselves with even one fur, with one Mark, with one cigarette, with one watch, with anything. That we do not have. Because we don't want, at the end of all this, to get sick and die from the same bacillus that we have exterminated.

Regarding the March 27 entry of Goebbels diary, where he says that "60 per cent of them will have to be liquidated," Irving has commented elsewhere:

All he's actually saying here is that the Jews are having a pretty rigorous time. They're being deported, it's happening in a systematic way, and not many of them are going to survive it.

I cannot improve on Dr. Michael Shermer's reply:

Say what?? A "rigorous time?" "Deported?" This has to be the most conservative interpretation of the word "liquidate" I have ever read.

D.I. Reply (Quote from Irving's book Goebbels; unrelated to the March 27 diary entry or the Posen speech.)

Irving Tries to Mislead

Between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 people, mostly Jews, were killed at Auschwitz. Almost all of them were cremated in ovens fueled by coke.

Irving said in a radio interview, on November 8, 1996:

...what happened to those one million people? Were they cremated? The answer is you couldn't have cremated them, there wasn't sufficient crematorium capacity, there wasn't enough coke. It would have taken forty thousand tons of coke...

He claims it takes 80 pounds of coke to cremate each body, thus, very few people could have been killed at Auschwitz.

This is mendacious.

Just as meat burns on a barbeque when the fire gets hot enough, the fuel for cremating a corpse can be the corpse itself. Burning a pound of flesh gives off 1,000 BTU of heat. Once the oven is heated enough with coke, it stays hot, and many corpses can be burned in a row.

The Nazis' own operating instructions for the Auschwitz ovens read:

After each incineration, the temperature rises in the furnace. For this reason, care must be taken that the internal temperature does not rise above 1100°C (white heat)...

There is an enormous wealth of information on the Auschwitz ovens and on cremation in general, all of which the deniers would prefer we ignore.

We know the ovens operate as described, because we have:

  • captured documents showing the plans for the cremation ovens;
  • instructions for their use;
  • documents which show the evolution of progressively-more-efficient ovens starting in the 1930s;
  • testimony from the people who ran the ovens that no coke was needed for the second corpse in a row and very little for the third;
  • a 1950 patent application based on a similar design;
  • and, of course, the ovens themselves.

The interested reader should consult Gutman et al., Eds., Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, 1994, essays 6, 7, and 8. In particular, the section on pp. 185ff. shows the progression of the oven design. We see that even in 1937:

Müller claimed that there was a direct relation between increased use and increased economy. If the cold furnace required 175 kilograms (kg) of coke to start up a new incineration, it needed only 100 kg if it had been used the day before; a second and third incineration on the same day would not require any extra fuel, thanks to the compressed air; and those that followed would call for only small amounts of extra energy. 4

4. Archive of the Memorial Place Dachau, files 943 and 2111.

The source for the 1,000 BTU figure is an interview with the president of a crematory oven manufacturing company (it's unrelated to the Holocaust):

According to B&L President Steve Looker, who designed the Phoenix II, the average body gives off a modest 1,000 Btu per pound of meat (burning wood, by comparison, gives off 6,000 Btu). But an extremely obese corpse ... can run to 17,000 Btu. "That's like burning kerosene," says Looker.

Simonds Manufacturing agrees:

Human and animal remains, consisting of carcasses [...] These waste consist of up to 85% moisture and 5% incombustible solids with a heating value of 1000 BTUs per pound as fired.

The effect of increasing temperature is described in the Internet Cremation Society FAQ:

...in the retort we operate, the first cremation of the day takes about two hours and the second takes about an hour. That is because the retort already has a high internal temperature at the beginning of the second cremation.

(The time of one hour is for a commercial crematory, and includes the time to fully incinerate even the largest bones. The Auschwitz ovens were operated faster.)

The source for the Auschwitz oven operating instructions is Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, Jean-Claude Pressac, 1989, p. 136, as quoted by Mark Van Alstine.

A Speaker to Neo-Nazis

On September 20, 1996, David Irving was the featured speaker at a meeting of the National Alliance.

The National Alliance is "the largest neo-Nazi group in America," according to Klanwatch. It gained notoriety when its leader's book The Turner Diaries, which is a battle plan for race war, was Exhibit A in Timothy McVeigh's trial. Its membership handbook talks about using National Socialism (Nazism) to recruit:

The recruiter who is working with the right sort of member ... can use the National Socialist idea ... for opening the mind of his prospect to the Alliance message.

But in an Australian radio interview just two months later, Irving said "I don't give speeches to neo-Nazis." And he has threatened a lawsuit to keep a recording of his secret speech off the internet.

Irving's speech to the National Alliance is described -- but not transcribed, under threat of lawsuit -- by Annie Alpert, who attended with her tape recorder.

"Largest neo-Nazi group in America": Peggy O'Crowley, staff writer, Bergen Record, September 18, 1996, quoting Richard Baudouin of Klanwatch.

Membership handbook: not published openly, but quoted on a white-supremacist mailing list in February 1996.

Radio interview with Julie Posetti of 2BL Radio in Sydney, Australia, November 8, 1996.

Irving threatened a lawsuit in his letter to Annie Alpert of September 23, 1996:

...all my remarks at the private lecture which you attended on September 20 are what is known in law as "intellectual property", and that any unlawful dissemination of either the tape recording which you were observed to make or of any unauthorised transcript thereof will constitute an infringment of my Copyright and will be treated accordingly, and damages will be sought for breach of copyright.

Questions to Ask Irving

  • In 1994, he said 600,000 Jews died in the Holocaust. In July 1995 it was four million. In 1996 it was back to 600,000 or one million. Why can't this expert make up his mind?
  • The first 600,000 figure comes from a 1994 interview with Michael Shermer:

    Irving (1994) believes that the number of Jews killed "is wrong by an order of magnitude. In other words, 500,000 to 600,000 instead of five to six million."

    The four million figure was from a July 1995 interview with Ron Casey in Australia:

    Casey: What is your estimate of the number of Jews who died at the hands of Hitler's regime in the war years? What number - and I don't like using this word - what number would you concede were killed in concentration camps?

    Irving: I think, like any scientist, I'd have to give you a range of figures and I'd have to say a minimum of one million, which is a monstrous crime, and a maximum of about four million, depending on what you mean by killed. If putting people into a concentration camps where they die of barbarity and typhus and epidemics is killing then I would say the four million figure because, undoubtedly, huge numbers did die in the camps in the conditions that were very evident at the end of the war.

    Casey: I'm finding this more and more surprising as we go along, Mr. Irving.

    Irving: Yes.

    Casey: No, hold on. Because I've always been told that you deny the Holocaust, you deny the persecution of the Jews to the extent to which the Jewish community would have us believe but here you have just now admitted that you would go to a high figure of four million. [...]

    Irving: There's been a lot of hard lying about me ever since this unfortunate business began. ...I'm very grateful to you for allowing me to speak, in fact...

    [...] If you include everybody who died by whatever means, then you could probably go as high as four million but an awful lot of people died in World War Two...

    The return to the 600,000 figure comes on August 3, 1996:

    I think the figures have been magnified by an Order of Magnitude.

    And in an interview in November 1996, again with Ron Casey:

    Casey: ...you did say to me that the figures of the victims of the Holocaust was higher than you had previously admitted.

    Irving: I think the real figures probably are about a million or less.

  • Is he a Holocaust "revisionist"? If not, can he name anyone other than a revisionist who agrees with his views?
  • There are several well-known writers and historians who agree that Irving is a thorough researcher and prolific writer -- but to my knowledge, no one except Holocaust-deniers expresses agreement with his views.

  • Is he an antisemite? His usual answer is "not yet" -- what does that mean?
  • David Irving's Action Report Update #10:

    Meanwhile the bigots have the wit to taunt him, "Mr Irving, are you antisemitic?" His reply is thought-provoking: "Not yet."

  • If he believes in free speech, why is he suing Americans for libel in England? (England has the most draconian libel laws in the world.)
  • David Irving's Action Report #13:

    David Irving is also suing Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of religion at Emory College, Atlanta, for libel...

    D.I. Reply (Information on libel suit.)

    The British court system is renowned for its harsh laws against libel, laws which would surprise those used to U.S. First Amendment protections. There is no presumption of innocence.

    Probably the best-known suppression of free speech through British libel law was the so-called "McLibel" case, where the McDonald's corporation sued two unemployed activists for handing out leaflets protesting the company's environmental record. In most cases, the defendants would quickly settle, and be banned from handing out further leaflets. This case became famous only because the activists fought the charges; the trial lasted for over two years because they were required to prove the truth of each and every statement made in their pamphlets.

    As their website reads:

    ...libel cases rarely even make it to court because defendants face years of long, drawn out, complex and archaic proceedings, all costing an absolute fortune: and Legal Aid is not available for libel cases. Anyone defending a libel action also has to prove, from primary sources of evidence, every single word which has been challenged - the prosecution can just sit back smugly and wait for the almost inevitable victory.

    In many other cases, the British High Court, or the threat of it, has been enough for McDonald's to censor its opponents.

    In January 1999, Irving hinted he might sue the director of the Nizkor website, for saying he had "lied." This, for once, appears to have been an empty threat.

    When a film was made that contained a short scene where the cover of one of Mr. Irving's books was shown in a context considered unflattering, he called it "prima facie libellous" and demanded that the film company:

    ...either ... excise the scene concerned completely, or at very least ... place an electronic smudge over the title and jacket of the book THE TRAIL OF THE FOX throughout its appearance, rendering it totally illegible and unrecognisable, during each and every transmission of this movie within the jurisdiction of the British courts.... If I do not receive this ... I shall instruct solicitors to commence injunction and if need be defamation proceedings in the High Court....

    Irving is proud of his bullying tactics, and there seems to be no end to them. One Chicago resident, who was overheard using the word "odious" to describe Irving on a radio program, was tracked down and received an angry letter. In it, Irving expressed dissatisfaction with the way that the U.S. Constitution protects personal opinion:

    I understand that on July 16, in your morning talk show on WGN, you bestowed upon me the adjective "odious". Such language is protected by the First Amendment in your country, of course; over here, where Deborah Lipstadt has tried using the same kind of language, she is finding it is a costly business indeed -- in our High Court.

  • The National Alliance is one of the nation's leading neo-Nazi hate groups. Why did he speak at a National Alliance meeting on Sept. 20, 1996?
  • See above.

  • Why did he then say, on Nov. 8, 1996, "I don't give speeches to neo-Nazis"?
  • To my knowledge, he has not addressed this contradiction.

  • If he believes in free speech, why did he threaten to sue if the unedited tape of that speech was released?
  • See above.

  • Has he done any more research on the Listerine® anti-German conspiracy?

    (From Irving's May 1995 Newsletter: "there's currently a black and white newsreel-type Listerine commercial showing on American television with a sinister man intoning the message, 'They're Germs -- show no mercy!' and slurring the G-word so it sounds like something else. Watch for it. And learn.")

  • This does not seem to be a joke. Mr. Irving was suggesting that anti-German catchphrases were hidden in Listerine advertisements. We cannot explain this.

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