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       Friday, February 24, 2006

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Thoughts on David Irving

I note that The Wall St. Journal has editorialized in defence of imprisoned historian David Irving. Excerpt: "And just when the Danish government is under unprecedented attack for its refusal to intervene in the editorial decision-making of a private newspaper, it seems perverse to offer Muslim provocateurs an example of a European country catering to one set of sensitivities but not another".

The WSJ accompanies this defence, however, with vast aspersions on the character and competence of Irving. But any claim that Irving is incompetent is absurd. I have been studying the Hitler era for over 40 years and it is clear to me that NOBODY knows the period better or in more detail than Irving does. He was after all the only one of the many eminent historians consulted who immediately picked the Kujau "Hitler Diaries" as a fake.

So what of the aspersions on Irving's character? I think those aspersions show a lack of understanding too. I would like to venture a more nuanced view. For a start, Irving's earlier position (which he now appears to have recanted) that there was no holocaust at all is clearly absurd. He is undoubtedly right in pointing to the 6 million figure as the roughest of guesses but I am totally unmoved by that. Whether 6 million died or 1 million died, the loss that Hitler inflicted on the human gene pool by his attacks on Jewry is incalculable (I am avoiding moral language here. Outrage is the Leftist's usual substitute for thinking and I hope to do better than that).

So what motivates Irving's gnawing away at the details of the holocaust? I think the WSJ is right in saying that Irving wishes to rehabilitate Hitler as far as he can. But why would he do that? I think I know. I think that Irving has immersed himself so deeply in the Hitler period that it is alive to him. I think in fact that he has fallen under the spell of Hitler. Mainly because of their need to deny that Hitler was a socialist, almost nobody in the modern world understands why Hitler had such vast appeal to Germans or why Germany followed him fanatically to the bitter end. Both Roberts (1938) and Heiden (1939) -- prewar anti-Nazi writers -- portray Hitler as widely revered and popular among the Germans of their day. As Heiden (1939, p. 98) put it: "The great masses of the people did not merely put up with National Socialism. They welcomed it".

So why did they welcome it? It is simple. Socialism and nationalism have long been and long will be the two political ideas which have most emotional appeal to people. And Hitler offered both in one package. That package would be powerfully appealing to this day except for the way Hitler's follies discredited it.

But in his constant reading of material from the period, Irving lives in a world where Hitler's ideas have not yet been discredited and he has fallen victim to their appeal. Very few people these days seem to have read Mein Kampf but it is in fact (as it was meant to be) a very persuasive book if you read it without thought of what it led to. Hitler comes across as an enquiring, passionate and yet reasonable mind who offers persuasive explanations of what has gone wrong with the world. And I think he has persuaded Irving. It is a strange thing but, as we know from the example of Leftist intellectuals today, simplistic explanations often do attract intelligent people.

Heiden, K. (1939) One man against Europe Harmondsworth, Mddx.: Penguin
Roberts, S.H. (1938) The house that Hitler built N.Y.: Harper.


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posted by JR at 5:35 AM  


David Gray said...

An interesting theory however just a couple of points,firstly Irving has never denied the holocaust,he has denied the existance of homicidal gas chambers and Hitlers complicity in much of what did happened.In "Hitlers War" he tells of how as the typhus epidemic raged in Auschwitz train loads of jews were still being sent there,the understanding being that there would be room for them when they got there because so many people would have died, to him this and the executions by einsatzgruppen in the east along with the general ill treatment of the Jews is the horror called "Holocaust" and this is what he has found actual evidence for in the archives.He has found no evidence for homicidal gaschambers so he does not write about them.He does not like the "Holocaust" label because he does not agree with the details,surley a right he has earned through long hours in the archives.
The court was right to say that he was paying lip service to that law,and who would not with a gun held to their head(a long prison sentence),he has no wish to be a martyr only a historian.

Reports of David Irving recanting are possibly not really correct,in the interview that I saw Irving said that there was "A gaschamber in Auschwitz" but we already know that,it was used to fumigate clothes,there was one in Dachau too but it is now acceppted that there was no homicidal gaschambers there.Interestingly the Dachau gaschambers were dropped after exhumations showed no evidence of death by cyanide only typhus,no such exhumations have not been permited in Auschwitz,why not?evidence of death by cyanide there would be the physical proof that is missing.
He also said that "millions died" during that preoid,hardly news.
This is my opinion Irving might not agree with me but I dont think that he would agree with you either.

11:57 AM  
Neil B said...

A point about 'holocaust deniers:' they don't actually deny the holocaust. (I don't know of anyone who says nothing at all happened to European jews in the Hitler period.) But they do have a different take on it. For one thing they object to the usage "the" Holocaust as if only jews have been subjected to deadly assault in the past century. Haven't there been a lot of Holocausts, they would ask?

And then they would differ on the numbers: not six million but maybe half or one quarter of that number is the correct figure. Still a lot of deaths certainly but when you consider that 60 million died in the war it was pretty much a ghastly bloodbath for everyone.

And probably most consequential the deniers say they find no evidence of homocidal gas chambers. Plenty died other ways but not via gas.

Making any of these points is illegal in much of Europe and will get you the 'David Irving' treatment. You'll be labelled a 'denier' but you really haven't denied the holocaust. You have only denied the literal truth of one or more of the facets of the official version.

There are a lot of people in Europe who, like Irving, are in prison now because they have stated a disagreement with that official version. And there are a lot of people, like me, who think that is reprehensible.

7:04 PM  
whodareswings said...

I don't recall any mention of a change of opinion on the Holocaust at David Irving's regularly updated website prior to his arrest in Austria. It was stated in some of the news reports that his examination of the Eichmann papers caused his recantation. Irving
was meticulous about keeping a journal. If he'd had an epiphany it would have been announced there along with citations for the documents. The possibility that he was doublecrossed by the court in a plea bargain should not be overlooked.

4:33 AM  
TrampFodder said...

Just on the German people positively embracing Hitler.
In 1928 Hitler got just 2.4% of the vote. Dispite massive inflation caused through the payments for WW1 under the Versalles treaty (payments greater than it's GDP), credit was flowing into Germany from America.
Then the wall street crash occured, with massive effects on Germany, as the US called in its debts and the easy money ended plunging the country into despreate poverty and wheelbarrows of money to buy bread. Saving was for fools.
In 1930 Hitler got 25% of the vote.
I bet you would have embraced Hitler in those circumstances.
When the crash occured with massive poverty and horrific effects in Germany, people just gave up on democracy.

11:17 PM  

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