Holocaust deniers are the flat earthers of history. They attack one of the most well-documented genocides in all of human history using pseudoscience, conspiracy theories and bigotry. They have a poor grasp of how science works as well as historical methods, they quote scientists and historians out of context, and they hunt for alleged anomalies while ignoring the massive amount of consistent historical and scientific evidence. It is tempting to view Holocaust denial as just another pseudoscience, but because it involves denying a genocide and extreme ideology, it is in many ways much more severe than many other forms of pseudoscientific nonsense.
Behind Holocaust denial is often misguided and irrational ideologies. This can include antisemitism, religious fanaticism, and even staunch political beliefs about the Middle East. There are many things that makes Holocaust denial scary. Denial is the final part of a genocide, it is an intense reject of history and evidence and its threatening grasp can be felt around the world. Despite it being almost 80 years since it happened, most of the people on earth either has never heard of it or deny that it ever happened. This denial comes from across the political and religious spectrum, involving elements of the far-right and far-left, as well as certain extremist interpretations of both Christianity and Islam.
Who is David Irving?
David Irving is an English author who has written several books about World War II. Although he does appear to have detailed knowledge of this war, he was discredited by historians for his false claims about the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
In 1993, Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote a book called “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory” that refuted his claims in some detail (Lipstadt, 1993). Irving waited until the book was released in the United Kingdom, then sued her for libel. Because the way the libel laws work in the United Kingdom, the person being charged with libel has to prove that it was not libelous. With the help of other historical experts, Lipstadt managed to conclusively demonstrate that the Holocaust was a fact, that Irving had systematically spewed falsehoods and that he had close ties to various Nazi and antisemitic groups and people.
Irving lost the lawsuit and experienced a crushing defeat (Moss, 2000). He attempted to silence one of the most prominent Holocaust historians in the world with a lawsuit, and he lost. This is ironic because Holocaust deniers often want to appeal to free speech as an excuse to not having to defend their claims when Irving himself tried to use the legal system to silence a historian. Irving tried to appeal the decision, but was denied (Staff and agencies, 2001). Since he lost, he was stuck with a lot of legal costs and ultimately not only lost his house but went into bankruptcy during 2002 (Dodd, 2002; Dodd and Guttenplan, 2002).
The loss was a major setback for Irving. His reputation had been firmly and justifiable shattered by the weight of historical and scientific evidence. He was bankrupt and lost his home. Yet, he is able to take expensive travels around the world for various book tours and lectures. This suggests that he might receive financial support from wealthy white supremacists. Throughout the years, he has visited many countries, been jailed and even expelled. He is unwanted in a lot of places and many avenues have rejected his efforts to spread his denial because they do not want to offer an influential platform for bigotry and misinformation.
Where did David Irving resurface recently?
With a few exceptions, Irving has in many ways stayed away from the limelight. The British tabloid press caught up with him and found him living in a large mansion near Nairn located in the Scottish highlands (Lawson and Rollings, 2017). According to the article and photographs therein, Irving supposedly had his cover blown after locals became irritated of him parking his Rolls-Royce on parking spots outside a local post office (in Inverness-shire) intended for people with physical disabilities. Despite being uncovered and feeling the growing hostility in the neighborhood, he says that he will continue living there. The rent is allegedly as much as 1650 GBP (~2100 USD). One wonders where he gets that kind of money after having been bankrupt just two decades earlier.
Irving appears to have great difficulty moving on from the defeat as his new home is littered with several hundred boxes of documents related to the trial. He tells the tabloid that he believes that he should have won the libel case against Lipstadt and the publisher. His reason for moving to the quiet highland retreat is that he now believes that he is related to Robert the Bruce, a 14th century king of Scots. He is currently writing a book about Himmler and continues to give lecture series. Perhaps these kinds of tours and book sales give him sufficient income, although he does sell Nazi items on the Internet as well, bringing buyers and sellers together and taking a fee for authenticating products (Moore, 2009). He is part of a worldwide industry that is estimated to turnover 30 million GBP (~37 million USD) every year (Preston, 2015).
There is a movie adaptation of the trial called Denial (starring Rachel Weisz and Timothy Spall as Deborah Lipstadt and David Irving, respectively) that was released in late 2016. When asked if he had seen it, he replied that he had not and had no intention of viewing it at the cinema. Although he did add that he might see it if it comes on television.
Irving was also recently spotted giving a “secret talk” at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Glasgow (Hamilton, 2017). Irving made the same kind of antisemitic and anti-immigration statements that he typically makes about at a supposed global Jewish conspiracy and reminiscing about the days when “England was white”. It also turns out that the mansion Irving is currently living in use to belong to Royal Navy officer Gordon Campbell, a hero of World War II who received the Victoria Cross, which is the highest military award for “gallantry in the face of the enemy”.
Although not completely forgotten, Irving now resides in relative obscurity. This means that his pseudoscientific nonsense gets less spread and he does not further gain from being portrayed as an oppressed martyr for his faulty beliefs.
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References and further reading
Dodd, V. (2002). Failed libel action costs Irving his home (cache | cache). The Guardian. Accessed: 2017-02-13.
Dodd, V. and Guttenplan, D. D. (2002). Holocaust denier made bankrupt (cache | cache). The Guardian. Accessed: 2017-02-13.
Hamilton, J. (2017). Nazi sympathiser and Holocaust denier David Irving gave secret talk in Glasgow about his vile career (cache | cache). The Daily Record. Accessed: 2017-02-13.
Lawson, J. and Rollings, G. (2017). Nazi sympathiser David Irving who dismissed Auschwitz’s gas chambers as a ‘fairytale’ is living in Highland hideaway in Nairn (cache | cache). The Scottish Sun. Accessed: 2017-02-13
Lipstadt, D. (1993). Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. New York: Penguin Books.
Moore, M. (2009). Holocaust denier David Irving sets up Nazi memorabilia website (cache | cache). The Telegraph. Accessed: 2017-02-13.
Moss, S. (2000). History’s verdict on Holocaust upheld (cache | cache). The Guardian. Accessed: 2017-02-13.
Preston, A. (2015). The man who sleeps in Hitler’s bed (cache | cache). The Guardian. Accessed: 2017-02-13.
Staff and agencies. (2001). Irving loses Holocaust denial appeal (cache | cache). The Guardian. Accessed: 2017-02-13.