Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Holocaust Denial

This is kind of a continuation of a previous post. I am questioning why people deny the existence of major historical events. And I am not talking about disagreements of the historical depiction or claims against common misconceptions. I think that continual questioning and attempts to seek the truth in history is quite noble, even when it is unpopular.

Although I am not that familiar with the gentleman, Mr. David John Cawdell Irving, a prominent British World War II historian and researcher was convicted on 20 February 2006 for denying the Holocaust. Irving was sentenced to three years imprisonment in Austria.

On his arrest in Austria (Wiki):
Irving was arrested by the Austrian police in the southern province of Styria on 11 November 2005, under a warrant issued in 1989. Irving knew that he was banned from Austria, in the words of his partner, Bente Hogh: "He was not jailed just for his views but because he's banned from Austria and still went. David doesn't take advice from anyone. He thought it was a bit of fun, to provoke a little bit."

Within two weeks of his arrest, Irving asserted through his lawyer that he acknowledged the existence of Nazi-era gas chambers. On 20 February 2006 he pleaded guilty to the charge of denying the Holocaust from two speeches in 1989. He said this was what he believed, until he later saw the personal files of Adolf Eichmann, the chief organiser of the Holocaust. "I said that then based on my knowledge at the time, but by 1991 when I came across the Eichmann papers, I wasn't saying that anymore and I wouldn't say that now," Irving told the court. "The Nazis did murder millions of Jews." Irving declared himself shocked by the verdict. He reportedly had bought a plane ticket home to London, believing the court would "not be stupid enough" to lock him up.

Many feared that Irving could become a martyr for far-right activists and the issue also raised a debate on what grounds freedom of speech could be denied in democratic countries. Currently, Irving is incarcerated at the Graz-Karlau prison, awaiting appeal.

I think this is an interesting topic and although Austria denies it, his only crime was denying something that was popularly accepted. It is a matter of freedom of speech and press and the government's ability to infringe upon those rights. Now for the matter of libel and slander, does denying accepted historical documentation infringe on the rights of others? How exactly is it harmful to the Jews, in this case, and should they be compensated for their losses? The fact that he might be a fascist, racist, or bigot should not come into the decision making process! So what is his crime really?

And now it is time for a quote from Voltaire:

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

(Apparently Voltaire never actually said these words, but it was used to sum up his opinion. It first appeared in "The Friends of Voltaire", 1906, by S. G. Tallentyre (Evelyn Beatrice Hall)).

Here is some more information on David Irving:
The UK's Guardian, Wiki's Bio, Free Books by Irving, Info on his cases, and the Holocaust Deniers.

Here is Brad DeLong on the subject.
A Townhall article.
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