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Irving trial starts in Austria


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Looks like he's going for the 'only joking' defence

 

Irving Holocaust trial under way

 

British historian David Irving has pleaded guilty in a court in Vienna to charges of denying the Holocaust.

The charges relate to a speech and an interview he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz.

 

Mr Irving, 68, faces up to 10 years in jail under Austrian law.

 

As he arrived at the court, he told reporters that some of his views had changed, saying there were gas chambers and that "millions of Jews died".

 

Holocaust denial is a criminal offence in Austria.

 

Court authorities have said they expect demonstrations by right-wing supporters during the trial.

 

Mr Irving was arrested in November when he went to Austria to give a lecture to a far-right student fraternity.

 

He was stopped by police as he was driving on a motorway in the south of the country and has been held in custody since then.

 

'I've changed'

 

Mr Irving arrived in court room, handcuffed, wearing a blue suit, and carrying a copy of Hitler's War, one of many books he has written on the Nazis, and which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.

 

In the past he has claimed that Adolf Hitler knew little, if anything, about the Holocaust, and that the gas chambers were a hoax.

 

In 2000 a British court threw out a libel action he had brought, and declared him "an active Holocaust denier... anti-Semitic and racist".

 

On Monday, before the trial began, he told reporters: "I'm not a Holocaust denier. Obviously, I've changed my views.

 

"History is a constantly growing tree - the more you know, the more documents become available, the more you learn, and I have learned a lot since 1989."

 

Asked if he admitted the existence of the Holocaust, he replied: "I would call it the Jewish tragedy in World War II."

 

"Yes, there were gas chambers," he said. "Millions of Jews died, there is no question. I don't know the figures. I'm not an expert on the Holocaust."

 

Plea for leniency

 

Of his guilty plea, he told reporters: "I have no choice."

 

He said it was "ridiculous" that he was being tried for expressing an opinion.

 

"Of course it's a question of freedom of speech... I think within 12 months this law will have vanished from the Austrian statute book," he said.

 

Mr Irving's lawyer, Elmar Kresbach, told the BBC that he would be asking for "a certain leniency in sentencing".

 

"His lecture happened 17 years ago. He is an English citizen, he doesn't live in Austria, [he is] 68-years-old. He is a historian who is well known. He is not really dangerous, especially in Austria," he said

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The guys an idiot, but he shouldn't be locked up for this.

 

Why not? He's clearly broken their law.

 

Sounds like he and his supporters are trying to get Austrian law challenged on some 'free speech' basis.

 

IMO, the Austrian and German parliaments should, if necessary, re-assert their ultimate right to constrain free speech.

 

We should have similar restrictions in the UK too.

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You're right in that he has broken the law, I just think that free speach should be allowed. If he wants to put forward an arguement that something didn't happen, then he should be allowed to. It may be rubbish, and if so, then he can be verbally beaten down.

 

There is a thread on here with some one saying that the twin towers were blown up and it was planned. Should a law be brought in againt his comments? I personally don't think so.

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There is a thread on here with some one saying that the twin towers were blown up and it was planned. Should a law be brought in againt his comments?

 

Think the mental health laws more than adequately cover this particular example

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problem in allowin im is voice is at te vast majority can see he is a nutter with no logical basis to his views but its fuel to the fire for the extremist far right who see it a a validation of their views and a justification for their place in society. Not necessarily a good thing.

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You're right in that he has broken the law, I just think that free speach should be allowed. If he wants to put forward an arguement that something didn't happen, then he should be allowed to. It may be rubbish, and if so, then he can be verbally beaten down.

 

There is a thread on here with some one saying that the twin towers were blown up and it was planned. Should a law be brought in againt his comments? I personally don't think so.

 

I think there's 2 points here:

 

1) does the law-making body have the right to constrain free speech (in the US it doesn't - at least in theory)

 

2) should certain specific statements be banned by the law?

 

On 1), I say a resounding 'yes'.

On 2), I say 'yes' in the case of holocaust denial and various other fascist/Nazi claims, but more generally 'no'. In particular, 'no' in the case of '9/11 denial' ;)

 

But I would say, that the parliaments of countries like Germany, Austria and the UK have the right to make '9/11 denial' illegal if they choose to.

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problem in allowin im is voice is at te vast majority can see he is a nutter with no logical basis to his views but its fuel to the fire for the extremist far right who see it a a validation of their views and a justification for their place in society. Not necessarily a good thing.

 

True but the whole issue of Holocaust denial is really on a two tier level.

 

You've got your neo-Nazi's and your right wing extremists like the KKK, and then you've got people like David Irving and the Institute for Historical Review.

 

The point of Holocaust Denial is to rewrite history, erase certain aspects of it, and replace it with half truths and blatant lies. The KKK and the neo-Nazi's can't do this. Lets be honest, the people they recruit already have at the very least far-right sympathies to begin with. However people like Irving and groups like the IHR are like an infection in historical society, they are capable of convincing ordinary people because of the assumption of legitimacy.

 

Therefore the only way to combat these groups is to pull them out into the public eye and expose their lies and stories for all to see. The war was over 60 years ago now, pretty soon the remaining Holocaust survivors will have died, and we'll only be left with documentary proof and evidence, all of which can be twisted and destroyed. If we don't challenge the Holocaust deniers now whilst we have the chance, we'll regret it in the next ten or so years.

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True but the whole issue of Holocaust denial is really on a two tier level.

 

You've got your neo-Nazi's and your right wing extremists like the KKK, and then you've got people like David Irving and the Institute for Historical Review.

 

The point of Holocaust Denial is to rewrite history, erase certain aspects of it, and replace it with half truths and blatant lies. The KKK and the neo-Nazi's can't do this. Lets be honest, the people they recruit already have at the very least far-right sympathies to begin with. However people like Irving and groups like the IHR are like an infection in historical society, they are capable of convincing ordinary people because of the assumption of legitimacy.

 

Therefore the only way to combat these groups is to pull them out into the public eye and expose their lies and stories for all to see. The war was over 60 years ago now, pretty soon the remaining Holocaust survivors will have died, and we'll only be left with documentary proof and evidence, all of which can be twisted and destroyed. If we don't challenge the Holocaust deniers now whilst we have the chance, we'll regret it in the next ten or so years.

 

Well said that man.

As long as holocaust denail is kept to the incorrigible lunatic fringe of the extreme right, I believe it can be contained.

However, increasing numbers of young neo-nazis here in Germany are propagating the myth among their own (under 30) age group so anything that hints at legitimacy needs, as you rightly say, to be convincingly and thoroughly discredited while proof is still "real".

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What, exactly, is the reasoning for holocaust denial anyway?

 

Nazis clearly advocated a holocaust so why deny it once they've done it?

 

Is it a matter of something like: "A. the fascist governments were really very good: they made the trains run on time! B. but they killed millions of people! A. No they didn't!"?

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Is it a matter of something like: "A. the fascist governments were really very good: they made the trains run on time! B. but they killed millions of people! A. No they didn't!"?

 

Of course. It's hardly based on logic or sound historical evidence.

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Why did Irving go back to Austria if he, surely, must have known these charges were hanging over him?

 

Does he want this trial?

 

Yes he probably does.

 

Gives him the chance to either publicise his beliefs and free speech, or as it appears to announce his magical reform to a fully functioning member of humanity.

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Why did Irving go back to Austria if he, surely, must have known these charges were hanging over him?

 

Does he want this trial?

 

He'd already been back there a couple of times, apparently.

 

Not sure if it's true, but I could imagine him 'wanting' the trial in order to obtain a platform to make his 'free speech' case and possibly raise the issue of getting Austrian law changed - presumably leading to calls for German law to change as well.

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I wrote this only two weeks ago for my Masters. Its an unassessed 2000 word essay, basically outlining the issue of Holocaust Denial.

 

WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF THE PROBLEM OF GENOCIDE ?DENIAL??

 

 

In the next century, the Holocaust-denying industry will continue to market its hateful lies in the United States, Europe, Canada and elsewhere. (Stern 1993, 84)

 

In the age of modern conflict and twenty-four hour coverage of the mass media, it seems unlikely that the idea that history is written by the victors should persist throughout the twenty-first century. It is becoming increasingly difficult for crimes committed under the guise of warfare to remain hidden from the eyes of the world. However since the end of the Second World War there has been a dramatic rise in groups and academics to revise history, and wipe away some of the most brutal crimes ever committed against humanity.

 

The drive to deny acts of Genocide such as the Holocaust, or the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Armenians during the First World War represents a grave and insidious threat to the very foundations of modern history, the future of free speech, and threatens to have a dramatic effect on the future of International Relations and war crimes.

 

It may not seem that entities like the Ku Klux Klan or the Institute for Historical Review hold as much power as I?m suggesting, but through the course of this essay, I aim to show that the rise of Genocide Denial is a growing problem with the scope to seriously impact on our understanding of the past, and our reactions to the future.

 

To understand where the Denial movement is heading, it?s important to first understand why it began in the first place. There are to my mind two separate levels of Genocide Denial; the marginal extremist groups, and the academic intellectual organisations. Both are born from extremist or conspiratorial roots with their own agendas and long-term goals, and both are passionate in their own ways about deconstructing particular historical events. Shermar and Grobman in their book Denying the Holocaust refer to criteria on extremist groups outlined by John George and Laird Wilcox,

 

1) Absolute certainty they have the truth.

2) [The belief that] America is controlled to a greater or lesser extent by a conspiratorial group. In fact, they believe this evil group is very powerful and controls most nations.

3) Open hatred of opponents. Because these opponents (actually ?enemies? in the extremists? eyes) are seen as part of or sympathizers with ?The Conspiracy,? they deserve hatred and contempt.

4) Little faith in the democratic process. Mainly because most believe ?The Conspiracy? has great influence in the U.S. government, and therefore extremists usually spurn compromise.

5) Willingness to deny basic civil liberties to certain fellow citizens, because enemies deserve no liberties.

6) Consistent indulgence in irresponsible accusations and character assassination. (Shermer and Grobman 2002, 88)

 

Whether denial of genocide activities comes from extremist militant groups or from more established pseudo-intellectual institutions, this six-point list is a useful insight into the mindset behind the protests, but it doesn?t fully explain the danger these groups represent.

 

The extreme neo-Nazi movement embraced by organisations such as the Ku Klux Klan, or the ?skinhead? gangs of America (Shermer and Grobman 2002, 94) embrace an attitude of hatred and violence towards many minority groups, including the Jews, and this is a driving force behind their policy of denial, whilst also tied to attempts to make the memory of the Third Reich more ?politically correct? (Stern 1993, 29). In America and England such right wing groups are locked in a continuing battle of legitimacy, generally spurred by their total unwillingness to use moderate methods instead of an ideology steeped in aggression and violence, however in Germany there is a rapidly growing number of right-wing supporters,

 

As of August 1992, there were over 40,000 Germans belonging to neo-Nazi groups. These groups believe in Holocaust denial. (Stern 1993, 29)

 

Forty thousand supporters represent a strong political power base that can be built and expanded upon and used to build momentum for a shift in Germanys ideology. However to have this effect on the future, to make the Third Reich more politically correct, the past needs to be erased, and forgotten. Publications by supposedly academic groups like the Institute for Historical Review have been seized upon by those who hope to benefit from removing the Holocaust from historical records and used as justification for continuing persecution of Jews.

 

Whilst the new wave of German neo-Nazis is a grave issue and represents a clear danger to the future of European democracy, it is the institutions that have intellectualised genocide denial that in my opinion hold the biggest threat to our understanding and appreciation of the past. Neo-Nazi groups because of their rhetoric and methods of demonstration and recruitment are unlikely to convert followers who do not already have at the very least sympathies towards them and their beliefs, these are groups for like minded individuals. The Institute for Historical Review is a far more dangerous organisation, in that it is operating under the cover of valid and accepted theory and academia, and is passively passing on false information to the unaware.

 

This misinformation is transmitted through subtle and intelligent manipulation of the truth,

 

Through lies, distortions, and half-truths, hard-core deniers repaint a world where Nazis are the victims and Jews are the villains. It is, literally, history turned on its head. (Stern 1993, 4)

 

Holocaust deniers are faced by the very real problem of trying to convince an unwilling audience that the Nazis, a group justifiably demonised and associated with evil by virtually every westernised nation on Earth, was in fact not all bad, and certainly not capable of committing mass genocide. This is no small obstacle to be overcome, and to succeed takes a very dedicated attempt at reworking facts to play on half-truths and unknowns, a favoured example is the ?fact? that Hitler never signed any documents authorising the extermination of the Jews and therefore obviously did not know about it. Whilst it is true that Hitler did not sign any such documents it surely is more plausible to believe that as Stern suggests, he was not foolish enough to sign such a damning document (Stern 1993, 62).

 

The manipulation of a fact is the trademark of Holocaust denial, because such information requires knowledge to counter,

 

As Deborah Lipstadt says, they cite, or miscite, specific factoids about events fifty years ago that require knowledge to refute. One need not be an expert historian on any issue to believe, with confidence, that certain events occurred, the Holocaust among them. (Stern 1993, 60)

 

The phrase, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, proves to be totally correct in this case. The average member of the public has no reason to know the full details of the Holocaust, simply knowing it took place and was horrific is enough for the memory and historical lesson to be preserved, but by using false facts and generous political spin to try and convince such people that the truth did not happen, is a disturbing and dangerous practice.

 

Genocide denial is only exacerbated when practiced by Governments such as the Turkish and Japanese. The deaths of hundreds of thousands, possibly over a million, Armenians at the hands of the Turkish Ottoman Empire during World War One, is regarded and accepted as an act of Genocide by much of the International Community and intelligentsia. The Armenians were imprisoned, starved, executed and deported in huge numbers. However admitting such is a breach of Turkish law,

 

Turkey has drafted laws like Article 301 that state "A person who explicitly insults being a Turk, the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly, shall be imposed to a penalty of imprisonment". This law has been used, for example, to bring charges against writer Orhan Pamuk for stating that "Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it" (Historical revisionism (political): 2006)

 

Only recently (7 February 2006) the trials of five journalists accused of insulting a court order that shut down a conference discussing the Armenian genocide in Istanbul, if found guilty they face ten years in prison.

 

The Japanese Government have also sought to downplay their crimes against China during the Second World War, where over 17 million Chinese civilians were killed (Second Sino-Japanese War: 2006). School textbooks were introduced in Japanese schools in the last year, which glossed over these facts to create an image of Japan as a victim of World War Two.

 

Governmental and Academic denial of genocides represent possibly the biggest historical threat to our future at the moment. Our understanding of the world around us is based upon our understanding of the past and the lessons to be learned from it. Iran is already using Holocaust denial to question the legitimacy of the state of Israel in the Middle East. It is not the extremist neo-Nazis who are dangerous, you do not rewrite history wearing a white hood and shouting anti-Semitic rhetoric to a marginalised audience, you do it by slowly infiltrating the devices and methods of history, and destroying them from the inside.

 

The key issue is how to deal with this problem, before it flares out of control. Lipstadt believes that,

 

We need not waste time or effort answering the deniers? contentions. It would be never-ending to respond to arguments posed by those who freely falsify findings, quote out of context, and simply dismiss reams of testimony. (Stern 1993, 60)

 

Lipstadt does have a point here in that any attempt to engage in debate with deniers would likely lead to continuous argument over the mis-use of sources and risks giving legitimacy to the movement. Despite this however, I believe that public debate and exposure is the best weapon available to those who wish to combat Genocide denial. World War Two finished over sixty years ago, within the next ten years there will likely be no remaining survivors of the Holocaust or the war crimes in China, and we will be left with historical records and accounts, which as we?ve already seen can be subtly manipulated.

 

If we do not attack and attempt to defeat Genocide denial now whilst we still have the evidence of survivors, then we may be unable to do it in the future. If it means continually going over the same ground, and exposing the same lies, then that?s what should be done to preserve history. By publicly forcing people like David Irving and groups like the IHR to defend themselves and their historical revisionism there can be no way for them to hide within the system or to try and covertly spread their message

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