From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
David Irving (born 1938) is one of the most accomplished and successful proponents of Holocaust revisionism. He was a self-taught historian without academic connections who for a time was a leading British scholar of World War II.
Irving was particularly noted for his mastery of the voluminous and confused German war records, but he lost his reputation after he unsuccessfully sued another scholar, Deborah Lipstadt and her publishers, Penguin Books, who identified him as a Holocaust denier. Up to the trial, his works had been accepted, although they were noted for their sympathetic view of German actions in the Hitler regime.
Among the Holocaust revisionists, Irving is perhaps the only one who for some time managed to keep up the reputation of a serious, if controversial, historian. Today, few share that view of him.
After working in a steel mill in the Ruhr and learning German, Irving wrote his first book, The Destruction of Dresden (1963). He was 25 years old. The book examined the Allied bombing of Dresden during the final months of World War II. By the 1960s, a debate about the morality of the strategic bombing of German cities and civilian population had already begun, especially in the UK. Hence, the public was receptive to Irving's persuasively written book, illustrated with gruesome pictures. The book became a best seller.
Irving's figures for deaths in Dresden, which he reported at from 130,000 to more than 200,000, were an order of magnitude higher than anyone else's. Nonetheless, these figures became widely accepted and were repeated in many standard references and encyclopedias. It was not until Irving's trial for libel that the figures were discredited. See the Dresden bombing article for more information on casualty figures.
At first publication, many historians agreed that the fire bombing of Dresden was open to criticism, but took note of the pro-German tone of Irving's book. Yet, at this time, Irving's credentials as a British historian of generally democratic views were not rarely challenged.
After the Dresden book, Irving shifted to writing biographies, demonstrating a flair for a writing. He tended to be at pains to find positive aspects of Nazi officials, although not openly endorsing them. Aging formerly mid-ranked Nazis saw a potential friend in Irving, and donated diaries and other material. This enabled Irving to claim he was a serious historian, publishing original material.
A good example of Irving's writing style is the biography of Hermann Göring. The book tends to ignore Göring's role in the Holocaust and his greedy theft of art treasures. Instead a wealth of information is given about Göring's jovial personality and brighter aspects, such as his outlawing of vivisection and promotion of reforestation. Various incidents are presented as proof that he always disliked the persecution of Jews and other Nazi crimes. Flow of language and a wealth of entertaining anecdotes made it yet another good seller.
Later, David Irving began lecturing to far right wing groups. In addition, statements about the supposed nonexistence of gas chambers moved him from murky to clearly revisionist territory. Irving's most substantial action was to engage in a libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt, who had accused him of being fraudulent and a Nazi apologist. Irving lost the suit and is liable to pay the substantial costs of the trial, which is likely to ruin him. Certain observers to the trial felt that Lipstadt's counsellors were able to show that Irving's scholarship was severely flawed. Irving is considered an icon to many in the holocaust revisionist camp, but fights an increasingly lonely battle.