More Schadenfreude: David Irving now admitting that there were gas chambers?
Moving on to other topics, lightening my spirit this morning was this story about the notorious Holocaust denier David Irving:
A lawyer for British historian David Irving said on the eve of a court hearing that Irving admitted past statements could be interpreted as denying the existence of Nazi gas chambers - but now acknowledges they existed.The History News Network has also referenced a Guardian story on the issue, which gives a little more background:
Prosecutors charged Irving earlier this week under an Austrian law that makes denying the Holocaust a crime.
The charges stem from two speeches Irving delivered in Austria in 1989 in which he allegedly denied the existence of gas chambers. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
Irving has changed his views on gas chambers in recent years, his attorney, Elmar Kresbach said.
In the past, Irving has claimed that Adolf Hitler knew nothing about the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews, and has been quoted as saying there was ``not one shred of evidence'' the Nazis carried out their ``Final Solution'' to exterminate the Jewish population on such a massive scale.
He is the author of nearly 30 books, including ``Hitler's War,'' which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.
Kresbach said Irving is now ``correcting himself,'' adding the historian now ``sees himself as somebody who can influence marginal groups who have difficulty believing in the Third Reich.''
He said he will argue at a custody hearing Friday that Irving should be released on bail.
No trial date has yet been announced. In Austria, suspected violations of the law banning attempts to publicly diminish, deny or justify the Holocaust are heard by an eight-person jury and three judges.
Nonetheless, once again it is hard not to feel yet a bit more schadenfreude to see David Irving suddenly backpedaling, now that he's in jail, and pleading that his writings and speeches given over three decades were all just some sort of misunderstanding, that he believes there really, truly were gas chambers. (A better question to ask him is whether he's willing to retract his previous statement that he believed the death toll of the Holocaust to have been exaggerated by roughly a factor of ten.) In actuality, Irving's splitting hairs here. One of the techniques of Holocaust deniers is to admit the existence of gas chambers in the camps, but then to claim that the cyanide was used to fumigate clothing, not to kill Jews and other enemies of the Nazi state. Alternatively, another technique is to claim that diesel exhaust can't kill. (It is not widely known among the general public that many Nazi gas chambers used exhaust from diesel engines, rather than cyanide.) Irving has always conceded that gas chambers existed; he has in actuality denied that homocidal gas chambers existed or were used to kill Jews.
In fact, a story this morning shows that Irving is willing to plead guilty in the hopes of leniency:
He [Irving] is to be tried under a 1947 Austrian law banning Nazi revivalism and criminalising belittling or justifying the crimes of the Third Reich. No trial date has been set. The case should be heard in January. Irving faces a jail term of one to 10 years if found guilty.
Mr Irving has 10 days to appeal against the indictment but is not likely to lodge an appeal. His strategy is to plead guilty before a jury trial, but to declare his remorse and insist that he has revised his views on the Third Reich in the years since he made the Austrian speeches in 1989. "This might be a big case, but it's not very difficult," his lawyer, Elmar Kresbach, told the Guardian yesterday. "There are the transcripts of his speeches, there is a newspaper interview that he gave [in 1989]. It's pretty black and white.
"But Irving told me that he has changed his views after researching in the Russian archives in the 1990s. He said, 'I've repented. I've no intention of repeating these views. That would be historically stupid and I'm not a stupid man.'
"He said, 'I fully accept this, it's a fact. The discussion on Auschwitz, the gas chambers and the Holocaust is finished ... it's useless to dispute it'."
If David Irving's gambit works, and he's given a lenient sentence, look for him to go back to his old ways as soon as he's released. Even if that happens, though, no doubt he will be diminished--perhaps fatally so, as far as being a leader in the Holocaust denial movement goes--in the eyes of his admirers. After all, for his "I repent" gambit to have a chance of working, Irving is going to be forced to state in unequivocal terms in open court that homicidal gas chambers did exist in Nazi death camps. Such an admission won't endear him to the hard core neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers upon whom he's been relying to support him through the purchase of his books and attendance at his speeches.
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