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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Irving and the Holocaust

As many of you are probably aware, David Irving, the so-called historian is currently languishing in an Austrian prison cell. His crime? He is a Holocaust denier and Austria (and Germany) have very stringent laws on denying the Holocaust: don't do it.

When Irving went to Austria, he knew that there was a warrant for his arrest and clearly did not care so in one respect I have little sympathy for the man. I have even less (read: zero) sympathy for his views; if he truly believes the holocaust did not happen then he is living in a fantasy world, otherwise he is just a liar with some other agenda, I'll let you make your own decision. I know what I think.

That said I still find something very unsettling about imprisoning a man for something he said. To me it is against the idea of freedom of speech, which is an ideal that I hold to. I can understand why there are laws against denying the holocaust in Germany and Austria, but I have always been worried by them on a certain level. And as much as a part of me thought ' good' when Irving was arrested, another part of me worried about the implications of it. In the same way I worry about the laws against incitement to religious hatred that the current government is pushing.

With that in mind I was pleased to come across this article on the BBC. Professor Deborah Lipstadt cut Irving to ribbons in court back in 2000 and continues to do sterling work in combating the forces of anti-semitism who wish to deny the Holocaust ever happened. However, like me she worries about criminalising Holocaust deniers with caveats for Germany and Austria:

Germany and Austria are not so far past the Third Reich. So I can understand that the swastika symbol, Mein Kampf, Holocaust denial, being a neo-Nazi and all the rest have a certain potency there that they would not have in the United States

However she believes that Austria should cut Irving loose:

I am not interested in debating with Holocaust deniers," she says. "You wouldn't ask a scientist to debate with someone who thinks the Earth is flat. They are not historians, they are liars. Debating them would be nonsensical.

"But we also should not allow them to become martyrs. Nothing is served by having David Irving in a jail cell, except that he has become an international news issue.

"Let him go home and let him continue talking to six people in a basement.

"Let him fade into obscurity where he belongs."

She is concerned on making martyrs of these people and, I think, worse in turning Holocaust Denial into a 'forbidden fruit'. With the often inherent mistrust of government and motives that we see today and the seeming thirst for many to believe in all manner of conspiracy theories, it is not difficult to sympathise with her words.

Anyway, Professor Lipstadt has a weblog, you can see her views on current issues in Holocaust denial and anti-semitism there.

As to Irving, the man is an idiot, a dangerous idiot, but is throwing him in jail the way forward in combating this issue? Rather are we raising a profile and giving attention to a man who would be better ignored?


Anonymous said...

In my own research on the Holocaust, I've come across two things that are problematical. Why have revisionist historians, scientists and publishers been murdered, assaulted, had acid thrown in their face, and been imprisoned? This seems like Dark Ages stuff.

Here is a site that gives a partial list of these victims:

And why was it necessary to torture confessions from Nazis during the Nuremberg trials?

Here is an article that details the extensive use of torture by the Allies against Nazi defendants:

Jill Henry

Kav said...

Please don't mistake the fact that I don't like the idea that we imprison Holocaust deniers with the impression that I have any sympathy for their views.

Holocaust deniers are misguided at best and hatemongers at worst. I have no time for them in either case. I will defend their right to believe their rubbish but I will not accept the crap they push and will argue vehemently against it.

The things you claim? Lies, exaggerations and a web of twisted facts that procude a nice conspiracy theory for the simple minded.