“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” –Indian born Salman Rushdie, novelist and essayist whose works include Midnight’s Children, which won the Booker Prize, and The Satanic Verses.
The controversial pro-Nazi and British author David Irving praises Adolf Hitler as “a great man” and his Gestapo as “fabulous policemen”. He was banned to visit Germany, but recently, it has been lifted when he successfully appealed against a Munich court’s decision to keep him out of the country until 2022: Meaning he is now free to visit Germany in coming days when he would also take a 25-30 strong group on a tour of Poland’s concentration camps and Hitler’s HQ’s as part of his September trip from 3th. to 10th.
Willfully, Irving has been distorting the history materials about the WWII to serve his ideological ends. He was extradited from Germany in 1993 after being convicted of insulting the dead; claims that the chambers at the notorious Auschwitz camp were built for propaganda purposes after 1945, and labels them as a “hoax“, arguing that the existing remains are “mock-ups built by the Poles in the years after the war.” He was also imprisoned in Austria in 2006 for his views on the Holocaust after pleading guilty to denying that the Nazis inflicted mass genocide upon the Jewish people. Even Amnesty International was considering taking his case as “an egregious curtailment and punishment of free speech.”
Surely the diminution of public attention highly distresses him. As a master in eloquence (although been described as “a freak at a sideshow“) the 75-year-old Irving, maintains an ambivalent attitude to the Holocaust denial depending on his audience. He says: “It is a cheap and nasty lie to call me a Holocaust-denier. Every time I visit Auschwitz, five times so far -this year will be the sixth- I lay a wreath at the foot of the execution wall where the Germans executed Polish heroes.” He wrote in the first edition of his book Hitler’s War: “I cannot accept the view… [that] there exists no document signed by Hitler, Himmler or Heydrich speaking of the extermination of the Jews“. In one of his numerous speeches, Irving claimed that there was no Nazi policy of genocide against the Jews and that only 600,000 Jews died in concentration camps in World War II all due to either Allied bombing or disease.
It been reported that a German MP from the Green Party has contacted the German Hotel Association asking their members to not offer him accommodation at the time of his next stay in Germany. However Irving has been flooded with offers: “I have been inundated with invitations from hotels and private citizens offering me space and accommodation.” His tickets on sell cost around $120 just to hear him speaking (food included) in the heart of Berlin on September 10th., and around $3,000 for the tour of Poland. “I have many close friends in Berlin.” He boast.
It is difficult to understand why the authorities tolerate his presence. Irving, who has begun to look more and more like a demented Rudolf Hess, not only travels very well organized around Europe to be applauded by his network of wealthy right-wing sympathizers, he also has traveled recently to California in order to start a fundraising tour in the United States. He uses his public appearances (and his Facebook Fan Page) to shed his lies and ideology over his group of admirers about what happened in the Second World War and the horrors of what the Nazis did to the Jews, resistance fighters, people of Poland, people with disabilities, Gypsies, homosexuals, trade unionists and people of several faiths from many parts of Europe, as well as to the innocent Germans who lived under the jackboot. He even attacks the diary of Anne Frank as a forgery and claims that the evidences given at Nuremberg Trials were falsified, tampered and manipulated.
He has a right to say whatever he likes, but that doesn’t oblige anyone (the government authorities) to help him spread his bilges. His admirers and “Facebook Fan Page” followers argue that criticizing and opposing his views is censorship to free speech. But, here the point is, in the first place, does he has the right to offend? Does have anyone the right to offend or ridicule your religion, your beliefs, your ideas, and even you? The answer in a democracy should be: Yes! If Irving says something that offends you or others, you can only respond with speech. You cannot retaliate with your fists, a knife, or a bullet because exist a modern society law (but, however, in case someone try to hit you, you are entitled to use the same force to stop them) and likewise they should behave with you. Offenses are a part of everyday life, and Irving, of course, should be allow to use his freedom of speech, as it is one of the cornerstones of a free society. As the British Indian novelist and essayist, Salman Rushdie says: “Democracy is not a tea party where people sit around making polite conversation. In democracies people get extremely upset with each other. They argue vehemently against each other’s positions (but they don’t shoot).” This is necessary for progress of a free society as much as the notion that people should have the right to call on the law to defend them against being offended or insulted. So, saying that, Irving is a charlatan, and has been fully exposed as such because modern society law comes to the rescue to draw a line between what is acceptable and what is not. The Holocaust is one of the most comprehensively documented events of the 20th century, even the perpetrators themselves made a significant contribution to the evidence available, so, at present time, public preaching of Nazi ideology is advocate violence and incitement to hatred. In matters of free speech, Irving, his colleagues and admirers, should understand that in our modern society offensive is not equaled to libelous.
Irving sued Penguin books and the author Deborah Lipstadt over her book which said he had persistently and deliberately misinterpreted and twisted historical evidence to minimize Hitler’s culpability for the Holocaust. He lost. The high court really found that Irving had falsified history to exonerate Adolf Hitler driven by antisemitism and his own pro-Nazi views, and ordered him to pay an interim amount of £150,000. Then, despite having a flat in Mayfair, central London -estimated to be worth £900,000- he declared himself bankrupt and offered to pay to Penguin books by installments over several years. He even claimed that a supporter would pay the £150,000 on his behalf.
A judge said about him: “He is an active Holocaust denier, anti-Semitic, racist and associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.” Hearing this, can be no sympathy with his views, no respect for someone who has twisted facts in the cause of fascism. He is the author of 30 books on the subject of Nazi Germany including some works of “revisionist history“. He had access to the personal diaries of a number of “luminaries” of the Third Reich and was able to publish a great deal of interesting information that proved to be of limited use to legitimate historians. Unfortunately, for students of history, most historical diaries are, more often than not, completely self-serving and Irving’s literary interpretations of them have proved to be equally so. On the other hand, his mendacity goes further when he has no problem whatsoever in inventing conversations or archival records and putting these spurious evidences into his political screeds with perfect aplomb.
David Irving is evidently a tireless researcher and he could have been a good and respected historian but with his sympathy for the Third Reich, antisemitism and racism he has chosen to play the motley fool for the neo-Nazis sympathizers.