David Irving: Turns to friends in US

Historians in the News

David Irving's recent life has made him look more like an outlaw than an historian. Broke, shunned and declared "persona non grata" across half the planet, it's been quite a comedown for the world's most notorious Holocaust denier.

His latest comeuppance has been an episode as shabby as any and may force him to spend years in prison.

His Viennese lawyer, Elmar Kresbach, insists he has changed his mind about "the views he is so famous for" after an examination of Soviet archives led him to accept the Nazi gas chambers existed.

That line of argument may surprise Mr Irving's white supremacist friends in the United States, more accustomed to his view that "more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz". They have extended numerous invitations and organised frequent books sales for him in the past few years.

Among his Stateside sponsors, according to the anti-racist Southern Poverty Law Center, have been the former Ku Klux Klan leader and one-time candidate for the Louisiana governor's office, David Duke, as well as the leading US neo-Nazi organisation, the National Alliance.

Mr Irving's US friends have been a lifeline since he brought a ruinous libel suit in 2000 against Deborah Lipstadt. She had characterised him as anti-Semitic and racist; the High Court found that the criticism was just and ordered Mr Irving to pay court costs estimated to be about £3 million.

Since then, he has reportedly moved out of his home in Mayfair into rented accommodation. He has continued to organise annual so-called "real history" conferences, but his room for manoeuvre has been significantly constrained: he is banned from entering Austria, Germany, Canada and Australia.

Even his trips to the States have been less than comfortable. In 2003, a restaurant in rural Idaho chose to cancel an event of his and close down for the day after finding out who he was and what sort of people his local fans might be. This summer he received a rare invitation to address a left-wing group in Alabama, the Atheist Law Center, only to provoke outrage among the membership and, this week, the resignation of the group president, Larry Darby.

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