David Irving: Accused of continuing to spread falsehoods about Dresden BombingHistorians in the News
I won't provide a link to his website, but I ought to record that the Holocaust denier David Irving takes strong exception to the reference to him in my article for The Times this weekend about the late Kurt Vonnegut. He hypothesises that the article was commissioned by the newspaper after pressure had been exerted upon it by an external body whose identity (or at least ethnicity) you will be able to guess immediately. It ought not to need saying, but I am in a position to know that Mr Irving's speculations are unfounded. The judgements expressed in the article are mine alone; they were not dictated to me by anyone else. It is perhaps worth commenting - purely for the record, and not because Mr Irving's remarks have any merit - briefly on the complaint.
Irving accuses me of"smearing" him by referring to his 1963 book The Destruction of Dresden as discredited. In addition, he accuses me of"real holocaust-denial" (his italics) for stating that there were not 135,000 deaths in the firebombing of Dresden. He states further:
My"number," as Kamm calls it, came from Hanns Voigt, after February 1945 the director of the Dead Person's Section of Dresden's Missing Persons Bureau. That might seem a not unreasonable source.
TRUE, Professor Richard"Skunky" Evans, another historian who lives by the smear, ignorantly dismissed Voigt in his High Court evidence (on oath) as being a"virulent fascist". What else could he say? In fact we now know that Voigt was a trusted, highly esteemed, and much decorated, member of East German society in the 1950s and was allowed by the Communist regime to emigrate without difficulty upon his retirement to West Germany. These true facts on Voigt will be another dossier on this website, later.
Irving's writings on Dresden were considered at length in the trial of Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt for libel, in the case brought against them by Irving seven years ago. The defendants presented them as evidence that Irving distorts historical facts in order to make them conform to his ideology. The judgement is reproduced in its entirety here, on the Nizkor website, and the section on Irving's book about Dresden is here.
The judgement is a rewarding and important read. I will not try to summarise what is already a cogent and succinct statement of the issues, but would direct you in particular to paragraph 13.126. There Mr Justice Gray states:"In my judgment the estimates of 100,000 and more deaths [at Dresden] which Irving continued to put about in the 1990s lacked any evidential basis and were such as no responsible historian would have made." A few sentences earlier in the judgement, he says:"[Irving] relied on the estimate of Hans Voigt ... that 135,000 had been killed. But, as stated in paragraph 13.126 below, none of this material casts significant doubt on the accumulation of evidence that the true death toll was within the bracket of 25-30,000." Further:"Voigt's evidence was uncorroborated and unlikely to be correct in the light of the number of deaths recorded on the official cards [that tallied victims according to garments, personal belongings, personal papers and wedding rings recovered from the corpses]. In my view, Irving should not have quoted numbers based on this evidence."
Incidentally, Professor Richard Evans, who was the principal expert witness for the defence, does indeed cite the phrase"virulent fascist" concerning Voigt in his book Lying About Hitler (2001, p. 152) - but it is not Evans's own description. Evans is explicitly quoting the judgement of the Mayor of Dresden (in what was then the GDR) in 1962, Walter Weidauer, and he clearly warns the reader that"this was typical of the language the Communists used for people who proved a nuisance to them". That example on its own is a nice illustration of the difference between a scrupulous historian such as Evans and a man who, in the words of the Court judgement,"has for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence".
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