Should Respectable Historians Attend and Speak at Conferences Hosted by David Irving?





Mr. Kirstein is professor of history at St. Xavier University in Chicago. He is the author of "Academic Freedom and the New McCarthyism," Situation Analysis (Spring, 2004). Recently he was elected to the Illinois AAUP State Council and is secretary of his university's AAUP chapter.

Note from the Editor: This month, as he has for several years, David Irving sponsored a conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, known as"Real History, USA," which, according to the conference website, featured speakers, seminars, and the showing of some home movies of Hitler from Hermann Göring's private collection. Since Mr. Irving was branded a Holocaust denier by a British court he has become a pariah among historians. Usually, academics do not attend his conferences let alone speak at them.

When we heard that Peter Kirstein, a professor of history known for sending an email to an Air Force Academy cadet in protest of the impending Iraq war, had agreed to speak at the conference despite Mr. Irving's reputation, we asked him to tell our readers why. This is his response.

W. B. Yeats wrote The Second Coming in 1919:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
.

While this reflected a poet's disconsolate mood following the Great War, should the center hold if it confers a stifling conformity and excludes radical and visionary alternatives to the current order? Should only the "better" sorts engage avidly in societal matters and the "worst" remain inert to the world around them? "Passionate intensity" is a virtue that should traverse all social classes and especially mark the marginalized and exploited. In America, if one deviates too far from the confining ideology of the oxymoronic Vital Center—the title of an Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. paean to liberalism—one is vulnerable to significant public rebuke that moves beyond mere critique towards censorship and possibly career termination.

Recently I spoke at a conference hosted by the controversial British historian, David Irving, who has written several seminal works on World War II. These include Hitler’s War and The Destruction of Dresden (later revised under the title, Apocalypse 1945: The Destruction of Dresden). Sir John Keegan described Hitler’s War as one of the “half dozen most important books about” World War II, and Dresden represented a considerable historiographical triumph—despite the controversy over the numbers slaughtered by Anglo-American bombing of the undefended city—in which the revelation of civilian casualties suggested the allies were also guilty of murderous moral depravity as well. Indeed, Howard Zinn, who participated in aerial combat during World War II, recently described the immorality of strategic bombing in the Progressive (August 2004): “It was accompanied by too many atrocities on our side—too many bombings of civilian populations. There were too many betrayals of the principles for which the war was supposed to have been fought.” In Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich, Mr. Irving appropriately referred to these bombing raids as “aerial terrorism.” (502) Mr. Irving’s exploration of the targeting of German population centers was an exemplar of antiwar revisionism that suggested the allies committed war crimes including wanton destruction of cities and targeting noncombatant populations not justified by military necessity. Such insights pioneered subsequent assessments of strategic bombing such as W. G. Sebald's, On the Natural History of Destruction.

Mr. Irving’s Goebbels was withdrawn shortly before publication in April 1996 by St. Martin’s Press, and in the following month was removed as the selection of Doubleday’s History Book Club’s Book of the Month. The censorship of the work resulted primarily from stop-publication demands from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL). Abraham H. Foxman, ADL’s national director, charged in a March 22, 1996 letter to St. Martin’s that Mr. Irving was an “apologist” for Nazism, did not possess the requisite “academic credentials” to engage in historical analysis and, without citation, claimed his previous scholarship was “replete with errors, oversights, poor research and fantasy.” Mr. Foxman sardonically suggested that if St. Martin’s released Goebbels, the publisher should designate the biography as “fiction.” Even though the book had not been read by those seeking to prohibit others from exercising independent judgment, Deborah Lipstadt, Professor of Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University, believed an author’s reputation alone could warrant the suppression of his or her work. Professor Lipstadt, whom Mr. Irving would eventually sue unsuccessfully for libel—as well as her British publisher, Penguin Books, Ltd.—told the Washington Post (April 3, 1996), “Of course the reputation of the author counts. And no legitimate historian takes David Irving’s works seriously.”

According to Mr. Irving only six copies were in the United States and all were in the possession of St. Martin’s Press (e-mail to author, July 29, 2004). Hence an unexamined biography of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, a major historical figure of the twentieth century that contained the first utilization of Goebbels’s Moscow-archived diaries, was suppressed due to rage over the reputation of its author and not the content of the work. While the censoring of any book, even if content based, raises significant questions of free speech and the public’s legitimate access to information, banning the dissemination of a historical work, for reasons other than content, should prove troubling for historians as un-American and a threat to the enterprise of historical scholarship. Imagine if the next Howard Zinn book were not published due to influential-elite opposition that claimed his prior writings were seditious and a clear and present danger to the vital interests of the United States.

Mr. Irving, however, was not without defenders on the implications of censoring history. Christopher Hitchens in Vanity Fair (June 1996) charged that St. Martin’s “disgraced the business of publishing and degraded the practice of debate. David Irving is not just a Fascist historian. He is also a great historian of Fascism.” Raul Hilberg, who wrote The Destruction of the European Jews, told Mr. Hitchens: “I have quoted [Adolph] Eichmann references that come from a neo-Nazi publishing house. I am not for taboos and I am not for repression.” E. J. Hobsbawm was interviewed by D. D. Guttenplan, the author of The Holocaust on Trial: History, Justice and the David Irving Libel Case . The illustrious Marxist historian noted that “most historians” have political viewpoints, and that Mr. Irving’s politics are irrelevant since historians should be judged “whether they produce work based on evidence.” (New York Times, June 26, 1999) Indeed many who oppose censorship have explored vigorously this dimension in assessing Mr. Irving’s scholarship.

Another opponent of quashing Mr. Irving’s revisionist history of National Socialism is Gordon A. Craig , J. E. Wallace Sterling Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Stanford. In a dramatic book review of Goebbels in the New York Review of Books ( September 19, 1996) he wrote: “Silencing Mr. Irving would be a high price to pay for freedom from [his] annoyance...Mr. Irving, then, ha[s] an indispensable part in the historical enterprise and we dare not disregard [his] views.” Since the tumult over the publication of Goebbels, Mr. Irving has been largely confined to publishing his works, including Goebbels, under his own imprint, Focal Point Publications.

I accepted a speaking invitation from a historian who has been castigated as anti-Semitic—a charge that Mr. Irving has consistently denied—and denounced for a falsified revisionism of Nazi Germany and the destruction of European Jewry. My mission, since my egregious suspension on Veterans Day, November 11, 2002, for an act of conscience through a harshly worded antiwar e-mail, is to demand academic freedom for university historians and no censorship of any historian for antiwar or historiographical incorrectness

As an outspoken peace activist, pacifist and war resister, which were the underlying reasons for my suspension in the twelfth week of a semester, I commend Mr. Irving’s courageous and febrile opposition to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. I was not unmindful of this when I agreed to speak at his conference. If antiwar advocates can build coalitions across the ideological divide, then future degradations of the Palestinians, future Holocausts, future illegal walls of separation, future attacks on Jewish interests and future neoconservative crusades against nonthreatening Islamic nations may be averted. Of course, an acceptance of a speaking invitation does not connote uncritical acceptance of the host’s ethos. While disagreeing profoundly with Mr. Irving on the importance of racial diversity and the value of embracing ardently multiculturalism, I would neither stifle his speech nor banish his provocative and intrepid revisionism of World War II.

I believe historians should welcome the opportunity to address any audience that is willing to listen and respond to their ideas. I stand in solidarity with all historians and other academics who have suffered for their views due to an intolerance of unpopular or infuriating speech. Any McCarthyite suppression of historiography or radical antiwar speech—no matter how offensive to some—must be challenged and condemned as anti-intellectual and antithetical to the advancement of knowledge in an open society.

Without hectoring or condescending to an attentive and receptive audience of history buffs, I articulated my views on racism and war at Mr. Irving’s “Real History Conference.” In my remarks, “Historians v. American Militarism: Resisting Censorship,” I averred:

I denounce anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic bias. History flows with rivers of blood from ethnic and cultural intolerance. The genocide against indigenous peoples and the Trail of Tears, the mass killings of Armenians at the hands of the Turks during World War I, the war crimes of Nazi Germany, the atomic butchery of noncombatant Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Jim Crow-apartheid system that only ended with the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the evil and criminal Vietnam War—where debate should explore the ethics of serving in a dishonorable war and not the circumstances by which individuals are awarded medals for killing within it. The destruction of the “cockroach” Tutsis in Rwanda and the killings in Darfur are equally odious. All acts of genocide, discrimination and violence against individuals or groups that are predicated on racialism and ethnocentrism diminish us all, imperil the dream of peace and justice and hinder international reconciliation.

It is ironic that Mr. Irving, who is accused of uncritical adulation of National Socialism—a charge that is refuted by his writings—is a victim of group-identity protest that is quite nationalistic in its repression of historical revisionism. When those who claim appropriately a historical legacy of victimization and persecution attempt to delimit inquiry of the events that gave rise to such a tragic legacy, the threat to democracy in exercising a hegemonic control over the past is more damaging than the pain and fear that revisionist history may inflict upon an aggrieved group.

Revisionism is the sine qua non of historical analysis. The ideological right, including President George W. Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, has used the term in a dismissive political manner to undermine and excoriate antiwar criticism of Mr. Bush’s decision to wage war against Iraq. James McPherson, when president of the American Historical Association, responded: “[t]here is no single, eternal, and immutable 'truth' about past events and their meaning. The unending quest of historians for understanding the past—that is, 'revisionism'—is what makes history vital and meaningful.”

While Professor McPherson condemned 1970s Holocaust-denial history—which some (Hitchens, Roni Stauber) differentiate from Holocaust-revisionist history—as “misrepresenting the past for nefarious ends,” the general thrust of his article was to champion revisionism and insulate it from politicization and intimidation.

Nation-states denying entry to controversial, independent-thinking scholars is increasingly common. The United States has fallen prey to such retrogressive actions as the revocation of a visa for the renowned University of Notre Dame visiting Islamic scholar, Tariq Ramadan. The politics of historical revisionism in the case of David Irving has similar baleful consequences for the unrestricted dissemination of nonconformist ideas. Mr. Irving is banned from Germany, Australia, Canada, Italy and New Zealand due to criticism of his scholarship and public utterances concerning World War II. The New Zealand decision, while literally applying its immigration law barring the entry of persons previously deported from third countries, has generated a nationwide debate whether Mr. Irving should be prohibited from lecturing on the historiography of World War II before the National Press Club. David Zwartz, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council and honorary Israeli consul in New Zealand, has led the campaign for exclusion. He described Mr. Irving as an “organism—even a two-legged one—that attacks our people.” (New Zealand Herald, July 26, 2004) Mr. Zwartz also claimed that denying entry to Mr. Irving had nothing to do “with suppressing his ideas” because his oeuvre is “available to anyone who wishes to access them.” (e-mail to author, August 3, 2004) The New Zealand Herald courageously demurred and editorialized in favor of freedom for historians. ( July 22, 2004)

Mr. Irving's lot is that of all historians—to constantly re-appraise the events of the past. No event should be out of bounds. If, as in this case, the conclusions are palpably wrong, that is no reason for preventing their presentation—and their challenging by more profound scholarship. The only counter to flawed views is informed debate. Opinions that during this process are shown to be devoid of worth, wisdom or accuracy will quickly be discarded.

If one becomes a public figure due to widespread opposition to one’s speech—whether written or verbal—there are two choices: Fight or flight. If one determines upon reflection to maintain one’s commitment to principled beliefs, then one must avoid flight. Indeed if faced with an ideologically inspired auto-da-fé that threatens one’s occupation and livelihood, bending to the forces of conformity with their armamentarium of suspensions, reprimands, press releases, censorship and aroused public indignation, merely encourages additional coercion. One of the ironies in confronting the consensus orthodoxy of the Vital Center is when the offending rhetoric transmogrifies into protective armor and bestows a fierce commitment to stay the course and resist the firestorm. There emerges a heightened sense of self-worth and renewed dedication to one’s basic values. Recantation is not an option. Surrendering one’s ethics and core beliefs is not an option. Evolving and articulating different viewpoints are possible, and perhaps laudable, but not while under assault by Inquisitions in modern dress that substitute the Internet or economic intimidation for stake burnings.

Father Arthur Terminiello had a reputation for racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Communist epithets. The Birmingham, Alabama priest, who ministered to tenant farmers in Alabama and Florida, was known as the Father Coughlin of the South. Father Terminiello was arrested in Chicago in 1946 for haranguing against a threatening and disorderly mob that sought to disrupt his speech before Gerald L. K. Smith’s Christian Veterans of America. His detention granted his protagonists a Heckler’s veto, whereby a speaker is silenced merely due to protest against the event. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court reversed an Illinois judge’s jury instructions that Chicago’s breach of the peace ordinance proscribed any utterance that “stirs the public to anger, invites dispute, brings about a condition of unrest, or creates a disturbance. ” Justice William O. Douglas, writing for the majority in Terminiello v. City of Chicago, 337 U.S. 1 (1949), affirmed free speech is essential for a free people:

Free speech…may indeed best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger…That is why freedom of speech though not absolute…is nevertheless protected against censorship and punishment…For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas by...dominant political or community groups. [Emphasis added.]

Hopefully Justice Douglas’s stirring reaffirmation of the importance of free speech for a democratic society will dissuade those who wish to abridge it and embolden those who wish to exercise it.



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Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


If the lie (e.g. no attempted genocide of Jews and others in World War II) includes a claim that there is a cover-up and suppression of it, then it gains credibility if every person whose opinions remotely approach it is unfairly and prejudicially silenced. A David Irving who is willing to play by the rules (i.e. not the current edition) ought to be allowed on campuses. Not to be feted, but to be debated and calmly refuted. With the facts. The Holocaust really did happen, but if the industry that trivializes it (some one more knowledge than me can cite the scholarly works about that industry, but it can no more be legitimately denied that the holocaust itself) is not giving a true picture in every particular, and unclear areas remain. To pretend otherwise fuels the deniers.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Omit the "if" before "the industry that trivializes it" on the 4th line of my prior post.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Hitler wrote up his case in Mein Kampf in the 1920s.
The financial background to the Nazi rise to power also has a long history of being analyzed, going back at least to Keynes in 1919.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I do not presume to speak for Mr. Kirstein, and am not sure what a "confrence" is, but I do have experience with conferences. At conference, participants not only confer, they also present, question, hypothesis, challenge, and discuss. More often than on HNN, for example, people at conferences sometimes even change their minds about issues.

It is a myth to suppose that the Nazis did not attempt to systematically exterminate Jews, Gypsies, gays, etc. and succeed in millions of cases.

It is also foolish to pretend that there are not important questions to consider regarding how that extermination was carried out. Understanding how the gas chambers worked, how many bodies could be cremated per day, and so forth, are details that can help us understand those horrors and how to prevent their reoccurrence. It is also legitimate to ask why there is a whole "industry" devoted to popularizing and sensationalizing the Holocaust without trying to really understand it.

If anyone expressing skepticism about, for example, whether the oft-repeated figure of six million deaths might be too high, is, for another example, immediately banned from college campuses, the myth of the Holocaust deniers is thereby strengthened, not exposed.

There are standards of ethical and professional behaviour which should be upheld, and it is incumbent upon certified violators thereof, such as David Irving, to show convincingly that they are prepared to do so. Absent such preparedness, I see no good reason to attend conferences organized by him. But that does not mean that any talk, conference, panel, or book devoted to some "revisionist" view of the Holocaust must automatically be categorized with believing in an extraterrestrial Elvis Presley, a flat earth, or wanting to cry fire in a crowded theatre.

Cat Stevens, or whatever his name is now, should not be barred from entry to any country because of his religious faith. Historians should not be barred from conferences because of history books they have written.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Re: "hostages"

As Dr. Strangelove told the Russian minister: "What is the point of a doomsday bomb if you keep it a secret ?"

The question of original "intention" in the Holocaust has been much discussed. The contrary "functionalist" view, that the Nazis were mainly opportunists is more credible, overall. If millions of Jews had somehow managed to escape from Poland to Sweden in 1941, it is doubtful whether Hitler would have called off his assaults on Leningrad and Moscow in order to pursue them northwards instead.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


After fifty or sixty pieces of demagogic baloney from the likes of Daniel Pipes and Judith Klinghoffer, is HNN going to "balance the books" by featuring David Irving ? This would not constitute progress, folks.

It was wrong that Irving's book was suppressed. That, however, does not justify his malicious public comments thereafter or his attempts to legally intimidate his critics. Irving was justly rebuked in front of a London Court and the world a few years ago. Apparently he still shows no sign of the slightest remorse.

Of course, Professor Kirstein has a right to speak at any conference he wants to. Cozying up to a convicted hate-mongerer is not, however, the most convincing way to advance academic freedom or world peace.

Irving's early works are accepted as genuine pieces of scholarship. When he is ready to write his written public apology for his more recent unprofessional behavior, which HNN will perhaps feature with a big banner, then we can all read it. Until then let him wallow with the neo-Nazis alone.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


Among the reasons David Irving should not be censored is that such squelching inhibits the exposure of his errors and misconduct to the light of reason. It is important, however, to avoid wholesale condemnation where it is unwarranted.

Here is what a respected British author, John Keegan, said a few years ago, before Irving's latest activities:

"The most valuable of books in this category [biographies re World War II], however is one that has been called 'the autobiography Hitler did not write - David Irving's "Hitler's War [1977]'. Irving is a controversial figure...who currently champions extreme right-wing politics in Europe. Nevertheless, he is a historian of formidable powers, having worked in all the major German archives, discovered many important deposits of papers himself, and interviewed many of the survivors or their families and intimates...No historian of the Second World War can afford to ignore Irving..."

( from "The battle for History" (1995), pp. 50-51 )

One can be an accomplished historian and yet be a disagreeable person with very disturbing and dangerous ideas. It is important to distinguish between the two, and not allow either (a) competent and useful historical research to excuse professional misconduct or (b) public misdeeds of authors to be cause for a blanket rejection of all scholarly findings from such authors.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/26/2007

Sounds like Elvis has a McCarthyism problem as well as B.E.S. (Bad Expletive Syndrome):=). You liberals seem to have a blind spot about free speech when it concerns the holocaust or Palestine. I recently appeared on Iran T.V.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14etO3RmxZI
I believe in open dialogue between all peoples whether they are neo-fascists, extreme zionists or adversaries of the hyperpower. That is part of the pacifist witness to which I pledge continued devotion and dedication.


David A. Gerber - 8/8/2007

Does Peter Kirstein really consider a man as unscrupulous, by every testimony of many thoughtful people at his trial in the United Kingdom, as David Irving to be a real scholar in the ethical traditions of our discipline? If so, Kierstein is even more lost than I have believed him to be in the years I have been watching the progress of his feeble efforts to stake a claim for himself as a public intellectual. I said I would not myself move to censor Irving, though I will make no judgment about what Austrians should do in such matters, given their history. But I'll be damned if I participate in helping to make Irving a martyr, and give him respect that he cannot rightly claim as an historian or, for that matter, a human being. I'll


Peter N. Kirstein - 7/13/2007

I don't pretend to "lecture others on their moral obligations" and the purpose of the article was to resist efforts to define for me the morality of addressing certain groups.

You do not know "the true nature of David Irving's character" and you should keep your biases to yourself. I wonder if YOUR moral character would affirm Mr Irving's incarceration for thirteen months in Vienna for a decade's old statement about Oswiecim. When historians are imprisoned for their views, I will rally in whatever way I can to protect their rights of free speech and open inquiry.


David A. Gerber - 1/5/2007

I have just read for the first time Peter Kirstein's 2004 posting on David Irving. It is a sad example of why the academic Left has fallen on such hard times, and why its views are incomprehensible to ordinary people, who could never accept its leadership on any significant moral question. It relativizes a vast territory of diverse historical phenomena and skates over the differences between them. It refuses to come to terms with the the true nature of David Irving's character and the unscrupulous behavior that has characterized his career. It is, to that extent, useless in helping us to sort out what out responsibilities are. I, too, do not believe that Irving should be censored, though I suspend my own beliefs on the issue when it comes to judging what Germany, Austria, France, and other countries with histories of direct collaboration in the crimes of the Nazi regime should do. But I take my own position simply because censorship seems a bad precedent. Meanwhile, David Irving is a most highly unreliable ally for anyone who wants to lecture others on their moral obligations. And so is Kirstein.


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Mr Williams--

Actually your "assumption," like a good deal of what you've written here, is not just an unwarranted inference from anything I've said but a ludicrous inversion of what I did say.

I think it's pretty plain what I was saying from the words I actually used: that Galileo's persecution was not a genuine expression of logic, or of Aristotelian logic, or of Aristotle, and that a person who equates "logic" with the ravings of Galileo's persecutors has neither a grasp of Aristotle nor of the rudiments of logic nor of the concept of "textual evidence" (nor of any other kind of evidence). But what else should I have expected from a 'scholar' so averse to the mere mention of my infernally narrow-minded discipline?

Ms. Salzman is right, however. The more you write (regardless of subject), the more you reveal about yourself, your cause, and your methods. Carry on, Mr. Williams: You're doing just fine. Alas, I won't be reading any more of the rubbish you write here. But don't let my absence deter you from writing it.


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Thanks, but I had already read it before I wrote what I wrote. Your comparison of Salzman to Goebbels doesn't really change much, and neither does anything else you said there.


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Regarding Mr Williams' reference to the Socratic dialogues: very few of the Platonic (Socratic) dialogues take place in court rooms. The most famous example of one that does is Socrates' "Apology." In that dialogue, Socrates "takes the stand," and conducts a Socratic dialogue with his accusers. He ends up being condemned to death and executed. If there is one lesson that the Platonic/Socratic dialogues teach us, it is that a court of law is not the appropriate place to conduct a "Socratic dialogue."

The fact that Ms. Lipstadt didn't take the stand tells us absolutely nothing about the merits or demerits of her position. The real question is why she was forced to appear in court in the first place--a question that so far has gone unanswered in this discussion despite repeated attempts to pose it. The irony is that a discussion board is a closer approximation of a Socratic dialogue than the proceedings of a courtroom. The failure to address Ms Salzman's outstanding questions about the justifiability of David Irving's lawsuits is a much more obvious and egregious violation of Socratic norms than is Professor Lipstadt's failure to testify at trial that should never have taken place at all.


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Mr. Williams--

Since the Galileo issue is admittedly a tangent here (your tangent, actually), let me simply leave you with the "empirical datum" that Aristotle's Organon and "the Holy Scripture" are in fact two different texts saying remarkably different things, so that a condemnation based on one is not necessarily (or at all) a condemnation based on the other. What is yet more remarkable is that if you read the "original textual evidence" in Greek, you immediately confirm the preceding nearly self-evident thought. I invite you to do so. But in fairness to Ms. Salzman, you should probably get to her questions first.

To Ms. Salzman I can only say: I marvel at your stamina. You're arguing with a guy who insists on bringing up Socratic dialogues, but evidently hasn't read the most famous one, and insists on bringing up Galileo, but can't distinguish the New Testament from the Posterior Analytics. Having publicly made an ass of himself on both issues, he then turns around and manages to accuse a guy who teaches ancient Greek philosophy for a living...of not being acquainted with primary textual evidence.

Question: With a track record like this, what are the chances Mr. Williams will be able to distinguish lie from truth in the question you've asked? Slim, I think.

To get back to the original question: "Should respectable historians attend and speak at conferences hosted by David Irving?" I'd say, "sure"--so long as they don't mind the fact that the audience will consist of people like Mr. Williams.


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Mr Williams--

You really are a master of changing the subject.

I made a point about the Socratic dialogues. The sum total of your response to that? Nil.

I then made the point that Lipstadt's not testifying at trial by itself tells us nothing about the merits or demerits of her view. Having assiduously avoid the subject I actually raised, you then rush off to discuss at great length a subject I hadn't raised. But the fact remains: the original claim I made has so far gone unacknowledged, unaddressed, and undiscussed. It remains a fact that Lipstadt's not testifying is not a reflection on her case. Whatever else you want to say about her case, if you don't accept that fact, you are flouting reality.

I never said that logic by itself was sufficient to decide an issue like this. That is your (blatantly illogical and desperately unwarranted) interpolation. What I merely said was that a bit of logic can tell a person when a topic has been addressed and when it has not, and despite the colossal multiplication of verbiage in which you've indulged here, you have systematically evaded almost every substantive question Ms Salzman has posed. I think my discipline is robust enough to facilitate my seeing that. In fact, I don't think one needs to belong to any particular discipline to see a fact that obvious.

Incidentally, while you are out doing your extensive and non-lazy researches, you may want to go back and review the subject of Galileo's astronomical dispute with the Church, which you butcher as thoroughly as you butchered the "Socratic dialogue" issue. The actual question in that dispute had absolutely nothing to do with medieval priests' overreliance on logic.

On the general relationship between Galilean science and Aristotelian logic, start with James G. Lennox, 'Aristotle, Galileo and the Mixed Sciences' in Reinterpreting Galileo, ed. William Wallace, Washington D.C. , 1985, pp. 29-51. But being the incredibly productive guy you claim to be, why not just read the whole book? It might teach you something about Galileo, and as a byproduct, something about logic and its relation to reality.


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

I am not a specialist on this subject (or even a historian), but I've taught logic long enough to want to commend Ms. Salzman's persistence in pressing her point in the face of what seems willful evasion. She is absolutely right that none of her interlocutors has addressed even a fraction of the issues she's raised, and also right to think that the issues she's raised are the ones that need to be addressed. Change the subject as many times as you like, but that fact won't go away.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/12/2005

Censoring speech that is unpopular must be condemned and those who wish to engage in it revealed for what they are.
Intolerant persons who must and shall be resisted.


Sara D. Salzman - 11/1/2004

So basically, you're a Holocaust Denier AND anti-Israel. Got it.

Sara


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/28/2004

Last night October 27, I was on a panel concerning the efficacy of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. In front of a SRO audience, the atmosphere was electric and quite impassioned. The panelists presented opening remarks and here is an excerpt of my address."

In David Irving’s, The Destruction of Convoy PQ 17, he refers to World War II dead sailors as “persons with character, with families and with private hopes and ambitions. But they were people whose passing…would leave problems and sorrow for someone, somewhere.” Like Lila Lipscomb, whose marine son Michael Pedersen, was killed in Karbala: one of the 1,110 KIA in this proxy war for Israel and neoconservative visions of empire.

President Bush and Senator Kerry need not answer to Mr Moore for their support of this criminal war but I hope they have an answer to Lila Lipscomb. They don’t but Ralph Nader does. End the war, withdraw the troops over a six month period and behave as a moral global power not as the principal threat to international peace and security. In a letter in the New York Times last May, I referred to American “acts of criminality in war.” I am glad this film, however Machiavellian, describes them in Iraq.


Sara D. Salzman - 10/10/2004

Prof. Kirstein said:

"We must not allow that type of persecution to ever happen again to a historian."

And that's the crux of the issue. david Irving is NOT a historian. He is a liar, and a ficionalizer of history. NO matter how many books he writes, no matter how many of his books Mr. Kirstein reads, does not change the simple fact that David Irving is NOT a historian.is work has never been peer-reviewed, and the one historian who DID review it found that Irving DELIBERATELY mistranslates and twists facts to fit his own pro-Hitler agenda. Therefore, the "facts" that Mr. Kirstein says he has learned from Irving are absolutely suspect. And throughout this entire series of threads, Mr. Kirstein has refused to address this simple fact.


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/10/2004

I appreciate your statement and balanced criticism. However, I do not "relish controversy" but have learned to handle it and to grow from it. No one dreamed that my antiwar email on October 31, 2002 would become a national event; I certainly was not looking for controversy. Yet I have to the dismay of my critics been given a voice and a platform rarely afforded a little known historian at a small midwestern university.

One final thought, and I think I will leave this thread for other pressing pursuits. I keep thinking and focusing on the censorship of Goebbels. That to me was a defining event on my journey into writing this article. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that what I have written is just and reflective of a high-standard of professional ethics. We must not allow that type of persecution to ever happen again to a historian.

Those who censored that work have indeed deserved what little criticism I can bring to public fora.


Charles Christopher Tucker - 10/9/2004

You wrote: "I have always felt that the capital H was a way to actually diminish the killings of Roma, gays, political prisoners, mentally challenged and those whom you mentioned etc." You keep admonishing me to read David Irving. I would have you visit a museum. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Or even just visit their web site at http://www.ushmm.org/. In particular visit http://www1.ushmm.org/wlc/en/index.php?lang=en&;ModuleId=10005143. Does this make it sound like the people who set up this museum thought that capital H was reserved for only the Jewish victims?

Yes, 27 million Russians died as a result of Stalin's policies. Stipulated. I don't side with Stalin apologists any more than I side with Hitler apologists. Both are equal monsters in my eyes. Strangely enough I don't see Stalin-loving movements attacking cemeteries to deface the grave markers. I have yet to hear of any neo-Stalinists in the United States painting a red star or any other symbol on Russian Orthodox churches, but I have seen where the neo-Nazis have painted swastikas on synagogues right in my home town.

I do take issue with trying to blur the line by bringing civillian casualties of war. While I agree there is no such thing as an appropriate war there is a major difference between civillians killed by an act of an enemy nation and those killed by the acts of the government in authority over them. The bombs that fell on Dresden didn't decide to kill only some and not the rest. The bombs weren't systematic and deliberate attempts to wipe out a specific people. David Irving has been found to inflate the death toll of the Dresden firebombings to help offset the scope of the systematic murder known as the Holocaust.

You still haven't answered the peer review question in your rush to praise David Irving. Your own papers are submitted to this standard, are they not? Doesn't the input of your peers both keep you honest and help point out errors you may have made by not knowing of every source?

In you I see someone who was much abused by a culture for speaking your mind. I see someone who felt brought down, put down, cut down and beat up by a media culture that was totally locked into supporting the injust, illegal, and unConstitutional Iraq war.

I opposed this war, too, but I'm a nobody. Writing my Congressmen and speaking out to anyone who would listen is all I could do. I didn't get picked on by the media bullies who jumped on you with both feet.

In you I see someone who felt a hand reach out to him when he was down. Sadly, this was the hand of David Irving. You view him as a savior in your blackest hour. I have been trying, since I first posted, to show you that you have put your trust in a lying, cheating, bullying man with an agenda you really don't want to be a part of.

I hope that you will learn the truth of my words in a way that doesn't hurt as much as your earlier fall from grace.


Mickey Gunter - 10/9/2004

I thought the article was sound on principle. I thought the writer was daring as usual but quite balanced. I do think Irving has suffered enormous credibility issues due to the Lipstadt trial ruling and yet her refusing to take the stand was either due to arrogance, a fear of direct examination by Irving or simply legal advice.

Kirstein should be praised for resurfacing Goebbels issue of some ten years ago. Good! Kirstein is justifiably criticized for glossing over Justice Gray's verdict.

On balance, article served the public interest in raising important issues of speech and censorship. While we know Kirstein tends to relish controversy for the sake of controversy, it is hard to dismiss this article out of hand.


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/9/2004

Twelve million is wrong. Not even close. No one has claimed that in addition to the 5.1 million Jews, 7 million died from other groups in the camps. Your point is most telling however in that the holocaust--targeted killing by Germans--was not restricted to a particular ethnic group. I have always felt that the capital H was a way to actually diminish the killings of Roma, gays, political prisoners, mentally challenged and those whom you mentioned etc.

Also the preoccupation with the holocaust, can in some minds, diminish other holocausts in the same war. The 27 million Russians killed; the indiscriminate use of nuclear weapons and phosphorous and other kinds of WMD against the Japanese. If we begin to segregate from the same war, those killed "legitimately" and those killed "illegitimately," we run the risk of accepting war as appropriate. It is not.

I do believe David Irving is a major historian. I think his works cited in my article are major revisionist innovations in our understanding of the war. Nothing can shake me from this assessment. I also believe he lacks many qualities that suggest an insensitivity to diversity and racial acceptance. As several of the posts in this thread brilliantly indicated, if we silence a historian entirely, we run the risk of benefiting from the accurate and significant history that is written.

I know of no historian who would accept the judgment of a jurist in another country as the final word on the quality of a historian. I am simply advocating that books not be censored, that historians be allowed to travel and speak their views, that the place for historians to rise and fall is in the evidence and the free examination of their works.

Having read ten of his books, I have learned an enormous amount of history. Yes parts may be in error, maybe he did slant some the evidence, yet I believe his basic historiography is accurate, useful and contributes to important debates about the war. Certainly I cited "reputable" historians and other savants in my article who think so.

Finally, I think it is telling that my article generated, as I knew it would, so much controversy. I knew it would because padlocking history may be comforting for some but very damaging to others. If we silence holocaust revisionissts, what is next, Cold War revisionists, subaltern revisionists, slavery revisionists, Vietnam revisionists. That is a slippery slope that I will, as long as there is an audience for my work, take on bigtime.


Charles Christopher Tucker - 10/9/2004

I wasn't using the six million figure. It is only half the story.

The figure I want remembered is the 12 million, which includeds the Roma, the homosexuals, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and many other groups also targeted. It includes the thousands of German people murdered for the 'crime' of being judged mentally defective.

It is strange to me that those ensnared in Holocaust denial only want to focus on the largest single group targeted by the Nazis for liquidation. They want to drive down that number, but they completely forget that it was only half the story.

Yes, I use the capital letter when I reference the Holocaust. I also use capital letters to refer to the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, and World War II. There were other civil wars in history, but the U.S. Civil War was a unique experience to the people of the United States. There were other revolutions, but to the people of the the United States theirs was a unique experience in their history. These capitals denote a specfic event in history.

Other events from within these events wear capitals when printed on paper or screen. The Battle of Britain. The Blitz. VE Day. D-Day.

Why is it important to you, as a historian, to remove the capitals from the event called the Holocaust? Was it your habit before coming under the influence of David Irving to de-capitalize that word?

Stripping the capitalization from this specific event when other events that occured during the same time period keep theirs is a distinct attempt to belittle an event, making it less important history.

If you strip the capitalization from the Holocaust are you not, then, seeking to bury the significance of the event? Is the murder of 12 million people of less historical significance than Custer's Last Stand?


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/8/2004

By "They also recognized" I referred to the Air Force Academy that apologised to me as well.


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/8/2004

The part about burying history and using hate speech of calling people deniers and fascists. Your intemperate speech. The issue of numbers is open to debate and dispute but I was not referring to that specific issue. Oh yes, that is part of the padlock of history. The sacred six million figure. Raul Hilberg says 5.1 million Jews perished in Europe. Mr Irving says huge numbers were killed in the East by killing death squads although I don't know what his total is for the period.

Again read a book: Norman Finklestein, The Holocaust Industry. He also goes into the sacredness of the capital "H" in holocaust as if this is a religion and not a dispassionate analysis of a sordid event in our past. His parents were holocaust survivors so you might have to challenge him on the facts and not through labels.


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/8/2004

Dear Sir,

The e-mail was antiwar. The pressure on the administration to suspend or fire me emanated from persons who deeply resented my ideological position on war and peace.

One level is the right to criticise and condemn speech. That is what America stands for.

The other level is punishing and silencing unpopular speech. That is not what some construe America as standing for.

Both the SXU AAUP chapter, its faculty union and national organizations such as Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the National Association of Scholars either condemned my suspension or raised grave questions about the procedures used.

This was a national story not due to the style of writing but due to its content. Most of the pressure to sanction me came from those who claimed I should not be allowed to teach due to alleged bias. Veterans groups, the right wing press, and conservative organisations led the national campaign to banish me. Much of the mantra were
egregious claims, done outside the purview of peer review, that my teaching was infected with bias--revisionist history--and that my students needed protection. No, my students, who bitterly complained when I was suspended, needed protection in having a professor finish a semester, give and evaluate their exams and not have the disruption of new teachers appear with 10 classes left.

I think if you would read the article linked to my suspension and cited in the editor's biography of me, you will indeed see that there is a disturbing trend of persons with my views sanctioned for trivial reasons. I acknowledged early on, I used intemperate language on portions of the email that personalised the discourse. They also recognized my private email never should have been distributed worldwide. On November 4, I was told by the president--now gone--that the case was closed, my apology to the cadet was accepted, and it was time to move on. Seven days later I am suspended.

I have lectured and written nationally on this and I assure you I will continue to do so as long as there is interest in this episode.

Peter N. Kirstein


Charles Christopher Tucker - 10/8/2004

And just what exaggeration did I use?

The millions dead in the Holocaust? Are you now calling the deaths of millions an exaggeration?


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/7/2004

Nice try but no cigar pal. You can use that deny hate speech on someone else, not on me. Sorry you don't own history and your exaggeration is proof of your incapcity to exercise mature judgment.

Try to read a book once in awhile; maybe sir one or two written by Irving. You can handle it.

Done.


Charles Christopher Tucker - 10/6/2004

Yes, I'm sure many of the other presenters were very down to earth. The earth they want to bury the real history of the Holocaust in. The earth coated with the ashes from the crematoria and open pits of Auschwitz. The earth they want to goose-step over, if they can just get the facts of history out of the way and restore credibility to hate and fascism.

While you are busy standing up for David Irving as the victim of oppression, though, what are you doing to the millions dead from the Holocaust he denies?


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/6/2004

Yes one of the speakers claimed the moon landings were staged. You know life is very serious and complicated and I thought it was fun to hear such a presentation. It did not bother me and I considered it relaxing and entertaining. Yet as Marine Stoneburner noted above, many of the speakers were more "down to earth."

Good pun, Peter.


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/6/2004

It was not my title. I lobbied against it and suggested several alternatives. I wanted the title to focus on censorship and the oppression of revisionist historians on the right, and not whether a "respectable" historian, who served honorably in the US military, can attend a conference.

Yet I praise HNN for encourging me to write the article and their fortitude in publishing an article that some editors would be pusillanimous to present to their readers. HNN has, since my suspension, been very supportive in allowing me to present viewpoints not necessarily embraced by the majority.

This was my 3rd article for HNN and the one I did shortly after my suspension prevented a blacklist of my work and gave me new opportunities to write and articulate view.

Peter N. Kirstein


Charles Christopher Tucker - 10/6/2004

I've said before, if your goal was to write a "Why Should Peter Kirstein Attend and Speak at Conferences Hosted by David Irving" you wrote the right article, though I've labored to show you the error in your ways. You've repeatedly avoided answering the questions I, and others, bring up. I suspect that the answers wouldn't lead you down the sorry path you are treading.

But you entitled this article "Should Respectable Historians...". You've presented nothing that would lead a respectable historian to conclude that he or she should join you on this path. You may have meant it as referring to yourself, however when you stray down the path walked by the National Alliance and people who deny that anyone has walked on the moon you remove yourself from what would be considered respectable.


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/5/2004

Mr Pecheske,

I wonder if you would be critical of my accepting an invitation to speak before the Ku Klux Klan. Would you be critical of an individual who spoke before a group that you disapproved of or would you be more interested in the remarks that were given.

Let's say my topic before the Klan was:
"From Montgomery to Selma: Heroes on the March."

Would you consider it inappropriate for me to give a talk supporting the struggle against American racism and apartheid?

I will tell you this. If invited, I would accept and give that talk above. I would insist upon a live internet feed that would be uncensored and on Quicktime. I would donate my speaking fee to the United Negro College Fund and Operation Push here in Chicago if they would accept it.
I would also place the text of my remarks on my website.

I'll let you know if I get an invite.

Peter N. Kirstein


steve pecheske - 10/5/2004

Not to mention 15 minutes of fame.


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/5/2004

Sorry, I don't bite the apple of McCarthyism. If you read my article, you saw I drew careful distinctions between my host and myself. I also know that I am right and honourable to defend a historian whose book was censored by those who had not even read it. As an academician, I am bound to defend our nation from book burners, censors and those who wish to place a padlock on history.

I have experienced repression for my views and while I am identified as a person of the left, I will support those on the right to be heard. I have also triggered a reassessment of Mr Irving's work as exemplified by many of the postings on this thread. If I even partially successful in reducing taboos, then my decision to accept the invitation to write this article, which I was most hestitant to do initially, would have been worthwhile.

We do not agree on the propriety of my attending the historian's conference and I accept that.


Charles Christopher Tucker - 10/4/2004

Source URL: http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/media/story.jsp?story=568615

"Andrew Neil, 55, has been editor-in-chief since 1996, and publisher since 1999, of the Barclay brothers' Press Holdings, owner of The Business, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News. He has presented The Daily Politics on BBC2 and This Week on BBC1 since January 2003. Educated at Paisley Grammar School, he graduated from the University of Glasgow with a Masters degree in politics and economics."

...

(Andrew Neil responds to the question about his career achievements.)
"And your most embarrassing?

Using neo-fascist historian David Irving to translate the Goebbels' Diaries for The Sunday Times. Irving did an honest enough job. But using him sullied the whole project - proving the old adage that, when you lie down with dogs, you get fleas."

And that, Professor Kirstein, is what you lie down with when you agree to appear at conferences with David Irving. You don't have to take my word for it. You have the word of a man who had a much lighter brush with Mr. Irving than you, and his regret of it.


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/4/2004

Hey, I got an article out of it!


Don Williams - 10/3/2004

HNN will be taking this article off their front page in a day or so, but people can still access it by going into the upper left corner of HNN's main page and clicking on "Historians/History". The Bellesiles discussion, for example, continued for almost a year after his resignation from Emory.

For my own reasons, I am looking further into the Irving-Lipstadt affair. I see no reason to spend time posting information if no one is reading this page however -- especially if no one is providing information back to me in return.

So I ask that if anyone is interested in discussing this matter further, that they post a msg re that interest. If only one or two people are still around, then it's probably not worth pursuing further on this thread.


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/3/2004

Hello Mr Stoneburner,

I attended your talk and thought your debunking of Kennedy assassination myths was quite apropos. I respect your service as a Marine corporal and I hope you did not injure or hurt another human. I also hope you were not injured as well in any battle or war. You seemed fit and healthy so I feel that can be ruled out. Or hopefully so.

I did not know Mr Irving was going to sponsor another conference in 2006. If I am reinvited, I will certainly accept. I believe the primary emphasis should be placed on what one says and not necessarily who they say it to. Also, I define for myself what is appropriate and inappropriate. I simply ignore public dictates of ought and must; in fact, I defy it.

Peter N. Kirstein


Peter N. Kirstein - 10/2/2004

Hello Mr Stoneburner,

I attended your talk and thought your debunking of Kennedy assassination myths was quite apropos. I respect your service as a Marine corporal and I hope you did not injure or hurt another human. I also hope you were not injured as well in any battle or war. You seemed fit and healthy so I feel that can be ruled out. Or hopefully so.

I did not know Mr Irving was going to sponsor another conference in 2006. If I am reinvited, I will certainly accept. I believe the primary emphasis should be placed on what one says and not necessarily who they say it to. Also, I define for myself what is appropriate and inappropriate. I simply ignore public dictates of ought and must; in fact, I defy it.

Peter N. Kirstein


steve pecheske - 10/2/2004

Ms. Salzman, I'm sure that, although David Irving has decided to shut down his annual Cincinnati charade, Mr. Kirstein will find other opportunities to damage what little of his reputation remains.


steve pecheske - 10/2/2004

Mr. Williams:
Your sense of humor is exceeded only by your knowledge of David Irving. You people always expose your true selves, sooner or later. In your case, it
didn't take very long.


Don Williams - 10/1/2004


1) Aristotle was wrong about physics in 330 BC, in 1633 AD and he's still wrong today: see
http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/history/aristotle_dynamics.html
He did have some interesting ideas on political philosophy, however.

2) The church did not warp the logic of Aristotelian philosophers -- to the contrary,the theology of the medieval church was warped by Aristotelians. Starting with St Thomas Aquinas as I recall: see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aquinas/

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that:
"In the twelfth century the Arabian tradition and the Byzantine tradition [of Aristotle] met in Paris, the metaphysical, physical, and ethical works of Aristotle were translated partly from the Arabian and partly from the Greek text, and, after a brief period of suspicion and hesitancy on the part of the Church, Aristotle's philosophy was adopted as the basis of a rational exposition of Christian dogma." See http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01713a.htm

The Greeks themselves smirked at the ignorant naivete of the western barbarians and stayed in the Greek Orthodox Church. From the time of Socrates, Greeks have laughed at the idea of taking their philosophers seriously. See,e.g., the play "Clouds" by
Aristophanes.


Tom Stoneburner - 10/1/2004

Miss Salzman,

*Let's get back to Irving's "Real History" conference. Have you any idea what kinds of speakers Irving attracts? Have you any idea what kinds of "real" history is discussed there?*

I was a featured speaker at Mr Irving's Real History Conference this year. I am a former Marine Corporal. Two of the subjects I covered were the 1993 assault on the Branch Davidians and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Both were horrible events.

I was privileged to have lunch and share a bus seat with Mr. Irving over the Real History weekend. I have no problem calling him a good man. He is a fantastic speaker. His speech on Dresden was easily the best of the conference.

The next conference is scheduled for 2006. I will pay for your admission if you wish to attend.

Take care,

Tom Stoneburner


Don Williams - 10/1/2004

I'm sure these nice guys would be happy to advise you:
http://www.jpfo.org/ Heh heh

Thanks for your offer. I'll email you in a few days after I have finished studying some material I have and have become more knowledgable.





Sara D. Salzman - 10/1/2004

And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, will be my last comment.

Fascinating that my post (#43245) and Mr. Kirstein's follow-up screed (but NOT my rebuttal, of course), have appeared on David Irving's web site, along with my email address, a photograph of me, and the headline "Outraged Denver Jewess Sara Salzman takes another fat swipe at Mr Irving on History News Network and misses."
http://www.fpp.co.uk/online/04/09/Salzman_fatangel.html

Irving, of course, threatens to sue ME if I repeat my statements in the UK. So much for the Traditional Enemies of Free Speech, so much for David Irving, and so much for Mr. Kirstein.

The only reason these posts were placed on Irving's site was in an attempt to intimidate me. Irving is obviously terrified of me, since he claims to have seen me attend one of his events (while I was at home with my family). By putting up a photo AND e-mail address, he is encouraging his followers to email me and harrass me. He has done it before.

It is despicable, as are those who associate themselves with him. I hope Mr. Kirstein is quite proud of himself.

Sara Salzman

PS Mr. Williams, my offer still stands to correspond with you privately, but I have no further interest in seeing my views distorted (I never called Irving a terrorist , or said he was affiliated with terrorists, as Mr. Kirstein, and now Mr. Irving state) nor am I interested in providing more fodder for Irving's ... associates.


Don Williams - 9/30/2004



1) The second reference cited by Lipstadt in her comments on Irving was from the
Sunday Times July 10 1977 issue -- an article reporting the results of an investigation
commission by the Times into Irving's sources and findings. The investigation was
done by Gitta Sereny (who has written a book on Albert Speer , I believe) and reporter
Lewis Chester.

2) The investigators make the following assertions:
a) As noted by Trevor-Roper, the Himmler note containing Hitler's order not
to liquidate the Jew only referred to a specific transport --not to Jews in general.
b) Public opinion in Germany was important to Hitler and probably influenced him
not to initially kill Berlin Jews while killing others . (I personally question this and
the investigators provide little evidence of this.)

c) Elke Frohlich, the research historian used by Irving , disputed his characterization
of the scope and extent of research she did for him. The article notes:

"Miss Frohlich was amazed to hear that her work had been cited in such a context.
She recalled doing only about 40 hours research for Irving over a period of two years
, her brief being only to search for a written Hitler order, and only in the archives
of the Institute in Munich. Predictably, neither this search, nor his in other archives
, produced such a paper. Of Irving's thesis that Hitler was ignorant of the extermination
of the Jews, Miss Frohlich says: "It is ludicrous. The moment I found out what he was
thing of doing, I broke off my association with him."

Comment: The article makes a very negative impression which, upon review, is less
supported than it seems. The article says Irving credited Frohlich with helping him
"scale the mountain of records in Berlin, Munich, London, Freiburg, and Bonn."
That's a vague characterization of both his work and Frohlich's. The article acknowledges
elsewhere that "Every historian has long been aware that while a signed Hitler order for the
Euthansia programme [for handicapped, severely ill,etc.] is on record, nobody has ever
discovered a document in which Hitler explicitly ordered "The Final Solution".
What the article doesn't address is whether anyone has ever searched the archives
the way Irving did. And while Frohlich assessment of Irving thesis re Hitler's ignorance
would be shared by many, that is neither here nor there.

Also note that Germany has strong laws against proNazi propaganda -- although it is not
clear to me how much those laws inhibit researchers. As I recall, at least one German researcher has
been convicted under those laws.

d) The investigators next note that they contacted five members of Hitler's office (adjutants, secretaries,etc)
that had been used by Irving. The article notes:
"They were understandably reticent but all stated that while they had indeed told Irving that Hitler
had never spoken of the extermination camps in their hearing, none of them was of the opinion
that Hitler did not know about what was happening to the Jews."

The article notes at the beginning that Irving was very cooperative with the investigators --in terms of
giving them research material and authorisation to study the "Irving Collection" at the Institute in Munich
(I assume the reference is to a working file containing copies of documents he found.) However the
article notes toward the end that "Irving was most upset by the fact that we had spoken with his
sources, angrily accusing us of 'pressuring his witnesses'. "

Comment: This raises the question of how intimidated former Nazis are by reporters and by the prospect of being dragged
into a public dispute -- after all, many of them remember Nuremberg. War crime trials have been held even recently.
Obviously, their testimony is to viewed with scepticism , but Irving seems to be among the few historians who has
tried to gain their confidence and their memories before they die and the historical data they have goes to the
grave. What the article does not make clear is whether the sources opinions that "reason would suggest that Hitler
knew" was a free opinion or one to made to escape further exposure by a reporter. The most convincing comment
made by the sources, in my opinion, was Richard Schulz-Kossens comment that " One must of course conclude that
he [Hitler] knew -- I can't believe, knowing Himmler, that he would have acted off his own bat."

e) The article notes that Irving's citation of a statement by Ribbentrop --that Hitler was unlikely to have ordered the
Final Solution -- was misleading because it had left off a succeeding comment by Ribbentrop that "judging from his [Hitler's] Last Will, one must
suppose that he at least knew about it, if, in his fanatiscism against the Jews, he didn't also order [it]"

f) Irving had noted that SS General Karl Wolff, Himmler's liaison officer to Hitler, was his "crown witness" The investigators
argue that "any testimony by Herr Wolff has to be treated with extreme scepticism". They note that Irving says Wolff had
began to suspect the Jews were being exterminated around August 1942 but they note that Wolff was "well apprised on the extermination
policy regarding Jews LONG BEFORE AUGUST 1942."

Comment: However, the source that the investigators cite -- a memo informing Wolff of
extermination -- is dated April 11, 1942, only a few months earlier than Irving had indicated. Plus the cited memo only
refers to a group of internees in a camp -- not a national campaign.

(Continued)


Sara D. Salzman - 9/30/2004

Point taken, Mr. Williams.

Persoanlly, I thought the "real question" was "should respectable historians attend and speak at conferences hosted by David Irving"? <smile>

And of course, I think I've made my opinion on that question painfully clear. I believe Mr. Irving is a charlatan, and that those who defend his falsifying of history are making bad decisions, to say the least.

If you would like to contact me off-list, I will be delighted to share with you some of the other reasons why I feel this way. But apparently, my expressing facts about Mr. Irving has upset poor Mr. Kirstein so deeply that he has removed himself from the discussion, and I would hate to be thought of as a "party-pooper."

Sara Salzman
catamont@REMOVEcomcast.net


Sara D. Salzman - 9/30/2004

Of course it's your "final word. " You've attacked me and put words in my mouth, which is always the best time to cut and run.

I never said Mr. Irving is a terrorist. Those are YOUR words, Mr. Kirstein. I said Irving associates with members of the National Alliance. The proof, as I presented to you very early in this discussion, is that he has addressed the National Alliance. When he spoke at the University of Colorado at Boulder two weeks ago, the western regional director of the National Alliance was present as one of Irving's "bodyguards."

Irving is on record associating himself with Ahmed Huber, a founder of the Al-Taqwa Bank, listed by the Bush administration as laundering funds for Al-Queda and Bin Ladin.

He is on record as associating with Januz Waluz and Clive Derby-Lewis, convicted of assassinating Chris Hani of the African National Congress.

I'd call these shady characters. And I see nothing "vicious" or "unprofessional" about pointing out the public dealings of a public figure.

Nor do I see anything to apologize for, except perhaps for the amount of time I have wasted in trying to enlighten you with facts. Your hystrionics notwithstanding, Mr. Irving does associate with shady characters, and has admitted to doing so. He is a racist, a liar, an anti-Semite, and a falsifier of history. He has also stated that this year was his last "Real History" conference (since they lose him money every year), so I suppose the entire dicussion is moot, as you'll have no further opportunities to damage your own reputation by appearing there again.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/30/2004

I used the term "professional misconduct" in a manner that was not occupation specific but in terms of demeanor. Perhaps I elevated her to a professional category of assessment that was misconstrued and I think irrelevant to my critique. I am aware but am not concerned about her personal activities.

I believe her charge could and should have legal implications in publicly making a charge of terrorism or terrorist affiliation of an individual.

I stand by my previous inquiry. Where is the evidence and in the absence of such, a public apology should be issued.

On that note, this will be my final word on this matter.


Don Williams - 9/30/2004

In his September 25, 2004 2:49 PM post above, Mr Khawaja
stated: "The real question is why she was forced to appear in court in the first place--a question that so far has gone unanswered in this discussion despite repeated attempts to pose it"

Personally, I thought "the real question" was whether
Irving was a charlatan or a historian who had made errors and ,if the latter, whether those errors were widespread and major.

However, Mr Khawaja then went on to note (September 27, 2004 at 6:32 PM ) that
"I then made the point that Lipstadt's not testifying at trial by itself tells us nothing about the merits or demerits of her view. Having assiduously avoid the subject I actually raised, you then rush off to discuss at great length a subject I hadn't raised. But the fact remains: the original claim I made has so far gone unacknowledged, unaddressed, and undiscussed. It remains a fact that Lipstadt's not testifying is not a reflection on her case. Whatever else you want to say about her case, if you don't accept that fact, you are flouting reality. "

Chastened by the masterful rhetoric of an Aristotelian, I have felt compelled to address Mr Khawaja's objections.
For example, I think that a look at reality will show that his statement re Lipstadt failure to testify is wrong. I will explain why in a later post in the hope that Mr Khawaja's masterful logic will show me the error in my judgment.

Fortunately, this is not quite a diversion -- I share historians' silly prejudice about arranging things in chronological order so I think it is rational to look at the pre-trial events before looking at the trial itself.



Don Williams - 9/30/2004

See e.g., http://www.nizkor.org/contributors/salzman-sara.html . A short excerpt:
--------------
"Five years ago, Sara read an article about Nizkor in a 'net magazine. As a Jew, as a descendant of Holocaust victims, and a relative of Shaika Weinberg, founder of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, Sara felt a stong desire to help with this important group. She is a frequent contributor to alt.revisionism, and has been honored by revisionists by being called "some college student in Boston pretending to be a chic [sic] in Ohio" (George Burdi/Hawthorne) and "fatbroad" (Matt Giwer).

Sara is the mother of two children. She is a Strategic Marketing Consultant, Internet Content Developer, Content Evangelist, and "Webutante." Sara has been an active contributor to the Southern Poverty Law Center since 1985 and is a card-carrying member of the ACLU. She has been an active member of the Leonard Peltier Support Group since 1994. She plays the piano, dulcimer, and guitar; knits, weaves, and quilts; cooks gourmet meals; write poetry and short stories; and plays with the family's Corgi, Dylan. In her spare time, she sleeps.

Sara says:
"I've been involved in historical research for as long as I can remember. When I first read about Nizkor, I was amused that there might actually still be people out there silly enought to try and deny the events of the Holocaust.

Of course, I was wrong.

The recent shootings at Columbine High School (just a few miles from my home) have reminded me of how far we have to go, and how important it is to shine the light of Truth on those who hate. And more importantly, to stop the recruiters of hate from poisoning our children."


Sara dedicates her Nizkor work to the people of Stolin, Poland (now Belarus), who were murdered en masse by the Nazis
"
-----------
None of which disqualifies her from discussing history, of course. The fact she has a Corgi, as I do, suggested to me that she was an intelligent person worth talking to.

I will note that she should not assume that everyone else is an advocate like herself. Re her post 6 lines above (dated September 29, 2004 at 11:44 PM)
, I have never posted on alt.revisionism. I had vaguely heard of the Irving trial but did not really notice it until you posted the above article. That is why I'm having to take time to study and sort through the material. To the best of my memory, I have never commented on the Irving matter before.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/30/2004

Dear Ms. Salzman,

You claimed that Mr Irving: "He associates with some very shady characters -- from the National Alliance to Middle East terror groups." I ask you to indicate and reveal your evidence that Mr Irving is a terrorist or associates with known terrorists from the Middle East. What are your sources and what is your proof? Which groups are your referring to? What is the nature of the association? When did they take place? I think such vicious and unprofessional statements are the result of the sustained and energized argumentation of Mr Williams that until now elevated this thread into a spirited exchange over Mr Irving.

I believe Ms. Salzman's statement is an affront to HNN readers and undermines any pretense of objectivity and
balance. You should apologize for your statement if you can't support it.

Peter N. Kirstein


Sara D. Salzman - 9/30/2004

Frankly, I don't care what Lipstadt did or didn't do -- in regards to the subject of this thread. You are now arguing the validity of Lipstadt's work, the validity of the trial -- which Irving instigated and lost -- but not the central issue.

Every time you bring up the "painstaking research" that Irving did, I ask you again: 1. Since you have no access to the original sources, how do you know that what Irving says is true? How do you know that his "painstaking research" did not reveal exactly the OPPOSITE of what he claims? When he translates a document and replaces the words "the SS" with "the Jews," what kind of "research" is that?

2. Since a great deal of Irving's "painstaking research" involves interviews with former Nazis, yet Irving claims that all witnesses to the Holocaust who disagree with him are liars, why is Irving's quoted eyewitness testimony valid?

Let's get back to Irving's "Real History" conference. Have you any idea what kinds of speakers Irving atttracts? Have you any idea what kinds of "real" history is discussed there?

David Irving, in addition, is a British citizen who earns money in the United States, pays no taxes, and boasts that he will not pay the judgment he LOST to Prof. Lipstadt. He associates with some very shady characters -- from the National Alliance to Middle East terror groups -- and has supported other "sloppy" research, most specifically the completely discredited Leuchter Report. He admits to removing documents and glass plates from archives. He deliberately mistranslates German documents to change their meaning. These are not "misinterpretations," they are deliberate falsehoods. The fact that no one went through and checked as closely as Evans did is an indictment of the whole process, but Irving brought that upon himself by filing the suit.

So should historians who value their reputations associate with such a man?

Does he have a right to publish his drivel and lies? Absolutely. The same right that the rest of us have to debunk him, and to call attention to his mendacious actions. Irving's hypocritical methods of insisting on his own "free speech" rights while threatening those who disagree with him are typical of his arrogant methods.

Finally, David Irving, "historian," has stated that "Hitler was the best friend the Jews ever had." I post that without comment.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/30/2004

...mostly because it's out of my field. But the fact of the matter is that the historical profession regards the whole Bellesiles affair as a failure, and has had serious discussions about ways to make our practice conform better to our ideals.

The irony of bashing historians over Bellesiles and defending Irving..... oh, well.


Don Williams - 9/30/2004

Bancroft for the wrong reasons -- and then took it away from him for the wrong reasons, in my opinion.

Re "as a historian, that his work is not at all useful",
I value the opinion of John Keegan over Mr Dresner's , I'm afraid.


Don Williams - 9/30/2004

Again, yes and no

Lipstadt's second citation --to a Sunday Times article of July 10 1977 -- refers to an investigation of Irving's source done by the Times. This investigation, in my opinion, revealed far more damming things about Irving than the Trevor_Roper review. I will cover it tomorrow.

However, even here there were positive comments about Irving which Lipstadt did not mention to her readers.
The article notes toward the end:

"The consensus [of scholars] is that the book [Hitler's War] as a whole is a fine achievement, painstaking researched and with an original conception, but marred by an untenable thesis about Hitler's lack of guilt for the Final Solution. Our own impression is that Irving's passionate desire to establish this point has resulted from a misinterpretation of the available testimony and documentation"


Don Williams - 9/30/2004

1) After looking at the Sunday Times articles cited by Lipstadt in "Denying the Holocaust", I would have to say
"Yes and No".

2) As noted above, Lipstadt says the following on page 161 of her book:
"He is best known for his thesis that Hitler did not know about the Final Solution, an idea that
scholars have dismissed. The prominent British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper depicted Irving as a man who "seizes on a small and dubious particle of 'evidence' using it to dismiss far-more-substantial evidence that may not support his thesis. His work has been described as "closer to theology or mythology than to history", and he has been accused of skewing documents
and misrepresenting data in order to reach historically untenable conclusions, particularly those that exonerate Hitler." 18
----
18.[Sunday Times] "Ibid, June 12, 1977; July 10,1977"

3) The June 12 1977 article was a review of Irving's "Hitler's War" by Hugh Trevor-Roper. Trevor-Roper did have some strong criticism of Irving's work, but he also noted the following about Irving:
a) "No praise can be too high for his indefatigable scholarly industry. He has sought and found scores of new sources, including many private diaries. He has also tested hitherto accepted documents and discarded many of them as forgeries or half-forgeries."
b) "All this, and much more, Mr Irving illustrates in massive and sometimes fascinating detail, from his copious new sources, but these conclusions at least are not new"
c) "For Irving has set out ,openly and legitimately, to describe the war as seen from Hitler's court. Within tht restricted context, he lets his documents speak for him , and his documents, by their very nature, reflect the standards and assumptions of the court. Inevitably, therefore, it is Hitler's view which prevails, his opponents,at home or abroad, are shadowy figures whose case , if they have one, goes by default."

In my opinion, Lipstadt was misleading her readers when she cited Trevor-Ropers criticism of Irving but did not reveal Ropers' praise of Irving.

4) Trevor-Roper's first criticism of Irving concerns Irving's conclusion that Hitler never assassinated foreign opponents whereas western governments did. Trevor_Roper notes that this is incorrect and unsupported by the documents Irving cites


5) Trevor-Roper then goes on: "The major issue on which Mr Irving has exposed himself to criticism ..is the extermination of the Jews. Here he is a revisionist indeed. He argues that Hitler did not authorise or even know about this extermination; that his own "Final Solution" was merely the expulsion of the Jews 'to the East' and that the policy of extermination was initiated and carried out by Himmler behind his back and with his knowledge --at least until it was almost complete"
a) Trevor_Roper acknowledges that: "Mr Irving's essential point is that it is 'hard to establish a documentary link' between Hitler and the extermination programme. This is certainly true. That whole programme was veiled in secrecy and carried out at a safe distance. Himmler himself explicitly forbade all discussion of it, and , if it had to be mentioned, it was always disguised as
'resettlement' or 'transport to the east'.
b) Trevor-Roper then argues that "a historian much not only read the official documents. He must also look behind them. I believe that if we do this, Hitler's responsibility for the policy is clear"
c) Trevor_Roper's first point: Himmler etal would never have mounted so vast a programme without Hitler's approval.
d) Trevor-Roper's second point: Irving notes that a Goebbals diary entry of March 27,1942 refers to the "ghastly secrets" of the concentration camp but Trevor-Roper notes that the diary entry also suggests that Hitler backed the extermination. (Note: The Trevor quote , to me, can also be read as saying Hitler supported the relocation program, not necessarily that he approved of mass extermination. )
e) Trevor _Roper's third point: Irving's citation of a Hitler order prohibiting the liquidation of a Jewish transport only referred to that particular transport --not, as Irving indicated, to all Jewish transports.
f) Trevor then makes the criticism of IRving cited by Lipstadt -- doesn't treat sources in an evenhanded way,etc.
g) Trevor also indicates that he thinks Irving has a consistent bias,"unconsciously distorting the evidence" to excuse Hitler or the Nazis. In my opinion, Trevor doesn't provide evidence to support this .

Bottom line: Trevor-Roper's criticism of Irving was that of one historian disagreeing with another's approach --it was not, in my opinion, as damming as Lipstadt had indicated to her readers.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/30/2004

I do so love the Galileo moment: it's almost a variation on Godwin's law. Eventually, when a 'scholar' is being attacked for really bad work that is also offensive, Galileo's persecution pops up.

There is a difference between bias and falsehood. Historians can legitimately be selective (it's quite necessary, as most subjects offer more sources than fit in a book), as long as they are not blatantly ignoring contravening evidence. Irving ignores contravening evidence, abuses his sources though mistranslation and excerpting, and nothing he writes should be taken as 'useful' until it is checked against the original sources; which is to say, as a historian, that his work is not at all useful, except as a minor bibliographic and archival challenge.


Sara D. Salzman - 9/30/2004

Mr. Khawaja:

I have spent more than ten years in a Usenet sewer known as alt.revisionism, and I'm quite familiar with the rhetorical ... excesses ... of folks like Mr. Williams. One reason to continue an exchange like this is that the longer the thread, the more clear readers are on the validity (or not) of the arguments. I think it's quite clear to all here, as it is to you.

Sara


Don Williams - 9/30/2004

I assume that Mr Khawaja doesn't accept the theis of
Giorgio de Santillana -- that Aristotelians in academia
were the real force behind Galileo's trial -- that they laid multiple covert accusations against Galileo in order to push the Church into trying him? That their motivation was commonplace hatred and revenge because Galileo had demonstrated that they were a pack of ignorant horses asses?

I should note in passing that my contempt for the people who pressed for the trial of Galileo does not extend to Aristotle himself, of course. Nor would I ever blame Christ for the behavior of some Christians.

I also had the impression that there was a strong connection between the medieval church theology and NeoPlatoism.


Don Williams - 9/30/2004

As i noted before, significant achievements are driven by what I believe Adam Smith called "animal spirits". Great history --the unearthing of enormous amounts of new info and its correlation -- requires enormous energy. Hence, it is usually done by people with an ax to grind. This usually leads them to mislead their readers at one point or another.

Tacitus might never have been driven to give us the inside scoop on the Roman Emperors if his father-in-law had not been condemmed to death by Domitian. Parts of his narrative are driven by a strong,even obvious, anti-Imperial bias. Yet his Annals and Histories have great value for all that.

I'm definitely getting the impression that Irving fuzzes the cards on occasion but that he also has great knowledge of his subject matter. So I'm willing to accept an assertion that he's a liar -- the question is, to what extent, how much, in what areas, and does that negate his contributions?


Sara D. Salzman - 9/29/2004

Mr. Williams, what, pray tell, does this have to do with David Irving and Prof. Kirstein? You are a master at changing the subject and dodging the issues.

I suggest you try to stick to the topic, leave Socrates, Galileo, Tacitus and other distractions alone, and let's start with this: Do you agree with Judge Gray that David Irving is a liar? And if so, why should any respectable historian want to be affiliated with him?


Don Williams - 9/29/2004

I'm surprised that you do not get my point: that historians can not earn a living if they cannot publish--
"publish or perish " as the saying goes. That means
that they cannot practice their profession -- they cannot be historians and they cannot provide society with new information about past events. No historian can work, can survive, if he is reduced to handing out his works for free. What was the term you used --"disingenuous"?

Look at what the Nazis did to the Jews in the 1930s -- the increasing efforts to weaken them --to separate out Jews from the rest of society by banning them from the
universities and the professions. To drive them into helpless poverty.

I am not tolerant of publishing false and misleading history -- unlike you, I would encourage publishing houses to not publish it even with a disclaimer. But if a work had significant value--in terms of providing new data, I would not ban it because I disliked the author, the author's opinions, and certainly not because I disliked the information that was being put forth. I also do not think that a work should be banned if the author is wrong on only a small percentage of items ,especially if the items are not important. Peer Review by the publishing house should reveal those.

I would see nothing wrong with the ADL or Deborah Lipstadt pointing out to St Martins where they thought
Irving was in error and asking that St Martins have Irving to cut out unproven, unsupported, or obviously false information. But I don't see where ADL or Lipstadt ever subjected Irving's work to serious examination in 1996.

Irving sued because he felt he could no longer survive as a historian. What I don't understand --and what I would like information on -- is how the historical community and publishing community ever allowed things to get to that point, given Irving's unquestioned contributions?

Before a historian can be destroyed, his work should be put under a far more searching examination --and dammed far more effectively --than the two Sunday Times articles cited by Lipstadt in her 1993 book. I'll discuss this in more detail shortly.

The more I read of the trial transcripts, the more unconfortable I feel saying anything in Irving's defense. My impression is that he is repugnant as a person and untrustworthy, maybe even dishonest , on some areas of Nazi history. I do have the impression is that he is more of a Hitler apologist than a Nazi apologist ,but I am still studying the material.

But what bothers me is that when I look at Irving's
"Hitler's War" and at Lipstadt's "Denying the Holocaust", I get the impression that Irving has given us a 1000 times more information about what occurred in Nazi Germany than Lipstadt ever will. Some of Irvings' stuff may be false, but you sort that out by checking the citations and primary sources.

The one thing worst than putting out a partially false history is preventing historical information from ever being unearthed. I do not so much care about what happened to Irving at the trial --he chose to file the lawsuit -- as I am at the idea that major chunks of a historical narrative could be suppressed by financial and political pressures. That young historians, because of Irving's fate, will conclude that studying Nazi Germany is a sure way to kill a career.


When our history tells only part of the story, then it is false and misleading. When a group works to bring that result about, then it is hurting not only the NeoNazis but all Americans, including all Jewish Americans. Our understanding of history is the only thing we have to warn us --to protect us -- from following the actions which have destroyed so many nations and societies in the past.


Don Williams - 9/29/2004

As I suggested to you above -- look to the primary sources, to the evidence.

I am aware of how modern apologists have attempted to excuse the Inquisition's persecution of Galileo --the excuses they have made. But while erudite sophistry is
mildly amusing, I do not have time to entertain it.

I prefer to let the Inquisition --those devotees of Aristolian "logic" -- speak for themselves. Why don't you look at the text of the Inquisition order to Galileo? See
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1630galileo.html .

A short excerpt
"We pronounce, judge, and declare, that you, the said Galileo . . . have rendered yourself vehemently suspected by this Holy Office of heresy, that is,

of having believed and held the doctrine (which is false and contrary to the Holy and Divine Scriptures) that the sun is the center of the world, and that it does not move from east to west, and that the earth does move, and is not the center of the world;

also, that an opinion can be held and supported as probable, after it has been declared and finally decreed contrary to the Holy Scripture,

and, consequently, that you have incurred all the censures and penalties enjoined and promulgated in the sacred canons and other general and particular constituents against delinquents of this description.

From which it is Our pleasure that you be absolved, provided that with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, in Our presence, you abjure, curse, and detest, the said error and heresies, and every other error and heresy contrary to the Catholic and Apostolic Church of Rome."
----------
Galileo knew what "penalties" meant -- scientist Giordano Bruno had been burned at the stake in 1600.

When you have something interesting and relevant, I will let you know. I suggest that you try to introduce actual data.

PS
As a hint, Falling to the floor and chewing the carpet while foaming at the mouth and urinating uncontrollably does not influence my opinions -- it only makes me grin in amusement.


Sara D. Salzman - 9/29/2004

Judge Gray did, indeed, say that.

Justice Sedley, who heard (and denied) Irving's request for an appeal, however, also said the following:

"The claimant [Irving] had played for high stakes on the central issue of his entitlement to be regarded as a genuine historian and had lost on grounds so damaging that they left no real room for discrete damage by the unfounded allegations. "

You can read Justice Sedley's entire finding at
http://holocaust-history.org/irving-david/sedley.html


Sara D. Salzman - 9/27/2004

I am not privy to what goes on at St. Martin's Press. I do know that Abraham Foxman did not say anything inaccurate in the quote you cite. Lipstadt's quote is a general one, not specific to David Irving, although I absolutely disagree with her that ANY book should be "suppressed."

Irving's books (including "Goebbels") are available for purchase (or free download) on his web site. That's hardly a suppression. St. Martin's Press has every right to decide not to publish (and if they breached their contract, I assume Irving sued them) a book they believe may bring them bad publicity. They don't even have to give a reason for it. They have rights, just like Irving does.

Sometimes, companies make decisions we like, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they go _father_ than we'd like. Walmart, for instance, was asked to put up a disclaimer on their web site so that anyone ordering "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" would be informed that this is a forgery, long-debunked. Walmart decided instead to remove the book from their site. Personally, I would have prefered they use a disclaimer.

I would also be delighted if St. Martin's, or any other publisher, would publish Irving's books with a sticker that says: "Warning! A British court has determined that this author mistranslates, misinterprets, omits, and manufactures evidence."

"Suppress" is, to me, a loaded word, implying (as my dictionary says) the use of force. By other definitions, yes, it was suppressed by St. Martin's Press, an action I strongly disapprove. However, since the book is available for free at Irving's site, I don't see the brouhaha.

I hope this clarifies things for you.


Don Williams - 9/27/2004

Kirstein's article above states that:
"Mr. Irving’s Goebbels was withdrawn shortly before publication in April 1996 by St. Martin’s Press, and in the following month was removed as the selection of Doubleday’s History Book Club’s Book of the Month. The censorship of the work resulted primarily from stop-publication demands from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (ADL). Abraham H. Foxman, ADL’s national director, charged in a March 22, 1996 letter to St. Martin’s that Mr. Irving was an “apologist” for Nazism, did not possess the requisite “academic credentials” to engage in historical analysis and, without citation, claimed his previous scholarship was “replete with errors, oversights, poor research and fantasy.” Mr. Foxman sardonically suggested that if St. Martin’s released Goebbels, the publisher should designate the biography as “fiction.” Even though the book had not been read by those seeking to prohibit others from exercising independent judgment, Deborah Lipstadt, Professor of Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University, believed an author’s reputation alone could warrant the suppression of his or her work. Professor Lipstadt, whom Mr. Irving would eventually sue unsuccessfully for libel—as well as her British publisher, Penguin Books, Ltd.—told the Washington Post (April 3, 1996), “Of course the reputation of the author counts. And no legitimate historian takes David Irving’s works seriously.”

-----------------------------
Christopher Hitchens, in his LA Times article I cited above, notes:
"This book [Irving's Goebbals] is still on my shelf. I read it initially because St.
Martin's Press in New York decided not to publish it, or rather,
decided to breach its contract to do so. This action on its part was
decisive, in that it convinced Irving that his enemies were succeeding
in denying him a livelihood, and it determined him to sue someone as
soon as he could. It was also important in that St. Martin's gave no
reason of historical accuracy for its about-face. For the publisher,
it was a simple question of avoiding unpleasantness ("Profiles in
Prudence," as its senior editor Thomas Dunne put it to me ruefully)."


Sara D. Salzman - 9/27/2004

It is my understanding that one of the reasons Hitchens has "washed his hands" of David Irving is because of a particular event that took place in front of Hitchen's daughter. I'm quoting from Irving's own site, http://www.fpp.co.uk/Legal/Penguin/books/Guttenplan/LATimesHitchens200501.html, his link to Hitchens' "The Strange Case of David Irving" review of DD Guttenplan's book "The Holocaust on Trial."

"As a result of this, Irving contacted me when he was next in Washington, and I invited him to my home for a cocktail. [...snipped to save space, read the entire article for the context] ...
When it came time for him to leave, my wife and daughter went down in the elevator with him on their own way out. Later, my wife rather gravely asked me if I would mind never inviting him again. This was highly unlike her; we have all sorts at our place. However, it transpired that, while in the elevator, Irving had looked with approval at my fair-haired, blue-eyed daughter, then 5 years old, and declaimed the following doggerel about his own little girl, Jessica, who was the same age:
      I am a Baby Aryan
     Not Jewish or Sectarian;
     I have no plans to marry an
     Ape or Rastafarian.
    The thought of Carol and Antonia in a small space with this large beetle-browed man as he spouted that was, well, distinctly creepy. (He has since posted the lines on his Web site, and they came back to haunt him at the trial.)
     The next time Irving got in touch with me was after his utter humiliation in court, and I thought I'd give him one last chance -- though I arranged to meet him in a neutral restaurant this time. I wanted to know if it was true, as I had read in the press, that he had abruptly addressed the judge in the case as "Mein Fuhrer." With some plausibility, he explained to me that this was a misunderstanding; he had been quoting from the slogans shouted at a rally he was addressing in Germany and had glanced up at the bench at the wrong moment. The transcript of the trial seemed to make this interpretation possible. So when telephoned by my friend Ian Buruma, who was writing on the case for The New Yorker, I suggested that he might check it out. He called me back with the information that, when he had asked Irving directly about the incident, Irving had taken him into confidence and said, "Actually, I did say it." At this point I finally decided that anyone joining a Fair Play for Irving Committee was up against a man with some kind of death wish."


Sara D. Salzman - 9/27/2004

Regarding your question:

'3) Maybe Salzman can address my main point: Had Lipstadt and the Anti Defamation League presented sufficient evidence in 1996 to justify suppressing Irving's book?"

Again, there is a basic flaw. No one, not Professor Lipstadt nor the ADL, to my knowledge, has ever asked for the suppression of David Irving's work.

When Professor Lipstadt wrote her book, she relied on Irving's public statements and actions as evidence of his role as a Hitler-apologist and Holocaust denier. When Irving states publicly that "more people died in the back of Ted Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than in the gas chambers of Auschwitz," or that Hitler was "the best friend the Jews ever had," he is making his position quite clear. When Irving publicly supported the now-completely-discredited Leuchter Report, he was making his position quite clear. If I say, "The earth is flat," you are absolutely correct to call me a "Flat-Earther."

Irving's suit against Professor Lipstadt, and his choice to have the trial in England rather than the US, made it necessary for Lipstadt to "prove" the Holocaust. Therefore, witnesses were necessary. She also had to "prove" that her statements were correct, therefore she hired a respected historian as an expert witness.

But in the end, Judge Gray (and a panel of three judges in the appeals process) agreed that Professor Lipstadt was factually correct in calling Irving a Holocaust Denier. It is in the judgment, as is the fact that Irving is a liar.

So, to provide specific answers to Mr. Williams' "main point:"

"Had Lipstadt and the Anti Defamation League presented sufficient evidence in 1996 to justify suppressing Irving's book?"

Meaningless, since no one wanted to suppress Irving's book.

"Had a commission of scholars --similar to the Emory Commission on Bellesiles-- reviewed and pronounced a strongly negative judgment on Irving?"

I assume the answer is no, most likely because a Judge has already done so. There are very few historians (if any) who support Irving's view that Hitler was completely uninformed about the Holocaust, and as far as I know, most don't find Irving worth the time.

"Was Lipstadt's book the way we should do peer review on historians before intervening to prevent historians from publishing their work?"

Again, a meaningless question, since no one tried to prevent Irving from publishing his work. Additionally meaningless, since Irving is not a historian. He is a writer of historical fiction.

PS. If you do find yourself at irving's web site (fpp.co.uk), you will see that he continues to berate journalists who publicly refer to him as a Holocaust denier, even though it is the label he has earned himself through his own actions in the UK legal system.



Don Williams - 9/27/2004

As an update to Mr Kirstein's article, I note that Christopher Hitchens has evidently washed his hands
of David Irving. Hitchens,as Kirstein noted above, strongly criticized St Martin's caving to pressure and dropping of Irving's book "Goebbals".

In a 2001 LA Times article, Hitchens examines the broader context of Irving's treatment, supports Irving in several respects, but ultimately washes his hands of him. In part because several incidents seemed to have convinced Hitchens that Irving is dishonest. But also because, as Hitchens notes "At this point I finally decided that anyone joining a Fair Play for Irving Committee
was up against a man with some kind of death wish."

As I noted in the post above, the article is here:
Hitchens Article

If the above link doesn't work , then Google "Christopher Hitchens" and "The Strange Case of David Irving". Click on the "cached" copy of the first entry --i.e., the link to "www.nizkor.org/ftp.cgi/people/i/irving.david/press/LA_Times.010520"



Don Williams - 9/27/2004


1) Your statement that "Mr. Williams is obviously getting much of his information from Irving's own statements" is
obviously in error. My comments re Lipstadt's work were based upon the content of her books -- as anyone can see by the references I make to her book in the post above.

2) I acknowledged that I have not yet been able to see the content of the Sunday Times articles she cited -- I hope to fix that in the near future. If they say that a mob of Cambridge and Oxford Dons tarred and feathered Irving prior to running him out of London on a rail in 1977, then I will acknowledge that Deborah Lipstadt had a basis for her sweeping and very negetive judgment on Irving. I'll let you know.

3) Maybe Salzman can address my main point: Had Lipstadt and the Anti Defamation League presented sufficient evidence in 1996 to justify suppressing Irving's book? Had a commission of scholars --similar to the Emory Commission on Bellesiles-- reviewed and pronounced a strongly negative judgment on Irving? Was Lipstadt's book the way we should do peer review on historians before intervening to prevent historians from publishing their work?

PS My judgment of Salzman's qualifications was based upon her own statements --which she has now clarified. Fine --and I thank her for the additional references.


Sara D. Salzman - 9/27/2004

Mr. Williams' "my understanding is..." shows the basic flaw in his argument. His "understanding" about much of this topic is, well, flawed. He jumps to conclusions with no facts, and makes assumptions based on limited information.

For instance: I stated that I did not read the "primary sources" of Irving's, since I do not read German. From this, Mr. Williams extrapolates that I am unfamiliar with the transcripts of the trial.

In point of fact, I read the transcripts daily as they were posted on the web during the trial. Two additional points: 1) one of my colleagues attended the trial and reported every evening on the testimony offered; and 2) the organization I am affiliated with (The Holocaust History Project) submitted affidavits showing that Irving is mendacious at best.

Mr. Williams should, perhaps, investigate the "Polanska-Palmer" affidavit which Irving withdrew when he got wind of the statement we prepared.

Mr. Williams might also look carefully at Irving's own statements at the trial to Professor van Pelt, especially where he stated that he would halt the case in mid-trial if the holes in the roof of Crematorium II at Auschwits could be located. Then take a visit to Journal of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and read the article by my colleagues, Messers Mazal, McCarthy, and Keren, who have definitively located those holes. Mr. Irving has been silent on this discovery, except to refer to Mr. Mazal as a "hatemonger." The Journal article underwent more than a year of peer-review, by the way.

Mr. Williams is obviously getting much of his information from Irving's own statements, which, as Judge Gray said, are lies.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/27/2004

Mr. Williams,

Actually, I was probably thinking of our encounters regarding the history of early Christianity, or our exchanges on Rebunk earlier this year. Though this whole conversation seems terribly familiar, I probably had it with someone else (Specifically, one F. H. Thomas, almost exactly one year ago; in fairness, Mr. Thomas was effectively echoing the David Irving position, which you are decidedly not).

That there is a range of views is not at all uncommon. But Hitchens is describing a false dichotomy: it is in fact possible to believe both that the Nazi leadership -- inspired and aided by German anti-semitism -- desired to eradicate Jews and that the concrete mechanisms to accomplish that were not made policy until the war was underway. It is, indeed, necessary to integrate both these narrative themes in order to fully understand the "boiling frog" (as you put it) process.

Goldhagen is indeed an extreme position, one which has been strongly critiqued on both sources and logic. But the extreme functionalist position is equally untenable: it is impossible to explain the "Final" solution without reference to the many "interim" solutions which were widely known and popular.

Your insistence that we need a precise understanding of the Nazi case is, I think incorrect: it is possible to make analogies (with Naziism and other pathologies) to what is known that are more than sufficiently frightening, and there are sufficient differences between the present and these various pasts (including our knowledge of these various pasts) that even omniscient understanding of the German example would not necessarily illuminate the present more than our current understanding (which is not as vague as you seem to think).


Don Williams - 9/27/2004


1) Re "logic" , Computers are programmed with rigorous logic -- yet the motto among programmers
is "Garbage In --Garbage Out".

When we examine an area, it is important to determine what are the major facts, whether we know all
the major facts, and how the major facts are related. "Logic" alone is of limited utility in this regard.
Medieval priests developed all sorts of ridiculous nonsense by applying "logic" on limited amounts
of data. When Galileo noted that they were wrong, suggested that they get up off their behinds and
look at real world data, and test their theories against reality, he was threatened with being burned at
the state.

2) Ms Salzman statement that she has not examined the primary sources cited by Evans and Irving
indicates that me that she is no more qualified to have an opinion on Irving than, well, than I am at present.
That is why I noted the link to the online transcripts of the Irving Trial -- which contain a
detailed discussion between Irving and Evans et al describing the primary source data in the
areas under dispute. The transcripts include English translations.

I am examining that data --several hundred pages of text --before I venture further comment.
I suggest that you do so as well -- instead engaging in lazy, sterile sniping based on ignorance -- er, excuse me, on
"Logic".

3) Deborah Lipstadt was not just silent at the trial. I have been reading her book 1993 book "Denying the Holocaust"
which contained statements about Irving which were the subject of the trial. I had assumed that Lipstadt was
a historian with deep knowledge of the Nazi Germany period and that her clash with Irving was a clash between expert
historians with expert knowledge of the subject matter. Instead , I find that she majored in something called
"Jewish studies" at Brandeis and that is her Department at Emory.

Lipstadt doesn't need a PhD in History to criticize historians -- her lack might even be an advantage.
What she does need is an appreciation of scholarship. However, I do not see that in her book.

4) When I looked at her book, it seems more in
the nature of " Neo Nazi studies" or "studies of people I don't like" or "studies of people about whom I have dark suspicions."
I see little re the history of Germany or the Jewish people --instead it seems largely an account of groups which she
believes are promoting disguised Nazi propaganda. Which is ok in and of itself -- although it gives me the impression of a
hyperventilating Southern Poverty Law Center press release put out during a funding drive.

But David Irving is hardly a pamphleteer for Aryan Nations with a high school degree.

5) I looked at pages in her book where Lipstadt criticizes Irving. On page 161 I see the following:
a) "Scholars have described Irving as a "Hitler partisan wearing blinkers" and have
accused him of distorting evidence and manipulating documents to serve his own
purposes."16
[Which scholars? How many? What specific instances did they cite as evidence of
this charge? I look at Lipstadt's citation and I see the following:
"Martin Broszat, Vierteljahrshefte fur Zietgeschichte (October 1977), pp 742, 769 , cited in
Patterns of Prejudice, no. 3-4 (1978), p.8"
What the hell is that?

b) Lipstadt goes on to say re Irving:
"He is best known for his thesis that Hitler did not know about the Final Solution, an idea that
scholars have dismissed"
[ Actually, I think the testimony of eminent scholars like John Keegan -- and the judge at the
Irving trial -- is that Irving is known for MUCH more than that. See Kistern's article above for
examples. When I check Lipstadt's citation I see "Sunday Times, July 10,1977"

Again, what is this garbage? Lipstadt is denouncing a prominent historian -- who has written numerous books
praised by experts -- and her idea of peer review of that historian's material to is cite a NEWSPAPER
article? To not even give a decent citation with page number?

I hope to read this newspaper edition in the
next day or so. ]

c) Lipstadt continues:
"The prominent British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper depicted Irving as a man who "seizes on a small and dubious
particle of 'evidence' using it to dismiss far-more-substantial evidence that may not support his thesis".
[ Fine. Except that Christopher Hitchens , in his LA Times article "The Strange Case of David Irving" notes
"And how can one forget Hugh Trevor-Roper, author of the definitive narrative of Hitler's final days, who had close connections to British intelligence, who might be overheard making faintly anti-Jewish remarks and later pronounced the forged Hitler diaries genuine?...
He [Irving] changed sides on the issue of the Hitler diaries, but his intervention was crucial to their exposure as a pro-Nazi fabrication."
[Ref: Christopher Hitchens, "The Strange Case of David Irving"]

d) Lipstadt continues:
""His [Irving's] work has been described as "closer to theology or mythology than to history", and he has been accused of skewing documents
and misrepresenting data in order to reach historically untenable conclusions, particularly those that exonerate Hitler." 18
[Again, who are the sources for this? I look at Lipstadt's citation and I see [Sunday Times] "Ibid, June 12, 1977; July 10,1977" ]

6) I don't approve of Irving's lawsuit against Lipstadt --I don't approve of British libel law at all. If someone is putting out history that is
false and misleading, then scholars have a right to warn society by exposing them. But I would argue that it would be an an even worse crime to use economic and political pressure to keep historical data from ever seeing the light of day by destroying the careers of historians --to discourage them from doing their jobs via various forms of coercion.

Historical Interpretations are under frequent review and are corrected when mistakes or errors are found. It is the historical data --the primary sources --that is important. The testimony of several eminent historians have indicated that Irving unearthed enormous amount of new information about Nazi Germany. I do not see where either Lipstadt or ADL had done the research in 1996 that would justify suppressing Irving's new book (and new information) via pressure on St Martin's Press. My understanding is that the case made against Irving was not crafted until just before the trial -- via a huge project financed via large donations from wealthy Jewish men like Steven Spielberg.
Irving, by contrast, was on his own -- the aid he got from other historians was in the nature of character testimony from witnesses
ordered by the court to testify. How many histories would stand up to the pounding that large amounts of money could support?

7) After reading the trial transcripts, I may decide that Irving has become too dishonest to be trusted to even a limited degree.
But Sara Salzman's statement above that Lipstadt's book had gone through peer review and Irving's had not seems hilarious.
Lipstadt's book gives me the impression that "peer review" in the "Jewish Studies" discipline is a joke . My understanding is that Irving's
Goebbals had gone through St Martin's peer review -- that it's cancellation was due more to pressure from ADL than from any objections from St Martin's review process.


Don Williams - 9/26/2004

but if we did talk, please remind where and when. Also, if you think this issue has been settled, please direct me to the sources of the facts you refer to.

My understanding is that this history is still a matter of debate. In a LA Times column, Christopher Hitchens
explained:
-------------------
"Most ominous of all--and this in plain
sight and on camera, and in full view of the neighbors--Jewish
populations as distant as Salonika were rounded up and put on trains,
to be deported to the eastern provinces of conquered Poland.

None of this is, even in the remotest sense of the word, "deniable."
Nor is the fact that, once the war was over, surviving Jews found that
they had very few family members left. The argument only begins here,
and it takes two forms. First, what exactly happened to the missing
ones? Second, why did it occur? The first argument is chiefly forensic
and concerns numbers and methods: the physical engineering of
shooting, gassing, burial and cremation. The second argument is a
debate among historians and is known as the "intentionalist versus
functionalist" dispute. The "intentionalists" say that Hitler and his
gang were determined from the start to extirpate all Jews and that
everything from 1933 to 1945 is a vindication of certain passages in
"Mein Kampf." The "functionalists" point out (correctly) that the
Nazis actually killed almost no Jews until after 1941 and that the
Endlosung, or "Final Solution," was a semi-secret plan evolved after
Germany began to lose the war on the Eastern front. On this continuum,
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, with his view that Germans had a cultural gene
of anti-Semitism, is an extreme "intentionalist"; Yehudah Bauer, of
the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem, is a moderate "functionalist."


Don Williams - 9/26/2004

David Cesarani is an expert in Nazi Germany's persecution of the Jews and an Irving critic. See, e.g, http://www.soton.ac.uk/~history/pg/cesaranipubs.htm

In a PBS documentary about the Irving trial and the Holocaust, he had this to say:
--------------
"NARRATOR: In October 1941, the first deportations of German Jews to the East took place. Although the Nazis were murdering thousands of Soviet Jews, it was not yet a matter of policy to kill Jews from their own country. With America, which was seen by Hitler as a Jewish-controlled nation, still not in the War, the Nazis had a powerful reason to preserve the German Jews.

CESARANI: Hitler had a specific interest in the Jews from Germany because he wanted to keep them as hostages to keep America out of the War and because there was a certain amount of unease amongst the killers in the SS and their aides in the East when it came to killing Jews from their own cultural circle.

Killing East European Jews was one thing, Bolshevik Jews as they understood them to be, or religiously orthodox Jews who they despised. That they did without any qualms.

But the Jews who spoke German, who came from Berlin, that caused a certain amount of unease, and Hitler didn't want to unsettle his men at the front line."
-----------------

A quote of Hitler's noted in the PBS documentary also supports the idea that the Jews were initially viewed as hostages by Hitler. In a January 30,1939 speech to Parliament, he threatened: " If the international finance-Jewry inside and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations into a world war yet again, then the outcome will not be the victory of Jewry, but rather the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"

Of course, it may be that Hitler always intended genocide -- but that he adopted the "boil the frog" approach. That is, the tactic used by governments of taking incremental steps toward a final goal because
creeping motion is less likely to provoke resistance than sudden actions.

Yet the PBS timeline indicates that the "Kristallnacht" of November 9-10 occurred one day after German consular aid Ernest von Rath was assassinated in Paris by a Jewish man whose parents had been expelled in Poland. THe murder of large numbers of Jews in Russia and the Ukraine began after the invasion of the Soviet Union in summer of 1941. The idea that the Jews could mount a wartime partisan resistance of any effect -- and that they therefore needed to be deported to prisons in the East--
seems irrational. However, movement of a reinforcement Panzer division on D-day was delayed for two weeks because two French girls
put abrasives in the axles of the railroad cars carrying
the division's tanks. THe French resistance had a massive effect in coordination with the Allied army.


If you look at the PBS Timeline for the Holocaust, you see that Hitler became dictator in 1933 and that persecution of the Jews started at that time. Dachau was established in March 20 1933 and Buchenwald was opened in July 16, 1937. But a significant percentage of Jews were not rounded up until years later, just before the entry of the US into the war in December 1941. As the PBS documentary argues, the Final Solution did not really kick into gear until the Wannsee conference in Jan 1942. Irving argued that even that is subject to debate because the minutes of that conference are not clear. To support the hypothesis that the real intent of Wannasee was camouflaged in code,Irving's critics brought in Eichman's testimony during his trial in 1961.

I am not knowledgable in this area-- I am still reading the transcripts from the Irving trial. But it seems to me that Eichman's testimony was obviously made under severe duress --with a death sentence hanging over his head. I also wonder if a possible commutation was dangled before him if he told history the right way.

What I really think is important in this history is determining whether the Holocaust resulted primarily from a murderous racism that is relatively rare -- or whether it evolved from a cold-blooded rationalism and extreme responses to perceived security problems. The reason is that the first cause is infrequent and has a low probability or arising in the US. The second evolution is not as unlikely. Our leadership has never spent years in trench warfare, lost a war due to a revolution, and then endured
a decade of starvation, widespread poverty, and prolonged economic collapse.

I definitely do not excuse what the Nazis did. I simply argue that we need to understand the details of the slippery slope that Germany went down from 1933 to 1943-- so that we will recognize the same pattern if it ever begins showing up here in the US --e.g., scrapping of major legal rights/protections in the guise of protecting "national security"

Again, the question is whether Irving has supplied important information on Nazi Germany, the extent of his deceit in writting history, and whether the benefits of the information he has provided outweigh the misinformation he has provided. I have not finished reading the trial transcript --it is several hundred pages -- so I don't have an opinion at this point.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/25/2004

Mr. Williams,

I seem to recall having this discussion with you before. You're attempt to 'problematize' the Holocaust involves questions that have been addressed and answered entirely satisfactorily with facts, obviating the need for speculative pseudo-logic.

Ironically, I share some of your concerns about our future trajectory. But this is not a fruitful direction of investigation.


Sara D. Salzman - 9/24/2004

1. Thanks.
2. Since I do not read German, I am not able to comment on Irving's original sources. I have read Irving, and I have read Evans, and I have agreed with Evans (and Judge Gray) that Irving was deceitful in some of his translations.
3. Professor Lipstadt's book WAS peer-reviewed, Irving's are not.
4. Williams (to rephrase his comment to me) "seems to be following a course somewhat similar to" Irving -- who sued Professor Lipstadt and then pouted for months because she exercised her right not to take the stand. Why should this be an issue? Because Mr. Irving believes he is the only one who has rights. He has a right to free speech, yet he can sue Gita Sereny for statements she has made. He can sue Professor Lipstadt for comments she has made. Why should you be puzzled that a defendant should present expert testimony? Irving called John Keegan, Lipstadt called Evans and van Pelt. She also submitted reports by other experts. Many defendants choose not to take the stand. She does not consider "Holocaust denial" worthy of a Socratic debate, she does not wish to give legitimacy to it. And that is also her choice, isn't it?

Let me remind Mr. Williams that Mr. Irving did not sue in the United States, where many copies of her book were sold and where Irving would have to "prove" libel. He sued her in England, where, accoording to D.D. Guttenplan's book, FIVE copies had been sold, and where the onus was on Professor Lipstadt to "prove" the truth of her statement. In fact, Irving did this for a very specific reason: "I'm going after Lipstadt because she's peddling her book in England; in the U.S. she is protected by NY vs. Sullivan, by the First Amendment..." (Court TV interview).

I suggest you read http://holocaust-history.org/irvings-war/
for a very insightful treatise on the legal issues raised by the trial.

Finally, I have no interest in "controlling this discourse," merely on keeping it on track and knocking down the strawmen raised by Irving-apologists. I find the reference to Goebbels offensive, but then, I imagined it was designed to be.


Don Williams - 9/24/2004

please
See my reply to Ms Salzman several posts below.
" Ms Salzman's citation is appreciated --her peevish comments are not" , at time 1:39 pm


Don Williams - 9/24/2004

Given the Bellesiles affair, can anyone seriously suggest that the historical profession consists of "serious historians" with high standards for peer review?

To the best of my memory, here is what I recall of that trainwreck:
a) Bellesiles publishes the forerunner article to Arming America in 1996. The OAH's Journal of American History refuses to publish Clayton Cramer's warning critique.
b) Arming America is published in 2000 to rave reviews by Bellesiles ideological allies in the gun control movement.
Journal of American History again waves it through any serious peer review.
Bellesiles receives the highest award in history --Columbia's Bancroft
c) But continued scrutiny by Clayton Cramer -- and Northwestern Law Professor James Lindgren -- starts to generate smoke. A Arming America forum at William and Mary Quarterly generates more.
d) Emory brings in three of academic history's leading lights to investigate Bellesiles scholarship. Adverse verdict is rendered, Bellesiles resigns from tenured post, Columbia rescinds Bancroft prize, and Kropf suspends publication of Arming America.
e) All of which left me stunned -- because while I thought Bellesiles was somewhat of a horse thief, I thought the Emory Commission hung him for a horse he didn't steal. That is, I thought his probate studies might have been an honest mistake or possibly even true for some areas and timeframes.

I sweetly explained why in a post to H-OIEAHC -- see http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=vx&;list=H-oieahc&month=0301&week=d&msg=lhUfZFG4qIR8iBfMk8aoDg&user=&pw= (IF link doesn't work, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=lx&;list=H-oieahc&user=&pw=&month=0301 and click on 2003-01-24 link "In defense of Bellesiles" )

f) In a letter to OAH, I argued the following:
"Arming America was the spearhead for a strong campaign by Bellesiles and prominent historians to promote a pro-gun control interpretation of the Second Amendment in the precedent-setting Supreme Court case United States v. Emerson. The historians' primary arguments (Yassky brief, Constitutional Commentary, Chicago-Kent Law Review articles) had extensive citations to Bellesiles' findings. (Bellesiles' Chicago-Kent article was a slightly-rewritten version of chapter seven in Arming America.) The Chicago-Kent articles were also cited extensively in the Ninth Circuit Court's recent ruling that citizens have no right to own firearms (Silveria v. Lochyer) and are being promulgated in a book by Carl Bogus.


Bellesiles' questionable history, now a significant part of those two precedent-setting court rulings, has many more serious errors than were discussed by the Emory Committee--although Bellesiles' probate study results may have been the result of a honest mistake.


Americans like Emerson should not be convicted as felons on the basis of false history. OAH has an obligation to review and correct the Bellesilesean history in those court rulings because OAH is directly responsible for this situation.


OAH gave Bellesiles' findings credibility by publishing his seminal article (the basis for Arming America) in its 1996 Journal of American History (JAH), by refusing to publish Clayton Cramer's early critique of Bellesiles 1996 article, by awarding Bellesiles the Binkley-Stephenson award for the 1996 article, by publishing Roger Lane's uncritical review of Arming America in 2000, and by publishing Bellesiles' assertions ("Disarming the Critics") in the November 2001 OAH Newsletter. The Emory Committee Report criticized JAH's editorial checking of Bellesiles' 1996 article.


I posted detailed discussions of the above issues to H-OIEAHC in 2003 (24 January, 30 January) and in 2002 (10 April, 1 May, 10 May, 21 June, 20 July, 12 August and 19 August). See <http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/logbrowse.pl?trx=lm&;list=h-oieahc>.


Don Williams"
-------------------------
Ref: http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2003may/correspondence.html

g) OAH had a Bellesiles discussion a few months later but, to my knowledge, decided and did nothing.

On May 5, 2003 the American Historical Association (AHA) announced that it would no longer investigate charges of plagiarism and fraud leveled against historians. The organization explained that it "does not believe that the modest benefits to the profession justify the time, energy, and effort that have gone into the process."

h) After this farce, is anyone a position to intone solemnly about "serious historians"?




Don Williams - 9/24/2004



1) I appreciate Salzman's substantive response to my question -- her reference to Richard Evans book, her pointing to some of Evan's serious criticisms of Irving's work, and her note that Evans claims such "deliberate mistakes are legion in Irving's work".

2) I would have been more impressed if Salzman had indicated that she had read the primary sources cited by Irving, the primary sources cited by Evans, and --after careful analysis -- had concluded that Evans was right and Irving was wrong and had then explained why she felt that way.

That is real peer review. Instead, Salzman seems to be following a course somewhat similar to that taken by Deborah Lipstadt --who refused to take the stand at the trial in Britain, to explain why she wrote about Irving as she did, and to submit to cross-examination by Irving. Instead, Lipstadt simply referred to defense hired gun and expert Richard Evan. I don't think Socrates' dialogues were done this way.

I'm also puzzled as to why Lipstadt needed to hire Evan to speak on her behalf and to do months of detailed scrutiny of Irving's works to find flaws -- since Lipstadt presumably had already done such a study years earlier before making her accusations against Irving in her 1993 book.

3) Fortunately, we do have someone who tried to do real peer review -- albeit not a professional historian. We have the Judge in the Irving Lipstadt case and the transcript of his judgement -- including Evan's and Irving's detailed discussions. See http://www.holocaustdenialontrial.org/ieindex.html . I would suggest that both Kirstein and Salzman should review that transcript and present the case for and against Irving.

4) In closing, I find Salzman's whining about my "personal insult" --
i.e., my comment that she needed a detailed roadmap of my argument -- to be two-faced and hypocritical , given her insulting suggestion ( post dated September 23, 2004 at 9:29 PM ) that
"Mr. Williams uses a tactic often used by Holocaust deniers (which is NOT to say that Mr. Williams is one, but he does use a similar tactic." )

5) Ms Salzman seems to think that she should control this discourse --determine what considerations are relevant, what data is germane, which comments are relevant and which are out of bounds, etc.

Goebbals would have grinned in appreciation. I do not. I suggest she Reserve her editorial suggestions in the future for those who might care.


Don Williams - 9/24/2004

I base that upon upon quotes of Himmler,etc.


Don Williams - 9/24/2004

If murder of the Jews was the primary goal of the Nazi leadership, why tie up the German railway system, divert significant numbers of needed troops to serve as guards,administrators,etc?

Regrettably, we know how genocide is carried out --from many examples in the 20th century. It is carried out with mass graves. See Iraq, etc. Why didn't the leadership simply have large trenches bulldozed alongside railroads in the countryside,ferry the Jews 20-30 miles out into the countryside, drive them out of the railway cars, machinegun them, and then use bulldozers to cover the bodies?

I apologize for the gruesome details. I acknowledge that large numbers of people died in the camps and that the Nazis were not only indifferent to those deaths, but created conditions to encourage them. I would like to see more evidence before agreeing that genocide was the PRIMARY and INITIAL purpose of the camps -- as opposed to an end result into which the Nazis slide.

If I might digress, the value of this historical inquiry lies in it's warning to us. The Republican Supreme Court has just ruled that the Republican Congress has given our Republican President the power to throw American citizens into concentration camps without a trial by jury of their peers -- thereby discarding 1000 years of Anglo-Saxon law on civil rights. I agree with, and praise, Judge Anthony Scalia's scathing dissent to that ruling.

We will not have death camps in this country in the near term, of course. But it will be interesting to see what the Supreme Court's ruling leads to 30 years hence. Especially if the massive federal debt (now projected at $9.9 Trillion by 2008) and baby boomer retirement brings on a massive economic depression and resulting unrest.


In a nation of 290 million people, Sept 11 was a pinprick-- more indicative of governmental incompetence than of a serious threat to the nation. The use of the mass media to deceive and mislead the American populace was astounding -- as was the use of the "war on terror" to serve the agendas of power groups. The fact is that the US spends more on defense than the next 23 major military powers COMBINED, that we have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the rest of the world if ever seriously threatened , and that the efforts of Al Qaeda are a feeble attempt to resist US subjugation of the major oil regions. None of which you will see mentioned on Fox News.


Charles Christopher Tucker - 9/24/2004

A wonderful sentiment, promptly and routinely broken by every member state of the U.N., if I'm not mistaken.

It has nothing to do with your title question on here. "Should Respectable Historians Attend and Speak at Conferences Hosted by David Irving?" The article you wrote under that title goes on to tell why you your justified attendance and speaking there. I've attempted to ask you in a different thread for rational reasons for other historians, not just you, to do so.

If the title had been "Should I, Peter N. Kirstein, Attend and Speak at Confrences Hosted by David Irving?" the article you wrote would be more accurately titled. The replies here might be more along the lines of "You are making a big mistake, but it's your life." It would be similar to the response if you had an article entitled "Should I, Peter N. Kirstein, Ski In The Dark Near Trees?". If you want to commit self harm, or harm your own career, it is your life. I'm trying to help you realize that advocating this career harm to your peers isn't really in their best interests. I'm also hoping to help you see the harm for what it is. David Irving is a big, nasty tree in the dark with a stout limb hanging at just the right level for you to clothesline yourself on it. I want you to know where you are skiing so fast and with so little regard for your safety.

I'm shining a spotlight on that nasty tree and the limb that's sticking out in your path and you seem bent on skiing toward it anyway.


Sara D. Salzman - 9/24/2004

An excellent quote, Mr. Kirstein!

Does this mean that you agree that Mr. Irving's constant attempts to silence his critics through threats and lawsuits is despicable?

His lawsuit against Deborah Lipstadt?
His lawsuit against Gita Sereny?
His threat to sue amazon.uk?
His attempts to belittle other historians with infantile smears? (David "Rat Face" Caesarini, Richard "Skunky" Evans)

I'm delighted to see that you agree.


Sara D. Salzman - 9/24/2004

Mr Williams:

Once again I must ask why you feel it necessary to change the subject of the thread to a personal insult?

As for your question, it has been answered quite well by Professor Richard Evans, among others. Evans' book "Telling Lies About Hitler" explains it all. You might read this:
http://www.londonsocialisthistorians.org/cgi-bin/newsletter%20articles/webbbs_config.pl/read/58

Here's an excerpt:
"The last chapters include an account of how Irving responded to the evidence in court. At first Irving denying everything, then he sough to filibuster, seizing on the most inconsequential points, while neglecting the main ones. Ultimately, Irving was forced to accept the claim (which mattered most to Evans) that he had consistently lied, falsifying documents, in order to try and shield Adolf Hitler from responsibility for the Holocaust. The examples of deceit which Evans gives include mistranslating the sentence “SS leaders must stay” to “the Jews must stay” (in a document which did not mention the killings), or claiming that a “stop” order (placed on one train-load of Jews being sent from Berlin to Riga) proved that Hitler opposed all killings from the start. Evans demonstrates that such deliberate mistakes are legion in Irving's work, serving always to legitimise the regime. "

Of course, you may not have read "Telling Lies About Hitler" if you live in England, since Irving, that defender of free speech, threatened to sue amazon.uk for selling it.


Don Williams - 9/24/2004

1) My reason for citing Tacitus was to point out that historians providing useful information are not rejected out of hand just because they hold some repugnant,maybe even false, opinions.
2) I do not see any difference between burning someone's books and urging that any work by that person be ignored and shunned. It is true that some people are con artists -- that they relentlessly write to deceive on a major scale -- and that their work is not worth reading because it is too difficult to separate out truth from deception. White House press releases, for example.

But that is a serious judgment to reach about someone in academia. My question was: is Irving such a person? I acknowledge that some have made a specific response --versus the usual vague invective -- by citing the findings of a lawsuit in which Irving was involved.

3) The point about Hiroshima,etc was to note that
(a) Leaders across many nations have, on occasion, done horrible things for what they consider rational reasons
(b) We need to understand what led to the rise of the Nazis and what motivated their behavior --not to excuse their behavior but to understand why things happpened so that we can foresee and avoid similar events in the future.

To make an analogy,
The understandable impulse toward serial killers and pedophiles who murder is to condemn them to death. A more useful response is to also determine what conditions created them. In many cases, one finds that such criminals suffered enormous abuse in childhood. One's anger then shifts partially away from the monster and toward those who created the monster. We realize that it is not just enough to find and maybe execute the monster -- but to prevent the creation of the monster in the first place by ensuring that child abuse is detected, reported, and halted. When a psychologist studies a psychopath, develops an empathy for how the psychopath views the world, and reports that information, we do not smear the psychologist as being in sympathy with and similar to the psychopath.


(c) as I noted, I think that the history of Nazi Germany is not satisfactory/complete We know what the Nazis did-- I'm not sure we know what created them and what led millions of normal Germans to support them
(d) the real issue is whether Irving has brought --or will bring -- anything to the table by way of new significant factual data in this area and whether that data can be separated out from any misrepresentations that he is making. It seems to me that that is a question of fact --vice moral judgment -- which historians should be able to answer.

It also seems to me that the historians here should have answered that question before either supporting or condemning Irving.

So what is the answer?


Don Williams - 9/24/2004

My error . Sorry.


Don Williams - 9/24/2004

1) My reason for citing Tacitus was to point out that historians providing useful information are not rejected out of hand just because they hold some repugnant,maybe even false, opinions.
2) I do not see any difference between burning someone's books and urging that any work by that person be ignored and shunned. It is true that some people are con artists -- that they relentlessly write to deceive on a major scale -- and that their work is not worth reading because it is too difficult to separate out truth from deception. White House press releases, for example.

But that is a serious judgment to reach about someone in academia. My question was: is Irving such a person? I acknowledge that some have made a specific response --versus the usual vague invective -- by citing the findings of a lawsuit in which Irving was involved.

3) The point about Hiroshima,etc was to note that
(a) Leaders across many nations have, on occasion, done horrible things for what they consider rational reasons
(b) We need to understand what led to the rise of the Nazis and what motivated their behavior --not to excuse their behavior but to understand why things happpened so that we can foresee and avoid similar events in the future.

The understandable impulse toward serial killers and pedophiles who murder is to condemn them to death. A more useful response is to also determine what conditions created them. In many cases, one finds that such criminals suffered enormous abuse in childhood. One's anger then shifts partially away from the monster and toward those who created the monster. We realize that it is not just enough to find and maybe execute the monster -- but to prevent the creation of the monster in the first place by ensuring that child abuse is detected, reported, and halted.


(c) as I noted, I think that the history of Nazi Germany is not satisfactory/complete We know what the Nazis did-- I'm not sure we know what created them and what led millions of normal Germans to support them
(d) the real issue is whether Irving has brought --or will bring -- anything to the table by way of new significant factual data in this area and whether that data be separated out from any misrepresentations that he is making. It seems to me that that is a question of fact --vice moral judgment -- which historians should be able to answer.

It also seems to me that the historians here should have answered that question before either supporting or condemning Irving.

So what is the answer?


Charles Christopher Tucker - 9/24/2004

There IS careful and considered, truly researched and fairly peer-reviewed revisionism on the Holocaust. That said, David Irving and many of his frequent associates, such as Ernst Zundel, are not historical revisionists in any legitimate capacity. Their work is not submitted for peer-review. Their sources, when they exist at all, are frequently not checked by any member of their audience. They don't play by the rules of the study of history. They aren't interested in truth, but in denying the victims of the Holocaust.

The reason why I keep bringing up the subject of moon landing deniers, who are somewhat related to flat earthers, to Professor Kirstein is because they shared the bill with him at Irving's most recent conference. I have to wonder how any respectable historian could appear at a forum also given over to such fringe elements.

You wrote: "It is also legitimate to ask why there is a whole "industry" devoted to popularizing and sensationalizing the Holocaust without trying to really understand it." I am not familiar with any such industry. Yes, there was a popular movie which featured The Holocaust as a backdrop. There have also been popular movies about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, dozens if not hundreds that use the U.S. Civil War as a backdrop. Are these also part of industries that popularize and sensationalize those events? When I go into any major book store there are many more titles about the combat of World War II than about the Holocaust. Are these, too, part of an industry that popularizes and sensationalizes that event? Isn't it just as fair to ask this about any historical event that the public at large might purchase information on? What about the magazines which popularize history? To single out Holocaust studies as being popularized and sensationalized is to ignore the overwhelmingly greater industry of popularized history.

How are the LIES of Holocaust denial strengthened by being kept from being presented on college campuses? You wrote: "If anyone expressing skepticism about, for example, whether the oft-repeated figure of six million deaths might be too high, is, for another example, immediately banned from college campuses, the myth of the Holocaust deniers is thereby strengthened, not exposed." One strengthens a lie through repetition. I do not understand how the lies can be strengthened if they are kept out of venues where they hope to speak without the truth being presented. If an unscrupulous alcoholic beverage company was trying to present lectures on the benefits of binge drinking on college campuses you can bet that they would be prevented. Why, if we don't allow companies to present lies about alcohol abuse, should we allow liars such as David Irving to use colleges to fill their pockets and poison minds?


Sara D. Salzman - 9/24/2004

And as fascinating as this discussion is, it has nothing to do with the question at hand. Mr. Williams uses a tactic often used by Holocaust deniers (which is NOT to say that Mr. Williams is one, but he does use a similar tactic.)
1. Mr. Williams brings up Tacitus and book burning. Tacitus, to make a point about historical bias. Book burning... ?
2. Mr. Tucker responds that book burning is not an issue, and neither, at this point, is Tacitus.
3. Mr. Williams claims "victory,: since Mr. Tucker did not explicitly say "no book burning."
4. I make the case, again, about Irving, state that no one is in favor of book burning, and refer to a rather famous quote by a German philosopher about book burning leading to people burning.
5. Mr. Williams then jumps to the "Hiroshima" gambit. It not only changes the subject from David Irving, it brings up the "so the Germans killed people, so did we" defense.

But once again, this has nothing to do with the subject at hand, which is whether respectable historians should participate in David Irving's annual hate-fest in Cincinnati.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/24/2004

Kyoto was ruled out as a target months before the dropping of the atomic bombs, on the grounds that any strategic value was negated by the intensely hostile reaction likely to result from targeting historic and cultural treasures so densely located in that region. Nagasaki was a second choice to Kokura. This chronology covers the ground pretty effectively.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/24/2004

Mr. Williams,

Your discussions here are a fantastic example of the fallacy of replacing unknown facts with logic. The Nazi goal was to purify their lands, initially by relocation, but with no regard for the survivability of the Jews they moved. The concentration camps were very efficient, in many respects, both as labor camps (as long as you allow for the fact that widespread deaths of Jews were not a failure of the camps, but a component of their purpose) and as industrialized murder operations.

If the Nazis wanted to use Jews as human shields, the concentration camps would have been in German industrial and urban areas. That was never their purpose, even in the ending days of the Nazi regime, when, given a choice between abandoning genocide and getting as much done as possible, the latter path was vigorously pursued.


Stephen Davis - 9/23/2004

I don't recall anyone at any point questioning the right of you or your friend David Irving to hold silly ideas. We have simply wondered if a serious historian would or could hold the opinions you two share.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/23/2004

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions WITHOUT interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through ANY media and REGARDLESS OF FRONTIERS." (my emphasis)


Don Williams - 9/23/2004

I mentioned the atomic bomb deliberations above for a reason: Leaders have always known that the way to break the will of the enemy is to show that you can kill his women and children. Certainly the US government has known that from the founding of the Republic --just look at how we conducted our Indian wars. This concept is the foundation of modern terrorism --whether the terrorists are national governments or resistance movements.

If the Nazi goal was to exterminate the Jews from the start, then they went about it in an odd way for people with a notorious reverence for efficiency: Transportation of millions of people for hundreds of miles and construction of large camps. Which raises the question: Did Hitler plan to kill the Jews from the start or were the Jews hostages --intended to restrain the Allied governments -- who were killed incrementally as the German prospects became bleaker and in response to Allied atrocies --firebombing of Dresden,etc?

The issue is not whether the Nazis were guilty of mass murder --they were and deserved everything they got. The issue is whether we really understand how a society under stress can gradually adopt policies which lead to horror. A question for the governments of today, by the way. We need to understand the Nazis so that we never become them.


Don Williams - 9/23/2004

The source for the info above on how use of the atomic bomb was planned is http://www.dannen.com/decision/targets.html .

People who are familar with nuclear weapons know that high altitude air bursts are done when you want a wide area of destruction --i.e., when you want to kill as many people as possible. Attacks on specific military targets are done with ground bursts , which focus most of the power on the specific target. Notice that the atomic bomb targeting discussions were focused on using air bursts.


Don Williams - 9/23/2004

I find that an interesting objection --given that our government burned 200,000+ Japanese women and children alive -- not just at Nagasaki and Hiroshima, but in napalm strikes on 69 Japanese cities.

Air Force General Curtis LeMay acknowledged that he would have been tried as a war criminal if the US had lost the war. See, e.g., http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/peopleevents/pandeAMEX61.html

Declassified documents on the targeting of Hiroshima and Nagasaki make plan that the psychological effect of widespread death was the objective. Hiroshima was chosen, for example, because " It is a good radar target and it is such a size that a large part of the city could be extensively damaged. There are adjacent hills which are likely to produce a focussing effect which would considerably increase the blast damage"

The highest priority target was Kyoto -- Nagasaki was bombed only as an alternative because of clouds over Kyoto. Kyoto was the primary target because "This target is an urban industrial area with a population of 1,000,000. It is the former capital of Japan and many people and industries are now being moved there as other areas are being destroyed. From the psychological point of view there is the advantage that Kyoto is an intellectual center for Japan and the people there are more apt to appreciate the significance of such a weapon as the gadget."


Sara D. Salzman - 9/23/2004

I have always found it a bit disinegenuous when, rather than continuing a thread with an appropriate title, the title is changed to "Mr. X is ... or does..."

Be that as it may. You use a lot of words like "suggests," "appears to" and you seem to jump to a lot of conclusions. Perhaps this may help:

No one in the world believes that every single historian in the world is completely unbiased. Everyone has biases. The difference is whether that bias interferes with their ability to report truthfully on historical events. We are all aware of Tacitus' bias.

David Irving, however, hides his bias with his own weasel words like "tradtional enemies of free speech." But that is still not the issue.

The issue is whether David Irving deliberately mistranslates and manipulates documents in order to "create" a history that isn't there. He does. Judge Gray made it quite clear in his judgment AGAINST Mr. Irving that Irving's pro-Hitler bias has sullied the facts.

I hear a lot of "David Irving has found significant information not revealed by others." But is that "information" accurate? Unless you are fluent in German, how do you know his translations are correct? Much of irving's "significant" information comes from interviews with former Nazis. But Irving says that all the eyewitnesses of Auschwitz, for instance, are liars. He gives credence to those who further his agenda, and dismisses anyone who doesn't.

Mr. Tucker is obviously not in favor of book burnings, whether they be by Tacitus or Irving. Neither am I. But I believe historical fiction belongs in the fiction section, not in the history section. David Irving writes novels, not facts. He admits to stealing documents from archives. He admits to "making up" numbers and figures. He admits to "mistranslating" certain vital documents. He makes jokes about "one-man gas chambers," and tells Holocaust survivors that they are liars, or that they have tattooed their own arms just to get reparations from Germany.

No, Mr. Williams, book burning is what Nazis did. Right before they burned people.


Don Williams - 9/23/2004

Nazi Germany, the Holocaust,and WWII were disasters we would like to avoid. Yet the histories I have read of the period seem to strangely elide over how those events came about. The received wisdom --as propounded by the victors -- seems to be that Hitler was a deranged psychopath with strange powers who was able-- in a manner not clearly explained -- to hypnotize millions of Germans into following him into a self-created hell.

Whenever I hear bullshit, my curiosity is provoked --I want to know what is not being discussed. It seems clear that once in power, the Nazis used the power of the police state and emergency situation of ongoing warfare to keep control. The US government has often done the same. But how did Hitler get elected in the first place?

By 1933, Germans had suffered 20+ years of deep misery, they were convinced that that misery was inflicted upon them by outsiders , and they wanted someone to pay. Recall that during the 1920s, when the rest of the world luxuriated in prosperity, the Germans suffered economic disaster -- a worthless currency (which meant that everyone's life savings were lost), continual high unemployment (almost 50%), starvation, and annual confiscation of earnings for heavy war reparations. The national assets (e.g., Ruhr region) were seized and Germany was systemically plundered under the terms of the Versailles Treaty. The onset of the Great Depression only added to privation.

The 5 million+ Jews killed in the concentration camps did not cause the above --indeed, they seem to have been innocent of wrongdoing. So how did they get blamed in what was clearly an irrational process?

Clearly the Jews were used as scapegoats to deflect popular anger from German elites who had led the nation into disaster. CLearly German elites supported Hitler in the hope that he would protect their wealth by destroying the Communists -- which included many Jews. Yet those German elites did not write the Versailles Treaty.

I suspect the real blame lies with the wealthy bankers who lent the governments of France and Britain huge sums during WWI, who wanted their money back, who pushed the governments of France and UK to squeeze Germany and whose greed brought disaster upon millions of people.

I think that part of the story has not been fully told yet. An explanation of events from the Nazi viewpoint -- assuming one can separate out truth from lies -- would add to our understanding. The question for Mr Kirstein is whether Irving has enough honesty to add anything to that inquiry.


Don Williams - 9/23/2004

Although he does not come out and say so, Mr Tucker does not appear to think that we should burn Tacitus's books. Or advocate that other historians shun Tacitus , denounce Tacitus's histories as an ongoing con game, and refuse to ever cite Tacitus. Nor does Mr Tucker advocate that historians citing Tacitus are to be smeared with guilt by association.

The reason we read Tacitus is that we recognize Tacitus's bias (Roman Senator , defender of Rome, including Roman imperialism, anti-Emperor) , but we look past that to see if Tacitus provides useful FACTS.

The same question arises with re to David Irving. Are David Irving's books nothing but deceitful, pro-Nazi propaganda? Or does Irving provide FACTUAL information that other historians have failed to unearth or to mention? Does he provide significant information not revealed by others?


Charles Christopher Tucker - 9/23/2004

Perhaps we should discuss the question from the title of your posting, Professor Kirstein.

Should Respectable Historians Attend and Speak at Conferences Hosted by David Irving?

Rather than examine David Irving, let's examine what respectable historians could gain from accepting invitations to speak at his confrences.

Is David Irving's audience likely to buy works by respectable historians? Possibly. What are the demographics of his audience? How many attend and how many works on history do they buy? What periods of history interest them? How many titles a year do they purchase? Information like this is notable by its abscence on David Irving's website. Unless he discloses that to others in private I don't know that he could use book sales as a selling point for appearing there. Did David Irving share this information with you before attending?

What does he pay speakers at his confrence? Is it enough to interest someone who may already have a full life? Does he pay for their expenses in travelling in addtion to a speaking fee? This information is also missing from his website. You are better able to answer that question than any of us, Professor Kirstein.

If we can't answer the economic questions then let's look into the less tangible benefits. Professional confrences aren't always about money. Some networking occurs at such events, how much networking would occur for respectable historians? Whom would they meet there? Who are the attendees and other speakers?

What benefit would a respectable historian gain from associating with moon landing deniers?

What benefit would a respectable historian gain from learning of the life of Willis Carto?

What benefit would a respectable historian gain from examining the anomolies of the Nick Berg beheading video?

The answers to those questions would need to come from you, Professor Kirstein. What did you gain from these activities at the confrence, if any?


Charles Christopher Tucker - 9/23/2004

Show me where anyone here, on this forum, has suggested burning David Irving's books. Until you can show this your question becomes mere provocation.

The original question is whether respectable historians should associate with David Irving. Since I don't think Tacitus is in any shape to host a confrence I don't think we face the same question in his regard.


Don Williams - 9/23/2004

"Objective" historians often fail to produce much --they are pale and lanquid figures whose lack of conviction leads to lack of energy. Much more information is produced by the clash of different opinions -- similar to the clash of opposing testimonies and differing accounts in a courtroom.

Here, by the way , are some of Tacitus's comments re the Jewish people from Book 5 of the Histories (see http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/histories.5.v.html )
If I was a Palestinian lawyer, I would argue that Tacitus's account casts doubt upon Jewish claims to the land of Israel. What I find interesting is that the Jews appear to have been the Palestinians of Tacitus's day -- i.e., he sounds like Sharon describing member of Hamas:
-----------
"Some say that the Jews were fugitives from the island of Crete, who settled on the nearest coast of Africa about the time when Saturn was driven from his throne by the power of Jupiter. Evidence of this is sought in the name. There is a famous mountain in Crete called Ida; the neighbouring tribe, the Idaei, came to be called Judaei by a barbarous lengthening of the national name. Others assert that in the reign of Isis the overflowing population of Egypt, led by Hierosolymus and Judas, discharged itself into the neighbouring countries. Many, again, say that they were a race of Ethiopian origin, who in the time of king Cepheus were driven by fear and hatred of their neighbours to seek a new dwelling-place. Others describe them as an Assyrian horde who, not having sufficient territory, took possession of part of Egypt, and founded cities of their own in what is called the Hebrew country, lying on the borders of Syria. Others, again, assign a very distinguished origin to the Jews, alleging that they were the Solymi, a nation celebrated in the poems of Homer, who called the city which they founded Hierosolyma after their own name.

Most writers, however, agree in stating that once a disease, which horribly disfigured the body, broke out over Egypt; that king Bocchoris, seeking a remedy, consulted the oracle of Hammon, and was bidden to cleanse his realm, and to convey into some foreign land this race detested by the gods. The people, who had been collected after diligent search, finding themselves left in a desert, sat for the most part in a stupor of grief, till one of the exiles, Moyses by name, warned them not to look for any relief from God or man, forsaken as they were of both, but to trust to themselves, taking for their heaven-sent leader that man who should first help them to be quit of their present misery. They agreed, and in utter ignorance began to advance at random. Nothing, however, distressed them so much as the scarcity of water, and they had sunk ready to perish in all directions over the plain, when a herd of wild asses was seen to retire from their pasture to a rock shaded by trees. Moyses followed them, and, guided by the appearance of a grassy spot, discovered an abundant spring of water. This furnished relief. After a continuous journey for six days, on the seventh they possessed themselves of a country, from which they expelled the inhabitants, and in which they founded a city and a temple.

Moyses, wishing to secure for the future his authority over the nation, gave them a novel form of worship, opposed to all that is practised by other men. Things sacred with us, with them have no sanctity, while they allow what with us is forbidden. In their holy place they have consecrated an image of the animal by whose guidance they found deliverance from their long and thirsty wanderings. They slay the ram, seemingly in derision of Hammon, and they sacrifice the ox, because the Egyptians worship it as Apis. They abstain from swine's flesh, in consideration of what they suffered when they were infected by the leprosy to which this animal is liable. By their frequent fasts they still bear witness to the long hunger of former days, and the Jewish bread, made without leaven, is retained as a memorial of their hurried seizure of corn"
-----------
"This worship, however introduced, is upheld by its antiquity; all their other customs, which are at once perverse and disgusting, owe their strength to their very badness. The most degraded out of other races, scorning their national beliefs, brought to them their contributions and presents. This augmented the wealth of the Jews, as also did the fact, that among themselves they are inflexibly honest and ever ready to shew compassion, though they regard the rest of mankind with all the hatred of enemies. They sit apart at meals, they sleep apart, and though, as a nation, they are singularly prone to lust, they abstain from intercourse with foreign women; among themselves nothing is unlawful. Circumcision was adopted by them as a mark of difference from other men. Those who come over to their religion adopt the practice, and have this lesson first instilled into them, to despise all gods, to disown their country, and set at nought parents, children, and brethren. Still they provide for the increase of their numbers. It is a crime among them to kill any newly-born infant. They hold that the souls of all who perish in battle or by the hands of the executioner are immortal. Hence a passion for propagating their race and a contempt for death. "


Charles Christopher Tucker - 9/23/2004

There is a difference between posting items critical of your writings, speeches and deeds and actually holding a discussion, defending your position. Can we agree with that?

And he, with his prolific postings, does have the time to actually respond in public to his critics, but chooses not to defend his position, merely show his donors how much people dislike him, encouraging further donations. To respond to accurate, honest critique would open him up to losing the arguement, wouldn't it?

The same attitude existed in your own critics when the letter was posted. None answered for the fact that we were led to war under false pretenses, they didn't even debate the issue of whether WMDs still existed. They wanted to fantasize about our troops greeted as liberators, yet now we know this was all fantasy.

David Irving, despite his opposition to the Iraq war, is actually more like your detractors than he is like you. He doesn't respond to accurate critique, he merely goes ahead with his own agenda, like the Bush administration proceeded with the war despite protests.


Stephen Davis - 9/23/2004

Prof Kirstein will, it seems, attend any conference that trivializes Jewish suffering. But the oppression of other ethnic, racial, or national groups is, in his book, sacred.
How typical.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/23/2004

Prof. Kirstein,

It seems to me that you just came from one of those.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/23/2004

The issue that Ms Salzman raises and that Professor Lipstadt raised whether Mr Irving is a historian or not is simply part of the ideological struggle between opponents. The issue is clearly ideologically motivated for it seems to me irrational to assert that a historian is not a historian.

As Ms Salzman pointed out. however, Justice Gray, who presided over the London-based libel trial between Mr Irving and Professor Lipstadt, stated that Mr Irving was an anti-semite, a falsifier of history and a holocaust denier. That is a pretty strong and damaging assessment.

Yet Justice Gray also wrote the following in his decision:

"As a military historian, Irving has much to commend him. For his works of military history Irving has undertaken thorough and painstaking research into the archives. He has discovered and disclosed to historians and others many documents which, but for his efforts, might have remained unnoticed for years. It was plain from the way in which he conducted his case and dealt with a sustained and penetratin cross-examination that his knowledge of World War 2 is unparalleled. His mastery of the detail of the historical documents is remarkable. He is beyond question able and intelligent. He was invariably quick to spot the significance of documents which he had not previously seen. Moreover he writes his military history in a clear and vivid style. I accept the favourable assessment by Professor Watt and Sir John Keegan of the calibre of Irving's military history."


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/23/2004

Mr Davis,

How about a conference called:

"Does Anyone Own the Holocaust?: Revisionism Uncensored"


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/22/2004

Mr Tucker,

On his website, he states that "letter" writers who indicate a preference that their email not be posted, will be respected in these matters. Yes he does encourage supportive response but if one goes on the Internet, then one cannot be shocked if one's utterances are disseminated widely. Believe me I know. The auto da fe surrounding my act of antiwar protest, that led to my suspension, was an Internet phenomenon. Every time I put something out on the Internet, I get a robust response. I love it! It sharpens my thinking; it is a kind of ideological combat without the blood and death; it allows me to test my mettle against those who strongly disagree. I may be crazy, but I actually love this stuff! I mean I just love it!!

I would argue his website is an excellent place for discussion. He posts highly critical email, articles, reviews, letters, from around the world that are harshly critical.


Sara D. Salzman - 9/22/2004

I am astonished at Mr. Kirstein's consistent refusal to discuss the issue at hand, which is, I believe, whether David Irving is a) a historian; b) a perjurer and liar; c) an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, as opposed to a revisionist historian.

Mr. Irving does a great deal more than simply "question the 6 million figure." He has denied that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz. He has denied that Adolf Hitler had anything to do with the Holocaust. He has called Auschwitz survivors "A**HOLES" and liars. He has accused survivors of tattooing their own arms in order to "profit" from the Holocaust.

But let's go back to what's really at issue here. If I took a quote from a historical document and deliberately misquoted it so as to change its meaning, I would be lying. If I took the quote "there was no murder" and changed it to "there was ... murder," I would be worse than a liar, I would be a manipulator of facts to suit my own purpose. And this is exactly what David Irving has done. And it is what a court has ruled.

Equally important is the myth that Irving's "right to free speech" has been denied. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr. Irving has his own website, where he is free to make whatever statements, true or false, he wishes. He travels around the United States, selling books and making speeches. It is, in fact, Mr. Irving who is trying to deny free speech to anyone who disagrees with him. He sued Deborah Lipstadt to deny her right of free speech. He threatens to sue anyone who opposes him. The locations of his book tour stops are "top secret," so that anyone who disagrees with him is unable to confront him.

At the trial, he began his closing argument by telling the Judge (who he addressed at one point as "My Fuhrer") that his father had "gone over the top at Gallipoli." But even this simple statement was a lie. His father was on a submarine.

His work is not censored, Mr. Kerstein, it is discredited as a pack of lies designed to further his fascist agenda. Let me leave the discussion with a quote from one of Irving's associates and fellow deniers: "The real reason for Holocaust denial is to make National Socialist a viable political alternative."

Sara Salzman


Charles Christopher Tucker - 9/22/2004

Yes, he will respond by posting the complainer's e-mail address for his fans to harass via e-mail bombs. If he can find any other info on you he'll post that, as well.

Will he use his website to carry on a discussion? Of course not.


Stephen Davis - 9/21/2004

So, Prof. Kirstein, can I put you down as key-note speaker for next spring's "The Truth About the 'Trail of Tears'" Conference?


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 9/21/2004

Mr. Tucker,
I find after going through this thread that you have already stated my own feelings intelligently and honestly. Just wanted to enter the debate in full support of your posts.

David Irving is an anti-Semite and a Holocaust deniar (frankly, I have never known a deniar who was also not an Anti-Semite). Thus, associating with him lends him credibility to those who know nothing about the subject.

Mr. Kirstein may defend his right to attend a conference with him (although no one is desputing this), but I believe doing so puts him in a position where he is lending credibility to Irving's positions.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/21/2004

I sometimes, as this time, type these on Word and then copy. A paragraph was left out under my four queries on what is a Holocaust denier.

"Mr Irving does not deny the first three points but does question the 6 million figure canon (as does Raul Hilberg.) So perhaps a distinction should be made between a denier and a revisionist. I have heard Mr Irving say he questions some of the Holocaust but not all of it? He recently said that on New Zealand radio and other fora."



Peter N. Kirstein - 9/21/2004

Ms. Salzman,

I really think a great debate or article would be, "What is a holocaust denier?" I do think it is hate speech. You believe it is an appropriate depiction of Mr Irving's works. By the way, he writes rather sparingly on the holocaust; it is tangential to his writings although it is not ignored all together. Most of his utterances on the tragedy are verbal and not written. He has not written a book, per se, on the event. I agree I should not assume that I have read more of his oeuvre than others. You are right but I have done my homework and in the ten books I have read, I have not encountered a historicity that would qualify as Holocaust denial. Some of his public utterances have been outrageous and I have told him that in person and in writing.

What is a Holocaust denier?
Is it one who denies Jews were killed deliberately in war?
Is it one who claims there were not death camps or concentration camps?
Is it one who avers that Nazism was not anti-Semitic and that Jews were never marked for death either in the camps or the fields of the East?
Is it one who significantly reduces the numbers killed in the war?

I am afraid that the term is sometimes used indiscriminately for anyone who denies any aspect of the canon. I remember as a child Ms Salzman, my father used to tell me how the Germans made Jews into soap and lampshades. I grew up believing that but it just never happened. Is that holocaust denial?

With regard to your statements of peer review, I concur with you that is a very powerful element in establishing historical credibility. Yet I think Mr Irving's works, or some of them, have passed muster in that area. I refer to Professor Craig's review in the NYReview of Books. In Europe, many of his works were reviewed in journals.

I don't doubt he has committed error. I also don't doubt that he has forced many to reconsider their basic assumptions about the war, Nazi Germany and the attributes of Hitler.

I know Mr Irving pretty well. I think he is racially insensitive; I think he underestimates the need for racial diversity and women's rights; I believe he over glamorizes the value of homogeneity; I think he does have a strong affinity to fascism; I think he probably admires Adolph Hitler. I also think he is brilliant, has contributed mightily in revealing the horrors of allied war crimes and the destruction of innocent Germans in their cities. I think also that all would benefit from not censoring or refusing him entry to nations but simply taking his views head on. I hope everyone will read Gordon Craig's review of Goebbels that his cited in my article. It is a review of courage, boldness and confidence in the value of freedom and open access to ideas.

My article was written to denounce his exclusion from countries, and the censorship of his work. That is my mission and I hope to give a major paper on his work at a conference next June.

We shall see.

Peace, freedom, no war, no death, no racism, no invasion of other countries, respect for diversity, tolerate ideas that we loath and detest, silence no one, respect the basic humanity and dignity of humankind and resist American racism and imperialism.

Those of us on the left can learn from the right. Take my word for it; it also builds community and intellectual desegregation from those who merely affirm and ratify our positions.

Now, how are we going to elect a peace president!?




Derek Charles Catsam - 9/21/2004

Dr. Kirstein --
Are you trying to say with a straight face that the academy is hostile to those on the left? Are you really trying to seel, a bill of goods in which pacifism and anti-war protest is being punished across the US? I am a liberal Democrat, and while I shy away from the generalizations about the academy, I simply scoff at the notion that the left is beleaguered and marginalized in colleges and universities. You cannot possibly be serious if you are trying to convince us that it was your politics that got you in trouble. mabe to a lay audience that self-pity might work. But a good number of us here are professional academics or grad students. Nice try. But no.
dc


Charles Christopher Tucker - 9/21/2004

a)I referred to "meetings", not confrences. That is the correct usage. Would you know someone was a member of the National Alliance if they didn't go out of their way to advise you of such? You could have been introduced to them without being told of their affiliation with that group. I don't know if the confrences you attended had such people present but I would lay money on them being present, whether you knew who they were or not. I do know of meetings he has held where NA members were present, providing security.

b) I didn't mention David Irving's lack of formal education in history, I pointed out his lack of peer-review, a system that is designed to ensure academic honesty with the audience, if I'm not mistaken.

c) "Holocaust denier" is not hate speech, particularly if the person being called such has been judged a Holocaust denier in a court case he brought. Calling someone a "ditch digger" when they are actively engaged in digging a ditch is not hate speech. Calling David Irving a Holocaust denier when his actively engaged in Holocaust denial is a descriptive, accurate observation.

1) There is no debate over the essential facts of an event. One doesn't debate if the battle of Gettysburg took place in 1863 or if the Japanese dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor. Historians don't debate the existence of essential facts. That tactic belongs to those who deny history, such as those who deny the manned moon landings. The confrence you attended did feature such people. Would calling them moon-landing deniers be hate speech?

2) Real historians can and do debate the ultimate total cost of human lives. What is not in debate is the absurdly low numbers that David Irving has given for Auschwitz. Hilberg and others don't just throw out numbers but give their methods of estimation. David Irving has done no such showing of the process through which he reaches his conclusions.

3) While one can argue what exactly Hitler knew of how effective his genocide was David Irving's position has always been that he didn't know it was happening at all. That is not a credible position.

4) Anyone wishing to study the subject soon learns that not all Nazi concentration camps were death camps. Very few were set up for the absolute purpose of committing genocide. Even Auschwitz, though it has been called "ground zero of the Holocaust", was founded as a labor camp. Even though being a death camp was not its primary focus it was used to commit mass murder on a grand scale above and beyond starvation, disease, and abuse.

5) The murders committed by the Einsatzgruppen were a point in fact that David Irving had denied prior to his trial. He was forced to concede the fact that these mobile death squads existed during the trial.

While there are revisionist historians it is absolutely clear that Holocaust denial is not the same thing as historical revisionism. Historical revision is an attempt to improve the understanding of events in the past while Holocaust denial is an attempt to deny the victims of that event. David Irving isn't called a racist solely based upon his attempts at being a Hitler sanitizer. His own creation, which he sung to Christopher Hitchen's child does that much faster and without any possiblity of being misinterpreted.

"I am a Baby Aryan, not Jewish or Sectarian, I will not marry an Ape or Rastafarian." - David Irving.

I am not afraid of historical inquiry, either. What I do fear is someone using the guise of historical inquiry to seduce the ill-informed as David Irving and other Holocaust deniers do. There is no knowledge advanced through this seduction.

There is nothing to be gained by association with David Irving or with people who deny that the moon landings took place. Nothing to be gained and much to lose.


Sara D. Salzman - 9/21/2004

The Declaration of Independence, the slaughter of native Americans, the enslavement of Africans are all important topics. They do not, however, have anything to do with Mr. Kirstein's attendance at David Irving's conference.

Let us not forget that David Irving sued an American college professor -- sued her in England where the libel laws favor the plaintiff -- for calling him a "Holocaust denier." Mr. Kirstein calls this "hate speech." Judge Gray, however, in his decision, also defined Mr. Irving as a Holocaust denier. And a racist. And an anti-Semite. And a liar.

Mr. Irving certainly has the right to be all of those things. But Mr. Kirstein's defense of Irving as a "historian" is rather puzzling in light of the judge's findings.


Sara D. Salzman - 9/21/2004

Mr. Kirstein: If I wrote 30 books on medicine, that does not make me a doctor. If I write 300 books on medicine, that does not make me a doctor. And if I stand up and call myself a doctor, that does not make me a doctor. Just like Fred Leuchter (who Mr. Irving credits as 'converting' him to a denier) is not an engineer, even though he calls himself one.

I think it incredibly presumptuous to assume that you are the only person in this dialogue who has read Irving's books. How would you possibly know how many of Irving's books I have read?

I also note that you did not address any of Judge Grey's comments regarding Mr. Irving's "scholarship." I suppose you will tell me that he, too, was PAID to render a judgment?

And I also must suppose that you believe all expert witness testimony to be suspect, yes? Do you also believe that all Holocaust survivors are liars? Mr. Irving does. Do you believe more people died in the back of Ted Kennedy's car than at Auschwitz? Mr. Irving does.

But the most mendacious arguments you've raised so far are those to Mr. Tucker. Mr. Irving has a very long history with the National Alliance, including addressing THEIR conferences on more than one occasion. So cancel that!

No one said Mr. Irving needed a Ph.D in history, so cancel that! What he does need, and sorely lacks, is a willingness to subject his work to peer-review, or to stop lying.

Calling one a Holocaust denier is not hate speech. It is, in fact, definition of character. Mr. Irving denies the historicity of the Holocaust. He is a Holocaust denier. So cancel that!

And most important, there is a great difference between revisionism in history and denial. President Kennedy was shot. That is a fact. How it happened, how many guns or assailants can be debated forever, and probably should be. The study of history involves constant revision. But Kennedy was shot. That is a fact. When you ask "were there gas chambers at Auschwitz?" and suggest it is an "issue" to be "debated," I'm afraid you have crossed the line. We may debate how many there were, what capacity, etc., But the gas chambers are a fact, just as the Reich Chancellery is a fact, or the Washington Monument is a fact. Do you think it reasonable to debate the existence of the White House?

Finally, Mr. Kirstein, I find your comment about "powerful ethnic groups" to be a bit disengenuous. Which "powerful ethnic groups" are you referring to? Couly you possibly be referring to Mr. Irving's "traditional enemies"?


Stephen Davis - 9/21/2004

Let's say I wrote thirty books (some self-published, others subsidized by political organizations, none, in any event, peer-reviewed) that argued there had been no slaughter of Native Americans. For every Indian killed, I'd argue, seventy or eighty white settlers had been murdered. In fact, I conclude, there were probably no more than 10,000 Indians in the entire continent--the vast majority having arrived in the 19th century from Mexico.
Mainstream historians would attack me, challenge my sources, call me a liar. I would be "persecuted." Would Professor Kirstein, based solely on my persecution, lend credibility to my work by attending my "myth of native american genocide" conference?


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/21/2004

I misspelled your name Ms. Salzman. Sorry.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/21/2004

I suppose Ms. Saltzman if you write 30 books on history--some of which are considered major historical works-- you are a historian. I have read 10 of his books; I imagine that is quite a bit more than anyone who has read my article or has commented on it.

Is he a good historian? Is he a bad historian? I have commented on many positive things he has contributed and cited those who believe the opposite. Some see him as a falsifier of history as you noted.

I don't know if scholars HIRED by the defense to peruse petitioner's works is the most neutral environment for dispassionate review of a piece of scholarship. My article's main thesis is to quote Justice Brandeis: "Sunshine is the best disinfectant." Historians must not place taboos on the writing of history or shun unpopular historiography merely because it is annoying or disturbing.

I do not know enough to render a judgment on Holocaust research. I do know enough from a rich and varied life experience that I will defend any historian who I believe is unjustly treated and or intimidated for ideas and thesis others find objectionable or utterly without foundation.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/21/2004

Mr Tucker,

I would have referred to him as a historian, not an historian which is incorrect usage.

a) I have never seen anyone from the National Alliance at the two conferences I attended. So cancel that!

b) I think a historian need not possess a Ph.D. in history. I hope you consider Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. William Manchester and many other non-academic historians as historians even if they do not possess an earned doctorate. We can get a little imperial in delimiting titles of occupation to only certain degree holders. So cancel that!

c) I was never comfortable with Mr Irving suing a historian for libel and don't recall condoning that action. Yet calling one a holocaust denier is hate speech and an effort to preclude discussion of certain topics that should not be taboo.

a) Were there gas chambers at Oswiecim? I presume there were but let historians debate the issue without charge and countercharge of personal invective.
b) How many Jews perished in the war? Raul Hilberg says 5.1 million so that debate should continue.
c) What was the precise chain of command and what was the role of Hitler in the slaughter?
d) What was the purpose of the concentration camps--were they death camps in their entirety? Did the deaths occur due to disease, food deprivation and work conditions?
e) How many Jews were killed in the east outdoors by killing squads as opposed to the camps?

Most other demonic figures: from Stalin, to Mao to LBJ to Nixon whose policies contributed to the deaths of millions of innocents are subject to revisionism without the revisionist being castigated as amoral or racist or what have you. I don't think World War II which we are spoonfed as the greatest generation or the greatest war in which freedom was fought for and sacrificed for, should be the only area of historical inquiry in which FREEDOM of investigation and revisionism is taboo and attenuated by powerful ethnic groups seeking to close the mind of inquiry.

I am not afraid of historical inquiry. I have faith that dialogue over the issues will ultimately advance knowledge. I am convinced that "closing the historical mind" to paraphrase Alan Bloom will retard it.


Sara D. Salzman - 9/21/2004

I am always fascinated by Irving-apologists, who seem to think that David Irving is an historian. It is important to remember that Mr. Irving's books were NEVER peer-reviewed or fact-checked, until historian Richard Evans was asked to do so during the libel trial _instigated_ by Mr. Irving in an attempt to silence a college professor. (WHO is an "enemy of free speech"?)

Professor Evans found, again and again, that Mr. Irving deliberately mis-translated, mis-interpreted, omitted, falsified, and simply created facts to support his own theories. This finding was upheld by the Judge, who said that Mr. Irving "... is an active Holocaust denier; ... he is anti-Semitic and racist and he associated with extremists who promote neo-Nazism."

According to the Sunday Times of London (4/16/2000), "the court found that Irving's misrepresentation of history was 'deliberate in the sense that he was motivated by a desire borne of his own ideological beliefs to present Hitler in a favourable light.'"

In his book, "Lying About Hitler," (which Irving also tried to suppress by threatening to sue amazon.uk simply for selling it), Professor Evans stated, "Irving's conclusions were completely untenable. I thought his scholarship was sloppy and unreliable and did not meet even the most basic requirements of honest and competent historical research."

Although Irving promotes himself as a defender of free speech, he has frequently filed or threatened to file lawsuits against those who criticize his work. In fact, he seems to believe the First Amendment is an inconvenience, as when he said " I'm going after (Deborah) Lipstadt because she's peddling her book in England; in the U.S. she is protected by … the First Amendment."

For Mr. Kirstein to call David Irving "an historian" is as sloppy as Mr. Irving's own research. I would recommend that Mr. Kirstein do his OWN research: read the transcripts of the libel trial. Read the accounts of the trial by Richard Evans, D.D. Guttenplan, and Robert Jan van Pelt. If he has not researched the sordid methods of Mr. Irving, Mr. Kirstein isn't much of an historian himself.


Charles Christopher Tucker - 9/21/2004

It is curious to see David Irving referred to as an historian here. Is merely publishing a book the only qualification? What happened to peer-review? What happened to submitting your work before your fellow historians before publication?

While professor Kirstein may think that David Irving is not bending his work to an effort of cleansing Hitler's bloody hands a court of law in Britain found otherwise.

Does professor Kirstein agree that pseudohistorians such as Irving have a right to post information about their critics in public to invite harassment of their critics?

While Kirstein decries the 'censorship' of Irving he is notably mute on Irving's attempt to use British law to censor a real peer historian such as Deborah Lipstadt.

I believe that professor Kirstein has fallen into the old trap of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". This concept doesn't bear out in Irving's case. Irving uses ernest persons such as Kirstein for window dressing. A man who uses the National Alliance to provide security at his meetings is NOT interested in a true history of anything to do with Adolph Hitler. A man who continually refers to Jewish persons as 'the traditional enemy' is NOT interested in free speech, except as applies to himself.

You can not rehabilitate David Irving. You can only get smeared with the same feces he and his cohorts adorn themselves.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/21/2004

Mr Davis,

Lots of people make vile statements. As conflict rises between author and groups that try to censor and suppress, anger mounts and statements are made. I will not repeat my denunciation of racialism. My life is my proof on that! I stand by my article which avers that historians, regardless of perceived viewpoints, should not be silenced, prohibited from traveling and be removed from the conversation of historiography. I intend to continue on this journey of defending Mr Irving's rights because my ethical being and moral purpose drives me in this rather perilous direction. As you know, I have been severely criticized for my viewpoints. I may deserve it and certainly welcome it. Yet punishment, suspensions, reprimands, and odious efforts at suppressing speech are to be resisted at every turn whether aimed at the left or the right.

If you have specific complaints about Mr Irving, go to his website, email him and in all likelihood, he will respond.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/21/2004

Mr Davis,

I have not studied Nazi Germany as a specialist and have made that well known. I am glad the work I read is of note and as propaganda, it would be interesting to compare to the Declaration of Independence! Both were propaganda and racist documents in which the latter referred to the "merciless Indian Savages." The latter even purported to advocate democracy despite the continuation of the enslavement of the African, womyn and the genocide of the Amerindians!


Jonathan Dresner - 9/21/2004

My mistake. The ruling may not have been "the last word" on Irving or his work, but given that British slander/libel cases require defendants to show proof postive of the truth of their statements, it represents a pretty significant finding of fact.


Stephen Davis - 9/21/2004

So Kirstein gets off on reading Nazi propaganda? I suppose this confession surprises few, but the book he is refering to is well-known and not at all "forbidden fruit." Anyone who's seriously studied Nazi Germany (as Kirstein, we can now confidently say has not) knows about it and its "nectar."


Stephen Davis - 9/21/2004

I wonder if Prof. Kirstein could comment on what aspects of Irving's thought he finds attractive. Yes, I know he's impressed by his criticism of Israel. And sure, you can criticize Israel without being anti-semitic--but Irving not only criticizes Israel, he singles it out for attack (it's the only non-European country that Irving has traditionally had anything at all to say about). Moreover, disliking Israel may not make you anti-semitic, but it hardly excludes it as a possibility. Most people who hate Jews, also, following internal logic, hate Israel.
Irving hated Jews first, but has come to hate Israel as well. Prof. Kirstein describes himself as an enemy of anti-semitism, yet he has nothing to say about Irving's Jew-hatred. Irving has made a thousand vile statements, but one that comes to mind is this:

"The Jews, as a race, had no business in Germany after all, a fact that they were only too aware of. Indeed guilt about their misplacement in Aryan Germany has played no small part in their post-war fantasies of extermination."

Sound about right, Prof. Kirstein?


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/21/2004

Professor,

He sued Deborah Lipstadt as mentioned in article not Judith Davidowicz. I would also say Mr Justice Gray's ruling on David Irving is not definitive. Even if the justice were a historian, no one, gets the last word on a historian's work.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/21/2004

I appreciate the balance perspective. When I was at the conference there were several publishers displaying hundreds if not thousands of books, CDs, videos on Nazism and World War II that I had not seen before. I even bought a couple of them. I remarked to a student who was attending the event from a graduate program in history from a Ohio institution, "I bet mainstream historians would love to feast their eyes on some of these books."

One of the books--really a pamphlet--that was given as a token to each purchaser was Dr Goebbel's, The Nazi-Sozi: Questions and Answers for National-Socialists. I was not familiar with this work and read it on the plane back to Chicago. One of the advantages in attending controversial events and tasting forbidden fruit,is the nectar that is derived from taboo ideas and artifacts.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/20/2004

Professor Dresner,

In the case of Mr Irving, I noted that there were 6 copies of his book Goebbels in the hands of St. Martin's and that neither the ADL nor Professor Lipstadt had perused the work or read any review or summary of it. It was "prior restraint" of publication based upon their previous disgruntlement over the author's publications.

We may be mixing apples and oranges on the Buhle case--who by the way is a magnificent historian whom most should emulate and admire for his brilliance and courage. However to move this along, while I am not familiar sir with Cineaste, I find it challenging to respect any publication that publishes an anonymous "letter." That is quite different from the examples that you use in terms of pre-publication vetting of a manuscript.

I question if the editor of HNN, a distinguished and talented editor, would ever publish an article or extended comment that used a fake name such as "Martin Brady". I know that I would refrain from publishing an article that relied on a pseudonymous source in which the writer could not be challenged and held responsible for attribution. Certainly, out of basic decency and respect for people's careers, I would never publish, as did Ralph Luker, an attack piece against a historian using a fake- namee source as my principal documentation.

Again, I find this highly inappropriate and academically indefensible. It merely feeds into the notion that the profession of history, whose very essence is based upon accountability of historical actors, would give a journal like Cineaste the legitimacy of propagating a letter whose author is a coward and unworthy of even minimal respect.

A question to the reader. Is there any scholar reading this response who would submit a letter, article, review that questioned the integrity and academic competence of a colleague without including your name?


Ralph E. Luker - 9/20/2004

"Yet I would hope that even "competent scholars" would defer their critical assessment until a work was published and not prior to publication." Ah, Professor Kirstein comes out in opposition to pre-publication peer review! How do you explain to Kirstein that this is what was supposed to guarantee our credibility? It's the failures of peer review and the failures to self-review that have undermined our credibility! Scholarly assessment _must_ occur prior to publication if we have any hope of re-establishing our credibility.


Jonathan Dresner - 9/20/2004

Prof. Kirstein,

This came up in the Buhle discussion as well, and you didn't address it there, either. Academic presses and journals practice pre-publication review, generally with anonymous reviewers. When I say "competent scholars" I'm not talking about people who have never read the work (though I have argued in the past that it isn't necessary, in many cases, to actually read a work or view a program to evaluate its claims, if you have reasonably good information from people who have), but the people who take on the responsibility for evaluating unpublished work and making recommendations.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/20/2004

I don't need your instruction in non-violent civil disobedience, Professor Kirstein. I have considerable experience in it myself. You have a way of trivializing almost everything you touch. I have given you the respect of your formal title. I'd appreciate it if you would return the favor. You do not know me at all and, therefore, have no business addressing me by my first name.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/20/2004

Another point to Mr. Pettit. I spoke at an Irving Conference in 2001. No one knew or cared. Now it is a big deal. So I can turn lemon into lemonade and I am hopeful my article will trigger conversation such as you did on the meaning of censorship, and the rights of revisionists on the left and the right. I have to say, I kind of like being the first historian I think since Gordon Craig in 1996 to defend the rights of Mr Irving, and to be doing this with a far-right historian. I don't normally serve as a shocktrooper for the right but it is cathartic and indicative of at least some consistency to principle.

Also I hope you won't tell anyone I said this, but I am struck by the fact that the United States does give Mr Irving the freedom that many countries deny him. I am--I won't say proud--but take note of America's appropriate stance and commitment to some of its principles here.



Peter N. Kirstein - 9/20/2004

Protest is not always pleasant. Resistance is not always courteous. You need to understand I see myself in a different light than most liberal antiwar advocates see themselves. This is a battle against the most violent nation in the world today and frankly, my e-mail has given me an opportunity, that I never had before, to be part of a national conversation on the issue of war and peace.

I speak nationally on my suspension, my e-mail and have several on-line conversations--that I have not yet published-- with cadets from a variety of academies. They are smart as heck, very professional and polite and I return the favour. I particularly commend a cadet at the Coast Guard academy who has had numerous exchanges with me.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/20/2004

The multiple postings were not intentional. I had problems last night with this and they kept proliferating. I did it on your article too and did not mean to.

I do think it interesting that the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, the New Criterion, Frontpagemag.com (though they did allow me to debate the war online), FOX news here in Chicago, and generally conservative military and veteran networks were the main opponents during my controversy. Sure Ralph my response to the Air Force cader was intemperate. I apologized for it and so did both the cadet and Captain Borders of USAF to me for worldwide distribution of the email to "get me." What gave this legs and made into a national story was the ideology of protest against American imperialism and violence that I will continue to denounce as long as I have a faculty appointment. As a tenured full professor, it will be until I decide to move on.

One other point Ralph. Pacifists are not necessarily passive. They can be grouchy, confrontational, civil disobedient and use angry and fiery rhetoric. Look at Ploughshares and the Berrigan brothers and the pacifist clergy during Vietnam and those who protest at the School Of the Americas.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/20/2004

I agree in particular with the last statement. I would never suggest that a publisher should be required to publish any work. If I suggested that, it was not my intent. Of course in the case of Goebbels, the outcry against release did not emanate from scholars. Yet I would hope that even "competent scholars" would defer their critical assessment until a work was published and not prior to publication.

I have made a proposal to present a paper next year on the actual content of some of Irving's works. I have been reluctant to do this since my area of expertise is the A-bomb and not Nazi Germany. At this point, I have read 10 of his books and I see considerably more nuance and balance than the public condemnation of him would seem to merit. Yet I certainly understand why he is so controversial and triggers such emotion.


chris l pettit - 9/20/2004

But as long as the words spoken are not "fighting words" why should anyone be censored for speaking their mind as long as they then open themselves up for criticism and their opposition gets equal time to make their case?

While I find Prof. Kirsten's email harsh and a bit unprofessional, the sentiments behind it are well taken. I do agree that he should have been subject to some sort of sanction due to his conduct, which was unbecoming of a professor of history. however, it seems as though a suspension was rather unwarranted.

As the esteemed Dr Luker notes, we need to be clear on this issue. Military brainwashing and indoctrination is not all that different from the revisionist history of Dr Irving when examined at its base. Both sides promote views that are unable to be substantiated or supported when confronted by facts, and which ultimately cause pain and suffering throughout the world...much moreso in the case of military indoctrination. In the same vein, the blatant spin, lies, and taking facts out of context by the mainstream media in the US is promoting the viewpoints that make our society as intolerant, ignorant, and miseducated as it is today. The question becomes how to regulate it? Do we censor all those who have twisted views? If so, who does the censoring? Do we take the traditionally positivistic US stance that those in power get to do the censoring? Do we let major private firms do the censoring, knowing that they are the ones with the most power and have the most interest to promote their viewpoints (basically the way things happen now)? Or do we let all viewpoints speak their minds, as long as all viewpoints are peer reviewed, subject to stringent fact checking, and people are called out for their manipulation and use of spin or taking facts out of context? Opponents should also always be given equal time to refute a particular viewpoint.

Granted, this would basically eliminate the political landscape of our nation, but I for one am absolutely in favor of that anyway.

The one exception would be "fighting words" as defined by the Supreme Court and legal scholars. The paucity of the partisan nature of our judiciary notwithstanding, we do seem to have some sort of idea of what constitutes free speech and what should and should not be allowed. I for one do not find Dr Irving's scholarship to be "fighting words". it is inaccurate and rather revisionist, but will not bring rise to any sort of new neo-Nazism revival. If equal time is given to those who can carefully refute the inaccurate nature of his later works, he will rapidly fade from having any credibility except in the eyes of those who want to be as willfully blind as he.

Likewise, i respect Prof. Kirsten's right to speak at a conference held by Dr. Irving. The article did not say that Prof. Kirsten was speaking in support of Dr. Irving's position, but rather his right to be heard, and speaking out against censorship by all. I must agree with this stand, although I am also in agreement with Mr. Clarke that Prof. Kirsten may have been better off choosing another way to make his statement rather than possibly sacrificing his credibility by implicitly acknowledging Dr. Irving.

I find it amusing how we all seem to refuse to acknowlege that we are all imputing our own perspectives onto the situation, and our seemingly undying refusal to admit when we are incorrect, as though that somehow means that we are lesser scholars because of it. This applies to myself as well as the great majority of posters and contributers to this site. I have to compliment Dr. Dresner in this area, as he seems to be one of those who has the rare ability to admit errors, change his viewpoints, and give credit to those who make quality arguments that may be in opposition to his own. I know that as much as I like being wrong and learning, I also sometimes fall into a pattern of being unable to acknowlege when others may have a point.

Prof. kirstein, I respect your right to appear at the conference and to point out the atrocities perpetrated by our armed forces and the brainwashing that takes place within them. one need look no further than some of the extremist elements that post on this site to see the sad consequences of such morally bereft practices. However, I would hope that in the future you would take care in your emails and correspondence and not denigrate the very causes you purport to profess. The email in question does nothing but hurt our cause and damage the credibility of yourself and others working for peace and human rights. Your right to speak is not in question. I would just ask you to do it in a more thoughtful manner. For as much as we may believe or even know that we are in the right, we must not deny the misconceptions of others, and must take that into consideration. I was taught when I first entered law school that the best way to win a debate is to be able to argue on the opponents terms. In peace and human rights work, credibility is all we have. Self interested parties on all sides are waiting to try and tear you down for their own gain. The high ground is the only option we have.

Respectfully

CP
www.wicper.org


Jonathan Dresner - 9/20/2004

These comments about Irving would be a lot more convincing if he actually engaged with Irving's work a bit (not to mention 'censorship' as a concept), and the fact that some people who actually know what they're talking about (not ADL's Foxman, I'm talking about Judith Davidowicz, who he sued, and who beat him in spite of the high British standard that the speaker to demonstrate the truth of their statements) consider him a pernicious rather than progressive revisionist.

I do not think that suppressing his work is a good idea (I'm actually a free speech nut myself), though there is still a bit of distance between the decision of a single publishing house and actual censorship, and the added emphasis should not be allowed to hide the fact that Justice Douglas was indeed addressing the government's role in protecting speakers (and writers) from physical harm and from official persecution.

I have no problem with Irving doing his work and getting it published, but I also have no problem with a press, private or university, deciding that his work is not worth publishing, if competent scholars tell them so.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/20/2004

I am calm and relaxed. Your tension is evident in posting this response twice here and your response to "Paul Buhle Strikes Out Again" three times. Being wrong the first time doesn't improve with re-iteration.
Oh, and by the way, you should respond to what I said, but you needn't respond to it more than once.


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/20/2004

Relax Ralph and read my response to your article. Take care and try to be calm. Peter


Peter N. Kirstein - 9/20/2004

Relax Ralph and read my response to your article. Take care and try to be calm. Peter


Ralph E. Luker - 9/19/2004

Let us be clear, Professor Kirstein, you were not suspended for being "...an outspoken peace activist, pacifist and war resister, which were the underlying reasons for my suspension ...." That is a self-serving misstatement of the facts. You were suspended for a grossly intemperate e-mail to a student. That e-mail badly misrepresented the pacifist attitude itself. You were those things before you were suspended and you are those things now. Your suspension had to do with your intemperance, not with your politics.
Beyond that, it seems to me that the whole tenor of this piece betrays an unwillingness to acknowledge that there are lines not to be crossed by responsible scholarship. What lies must be published in the name of freedom of research and speech? How many people must have died such that denying or challenging the data of their deaths becomes sacrilege? Should Michael Bellesiles still be in the classroom? Does being a historian or an academic person exempt us from all judgment and sanction?

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