Racist. Anti-Semite. Holocaust denier. How history will judge David Irving

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The Independent Culture

The revisionist historian David Irving is facing ruin after a judge denounced him yesterday as an "anti-Semitic and racist" Holocaust denier and a "pro-Nazi polemicist".

Mr Justice Gray ruled at the end of a High Court libel trial in London that Mr Irving had "persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence" to portray Hitler in "an unwarrantedly favourable light".

The crushing and humiliating defeat for a historian who has claimed that the systematic murder of Jews in Nazi concentration camps never took place was last night hailed by Jewish groups as an "epic victory for truth and justice".

Lord Janner of Braunstone QC, chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: "The Irving case shows the crucial importance of educating our young people in the tragedy of the Holocaust especially as a symbol of the dangers of allowing racist dictatorships to rule."

Mr Irving was facing a bill for defence costs of £2m after the judge, Mr Justice Gray, ruled that the American academic Deborah Lipstadt and the publishers Penguin Books had been justified in describing Mr Irving as a Holocaust denier.

Mr Irving, 62, claimed that Professor Lipstadt's book, Denying the Holocaust: the growing assault on truth and memory, had destroyed his livelihood and generated "waves of hatred" against him.

But after hearing 32 days of evidence, Mr Justice Gray found the charges against Mr Irving "substantially true". He said: "Irving was motivated by a desire to present events in a manner consistent with his own ideological beliefs even if that involved distortion and manipulation of historical evidence."

He attacked Mr Irving for his "pro-Nazi and anti-Jewish bias", saying: "He makes surprising and often unfounded assertions about the Nazi regime which tend to exonerate the Nazis for the appalling atrocities which they inflicted on the Jews. He is content to mix with neo-fascists and appears to share many of their racist and anti-Semitic prejudices."

Mr Irving, who represented himself in the action, had said he never claimed that the Holocaust did not occur but questioned whether the killings were systematic or sanctioned by Hitler. He claimed that any distortions were genuine errors.

But the judge, who pointed out that Mr Irving's position changed during the trial, had examined nearly 20 alleged distortions and found that he had consistently twisted the facts to present a pro-Nazi view.

Mr Irving, the author of Hitler's War, was found to have misrepresented Hitler's role in the Munich putsch of 1923, deliberately underplayed his part in the Kristallnacht pogrom against the Jews in 1938 and wrongly portrayed him as a "friend" of the Jews until 1943.

Mr Justice Gray was dismissive of evidence used by Mr Irving to support his conjecture that systematic gassing did not take place at Auschwitz. "No objective, fair-minded historian would have serious cause to doubt that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz and that they were operated on a substantial scale to kill hundreds of thousands of Jews," the judge said.

His belief that Mr Irving's errors were not the result of genuine mistakes was underscored by a view that the plaintiff was a talented military historian: "His mastery of the detail of the historical documents is remarkable. He is beyond question able and intelligent," he said.

Mr Justice Gray cited a series of examples as "clear evidence" of Mr Irving's anti-Semitism: "Irving has made claims that Jews deserve to be disliked; that they brought the Holocaust on themselves; that Jewish financiers are crooked; that Jews generate anti-Semitism by their greed and mendacity". He also said Mr Irving happily associated with neo-Nazis. "His association with such individuals indicates in my judgement that Irving shares many of their political beliefs," he said.

Yesterday, Ms Lipstadt, 53, a professor in modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Georgia, United States, said she was delighted by the judgment and felt "exceptionally vindicated". Accusing Mr Irving of "dancing on the graves" of Holocaust victims, she said: "I had argued that David Irving was partisan and an apologist for the Nazis and anti-Semitic. The judge went further than I did in his ruling - and called him a racist."

Mr Irving, who was hit by an egg as he arrived at the court yesterday, described the ruling as "firstly, indescribable and secondly, perverse" and said he was considering an appeal.