Controversial holocaust historian fails in libel bid

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The Independent Online

Historian David Irving, who has outraged survivors of Nazi death camps by challenging the scope of the Holocaust, has lost the libel suit he launched to save his academic reputation.

Irving had filed the lawsuit against American scholar Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, in connection with a 1994 book he said branded him a "Holocaust denier" and accused him of distorting the truth of what happened in Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany.

Irving, the author of several books, including "Hitler's War," said he does not deny Jews were killed by the Nazis, but challenges the number and manner of Jewish concentration camp deaths.

He claimed that after the publication of Lipstadt's book, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory," his academic work was increasingly shunned by publishers and agents.

After considering the case for almost four weeks, High Court Judge, Charles Gray ruled against Irving, saying he failed to prove his reputation had been damaged.

Under British law, Lipstadt and her co-defendent were not able to rely solely on truth as a defence.

Shortly before the ruling, Irving said that whatever the outcome "my reputation is bound to be enhanced because of my ability to stand up to the experts to take them all on single-handed."

He said he will not appeal.

Irving, who represented himself during the nine-week, non jury trial, is not new to controversy. His comments - some made while addressing neo-Nazi groups - have drawn fire from Jewish organisations around the world, and he has been banned from Germany, Canada and Australia.

Irving told the court he had been the victim of a 30-year international campaign to destroy his reputation "as a human being, as an historian of integrity."

Richard Rampton, the lawyer representing Penguin and Lipstadt, who holds the Dorot Chair in Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, contended during the trial that Irving perpetuated falsifications "for the sake of a bogus rehabilitation of Hitler and dissemination of virulent anti-Semitic propaganda."

Irving portrayed himself as subjected to a campaign of vilification.

Throughout the trial, Irving conceded that he had made some "mistakes of copying, mistakes of omission," but said he corrected those errors. He claimed that rather than deny the Holocaust, he drew attention to major aspects of the tragedy.

Irving questioned the use of large-scale gas chambers to exterminate the Jews, and claimed that the numbers of those who perished are far lower than those generally accepted. He said most Jews who died at Auschwitz did so from diseases such as typhus, not gas poisoning.

In a sign of the international outrage directed at Irving, Israel even agreed to release the previously secret memoirs of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann for use by Lipstadt and Penguin's legal team, saying it was morally obliged to help them.

In the 1,300 handwritten pages penned in an Israeli prison, Eichmann plays down his own role in the mass killing but also provides methodical descriptions of the genocide, including timetables of death transports.