Historian gives Goebbels transcripts a holiday home

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THE HISTORIAN brought in by the Sunday Times to give credibility to its serialisation of Joseph Goebbels's diary will have to do so while enjoying a three-week walking holiday with his family in Slovenia and Croatia.

Professor Norman Stone flew from Heathrow to Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, yesterday equipped with a portable compact disc player, both volumes of Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, and a briefcase containing up to 400 photocopied pages of diary transcriptions made by the revisionist historian David Irving.

With the first extracts of Hitler's propagandist's diaries to be published this Sunday, the disappearance of Oxford University's Professor of Modern History is surprising, given his pivotal role in ensuring some historical balance in the presentation of the extracts.

However, he said yesterday that he would still carry out that role, albeit by fax and telephone in between giving a lecture in Zagreb and joining his family for the holiday. He said he had read all the material supplied by Mr Irving, and was satisfied with both its authenticity and its historical interest and importance. He said he doubted whether Mr Irving would have allowed his own views about the holocaust to influence his choice of extracts to be transcribed. 'He would quickly be found out.'

But Professor Stone did not leave Heathrow without making clear his disapproval of the man hired by the Sunday Times as a 'technician'. He said: 'Irving is a tragedy. From being a very talented man, he has gone haywire. Is he desperate for money or what? I disapprove strongly about what he says about the Holocaust, but I do still have respect for him as a collector of documents. In the circumstances, using Irving was the only way this diary could be quickly brought to light because he is only one of three people in the world who could have done the transcription.'

Professor Stone said he was first told about the existence of the diary a month ago. Sue Douglas, the executive responsible for some of the newspaper's serialisations, told him 'to be ready to do my stuff'. However, he did not hear from the newspaper again until a week ago, the day before the Independent printed the story about its discovery in the Moscow archives. Andrew Neil, the editor of the Sunday Times, rang him at his home in Oxford and asked him to come to the newspaper's office in London. There Professor Stone spent three hours studying the authentication papers and the extracts relating to the period 1938-39. 'There were no omissions of substance that I could see,' he said.

Between Thursday and Tuesday this week Professor Stone said he read all the pages and satisfied himself that the diary was 'one of the most important documents about the Third Reich and probably the last'.

He added: 'I don't think Irving has made anything up or suppressed anything. He is obviously miffed by the Sunday Times bringing me in. I think he is cheesed off that he is not getting his column inches to say what he thinks.'

But the controversy should not conceal the importance of the diary and the mystery about why Goebbels should have taken such trouble to record every detail.

Professor Stone will this morning send a 1,200 to 1,500 word commentary from Ljubljana, text that will accompany the first extract of the diary, dealing with the events of 1938 and 1939. In the meantime, he was looking forward to his walking and The Brothers Karamazov.