David Irving sparks row over Holocaust 'propaganda'

Controversial historian causes outrage by calling the Nazis' mass murder a 'commercial phenomenon'

Eminent historians have condemned a Spanish newspaper's decision to interview the controversial historian David Irving as part of its coverage to mark the 70th anniversary of the Second World War.

The Hitler specialist Sir Ian Kershaw, whose interview last Monday launched El Mundo's commemorative series, said he – and most historians – would have pulled out had they known of Mr Irving's participation.

In the interview published yesterday, Mr Irving once again played down the slaughter of millions of Jews during the Second World War, despite having served time in an Austrian jail for his extremist views.

"The Holocaust is just a slogan, a product like Kleenex or Xerox printers. They've turned it into a commercial phenomenon, and succeeded in making money out of it – producing films about it which have made millions," said the 71-year-old Mr Irving, prompting fury and dismay in Israel.

Israel's ambassador in Madrid, Raphael Schutz, condemned the interview as an insult to readers, to legitimate historians and to the concept of free speech. Mr Schutz said: "Everyone who knows anything about the issue knows that David Irving is nothing but... a con man."

El Mundo justified publication on the grounds of freedom of expression and because Mr Irving was at the centre of a wider debate about the criminalisation of opinion.

But Avner Shalev, the director of Israel's Holocaust Museum, responded in a letter published by El Mundo: "There are subjects about that don't permit a 'for' and 'against'. The paper gives legitimacy to a man who doesn't deserve it... It is inconceivable that a serious newspaper should provide a platform for anti-Semitism."

The notion of the Holocaust was built up decades after the event, Mr Irving argues. "Until the 1970s it was just a speck of dust on the horizon," he tells El Mundo. "The proof is that it doesn't appear in any of the biographies of the great leaders of the Second World War. But from then on it became fashionable. The Jews turned it into a brand, using the same technique as Goebbels. They invented a slogan... and repeated it ad nauseam."

Asked if he continued to believe that the figure of six million Jews exterminated was an exaggeration, Mr Irving replied: "I'm not interested in figures. I don't count bodies. I'm not all that interested in the Holocaust."

How come, the interviewer persisted, you are the only historian to deny that the concentration camp at Auschwitz contributed to the Holocaust? "Because they all copy each other. To jump off the rails would condemn them to jail and poverty, which is what happened to me."

Mr Irving served 11 months in an Austrian jail in 2006 for denying that the Nazis killed six million Jews.

He insisted yesterday that Hitler was not responsible, being merely the dupe of smarter collaborators. "Hitler was a simple man constantly deceived by his subordinates." The allegation that the Nazi leader sought to exterminate the Jews was, he said, "a propaganda lie. In Hitler's speeches there is only one anti-Semitic sentence. Something about 'when the war begins, I want the Jews to suffer'. But that's just a stereotypical expression."

Goebbels and Himmler were more to blame, he said, but Churchill – "a corrupt politician" – was responsible for the war: "He pushed the UK into the war and destroyed the British empire. Churchill was in the hands of the Jews, and if he'd surrendered he'd have gone down in history as a failure. People would have laughed at him." So should he have made a pact with Hitler? "Of course. We were very close to ending the war in 1940."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'