David John Cawdell Irving (born 24 March 1938) is an English Holocaust denier and author who has written on the military and political history of World War II, with a focus on Nazi Germany. His works include The Destruction of Dresden (1963), Hitler's War (1977), Churchill's War (1987), and Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (1996). In his works, he argued that Hitler did not know of the extermination of Jews or, if he did, opposed it. Though Irving's revisionist views of World War II were never taken seriously by mainstream historians, he was once recognised for his knowledge of Nazi Germany and his ability to unearth new historical documents.
Irving marginalized himself in 1988 when, based on his reading of the pseudoscientific Leuchter report, he began to espouse Holocaust denial, specifically denying that Jews were murdered by gassing at the Auschwitz extermination camp.
Irving's reputation as a historian was discredited when, in the course of an unsuccessful libel case he filed against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books, he was shown to have deliberately misrepresented historical evidence to promote Holocaust denial. The English court found that Irving was an active Holocaust denier, antisemite, and racist, who "for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence". In addition, the court found that Irving's books had distorted the history of Adolf Hitler's role in the Holocaust to depict Hitler in a favourable light.
Irving and his twin brother were born in Hutton, near Brentwood, Essex, England. His father, John James Cawdell Irving (1898–1967), was a career naval officer and commander in the Royal Navy, and his mother, Beryl Irving (née Newington), an illustrator and writer of children's books. Irving's twin brother Nicholas Irving has said that "David used to run toward bombed out houses shouting 'Heil Hitler!'", a statement which Irving denies.
During the Second World War, Irving's father was an officer aboard the light cruiser HMS Edinburgh. On 30 April 1942, while escorting Convoy QP 11 in the Barents Sea, the ship was badly damaged by the German submarine U-456. Two days later she was attacked by surface craft, and now beyond recovery was abandoned and scuttled by a torpedo from HMS Foresight. Irving's father survived, but severed all links with his wife and children after the incident.
Irving described his childhood in an interview with the American writer Ron Rosenbaum as: "Unlike the Americans, we English suffered great deprivations ... we went through childhood with no toys. We had no kind of childhood at all. We were living on an island that was crowded with other people's armies". According to his twin, Nicholas, Irving has also been a provocateur and prankster since his youth.
Irving went on to claim to Rosenbaum that his negationist views about World War II dated to his childhood, particularly due to his objections to the way Adolf Hitler was portrayed in the British media during the war. Irving asserted that his "sceptical" views about the Third Reich were rooted in his doubts about the cartoonist caricatures of Hitler and the other Nazi leaders published in the British wartime press.
After completing A levels at Brentwood School, Irving briefly studied physics at Imperial College London. He never graduated, due to financial limitations.
Irving later studied for two years toward a degree in political economy at University College London, However, he again had to drop out due to lack of funds. During this period at university, he participated in a debate on Commonwealth immigration, seconding British Union of Fascists founder Sir Oswald Mosley, and was heckled.
Carnival Times controversy
Irving's time as editor of the Carnival Times, a student rag mag of the University of London Carnival Committee, became controversial in 1959 when he added a "secret supplement" to the magazine. This supplement contained an article in which he called Hitler the "greatest unifying force Europe has known since Charlemagne". Although Irving deflected criticism by characterising the Carnival Times as "satirical", he also stated that "the formation of a European Union is interpreted as building a group of superior peoples, and the Jews have always viewed with suspicion the emergence of any 'master-race' (other than their own, of course)". Opponents also viewed a cartoon included in the supplement as racist, and criticised another article in which Irving wrote that the British press was owned by Jews.
Volunteers were later recruited to remove and destroy the supplements before the magazine's distribution. Irving has said that the criticism is "probably justifiable" and has described his motivation in producing the controversial secret issue of Carnival Times as being to prevent the Carnival from making a profit that would be passed on to a South African group which he considered a "subversive organisation".
The Destruction of Dresden
After serving in 1959 as editor of the University of London Carnival Committee's journal, Irving left for West Germany, where he worked as a steelworker in a Thyssen AG steel works in the Ruhr area, and learned the German language. He then moved to Spain, where he worked as a clerk at an air base. During his time in Spain, Irving married his first wife, a Spanish woman with whom he had four children.
In 1962, he wrote a series of 37 articles on the Allied bombing campaign, Und Deutschlands Städte starben nicht (And Germany's Cities Did Not Die), for the German boulevard journal Neue Illustrierte. These were the basis for his first book, The Destruction of Dresden (1963), in which he examined the Allied bombing of Dresden in February 1945. By the 1960s, a debate about the morality of the carpet bombing of German cities and civilian population had already begun, especially in the United Kingdom. There was consequently considerable interest in Irving's book, which was illustrated with graphic pictures, and it became an international best-seller.
In the first edition, Irving's estimates for deaths in Dresden were between 100,000 and 250,000 – notably higher than most previously published figures. These figures became authoritative and widely accepted in many standard reference works. In later editions of the book over the next three decades, he gradually adjusted the figure downwards to 50,000–100,000. According to Richard J. Evans at the 2000 libel trial that Irving brought against Deborah Lipstadt, Irving based his estimates of the dead of Dresden on the word of one individual who provided no supporting documentation, used forged documents, and described one witness who was a urologist as Dresden's Deputy Chief Medical Officer. The doctor since complained about being misidentified by Irving, and further, was only reporting rumours about the death toll.
The number of deaths in the bombing raids may never be known. The presence in the city of over 100,000 refugees fleeing the advance of the Red Army means there is no accurate record of them. Two tourist books, one written by Herbert Wotte and Siegfried Hoyer, published in 1978, give the casualties as 35,000; another compiled by Jurgen Rach and Erwin and Inge Hartsche (1977), agrees with this figure. The DDR officially accepted figure was "a minimum of 35,000 dead". Alexander McKee looked at other firebombings of German cities, notably Hamburg, and concluded that "the figure of 35,000 for one night's massacre alone might easily be doubled to 70,000 without much fear of exageration, because of the exodus of refugees from Silesia." However, according to an investigation by Dresden City Council in 2008, casualties at Dresden were only estimated as 22,700–25,000 dead.
Irving had based his numbers on what purported to be "TB 47", a document promulgated by Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, and on claims made after the war by a former Dresden Nazi functionary, Hans Voigt, without verifying them against official sources available in Dresden. Irving's estimates and sources were first disputed by Walter Weidauer, Mayor of Dresden 1946–1958, in his own account of the Dresden bombing. When it was later confirmed that the TB 47 used was a forgery, Irving published a letter to the editor in The Times on 7 July 1966 retracting his estimates, writing that he had "no interest in promoting or perpetuating false legends". In 1977 the real document TB 47 was located in Dresden by Götz Bergander.
Despite acknowledging that the copy of "TB 47" he had used was inaccurate, Irving argued during the late 1980s and 1990s that the death toll at Dresden was much higher than the accepted estimates; in several speeches during this period he said that 100,000 or more people had been killed in the bombing of Dresden. In some of the speeches Irving also argued or implied that the raid was comparable to the Nazis' killing of Jews.
1963 burglary of Irving's flat
In November 1963, Irving called the Metropolitan Police with suspicions he had been the victim of a burglary by three men who had gained access to his Hornsey flat in London claiming to be General Post Office (GPO) engineers. Anti-fascist activist Gerry Gable was convicted in January 1964, along with Manny Carpel. They were fined £20 each.
After the success of the Dresden book, Irving continued writing, including some works of revisionist history, although his 1964 work The Mare's Nest – an account of the German V-weapons programme and the Allied intelligence countermeasures against it – was widely praised when published and continues to be well regarded. Michael J. Neufeld of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum has described The Mare's Nest as "the most complete account on both Allied and German sides of the V-weapons campaign in the last two years of the war."
Irving translated the Memoirs of Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel in 1965 (edited by Walter Görlitz); and in 1967 published Accident: The Death of General Sikorski. In the latter book, Irving claimed that the plane crash which killed Polish government in exile leader General Władysław Sikorski in 1943 was really an assassination ordered by Winston Churchill, so as to enable Churchill to betray Poland to the Soviet Union. Irving's book inspired the highly controversial 1967 play Soldiers by his friend, the German playwright Rolf Hochhuth, where Hochhuth depicts Churchill ordering the "assassination" of General Sikorski.
Also in 1967, Irving published two more works: The Virus House, an account of the German nuclear energy project for which Irving conducted many interviews, and The Destruction of Convoy PQ-17, in which he blamed the British escort group commander, Commander Jack Broome for the catastrophic losses of the Convoy PQ-17. Amid much publicity, Broome sued Irving for libel in October 1968, and in February 1970, after 17 days of deliberation before London's High Court, Broome won. Irving was forced to pay £40,000 in damages, and the book was withdrawn from circulation.
After PQ-17, Irving largely shifted to writing biographies. In 1968, he published Breach of Security, an account of German reading of messages to and from the British Embassy in Berlin before 1939 with an introduction by the British historian Donald Cameron Watt. As a result of Irving's success with Dresden, members of Germany's extreme right wing assisted him in contacting surviving members of Hitler's inner circle. In an interview with the American journalist Ron Rosenbaum, Irving claimed to have developed sympathies towards them. Many ageing former mid- and high-ranked Nazis saw a potential friend in Irving and donated diaries and other material. Irving described his historical work to Rosenbaum as an act of "stone-cleaning" of Hitler, in which he cleared off the "slime" that he felt had been unjustly applied to Hitler's reputation.
In 1969, during a visit to Germany, Irving met Robert Kempner, one of the American prosecutors at Nuremberg. Irving asked Kempner if the "official record of the Nuremberg Trials was falsified", and told him that he was planning to go to Washington, D.C. to compare the sound recordings of Luftwaffe Field-Marshal Erhard Milch's March 1946 evidence with the subsequently published texts to find proof that evidence given at Nuremberg was "tampered with and manipulated". Upon his return to the United States, Kempner wrote to J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, that Irving expressed many "anti-American and anti-Jewish statements".
In 1971, Irving translated the memoirs of General Reinhard Gehlen, and in 1973 published The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, a biography of Field Marshal Milch. He spent the remainder of the 1970s working on Hitler's War and the War Path, his two-part biography of Adolf Hitler; The Trail of the Fox, a biography of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel; and a series in the Sunday Express describing the Royal Air Force's famous Dam Busters raid. In 1975, in his introduction to Hitler und seine Feldherren, the German edition of Hitler's War, Irving attacked the diary of Anne Frank as a forgery, claiming falsely that a New York court had ruled that the diary was really the work of an American scriptwriter Meyer Levin "in collaboration with the girl's father".
In 1977 Irving published Hitler's War, the first of his two-part biography of Adolf Hitler. Irving's intention in Hitler's War was to clean away the "years of grime and discoloration from the facade of a silent and forbidding monument" to reveal the real Hitler, whose reputation Irving claimed had been slandered by historians. In Hitler's War, Irving tried to "view the situation as far as possible through Hitler's eyes, from behind his desk". He portrayed Hitler as a rational, intelligent politician, whose only goal was to increase Germany's prosperity and influence on the continent, and who was constantly let down by incompetent and/or treasonous subordinates. Irving's book faulted the Allied leaders, especially Winston Churchill, for the eventual escalation of war, and claimed that the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 was a "preventive war" forced on Hitler to avert an alleged impending Soviet attack. He also claimed that Hitler had no knowledge of the Holocaust; while not denying its occurrence, Irving claimed that Heinrich Himmler and his deputy Reinhard Heydrich were its originators and architects. Irving made much of the lack of any written order from Hitler ordering the Holocaust, and for decades afterward offered to pay £1,000 to anyone who could find such an order.
Critical reaction to Hitler's War was generally negative. Reviewers took issue with Irving's factual claims as well as his conclusions. For example, American historian Charles Sydnor noted numerous errors in Hitler's War, such as Irving's unreferenced statement that the Jews who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 were well supplied with weapons from Germany's allies. Sydnor pointed out that Hitler had received an SS report in November 1942 which contained a mention of 363,211 Russian Jews executed by the Einsatzgruppen between August–November 1942. Sydnor remarked that Irving's statement that the Einsatzgruppen were in charge in the death camps seems to indicate that he was not familiar with the history of the Holocaust, as the Einsatzgruppen were in fact mobile death squads who had nothing to do with the death camps.
Irving's work of the late 1970s and early 1980s
Just months after the initial release of Hitler's War, Irving published The Trail of the Fox, a biography of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. In it, Irving attacked the members of the 20 July Plot to assassinate Hitler, branding them "traitors", "cowards", and "manipulators", and uncritically presented Hitler and his government's subsequent revenge against the plotters, of which Rommel was also a victim. In particular, Irving accused Rommel's friend and Chief of Staff General Hans Speidel of framing Rommel in the attempted coup. The British historian David Pryce-Jones in a book review of The Trail of the Fox in the edition of 12 November 1977 of The New York Times Book Review accused Irving of taking everything Hitler had to say at face value.
In 1978, Irving released The War Path, the companion volume to Hitler's War which covered events leading up to the war and which was written from a similar point of view. Again, professional historians such as Donald Cameron Watt noted numerous inaccuracies and misrepresentations. Despite the criticism, the book sold well, as did all of Irving's books to that date. The financial success of his books enabled Irving to buy a home in the prestigious Mayfair district of London, own a Rolls-Royce car, and to enjoy a very affluent lifestyle. In addition, Irving, despite being married, became increasingly open about his affairs with other women, all of which were detailed in his self-published diary. Irving's affairs were to cause his first marriage to end in divorce in 1981. In 1982, Irving began a relationship with a Danish model, Bente Hogh. Hogh and Irving live together, and are the parents of a daughter born in 1984.
In the 1980s Irving started researching and writing about topics other than Nazi Germany, but with less success. He began his research on his three-part biography of Winston Churchill. After publication Irving's work on Churchill received at least one bad review from Professor David Cannadine (then of the University of London):
It has received almost no attention from historians or reviewers ... It is easy to see why ... full of excesses, inconsistencies and omissions ... seems completely unaware of recent work done on the subject ... It is not merely that the arguments in this book are so perversely tendentious and irresponsibly sensationalist. It is also that it is written in a tone which is at best casually journalistic and at worst quite exceptionally offensive. The text is littered with errors from beginning to end.
In 1981, he published two books. The first was The War Between the Generals, in which Irving offered an account of the Allied High Command on the Western Front in 1944–45, detailing the heated conflicts Irving alleges occurred between the various generals of the various countries and presenting rumours about their private lives. The second book was Uprising!, about the 1956 revolt in Hungary, which Irving characterised as "primarily an anti-Jewish uprising", supposedly because the Communist regime was itself controlled by Jews. Irving's depiction of Hungary's Communist regime as a Jewish dictatorship oppressing Gentiles sparked charges of antisemitism. In addition, there were complaints that Irving had grossly exaggerated the number of people of Jewish origin in the Communist regime and had ignored the fact that Hungarian Communists who did have a Jewish background like Mátyás Rákosi and Ernő Gerő had totally repudiated Judaism and sometimes expressed antisemitic attitudes themselves. Critics such as Neal Ascherson and Kai Bird took issue with some of Irving's language that seemed to evoke antisemitic imagery, such as his remark that Rákosi possessed "the tact of a kosher butcher".
In 1983, Stern, a weekly German news magazine, purchased the Hitler Diaries of 61 volumes for DM 9 million and published excerpts from them. Irving played the main role in exposing the Hitler Diaries as a hoax. In October 1982, Irving purchased, from the same source as Stern's 1983 purchase, 800 pages of documents relating to Hitler, only to conclude that many of the documents were forgeries. Irving was amongst the first to identify the diaries as forgeries, and to draw media attention. He went so far as to crash the press conference held by Hugh Trevor-Roper at the Hamburg offices of Stern magazine on 25 April 1983 to denounce the diaries as a forgery and Trevor-Roper for endorsing the diaries as genuine. Irving's performance at the Stern press conference where he violently harangued Trevor-Roper until ejected by security led him to be featured prominently on the news; the next day, Irving appeared on the Today television show as a featured guest. Irving had concluded that the alleged Hitler diaries were a forgery because they had come from the same dealer in Nazi memorabilia from whom Irving had purchased his collection in 1982. At the press conference in Hamburg, Irving announced, "I know the collection from which these diaries come. It is an old collection, full of forgeries. I have some here". Irving was proud to have detected and announced the hoax material and of the "trail of chaos" he had created at the Hamburg press conference and the attendant publicity it had brought him, and took pride in his humiliation of Trevor-Roper, whom Irving strongly disliked for his sloppy work (not detecting the hoax) and criticism of Irving's methods and conclusions. Irving also noted internal inconsistencies in the supposed Hitler diaries, such as a diary entry for July 20, 1944, which would have been unlikely given that Hitler's right hand had been badly burned by the bomb planted in his headquarters by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg earlier that day.
A week later on 2 May, Irving asserted that many of the diary documents appear to be genuine; at the same press conference, Irving took the opportunity to promote his translation of the memoirs of Hitler's physician Dr. Theodor Morell. Robert Harris, in his book Selling Hitler, suggested that an additional reason for Irving's change of mind over the authenticity of the alleged Hitler diaries was that the fake diaries contain no reference to the Holocaust, thereby buttressing Irving's claim in Hitler's War that Hitler had no knowledge of it. Subsequently, Irving conformed when the diaries were declared as a forgery by consensus. At a press conference held to withdraw his endorsement of the diaries, Irving proudly claimed that he was the first to call them a forgery, to which a reporter replied that he was also the last to call them genuine.
By the mid-1980s, Irving had not had a successful book for some years, and was behind schedule in writing the first volume of his Churchill series, the research for which had strained his finances. He finished the manuscript in 1985, but the book was not published until 1987, when it was released as Churchill's War, Volume I.
In 1989, Irving published his biography of Hermann Göring.
Movement towards Holocaust denial
Over the years, Irving's stance on the Holocaust changed significantly. From 1988, he started to espouse Holocaust denial openly; he had previously not denied the Holocaust outright and for this reason, many Holocaust deniers were ambivalent about him. They admired Irving for the pro-Nazi slant in his work and the fact that he possessed a degree of mainstream credibility that they lacked, but were annoyed that he did not openly deny the Holocaust. In 1980, Lucy Dawidowicz noted that although Hitler's War was strongly sympathetic to the Third Reich, because Irving argued that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust as opposed to denying the Holocaust, that his book was not part of the "anti-Semitic canon". In 1980, Irving received an invitation to speak at a Holocaust-denial conference, which he refused under the grounds that his appearance there would damage his reputation. In a letter, Irving stated his reasons for his refusal as: "This is pure Realpolitik on my part. I am already dangerously exposed, and I cannot take the chance of being caught in flak meant for others!" Though Irving refused at this time to appear at conferences sponsored by the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review (IHR), he did grant the institute the right to distribute his books in the United States. Robert Jan van Pelt suggests that the major reason for Irving wishing to keep his distance from Holocaust deniers in the early 1980s was his desire to found his own political party called Focus.
In a footnote in the first edition of Hitler's War, Irving writes, "I cannot accept the view… [that] there exists no document signed by Hitler, Himmler or Heydrich speaking of the extermination of the Jews". In 1982, Irving made an attempt to unify all of the various neo-Nazi groups in Britain into one party called Focus, in which he would play a leading role. Irving described himself as a "moderate fascist" and spoke of plans to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The effort failed due to fiscal problems. Irving told the Oxford Mail of having "links at a low level" with the British National Front. Irving described The Spotlight, the main journal of the Liberty Lobby, as "an excellent fortnightly paper". At the same time, Irving put a copy of Hitler's "Prophecy Speech" of 30 January 1939, promising the "annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe" if "Jewish financiers" started another world war, onto his wall.
Following the failure of Focus, in September 1983, Irving for the first time attended a conference of the IHR. Van Pelt has argued that, with the failure of Irving's political career, he felt freer to associate with Holocaust deniers. At the conference, Irving did not deny the Holocaust, but did appear happy to share the stage with Robert Faurisson and Judge Wilhelm Stäglich, and claimed to be impressed with the allegations of Friedrich Berg that mass murder using diesel gas fumes at the Operation Reinhard death camps was impossible. At that conference, Irving repeated his claims that Hitler was ignorant of the Holocaust because he was "so busy being a soldier". In a speech at that conference, Irving stated: "Isn't it right for Tel Aviv to claim now that David Irving is talking nonsense and of course Adolf Hitler must have known about what was going in Auschwitz and Treblinka, and then in the same breath to claim that, of course our beloved Mr. Begin didn't know what was going on in Sabra and Chatilla". During the same speech, Irving proclaimed Hitler to be the "biggest friend the Jews had in the Third Reich". In the same speech, Irving stated that he operated in such a way as to bring himself maximum publicity. Irving stated that: "I have at home... a filing cabinet full of documents which I don't issue all at once. I keep them: I issue them a bit at a time. When I think my name hasn't been in the newspapers for several weeks, well, then I ring them up and I phone them and I say: 'What about this one, then?'"
A major theme of Irving's writings since the 1980s was his belief that it had been a great blunder on the part of Britain to declare war on Germany in 1939, and that ever since then and as a result of that decision, Britain had slipped into an unstoppable decline. Irving also took the view that Hitler often tried to help the Jews of Europe. In a June 1992 interview with The Daily Telegraph, Irving claimed to have heard from Hitler's naval adjutant that the Führer had told him that he could not marry because Germany was "his bride". Irving then claimed to have asked the naval adjutant when Hitler made that remark, and upon hearing that the date was 24 March 1938, Irving stated in response "Herr Admiral, at that moment I was being born". Irving used this alleged incident to argue that there was some sort of mystical connection between himself and Hitler.
In a 1986 speech in Australia Irving argued that photographs of Holocaust survivors and dead taken in early 1945 by Allied soldiers were proof that the Allies were responsible for the Holocaust, not the Germans. Irving claimed that the Holocaust was not the work of Nazi leaders, but rather of "nameless criminals", and claimed that "these men [who killed the Jews] acted on their own impulse, their own initiative, within the general atmosphere of brutality created by the Second World War, in which of course Allied bombings played a part." In another 1986 speech, this time in Atlanta, Irving claimed that "historians have a blindness when it comes to the Holocaust because like Tay-Sachs disease it is a Jewish disease which causes blindness".
By the mid-1980s, Irving associated himself with the IHR, began giving lectures to groups such as the far-right German Deutsche Volksunion (DVU), and publicly denied that the Nazis systematically exterminated Jews in gas chambers during World War II. Irving was a frequent speaker for the DVU in the 1980s and the early 1990s, but the relationship ended in 1993 apparently because of concerns by the DVU that Irving's espousal of Holocaust denial might lead to the DVU being banned.
In 1986, Irving visited Toronto, where he was met at the airport by Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel. According to Zündel, Irving "thought I was 'Revisionist-Neo-Nazi-Rambo-Kook!'", and asked Zündel to stay away from him. Zündel and his supporters obliged Irving by staying away from his lecture tour, which consequently attracted little media attention, and was considered by Irving to be a failure. Afterwards, Zündel sent Irving a long letter in which he offered to draw publicity to Irving, and so ensure that his future speaking tours would be a success. As a result, Irving and Zündel became friends, and Irving agreed in late 1987 to testify for Zündel at his second trial for denying the Holocaust. In addition, the publication in 1987 of the book Der europäische Bürgerkrieg 1917–1945 by Ernst Nolte, in which Nolte strongly implied that maybe Holocaust deniers were on to something, encouraged Irving to become more open in associating with Zündel.
In January 1988, Irving travelled to Toronto, Ontario, to assist Douglas Christie, the defence lawyer for Ernst Zündel at his second trial for denying the Holocaust. Working closely with Robert Faurisson, who was also assisting the defence, Irving contacted Warden Bill Armontrout of the Missouri State Penitentiary who recommended that Irving and Faurisson get into touch with Fred A. Leuchter, a self-described execution expert living in Boston. Irving and Faurisson then flew to Boston to meet with Leuchter, who agreed to lend his alleged technical expertise on the behalf of Zündel's defence. Irving argued that an alleged expert on gassings like Leuchter could prove that the Holocaust was a "myth". After work on the second Zündel trial, Irving declared that based on his exposure to Zündel's and Leuchter's theories that he was now conducting a "one-man intifada" against the idea that there had been a Holocaust. Subsequently, Irving claimed to the American journalist D.D. Guttenplan in a 1999 interview that Zündel had convinced him that the Holocaust had not occurred.
In the 1988 Zündel trial, Irving repeated and defended his claim from Hitler's War that until October 1943 Hitler knew nothing about the actual implementation of the Final Solution. He also expressed his evolving belief that the Final Solution involved "atrocities", not systematic murder: "I don't think there was any overall Reich policy to kill the Jews. If there was, they would have been killed and there would not be now so many millions of survivors. And believe me, I am glad for every survivor that there was." On 22–26 April 1988, Irving testified for Zündel, endorsing Richard Harwood's book Did Six Million Really Die? as "over ninety percent... factually accurate".
As to what evidence further led Irving to believe that the Holocaust never occurred, he cited The Leuchter report by Fred A. Leuchter, which claimed there was no evidence for the existence of homicidal gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Irving said in a 1999 documentary about Leuchter: "The big point [of the Leuchter report]: there is no significant residue of cyanide in the brickwork. That's what converted me. When I read that in the report in the courtroom in Toronto, I became a hard-core disbeliever". In addition, Irving was influenced to embrace Holocaust denial by the American historian Arno J. Mayer's 1988 book Why Did the Heavens Not Darken?, which did not deny the Holocaust, but claimed that most of those who died at Auschwitz were killed by disease; Irving saw in Mayer's book an apparent confirmation of Leuchter's and Zündel's theories about no mass murder at Auschwitz.
After the trial, Irving published Leuchter's report as Auschwitz The End of the Line: The Leuchter Report in the United Kingdom in 1989 and wrote its foreword. Leuchter's book had been first published in Canada by Zündel's Samisdat Publishers in 1988 as The Leuchter Report: The End of a Myth: An Engineering Report on the Alleged Execution Gas Chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Majdenek. In his foreword to the British edition of Leuchter's book, Irving wrote that "Nobody likes to be swindled, still less where considerable sums of money are involved". The alleged swindle was the reparations money totalling 3 billion DM paid by the Federal Republic of Germany to Israel between 1952–1966 for the Holocaust. Irving described the reparations as being "essentially in atonement for the 'gas chambers' of Auschwitz", which Irving called a "myth" that would "not die easily". In his foreword, Irving praised the "scrupulous methods" and "integrity" of Leuchter.
For publishing and writing the foreword to Auschwitz The End of the Line, on 20 June 1989 Irving together with Leuchter was condemned in an Early Day Motion of the House of Commons as "Hitler's heirs". The motion went on to describe Irving as a "Nazi propagandist and longtime Hitler apologist" and Auschwitz The End of the Line as a "fascist publication". In the Motion, the House stated that they were "appalled by [the Holocaust denial of] Nazi propagandist and long-time Hitler apologist David Irving". In response to the House of Commons motion, Irving in a press statement challenged the MPs who voted to condemn him that: "I will enter the 'gas chambers' of Auschwitz and you and your friends may lob in Zyklon B in accordance with the well known procedures and conditions. I guarantee that you won't be satisfied with the results!".
In a pamphlet Irving published in London on 23 June 1989, he made the "epochal announcement" that there was no mass murder in the gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp. Irving labelled the gas chambers at Auschwitz a "hoax", and writing in the third person declared that he "has placed himself [Irving] at the head of a growing band of historians, worldwide, who are now sceptical of the claim that at Auschwitz and other camps were 'factories of death', in which millions of innocent people were systematically gassed to death". Boasting of his role in criticising the Hitler diaries as a forgery in 1983, Irving wrote "now he [Irving] is saying the same thing about the infamous 'gas chambers' of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Majdanek. They did not exist – ever – except perhaps as the brainchild of Britain's brilliant wartime Psychological Warfare Executive". Finally, Irving claimed "the survivors of Auschwitz are themselves testimony to the absence of an extermination programme". Echoing the criticism of the House of Commons, a leader in The Times on 14 May 1990 described Irving as a "man for whom Hitler is something of a hero and almost everything of an innocent and for whom Auschwitz is a Jewish deception".
Holocaust denial lecture circuit
In the early 1990s, Irving was a frequent visitor to Germany, where he spoke at neo-Nazi rallies. The chief themes of Irving's German speeches were that the Allies and Axis states were equally culpable for war crimes, that the decision of Neville Chamberlain to declare war on Germany in 1939, and that of Winston Churchill to continue the war in 1940, had been great mistakes that set Britain on a path of decline, and the Holocaust was just a "propaganda exercise". In June 1990, Irving visited East Germany on a well-publicized tour entitled "An Englishman Fights for the Honour of the Germans," on which he accused the Allies of having used "forged documents" to "humiliate" the German people. Irving's self-proclaimed mission was to guide "promising young men" in Germany in the "right direction" (Irving has often stated his belief that women exist for a "certain task, which is producing us [men]", and should be "subservient to men"; leading, in Lipstadt's view, to a lack of interest on Irving's part in guiding young German women in the "right direction"). German nationalists found Irving, as a non-German Holocaust denier, to be particularly credible.
In January 1990, Irving gave a speech in Moers where he asserted that only 30,000 people died at Auschwitz between 1940–45, all of natural causes, which was equal—so he claimed—to the typical death toll from one Bomber Command raid on German cities. Irving claimed that there were no gas chambers at the death camp, stating that the existing remains were "mock-ups built by the Poles". On 21 April 1990, Irving repeated the same speech in Munich, which led to his conviction for Holocaust denial in Munich on 11 July 1991. The court fined Irving DM 7,000. Irving appealed the judgement, and received a fine of DM 10,000 for repeating the same remarks in the courtroom on 5 May 1992. During his appeal in 1992, Irving called upon those present in the Munich courtroom to "fight a battle for the German people and put an end to the blood lie of the Holocaust which has been told against this country for fifty years". Irving went on to call the Auschwitz death camp a "tourist attraction" whose origins Irving claimed went back to an "ingenious plan" devised by the British Psychological Warfare Executive in 1942 to spread anti-German propaganda that it was the policy of the German state to be "using 'gas chambers' to kill millions of Jews and other undesirables". During the same speech, Irving denounced the judge as a "senile, alcoholic cretin". Following his conviction for Holocaust denial, Irving was banned from visiting Germany.
Expanding upon his thesis in Hitler's War about the lack of a written Führer order for the Holocaust, Irving argued in the 1990s that the absence of such an order meant that there was no Holocaust. In a speech delivered in Toronto in November 1990 Irving claimed that Holocaust survivors had manufactured memories of their suffering because "there's money involved and they can get a good compensation cash payment out of it". In that speech, Irving used the metaphor of a cruise ship named Holocaust, which Irving claimed had "... luxury wall to wall fitted carpets and a crew of thousands… marine terminals established in now virtually every capital in the world, disguised as Holocaust memorial museums". Irving went on to assert that the "ship" was due for rough sailing because recently the Soviet government had allowed historians access to "the index cards of all the people who passed through the gates of Auschwitz", and claimed that this would lead to "a lot of people [who] are not claiming to be Auschwitz survivors anymore" (Irving's statement about the index cards was incorrect; what the Soviet government had made available in 1990 were the death books of Auschwitz, recording the weekly death tolls). Irving claimed on the basis of what he called the index books that, "Because the experts can look at a tattoo and say 'Oh yes, 181, 219 that means you entered Auschwitz in March 1943" and he warned Auschwitz survivors "If you want to go and have a tattoo put on your arm, as a lot of them do, I am afraid to say, and claim subsequently that you were in Auschwitz, you have to make sure a) that it fits in with the month you said you went to Auschwitz and b) it is not a number which anyone used before".
On 17 January 1991, Irving told a reporter from The Jewish Chronicle that "The Jews are very foolish not to abandon the gas chamber theory while they still have time". Irving went on to say that he believed anti-Semitism will increase all over the world because "the Jews have exploited people with the gas chamber legend" and that "In ten years, Israel will cease to exist and the Jews will have to return to Europe". In his 1991 revised edition of Hitler's War, he had removed all references to death camps and the Holocaust. In a speech given in Hamburg in 1991, Irving stated that in two years time "this myth of mass murders of Jews in the death factories of Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka ... which in fact never took place" will be disproved (Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Treblinka were all well established as being extermination camps). Two days later, Irving repeated the same speech in Halle before a group of neo-Nazis, and praised Rudolf Hess as "that great German martyr, Rudolf Hess". At another 1991 speech, this time in Canada, Irving called the Holocaust a "hoax", and again predicted that by 1993 the "hoax" would have been "exposed". In that speech, Irving declared, "Gradually the word is getting around Germany. Two years from now too, the German historians will accept that we are right. They will accept that for fifty years they have believed a lie". During that speech given in October 1991, Irving expressed his contempt and hatred for Holocaust survivors by proclaiming that:
Ridicule alone isn't enough, you've got to be tasteless about it. You've got to say things like 'More women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.' Now you think that's tasteless, what about this? I'm forming an association especially dedicated to all these liars, the ones who try and kid people that they were in these concentration camps, it's called the Auschwitz Survivors, Survivors of the Holocaust and Other Liars, 'ASSHOLs'. Can't get more tasteless than that, but you've got to be tasteless because these people deserve our contempt.
In another 1991 speech, this time in Regina, Irving called the Holocaust "a major fraud... There were no gas chambers. They were fakes and frauds".
In November 1992, Irving was to be a featured speaker at a world anti-Zionist congress in Stockholm that was cancelled by the Swedish government. Also scheduled to attend were fellow Holocaust-deniers Robert Faurisson and Fred A. Leuchter, and Louis Farrakhan, together with representatives of the militant Palestinian group Hamas, the Lebanese militant Shiite group Hezbollah, and the right-wing Russian antisemitic group Pamyat. In a 1993 speech, Irving claimed that had been only 100,000 Jewish deaths at Auschwitz, "but not from gas chambers. They died from epidemics". Irving went on to claim that most of the Jewish deaths during World War II had been caused by Allied bombing. Irving claimed that "The concentration camp inmates arrived in Berlin or Leipzig or in Dresden just in time for the RAF bombers to set fire to those cities. Nobody knows how many Jews died in those air raids". In a 1994 speech, Irving lamented that his predictions of 1991 had failed to occur, and complained of the persistence of belief in the "rotting corpse" of the "profitable legend" of the Holocaust. In another 1994 speech, Irving claimed that there was no German policy of genocide of Jews, and that only 600,000 Jews died in concentration camps in World War II, all due to either Allied bombing or disease. At the same time, Irving started to appear more frequently at the annual conferences hosted by the IHR. In a 1995 speech, Irving claimed that the Holocaust was a myth invented by a "world-wide Jewish cabal" to serve their own ends. Irving also spoke on other topics at the IHR gatherings. A frequent theme was the claim that Winston Churchill had advance knowledge of the Japanese plans to attack Pearl Harbor, and refused to warn the Americans to bring the United States into World War II.
At the same time, Irving maintained an ambivalent attitude to Holocaust denial depending on his audience. In a 1993 letter, Irving lashed out against his former friend Zündel, writing that: "In April 1988 I unhesitatingly agreed to aid your defence as a witness in Toronto. I would not make the same mistake again. As a penalty for having defended you then, and for having continued to aid you since, my life has come under a gradually mounting attack: I find myself the worldwide victim of mass demonstrations, violence, vituperation and persecution" (emphasis in the original). Irving went on to claim his life had been wonderful until Zündel had got him involved in the Holocaust denial movement; van Pelt argues that Irving was just trying to shift responsibility for his actions in his letter. In an interview with Australian radio in July 1995, Irving claimed that at least four million Jews died in World War II, though he argued that this was due to terrible sanitary conditions inside the concentration camps as opposed to a deliberate policy of genocide in the death camps. Irving's statement led to a very public spat with his former ally Faurisson, who insisted that no Jews were killed in the Holocaust. In 1995, Irving stated in another speech that "I have to take off my hat to my adversaries and the strategies they have employed—the marketing of the very word Holocaust: I half expected to see a little TM after it". Likewise, depending on his audience, Irving during the 1990s either used the absence of a written Führerbefehl (Führer order) for the "Final Solution" to argue that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust, or that the absence of a written order meant there was no Holocaust.
Racism and antisemitism
Irving has expressed racist and antisemitic sentiments, both publicly and privately. Irving has often expressed his belief in the theory of a sinister Jewish conspiracy ruling the world, and that the belief in the reality of Holocaust was manufactured as part of the same alleged conspiracy. Irving used the label "traditional enemies of the truth" to describe Jews, and in a 1963 article about a speech by Sir Oswald Mosley wrote that the "Yellow Star did not make a showing". In 1992, Irving stated that "the Jews are very foolish not to abandon the gas chamber theory while they still have time" and claimed he "foresees a new wave of antisemitism" the world over due to Jewish "exploitation of the Holocaust myth". During an interview with the American writer Ron Rosenbaum, Irving restated his belief that Jews were his "traditional enemy". In one interview cited in the libel lawsuit, Irving also stated that he would be "willing to put [his] signature" to the "fact" that "a great deal of control over the world is exercised by Jews".
Several of these statements were cited by the judge's decision in Irving's lawsuit against Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt, leading the judge to conclude that Irving "had on many occasions spoken in terms which are plainly racist." One example brought was his diary entry for 17 September 1994, in which Irving wrote about a ditty he composed for his young daughter "when halfbreed children are wheeled past":
I am a Baby Aryan
Not Jewish or Sectarian
I have no plans to marry an
Ape or Rastafarian.
Christopher Hitchens wrote that Irving sang the rhyme to Hitchens' wife, Carol Blue, and daughter, Antonia, in the elevator following drinks in the family's Washington apartment.
Persona non grata
After Irving denied the Holocaust in two 1989 speeches given in Austria, the Austrian government issued an arrest warrant for him and barred him from entering the country. In early 1992, a German court found him guilty of Holocaust denial under the Auschwitzlüge section of the law against Volksverhetzung (a failed appeal by Irving would see the fine rise from 10,000 DM to 30,000 DM), and he was subsequently barred from entering Germany. Other governments followed suit, including Italy and Canada, where he was arrested in November 1992 and deported back to the United Kingdom. In an administrative hearing surrounding those events, he was found by the hearing office to have engaged in a "total fabrication" in telling a story of an exit from and return to Canada which would, for technical reasons, have made the original deportation order invalid. He was also barred from entering Australia in 1992, a ban he made five unsuccessful attempts to overturn.
In 1992, Irving signed a contract with Macmillan for a biography of Joseph Goebbels entitled Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich. Following charges that Irving had selectively "edited" a recently discovered complete edition of Goebbels's diaries in Moscow, Macmillan cancelled the book deal. The decision by The Sunday Times (who had bought the rights to serialised extracts from the diaries before Macmillan published them) in July 1992 to hire Irving as a translator of Goebbels's diary was criticised by historian Peter Pulzer, who argued that Irving, because of his views about the Third Reich, was not the best man for the job. Andrew Neil, the editor of The Sunday Times, called Irving "reprehensible", but defended hiring him because he was only a "transcribing technician", which others criticised as a poor description of translation work.
On 27 April 1993, Irving was ordered to attend court to be examined on charges relating to the Loi Gayssot in France, making it an offence to question the existence or size of the category of crimes against humanity. The law does not extend to extradition, and Irving refused to travel to France. Then, in February 1994, Irving spent 10 days of a three-month sentence in London's Pentonville prison for contempt of court following a legal wrangling over publishing rights.
In 1995, St. Martin's Press of New York City agreed to publish the Goebbels biography; but after protests, they cancelled the contract, leaving Irving in a situation in which, according to D. D. Guttenplan, he was desperate for financial help, publicity, and the need to re-establish his reputation as a historian. The book was eventually self-published.
On 5 September 1996, Irving filed a libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt and her British publisher Penguin Books for publishing the British edition of Lipstadt's book, Denying the Holocaust, which had first been published in the United States in 1993. In her book, Denying the Holocaust, Lipstadt called Irving a Holocaust denier, falsifier, and bigot, and said that he manipulated and distorted real documents.
Lipstadt hired the British solicitor Anthony Julius to present her case, while Penguin Books hired Kevin Bays and Mark Bateman, libel specialist from media firm Davenport Lyons. They briefed the libel barrister Richard Rampton QC and Penguin also briefed junior barrister Heather Rogers. The defendants (with Penguin's insurers paying the fee) also retained Professor Richard J. Evans, historian and Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, as an expert witness. Also working as expert witnesses were the American Holocaust historian Christopher Browning, the German historian Peter Longerich and the Dutch architectural expert Robert Jan van Pelt. The last wrote a report attesting to the fact that the death camps were designed, built and used for the purpose of mass murder, while Browning testified for the reality of the Holocaust. Evans' report was the most comprehensive, in-depth examination of Irving's work:
Not one of [Irving's] books, speeches or articles, not one paragraph, not one sentence in any of them, can be taken on trust as an accurate representation of its historical subject. All of them are completely worthless as history, because Irving cannot be trusted anywhere, in any of them, to give a reliable account of what he is talking or writing about ... if we mean by historian someone who is concerned to discover the truth about the past, and to give as accurate a representation of it as possible, then Irving is not a historian.
The BBC quoted Evans further:-
Irving, (...) had deliberately distorted and wilfully mistranslated documents, consciously used discredited testimony and falsified historical statistics. (...) Irving has fallen so far short of the standards of scholarship customary amongst historians that he does not deserve to be called a historian at all."
Not only did Irving lose the case, but in light of the evidence presented at the trial a number of his works that had previously escaped serious scrutiny were brought to public attention. He was also liable to pay all of Penguin's costs of the trial, estimated to be as much as £2 million (US$3.2 million) though it remains uncertain how much of these liabilities he will ultimately pay for. When he did not meet these, Davenport Lyons moved to make him bankrupt on behalf of their client. He was declared bankrupt in 2002, and lost his home, though he has been able to travel around the world despite his financial problems.
Life after libel suit
Early in September 2004, Michael Cullen, the deputy prime minister of New Zealand, announced that Irving would not be permitted to visit the country, where he had been invited by the National Press Club to give a series of lectures under the heading "The Problems of Writing about World War II in a Free Society". The National Press Club defended its invitation of Irving, saying that it amounted not to an endorsement of his views, but rather an opportunity to question him. A government spokeswoman said that "people who have been deported from another country are refused entry" to New Zealand. Irving rejected the ban and attempted to board a Qantas flight for New Zealand from Los Angeles on 17 September 2004. He was not allowed on board.
On 11 November 2005, the Austrian police in the southern state of Styria, acting under the 1989 warrant, arrested Irving. Irving pleaded guilty to the charge of "trivialising, grossly playing down and denying the Holocaust". Irving stated in his plea that he changed his opinions on the Holocaust, "I said that then based on my knowledge at the time, but by 1991 when I came across the Eichmann papers, I wasn't saying that anymore and I wouldn't say that now. The Nazis did murder millions of Jews." Irving was sentenced to three years' imprisonment in accordance with the law prohibiting National Socialist activities (officially Verbotsgesetz, "Prohibition Statute"). Irving sat motionless as judge Peter Liebetreu asked him if he had understood the sentence, to which he replied "I'm not sure I do" before being bundled out of the court by Austrian police. Later, Irving declared himself shocked by the severity of the sentence. He had reportedly already purchased a plane ticket home to London.
In December 2006, Irving was released from prison, and banned from ever returning to Austria. Upon Irving's arrival in the UK he reaffirmed his position, stating that he felt "no need any longer to show remorse" for his Holocaust views. On 18 May 2007, he was expelled from the 52nd Warsaw International Book Fair in Poland because books he took there were deemed by the organizers as promoting Nazism and antisemitism, which is in violation of Polish law.
Since then, Irving has continued to work as a freelance writer, despite his troubled public image. He was drawn into the controversy surrounding Bishop Richard Williamson, who in a televised interview recorded in Germany in November 2008 denied the Holocaust took place, only to see Williamson convicted for incitement in April 2010 after refusing to pay a fine of €12,000. Irving subsequently found himself beset by protesters on a book tour of the United States. Irving has actively toured the United States. Irving has also given lectures and tours in the UK and Europe; one tour to Poland in September 2010 which led to particular criticism included the Treblinka death camp as an itinerary stop. During his 2008 tour of the US, Deborah Lipstadt said Irving's audience was mainly limited to like-minded people.
Irving and Nick Griffin (then the British National Party leader) were invited to speak at a forum on free speech at the Oxford Union on 26 November 2007, along with Anne Atkins and Evan Harris. The debate took place after Oxford Union members voted in favour of it, but was disrupted by protesters. As of 2016 Irving was lecturing to small audiences at venues disclosed to carefully vetted ticket-holders a day or two before the event on topics including Antisemitic Jewish conspiracies and, at one such event, claiming to write the truth unlike "conformist" historians while asserting fabrications about leading Nazis. the life and death of Heinrich Himmler, and the saturation bombings during World War II.
Irving established a website selling Nazi memorabilia in 2009. The items are offered by other people, with Irving receiving a commission from each sale for authenticating them. Irving stated in 2009 that the website was the only way he could make money after being bankrupted in 2002. Items sold through the website include Hitler's walking stick and a lock of the dictator's hair. Irving has also investigated the authenticity of bones purported to be from Hitler and Eva Braun.
Controversy in Norway, 2008
In October 2008 a controversy erupted in Norway over the invitation of David Irving to speak at the 2009 Norwegian Festival of Literature. Several of Norway's most distinguished authors protested against the invitation. The leader of the board for the festival, Jesper Holte, defended the invitation by stating that "Our agenda is to invite a liar and a falsifier of history to a festival about truth. And confront him with this. Irving has been invited to discuss his concept of truth in light of his activity as a writer of historical books and the many accusations he has been exposed to as a consequence of this." Although Irving is introduced in the festival's webpages as "historian and writer" the board chair leader defended the more aggressive language being used to characterize Irving in connection with the controversy that had arisen. Lars Saabye Christensen and Roy Jacobsen were two authors who had threatened to boycott the festival on account of Irving's invitation and Anne B. Ragde stated that Sigrid Undset would have turned around in her grave. As the festival has as its subsidiary name "Sigrid Undset Days", a representative of Undset's family had requested that the name of the Nobel laureate be removed in connection with the festival. Also the Norwegian free speech organization Fritt Ord was critical towards letting Irving speak at the festival and had requested that its logo be removed from the festival. In addition Edvard Hoem announced that he would not attend the 2009 festival with Irving taking part. Per Edgar Kokkvold, leader of the Norwegian Press Confederation advocated cancelling Irving's invitation.
Days after the controversy had started, the invitation was rescinded. This led to the resignation of Stig Sæterbakken from his position as content director as he was the person who had invited Irving to the event. The head of the Norwegian Festival of Literature, Randi Skeie, deplored what had taken place, stating "Everything is fine as long as everyone agrees, but things get more difficult when one doesn't like the views being put forward." Sæterbakken characterized his colleagues as "damned cowards" arguing that they were walking in lockstep.
According to editor-in-chief Sven Egil Omdal of Stavanger Aftenblad the opposition to Irving's participation at the festival appeared as a concerted effort and Omdal suggested campaign journalism from two of Norway's largest newspapers, Dagbladet and Aftenposten and Norway's public service broadcaster NRK.
David Irving commented that he had not been told that the festival was going to present him as a liar, and that he was preparing a lecture about the real history of what took place in Norway during World War II, contrary to what official historians have presented. Irving stated that he had thought the Norwegian people to be made of tougher stuff.
Only days after the cancellation David Irving announced that he would go to Lillehammer during the literature festival and deliver his 2-hour lecture from a hotel room.
Reception by historians
Irving, once held in regard for his expert knowledge of German military archives, was a controversial figure from the start. His interpretations of the war were widely regarded as unduly favourable to the German side. At first this was seen as personal opinion, unpopular but consistent with full respectability as a historian.
By 1988, however, Irving had begun to reject the status of the Holocaust as a systematic and deliberate genocide; and he soon became the main proponent of Holocaust denial. This, along with his association with far-right circles, dented his standing as a historian. A marked change in Irving's reputation can be seen in the surveys of the historiography of the Third Reich produced by Ian Kershaw. In the first edition of Kershaw's book The Nazi Dictatorship in 1985, Irving was called a "maverick" historian working outside the mainstream of the historical profession. By the time of the fourth edition of The Nazi Dictatorship in 2000, Irving was described only as a historical writer who had in the 1970s engaged in "provocations" intended to provide an "exculpation of Hitler's role in the Final Solution". Other critical responses to his work tend to follow this pattern.
The description of Irving as a historian, rather than a historical author, is controversial, with some publications since the libel trial continuing to refer to him as a "historian" or "disgraced historian", while others insist he is not a historian, and have adopted alternatives such as "author" or "historic writer". The military historian John Keegan praised Irving for his "extraordinary ability to describe and analyse Hitler's conduct of military operations, which was his main occupation during the Second World War". Donald Cameron Watt, Emeritus Professor of Modern History at the London School of Economics, wrote that he admires some of Irving's work as a historian, though he rejects his conclusions about the Holocaust. At the libel proceedings against Irving, Watt declined Irving's request to testify, appearing only after a subpoena was ordered. He testified that Irving had written a "very, very effective piece of historical scholarship" in the 1960s, which was unrelated to his controversial work; he also said that Irving was "not in the top class" of military historians.