When They Came for the Holocaust Deniers

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David Irving is back in the news. Austria’s highest court has rejected the historian’s appeal and upheld his conviction for denial of the Holocaust.

Amazing! It wasn’t that long ago in Austria that an unpopular politicial opinion would have the Gestapo at your door. Today, it again brings the policeman. The civilized world gaped at repressive Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and now 65 years later we relive that mistake. You would think we had learned better.

In the case of Irving, even a confession of error and ignorance did him no good. “I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camps,” he testified. Too late.

The Austrian hate law applies to those who den)!, play down, approve of, or excuse Nazi crimes. This language can be used to lock up anybody with a mouth and an opinion. What entity of free men would arrogate such power to the state? As a kinsman of many who died in the camps, I find such laws repulsive. And as a reader of history I must reluctantly admit that Irving is a world class historian. I have read his books; surprisingly, he tells of the slaughter of Jews – no denial there. In “Hitler’s War” he speaks of the “unfolding persecution and liquidation of the European Jews.” No mincing of words – “liquidation.” (But he did minimize it later.) There is, however, an unpopular theme regarding the role of Hitler. Irving sees him as a provocateur, neither manager nor implementer of the SS murders.

It is with regard to the camps that Irving disagrees with the eyes of thousands who viewed the killing apparatuses and the ashes of their aftermath. It is his thesis that typhus, not Zyklon B, did the dirty work. An error? An oversight? A faulty source? A plain lie? No matter. The state has defined his crime and decreed his punishment.

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