When I found out David Irving, noted anti-Semite, Holocaust denier, and widely discredited “historian” was coming to Berlin, I had the kind of reaction I think many Jews can relate to: I groaned and wanted to move on to the next article in Google News.
Why? Because Holocaust deniers, in this day and age, seem like low-hanging fruit, sensationalist fodder for any lazy journalist in search of a Nazi-related headline. “Holocaust Denier David Irving Plans to Return to Germany, But Will Hotels Let Him Stay?” is a headline many will click, even if the story is vacuous.
On the other hand, I understand why it’s a very big deal that Irving is coming to Germany: Irving’s “research,” having been roundly rejected by journalists, World War II historians, and laymen the world over has allowed him — and the entire “revisionist” movement — to fashion himself as what Christopher Hitchens calls “free speech martyrs.”
One need only look at the comments section underneath the Huffington Post’s story to see the supposed “free-speech activists” out in full force.
“I would like to see an open debate on Mr Irvings [sic] findings and make up my own mind if they have any truth in them,” reads one comment. “Why do a group of self appointed censors think people are not intelligent enough to draw their own conclusions?”
In March of last year, when the Daily Mail reported that a Munich court had overturned David Irving’s lifetime ban in Germany, more commenters cheered the decision as a victory for freedom of speech.
“Why is it a crime to deny the holocaust?” one bewildered-seeming comment reads, before going on to deliver a paranoid diatribe about Jewish control of the media. “What do they not want us to know? Don’t believe the lies. We are NOT free.”
Inciting hatred, violence, murder and even genocide begin with speech, which is one reason why Germany has made it a crime to openly deny the Holocaust in the first place. I don’t see that as a bad thing, and I think the ban on Irving should have remained in place.
Irving’s minimizing of Jewish death makes him particularly infuriating to read.
He has claimed that “more people died on the back seat of Senator Edward Kennedy’s motor car in Chappaquiddick than died in the gas chamber of Auschwitz.” He’s also said outright that he thinks the Holocaust was a “hoax” invented by the Jews, and made ominous claims about what will happen to them when the world find out the truth.
“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,” he said.
In England, the court found Irving to be “an active Holocaust denier, antisemite, and racist, who associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism,” and that he had “for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence.”
And yet, even today, Irving continues to enjoy a large following. In 2011, he crisscrossed the U.S., visiting over 30 cities on a lecture tour titled “The Life and Death of Heinrich Himmler, Hitler’s lieutenant, 44 years in 44 minutes.” A few years before, he led his own tour of Auschwitz, stopping by the gas chambers to lecture about Hitler being “a great man, one of the greatest Europeans for centuries.”
And just last week, when the Huffington Post wrote about Irving coming to Germany, the Holocaust Truther force flocked to the comments section to defend their beleaguered leader.
Part of this is the fault of the journalist who wrote the story. Simply calling Irving a “Holocaust denier” is not enough. Without providing evidence that contradicts Irving’s claims, the press is essentially saying, “Here’s a bad man coming to Germany; why don’t you Google him and see what you find?” They’re not writing that the historians of the world have already “debated” Irving’s claims and come to the conclusion they are entirely made up.
Even the angle of the story is suspect: A league of hoteliers have joined forces to ban Irving from staying at any of their properties? Hooray! Except he’s still being allowed to come here.
Irving is still being allowed to spew his racist, anti-Semitic bile in the former seat of Nazi power. He will be able to sleep on a friend’s bed or at a B&B, eat some Wienerschnitzel, walk around the city and talk about how the Jews have been lying all along.
He will be able to walk to the places where the storm troopers burned Jewish books, past the businesses that were stoned during Kristallnacht, and the homes from which Jewish families were evicted, dispossessed and then murdered en masse as he openly questions whether it was all made up by the Jews for attention, money and power. He’ll be able to stand where Hitler once gave speeches about Jews being rats and say, essentially, the same thing — and people will listen.
It’s as if nothing has changed at all.
Former Seattleite Steven Blum writes occasional dispatches for Jew-ish.com from his new home in Berlin.