Irving says Auschwitz had no gas chambers
There were no gas chambers at Auschwitz and the Nazis did not kill millions of Jews in gas chambers during the second World War, the right-wing historian, Mr David Irving, asserted during his first day under cross-examination at the High Court in London yesterday in a libel case which centres on his rejection of the Holocaust.
Standing in the witness-box in Court 37, Mr Irving denied the existence of a systematic programme by the Nazis to murder Jews during the second World War, but accepted "perhaps more than one million, less than four million" Jews were murdered by the Nazis. The declarations were made during cross-examination by Mr Richard Rampton QC, representing Prof Deborah Lipstadt, a US academic, and Penguin Books, who published her 1994 work Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.
Mr Irving (62), who is representing himself, is suing Prof Lipstadt and Penguin Books for claiming he is a "Hitler partisan" who has skewed history, questioned whether six million Jews were killed by the Nazis and whether the gas chambers existed. During two hours in the witness-box, marked by Mr Irving's continued disagreement with Mr Rampton's use of the phrase "the Holocaust" and its meaning as a publicly-recognised description of the mass murder of Jews, the writer argued it was "logically impossible" that millions of Jews were killed in gas chambers.
Referring to an interview he gave in Calgary in 1991, Mr Irving agreed with Mr Rampton that he had said: "The biggest lie of the lot . . . is the lie that the Germans had factories of death with gas chambers in which they liquidated millions of their opponents." Mr Irving said the three components of this lie - the factories of death, gas chambers and the millions killed in them - taken together could be denied and in doing so he had been subjected to a "burden of hatred" and branded a Holocaust denier.
Mr Rampton asked which elements of "the lie" - the factories, the gas chambers and the millions - he denied. One million people weighed 100,000 tonnes and would present a "major logistical problem" to the Nazis, Mr Irving said. He denied millions of Jews were killed in gas chambers. "I deny, contest, question it was possible to liquidate millions of people in gas chambers."
Asked whether he accepted the Nazis killed millions of Jews by means other than gassing, disease, starvation or slave labour, Mr Irving said: "Whether it was in the order of millions or not, I would hesitate to specify. Yes, perhaps more than one million. Less than four million."
Mr Rampton later turned to a report prepared for Hitler on the murder of partisans and Russian Jews on the Eastern Front during Operation Barbarossa in 1942. The report, which covered the period between September and December 1942 and which Mr Rampton argued showed the systematic nature of the murder of Jews, stated that 363,211 Russian Jews had been executed.
"What would Adolf Hitler think when he saw that?" Mr Rampton asked. Hitler "had an awful lot on his plate" at the time, Mr Irving said. Mr Ramp ton continued: "This document would not have surprised Hitler?" "It might not have," Mr Irving said. "Hitler didn't care about them."
Earlier, Mr Irving recalled an "intolerable and unspeakable" incident after the funeral last year of his physically and mentally handicapped daughter. It was a consequence of Prof Lipstadt's book, he said, that after the funeral he received an expensive wreath of white roses and lilies. The card bore the message, "Truly a merciful death", and was signed in the name of the head of the Nazi euthanasia programme for the physically and mentally disabled.