Historian David Irving emerged unrepentant yesterday after losing a landmark libel case, launching into a denial that the gas chambers at Auschwitz had existed and suggesting that Jews were responsible for their own fate at the hands of the Nazis.
A British judge threw out his libel case against a U.S. academic, and branded the controversial British historian a racist, an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier who twists the facts to suit his ideological aims.
"I can't be intimidated," said Mr. Irving, who plans to appeal the ruling even though he now faces a legal bill of close to $4.5-million. "Even if they take everything away, they will not destroy me. I can't be bought."
In a television interview, Mr. Irving accused "self-appointed leaders of the Jewish community" in Britain and abroad of trying to destroy his life. He also repeated his comment, made during a speaking tour of Canada in 1991, that more women had died in the back seat of Ted Kennedy's car at Chappaquidick than had died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.
He also wouldn't back away from the statements that led the judge to determine that Mr. Irving was anti-Semitic.
Asked whether he still believed that Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves, Mr. Irving responded: "If I were a Jew, I would want to know not who pulled the trigger when I'm lying at the bottom of a pit in Russia or Riga or Minsk . . . I would want to know why. What is it that has generated the anti-Semitism and the xenophobia and the hatred around the world that makes us Jews again and again the victims of pogroms?"
As for his comments that Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal has a "hideous, leering, evil face," Mr. Irving burst out laughing and responded: "It's true, have you ever seen him? But this isn't anti-Semitism, this is anti-uglyism."
Deborah Lipstadt, who teaches at Emery University in Atlanta, was sued by Mr. Irving for defamation over her 1994 book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.
Ms. Lipstadt was ecstatic after the victory, which was delivered yesterday to a packed courtroom weeks after the prolonged trial ended.
"I feel exceptionally vindicated in what has been five years of excruciating effort on my part," Ms. Lipstadt said. "I see this not only as a personal victory but also as a victory for all those who speak out against hate and violence."
In his 330-page ruling, Judge Charles Gray said the 62-year-old Mr. Irving "for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented historical evidence," that he portrayed [former Nazi leader Adolf]Hitler in an unwarrantedly sympathetic light and that he is "an active Holocaust denier."
"He is anti-Semitic and racist and he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism." Mr. Irving, who handled his own defence, was pelted with eggs by demonstrators as he entered the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday for the judgment.
Mr. Irving is a self-taught historian whose best-known book is a biography of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels; the judge even commended him for the quality of his works on military history.
But Mr. Irving also has long argued that Hitler knew nothing about the so-called Final Solution for Europe's Jews, and that Jews were killed by firing squads on the eastern front but not in gas chambers in death camps.
Weighing the evidence from a series of eminent historians who testified during the trial, the judge said "no objective, fair-minded historian would have serious cause to doubt that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz and that they were operated on a substantial scale to kills hundreds of thousands of Jews."
Mr. Irving may face personal bankruptcy after the judge ordered him to pay the legal costs of Ms. Lipstadt and Penguin Books, joint defendants in the case.
Penguin, a subsidiary of Pearson PLC, said in a press release that it plans to make efforts to recover as much of its costs as possible but "will certainly be left significantly out of pocket."
The publisher added that it believed from the start that it had a duty to stand behind Ms. Lipstadt and its right to publish.
Ms. Lipstadt said she didn't believe Britain or other countries should take Germany's lead and make Holocaust denial a crime. "I don't think those laws really work. They tend to make martyrs of the deniers."
Ms. Lipstadt emphasized that she and Penguin hadn't taken out the lawsuit, that Mr. Irving had sued them. "This was not an attempt to silence someone else. This was an attempt to silence me."
She added that it was important to fight this case for the sake of Hitler's victims, and that it was particularly important to establish the truth of what happened when there are still survivors alive.
"There is a finite amount of time for them to be there and tell their stories in the first person. It will soon be easier to deny it."
Meanwhile, Mr. Irving defended himself from the judge's comments by commenting that he couldn't possibly be a racist. In the 32 years he has lived in his apartment on London's swank Grosvenor Square, he said, he has employed "probably a dozen girls working as my personal assistants who come from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Jamaica, Barbados, et cetera, et cetera."
But in his ruling, Judge Gray cited a ditty that Mr. Irving had composed for his youngest daughter as evidence of his racism: "I am a baby Aryan . . . I have no plans to marry an ape or a Rastafarian."
On his personal Web site yesterday, Mr. Irving continued the kind of vitriolic attacks that have long made him a favourite on the far-right speaking circuit and have resulted in his being barred from entering several countries, including Canada.
In a comment on the judgment, Mr. Irving accused Seagram Co., the Canadian distilling and entertainment giant, and its chairman, Edgar Bronfman, of helping to finance the defence in the libel case, and attacked the company generally.
Contacted in New York, a Seagram Co. spokeswoman could not say whether the company had provided any assistance to the defence team. In addition to his post at Seagram, Mr. Bronfman is president of the World Jewish Congress.
THE JUDGE'S WORDS
Here are key quotes from Judge Charles Gray, ruling in Britain's High Court against a libel action brought by controversial historian David Irving. "[Irving]is an active Holocaust denier . . . anti-Semitic and racist." "The picture of Irving which emerges from the evidence of his extracurricular activities revealed him to be a right-wing pro-Nazi polemicist." "It appears to me to be incontrovertible that Irving qualifies as a Holocaust denier. Not only has he denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz and asserted that no Jew was gassed there, he has done so on frequent occasions and sometimes in the most offensive terms." "He is content to mix with neo-Fascists and appears to share many of their racist and anti-Semitic prejudices. "He has portrayed Hitler in an unwarrantedly favourable light, principally in relation to his attitude toward and responsibility for the treatment of the Jews." "The charges which I have found substantially true include the charges that Irving has for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence." Reuters