Lobstergirl's Reviews > Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial

Lying About Hitler by Richard J. Evans
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bookshelves: european-history, historiography, own, law
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Ian Buruma

Historian Richard J. Evans, hired by co-defendants Penguin and author Deborah E. Lipstadt whom pseudo-historian David Irving had accused of libeling him in her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, spent almost two years researching Irving's books for the libel case in England. This book can be considered a summary of Evans' findings.

Irving had been banned from Germany, where Holocaust denial is a crime. In interviews and on TV programs, he had harassed Holocaust survivors by claiming they hadn't really seen the crematoria smoke they remembered seeing. Speaking to a Canadian audience, Irving once said, "I'm forming an association especially dedicated to all these liars, the ones who try to kid people that they were in these concentration camps. It's called "The Auschwitz Survivors, Survivors of the Holocaust, and Other Liars" - "A.S.S.H.O.L.E.S." (Audience laughter.) (This is on p. 133 of Evans' book.)

I knew (from reading Lipstadt's book) that Irving had become a Holocaust denier and a quack, but what I didn't know was how early in his career this had started. For instance, was his famous 1963 book on the bombing of Dresden historically accurate?

Evans (and his research assistants) dug down deep, finding nearly every single original source Irving quoted to show that Irving consistently manipulated the sources, mistranslated the original German, deceived and obfuscated, not just in matters of Hitler's motives and numbers of Jewish deaths, but even in his early book The Destruction of Dresden. In that book he knowingly relied on a forged document which had been altered by Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry. The original document, created by Dresden city officials, had stated accurate numbers of dead in the February 1945 bombings: 20,204 dead, expected dead 25,000, the number of bodies cremated in the center of town in order to stave off disease, 6,865. Goebbels' staff added a zero to each of these numbers.

Irving lost the case. This should have utterly trashed his scholarly reputation for good, yet he still had defenders, and not only among his fellow Holocaust deniers. Even such lauded writers as the historian John Keegan (who testified for Irving under sub poena) and Conor Cruise O'Brien maintained that Irving wasn't all bad, that there remained things of value in his historical researches, and that while Lipstadt suffered from the unforgivable crime of being politically correct, Irving at least could not be called that (this from Keegan). In his final chapter, Evans uses facts, logic, and common sense to obliterate Irving's remaining defenders. As he himself says, these people clearly had not read the judge's summary ruling on the case; if they had, they would have understood what a fraud through-and-through Irving was.

Evans addresses important historiographical questions, such as what is the difference between shoddy historical writing and history writing which is outright fraudulent.
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Reading Progress

February 9, 2014 – Shelved
February 9, 2014 – Shelved as: zum-lesen
February 9, 2014 – Shelved as: european-history
February 9, 2014 – Shelved as: historiography
October 14, 2014 – Shelved as: own
January 20, 2016 – Started Reading
January 21, 2016 –
page 40
January 23, 2016 –
page 110
January 25, 2016 – Shelved as: law
January 25, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Mir (new)

Mir Chaim Potok also defended him, very odd.

Lobstergirl Oh...I think I read that in Lipstadt's book, because it does sound familiar. I can't remember why he defended him, though.

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