Ron Unz: ‘The Remarkable Historiography of David Irving’

David Irving is an excellent litmus test. If you deny either his good work or his shoddy work, you lack judgment. Irving is neither a saint nor a sinner. He’s simply more provocateur than historian. He has a fondness for Nazi Germany and a distaste for Jews.

I prefer Wikipedia’s entry on David Irving and this Christopher Hitchens essay to this bizarre column by Ron Unz, who writes:

Irving is an individual of uncommonly strong scholarly integrity, and as such he is unable to see things in the record that do not exist, even if it were in his considerable interest to do so, nor to fabricate non-existent evidence. Therefore, his unwillingness to dissemble or pay lip-service to various widely-worshiped cultural totems eventually provoked an outpouring of vilification by a swarm of ideological fanatics drawn from a particular ethnic persuasion. This situation was rather similar to the troubles my old Harvard professor E.O. Wilson had experienced around that same time upon publication of his own masterwork Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, the book that helped launch the field of modern human evolutionary psychobiology.

These zealous ethnic-activists began a coordinated campaign to pressure Irving’s prestigious publishers into dropping his books, while also disrupting his frequent international speaking tours and even lobbying countries to bar him from entry. They also maintained a drumbeat of media vilification, continually blackening his name and his research skills, even going so far as to denounce him as a “Nazi” and a “Hitler-lover,” just as had similarly been done in the case of Prof. Wilson.

During the 1980s and 1990s, these determined efforts, sometimes backed by considerable physical violence, increasingly bore fruit, and Irving’s career was severely impacted. He had once been feted by the world’s leading publishing houses and his books serialized and reviewed in Britain’s most august newspapers; now he gradually became a marginalized figure, almost a pariah, with enormous damage to his sources of income.

In 1993, Deborah Lipstadt, a rather ignorant and fanatic professor of Theology and Holocaust Studies (or perhaps “Holocaust Theology”) ferociously attacked him in her book as being a “Holocaust Denier,” leading Irving’s timorous publisher to suddenly cancel the contract for his major new historical volume. This development eventually sparked a rancorous lawsuit in 1998, which resulted in a celebrated 2000 libel trial held in British Court.

That legal battle was certainly a David-and-Goliath affair, with wealthy Jewish movie producers and corporate executives providing a huge war-chest of $13 million to Lipstadt’s side, allowing her to fund a veritable army of 40 researchers and legal experts, captained by one of Britain’s most successful Jewish divorce lawyers. By contrast, Irving, being an impecunious historian, was forced to defend himself without benefit of legal counsel.

In real life unlike in fable, the Goliaths of this world are almost invariably triumphant, and this case was no exception, with Irving being driven into personal bankruptcy, resulting in the loss of his fine central London home. But seen from the longer perspective of history, I think the victory of his tormenters was a remarkably Pyrrhic one.

Although the target of their unleashed hatred was Irving’s alleged “Holocaust denial,” as near as I can tell, that particular topic was almost entirely absent from all of Irving’s dozens of books, and exactly that very silence was what had provoked their spittle-flecked outrage. Therefore, lacking such a clear target, their lavishly-funded corps of researchers and fact-checkers instead spent a year or more apparently performing a line-by-line and footnote-by-footnote review of everything Irving had ever published, seeking to locate every single historical error that could possibly cast him in a bad professional light. With almost limitless money and manpower, they even utilized the process of legal discovery to subpoena and read the thousands of pages in his bound personal diaries and correspondence, thereby hoping to find some evidence of his “wicked thoughts.” Denial, a 2016 Hollywood film co-written by Lipstadt, may provide a reasonable outline of the sequence of events as seen from her perspective…

I think this silence of “the dog that didn’t bark” echoes with thunderclap volume. I’m not aware of any other academic scholar in the entire history of the world who has had all his decades of lifetime work subjected to such painstakingly exhaustive hostile scrutiny. And since Irving apparently passed that test with such flying colors, I think we can regard almost every astonishing claim in all of his books—as recapitulated in his videos—as absolutely accurate.

I like Ron Unz, I love, but I don’t trust anything he says. He is a polemicist. He writes and reasons like an 15 year old girl, seizing on one worthy value (such as that David Irving is often brace and has suffered for his provocative speech) to the exclusion of others (that Irving has made a ton of mistakes and said many ridiculous things that decent people would find appalling).

The comments section sets Unz straight on many points:

* You ought to have made it clear that it was Irving who initiated the Lipstadt court case, even if his work, not hers, become almost the exclusive focus of the trial. If he had concentrated solely on those matters of fact where Lipstadt’s allegations were clearly libelous, he may even have won the case, or her publishers, Penguin, I think, may have settled…

Certainly he had limited resources, but the suspicion is that Irving enjoyed the limelight and, with his seemingly naive faith in British justice, believed this case was about his personal vindication before the historical community.

His only expert witness, if I recall, was Kevin MacDonald, whose ideas about anti-semitism – whatever one thinks of them – were really out of place in such an arena. When Auschwitz and the reality of its homicidal gas chambers – the crux of Holocaust revisionism – became a central focus of the trial. Irving, apparently, refused to call someone like Germar Rudolf, relying instead on his own idiosyncratic theories and limited understanding of the issues.

* Ron, why don’t you actually discuss Irving’s specific claims that were (and are) rejected by the historical establishment? It’s an odd article without them, because your argument isn’t merely that Irving is a free speech martyr but an authoritative source of WWII interpretation.

* First, not all members of The Tribe were involved. Nor did all members of The Tribe agree.

Second, many white Gentiles were directly involved, and many more continue to cheer for what was done to Irving.

My guess is that if we were to survey (1) American Jews, (2) white Americans who identify as ‘Bible-believing Evangelicals,’ and (3) wealthy, well-educated white Gentiles with backgrounds in Mainline Protestantism or Novus Ordo Catholicism and ties to elite colleges/universities and/or prestigious law firms and/or mainstream publishing, asking members of each group if they approve of what happened to Irving, the percentages of each group that answer YES would be fairly close.

* I read a little Irving when he sued Lipstadt. It seemed to me that the problem with his work was not the possible inaccuracy of the details that he included – but the things he had left out. Anyone can tell a good story by leaving out the evidence that does not fit.

Irving also coined the phrase “the Auschwitz Survivors, Survivors of the Holocaust, and Other Liars—A.S.S.H.O.L.E.S.” You don’t have to be a supporter of the Holocaust Industry to realise that this is crass insensitivity, and an ahistorical insult to those who did survive. Far from indicating a historian of unique genius, it is the product of a perverted mind.

* Here’s a clip of David Cole getting plenty of grief regarding his revisionist holocaust documentary on Donahue back in the nineties. Btw, recently, YouTube has restricted videos questioning the number of Jewish dead from the holocaust, making it impossible to share a link.


In his works, he argued that Adolf Hitler did not know of the extermination of Jews or, if he did, opposed it.[2] Though Irving’s revisionist views of World War II were never taken seriously by mainstream historians, he was once recognised for his knowledge of Nazi Germany and his ability to unearth new historical documents.

Irving marginalised himself in 1988 when, based on his reading of the pseudoscientific[Note 1] Leuchter report, he began to espouse Holocaust denial, specifically denying that Jews were murdered by gassing at the Auschwitz concentration camp.[3][4]

Irving’s reputation as a historian was discredited[Note 2] when, in the course of an unsuccessful libel case he filed against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books, he was shown to have deliberately misrepresented historical evidence to promote Holocaust denial.[Note 3] The English court found that Irving was an active Holocaust denier, antisemite and racist,[5] who “for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence”.[5][6] In addition, the court found that Irving’s books had distorted the history of Hitler’s role in the Holocaust to depict Hitler in a favourable light…

In the first edition, Irving’s estimates for deaths in Dresden were between 100,000 and 250,000 – notably higher than most previously published figures.[24] These figures became authoritative and widely accepted in many standard reference works. In later editions of the book over the next three decades, he gradually adjusted the figure downwards to 50,000–100,000.[25] According to Richard J. Evans at the 2000 libel trial that Irving brought against Deborah Lipstadt, Irving based his estimates of the dead of Dresden on the word of one individual who provided no supporting documentation, used forged documents, and described one witness who was a urologist as Dresden’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer. The doctor later complained about being misidentified by Irving, and further, was only reporting rumours about the death toll…

In 1975, in his introduction to Hitler und seine Feldherren, the German edition of Hitler’s War, Irving attacked Anne Frank’s diary as a forgery, claiming falsely that a New York court had ruled that the diary was really the work of American scriptwriter Meyer Levin “in collaboration with the girl’s father”…

Critical reaction to Hitler’s War was generally negative. Reviewers took issue with Irving’s factual claims as well as his conclusions. For example, American historian Charles Sydnor noted numerous errors in Hitler’s War, such as Irving’s unreferenced statement that the Jews who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 were well supplied with weapons from Germany’s allies.[44] Sydnor pointed out that Hitler had received an SS report in November 1942 which contained a mention of 363,211 Russian Jews executed by the Einsatzgruppen between August–November 1942.[45] Sydnor remarked that Irving’s statement that the Einsatzgruppen were in charge in the death camps seems to indicate that he was not familiar with the history of the Holocaust, as the Einsatzgruppen were in fact mobile death squads who had nothing to do with the death camps…

On 17 January 1991, Irving told a reporter from The Jewish Chronicle that “The Jews are very foolish not to abandon the gas chamber theory while they still have time”.[90] Irving went on to say that he believed anti-Semitism will increase all over the world because “the Jews have exploited people with the gas chamber legend” and that “In ten years, Israel will cease to exist and the Jews will have to return to Europe”.[90] In his 1991 revised edition of Hitler’s War, he had removed all references to death camps and the Holocaust. In a speech given in Hamburg in 1991, Irving stated that in two years time “this myth of mass murders of Jews in the death factories of Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka … which in fact never took place” will be disproved (Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Treblinka were all well established as being extermination camps).[91] Two days later, Irving repeated the same speech in Halle before a group of neo-Nazis, and praised Rudolf Hess as “that great German martyr, Rudolf Hess”.[91] At another 1991 speech, this time in Canada, Irving called the Holocaust a “hoax”, and again predicted that by 1993 the “hoax” would have been “exposed”.[89] In that speech, Irving declared, “Gradually the word is getting around Germany. 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”.[89] During that speech given in October 1991, Irving expressed his contempt and hatred for Holocaust survivors by proclaiming that:

“Ridicule alone isn’t enough, you’ve got to be tasteless about it. You’ve got to say things like ‘More women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick than in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.’ Now you think that’s tasteless, what about this? I’m forming an association especially dedicated to all these liars, the ones who try and kid people that they were in these concentration camps, it’s called the Auschwitz Survivors, Survivors of the Holocaust and Other Liars, ‘ASSHOLs’. Can’t get more tasteless than that, but you’ve got to be tasteless because these people deserve our contempt.”

In another 1991 speech, this time in Regina, Irving called the Holocaust “a major fraud… There were no gas chambers. They were fakes and frauds”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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