(born 24 March 1938) is an English Historian and Author who has written on the military and political history of World War II. As an expert on Nazi Germany his works includes masterpieces like: The Destruction of Dresden (1963), Hitler’s War (1977), Churchill’s War (1987), and Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (1996).
He uncovered suppressed information, dispelled lies, and destroyed the fictional historical narratives that our dark overlords depend on so much. He’s done that by being an avid researcher, going to the primary sources, asking all the questions to the witnesses, reading hundreds of diaries, military documents, government records, and even learning German so that he, himself, could interpret the words he read. While deemed by many historians as the best of all time, he is mostly smeared by propaganda, accused of being discredited by all mainstream sources without valid proof, and has even been arrested in Austria where the law forbids the thought crime of disproving the holocaust. In spite of it all, he has an amazing sense of humor and is a valiant ambassador of truth.
He has been called “anti-Semite,” a “neo-Nazi,” a “racist,” and a “Holocaust denier.” Former news anchor and political commentator Keith Olberman nominated Irving as one of the “world’s worst” people in 2010. Irving, famous for taking on the holocaust, is the “go to guy” on World War II and Germany in particular. His research is, hands down, the best out there and he loves humiliating others for being duped by writing academic garbage based on secondary sources, too often proven, not just unreliable, but utter fiction.
Irving takes on a lot of targets but his best debunking is Winston Churchill. Sitting through his book tour lecture from the 1980s, a grainy video, was surprisingly painless. With the rise of cable television, the new networks have made a cottage industry out of debunking our phony history, shows on military secrets, scandals and cover-ups run for hours each day. These are humiliating for historians who made their reputations writing “definitive” works based on what we now know to be forgeries, propaganda and disinformation.
Irving’s case against Churchill is shocking and, worst of all, nobody has been able to debate him face to face. His sources are impeccable and his research beyond anything yet seen. This is a guy who will spend years reading letters, bank statements or travel around the world to get primary documents. Irving paints Churchill as a villain as great as Hitler, nearly as great as Stalin. Was World War II started by Churchill, a brilliant but immoral drunk, art forger and scoundrel who took payoffs from foreign intelligence services, banking cabals and anyone else willing to shove an envelope in his pocket? If so, then everything we know of World War II, of Hitler, of events of the 20th century is, not just a little bit wrong, but outrageously false.
The Rise and Fall of David Irving is a stark reminder that challenging the historical narrative can have serious consequences.
David Irving’s success as a British historian of the Second World War stems from his conversations with German survivors and his ability to read German wartime documents – including diaries.
After serving in 1959 as editor of the University of London Carnival Committee’s journal, Irving left for West Germany, where he worked as a steelworker in a Thyssen AG steel works in the Ruhr area and learned the German language.
His success began with the publication of The Destruction of Dresden in 1963.
The Destruction of Dresden is a 1963 book by David Irving, in which the author describes the February 1945 Allied bombing of Dresden in World War II.
Focal Point offers free downloads of Mr Irving’s main books.
Browse, and then buy!
THESE downloadable files of David Irving’s works are all Copyright.
They are free for you to read only.
They are not free for you to upload elsewhere.
Apocalypse 1945: The Destruction of Dresden
The Times, London, Friday, April 13, 2007:
“A well researched and dispassionate account”
WE HAVE uploaded two versions of this book.
The original setting for the 1995 reprint; and the latest (2005) edition which is revised, corrected, has maps, and is in a friendlier typeface.
Both are PDF files and can be read by Acrobat Reader
Using information gleaned from German military records and archives, as well as from the unpublished diaries, notes and correspondence of the Reich’s top ministers, noted historian David Irving explores the strategies, objectives and execution of Hitler’s War from the breathtaking and often surprising perspective of Adolf Hitler himself.
This shocking, controversial best seller stunned the European continent with its startling revelations about Germany’s ultimate dictator.
It is unique among biographies in its method of describing an event–WWII as through the eyes of one of the dictators himself.
“What Hitler did not order, or did not learn, does not figure in this book,” explains the author. “The narrative of events unfolds in the precise sequence that Hitler himself became involved in them.”
It is an unusual technique, but it works.
The book sold 25,000 copies in its first UK hardback edition, and it was often reprinted (Macmillan, Ltd.) and translated.
It became an approved reference work at West Point and Sandhurst, and it figures prominently in university libraries around the world, because it quotes documents that other historians have failed to find.
And his fame spread far and wide in 1983 when he denounced the Hitler Diaries as a hoax.
Irving played the main role in exposing the Hitler Diaries as a hoax.
In October 1982, Irving purchased, from the same source as Stern’s 1983 purchase, 800 pages of documents relating to Hitler, only to conclude that many of the documents were forgeries.
Irving was amongst the first to identify the diaries as forgeries, and to draw media attention.
He went so far as to crash the press conference held by Hugh Trevor-Roper at the Hamburg offices of Stern magazine on 25 April 1983 to denounce the diaries as a forgery and Trevor-Roper for endorsing the diaries as genuine.
Irving’s performance at the Stern press conference where he violently harangued Trevor-Roper until ejected by security led him to be featured prominently on the news: the next day, Irving appeared on the Today television show as a featured guest.
Arguably, the trajectory of David Irving’s career changed in 1987 when his “shockingly unfamiliar portrait” of Winston Churchill was published.
In 2018, Afua Hirsch wrote in The Guardian,
“There’s a strange cognitive dissonance you experience working on the inconvenient parts of Churchill’s legacy – as I have been recently for a documentary I’m making.
Two serious historians have told me in recent weeks that when they began researching less popular episodes in Churchill’s life, they were warned that doing so would either finish their careers, preclude them from promotion, or make them outcasts in academia.”
By the start of the 1990s the tide of events had turned against David Irving.
Mr. Irving’s other publications had by then come under a systematic campaign of attack.
In July 1992, on the day after he returned from Moscow bringing the unpublished Goebbels diaries from the former Soviet archives, Macmillan’s capitulated and secretly ordered all stocks of his books burned.
Libraries came under pressure to pull his books from their shelves. Italian, French, Spanish and Scandinavian publishers were prevailed upon not to release their editions of the book.
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1872197108
Over the years, Irving’s stance on the Holocaust changed significantly.
From 1988, he started to espouse Holocaust denial openly: he had previously not denied the Holocaust outright and for this reason, many Holocaust deniers were ambivalent about him.
In January 1988, Irving travelled to Toronto, Ontario, to assist Douglas Christie, the defence lawyer for Ernst Zündel at his second trial for denying the Holocaust.
In the 1988 Zündel trial, Irving repeated and defended his claim from Hitler’s War that until October 1943 Hitler knew nothing about the actual implementation of the Final Solution.
As to what evidence further led Irving to believe that the Holocaust never occurred, he cited The Leuchter report by Fred A. Leuchter, which claimed there was no evidence for the existence of homicidal gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Irving said in a 1999 documentary about Leuchter:
“The big point [of the Leuchter report]: there is no significant residue of cyanide in the brickwork.
That’s what converted me.
When I read that in the report in the courtroom in Toronto, I became a hard-core disbeliever“.
Irving has expressed racist and antisemitic sentiments, both publicly and privately.
David Irving became persona non grata in some parts of the world.
Persona non grata
After Irving denied the Holocaust in two 1989 speeches given in Austria, the Austrian government issued an arrest warrant for him and barred him from entering the country.
In early 1992, a German court found him guilty of Holocaust denial under the Auschwitzlüge section of the law against Volksverhetzung (a failed appeal by Irving would see the fine rise from 10,000 DM to 30,000 DM), and he was subsequently barred from entering Germany.
Early in September 2004, Michael Cullen, the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, announced that Irving would not be permitted to visit the country, where he had been invited by the National Press Club to give a series of lectures under the heading “The Problems of Writing about World War II in a Free Society”.
And his fate was sealed in 1996 when he lost a libel case that led to his bankruptcy in 2002.
On 5 September 1996, Irving filed a libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt and her British publisher Penguin Books for publishing the British edition of Lipstadt’s book, Denying the Holocaust, which had first been published in the United States in 1993.
In the book, Lipstadt called Irving a Holocaust denier, falsifier, and bigot, and said that he manipulated and distorted real documents.
Not only did Irving lose the case, but in light of the evidence presented at the trial a number of his works that had previously escaped serious scrutiny were brought to public attention.
He was also ordered to pay all of Penguin’s trial costs, estimated to be as much as £2 million (US$3.2 million) though it is uncertain how much of these costs he will ultimately pay.
When he did not meet these, Davenport Lyons moved to make him bankrupt on behalf of their client.
He was declared bankrupt in 2002, and lost his home, though he has been able to travel around the world despite his financial problems.
Several of these statements were cited by the judge’s decision in Irving’s lawsuit against Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt, leading the judge to conclude that Irving “had on many occasions spoken in terms which are plainly racist.”
The coup de grace was delivered in 2005 when an Austrian court sentenced him to three years for “denying the Holocaust”.
On 11 November 2005, the Austrian police in the southern state of Styria, acting under the 1989 warrant, arrested Irving.
Irving pleaded guilty to the charge of “trivialising, grossly playing down and denying the Holocaust“.
Irving was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in accordance with the law prohibiting National Socialist activities (officially Verbotsgesetz, “Prohibition Statute”).
In December 2006, Irving was released from prison, and banned from ever returning to Austria.
Assessing The Damage
David Irving has been seriously abused [in many ways] and outcast as a “Holocaust denial” heretic.
Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman call him “the most historically sophisticated of the [Holocaust] deniers.” Richard J. Evans, a historian who was a witness at the Holocaust trial, denounces Irving’s writing as “completely worthless as history, because Irving cannot be trusted anywhere, in any of them, to give a reliable account of what he is talking or writing about…if we mean by historian someone who is concerned to discover the truth about the past, and to give as accurate a representation of it as possible, then Irving is not a historian.” (Before the trial, however, Evans praised Irving for digging up valuable materials from the archive.) The ADL calls Irving “one of the best known Holocaust deniers in the world.”
Other historians disagree with common opinion. Military historian Sir John Keegan called Irving’s Hitler’s War “certainly among the half dozen most important books.” Keegan admits, however, that Irving is a controversial figure “who currently champions extreme right-wing politics in Europe. Nonetheless, he is a historian of formidable power, having worked in all major German archives, discovered important deposits of papers himself, and interviewed man of the survivors or their families and intimates.”
Keegan moves on to say, “No historian of the second World War can afford to avoid Irving.” Irving’s biography of Goring, says Keegan, is “the most illuminating” among historical books.
In 1977, noted British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, though questioning Irving’s motives, wrote that “no praise can be too high for his [Irving’s] indefatigable, scholarly industry.” Other historians such as Paul Addison, John Charmley, and Rainer Zitelmann, praised Irving’s work, although they do not like some of the positions he has taken.
Noted British historian A. J. P. Taylor wrote that Irving possessed “an unrivaled industry” and a “good scholarship” when it comes to decoding the archives to see what the records actually say. British historian Paul Addison likewise noted that Irving possesses a “colossus of research,” while at the same time takes issues with him on other matters.
Some historians seem to have some animosity towards Irving precisely because Irving is not like the typical historian who would posit extraordinary claims without serious evidence from the archives. Like Gollum who hates the ring of power and loves it at the same time in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, some historians love Irving but hate him because he gives them a hard time.
This point is demonstrated by historian Peter Hoffman, who said:
“Mr. Irving’s constant references to archives, diaries and letters, and the overwhelming amount of detail in his work, suggest objectivity. In fact they put a screen behind which a very different agenda is transacted… Mr. Irving is a great obfuscator…Distortions affect every important aspect of this book to the point of obfuscation… It is unfortunate that Mr. Irving wastes his extraordinary talents as a researcher and writer on trivializing the greatest crimes in German history, on manipulating historical sources and on highlighting the theatrics of the Nazi era.”
One of the people who found David Irving’s work as anti-Semitic, however, is Deborah Lipstadt, who also accused him of a “Holocaust denier.”
Lipstadt, whose greatest intellectual and historical achievement is to call everyone who fundamentally disagrees with her on aspects of the Holocaust a “Holocaust denier,” tells us in her book History on Trial that John Lukacs and Charles Sydnor challenged Irving on his use of sources and found them inaccurate.
But saying some sources are inaccurate and documenting where the inaccuracies lie is a big problem for Lipstadt. She does not tell us where Lukacs and Sydnor found Irving’s sources as “pretentious twadle” at all. One is asked to take their words at face value.
If that is the case, then one is surely justified in taking Raul Hilberg’s comment on David Irving as well. Hilberg noted: “If these people want to speak, let them. It only leads those of us who do research to re-examine what we might have considered as obvious. And that’s useful for us.”
Noted economic historian Robert Higgs came to similar conclusions, believing that historical revisionism can stimulate healthy discussion precisely because historians are always looking for more evidence in order to give an accurate or more consistent account of the past.
Although several aspects of Hilberg’s history of the Holocaust are questionable, as we shall demonstrate in a future article, he indeed was willing to be open-minded at least here in this assertion. Similarly, Jewish scholars such as Murray Rothbard saw “revisionism” as a healthy and skeptical way to approach history—not because revisionists want to rewrite history and shape it in their own way, but because historical evidence must be presented for extraordinary claims.
However, the Holocaust has become a sacred cow, so much so that even debating certain aspects of it may be considered as anti-Semitic. As Jewish historian Paula Hyman of Yale pointed out in a 1980 New York Times article,
“With regard to Israel, the Holocaust may be used to forestall political criticism and suppress debate; it reinforces the sense of Jews as an eternally beleaguered people who can rely for their defense only upon themselves. The invocation of the suffering endured by the Jews under the Nazis often takes the place of rational argument, and is expected to convince doubters of the legitimacy of current Israeli government policy.”
But evidence and logical argument do not seem to be the goal for Lipstadt. She excels at summoning ad hominem argument and dismantling them with great relish. In the arena of ideas, it seems that historical documentation and logical consistency do not matter much.
An easy way to disarm your opponent is to call him names: anti-Semite, Holocaust denier, neo-Nazi, etc. Once she convinced the media that Irving is indeed a “Holocaust denier” and an anti-Semite, then no one would bother to read Irving’s books to examine them for their evidentiary foundations—or lack thereof.
More importantly, any historian who even has the slightest doubt about Lipstadt’s version of the Holocaust has to be an anti-Semite. In a letter she sent to the New York Times, she insinuated that Irving should not be referred to as a historian but a Holocaust denier –although Irving has written at least 30 books on World War II and Lipstadt only four.
Lipstadt’s tactic is quite cheap, but it is not a surprise, since this has been one of the ideological weapons of the Holocaust establishment. Some of the terms the Holocaust establishment used—such as “anti-Semitism,” “Holocaust denier,” “history denier,” haters of Jews”—are pronounced so vaguely by so many people that when one examines the logical and historical depth and breadth of those words and the people who invoke them, they turn out to be void of empirical evidence.
Michael Shermer and his co-author Alex Grobman begin their book with the assertion that Ernst Zundel claimed that “the Holocaust never happened.” The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust declares that holocaust denial, among other things as “Denying the Holocaust includes attempts to deny the fact that the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis ever took place,” “the tendentious and trivializing claim that the Holocaust was not unique and that there had been precedents, even precedents that had served as models for the Holocaust.” Even claims that “Jewish losses have been grossly exaggerated” maybe labeled Holocaust denial.
Shermer and his co-author know very well that “Holocaust deniers” do not deny the Holocaust. In fact, back in 1998 (long before Shermer got involved in writing Denying History), Mark Weber, director of the Institute for Historical Review, wrote in the L.A. Times:
“Revisionist scholars do not ‘deny’ the Holocaust. They acknowledge that many hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed and otherwise perished during the Second World War as direct and indirect result of the brutally anti-Jewish policies of Germany and its allies.”
Weber continued to say, “Since its founding in 1978, the IHR has steadfastly opposed bigotry of all kinds in its efforts to promote greater public understanding of key chapters of history.”
In a similar vein, David Irving declared in a speech that “there is no doubt at all that the Nazis in their twelve-year rule inflicted nameless horrors on large segment of the population, including the Jews and other people, whom they disliked.”
Irving even goes so far as to say that the horrors that happen during World War II on both sides of the equation should be named “innocenticide—the killing of innocent people in war….I am not Jewish, I am not anti-Jewish, and I am not an anti-Semite.”
What is even more interesting is that Shermer debated Weber on this issue and continued to misrepresent “Holocaust deniers” in his book! Moreover, Shermer never mentioned the debate in the book. We will deal with Shermer’s Denying History in more details in future articles, but let us make a few points here.
No one is claiming that Jews weren’t persecuted by Nazi Germany. What serious person would dispute that historical fact? What some historians are trying to emphasize, however, is: 1) that other ethnic groups were also persecuted in Nazi Germany; 2) that Hitler did not intend to exterminate the entire Jewish people from Europe, but intended to use forced migration; 3) that there were individuals of Jewish descent in Nazi Germany—and Hitler knew it; 4) that Nazi Germany is one crime in history and there are others which seem to be worse than the Third Reich; 5) that the “six million killed” figure is inflated; and 6) the claim that Jews were gassed in gas chambers is false.
Moreover, Michael Shermer and his co-author examine the Holocaust in a way that brings up more questions than it lays to rest. For them, anyone who dissents from the view that at least five to six million Jews died at the hands of Nazi Germany is a Holocaust denier. Shermer implicitly reiterated that point when the Denying History came out.
For them, anyone who questions that people were gassed in concentration camps is a Holocaust denier. These two premises are essential to the Holocaust establishment. One can say with a high degree of certainty that they are the bible to the establishment.
In other words, if those premises turn out to be false, then the Holocaust establishment has nothing to stand upon. Moreover, it seems that a person is a Holocaust denier whenever he does not ally with the Holocaust establishment. Even Ernst Zundel, to my knowledge, never denied that Jews suffered and died at the hands of Nazi Germany. What he questions is “did six million really die?”
If we take Jewish historians such as Yehuda Bauer or Gerald Reitlinger or even Raul Hilberg at their words, the answer to Zundel’s question is no.
Anyone with an ounce of historical sense would admit that Jews, as well as homosexuals and Jehovah’s Witnesses and Catholics and Protestants, suffered under Nazi Germany. This point is certainly not in question. The question that is controversial, as we shall see in subsequent articles, is the six-million figure.
Jewish military historian Joel S. Hayward (Head of Air Power Studies at King’s College), while he does not espouse all of Irving’s work, wrote a lengthy letter praising Irving for his historical documentation. I have placed the letter in the footnote.
Either all those historians who have praised Irving are self-deluded, deceivers, or they believe that Irving has something to say. Moreover, the closer one can get to archival documents, the closer one can get to the truth of what happened in history. Not all historians immerse themselves in the archival data, but laboriously quote the opinions of other historians in order to preserve a widely held belief.
Here is a classic example. In his widely read book The Third Reich at War, Richard Evans for example declares that
“As soon as the German forces had entered the Soviet Union and the various territories it controlled, followed by the four SS Security Service Task Forces and subordinate Task Units including a number of police battalions, they had begun to carry out the orders Heydrich had given them to kill civilian resisters, Communist Party officials and Jews, along with all Jewish prisoners of war, in order, as they thought, to eliminate any possibility of resistance or subversion from ‘Jewish Bolsheviks.’”
As a Cambridge historian, Evans ought to be able to go to the archives and tell us where to find the documents backing up these extraordinary assertions. Instead, he is quoting the opinions of Jewish historians such as Saul Friedlander and Alfred Steim. Irving would not question Evans as a historian, but David would say that historians best serve the public and historical inquiry by backing up their claims with archival documents.
As the noted Italian philosopher and historian Benedetto Croce wrote decades ago, “documents and criticism, life and thought, are the true source of history that is to say, the two elements of historical synthesis…they form a constituent part of it and are constituted by it. Hence the idea of a history with its sources outside itself is another fancy to be dispelled, together with that of history being the opposite of chronicle.”
What I have seen over the years is that there is a lack of self-criticism among the Holocaust establishment; many do not ask deeper questions or search for evidence for existing claims. History does not work that way.
I was hoping that Shermer and his co-author Grobman would challenge Irving’s main thesis in books such as Hitler’s War, Churchill’s War, etc. Instead, Denying History had very little interactions with Irving’s the central themes. Like Deborah Lipstadt, Michael Shermer believes that “Holocaust deniers” are anti-Semites!
When he was asked the question “Why do you think that people deny the Holocaust then?,” Shermer responded, “I think it really is mostly anti-Semitism, the belief in the inordinate amount of power that Jews allegedly have in the world. It’s a certain amount of just basic tribalism.”
What probably classifies Irving a “Holocaust denier” is that he does not generally follow the mainstream historian’s pattern of quoting his peers without historical backbones. If you are going to make an extraordinary claim, Irving insists on seeing it documented by primary sources rather than the opinions of like-minded historians.
For Irving, a healthy skepticism is required about any claim regarding World War II, since the Germans were obsessed about papers. “I am a thorn in the side of certain people who have a vested interest in propagating their own version of history,” which “has become big business,” he said. Irving calls those people “the traditional enemy of the truth.”
Why has Irving man stood by his views all these years? Why haven’t Lipstadt and others disproved him wrong in all his major views? It is because Irving goes by the archives. He declared, “What is it that distinguishes my books from all the rest?…I write my books from the archives…why is it that other historians get mad as hell when they hear my name? Why is it that they cheer when I get thrown into prison…no court hearing, no trial?”
Primary sources, as critical historians have shown us, are the most reliable evidence for extraordinary claims that purport to be historical. Irving pursues that traditional method, which was followed by celebrated historians such as V. H. Galbraith, who believed that “the principal value of studying history lay in a direct encounter with the primary sources; by comparison the interpretations of historians were fundamentally transient.”
Irving continued to say that many historians
“rely on second hand sources, which you can get away with….What did Hitler know about Auschwitz? ‘Of course he knew, he was the one who gave the order.’ And I said, ‘What’s the evidence?’ Professor [X] says that I had it from professor [Y]. Professor [Y] says that I had it from professor [Z]. Professor [Z] says I had it from professor [X]. So the circle is complete. They’ve all been quoting each other like dogs running around a circle…The world’s historians are ashamed of David Irving—and they should be ashamed.”
Irving is not against secondary sources, for information of course could be gleaned from those sources. However, he is against authoritative statements without extraordinary evidence.
Regardless of what you think about the man, he is right in line with the Western tradition in digging into the archives. Moreover, you put him behind bars today (hoping that he will change his mind) and he comes right back, fresh and ready to fight against what he calls “the traditional enemy of the truth.”
O Irving, Where Is Thy Credentials?
The point is also brought up that Irving cannot be considered a professional historian since he does not have an academic degree; although Irving was a student at the University of London, he never completed his education due to financial difficulties.
Hayward also raised the point that if we are going to dismiss Irving on his lack of an academic diploma, then we are in deep trouble. The fact is that although some historians have degrees in their field, many do not. Raul Hilberg has a B.A. in political science, an M.A. and a doctorate in Public Law and Government.
Michael Shermer has his Bachelor’s in psychology, his Master’s in experimental psychology, and his doctorate in the history of science, not in the history of World War II. His doctoral thesis was “Heretic-Scientist: Alfred Russell Wallace and the Evolution of Man: A Study on the Nature of Historical Change,” which later was published as a book entitled, In Darwin’s Shadow: The Life and Science of Alfred Russel Wallace.
Benjamin A. Valentino’s B.A. and Ph.D. degrees are in political science, yet he wrote the popular book Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the Twentieth Century. R. J. Rummel’s B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees are all in political science, yet many of his books focus on genocide in the twentieth century. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s B.A. degree is in social studies, and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees are in Government.
Thus, according to the fallacious standards used by those critics, Shermer is not qualified to write Denying History. Neither are Rummel, Valentino, or Hilberg. The argument is untenable and demonstrably ridiculous.
As we have implicitly established in the previous article, the power of an idea does not lie on the degrees a person may have accumulated for himself, but must rely on historical accounts, logical consistency, explanatory power, explanatory scope, and historical context. There have to be external checks and balances in history (as in science) that are not contingent on the credentials of the scientist or historian. Historians must stay away from ad hoc hypotheses and red herring as much as possible.
While one should always appreciate a person’s field or fields of study, one should never underestimate the power of a worldview and should always be skeptical about alternative views, pressing proponents of those views to back up their claims with empirical data. Put simply, the refutation of an argument cannot solely be contingent upon one’s credentials.
Michael Faraday, a chemist and physicist who contributed greatly to the field of electromagnetism, had very little formal education. Charles Darwin’s only degree was in theology; he studied the sciences in his spare time, but he never got a degree in any scientific field.
Alfred Russell Wallace, the man who was the basis of Shermer’s Ph.D. thesis, never got a degree whatsoever. Charles Lyell, one of the men who revolutionized the understanding of the age of the earth with his Principles of Geology, got his B.A. degree in classics. He studied geology intensively after he became a lawyer but again he never got a degree in the sciences. Even Stephen Jay Gould acknowledges that “Charles Lyell was a lawyer by profession.”
James Hutton was not trained in geology, but in medicine and agriculture; he is known today largely for his theoretical model in the field of geology. Herbert Spencer, who coined the term “survival of the fittest,” was a self-taught engineer.
In our time, Thomas Sowell was trained as an economist, having a bachelor’s, master’s and a Ph.D. degrees in the field. Yet today is widely known as a social theorist, a political philosopher, a cultural and intellectual historian, etc. Barbara Tuchman was a self-taught Jewish historian.
The question at hand is quite simple: can we use the fallacious argument that these people ought to be dismissed simply because they never had a formal degree in their particular field? Is the degree more important than reasonable arguments and evidence?
A few weeks before the acclaimed World War Two historian, David Irving was due to appear in the libel case that he had brought against a little known college lecturer, Deborah Lipstadt, his beloved daughter Josephine sadly died. Josephine had been suffering since she was eighteen from a degenerative brain disease for which there was no cure. It had eaten away not only at her brain but at her will to live and some three years before she had tried, unsuccessfully, to take her own life, leaving her to live out her life confined to a wheelchair and without the use of her arms. Until her diagnosis she had been an exceptionally bright young girl, happily married and the devoted mother of a young son.
On the afternoon after the funeral service that had followed brave Josephine’s death on the 7th of September, 1999, her distraught father, Mr Irving, had received a phone call from the undertakers informing him that a wreath had belatedly arrived at their office with a short note attached. He accepted their kind offer to forward the flowers and the bereavement message to his family home in Mayfair so that he could respond to it appropriately. That same evening the white roses and lilies arrived by courier and an inconsolable father opened the card.
The words had been carefully chosen, as one would expect, however only a serious historian with a considerable knowledge of a particular period of history would have been able to recognise the cruelty of the sentence that adorned the note. It read: “truly a merciful death” and was signed, Philipp Bouhler and Friends. Philipp Bouhler had been head of the euthanasia programme of the Third Reich and had died by his own hand in 1945. “Merciful death” was how the euthanasia department had described the outcome of the mentally and physically disabled patients who had been sent to the programme’s institutions throughout Germany.
Needless to say, the father of the deceased was furious and immediately contacted the Bloomsbury florists from where the wreath had been bought. On leaving the premises Mr Irving began to walk, and not a hundred yards from the shop’s door he passed the building in which was located the offices of the legal team representing the defendant in his upcoming case in the High Court, Deborah Lipstadt.
An extraordinary coincidence? It could be. David Irving certainly has never suggested that his opponent in the famous case had any involvement in the act of cruelty that was the penning and sending of the bereavement card, however it is odd that years after her victory, Deborah Lipstadt on a speaking tour of Israel had stated that her team had done all that they could do to destabilise David Irving before the trial began.
David Irving lost his libel case in April 2000 but that does not prove that he is a denier of the holocaust, nor does it prove that he is anti-Semitic, indeed his Jewish friends would no doubt give testament to that. Moreover, a cursory glance through his vast body of work will provide the proof that he does not deny that millions of Jews; men, women and children were murdered, indeed he even provides the figures and the documentary evidence. David Irving is a historian; he researches, uncovers evidence and presents it. He does not, as other less diligent academics have done, put forward a thesis unsupported by the facts. He has not sought to find the facts that support his ideas. If and when the facts change, as invariably they do as more research is done and new evidence is uncovered, his thesis must also change to reflect the new reality. The judgement in the High Court did a disservice to David Irving and to the pursuit of real history.
It is somewhat ironic that the cruelest, most disturbing and grotesque words may have been written by the victorious team of advocates for the defendant, the academic and historian Deborah Lipstadt.