David Irving’s Uprising is certainly one of the most exciting and gripping books that I’ve ever read. Not only is Uprising thrilling, it’s also a true story. Uprising is a factual account of the Hungarian uprising against the Soviet occupation in 1956, an uprising that saw 12-year-old boys successfully destroying Soviet tanks and that, for a period of four days, actually appeared to succeed before the Russians rolled back in and 200,000 Hungarians rolled out, most never to return.
The tragic failed uprising nevertheless partially succeeded, since the hated ÁVH, the Hungarian secret police installed by the communists, were quickly disbanded, never to return. But Hungary was not to free itself from the communist grip until 1989, when the country began allowing people to cross the iron curtain freely into Austria, an act which ultimately spelt the end of the USSR.
On the whole, David Irving has done a fantastic job of chronicling the events of the failed revolution. So why is it that no large bookshop sells this book, and indeed the book can apparently only be had a reasonable price direct from Irving himself?
There is one simple, unfortunate answer to that question: David Irving believes that the Jewish Holocaust, that terrible low point in European history in which around six million Jews and five million non-Jews were gassed by the Nazis, never happened.
As soon as I discovered Irving’s views, I was intrigued. How can a man who has spent his life studying history, a man with obvious dedication and passion to his craft, come to a conclusion that contradicts the evidence of many eye witness accounts, as well as being sharply at variance with the opinion of all mainstream historians?
Reading Irving’s own books doesn’t really help to answer this question definitively, but elsewhere Irving states that it was the publication of the Leuchter Report that convinced him that the Holocaust never happened.
In 1988, an American by the name of Fred Leuchter secretly visited the former gas chambers at Auschwitz and took samples from the brickwork inside the chambers. Leuchter sent the samples to a chemist, Dr. James Roth, who, not knowing what they were, ground them up and analysed them for cyanide content. Roth found little or no cyanide in the samples; a result which was, as a horrified Roth later explained, entirely unsurprising. The techniques that Roth had used to analyse the samples were completely useless for the purpose Leuchter had in mind. Roth later said that analysing entire ground-up chunks of brick for cyanide that was potentially adsorbed onto the surface was like “analyzing paint on a wall by analyzing the timber that’s behind it”.
And yet such considerations have little impact on Irving’s opinion. Rather, Irving states that chemical tests of this kind represent cast-iron evidence, worth more in his view than the eye-witness testimony even of the Nazi guards who poured cyanide crystals into the gas chambers or the survivors who were forced to clear away the gassed bodies.
So here we have a man who in many ways is a brilliant historian, and yet who seems to be so insanely anti-semitic that he is prepared to take deeply flawed chemical evidence over and above the evidence of numerous eye-witnesses, not to mention a vast body of evidence documenting the barbarism of the Nazis and Hitler’s avowed intention to wipe out the Jews. What exactly happened to Irving that caused him to form such bizarre views?
The Destruction of Dresden
Irving apparently studied for a while at two British universities; then in 1959 he spent a year working as a steel worker in Germany, where he perfected his German. Indeed Irving now speaks with a German accent and at times gives the distinct impression of being more fluent in German than English. Prior to his time in Germany, he had apparently already displayed some tendencies towards being sympathetic with fascism and Nazism, among other things seconding the British fascist Oswald Mosley in a university debate.
David Irving Interview, 2008: “I was beaten heavily at school.”
While in Germany, Irving says that he was startled by the first-hand accounts he heard of the bombing of Dresden — a somewhat ironic statement given Irving’s later dismissal of eye-witness accounts of the Holocaust. Irving subsequently wrote a controversial but highly-acclaimed book, The Destruction of Dresden (1963). Irving would go on to write a biography of Adolf Hitler, Hilter’s War in 1977, a book which, as Irving’s intended publisher pointed out, failed to mention the wholesale gassing of the Jewish people. Perhaps this was the real beginning of the Jewish backlash against Irving and his works, a backlash that was to culminate in Irving’s books being removed from major bookshops, while major book publishers refused to publish Irving’s works.
Irving began to see himself as the victim of an organised international Jewish conspiracy directed against himself. Indeed, Jewish organisations had correctly identified a new and virulent possible source of anti-semitism in Irving; Irving was intelligent, methodical, charismatic — and willing to radically reinterpret the facts to suit his own anti-semitic view of history.
The understandable Jewish backlash against his work was perhaps the thing that finally pushed Irving towards the unsettling position he holds today, but his growing doubts about the Holocaust were undoubtedly fostered by his own research methods.
While researching Hitler’s War, Irving was remarkably good at getting the wives and former associates of dead Nazis to talk to him and hand over important documents, and Irving developed a style of historical research that involved laboriously getting to know the handwriting of former Nazis, reading their journals, diaries and memos and gradually piecing together an independent view of history.
Irving asserts that he found no evidence of the Holocaust anywhere in these documents; and indeed the Nazis were scrupulous in referring to the gas chambers by such vile euphemisms as “special treatment” or “resettlement”. A combination of his own fascist sympathies, the cameraderie he enjoyed with former Nazis, an excessive focus on documentation at the expense of eye-witness accounts, together with the Jewish reaction to his works, all seem to have combined to lead David Irving to the views he holds today.
Irving continues to sell books via his website and to tour the world giving talks. Besides the obvious tragedy that a man of Irving’s calibre has allied himself with anti-semites, thus ensuring that his books continue to be eschewed by major book stores and publishers, Irving’s historical research is also a casualty of his Nazi sympathies. Regarding his otherwise-excellent book, Uprising, Irving claims that he uncovered evidence that the Hungarian uprising started as an anti-Jewish pogrom. To bolster his claims, Irving reports a handful of comments regarding the Jewish origin of four of the leaders of the post-war communist government in Hungary. Yet his own book nowhere supports the idea that the uprising was any sort of pogrom.
Perhaps the bulk of Irving’s remaining audience now positively demands that his books be anti-semitic.
“I would like you to believe me. I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria. I saw the open fires. I was on the ramp when the selections took place. I would like you to believe that these atrocities happened because I was there.”
– Oskar Gröning, former member of the SS stationed at Auschwitz concentration camp