I’m glad it didn’t happen in the US, but to be honest, I’m glad it happened:
The British revisionist historian and Nazi apologist David Irving was today sentenced to three years in prison after he admitted denying the Holocaust.
An eight-member jury at a court in Vienna convicted Irving, 68, a few hours after it began its deliberations on the first day of his trial.
Irving had pleaded guilty to denying the Holocaust in two speeches on a visit to Austria in 1989, but said at the trial that he had later changed his views.
The speeches included a call for an end to the “gas chambers fairy tale”, and claims that Adolf Hitler had helped Europe’s Jews and that the Holocaust was a myth.
Irving told the court today he had revised his opinion after seeing the personal files of Adolf Eichmann. Speaking in German, he told the court he now accepted that the Nazis had killed millions of Jews.
At one stage, while giving evidence, he expressed sorrow for “all the innocent people” who died during the war. “I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz,” he said.
Austria has the world’s stiffest laws against denying the Holocaust and Irving could have faced a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Frederick Taylor documented in his seminal 2003 book Dresden: Tuesday, February 13, 1945. that Irving was also responsible for the spread of the myth that Dresden was a pure, innocent backwater German city ruthlessly savaged out of the blue by the Allies.
Dresden became famous for its role in two overlapping wars: first, as a target of the allies in the waning days of World War II, as the city was bombed by the British and then the US on February 13th, 1945. Of this, history is certain: the bombing leveled the city and left thousands killed.
As Taylor recounts, almost immediately after the city was bombed, Dresden was about to become a pawn in a different war all together: a propaganda war.
First, Joseph Goebbels added an extra zero on the immediate death toll in German propaganda, to turn an estimate of 20,204 killed into 202,040, in order to rally Germans for one last push before the inevitable downfall.
Then, the Soviet Union captured the city and it became part of communist East Germany, exchanging, as Taylor notes, one totalitarian master for another. And just as Nazi Germany had a skilled propaganda machine, so did the Soviet Union, which were all too happy to use the destruction caused by the allied bombing as a way of inflicting maximum guilt on the free west.
Add to this the role of David Irving, now relatively well known as a Holocaust denier, but in the early 1960s, just making his name as a historian. Arguably, it was his best-selling 1963 book, The Destruction of Dresden, that was most effective in establishing the modern myth of Dresden as an innocent city wrongly incinerated by the Allies in a final punch-drunk show of force late in the war. It served as the basis of a growing method for Germans to deflect their own responsibility for the tens of millions killed by National Socialism by transforming World War II into a sort of massed guilt that attempts to portray American and British actions as equally culpable as the Nazis, much as multiculturalism attempts to argue that no single culture is greater than another.
As I said, while I’m glad the Europeans threw Irving in jail, I’m also glad the First Amendment (or what’s left of it, as campaign finance reform critics will immediately add under their breath) prohibits this sort of thing in this US.
Where do you draw the line? Should the nuts who say 9/11 either never happened, or was deliberately planned by President Bush be arrested? The JFK conspiracists? And so on.
For more on Irving, don’t miss this recent post by Neo-Neocon.
Update: To be consistent, here’s another prominent Holocaust denier Austria should look into extraditing into custody…
Another Update: Damian Penny has some thoughts on Irving’s arrest that are well worth reading. Be sure to follow his links, as well.