Monday, February 20, 2006

It's called consistency

via KnightRidder: British historian gets 3-year prison sentence for denying Holocaust
British historian David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison Monday on charges that he denied the Holocaust, just hours after he admitted that he'd been wrong to doubt the systematic murder of millions of Jews.
Irving, 67, heads to prison for statements he made during a lecture in Austria in 1989, when he said that the gas chambers of Auschwitz were a fairy tale. In addition, he's known for having said that the number of Jews murdered by Nazis was greatly exaggerated, that most Jews died of diseases during World War II, and that until 1943 Adolf Hitler had never heard of the Holocaust.

At least nine European countries, as well as Israel, have national laws that make it a crime to deny or diminish the reality of the Holocaust.

Before and during court on Monday, Irving acknowledged that he'd been wrong. He said "history is a constantly growing tree" and that documents he'd studied since 1989, especially the files of Adolf Eichmann (often called the architect of the Holocaust), had made it clear to him that "millions of Jews were murdered."

Irving was the author of more than 20 books before becoming known as one of the world's foremost anti-Semitic researchers. He once famously sued American historian Deborah Lipstadt for libel after she wrote that he was a Holocaust denier. He lost that case; the judge called him an "anti-Semite and racist" who twisted history, and the legal fees of 2 million pounds broke him. Still, Lipstadt told the BBC on Monday that while Irving's a poor historian, censorship doesn't work.

Anti-semite, idiot or both? No idea. His speech (at least what he said/wrote before being focused by the prospect of a hanging) is absurd and obscene. Getting spanked and humiliated by Lipstadt was perfect justice. But hard time?

Further complicating my personal calculus is the knowledge that Austria is one of the more anti-Semitic places in Europe, and my personal history (child of Holocaust survivors; mother a refugee from Vienna). But this clown is the equivalent of the Nazis who marched in Skokie; I agreed with the ACLU then, and I oppose Irving's incarceration now.

Free speech for me, and for thee. What a concept.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, this is, in part, a story about freedom of speech, but what is it about the holocaust that would result in "[a]t least nine European countries, as well as Israel, hav[ing] national laws that make it a crime to deny or diminish the reality of the Holocaust"?

I have never before questioned the holocaust, but with 10 countries willing to toss people in jail for speaking against the official version, my suspicions are piqued.

6:20 PM  

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