The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day007.06

Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day007.06
Last-Modified: 2000/07/20

   MR IRVING:  "I found it unimaginable", yes, why not, "I found
        it unimaginable that he could proceed on so vast an
        enterprise without obtaining his master's approval".  To
        put it the other way round, you imagined that he did
        obtain his master's approval, Professor Watt?  Is that
        so?  Is that what you are saying?  You imagined that he
        must have obtained Hitler's approval?
   A.   I assumed that, given his character, he would have at
        least thought he had Hitler's approval.
   Q.   Yes.
   A.   The difficulty in dealing with Hitler is that he himself
        defines secrecy in four different categories, the top one
        being ideas that I have not myself finally resolved, and
        the next one being ideas that I do not communicate to
        anybody.  Then there is the James bond like category, for

.          P-45

        your eyes only, or, as Germans say, between four eyes, and
        then there is the normal category.  It is in that area
        where the absence of evidence to my mind, it is a
        historical challenge but I do not think that it is
        conclusive in the way other people have assumed it is.
   Q.   Professor Watt, I do not to labour the point too much
        because, of course, it is well known that in my
        biographies of Hitler I have accepted that after October
        1943, after Himmler's famous speech at Posun, the way
        I put it is that Hitler had no excuse for not knowing.
        Would this be a perverse reading of the situation, that he
        had no excuse for not knowing from that time on? He could
        not really get away with saying, I did not know what was
        going on?  Am I wrong in suggesting that?
   A.   The difficulty is that Hitler's theory of the state,
        anything that was done in the state was done in his name.
        He would justify it retrospectively if he did not know
        about it.  This is an area, I am talking here not having
        done the kind of detailed work which is in front of the
        court on this, and I am simply producing a judgment based
        on the work I have done on Hitler ----
   Q.   Professor Watt, if I was William Showler writing a book
        about the rise and fall of the Third Reich, then quite
        clearly this was Hitler's fault, this  was Hitler's
        responsibility.  But, if you have a student who is writing
        an examination of Adolf Hitler's personal responsibility,

.          P-46

        which is germane to the issues before the court, then you
        do come up against a bit of brick wall as far as
        acceptable evidence goes.  You really have to start using
        what you yourself call your imagination.  You imagine that
        Hitler probably, you cannot imagine that he did not, and
        this kind of thing, and that is very dangerous, would you
        not agree?  It is a dangerous kind of basis.  Imagination
        is a picking on a particular word I used here because
        I was trying very hard to present a review of your book,
        which did not descend into denouncing it as being contrary
        to what everybody knows.
   Q.   Mr Rampton, do you wish me to read any more of that
   MR RAMPTON:  Yes.  It would save me from doing so.
   MR IRVING: "For myself, I found it initially not unpersuasive
        until I reflected on the character of Himmler"- this is
        yourself writing, Professor Watt. "I found it unimaginable
        that he could proceed on so vast an enterprise without
        obtaining his master's approval.  Heydrich would have been
        another matter.  There are very large areas in which we
        have only the slenderest of indications as to what was
        going on in Hitler's mind.  Like Roosevelt, he said
        different things to different audiences but, like
        Roosevelt, he committed nothing of his own thoughts to
        paper.  In such circumstances inference is a
        historical method."  Is that enough, Mr Rampton?

.          P-47

   A.   Then I go on to say "But to infer Hitler's ignorance,
        assume that Himmler and his minions went beyond the
        of what Hitler had approved, seems to assume something
        inherently improbable and out of keeping with all we
        of Himmler's relationship to Hitler".  What I am
        at there is that again, as in so much of this
        approach, there is a kind of build your own Hitler,
        your own Roosevelt, build your own Himmler, out of
        which are supplied.
   Q.   There are different images.  There is the Madison
   A.   My feeling about Himmler was that he was a man who was
        almost incapable of originating anything himself
unless he
        had what he thought was approval from above, that he
was a
        man who was dependent on approval of those whom he
   Q.   Professor Watt, Himmler's brother actually told me the
        same.  He said, I cannot imagine Heinny would have
        this on his own.  He said he was a bit of a coward.  I
        think I mentioned this also in my books.
   A.   Towards the end, he began to lose confidence in Hitler
        he became open to the sort of arguments that were
        by senior SS officers, the belief that the Allies
        make a separate peace with him and so on, and he
reached a
        point where Hitler believed that he was being
        and there is an expression of his disbelief at this.

.          P-48

   Q.   But that is another story, as they say.  Can I draw
        attention to the fact that the passages we read out
        written by you in June 1977, in view of the fact that
        years have passed and still no document has come to
        to shake the notion which you considered at that time
        inherently improbable, would you consider that my
        has become slightly more sustainable?
   A.   I think I would be reluctant to change my mind about
        that.  What I should say, however, is that the
        that you then raise to the historical profession.
   Q.   The thousand pound offer?
   A.   I was not thinking of money.  I was thinking simply of
        challenge of putting forward the sort of views you did
        basing them on historical research, rather than
        ideological conviction, or at least seemingly so, has
        directly resulted in an enormous outburst of research
        the ----
   Q.   Holocaust?
   A.  - into the massacres of the Jews, into the Holocaust
and so
        on, which is now so large an area of historical
        that it can support journals, it can support
        I see that there are three scheduled in Britain this
        coming year and that I myself am appearing in one in
        America in March.  This, I think, is a direct result
        the challenge which Mr Irving's work and the
        and the effort which he has put into maintaining it in

.          P-49

        public, has resulted in somewhat similar ----
   Q.   Would you describe my notion as being perverse?  Would
        use that kind of word to describe it?
   A.   This is an argument about nominalism.  I think that it
        perverse in relation to the values of western society,
        I understand them.  I do not think it is perverse,
        speaking as a historian.  I have seen more perverse
        arguments put forward, for example the gentleman who
        maintained that Stalin hardly killed anybody, who held
        academic post of some importance in an American
        university.  I gather that he has now changed his mind
        a result of being shown the KGB records and is editing
        book which is hastily changing his position.
                  I think to maintain that America entered the
        Second World War as a result of the machinations of
        British security authorities in New York is perverse.
        I think that the views that Stalin was about to attack
        Hitler when Hitler attacked Stalin, which is a view
        apparently commands a certain amount of support in
        and Germany and Israel, is perverse.
                  There are areas of perversity and indeed the
        late Alan Clark's support for an eminent British
        historian's views that Chamberlain could have made
        with Hitler in 1937, and that somebody else besides
        Churchill have made piece with Hitler in 1940, I
        these as perverse.  There is a lot of perversity
about, if

.          P-50

        one is to use that word in historical terms.
   Q.   I hasten to say that those are not the issues that are
        before the court, Professor Watt?
   A.   I know, but one has to put this kind of argument, it
        to me, in the general context of what historians, I
        Professor Evans and I share views on the
        of historians to tell the truth as we see it, and to
        extremely careful and professional in our use of
        but I cannot say that the evidence that we both
        in the writing of history generally altogether lives
up to
        those expectations.
   Q.   Professor Watt, from what you know of my writings, do
        believe that, if a document were now to be presented
to me
        tomorrow morning in one of your plain brown envelopes,
        utterly confounding me in the issues that are before
        court, I would hesitate for one moment to bring them
        the attention my readers and that I would in some way
        suppress them, or do you believe, on the contrary,
that in
        fact I would make them known immediately?
   A.   I have no knowledge myself of times when you have
        suppressed evidence.  But then our paths have not lain
        together very often.
   Q.   We are nearly at the end of this examination-in-chief,
        Professor.  You wrote a review, you may remember, some
        years ago of my biography of Herman Goring for the

.          P-51

   A.   Yes.
   Q.   It was the principal review in the review section that
        week as indeed most of my books were reviewed very
        prominently in my hey day.  You began the review with
        words which I shall never forget, "David Irving is one
        Britain's most disliked historians but ..." Do you
        remember writing those words?
   A.   I have not looked at that cutting recently, but I find
        quite likely that I wrote it.
   Q.   Quite likely that you wrote it! You did not of course
        stand in Oxford Street with a clip board asking the
        passers-by who their most disliked historian was, so
        was just a subjective value judgment?
   A.   I think so.  That would be fair comment.
   Q.   It is not, of course, a historian's job to be liked,
   A.   I do not regard the public's general view of
        facts as something against which one cannot appeal.
   Q.   Professor Watt, would I be wrong in suggesting that
        reason you used that sentence was because, on balance,
        proposed to write a very favourable review of the
        which in fact it was, but you needed to purchase the
        to so by saying something wicked?
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  We have the review.  I think it will
        for itself.  I do not think that is a helpful
   MR IRVING:  It is in connection with the next point, which

.          P-52

        why I have had to issue a witness summons.  I see your
        Lordship wagging your Lordship's head.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Professor Watt was not anxious to come
        voluntarily.  That must be the reason.  There is so
        we have to deal with, I just wonder whether those
        are worth struggling with.
   MR IRVING:  In that case I will end the examination at that
        point. Professor Watt, thank you very much indeed.
   MR RAMPTON:  I have no questions.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Professor Watt, thank you very much
        for coming.
                  < (The witness withdrew)
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Do you want to pause to collect your
        thoughts, Mr Irving?  If you did, I would understand.
   MR IRVING:  I think a five-minute pause might be
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  I think the transcriber would welcome
   MR IRVING:  Then how are we going to proceed, my Lord?
        the argument or continue with the cross-examination?
        I would propose, if I may be so humble as to submit,
        we should have the argument after lunch.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  I am prepared to fit in with whatever you
        would prefer, unless Mr Rampton tells me that is going
        be very inconvenient.
   MR RAMPTON:  I have only one more evidence point that I
want to
        deal with before I start on Auschwitz.  I was going to
        start on Auschwitz today, not unless your Lordship

.          P-53

        me I must, on the technical stuff, but on Mr Irving's
        utterances about it.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  So Holocaust denial rather than Auschwitz.

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