Holocaust Denier Gets Three Years in Jail
By VERONIKA OLEKSYN, Associated Press Writer 4 minutes
VIENNA, Austria - Right-wing British historian David
Irving was sentenced to three years in prison Monday
after admitting to an Austrian court that he denied
the Holocaust a crime in the country where Hitler
Irving, who pleaded guilty and then insisted during
his one-day trial that he now acknowledged the Nazis'
World War II slaughter of 6 million Jews, had faced up
to 10 years behind bars. Before the verdict, Irving
conceded he had erred in contending there were no gas
chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
"I made a mistake when I said there were no gas
chambers at Auschwitz," Irving testified, at one point
expressing sorrow "for all the innocent people who
died during the Second World War."
Irving, stressing he only relied on primary sources,
said he came across new information in the early
1990's from top Nazi officials including personal
documents belonging to Adolf Eichmann that led him
to rethink certain previous assertions.
But despite his apparent epiphany, Irving, 67,
maintained he had never questioned the Holocaust.
"I've never been a Holocaust denier and I get very
angry when I'm called a Holocaust denier," he said.
Irving's lawyer said he would appeal the sentence.
"I consider the verdict a little too stringent. I
would say it's a bit of a message trial," attorney
Elmar Kresbach said.
State prosecutor Michael Klackl declined to comment on
the verdict. In his closing arguments, however, he
criticized Irving for "putting on a show" and for not
admitting that the Nazis killed Jews in an organized
and systematic manner.
Irving appeared shocked as the sentence was read out.
Moments later, an elderly man identifying himself as a
family friend called out "Stay strong, David! Stay
strong!" before he was escorted from the courtroom.
Irving has been in custody since his November arrest
on charges stemming from two speeches he gave in
Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the
Nazis' extermination of 6 million Jews.
Irving, handcuffed and wearing a navy blue suit,
arrived at the court carrying one of his most
controversial books "Hitler's War," which challenges
the extent of the Holocaust.
Throughout the day, Irving sat quietly and attentively
in the stifling courtroom.
Irving's trial was held amid new and fierce debate
over freedom of expression in Europe, where the
printing and reprinting of unflattering cartoons of
the Prophet Muhammad has triggered violent protests
"Of course it's a question of freedom of speech,"
Irving said. "The law is an ass."
The court convicted Irving after his guilty plea under
the 1992 law, which applies to "whoever denies,
grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the
National Socialist genocide or other National
Socialist crimes against humanity in a print
publication, in broadcast or other media."
Austria was Hitler's birthplace and once was run by
"He is everything but a historian ... He is a
dangerous falsifier of history," Klackl said, calling
Irving's statements an "abuse of freedom of speech."
Klackl said the Austrian law does not "hinder
"You have to look at each case individually," he said.
"The point is, what is someone trying to do? It's the
Kresbach, however, said people "should have a right to
The verdict was welcomed by the Simon Wiesenthal
Center, which also highlighted the issue of freedom of
"While Irving's rants would not have led to legal
action in the United States, it is important that we
recognize and respect Austria's commitment to fighting
Holocaust denial, the most odious form of hatred, as
part of its historic responsibility to its Nazi past,"
the center's associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper,
said in a statement.
Kresbach said last month the controversial Third Reich
historian was getting up to 300 pieces of fan mail a
week from supporters around the world and was writing
his memoirs in detention under the working title
Irving was arrested Nov. 11 in the southern Austrian
province of Styria on a warrant issued in 1989. He
tried to win his provisional release on $24,000 bail,
but a Vienna court rejected the motion, saying it
considered him a flight risk.
Within two weeks of his arrest, he asserted through
his lawyer that he had come to acknowledge the
existence of Nazi-era gas chambers.
However, he has claimed previously that Adolf Hitler
knew little if anything about the Holocaust, and he
has been quoted as saying there was "not one shred of
evidence" the Nazis carried out their "Final Solution"
to exterminate the Jewish population on such a massive
Irving, the author of nearly 30 books, has contended
most of those who died at concentration camps such as
Auschwitz succumbed to diseases such as typhus rather
In 2000, Irving sued American Holocaust scholar
Deborah Lipstadt for libel in a British court, but
lost. The presiding judge in that case, Charles Gray,
wrote that Irving was "an active Holocaust denier ...
anti-Semitic and racist."
Irving has had numerous run-ins with the law over the
In 1992, a judge in Germany fined him the equivalent
of $6,000 for publicly insisting the Nazi gas chambers
at Auschwitz were a hoax.