| Irving: Defiant
London, Feb. 22 (Reuters): British historian David Irving, jailed by an Austrian court for denying the Holocaust, refused today to apologise for offending victims of the Nazi death camps and said he would not be silenced.
Irving, 67, told Britain’s Sky Television he believed historians should be allowed to question official versions of history and freedom of speech was the “right to be wrong”.
“I come from a free country and I’m not going to let anybody silence me,” he said.
Irving was sentenced to three years in jail on Monday for denying the murder of six million Jews. Austria’s state prosecutor filed an appeal yesterday to extend the sentence.
“I think they are trying to silence me now,” said Irving, who dismissed his trial as “theatre”.
“They want to increase the sentence to silence me for even longer. They are not going to succeed.”
Irving pleaded guilty, hoping for a suspended sentence, but the Vienna criminal court concluded he was only making a pretence of acknowledging Nazi Germany’s genocide against Jews in order to escape a jail term.
Asked whether he regretted the offence he had caused to Holocaust survivors and their families, Irving replied: “Freedom of speech means freedom to say things to other people that they don’t want to hear. And if that causes offence to them then that’s partly their problem and partially mine.
“Freedom of speech is the right to be wrong, basically. Sometimes I’m wrong.”
Irving said he did not deny the Holocaust but acknowledged that his views had changed as he had learnt more.
“I don't like the phrase ‘deny the Holocaust’,” he said.
“Any sane historian is going to be entitled to open this package that the media describe as the Holocaust and look at the individual contents and say ‘well, this part I believe and this part I believe and most of that I believe but there is one thing here I don’t believe. And that is what I did.
“That is not denying the Holocaust. It is saying ‘listen, I’m not a mug, I want to be told the truth and nothing but the truth’,” he added.“It is not so much of a change of heart, it is just a refining of your position.”
Assessing his case on Monday, the presiding judge decided Irving had not genuinely changed his position and had shown regret only to pay “lip service to the law” in Austria.
Irving, a self-taught historian who has written dozens of books on Nazi Germany and World War II, has appealed.
He was arrested on a return visit to Austria last November, based on a warrant over lectures and a press interview he gave in 1989 in the Alpine republic, where denying the Nazi genocide is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Austria is keen to show it is tough on Holocaust denial since a significant number of Nazi leaders, including Adolf Hitler, came from Austria, and Jews and other critics accused the country of glossing over its past for decades after the war.
A British High Court ruling in 2000 rejected an Irving libel suit against an American professor and her publishers, declaring Irving “an active Holocaust denier... anti-Semitic and racist”.