BOOK REVIEW: 'DECEPTION AND DECEIT'

The Politico magazine – Issue 2, Autumn 2002

Telling Lies about Hitler: The Holocaust, History and the David Irving Trial, by Richard J. Evans, Verso, £14

Julian Lewis on no ordinary author

Few writers have the self-confidence to promote their own work with an ‘endorsement’ like this:

"Evans is a flat, dull, boring, venal, corrupt conformist who willingly sold his soul to the Devil",

but Professor Richard Evans is no ordinary writer – for he is the man who destroyed David Irving, the author of the quoted remarks.

In 1976, I came across an unusual book by Carlos Thompson, The Assassination of Winston Churchill, which exploded the myth that Britain’s wartime leader had organised the death of his Polish counterpart – General Sikorski – in an air crash. Although that attempt to denigrate Churchill had been promoted by two notable Leftists, Rolf Hochhuth and Kenneth Tynan, the shadow of far-Right historian David Irving also loomed large. Later I learned that he had unsuccessfully sued the publisher.

In March this year, Irving was declared bankrupt after failing to pay legal costs arising from his latest libel action – against Penguin Books, publishers of a volume describing him as a Holocaust denier who twisted and distorted the historical record

"until it conforms with his ideological leanings and political agenda".

Professor Evans’s task as an expert witness for the defence was mainly to show that Irving was a deliberate falsifier of history. It involved

"taking his historical statements and claims and tracing them back to the original and other sources on which he claimed they rested"

– something which most historians seldom have the time or motivation to do. Evans’s 740-page report, now edited and reduced to this gripping and readable book, triumphantly succeeded.

Here are just a few of his findings:

Evans’s book is a forensic dissection of Irving’s

"vast apparatus of deception and deceit",

and shows how painstaking scholarship can defeat the corruption of history.