Irving jailed for Holocaust denial

RIGHT-WING British historian David Irving was convicted in Austria yesterday of denying the Holocaust — a crime in a country once run by the Nazis — and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Irving, who had pleaded guilty, had insisted during his one-day trial that he had a change of heart and now acknowledged the Nazis’ World War II slaughter of six million Jews. He had faced up to 10 years behind bars for the offence.

Austrian prosecutors filed charges against him under the 1947 law banning Nazi revivalism, and criminalising the “public denial, belittling, or justification of National Socialist crimes.”

Irving pleaded guilty to criminal charges of denying the Holocaust and conceded in court he erred in contending there were no Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz.

“I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz,” Irving told the court as his trial opened in Vienna.

“In no way did I deny the killings of millions of people by the Nazis,” Irving said.

Earlier, he told journalists he considered it “ridiculous” that he was standing trial for remarks made 17 years ago.

But Irving arrived at court carrying a copy of one of his most controversial books, Hitler’s War, which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.

Irving has been in custody since his arrest in November on charges stemming from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the Nazis’ extermination of six million Jews.

Irving’s trial comes amid fierce debate over freedom of expression in Europe, where the printing of unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed has triggered violent protests worldwide.

Irving’s lawyer, Elmar Kresbach, said last month the controversial Third

Reich historian was getting up to 300 pieces of fan mail a week and that while in detention he was writing his memoirs under the working title Irving’s War.

Irving had tried to win his provisional release on €20,000 bail, but a Vienna court refused, saying it considered him a flight risk.

Within weeks of his arrest, he asserted through his lawyer that he had come to acknowledge the existence of Nazi-era gas chambers.

In the past, however, he has claimed that Adolf Hitler knew little if anything about the Holocaust, and 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 scale.

Irving, the author of nearly 30 books, has contended most of those who died at concentration camps succumbed to diseases rather than execution.

In 2000 he attempted to sue US historian Deborah Lipstadt, whose book on Nazi apologists singled out Mr Irving as a persistent offender in Holocaust denial.

The action brought financial ruin and professional disgrace for Irving.

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