British historian David Irving pleaded guilty Monday to criminal charges of denying the Holocaust and conceded in court he erred in contending there were no Nazi gas chambers during the Second World War.
"I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz," Irving told the court after his trial opened in Vienna. But he insisted he never wrote a book about the Holocaust, which he called "just a fragment of my area of interest."
"In no way did I deny the killings of millions of people by the Nazis," Irving testified. Earlier, he told journalists he considered it "ridiculous" that he was standing trial for remarks made 17 years ago.
Irving, handcuffed and wearing a navy blue suit, arrived at court carrying a copy of one of his most controversial books -- Hitler's War, which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.
Before the trial began, Irving, 67, told reporters he now acknowledges the Nazis systematically slaughtered Jews during the war. "History is like a constantly changing tree," he said.
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.
A verdict was expected later Monday, with a conviction almost certain because of Irving's guilty plea. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
This is a hard one to look at. As someone who studies history, it comes across to me that he is guilty of two things: one, of being incredibly, incredibly dumb for even suggesting in the first place that the Holocaust never occurred. Give me a break. How can anyone deny that such a massive and terrible tragedy as the Holocaust occurred? Were the gas chambers and crematoria built after the war by the "Elders of Zion?" Where did all the shoes in "Canada" come from? What about all the gold teeth and jewlery stolen from innocent murdered people? I guess all the testimony at Nuremburg, the transcripts of the Wannasee conference, the odd disappearance of six million Jews and six million other unwanted people after the war (including 3 million Soviet Pows and three million Slavic Polish Catholics) - all a giant hoax? I don't think so.
The second thing this fool is guilty of is something that any history professor would fail a student for: absolutely bad history. It's part of a historian's job to test our views of history, to look at things from a different perspective. Quite a few new things were discovered about our history that way, to say the least. But my history prof would fail him outright for such a ludicrous thesis - that the Jews died from typhus, and not, oh, massive quantities of Hydrogen Cyanide. If you want to propose a different historical thesis, you've got to be able to provide ample evidence for it. But if there is a massive documentative quantity of evidence suggesting otherwise (and the Nazis were very meticulous record-keepers), then you have no choice but to abandon this thesis. Apparently this flunky never caught on to that last part.
As for him standing trial for remarks made 17 years ago? Sure, it seems a little odd. Should he face ten years in prison for what amounts to nothing more than a bad thesis? I hope my history prof wouldn't be so harsh on me. But then again, I'm not a holocaust denier. I say give the fool a massive fine and force him to apologize and publicly acknowledge that the holocaust occurred. Or make him donate the fine to a Holocaust memorial institute like the Simon Wiesenthal centre. I think that would be a far more appropriate punishment.