David Irving: Hitler was ‘greatest European...’

David Irving

‘...and the Gestapo were fabulous’ says Holocaust denier as his Nazi tour is scooped by undercover journo

BY David Cairns LAST UPDATED AT 13:35 ON Tue 28 Sep 2010

Holocaust-denying historian David Irving has fallen for an undercover sting by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. The British academic told a reporter who attended a history tour that Hitler was "a great man" who "was not immoral".

Irving denies being a denier of the holocaust, but from 2006 spent a year in jail in Austria, where holocaust denial is a crime, for a 1989 speech in which he claimed there were no gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps.

Perhaps in need of cash this year, he organised an exclusive history tour of World War Two sites in Poland for 11 paying customers – including at least one ringer, it seems.

The revisionist history enthusiasts all paid £1,500 for the one-week tour, excluding flights. Attractions included Hitler's Polish Wolf's Lair headquarter and the Treblinka death camp, and their significance was interpreted for the tourists by Irving himself (pictured at Himmler's former field headquarters 'Hochwald' in north-east Poland).

The tour attracted media attention as Irving arrived in Poland when it emerged he had been refused permission to take his group around the site of Auschwitz concentration camp because he was "not a licensed tour guide".

This provoked Irving, who clearly takes a childlike delight in any attention, however negative, into bluster about the site being a Disneyfied "money-making machine". A week later and the tour has concluded with perhaps the biggest surprise being that there – so far – seems only to have been one undercover hack embedded.

According to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Irving said: "Hitler could be very cruel but he was not immoral. He was just surrounded by little people… Hitler was a great man, one of the greatest Europeans for centuries."

He added: "[Hitler] was like Hannibal. He held the military forces of the rest of the world for six years. Exactly like Hannibal, but nobody has never denied the greatness of Hannibal."

Speaking about Hitler’s secret police, Irving observed: "The Gestapo were fabulous policemen. They sent 300,000 to Auschwitz and 800,000 to Treblinka." He described Claus von Stauffenberg, the Wehrmacht officer shot for attempting to blow up Hitler, as "a traitor".

Even in the company of supposed admirers of his work, Irving seems to have been careful not to overtly deny the holocaust. Corriere della Sera observes that his comments will be studied closely by Polish authorities. The tone of Irving's remarks is truly odious, but can he be convicted on them? · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.