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SLAUGHTER OF JEWS BY GAS 'NEVER HAPPENED' Historian's libel trial claim.

A BRITISH historian denied in court yesterday that the Nazis murdered millions of Jews in gas chambers.

David Irving, 62, claimed there had never been a systematic German plan to wipe out the Jewish race in World War II.

He said the SS drove their victims from their homes and sent them to eastern Europe "with food and equipment to start a new life". Trains transporting Jews were well stocked with provisions.

Irving was giving evidence in his libel case against an American writer who condemned his view of the war. He claims Deborah Lipstadt branded him a "Holocaust denier", destroyed his career and generated "waves of hatred against him".

He told the High Court in London possibly one million Jews were killed by the Nazis, "but not by the methods handed down to us by historians".

Gas chambers were not used to any great extent, he alleged. It was "logistically impossible to kill millions in the way we have been told".

Irving admitted once telling a press conference: "The biggest lie of the lot, the libel against the German people, is that the Germans had factories of death with gas chambers in which they liquidated millions of their opponents."

Defence counsel Richard Rampton QC told Irving he was concerned with his "readiness to leap to conclusions in favour of the SS and the Nazis." Irving said he strongly objected to that suggestion.

He agreed a great many Jews had been killed, whether by "kicking, gassing, shooting or hanging".

But he insisted there were no signed documents to prove Hitler ordered the "final solution", although he may have wanted to put it off until the war was over.

Mr Rampton showed Irving a copy of a 1942 report signed by Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, and marked for Hitler's attention. It revealed 363,000 Jews had been killed in eastern Europe.

Irving agreed Hitler had probably seen the report, but added: "It still does not show that there was systematic killing."

He responded with a document of his own, showing that a train taking 944 Jews from Berlin to Lithuania in 1941 carried 24 days worth of food for a three-day journey.

"It's a tiny dent in the image we have of the Holocaust," he said, claiming it went against the idea of Jews being stuffed into cattle trucks with no food or water to arrive half dead.

Irving added: "The system sent the victims to the east with food and equipment to start a new life. Once they arrived, the system broke down and the murderers stepped in."

He accepted there was "a lot of hardship and cruelty and barbarism", but questioned the impartiality of experts for the defence.

Mr Rampton said the Jews on the train to Lithuania had probably paid for the food themselves. Irving agreed it was quite likely, because Jewish families driven out of Berlin were "robbed blind".

Ms Lipstadt, author of Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, and her publishers Penguin deny libel. The case continues.
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Author:Arnold, Harry
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 18, 2000
Words:507
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