“I made a great point of tracking down all Hitler’s surviving doctors,” he says, “and I identified Erwin Giesing as the doctor who treated Hitler after the bomb attempt on his life in 1944.” He tracked him down in the 1970s to Aachen in West Germany, and when Irving called, he claims Giesing said: “Yes, I’ve been expecting you.”As Hari writes in the next line, suddenly it's all about what is wrong with the man, not what is wrong with his ideas.
Irving arrived at Giesing’s surgery and, he says, was immediately handed a 400-page file. “Giesing said it was his diary [of his time with Hitler]. ‘That’s what you have come for,’ [he said]. I asked why, why me? Why haven’t you given it to Jacobson or Hilburg or any of the other great historians?” Giesing said the answer lay on page 385. Irving flicked to this page, and, he says, “it is August 1944 and he is treating Hitler – cauterizing his eardrum – and he says, ‘Mein Furher you realize that you have the same illness now in your inner ear that the Kaiser had?’ Hitler said ‘Yes that is true, how did you know that?’ And Geesing said he had read it in the biography of the Kaiser written by an Englishman, J D Chamier.” And he says Hitler replied: “One day, an Englishman will come along and write my biography. But it cannot be an English man of the present generation. They won’t to be objective. It will have to be an Englishman of the next generation, and one who is totally familiar with all the German archives.”
Irving sits back with an expression of beatific calm. “So [when] I phoned the doctor and he said ‘I’ve been expecting you,’ the Messiah had come. The one he had been waiting for all these years. And of course all the other historians hate that because they don’t fit.” I stare silently for a moment. To clarify: you actually think Hitler wanted you to be his biographer? “Yes. Yes and I am not ashamed of that. Hitler knew that. Hitler himself said that for fifty years they won’t be able to write the truth about me.” (1)
Irving is someone I've loathed for years (See my previous comments here (2)). It isn't so much that he's a Holocaust denier - they are mostly beneath contempt - but because of the attitude he brings to the business, the supercilious, sneering tone he adopts. Maybe they are all like that, and it is just familiarity that has bred this contempt. But he's always stuck in my craw. Also, there is the intellectual fraudulance, the blatant, obvious manipulation and disingenuousness that taints almost everything he says. Add onto that the shrill ad hominen attacks he launches on anyone who disagrees with him.
Up until now, I've always thought it was deliberate and conscious, an attempt to influence others and pervert history. After reading Hari's piece, I'm no longer sure. Irving simply comes across as ... insane. He gloating recounts trying to get a copy of Main Kamff as a school prize, without realising admitting a Hitler fixation dating back to his school days weakens his claims to have based his assessments of Hitler and the Holocaust as sober judgements. He claims the publisher of his book on the Dresden bombings altered them without his knowledge, inserting passages condemning Nazi atrocities. Again, he doesn't seem to realise how ludicrous he sounds. Every piece of evidence that is presented supporting Hitler's anti-Semitism and knowledge of the Holocaust is dismissed as a cunning charade by the Furher.
The image that emerges is of a man who is actually incapable of distingushing reality and fantasy. Suddenly, it all falls into place - the Holocaust denial, Irving's ability to overlook mountains of evidence, and feast on morsels of ambiguity, the inability to actually face up to the undeniable facts of Hitler's evil. He is actually insane, a pitiable wreck of a man who never managed to work out that there was stuff going on in his head and stuff going on in the real world and those two things were not the same. As Hari confronts him about the fact that Irving's daughter - who sufferred from schizophrenia - would have been exterminated by the Nazis, the babble of words and random associations Irving puts out is almost painful to read. What it must have been like for Hari, sitting through it, is difficult to imagine. What it must be like to actually be David Irving is beyond comprehension.
1 - "David Irving: 'I'm Hitler's biographer,'" by Johann Hari, published in The Independent, 15th of January, 2008. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/david-irving-im-hitlers-biographer-1366464.html)
2 - As described previously on lefthandpalm: http://lefthandpalm.blogspot.com/search/label/David%20Irving