David Irving v Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt/XI
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- 1 XI. JUSTIFICATION: THE BOMBING OF DRESDEN
- 1.1 Introduction
- 1.2 The Defendants’ criticisms of Irving’s account of the bombing
- 1.3 Numbers killed – Irving’s claims
- 1.4 The Defendants’ claim that Irving relied on forged evidence
- 1.5 Irving’s case as to the death toll and his use of TB47
- 1.6 The claim that Irving attached credence to unreliable evidence
- 1.7 The allegation that Irving has bent reliable evidence and falsified statistics
- 1.8 The allegation that Irving suppressed or failed to take account of reliable evidence
- 1.9 The allegation that Irving has misrepresented evidence
XI. JUSTIFICATION: THE BOMBING OF DRESDEN
11.1 As I have already pointed out, Denying the Holocaust contains no reference to the bombing of Dresden. As explained in paragraph 4.4 above, the evidence is nevertheless admissible in support of the plea of justification. Before addressing the way in which the Defendants seek to place reliance on this topic, I shall summarise the events in question.
11.2 Early in 1945 Soviet forces were advancing on Germany from the East driving back not only the German military but also a large number of refugees. It was against that background that the Allies embarked on a policy of carrying out bombing raids upon German cities, amongst which the principal targets were Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden. Of these cities Dresden was at that time the least industrialised. It was an historic city in which were contained many of Germany’s finest old buildings and cultural treasures. There were industries (including armament factories) there too but the city’s main function was as an administrative, transportation and communication centre.
11.3 On two successive nights, 13 and 14 February 1945, British bombers carried out massive bombing raids on Dresden. The ostensible purpose of the raids was to disrupt military industrial production. However, the target of the raids was not the industrial sector but rather the historic centre of the city, consisting for the most part of timbered residential buildings. The consequences of the raids were on any view horrific. The effect on industrial capacity was modest and the disruption of transportation limited. But the damage in terms of loss of life and destruction of property was catastrophic: a very substantial number were killed, consisting almost exclusively of civilian residents and refugees, and some 15 square kilometres of the heart of the city were razed to the ground.
11.4 One of Irving’s most widely read books is an account of these events, entitled Apocalypse 1945: The Destruction of Dresden, first published in 1963 under the title The Destruction of Dresden. He has also made frequent reference to the bombing of Dresden in his speeches (some of which are mentioned in section VIII above).
The Defendants’ criticisms of Irving’s account of the bombing
11.5 The Defendants rely on Irving’s Dresden as a further illustration of the manner in which he distorts and twists historical facts in order to make them conform to his own political ideology. In particular the Defendants allege that Irving has relied on forged evidence; that he has attached credence to unreliable evidence; that he has twisted reliable evidence and falsified statistics; that he has suppressed or ignored reliable evidence and that he has misrepresented the facts as they appear from the available evidence. I shall set out the parties’ arguments in relation to each of these allegations. But, since one of the major criticism levelled at Irving by the Defendants relates to his claim as to the number of those killed in the raids, I shall first set out what his claims have been.
Numbers killed – Irving’s claims
11.6 The estimates placed by Irving in succeeding editions of Dresden and in his speeches on the number of fatalities due to the bombing of Dresden are as follows:
(i) in the 1966 edition of The Destruction of Dresden Irving contended that 135,000 were estimated authoritatively to have been killed and further contended that the documentation suggested a figure between 100,00 and 250,000;
(ii) in the 1971 edition the figure for those killed was placed at more than 100,000;
(iii) in 1989 when launching the ‘Leuchter Report’ in Britain Irving informed journalists present that between 100,000 and 250,000 were killed;
(iv) in 1992 Irving told the Institute of Historical Review that 100,000 people were killed in twelve hours by the British and the Americans;
(v) in 1993 in a video made for the Australian public Irving contended that over 130,000 died;
(vi) in the 1995 edition of The Destruction of Dresden the attack was estimated to have killed 50,000 and 100,000 inhabitants;
(vii) in 1996 in Goebbels: The Mastermind of the Third Reich Irving noted that between 60,000 and 100,000 people has been killed in the raids on Dresden.
11.7 Other such claims made by Irving include the following:
(i) in a speech in South Africa in 1986 Irving stated that 100,000 people were killed in one night in Dresden;
(ii) in Ontario in 1991 he told and an audience that over 100,000 people were killed in one night in February 1945;
(iii) in a television documentary screened on 28 November 1991 Irving said that 25,000 people may have been executed in Auschwitz but five times that number were killed in Dresden in one night, and
(iv) at the launch of the ‘Leuchter Report’ to in 1989 Irving stated that there were 1,000,000 refugees in Dresden of whom “hundreds of thousands” were killed.
11.8 In his Reply in the present action Irving asserted an intention to prove at trial that estimates of casualties in Dresden have indeed ranged between 35,000 and 250,000. At trial he testified that the best margins for figures which he would accept were between 60,000 and 100,000. Irving contended that earlier estimates had been inflated by the communist government of East Germany (in which Dresden was situated) for essentially political reasons. He denied that he had been responsible for some of the claims made on the dustjacket of the paperback editions of The Destruction of Dresden.
The Defendants’ claim that Irving relied on forged evidence
The case for the Defendants
11.9 The main plank of the Defendants’ case against Irving in relation to his book about Dresden is the way in which he used forged evidence, namely Tagesbefehl (Order of the Day) no. 47 (“TB47”). This document was dated 22nd March 1945 and attributed to a Colonel Grosse. It purported to quote a brief extract from a statement made earlier by the Police President of Dresden. It put the number of dead at 202,040 and expressed the expectation of a final figure of 250,000. TB47 features in the 1966 and 1967 editions of Irving’s book and is reproduced in both as an appendix.
11.10 Irving had previously in 1963 denounced TB47 as spurious and as an ingenious piece of propaganda. In the 1963 edition of Dresden Irving had referred to Goebbels having deliberately started a rumour about the death toll in Dresden “wildly exceeding any figure within the realms of possibility”. He also referred in that edition to the leaking of what he described as a “spurious” order of 23 March 1945 which gave a figure for deaths of 202,040 and an estimate of more than 250,000 for the final total. TB47 had already been denounced as “false and fraudulently invented and publicised” in a book by Professor Seydewitz.
11.11 But Irving subsequently changed his mind about the authenticity of TB47 when he was provided with a copy of it. In the 1966 edition of Dresden Irving was coy about naming his source. The indirect source was a resident of Dresden named Dr Funfack, who according to Irving had received the document through official channels. Dr Funfack showed the document to a Dresden photographer, Walter Hahn, who made a copy of it. Irving visited Hahn in November 1964 and saw the copy of the so-called TB47 and asked for a copy of that copy. Hahn’s wife obliged and typed out a copy for Irving. Walter Lange, the Dresden City archivist was also at the Hahns’ that day and he told Irving that the document was a patent forgery. Irving’s copy was not authenticated by any official stamp.
11.12 The Defendants contend that, in these circumstances, Irving should not have made any use of TB47 or the figures contained in it. Yet, despite the lack of verification and despite the doubts which he himself expressed about the figures at the time, Irving began to circulate information about TB47, claiming that he was in no doubt as to the authenticity of the document, adding that it remained to be established if the figure for casualties was equally genuine.
11.13 Whatever may have been his reservations about the figure, Irving on 28 November 1964 wrote to his German publisher that the information in TB47 was “sensational”. On 6 December 1964 he wrote to the Provost of Coventry Cathedral in connection with a forthcoming exhibition enclosing a copy of his copy of TB47:
“To drive home the impact of the exhibition I also suggest that you have the text of the Police President’s report on the Dresden raids (attached) printed in large type; I think that its nonchalance and the casualties it mentions have a shattering impact…I am myself in no doubt as to the authenticity of the document, having obtained it from the Dresden Deputy Chief Medical Officer responsible for disposing of the victims”.
11.14 When the German edition of The Destruction of Dresden was reviewed in December 1964, Funfack was named in the press as the author of the new casualty figures. This prompted the latter to write to Irving on 16 January 1965 to say that he had not been the Dresden Deputy Chief Medical officer; that he had only ever heard the numbers third hand and that he had not been involved in any official capacity. He also pointed out that he was only given a copy of TB47. In the same letter Funfack told Irving that General Mehnert, the city commander, had spoken of 140,000 deaths and that Professor Fetscher, head of civilian air defence, had spoken of 180,000. Mehnert and Fetscher had both since died but Funfack told Irving that an International Red Cross delegation had visited the city and that the head of that delegation would know best. Funfack suggested that Irving contact the Red Cross. However, the Red Cross informed Irving that, whilst a delegate of theirs named Kleinert had been in the area at the time, no information concerning the numbers killed in the raids had been gathered by him. His reports had not even referred to the air raids.
11.15 Despite Funfack’s expressed inability to authenticate TB47, Irving continued to promote TB47 in the German press. Irving had received the letter from Funfack in late January 1965 at the latest. Yet in February 1965 he wrote a draft article for the Sunday Telegraph which persisted in the claim that he had received TB47 from Dr Funfack, who Irving continued to describe as Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dresden District, and as such responsible for the cremation and disposal of the victims.
11.16 On 19 March 1965 Irving wrote to his Italian publishers that his then figure of 135,000 for the death toll was “probably too low”. He told them that he had obtained copy of an official police report which gave a final figure for the death roll of between 202,040 and 250,000. He asked that, if the Italian edition had not gone to press, this new fact and document be inserted. He added that it was going into the German and East German editions.
11.17 The Defendants contend that the use made by Irving of the purported TB47, as described at paragraphs 11.13, 15 and 16 was unconscionable. The Defendants contend that, in the light of Funfack’s denials, it was worse than irresponsible for Irving to promote the new figures without revealing Funfack’s denials. Irving was making use of a document which he knew might well have been forged. He was well aware that the Nazis themselves had used similar figures and versions of TB47 when promoting the numbers of dead in Dresden to the foreign neutral press and to Germans for domestic propaganda purposes.
11.18 Evans claimed that there were internal reasons why Irving should have been suspicious about the supposed TB47. Apart from the lack of official stamps or signature, the text of TB47 is indicative of a clumsy forgery. It opens with the words ‘In order to be able to counter wild rumours’ and closes ‘As the rumours exceed the reality, open use can be made of the actual figures’. But the rumours themselves never pointed to more than 200,000, so quoting 202,040 could do little to counter the wild rumours. Furthermore, Evans noted that comparable raids on other German cities had led to casualties representing between 1% and 3.3% of their populations. In Dresden 250,000 dead would have meant 20-30% of the population. How, asked Evans, would it have been possible to have removed 200,000 bodies within a month. Moreover the claim in TB47 that 68,650 were incinerated in the Altmarkt defies belief, according to Evans, since it would have taken weeks and many gallons of gasoline to burn so many corpses in the available space.
11.19 In February 1965 Theo Miller, who had been a member of the Dresden clearing staff in 1945, wrote two letters to Irving in which he gave a detailed account of the system whereby commanders of the rescue units reported the number of corpses found and the numbers were entered in a book kept by him. He continued:
“Soon after the attack we heard in (sic) the radio Joseph Goebbels reporting on the attack on Dresden. He spoke of 300,000 deads (sic). In your book you mention the figure of 135,000. My records at the Clearing Staff showed 30,000 corpses. If you assume that amount of deads (sic) completely burnt etc would reach 20%, the total figure of victims will not exceed 36,000. Still this figure – two full divisions – is terrible enough”.
Miller’s second letter went into even greater detail and reiterated the figure of 30,000 which he said that he remembered well.
11.20 The Defendants say that this was apparently credible evidence from a witness who on the face of it was ideally placed to know the true facts. They contend that no conscientious seeker after the truth could honestly have ignored this evidence. Irving never mentioned Miller or his testimony.
11.21 Irving went on 10 July 1965 to interview the widow of Colonel Grosse, the purported author of TB47. She showed some letters her husband had written in 1945. Irving later claimed that their style and expression resembled that of TB47 (which was typewritten). He did not, however, spell out what the similarities were. Subsequently Irving claimed that Frau Grosse remembered her husband saying that the final toll of the dead would be 250,000. In the 1966 Corgi edition of his book Irving wrote that she had said that her husband spoke of the final total as having been 250,000.
11.22 The 1966 Corgi edition of Dresden continued to rely on TB47 and the doument was quoted in an appendix. Irving included in this the claim that Kleiner, the leader of the Red Cross delegation, had been informed in the presence of witnesses by Mehnert that the death toll was 140,000. In the 1995 edition Irving went further and claimed that the report of the representative of the Red Cross might well have contained other information than about the number of prisoners among the casualties. Whilst it is true that Funfack had told Irving of Mehnert’s figure of 140,000 (which figure Mehnert had stressed was not based on any documents he had seen), there is, according to Evans, no evidence that the figure of 140,000 was ever supplied to the Red Cross. The Defendants contend that no honest-minded objective historian would rely on a story told to him at third hand by a source (Funfack) who himself had no reliable evidence on the number killed. Moreover the Red Cross had no connection with the figure given by Mehnert. The Defendants allege that the reference to the Red Cross in the 1966 edition was designed by Irving to give spurious credibility to what Mehnert is claimed to have said about the number of deaths.
11.23 In 1965 the document on which TB47 was based surfaced. It was the Final Report issued by the Dresden police on 15 March 1945. It bore the initials of a Dresden police officer named Jurk, whose daughter-in-law gave it to an historian named Weidauer. It was signed by Thierig, who had been a colonel in the Dresden police force at the material time. It recorded the number of deaths up to 10 March 1945 as 18,375.
11.24 In May 1966 another document came to light which confirmed the authenticity of the Final report. It was a Situation Report No 1404 of the Berlin Chief of Police dated 22 March 1945 (the same day at TB47). It recorded the same data as the Final Report, giving the current death toll as 18,375 and predicting a final toll of 25,000. Another Situation Report No. 1414 also made by the Berlin Chief of Police and dated 3 April 1945 put the figure for the number of killed recovered persons at 22,096. Evans argued that, in the light of these documents, Irving should have abandoned all reliance on TB47. He noted that Irving affected to take the matter seriously and announced his intention to publicise the new evidence. Evans claimed that when Irving did finally reveal the existence of the ‘Final Report’, through The Times and Sunday Telegraph in June and July 1966, it was too little and too late.
11.25 Moreover Irving began publicly to cast doubt on the veracity of statistics in the Final Report, suggesting that the circumstances in which the data contained in it was collected meant that the final figures could not be relied upon. Evans made the point that, if the ability to count 18,375 in the ‘Final Report’ could not be relied upon, as Irving contends, how then could the figure of 202,040 in TB47 be trusted. When asked in the summer of 1966 by his Italian publishers if he wanted the text of his letter to the Times reproduced in the forthcoming new Italian edition, Irving replied that he did not and added “despite what I wrote to the Times I do no think that too much importance can be attached to the figures given in the new German document”.
11.26 Despite Irving’s professed intention to publicise the ‘Final Report’, the figure given for the number of dead in the 1967 Corgi edition of The Destruction of Dresden was revised from 135,000 down to 100,000 but no lower. The German edition of the same year gave the same prominence to TB47 as it had enjoyed in the 1966 Corgi edition and gave 135,000 as the “most probable” figure. The 1977 edition of Hitler’s War made the following reference to the raid: “The night’s death toll in Dresden was estimated at a quarter of a million”. The Defendants maintain that, on the evidence which had then become available including the discrediting of TB47, no honest historian would have put forward a figure for the death toll in excess of 35,000.
11.27 The Defendants contend that in 1977 TB47 was conclusively proved to have been a forgery. The historian Bergander obtained a copy of the original of TB47 from a reservist, Werner Ehlich, who had had the original document in his hands and, in his capacity as a member of the Dresden police force, had made one typed and one hand-written copy of it. Ehlich’s copy of TB47 put the total number of deaths at 20,204 and the expected dead at 25,000. Evans surmised that the fake TB47 came into existence when someone doctored the genuine document by adding a ‘0’ at the end of each number. Evans expressed the opinion that the version of TB47 on which Irving had relied for so long was beyond question a forgery.
11.28 But Irving continued, perversely and unforgivably say the Defendants, to make claims for a higher number of casualties. For instance in Goring Irving claimed that the death toll would rise to 100,000. At the press conference held in June 1989 to introduce the Leuchter report, he said that anything between 100,000 and 250,000 had been killed. In an interview with This Week on 28 November 1991 Irving referred to 25,000 having been killed at Auschwitz, adding that “we killed five times that number in Dresden in one night”. Other speeches in Canada and in the US in 1991 and 1992 included similar claims. The 1995 edition of Destruction of Dresden gave a figure of between 50,000 and 100,000.
Irving’s case as to the death toll and his use of TB47
11.29 By way of general answer to the criticism of manner in which he has made exaggerated claims as to the number of those killed in the bombing, Irving submits that at all times (a) he has set and published the proper upper and lower limits for the estimates that he gave, giving a range of figures which necessarily decreased over the years as the state of information improved and (b) that he had an adequate basis for the figures which he provided in his works.
11.30 Irving Irving emphasised that he had not been responsible for the claims as to the number of casualties made on the dustjacket of the sub-licensed Corgi edition of Dresden. He agreed that in the 1977 and 1991 editions of the book he wrote that the death toll was estimated at a quarter of a million. There were estimates as high as that. One such estimate derived from a West German government publication. Irving referred also to a US Air Force document dated 19 July 1945 which gave an estimate of 250,000 for the number of casualties in Dresden but had to accept that there was no indication where the informants identified in the document (who were Nazi medical officers) had got their information from.
11.31 Irving accepted that he had been aware that during the war Goebbels had sought to make use for propaganda purposes of the raid on Dresden and that to that end he had put into circulation a forged document giving a figure for deaths of 202,040. He mentioned this in the first edition of Destruction of Dresden published in 1963 as well as in a letter to his publisher in 1the same year.
11.32 Irving agreed that in 1964 that he was provided with a copy of TB47 by Hahn in the circumstances I have described. It was because of its provenance that Irving did not immediately dismiss it as a forgery on the ground that the figures contained it were the same as those contained in Goebbels’s propaganda forgery. When he first saw TB47, Irving believed that his indirect source for the document, Dr Funfack, had been the Deputy Chief Medical Officer who had been responsible for disposing of the corpses of the victims. He agreed that in January 1965 he received a letter from Dr Funfack in which the doctor denied having been Deputy Chief Medical Officer or having been involved with the disposal of corpses. But Irving testified that he did not believe what Funfack said. He produced a photograph depicting piles of corpses in which he claimed that Funfack can be seen in the background wearing Nazi uniform. The reason, according to Irving, for Funfack’s false denial is that he, living in Communist East Germany, was terrified to admit that he had been a senior medical officer in a Nazi city during the war. Irving claimed that he had been informed that Funfack had indeed been Deputy Chief Medical Officer but he did not vouchsafe who provided that information. Irving agreed that he had never revealed the fact that Funfack had denied knowledge of TB47.
11.33 When Irving first saw the figures in TB47, his reaction was that, if true, they were sensational. However, Irving accepted that from the first there was grave doubt about the figures contained it and that there was concern that the figures for deaths (202,000) and expected deaths (250,000) might be forged. Asked about letters he wrote soon after coming into possession of TB47, Irving agreed that he had expressed himself as entirely satisfied as to the authenticity of the document, despite his reservations about the figures for deaths contained in it. He did, however point out that in his letter to Irving of 19 January 1965 Funfack wrote that in February 1945 General Mehnert, City Kommandant of Dresden, had mentioned to him a figure of 140,000 dead and that Professor Fetscher of the Civil Defence Organisation had spoken of 180,000 dead. Even so, he agreed that the figures in the purported TB47 called for proper enquiries and for further investigations to be made. Irving duly wrote to the German Federal Archive enquiring about the document and sought information as to the whereabouts of its author, Colonel Grosse.
11.34 In relation to his letter to the Provost of Coventry urging him to display TB47 because of the impact the figure for deaths would achieve, Irving pointed out that TB47 mentions not only casualties but also damage to property. He conceded that the figures had not been substantiated but added that a figure for deaths of 35,000 would have been equally shocking. Irving said that the higher figure of over 200,000 deaths appeared to him to be in line with the number of deaths in Hiroshima and other major air raid disasters. Irving saw nothing improper in the use of TB47 made in his letter to the Provost.
11.35 Irving claimed to have gone to great lengths to follow up the suggestion made in Funfack’s letter to Irving of 16 January 1965 that the Red Cross might be able to provide him with information. He agreed that in the event the Red Cross had been unable to provide any information. He denied that in the 1966 Corgi edition of Destruction of Dresden the assertion that Kleiner of the Red Cross had been informed by General Mehnert that the death toll was 140,000 was an invention by him. But he was unable to be specific as to where the information came from.
11.36 Irving acknowledged that in February 1965 he had received a letter from Theo Miller, formerly of the Dresden clearing staff. He conceded that there was no reason to doubt Miller’s good faith but claimed (despite the fact that Miller’s figure of 30,000 is very close to the figure in the genuine TB47) that he may have been fantasising. He agreed that he had made no mention of Miller’s evidence. But he rejected the suggestion that he had been guilty of applying double standards in placing reliance on third-hand hearsay accounts provided by Funfack and ignoring first-hand evidence from someone directly involved in dealing with the bodies of those killed in the raid. Irving explained that it is part of the skill of an historian to select and reject evidence according to his assessment of its reliability. Irving indignantly denied the suggestion that he had deliberately suppressed the evidence of Miller.
11.37 Irving confirmed that he had tracked down the widow of Colonel Grosse, the author of TB47. He said that Frau Grosse remembered her husband having spoke of a figure of about 202,000 deaths.
11.38 Irving received a copy of Situation Report 1404, which estimated the final death toll at 25,000, in May 1966 (see paragraph 11.24 above). Irving says that he was advised at that time by his London publisher to keep quiet about the new figures. But he emphasised that he promptly made the new figures public in his letter to the Times, in which he made clear his acceptance of the fact that the figures in the copy of TB47 on which he had relied had been forged. He circulated 500 copies of his letter. He suggested that this was a highly unusual step for an historian to take. Most historians would wait and publish the new information in their next book. He argued that his conduct demonstrates that he has not sought to obfuscate the true number killed in the bombing. Asked to explain why, having done that, he had written to his Italian publisher that he did not think too much importance should be attached to Situation Report 1404, Irving replied that he had in mind the estimates reportedly made by Mehnert and Fetscher; death tolls in other comparable disasters and the view expressed in letters to him by Dresden civilians that the upper limit was 250,000 deaths. Irving added that the author of the report, being the man in charge of civil defence, had a motive for understating the number of casualties.
11.39 Irving testified that he was unaware of the genuine TB47, discovered by Bergander, until it was put to him in cross-examination. He accepted, however, that the figures contained in it (deaths 20,000, expected ultimate death toll 25,000) are correct since they tally with the report of the Dresden Police Chief and the Situation Report 1404. Despite this concession Irving argued that the true figure for the number of deaths is between 60,000 and 100,000. He maintained that, at the date of TB47 and the two reports, the corpses in the cellars of the city’s houses had not been cleared. He agreed, however, that research indicates that only 1,800 bodies were recovered from beneath the ruined buildings in Dresden. Irving suggested that many would have been burnt literally to ashes. He pointed out that the city was at the time crowded with refugees fleeing from the Russians advancing from the east. It is impossible to know how many refugees there were or what has become of them. Irving would not accept the suggestion put to him that the maximum total figure is 35,000.
11.40 When asked why, after authentic reports had come to light all giving figures for deaths in the region of 30,000 he had repeatedly mentioned, on the occasions I have already itemised in paragraph 11.6 and 11.7 above, vastly higher figures, Irving explained that the top bracket was based on many letters he had received over the years. It is, said Irving, a matter of paying your money and taking your choice. As to the reference in Hitler’s War (1991) edition to a death toll of a quarter of a million, Irving explained that this was the estimate which had been given to Hitler. The lowest figures became available to him in 1997 when he received the book which Friedrich Reichert had published in 1994. Unfortunately this information was received after the most recent edition of Dresden had gone to press.
The claim that Irving attached credence to unreliable evidence
The case for the Defendants
11.41 This part of the Defendants’ case has been largely summarised already in paragraphs 11.9 to 11.40. As examples of the credence given by Irving to unreliable sources, the Defendants cite his reliance on the forged TB 47; his reliance on evidence from unidentified individuals as to the number of deaths (see paragraph 11.38); his speculation about the number of refugees in the city that night (see paragraph 11.39 above); his reliance on the figure given to him by Frau Grosse (see paragraph 11.37 above) and his reliance on the figures provided by Mehnert and Fetscher (see paragraph 11.33 above).
11.42 Another instance where Irving is alleged by the Defendants to have given credence to unreliable testimony is the evidence of Hans Voigt. He was the sole source for Irving’s claim that 135,000 people died. Voigt worked for the Saxon Ministry of the Interior in a central bureau of missing persons. His job was to collect the records of the dead and of those still buried in the ruins. His department was responsible for arriving at a final estimate of the death toll. Using four different systems for filing different data, Voigt’s department was apparently able to identify some 40,000 of the dead. Irving took this figure as the absolute minimum for those killed. He adopted Voigt’s estimate of 135,000 for the total number of those killed. This figure was confirmed to Irving by Voigt. According to Irving, Voigt told him that the estimate of 35,000 made by the Russians had been arrived at by striking off the first digit from the figure of 135,000.
11.43 Evans criticised Irving for giving any weight to so unreliable a source. Voigt’s estimate is not corroborated by anyone else; nor is it supported by any documentary evidence. There is no corroborative evidence for Voigt’s theory that the Russians struck off the first digit from the figure of 135,000. Walter Weidauer, the author of Inferno Dresden, disputed Voigt’s claim that the death register records between 80,000 and 90,000 deaths. The register is still in Dresden Town Hall. Deaths by reason of the bombing are recorded on numbered cards. The highest card number for an unidentified body was 31,102. This number tallies with the number given in the so-called street books where deaths were recorded by reference to the streets and houses where the dead were found. Evans alleged that no objective historian would rely, still less adopt, the evidence of such a source as Voigt.
11.44 I have summarised Irving’s response at paragraphs 11.8 and 11.29 to 40 above.
The allegation that Irving has bent reliable evidence and falsified statistics
The case for the Defendants===
11.45 The first example provided by Evans of Irving’s alleged falsification of statistics and misuse of figures is his attribution to the Federal Ministry of Statistics of a figure of between 120,000 and 150,000 (and later 500,000) deaths. The source for these figures was Dr Sperling of that Ministry. But in reality Dr Sperling concluded that the most probable figure was 60,000.
11.46 As evidence that Irving bends reliable sources, Evans cited a letter that Irving wrote to Suddeutsche Zeitung which claimed that the police chief who wrote the Final Report had a reason to minimise his losses as he was charged with air-raid protection.
11.47 In relation to Sperling’s estimate of the number of those killed, Irving pointed out that Sperling had given the figures of 120,000 and 150,000 in a letter which he produced. Irving explained that Sperling’s “best estimate” of 60,000 was arrived at because he wanted to play down the figures. Irving adhered to his suggestion that the police chief was likely, by virtue of his office, to have minimised the number of casualties.
The allegation that Irving suppressed or failed to take account of reliable evidence
The case for the defendants
11.48 The Defendants rely on the suppression by Irving of the evidence of Miller, which is referred to at paragraph 11.36 above. It was, say the Defendants, perverse and unwarranted for Irving to have preferred the uncorroborated hearsay evidence of Mehnert to the credible, first-hand testimony of Miller.
11.49 The Defendants also criticise Irving for his treatment of the two reports which are referred to in paragraph 11.23 and 24 above. Irving made clear on several occasions at the time when he received copies of these reports that he regarded them “with extreme caution” and that he remained “a little suspicious” of the new figures. He told his Italian publishers not to attach too much importance to them. According to the Defendants, there was no justification whatever for such caution in the face of the hard evidence of the two reports.
11.50 Thirdly, the Defendants allege that Irving is perverse when he sticks to his estimate of 60,000 to 100,000 when Reichert (definitively, according to Evans) fixes the figure at 25,000 (see paragraph 11.40 above)
11.51 The only explanation offered by Irving for his disregard of the testimony of Miller was that he had been fantasising. It was, however, not made clear by Irvin on what evidence he based this assertion.
11.52 Irving gave as his reasons for being cautious about the two reports that the figure given in them conflicted with the figures quoted by Mehnert and Fetscher; the conflicted also with the figures for those killed in comparable disasters in other cities and with estimates given by Dresden civilians. The Chief of Police had every reason to minimise the figure.
11.53 I have already spelled out at paragraphs 1.39 and 40 the reasons given by Irving for his adherence to figures greater than Reichert’s 25,000.
The allegation that Irving has misrepresented evidence
The case for the Defendants
11.54 The prime instance cited by the Defendants is the persistent misrepresentation by Irving of the evidence (referred to above) as to the number of those killed in the bombing of Dresden. They rely also on his misrepresentation of the evidence of Dr Sperling as to the number killed (see paragraph 11.45 above). Finally they rely on what the Defendants assert to be not merely misrepresentation of the evidence but an invention on the part of Irving, namely his claim that the figures of 140,000 and 180,000 had been supplied at the time to Kleinert of the Red Cross (see paragraph 11.39 above).
11.55 I have already summarised Irving’ answers to these criticisms (see in particular paragraphs 11.56 and 11.45.