A Brilliant Mind Turned to Twisted and Shocking Purpose

Article excerpt


DAVID John Cawdell Irving was born in Essex in 1938, the son of a lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy.

His wartime childhood left him with a fierce nostalgia for old England and a bullish determination to see and do things his way.

As a public schoolboy at Brentwood School (where Jack Straw would later be a pupil), he once stood for the Labour Party in a mock election.

He gained eight A-levels and 13 Olevels and read physics at London's Imperial College but did not finish his degree for lack of money. After the RAF rejected him as unfit to serve he moved to Germany, taking a job as third smelter in a steel mill and falling in love with the country.

Back in England he financed a degree in history and politics by working as a nightwatchman.

He then found success with a series of controversial best-sellers. His first, written when he was 23, described the 1945 Allied air raid on Dresden as 'the worst single massacre in European history'.

His one- sided work, coupled with extreme views, would win him an international following among Nazi revisionists and he recently claimed to have 4,000 dedicated supporters.

He is most proud of what he calls his 'flagship work' - Hitler's War, chillingly written from the Fuhrer's point of view.

It won plaudits from scholars for its exhaustive research because he discovered a huge amount of previously unexploited Nazi documents.

He also interviewed Hitler's personal staff at length.

But the vast work, which took 13 years to produce, shocked many academics and readers. Irving claimed that, until late 1943, Hitler knew nothing of the Holocaust and that he never gave the order for the annihilation of Europe's Jews.

Irving went further in later years, stating that the Nazi gas chambers did not exist and that six million Jews did not die. …