Movie Questioning the Holocaust May Air at Film Festival, Judge Says

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - An alternative film festival in Australia will screen a movie presenting the controversial opinions of a Holocaust revisionist historian, after a tribunal threw out a complaint brought by a Jewish organization.

The Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF) will on Thursday show an 80-minute documentary in which the author, David Irving, describes the Holocaust as a "legend" and disputes that the Nazis murdered six million European Jews during World War II.

It will form part of a sub-section of the festival program that includes presentations condemning U.S. foreign policy.

The Jewish Community Council in the state of Victoria applied to an administrative tribunal for an injunction against the screening, but a judge turned it down, saying some comments in the movie may be offensive to Jews but they did not constitute racial vilification.

The Council's CEO, Hilary McMahon, said by phone the organization was pressing ahead with a separate challenge to the movie, in front of a state anti-discriminatory commission.

But that process was a time-consuming one, and so would not affect this week's event.

"We can't stop the showing. That will go ahead on Thursday [but] ... the battle goes on."

MUFF spokeswoman Isadora van Camp said the screening of Irving's The Search for Truth in History would be followed by a live video link-up with the writer from the U.S.

Irving, a Briton, has been denied entry into Australia. He is currently in the U.S., where he is preparing for a revisionist event in Cincinnati over the Labor Day weekend.

Speaking from Melbourne, Van Camp said the Jewish complainants had "shot themselves in the foot" by bringing the case.

"Nobody really knew that much about that section of the program catalog until this happened," she said.

"A lot of people who wouldn't have seen it now want to see it, due to them [the Jewish organization] making a big hoo-ha. I'm sure that's not what they were intending, but I think that's what they've done."

MUFF asserts on its website it does not agree with Irving's views, but says he is "passionate and argues his case lucidly."

'Unpopular speech'

The Irving movie forms part of a sub-section of the festival's program called "The Politics of History."

It also includes a movie presentation by syndicated U.S. columnist Joseph Sobran in which, according to MUFF, the writer "deftly dissects the Israeli state's familiar pretensions, and details how the holocaust story is used to justify support for Israel."

In the same sub-section is a film in which an Arab commentator argues that, "U.S. support for Israel's brutal oppression of Palestinians is a betrayal of the ideals that Americans claim to uphold."

Yet another feature involves a Japanese scholar challenging "the one-sided history of World War II imposed by the [American] occupiers [of post-war Japan]."

MUFF describes its decisions to feature the movies as "our important defense of unpopular speech."

Irving does not dispute that many Jews died during the war, but says they had either been worked or starved to death, or shot, beaten or hanged. He dismisses the notion of gas chambers in extermination camps as a "legend."

Those views have landed him in hot water on numerous occasions.

Irving was fined in Germany in 1992 for breaking laws prohibiting the denial of the Holocaust, and barred from entry into Australia 10 years ago. He has also been banned from visiting Germany and Canada.

In 2000, he took American writer Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books to court after she called him one of the world's most dangerous "Holocaust deniers" in a 1994 book.

But the attempt to salvage his reputation backfired. The High Court in London threw out his libel suit, saying it had found "the charges that Irving has, for his own ideological reasons, persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence" to be true.

The court also heard evidence about Irving's associations with neo-Nazi groups in the U.S. and Europe, and excerpts from a 1991 speech in Calgary, Canada, in which he said that "more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz."

'Dining out on the Holocaust'

The film at the center of the current dispute was made by Irving as a response to his being refused entry into Australia in 1993.

It comprises a monologue by the writer, addressed to the Australian people.

According to a transcript of the text, available on the Internet, Irving says, "the Jews have dined out on the Holocaust for too long."
The Holocaust "legend" has survived so long, he says, because "a long chain of gullible people" had heard it over the past 50 years and had no reason not to believe it.

"Nobody has come forward really with any kind of credibility and has rattled at the foundations of that legend and said OK, prove it."

Irving also raps the Australian government for denying him entry in 1993, accusing it of being dictated to by Jewish groups.

Gerard Henderson, executive director of an Australian policy think-tank called The Sydney Institute, described the film as a "rant-to-camera."

It was probably counter-productive to try to stop it from being shown in Australia, he wrote in an op-ed piece.

At the same time, Henderson said, MUFF "should spare us the humbug" that it is somehow involved in "a search for truth" by screening the documentary.

Prime Minister John Howard told Australian radio the decision on the film was a matter for the relevant authorities in Victoria.

But he added that Irving was "a poor historian when it comes to the Holocaust" and called his views "offensive" and "preposterous."

In a response to the Australian case, posted on his website, Irving describes his opponents as "ludicrous" and "the Traditional Enemies of Free Speech."

See also:
British Historian Accused of Denying Holocaust Loses Libel Case (Apr. 11, 2000)

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow