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Austria charges author for denying Holocaust

Austrian prosecutors on Tuesday filed charges against British historian David Irving for allegedly violating a law that makes Holocaust denial a crime.
/ Source: The Associated Press

British historian David Irving was charged Tuesday with violating an Austrian law that makes Holocaust denial in this formerly Nazi-ruled nation a crime.

Irving, a controversial Third Reich scholar who has claimed that Adolf Hitler knew nothing about the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews, is accused of giving two speeches in 1989 in which he denied the existence of Nazi gas chambers during World War II, prosecutor Otto Schneider said.

He was arrested Nov. 11 in the southern province of Styria on a warrant issued in 1989. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Irving, 67, remains in custody in Vienna. His attorney, Elmar Kresbach, said he would decide how to proceed after discussing the charges with his client Wednesday.

A detention hearing will be held Friday to determine whether Irving should be held for up to four more weeks, Schneider said.

After his arrest, Irving supporters posted a statement on his Web site saying he was detained while on a one-day visit to Vienna, where they said he had been invited “by courageous students to address an ancient university association.”

Irving in the past has faced allegations of spreading anti-Semitic and racist ideas. He is the author of nearly 30 books, including “Hitler’s War,” which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.

Besides his assertion that Hitler knew nothing about the Holocaust, he also has been quoted as saying there was “not one shred of evidence” that the Nazis carried out their “Final Solution” to exterminate the Jewish population on such a massive scale.

The right-wing historian has said he does not deny Jews were killed by the Nazis, but challenges the number and manner of Jewish concentration camp deaths.

He has questioned the use of large-scale gas chambers to exterminate the Jews and has claimed that the numbers of those who perished are far lower than those generally accepted. He also contends that most Jews who died at Auschwitz did so from diseases like typhus, not gas poisoning.

Irving has had numerous run-ins with the law over the years. In 1992, a judge in Germany fined him the equivalent of $6,000 for publicly insisting the Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz were a hoax.

In March, more than 200 historians from around the world petitioned the C-SPAN television network to cancel a project that would have included a speech by Irving as a counterpoint to a lecture by Deborah Lipstadt, a Holocaust expert.

Irving once sued Lipstadt for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier. The British court handling the case in 2000 declared that Irving could be labeled as such, and that he was anti-Semitic, racist and misrepresented historical information.