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Unrepenting Denier

DW staff (tt)December 22, 2006

Convicted British Holocaust denier David Irving arrived in Britain after Austria expelled him and banned him from ever returning.

David Irving
David Irving will not be able to set foot in Austria ever againImage: AP

The expulsion from Austria ended 13 months behind bars for 68-year-old Irving, convicted for attempting to establish Hitler was not party to the Nazi genocide of European Jewry and that the number of those slain was exaggerated.

He arrived on an Austrian Airlines flight at London's Heathrow airport just before 9:00 pm on Thursday.

In parting comments in Vienna, Irving made clear his disgust with Austria, one of 11 countries that have passed laws forbidding the denial of the Holocaust, and said he had been misunderstood.

"Austria is a piss-poor little country," Irving told AFP by telephone from prison before boarding his flight. "They say that they want to prevent me from coming back. I have no interest in coming back."

Banned for life

Justitia, Roman godess of justice
Austrian courts ruled that Irving should serve the rest of his sentence on probationImage: Illuscope

He was put on a plane home after an Austrian appeals court Wednesday ruled he be released from prison and serve on probation the remainder of his three-year sentence.

The court said the decision was due to the amount of time that had elapsed since the comments were made in 1989, and that he had stuck to a statement at his trial last February that he now accepted the Holocaust had taken place.

The Austrian government decreed a residency ban on Irving Thursday "in the light of yesterday's (Wednesday's) verdict," immigration policeman Willfried Kovarnik said.

"He cannot set a foot, even a toe, ever in Austria again," Kovarnik said.

The quality of a country

Irving expressed his anger in his telephone interview with AFP.

Records from a Holocaust archive
Irving claims that Holocaust historians have not done their job properlyImage: picture alliance/dpa

"If you go to Saudi Arabia and you drink beer, you get arrested," Irving said. "This is the same kind of thing. It tells a little bit about the quality of the country."

He said it had been "a great shock to find myself arrested or kidnapped for what I said" 17 years earlier and that this was an affront to free speech.

Irving said it was dangerous for him to discuss his views before he left Austria but that he would say: "I think Mel Gibson was right."

He was apparently referring to drunken rantings by the American actor in July, which caused worldwide uproar, that Jews were responsible for causing all the wars of the world.

A false signal

A yellow Star of David that Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis
Jewish groups did not approve of Irving's release from prisonImage: AP

The Jewish community of Vienna said in a statement that Irving's release, coming on the heels of a conference in Iran challenging the reality of the Holocaust, sent "a false signal."

Irving said he had "never denied the Holocaust" but that he felt historians had not researched the issue properly.

He declined further comment.

"I'm in Austria at present and can't speak of that topic. I have no idea who is listening to this phone call. They are eager to try and put the handcuffs on me again."

Prison days

Irving said he had been held in solitary confinement for 400 days during his imprisonment here.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with participants of the Holocaust conference in Teheran
A conference questioning the existence of the Holocaust was recently organized in TeheranImage: AP

During this time, "I've written 4,000 pages on two different books, 2,000 on a Heinrich Himmler biography, and 2,000 pages of personal memoirs," Irving said.

The biography of Himmler will investigate the role of the Nazi SS chief and Adolf Hitler in the Holocaust, he said.

He said he would hold a press conference on Friday in London to "call for an international boycott on German and Austrian historians until their governments drop these absurd laws" against challenging the Holocaust.

These historians should "not be allowed to attend international conferences, to teach at foreign universities because they have behaved shamefully over the past 20 years.

"They write conformist history, safe history so that they don't go to prison," Irving said.