[Update: Irving has been sentenced to three years.]
As you can probably imagine, I don’t have a lot of love for Nazi apologists, or Nazis themselves, especially Illinois Nazis (see here).
But reading the London Times about the trial of right-wing Holocaust denier David Irving, I felt a twinge.
He’s on trial for what is – essentially – a thoughtcrime. I haven’t read his stuff directly, but from all reports, he denies the existence of the Holocaust.
He’s now on trial for that.
Mr Irving faces a maximum sentence of ten years in jail under Austria’s 1946 Banning Law which makes it an offence to publicly diminish, deny or justify the Holocaust. He has been held without bail since November on charges stemming from two speeches he made to Austrian rightwingers in 1989.
And having pled guilty, and facing the issue of sentencing, the issue isn’t his actions but his thoughts.
“Irving walked in with a swagger but soon ended pushed up against the wall in cross-questioning by the judge that forced him to apologise or express regret for almost every utterance he had made over the past 20 years.
“He admitted saying in 1989 that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz. But he is saying that since he saw various documents in 1992 he has changed his mind and now accepts that Jews were killed.
“It’s a jury trial and Irving keeps on making references to his daughter, hoping that he will get a suspended sentence so he can leave Austria tonight. But the judge is pushing him all the time, demanding apologies – he’s being even tougher than the prosecutor.
Now I don’t know about you, but there’s something deeply creepy about this to me. I accept that we’re in an ideological battle more than a military one – it’s about the War on bad Philosophy, after all. But having spent the weekend reading reviews of the latest movie Sophie School: the Final Days about the White Rose, a short-lived student protest group in Nazi Germany, I’m just damn uncomfortable to be reading about a judge demanding to know that in his heart, David Irving has changed his mind.