Surely there can be few people in the world less deserving of sympathy than dodgy historian David Irving. Especially as he is (literally) author of his own misfortune, as he chose of his own free will to go to Austria where his published denial of the holocaust is illegal.
Nevertheless it is excellent that following his guilty plea in court he has admitted: “Obviously, I've changed my views. History is a constantly growing tree - the more you know, the more documents become available, the more you learn, and I have learned a lot since 1989….. I would call [the holocaust] the Jewish tragedy in World War II. … Yes, there were gas chambers … Millions of Jews died, there is no question. I don't know the figures. I'm not an expert on the Holocaust."
Interestingly, at the same time there is a growing row between the German and American governments about the refusal of the Germans to release all the documents from the concentration camps, that are currently held by the International Tracing Service (ITC) in Bad Arolsen. There are apparently 15.5 miles of filing cabinets with meticulous details of the 17 million people who passed through the camp system. According to today’s New York Times the German and Italian governments, along with the ITC itself, are dragging their feet on releasing the documents to scholars because they fear further claims for reparations – the German government has already paid out $80 billion. Tempers are flaring over the issue, and Paul Shapiro, a director of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, has accused Germany of "abusing efforts to achieve consensus … exerting a stranglehold on the process." He has even gone as far as saying "Hiding this record is a form of Holocaust denial." I presume he has no aspirations to become a diplomat.
It is not clear that the documents even belong to the German government, or the Red Cross, as the USA disputes whether ownership was ever transferred, and obviously the legal owner after the end of WW2 were the victorious Allied powers. German sovereignty was restored in 1955 by the Bonn treaty, but this did not necessarily include evidence of crimes committed by the Third Reich and seized by allied armed forces.
There is a rising tide of anti-Semitism today, for example a major newspaper in Iran, Hamshahri, is offering gold coins to cartoonists to produce 12 drawings to lampoon what they call the “alleged” holocaust. It is good news that David Irving has recanted his holocaust denial, which is a serious blow for the lunatic right, and their friends. But the growing respectibility of holocaust denial in some parts of the world shows why it is absolutely necessary for all the Nazi documents to be open to scholarly review and appraisal.