Most people are given the respect of having Mr. or Ms. as the title in front of their name. David Irving will always be known as “Holocaust Denier David Irving,” in spite of the fact that he has gone over to the other side and is now a “Holocaust Believer.”
Last year, I attended one of Irving’s talks on his speaking tour of the United States. In some cities, he was attacked by people who tried to prevent him from speaking, but the talk that I attended was without incident. The speech that I witnessed was entirely about World War II and did not include any Holocaust denial. After his talk, Irving answered questions from the audience about Treblinka, and he revealed that he now believes that Treblinka was a death camp.
You can read about the outrage over David Irving leading a tour to Poland here.
I visited Treblinka on a trip to Poland in 1998 and the most remarkable thing about Treblinka is how small the camp was. There is nothing left of the camp now, and the only thing to see is the memorial stones.
Treblinka was second only to Auschwitz in the number of Jews who were killed by the Nazis: between 700,000 and 900,000, compared to an estimated 1.1 million to 1.5 million at Auschwitz.
The Treblinka death camp was located 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Warsaw, near the railroad junction at the village of Malkinia Górna, which is 2.5 km (1.5 miles) from the train station in the tiny village of Treblinka.
Raul Hilberg wrote in his three-volume book, The Destruction of the European Jews, that there were six Nazi extermination centers, including Treblinka. The other extermination camps were at Belzec, Sobibor, Chelmno, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau, all of which are located in what is now Poland. The last two also functioned as forced labor camps (Zwangsarbeitslager).
The camps at Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor and Chelmno had already been liquidated by the Germans before the Soviet soldiers entered Poland, and there was no remaining evidence of the extermination of millions of Jews at these four camps. The combined total of the deaths at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor was 1.5 million, according to Raul Hilberg’s book.
The Treblinka camp was literally in the middle of nowhere, and it was surrounded by trees. There were barracks for the German staff members and for the Jews who did all the work. After the Jews were gassed, their bodies were buried in mass graves, dug by a crane, which were 30 feet deep. The bodies were dug up later and the remains were burned on pyres of wood, cut from the surrounding trees.
There was a time, not too long ago, when David Irving was not allowed to enter Poland, but after he served time in a prison in Austria for Holocaust denial, this ban was lifted and he finally got to see Auschwitz. Now, it’s on to Treblinka, and who knows what other camps he will visit.
When I attended the talk on his speaking tour in 2009, I arrived early and noticed that there were a lot of young men loitering in front of the restaurant where he was scheduled to speak. They were dressed casually, but didn’t look like hoodlums, so I didn’t worry about it. I entered the restaurant and asked which room David Irving would be speaking in. The restaurant had no one by that name scheduled to speak, so I assumed that the room had to be reserved under a different name because of his reputation as a Holocaust denier.
Finally, I followed other guests who were arriving right on time, and I saw that the young men who had been outside were now guarding the door and checking names off a list. I had already been approved by Irving himself, who had called me at the last minute to give me the location of his speech, which was not the location that had been advertised. All this for a simple lecture about World War II. You can’t be too careful in America, a country that is famous for allowing free speech.
After the lecture, which included a nice dinner, one of the young men asked me if I wanted an escort to my car, but I declined the offer. Later, as I read the news of attacks in other cities, I realized why David Irving needed an army of protectors in order to give a harmless speech about World War II. Once your reputation is ruined by accusations of Holocaust denial, it stays with you forever.