daving irving 298.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Anyone who doubted the wisdom of releasing British anti-Semite David Irving from an Austrian jail and converting the remaining two years of his original sentence for Holocaust denial to probation did not have to wait very long for proof that last week's decision by a judge in Vienna, coming in the immediate aftermath of the "denial festival" in Teheran, was at best hopelessly na ve, and at worst outrageous.
For within hours of his arrival in Britain after being expelled from Austria, Irving was up to his old tricks. For starters, he made it unequivocally clear that he had absolutely no remorse for the views he expressed in the past, which were the basis for his arrest in Austria in November 2005.
This is particularly interesting, because at the time, while he was awaiting trial for denying the Holocaust, he specifically told the court that he had changed his original views and, in fact, the chairman of the Austrian Supreme Court panel which released him last week cited the "impeccable conversion" Irving had undergone to accept the reality of the Holocaust as one of the main reasons for his decision.
According to Judge Ernest Maurer, there was no danger that Irving would commit the same offense again. Perhaps the eminent jurist meant that he would not be doing so in Austria (since he was to be expelled from the country). But Irving, being the "true believer" he is, could not pass up the golden opportunity to express his hateful views for a world audience anxious to assess the impact of his jail sentence.
And thus he repeated his denial mantra to the effect that Hitler had nothing to do with the genocide of the Jews and that the number of Holocaust victims was exaggerated - the very claims which led to his conviction last year in Austria and clearly constitute Holocaust denial.
To be on the safe side, Irving combined these revisionist notions with the assertion that "the Holocaust" had taken place, although he was clearly referring to his version of the events, which unlike those described by "conformist" historians, had not been distorted as a result of Jewish pressure.
IF ANYTHING, Irving's other comments at his press conference clearly show the inseparable link between Holocaust denial and contemporary anti-Semitism, and demonstrate why the decision to release him was so unfortunate.
Although he claimed that he likes to think that he is not anti-Semitic, he immediately followed this denial by proving the exact opposite, asserting that "Mel Gibson was right" - a reference to the actor's anti-Semitic drunken rantings to the effect that Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world. "Why have [the Jews] been so hated for the last 3,000 years, that there has been pogrom after pogrom in country after country. It's the one question they have been shy of," Irving added.
Under these circumstances, one can only wonder why he was released. The answer to that question lies in the identity of the judge, whose benevolence toward Irving seems ostensibly inexplicable. Yet Judge Ernest Maurer's sympathies for Joerg Haider's extreme right-wing political party were common knowledge in Austria. In fact, although not officially a member of the party, Maurer was chosen to represent the Freedom Party on the board of governors of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation.
His appointment, therefore, ensured a positive result for the British Holocaust denier.
IN FACT, anyone acquainted with the abysmal record of the Austrian judiciary in dealing with Holocaust perpetrators will not be surprised by these developments. Thus on the very next day after Irving's release, I was informed by the Austrian Embassy in Tel Aviv that Austria has officially refused a Croatian request for the extradition of an Ustasha Nazi war criminal named Milivoj Asner, who served as police chief of the city of Pozega and orchestrated the persecution and deportation to concentration camps, where they were murdered, of hundreds of Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies. Asner escaped to Klagenfurt, where he currently resides at Paulitschgasse 8 following his exposure in Croatia in the framework of the Wiesenthal Center's "Operation: Last Chance" project in late June 2004.
As hard as this may be to believe given the prominent role played by Austrians in the implementation of the Final Solution, there has not been a successful prosecution of an Austrian Holocaust perpetrator in more than three decades.
In the Irving case as well, the onus for last week's debacle lies squarely on the Austrians, who have again demonstrated their almost total inability to deal effectively with either Nazi war criminals or prominent Holocaust deniers.
One would have hoped for a far better result in the wake of the recent conference in Teheran and the widespread condemnations, but what is obvious to practically the entire civilized world will not necessarily be taken for granted, it seems, in Vienna.
The writer is Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.