'El Mundo' interview with Irving incenses Yad Vashem chairman

Shalev dismayed at paper's dishonest WWII series.

irving 248 88 (photo credit: )
irving 248 88
(photo credit: )
The Spanish daily El Mundo's decision to run an interview with Holocaust denier David Irving on Saturday as part of a series of interviews with "experts," to mark the outbreak of World War II 70 years ago, has caused the paper's reputation "irreparable damage," Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev wrote in an angry letter to the paper's founder and director. Shalev, among others, was one of the historians Irving was asked to join in discussing the war in the pages of the Spanish paper. He said he was "profoundly disturbed" by El Mundo's decision to interview Irving. The interview with Shalev, originally scheduled to run on Friday, ran in Thursday's paper instead. "I spent a number of hours with your reporter, because I assumed that this was an honest look at the issues relating to World War II and the Holocaust. Had I been informed that Irving was being interviewed as part of this retrospective, I certainly would not have consented to participate in the series you are publishing," Shalev wrote to Pedro Ramirez on Thursday. "In addition to being the most infamous purveyor of denial of the Holocaust in the world, and a man who has served time in Austria for his Holocaust denial activities during the libel trial that he initiated against Prof. Deborah Lipstadt, Irving was thoroughly discredited as a historian," he wrote. "Indeed, at the conclusion of the trial, the English court found that in his writings Irving had intentionally misquoted and manipulated documents. To include him as an 'expert' or 'controversial historian' awards him legitimacy he does not deserve, and gives false credibility to his abhorrent ideas." Shalev said it was "inconceivable that a serious newspaper would provide a platform for anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial." He said that there were some things that did not have "pro and con," and that the Holocaust was one of them. A similarly sharply worded letter was sent to Ramirez by Yad Vashem's academic adviser, Yehuda Bauer. Additional letters of protest by other historians are expected in the coming days. "You have the right, of course, in a democratic country, to publish anything you wish - including a comment of someone whose views parallel those of people who deny that the earth is round and who claim that the moon is made of white cheese," Bauer wrote. "But as a respected paper in a free country you choose what you want to publish. You claim that you want to publish controversial views. I assume, therefore, that you will be willing to publish articles denying the right of women to vote, or supporting the murder of children, as well as articles attacking the Catholic Church - or will you?" El Mundo told the Associated Press on Thursday that it wanted to publish "innovative" views on World War II for the anniversary, and rejected the assertion that in this case freedom of speech should be limited. The paper's deputy editor Juan Carlos Laviana said that Irving served his jail time, is now a free man with no charges pending, continues to research the war and is a "victim" of anti-Nazi laws that many countries in Europe are now questioning as too harsh seven decades after the war. "All we have tried to do in this series of interviews marking the 70th anniversary of the war is seek out the most innovative and surprising positions on the conflict," he said. With the interview, which Laviana described as being of a tough, "hardball" nature, the paper will also publish a piece that debunks some of the data that Irving regularly gives on the Holocaust.