David Irving’s reputation as a historian was shredded at the High Court in April 2000 in a devastating judgement.
At the conclusion of a libel action brought by Mr Irving against American academic Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books, Mr Justice Charles Grey described Mr Irving as a “falsifier of history” an “associate of right-wing extremists” and “an active Holocaust denier”.
In a book, Ms Lipstadt had branded Mr Irving “one of the most prominent and dangerous Holocaust deniers”.
The three-month case was among the most colourful in British legal history.
Mr Irving, defending himself and surrounded by a mountain of source material, opened by describing his opponents as “part of an international endeavour” to destroy his reputation and make him untouchable by publishers.
Later, a video was played to the court, showing him telling a meeting that “more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick than died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz”.
Mr Justice Grey’s judgement comprehensively dismantled Mr Irving’s case and his reputation. It was later published as a book.
Although a libel action, it was Holocaust denial which was, by implication, on trial.
In Britain, to deny the Holocaust is not a criminal offence but it is in Austria and that is why Mr Irving has been arrested there.
In a co-incidence of timing, one of Mr Irving’s associates, convicted Canadian Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, is standing trial in Germany, having been extradited to face charges of inciting racial hatred and spreading Nazi propaganda. Like Austria, Germany has a Holocaust denial law, as does France.
Lawyer James Libson, who represented Deborah Lipstadt in her battle with Mr Irving, believes it is right that they should have.
“Given Britain’s history, it would be ridiculous to have a Holocaust denial law here. But in countries like Germany and Austria, where far-right, neo-Nazi parties are highly visible, it is different. However, the Holocaust denial message is still being disseminated, despite the law,” he says.
Mr Irving is an undischarged bankrupt and the Trustee in Bankruptcy is still trying to recover assets tied up in archive documents and World War II diaries in his possession. Some are thought to be quite valuable.
Since losing his Mayfair flat, the disgraced historian has relied on an international network of supporters for financial help and from his speaking engagements abroad, which are invariably in front of extreme right-wing, anti-Semitic audiences.