Publisher drops book by Holocaust denier

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NEW YORK — In response to an enormous outcry from Jewish groups and individuals as well as from staff members within the publishing house itself, St. Martin's Press has decided not to publish Holocaust revisionist David Irving's biography of Nazi Joseph Goebbels.

Irving, a British citizen who was formally denounced by England's House of Commons as an apologist for Hitler in 1989, has vowed to circulate his book, "Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich," on the Internet.

Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda, was one of the central architects of the Nazis' "Final Solution" to destroy the Jews.

The decision to withdraw the book, which was scheduled to be published in May, came after St. Martin's received about 25 phone calls and several letters about the Irving book, according to company spokesman John Murphy.

Irving has appeared as a guest lecturer at the annual conference of the Institute for Historical Review, a group which denies the magnitude of the Holocaust.

The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee were among those who wrote to the publisher.

"Surely you must know that Mr. Irving is a well-known Holocaust denier and an apologist for the Nazi regime," wrote ADL national director Abraham Foxman, in a letter dated March 22.

"A pseudo-scholar, he has no academic credentials as a historian and his writings on Hitler, Nazis and the Holocaust have been consistently shown to be replete with errors, oversights, poor research and fantasy."

St. Martin's officials initially responded to the critics by comparing efforts to stop Irving's book from being published to Nazi and fascist censorship.

"At first hearing the policy and tactics of certain callers — researching an author's background for reasons to blacklist his foreground — seemed characteristic of Goebbels himself, of Joseph McCarthy, and of every quasi-totalitarian extremity in politics, religion and ethnic bigotry," Thomas McCormack, chairman and editorial director of St. Martin's Press, said in a statement announcing cancellation of the book.

The calls, however, prompted St. Martin's to investigate Irving's credentials and associations and to call what Murphy described as an "unprecedented" staff-wide meeting in which a majority of staffers made it clear that the book should be withdrawn.

After McCormack personally read the 700-page book, and checked out Holocaust denial sites on the Internet, including a David Irving "home page" on the World Wide Web, he decided to cancel publication.

"St. Martin's made a mistake, and there is no worse way to compound a mistake than by not admitting it and not correcting it if you can," said McCormack in his statement issued April 3.

In announcing the cancellation, McCormack was widely quoted as saying, "My whole family is Jewish."

McCormack's wife and two children are Jewish, and considers himself Jewish "for all intents and purposes" though he has not formally converted, said Murphy, the publishing house spokesman.

The publisher's initial response "was offensive and off the wall," Foxman said. "They were defending Irving without knowing the facts."

Now that they have cancelled publication, he said: "Good judgment is better late than never."

Irving's book was slammed in a pre-publication review in the trade journal Publishers Weekly. Saying the book contained the "language of camouflaged admiration," the review termed it "repellent," and said there was "an agenda to Irving's documentation."

St. Martin's Press is not the first company to treat Irving as a credible expert, said Kenneth Stern, a specialist on anti-Semitism and extremism at the American Jewish Committee.

Irving is invited to speak on radio programs occasionally, and in 1992, the Sunday Times of London hired him to translate Goebbels' diaries, Stern said.

"Sometimes people aren't aware of what he's about and will treat him as a historian rather than someone falsifying history for an anti-Semitic agenda," said Stern. "David Irving has gotten a free ride for a long time."