British holocaust denier thinks Latvia won't blacklist him

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David Irving, the notorious holocaust denying historian, leads tours to Latvia with the promise of showing 'the real history'. Despite his prison record for revisionist campaigning, Irving thinks he won't be barred from entering Latvia, LTV's Russian language news show Ličnoje Delo reported Friday.

His tour program in Latvia includes the Rumbula forest, the Šķirotava station, the former KGB headquarters, and the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. 

In 2005 Irving was imprisoned in Austria for Holocaust denial after flouting a ban on entering the country. He served 13 months of a three year sentence.

Irving's reputation helps him make money. The historian, who has been rejected both by publishers and scientific institutions, makes ends meet by carrying out tours dedicated to 'real history'. This year's tour, which mostly consisted of visits to various WWII sites at Poland, started in Rīga, more specifically — in the 'Corner house', the former headquarters of the KGB.

"At one moment I understood that he [Irving] knows more than the regular visitors of the museum. Sometimes he even looked bored," said Signe Irbe, a guide at the Corner House.

"Also, he wanted to know what my connection with the museum was. Thinking that these people are interested in history, I recommended the Riga Ghetto Museum. But I discovered that the group isn't interested in it," Irbe told Latvian Television.

Latvian Television discovered that the 'group' consisted of fifteen tourists from the US, New Zealand, Russia, France, and Sweden. The announcement about the week-long tour appeared on Irving's website at the end of the summer. 

According to his itinerary the main focus of the tour was World War II sites in Poland for $2,900 with an "optional" visit to Riga for two days, costing another $300.

"If he accepts money for his tours, we can assume that it's propagandizing revisionism — the denial of the holocaust.

The Brit is doing it professionally," history Ph.D. Kaspars Zellis told Ličnoje Delo, adding that "Latvia condemns the holocaust and thinks it's one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century."

Those who applaud, deny, attempt to whitewash or trivialize the crimes of the totalitarian regimes can be subjected to an imprisonment of up to five years, a short term behind bars, community service, or a fine. The punishment for this offence was introduced on June 14, 2014. 

David Irving was introduced to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia and to Rīga by the deceased high-profile lawyer Andris Grutups, who was the author of several history books that a number of critics called revisionist and antisemitic. Irving called Grūtups 'a famous historian'.

"A number of persons have been listed as persona non-grata in Latvia. It can happen, but it needs justification. It's important to ascertain the fact of breaking the law," said Raimonds Jansons, a representative to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

About 75 thousand people were murdered during the Holocaust from the 90 thousand Jewish inhabitants prior to the war. No less than 25 thousand were taken to Latvia from other Nazi-occupied countries to be liquidated here.

"We went to the KGB Museum, the so-called 'Corner house'. It's an interesting place. We wanted to see the consequences of the first and second occupation of Latvia by the Russians," David Irving told Ličnoje Delo over the phone.

"We also went to Salaspils, but I wasn't impressed. A lot of empty space with tasteless architecture," Irving said.

"How we should approach the denial... I think it should be approached ironically, with fierce irony. Because it's probably the strongest weapon against such things. It's written so in the Talmud, in the main book of Jewish thought," Kalev Krelin, the rabbi of the Riga synagogue, told Latvian Television.

"But if someone comes here to our synagogue, still having a number from the camp, and who has been in the ghetto as a child, it's of course very painful to him. Because he says 'Look, I'm here. I'm alive.' and he perceives it very differently," Krelin said.

The holocaust denying historian told Ličnoje Delo that he'll bring new lovers of alternative history next autumn.

"My work is dangerous. But I think Jews have to do with that. I write history. Real history. Someone is trying to interfere with what I'm doing. Now they want to blacklist me in America. They're champions of free speech. And I understand: on some level, I'm doing everything correctly," said Irving.

"If Latvia blacklists me, I'll be disappointed. But I don't think that will happen," he said.

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