David McCalden, founder of the Institute for Historical Review, was an energetic intellectual gadfly who made a career of discomforting the comfortable. A creative and prolific polemicist with a punchy, urbane writing style, he delighted in combatively challenging orthodox assumptions. He was fervently anti-authoritarian and anti-Nazi, a freethinker, and an uncompromising supporter of free speech and open inquiry.
McCalden was born on September 20, 1951, into a working-class family in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He attended the University of London, Goldsmiths College, graduating in 1974 with a Certificate in Education (Sociology).
He helped organize Hunt Saboteurs, an anti-fox hunting group, and edited its journal. During the mid-1970s he was active in the National Front, a British nationalist group. For a time he was editor of Nationalist News, and was a regular contributor to Britain First newspaper.
Proud of his Ulster heritage, McCalden was an ardent defender of the rights and interests of northern Ireland's Protestant population.
In October 1978 he moved from England to southern California to work for Noontide Press. At a small meeting in December 1978 in Torrance, California, McCalden laid out a proposal for an Institute for Historical Review, which was accepted by the others present, including Willis Carto, LaVonne Furr and Tom Marcellus.
For two and a half years, and working under the pen name "Lewis Brandon," McCalden served as the IHR's first director. He organized the first "International Revisionist Conference," the IHR's premier public meeting, which was held in September 1979 at Northrop University, near Los Angeles. He supervised the production of revisionist books, tapes and flyers, and made appearances on radio talk shows. In 1980 and early 1981, he edited the IHR's Journal of Historical Review.
In 1979 McCalden announced an IHR reward offer of $50,000 to anyone who could provide proof of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz. Mel Mermelstein, a European-born southern California businessman, who had been deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944, claimed the reward, but without offering any real proof. He then brought a lawsuit, which set off a protracted legal battle that generated great media attention, including a made-for-television movie, "Never Forget," that featured Leonard Nimoy as Mermelstein. (For more on this, see: "'Best Witness': Mel Mermelstein, Auschwitz and the IHR" and "History and 'Memory': An Examination of the Evidence of 'Holocaust Witness' Mel Mermelstein".)
After leaving the IHR in April 1981, McCalden published revisionist material under the imprint of Truth Missions, including Revisionist Reprints and a 'Holocaust' News broadsheet. From October 1981 until June 1990, he issued the David McCalden Revisionist Newsletter, which enthusiastically reported on his own activities, and critically monitored the broader revisionist scene.
McCalden was the author of several booklets, including Nuremberg and Other War Crimes Trials, which appeared in 1978 under the pen name of "Richard Harwood," Exiles From History, and The Amazing, Rapidly Shrinking 'Holocaust' (1987). He also produced a video based on his visits to Auschwitz and the sites of other wartime German camps, and his skeptical examination of the "gas chambers" there.
In 1984 McCalden sued the California Library Association (CLA) after it had cancelled contracts authorizing him to present an exhibit and program on his revisionist views at the CLA's 86th Annual Conference in Los Angeles. In his lawsuit, McCalden charged that the CLA had conspired illegally with the City of Los Angeles, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Jewish Committee, and others, to deprive him of his First Amendment free speech rights through "extortionate threats." McCalden's suit, which generated considerable media attention, was carried on after his death by his widow, and eventually ended in an out-of-court settlement.
At a public meeting in Los Angeles on June 7, 1989, McCalden was attacked by Irv Rubin and other thugs of the "Jewish Defense League." They beat McCalden badly, inflicting bloody facial injuries.
David McCalden died, at the age of 39, in El Segundo, California, on October 15, 1990, from complications due to AIDS. He was survived by his second wife, Viviana, and their daughter.