King of Denial
Lipstadt details her experiences in "History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving," an account of what it's like to be an unwilling defendant in the justice system. In order to keep the focus on Irving, Lipstadt's attorneys decided that she shouldn't take the witness stand herself. But Lipstadt gets to tell her side in "History on Trial."
Monday, March 28, 2005
Professor Barry Steiner’s claims that had I written more extensively about David Irving in “Denying the Holocaust” this lawsuit might have been avoided is completely unfounded (Letters, Mar. 11). He might have better served his argument by offering some proof, however paltry.
Secondly, his question suggests to me that he has neither read “History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving” nor the trial record. He asks: “Is it possible for a Nazi sympathizer or any other political extremist to be a good historian?” It may be, but in Irving’s case, the answer is no.
Judge Gray’s words to describe Irving’s writings about the Holocaust were unambiguous: “perverts,” “distorts,” “misleading,” “unjustified,” “travesty” and “unreal.”
Gray wrote: Irving’s “falsification of the historical record was deliberate and ... motivated by a desire to present events in a manner consistent with his own ideological beliefs, even if that involved distortion and manipulation of historical evidence.”
Steiner contends that Irving’s earlier writings are not fraudulent. I urge him to look at the section of “History on Trial” devoted to Irving’s distortions regarding the bombing of Dresden, about which Irving began writing in the 1960s.
He might also check www.hdot.org and read the sections of the trial devoted to the topic. Gray found Irving’s treatment of the evidence about Dresden to be “absurd” and a “travesty.”
Given Irving’s distortions of both the Holocaust and Dresden, I believe any good historian would be skeptical about Irving’s other work and would, before relying on his findings, do what my defense team and I did for this legal battle: follow his footnotes.
Finally, regarding Irving’s ideological views, I again rely on Gray’s words: Irving had “repeatedly crossed the divide between legitimate criticism and prejudiced vilification of the Jewish race and people.”
If Steiner wishes to rely on Irving, that’s his choice. I just worry about what he teaches his students.
Deborah E. Lipstadt
C-Span's Coverage of a Book About the Holocaust
To the Editor:
Re "C-Span Plan to Cover Talk on Holocaust Is Under Fire" (news article, March 18):
C-Span's statement that it was prevented from covering my new book, "History on Trial," because "Professor Lipstadt closed her book discussions to our cameras," is disingenuous. I told C-Span that I would welcome coverage, but not if my talk was juxtaposed with one by David Irving, a man British courts found to be a Holocaust denier.
C-Span, in the name of "balance," was trying to force me into a debate with a man whose treatment of the history of the Holocaust and Dresden was described by a British judge with these words: "perverts," "distorts," "misleading," "unjustified," "travesty" and "unreal."
Debating deniers is like debating flat-earth theorists. How can one debate someone, on any topic, who deliberately lies and falsifies history?
I would be delighted to appear on C-Span, but not as part of a debate that is no debate.
I note also that C-Span was prepared, until it was hit with a wave of criticism, to put him on, even if I refused. Where's the balance in that?
Deborah E. Lipstadt
Atlanta, March 20, 2005
The writer is a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
How a court case took over her life
By Laurel Snyder
Special to the Jewish Times
For most of us, life unfolds without a visible outline, organized loosely because we take a new job or move to a strange city based on seemingly random events. However, we expect that our luminaries and history-makers must surely operate along clearer lines. We assume that a president or a scientist is supposed to become a president or a scientist. We believe that the foremost expert on Holocaust revisionism was following a childhood dream
So it’s fascinating, in the first pages of “History on Trial,” to discover the background of how a woman named Deborah Lipstadt became the keeper of Jewish memory. It’s amazing to read the human side of the story, to follow the unusual twists and turns that the Emory professor’s life took, as they led her first to write “Denying the Holocaust,” and then to a courtroom battle with the Holocaust revisionist David Irving, the historian and author who sued Lipstadt for libel in 1995.
Lipstadt explains that when she set out to write “Denying the Holocaust,” she thought she was combating a future problem, diverting a possible tide, rather than correcting an existing dilemma. At that time, she says, “surveys revealed that more people in the United States believed Elvis Presley was alive than believed the Holocaust was a myth.”
So she never expected an attack from a well-known, albeit fringe, historian like Irving. But when the storm came, she found she wasn’t alone. The Jewish community took on the fight and began to raise funds in support of Lipstadt’s legal battle. Her publisher stood behind her and refused to back down under pressure. Still, the case took over her life — and provided us with an interesting read.
The book has an easy flow and a simple structure. Each chapter is broken into short titled sections, as a textbook might be, and it reads quickly as a result, with a metered logic and outlined chronology. The stark language of these headings is effective, sometimes harsh, and often funny. “How many people can a gas van kill?” demands one section. “Innovative Crematoria” proclaims another.
The first half of the book introduces the situation, the characters and all the curious pieces of the puzzle in precise detail, but with a casual tone. As a result, the second half of the book instructs without ever feeling stilted, because we already care about the author and her legal team, as we would care about the characters in a good novel, because we have followed them out of the courtroom, to the dinner table, through countless bottles of wine and conversations.
“History on Trial” strikes an even balance as both memoir and historical document. It somehow weaves the physical and intimate world into the courtroom, while it manages to maintain a vernacular of plain speech, never wandering into gratuitous personal drama or dry courtroom jargon.
The major strength of the book is that it simultaneously reveals the changing psychology of the author, while providing an unadorned window into a complicated legal case. This is not an academic book, but a very personal journal by a complicated woman who also happens to be a fine academic.
The night of too much iced vodka, or a “Rocky-Horror-Picture-Show”-style-production of “The Sound of Music” are welcome diversions for the author as she struggles through a trying time in her life, and they are welcome details for the reader in much the same way, as relief from the tension of the legal history unfolding before us.
The humanity of the story is present to such a degree that Lipstadt is not only a narrator, but a flawed character, learning from her experiences, growing as a person as the book continues. After a difficult but well-handled cross-examination of a witness, Lipstadt catches up with Rampton, her attorney. “ ‘Do you remember when I got angry in Auschwitz because you challenged Robert Jan about why there haven’t been more tests on the gas chambers?’ Rampton took a long drag on his Gitanes and said, ‘I remember. Very well.’ ”
Lipstadt explains, “I wanted to apologize for challenging him. I wanted to tell him how much I appreciated not just his forensic skills, but the passion he brought to this case. Before I could formulate the words he said, ‘I think it’s time for some good wine.’ ”
The character we come to know as Deborah Lipstadt can be best described as frustrated. There is a tension in the book, a sense of impatience. The author is an intense woman, restraining herself constantly so that she can accomplish a massive and important feat, and this tension is compelling. It sweeps the reader into the story and creates a mystery, which is not, “How will the trial end?” but rather, “When will Deborah explode?”
In the case of this trial, as with the Holocaust itself, one question we ask ourselves over and over is “Why did this happen? How could this have happened in a world that makes sense?”
“History on Trial” seems farfetched because it seems impossible that a case of this nature, a case that disputes the Holocaust, would ever come to trial. But though Lipstadt herself finds the trial hard to believe, she reaches for the stabilizing comfort of logic and detail, and walks us through the case with care and precision, so that we are able to understand just how it happened, though we will never be able to comprehend why.
“History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving, ” by Deborah E. Lipstadt; Harper Collins; 346 pages; $25.95
Friday, March 25, 2005
With Holocaust denier, C-SPAN should know better
Controversy has erupted over C-SPAN’s plan to broadcast a speech by a Holocaust denier to “balance” a broadcast of remarks by a Holocaust scholar.
“Balance” is a cherished concept for journalists, but sometimes it can run amok. Consider the textbook, “The Reporter and the News,” a 1935 volume that was then used to train American journalists. The book offers a startling example of a news story that needs to be “balanced,” that demands that “both sides in a controversial matter be given a chance to have their position stated.”
“A case in point,” the textbook solemnly declares, is “the Jewish persecution by the German Nazi Government.” It involves a struggle “between rival groups, each of which is strong in its own right, and each of which is anxious to get as much propaganda across to newspaper readers as is possible.” In other words, every claim by the “strong” German Jews had to be balanced with an equal response from the Nazi regime — even though Jews at that point were being subjected to German-government sanctioned or orchestrated beatings, imprisonment in concentration camps, property confiscations, boycotts of their businesses, and restrictions on their ability to practice their professions.
Lest journalists smugly assume we’ve gotten past such insidious examples of the need for “balance,” C-SPAN reminds us we haven’t. The cable network planned to show a March 16 speech by Emory University Professor Deborah Lipstadt discussing her experiences as the defendant in a libel suit brought by Holocaust denier David Irving. Irving sued Lipstadt for statements she wrote about him in an earlier book. A British court dismissed Irving’s suit against Lipstadt in 2000, concluding that he deliberately misrepresented historical evidence.
Still, C-SPAN decided that it couldn’t show Lipstadt’s speech without balancing it with Irving’s position. As a C-SPAN spokeswoman told The New York Times, the network decided to tape an Irving lecture in order to cover “the plaintiff’s side of the trial.” When Lipstadt learned that C-SPAN planned to include Irving’s talk, she refused to allow the network to tape her speech. At first, C-SPAN said it would show Irving’s lecture anyway, but it is now debating what to do.
Balance in journalism is best understood as a philosophy, not a methodology. It should be a guiding principle that leads journalists to delve deeply into any story rather than accept the most readily available version of an event. But too often journalists transform this worthy goal into a mechanistic exercise with consequences that can range from merely sloppy to downright dangerous, as the C-SPAN example shows. Journalists identify the two sides of the story, seek out a comment from one side, then the other, include them both, and call it a day.
But this ode to impartiality masks the many subjective judgments the journalist has made along the way: defining “the sides” of the story; limiting the possibilities to two sides when many more positions exist; discounting some positions as unsupported by evidence; identifying those who can speak credibly on a topic and excluding those who can’t. That means it’s rarely obvious or automatic that journalists have to present “both sides” in order to be impartial. And, in fact, they often don’t. For example, not many news organizations felt obligated after 9/11 to balance victims’ stories with those of al-Qaida supporters.
Some journalists seem to resort to a mechanistic view of balance out of laziness — it frees them from the hard but necessary work of sifting through contradictory information — or out of ignorance of the underlying event. In the case of the Nazi persecution of the Jews in 1930s, both sides weren’t equally strong or equally worthy, and for the 1935 journalism textbook to present them as such did a disservice to the suffering of the Jews and to the truth. In explaining the history of the Holocaust, there aren’t two sides
The Lipstadt-Irving episode is a bit more complicated because it involves a court case in which there were indeed two sides. But what the British court in fact decided was that Lipstadt and Irving didn’t have equal claims to the truth, they didn’t have an equal right to have their sides aired. Lipstadt could call Irving a Holocaust denier who distorted historical facts without being liable under Britain’s defamation laws because that’s what he was.
C-SPAN is now deciding whether it will air Irving’s lecture alone. That would be the worse possible outcome. It would be almost as bad, however, if the controversy led C-SPAN to avoid broadcasting anything about the Holocaust rather than risk another ruckus. Journalists are always making decisions about the information worth presenting to the public — and they are in fact decisions, not obligations. As long as they acknowledge their choices and can defend them, journalists should be able to treat some views as worthy of being presented and some as not. In C-SPAN’s case, it’s not even a close call.
Petition blasts C-SPAN on denier
More than 500 scholars signed a petition protesting C-SPAN’s decision to broadcast a lecture by a Holocaust denier.
The petition was organized by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in response to the U.S. cable network’s decision to broadcast a talk by David Irving alongside a lecture by Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt. Lipstadt later rescinded permission for C-Span to tape her talk.
Irving lost a lawsuit against Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, in 2000, after Lipstadt accused Irving of being a Holocaust denier.
“The Holocaust is not a topic with ‘opposing views.’ It is a historical fact. Giving a platform to a Holocaust-denier to ‘balance’ a Holocaust historian is as outrageous as giving a platform to the Flat Earth Society to balance a speech by an astronomer,” Wyman Institute Director Rafael Medoff said.
Holocaust Denial, C-SPAN and Ward Churchill
C-SPAN is attempting to 'balance' a Holocaust studies professor with a denier; Ward Churchill's stab at 'moral equivalence' falls flat.
Over 200 historians have signed a petition in protest of C-SPAN's plan to pair coverage of a lecture by Deborah Lipstadt, professor of Holocaust studies at Georgia's Emory University, with one by David Irving, the notorious Holocaust revisionist. Irving, author of Hitler's War and other books, sued Lipstadt in his native U.K. after she called him out as a revisionist in her own book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory British courts dismissed the suit in 2000, finding that Irving deliberately misrepresented historical evidence. Lipstadt's book on the case, History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving, has just been published.
In a 1991 speech, Irving told his audience that "more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz." This is the kind of voice to which C-SPAN is about to loan credibility.
In Lipstadt's own blog, History on Trial, she notes that another one of her prominent critics is supposed American Indian scholar Ward Churchill, who recently gained notoreity by calling 9/11 victims "little Eichmanns."
[...]Churchill allows his own valid critique to be dismissed as the ravings of a nut. Recognition that the industrial destruction of indigenous lands and culture in the western hemisphere constitutes genocide (as defined under international law) can be lumped in with the pseudo-history of an Irving – or (more to the point) Churchill's own witless cheer-leading for mass murder in the 9/11 attacks.
So a nuanced sense of history is called for to really make sense of these issues – an unlikely prospect in an atmosphere degraded by cynicism and fealty to shallow sound-bites.
Meanwhile, if C-SPAN capitulates and drops the Irving segment, it will merely confirm the perception in the growing ranks of Jew-haters that "the Jews" control the media. Unless some honest and courageous voices are brought to the debate quickly, this affair will be a lose/lose no matter how we slice it.
Prof declines Book TV over Holocaust denier
Director of the Institute of Jewish Studies and Professor of Jewish and Holocaust Studies Deborah Lipstadt has again come at odds with the man who sued her five years ago for portraying him as a Holocaust denier.
Lipstadt planned to see a feature of her book about this court battle on the March 16 broadcast of C-SPAN’s “Book TV.” She granted C-SPAN permission to tape a speech she gave that day at Harvard Hillel, a Jewish organization at Harvard University.
But Lipstadt cancelled these plans when C-SPAN told her that a broadcast of English historical writer David Irving, an expert on the Hitler regime who she has called “a liar and a falsifier of history,” would be stacked with hers on the show.
According to Lipstadt, Irving’s claims that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz and that Adolf Hitler had no role in the Final Solution, among other things, implicate him as a Holocaust denier.
But Irving said such notions are part of Lipstadt’s “obsession” with him.
“I am not a Holocaust denier,” Irving said. “I am bored by the Holocaust and I think most of the world is, too.”
After a three-month trial, a British judge ruled in favor of Lipstadt, finding that testimony and documents that pictured Irving as an anti-Semite who distorted facts gave an apt portrayal.
Lipstadt said C-SPAN’s decision to “balance” her views with those of Irving was illogical.
“It would be like airing someone who wrote on slavery and someone who said slavery didn’t happen,” Lipstadt said.
Lipstadt refused C-SPAN coverage of her speech, which was based on her book History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving. However, C-SPAN taped a recent speech Irving gave at the Landmark Diner in Atlanta.
According to Irving, [...]
“[C-SPAN] have been totally uncommunicative,” Lipstadt said. “I have no idea what their plans are.”
Lipstadt said C-SPAN had planned to show Irving’s Atlanta speech on the show with or without her appearance.
“He didn’t have to be balanced, but I did,” she said.
C-SPAN loses its sense of balance and reality
Balance is a watchword in journalism. In reporting the news, the media's goal is to present competing views of contentious issues. In commenting about the news, editorial pages seek diverse viewpoints.
Sometimes, however, the commitment to achieve balance can conflict with an even greater obligation to report truthfully and keep commentary within the bounds of reasonably established facts.
The recent decision of C-SPAN to counterpose a world-renowned Holocaust historian with an internationally discredited crackpot demonstrates how a blind commitment to balance can lead to a gross distortion of reality.
The British Royal High Court ruled against Irving. In his verdict, Justice Charles Gray determined Irving had "for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence."
Nevertheless, C-SPAN — under the premise of presenting balance — decided to pair Lipstadt's Harvard lecture with one by Irving on March 12 at the Landmark Diner in Atlanta.
Lipstadt declined to participate in C-SPAN's balancing act gone mad. Her lecture will not appear on "Book TV."
Propaganda can no more balance history than lies can balance the truth. C-SPAN's mistaken sense of balance represents an outrageous endorsement of hate-filled drivel.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
More Than 500 Historians Protest C-Span Broadcast of Holocaust- Denier
More than 500 prominent historians and other scholars have now signed the petition protesting C-SPAN's plan to broadcast a lecture by Holocaust-denier David Irving on its program "Book TV."
The latest signatories include such prominent scholars as New Republic editor-in-chief Dr. Martin Peretz, Harvard Law School Prof. Alan Dershowitz, and Dr. Michael Walzer; Eric Foner, Simon Schama, and Istvan Deak, of Columbia; David Brion Davis, Harold Bloom, and Paul Kennedy of Yale; and Charles Maier and Richard Pipes of Harvard;
-- Pulitzer prize winners David Levering Lewis, Jack Rakove, and Lloyd Schwartz;
-- Media notables Marvin Kalb and Ben Stein;
-- Holocaust scholars Randolph Braham, Daniel Goldhagen, and Omer Bartov;
-- Leading Jewish historians Jonathan Sarna, Yosef Yerushalmi, Robert Chazan, and Deborah Dash Moore
...as well as historians from England, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Israel, and Japan.
Another 330 scholars signed the petition this week, following on the heels of 203 historians who signed it last week. The petition was organized by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, which publishes the only annual report on Holocaust-denial around the world.
The signatories on the first installment of the Wyman Institute petition, which was sent to C-SPAN on March 17, included some of the most noted historians of the Holocaust, such as Christopher Browning, Richard Breitman, Deborah Dwork, Ronald Zweig, and David S. Wyman. (For a list of those initial 203 signatories, please go to http://www.WymanInstitute.org)
The text of the letter and the complete list of 330 signatories on the second petition follow
No Denying This Victory
Deborah Lipstadt’s new book tells the story of refuting a libel accusation by a Holocaust denier — but you won’t see her on C-SPAN.
Sandee Brawarsky - Jewish Week Book Critic
Deborah Lipstadt did something few authors of new books would dare: She rejected an invitation to discuss her work on national television on a show geared to serious book lovers.
Lipstadt, the author of “History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving” (Ecco), was scheduled to appear last week on C-SPAN’s “Book TV,” but later refused to let the network tape her appearance at the Harvard Hillel when she learned that the show was planning to feature a talk by David Irving with her remarks.
“This is a man who is a Holocaust denier, who was found to be a liar and a falsifier of history,” she said last weekend in an interview on the Upper West Side.
Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta, explained that she would have no problem debating someone with a position diametrically opposed to her own, but this is a case where she had been asked to speak to someone with no grounding in truth.
“The producers would never ask Skip [Henry Louis] Gates to debate someone who said that slavery never happened. They wouldn’t dignify that position,” she said.
For Lipstadt and the more than 200 historians who signed a petition protesting C-SPAN’s decision, the notion of editorial “balance” doesn’t apply here.
“Falsehoods cannot balance the truth,” states the document, spearheaded by the David S. Wyman Institute of Holocaust Studies. The signatures were gathered in less than 48 hours; others have signed on since the petition was submitted.
“History on Trial” is an account of Lipstadt’s 2000 trial before the British High Court of Justice, where she was accused by Irving of libel in her previous book, “Denying the Holocaust.” In that book she identified Irving, a prolific writer on World War II-related subjects, as a Holocaust denier who repeatedly misrepresented history.
Unlike the American court system, where the accuser has to prove the charges false, British law places the burden on the accused, who must demonstrate that the statements considered libelous are in fact true.
Lipstadt had the options of trying to settle with Irving or going to trial. Given the nature of the accusations, however, she said there was no choice. Lipstadt ultimately raised $1.5 million for her defense.
The case received international press coverage. Irving served as his own lawyer, while Lipstadt did not speak at all. Her witnesses were historians and other experts involved in documenting Nazi genocide. Lipstadt’s legal team wanted to rely on documents, so it did not call any survivors to testify.
For the five years before the case went to trial and during the trial itself, Lipstadt kept a journal of developments and also her impressions. About six months before the trial, she realized that there was a book to be written. At first she thought about a joint venture, where members of her legal team would contribute a chapter. But Lipstadt realized later that she had a lot to say, especially since she would not be speaking at the trial or to the press.
“It’s my medium,” she said of writing. The director of Emory’s Institute for Jewish Studies, Lipstadt is also the author of “Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust 1933-1945” and many articles.
A compelling book, “History on Trial” is memoir and courtroom drama, a work of historical and legal import. Lipstadt succeeds in drawing textured portraits of the lawyers working on her case, as well as the historians, the judge and Irving, who comes across more as a clown than one to be taken seriously. Her narrative powerfully details the trial, weaving forensic and historical details and noting when a certain barrister would tug at his wig.
As a memoir, there are scant personal details, and Lipstadt admittedly is a very private person, even though she is frequently in the limelight. She is not, as many might assume, the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Her father left Germany before the Third Reich and her mother, whose family came from Poland, was born in Canada.
Her feisty, determined personality comes through in the few stories she tells of her years growing up in Manhattan and Far Rockaway, at summer camps and at college. In early 1967, while studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, she was upset that Jews could not visit the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem, so she took a circuitous route to do so, traveling to Greece to obtain a new passport, then to Beirut, Damascus and Jordan, to the Old City and then through the Mandelbaum Gate back to Israel.
A person Lipstadt credits as being the seminal influence on her life, after her parents, is Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, who led the Far Rockaway synagogue where her family belonged, before he became chancellor of Bar-Ilan University. She was impressed with his knowledge of Judaism and the contemporary world, and of his efforts to reach out in intra- and inter-religious dialogue.
“Long before I knew precisely what a role model was, I knew that I wanted to be like him,” she wrote.
Featured in the book are two brief essays by outspoken defenders of free speech: an introduction by Anthony Lewis and an afterword by Alan Dershowitz. Although these two might often hold opposing viewpoints, here they provide affirming bookends.
Throughout the trial, Lipstadt remained anxious and cautious in her attitudes about potential outcomes; she was “living on the edge” with raw emotions.
“Not losing was critical,” she said. “If we lost it would have been a disaster, even if we said it was a legal fluke.”
For the two weeks between the closing arguments and the announcement of the judge’s decision, Lipstadt returned home to Atlanta, where she did what she did every year –– prepared for Passover and made a seder.
Ultimately she was confident that she would win, but was worried that the judge might have tried to be evenhanded in his decision or been unclear in a way that enabled Irving to further twist the truth. But the decision was clear-cut: The judge declared it “incontrovertible that Irving qualifies as a Holocaust denier” and that he “repeatedly crossed the divide between legitimate criticism and prejudiced vilification of the Jewish race and people.”
In conversation, Lipstadt plays down the heroism attributed to her by Holocaust survivors and other observers of the trial. Many survivors thanked her profusely for protecting their history.
“It all made me very uncomfortable,” she said. “I’m not a person who’s averse to being thanked. I’m not so humble.”
The trial ended at just about this time of year on the Jewish calendar. The following Shabbat, she attended synagogue in London, the week of Parashat Zachor, the Sabbath of Remembrance. Lipstadt says she stood instinctively when the additional reading, recalling the acts of Amalek, was read.
“I felt like I had really fought for that memory,” she said.
A few days later, back in synagogue for the reading of the Megillah for Purim, Lipstadt was struck by the lines in the text when Mordechai tells Esther that perhaps she has attained her royal position for just the crisis they faced.
“I heard that ringing in my ears. I don’t know for what reason people are put anywhere, and a lot of people do bigger chesed [acts of compassion and lovingkindness] that we don’t hear about,” she said. “I got a chance to do a thing that touched a lot of people. I didn’t seek it but I feel privileged, and now I have a voice and a responsibility to use that voice.”
In January, Lipstadt traveled to Poland as part of the presidential delegation for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. She recalled looking out at the survivors and realizing that the vast majority won’t be around for the 70th anniversary.
“The torch of memory, or witness, is being passed from the survivors to the historians,” she said.
Since January, she has been an active blogger (lipstadt.blogspot.com), posting notes and recording impressions of the Poland trip as well as, more recently, the C-SPAN controversy. Until this week, readers were able to post their responses, but she halted that because the site was attracting a number of Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites. Lipstadt didn’t want to afford them a platform.
About blogging she said, “There’s always something going on to keep things interesting.”
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
A recent incident concerning C-SPAN illustrated to what absurd lengths the quest for equivalence at all costs can lead. The network announced that it would balance its coverage of a lecture by a professor of Holocaust studies named Deborah E. Lipstadt with a speech by David Irving -- who sued Lipstadt for calling him a Holocaust denier. A British court found for Lipstadt, finding that Irving was anti-Semitic, racist, and given to misrepresenting and misinterpreting historical evidence. "Falsifiers of history cannot 'balance' histories," said a petition sent to C-SPAN that was signed by more than 200 historians. "Falsehoods cannot 'balance' the truth."
An article on Friday about C-Span's plans to broadcast a speech by David Irving, who has argued that Hitler was not fully responsible for the mass murder of Jews, referred incorrectly to the disposition of a libel suit he filed against Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of Holocaust studies at Emory University, for calling him a Holocaust denier. The British High Court found for Professor Lipstadt; the case was not dismissed.
Historian Denies C-SPAN for Wanting to Air Holocaust Denier
C-SPAN is taking flak from a number of sides over their plan to give air time to Holocaust denier David Irving. The original excuse for the broadcast was that Irving would "balance" a planned airing of a lecture by Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt at Harvard. Lipstadt prevailed in a lengthy libel case brought against her by Irving in the UK, which is the subject of her new book HISTORY ON TRIAL.
Lipstadt explains in a NY Sun column today: "My book was a personal account of the experience of having to defend the truth of what I wrote. The opportunity to have an hour to discuss it on C-span was something I looked forward to, until I learned that they were intending to juxtapose my talk with one by Mr. Irving. In essence, they were planning to create the debate between us, a debate I have long refused to have. I consider debating Holocaust deniers to be the equivalent of asking NASA scientists to debate those who argue that the moon landing actually happened on a sound stage in Nevada."
Though Lipstadt withdrew permission to have her Harvard speech aired, C-SPAN told her they would broadcast a piece with Irving anyway. "When I protested to C-span, they insisted that they broadcast all opinions [Holocaust denial is an 'opinion'?] and that they broadcast liars all the time, after all, a C-span producer told me, 'they put on members of Congress,' - thus equating the U.S. Congress with bigoted liars. I cannot imagine them 'balancing' an appearance by a specialist on African-American history with someone who says slavery was a pleasant experience."
UPDATE: C-SPAN'S BOOK-TV
Last week's HonestReporting communique noted that the cable network C-SPAN, for its BookTV program, insisted upon airing Holocaust denier David Irving alongside Holocaust scholar Prof. Deborah Lipstadt, to provide what C-SPAN termed 'balance' on the topic. When Prof. Lipstadt refused to be cast side-by-side with Irving, C-SPAN cancelled the scheduled program.
Two days after the HR critique, The New York Times ran an article on this story, noting that more than 200 prominent historians from colleges across the U.S. have signed a petition protesting C-SPAN's decision. The petition was organized by the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, and may be viewed here.
Personal Story Segment
Guest: Deborah Lipstadt, author of "History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving"
Author Deborah Lipstadt has written a book about her legal battle with holocaust denier David Irving, who sued Lipstadt for libel. C-SPAN invited her to talk about the book, but the network insisted that Irving also be interviewed. "C-SPAN is a very important venue for authors and they asked me to be on and I was delighted," Lipstadt told The Factor. "Then I learned they were also going to put Irving on after me, creating a debate which I have avoided on principle. He says there was no Holocaust ? he says some Jews may have died, but just a few. It's the most convoluted political correctness ? they wanted to put him on for balance." Lipstadt refused to appear under those circumstances, and The Factor applauded her decision. "You were smart not to go on with him. You'll sell more books here."
March 23, 2005
Why I Said 'No' to C-Span
BY DEBORAH E. LIPSTADT
March 23, 2005
C-span's "Book TV" has become a highly coveted venue for authors. The network, along with Oprah, has had a huge and positive impact on literacy in this country, an entire weekend - 48 consecutive hours - devoted to discussion of nonfiction books. The audience is book loving, reading, and, not to be dismissed, buying audience. I was delighted when C-span asked to broadcast a speech I was giving about my new book, "History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving."
The book chronicles how David Irving, a Holocaust denier, sued me for libel in a British courtroom for calling him a denier. Irving had called the Holocaust a "legend" and had declared that he removed all mention of the Holocaust from one of his books, because "if something did not happen you don't even dignify it with a footnote." He had counseled his followers that the Holocaust must be treated with, not just "ridicule," but tasteless analogies. He instructed them to say things "like more women died on the back seat of Senator Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz." His statement was greeted with laughter and applause. Given this record, I did not think that describing him as a denier was controversial.
I was wrong. He brought a libel suit against me in the United Kingdom demanding that I apologize, pay damages, and withdraw my book from circulation. In Britain, the onus is on the defendant to prove the truth of her words and not on the plaintiff to prove the falsehood. I could not, therefore, just walk away from the fight. Had I done so, the court would have found me guilty and, by so doing, legitimized his "definition" of the Holocaust. According to Mr. Irving, there was no German plan to kill the Jews. There were Jews who were killed, but as a result of rogue actions, not a coordinated program administered by the Third Reich. Moreover, Mr. Irving contends, Hitler was "the best friend the Jews had in Germany," and tried to prevent their persecution. One of the main claims in Mr. Irving's arsenal is that there were no gas chambers and that the survivors who contend otherwise are either psychopaths, liars, or in it for the money. He once asked a survivor how much money she made from having a number tattooed on her arm.
This legal battle lasted for over six years. The Royal High Court of Justice dismissed Mr. Irving's suit and, in a 355-page judgment, declared that in his writings about the Holocaust, he "perverts," "distorts," "mislead[s]," and does so "deliberate[ly]." His renditions of events were, the judge noted, a "travesty of the evidence" and were "reprehensible." Four different appeal court judges subsequently concurred.
My book was a personal account of the experience of having to defend the truth of what I wrote. The opportunity to have an hour to discuss it on C-span was something I looked forward to, until I learned that they were intending to juxtapose my talk with one by Mr. Irving. In essence, they were planning to create the debate between us, a debate I have long refused to have. I consider debating Holocaust deniers to be the equivalent of asking NASA scientists to debate those who argue that the moon landing actually happened on a sound stage in Nevada. There are many things to debate about the Holocaust, e.g. precisely when did the Nazis decide to murder European Jewry. Whether it happened is not one of them.
When I protested to C-span, they insisted that they broadcast all opinions [Holocaust denial is an "opinion"?] and that they broadcast liars all the time, after all, a C-span producer told me, "they put on members of Congress," - thus equating the U.S. Congress with bigoted liars. I cannot imagine them "balancing" an appearance by a specialist on African-American history with someone who says slavery was a pleasant experience. Or for that matter, "balancing" an appearance of a civil rights leader with a member of the Ku Klux Klan to discuss theories of black inferiority.
I told the C-span producer that, if they insisted on broadcasting me back to back with Irving, I would not allow them to cover my talk at Harvard. Then I added, almost as an afterthought, that I assumed that they would not broadcast Mr. Irving. "No," the producer assured me, "we plan to broadcast him in any case." I was too flabbergasted to ask the obvious: "Where's the balance in that?" I then learned that Mr. Irving had previously appeared on C-span; though no scholar had been asked to balance his presentations.
Holocaust deniers and, for that matter, most prejudiced people are wretched types who are no more important than the dirt we step in on the street. We must, however, clean it off our feet before we drag it into our homes. This time, however, my "adversary" was a network that many people look to as a source of calm, clear and, generally, insightful discussion.
Four years after my trial in a London court, I find myself far more disturbed by C-span's moral blindness than by pathetic characters such as Holocaust deniers.
Professor Lipstadt teaches Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and the author of "History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving" (Ecco, 2005).
March 23, 2005 Edition > Section: Editorial and Opinion > Printer-Friendly Version
So in this corner we have Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of Holocaust studies at Emory University. In the other corner we have author and lecturer David Irving, who once remarked, "I say quite tastelessly, in fact, that more women died on the backseat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz."
Lipstadt called Irving a "Holocaust denier," and, remarkably, Irving sued her for libel. A British Royal High Court of Justice dismissed Irving's lawsuit, saying, in effect, "Are you kidding?"
So now Lipstadt has written a book about the libel case and is seeking to promote it, like every author west of the international date line, on C-SPAN. C-SPAN decided that it would follow Lipstadt's remarks with a speech by Irving. This is called "fairness," which is one of those ideas that seem wonderful and reasonable until they run up against reality. I, for instance, became incensed when I read "What Color Is My Foot? No, Seriously, What Color Is It?" by Lockman Rodwall, a retired advertising executive. In it, Rodwall maintains that it is a bad idea to attack advertising executives with poisoned stilettos. "I categorically reject the idea," wrote Rodwall, "that any group of individuals, no matter how wealthy or influential, should have the power to pierce the flesh of advertising executives with curare-tipped needles."
A controversial idea? I should say so. I myself hold that one of the great freedoms our Founding Fathers preserved for us was the right to maim advertising executives in any manner we choose. That's Amendment 2.5, and I hold it sacred.
Well, this Rodwall fellow got a slot on C-SPAN to promote his book as part of the panel discussion called "No One Is Watching Anyway; Talk in French if You Want." I immediately called C-SPAN to demand time to rebut Rodwall and, in accordance with my constitutional rights, to impale an advertising executive on a bed of cyanide-tipped nails.
Well, of course, all those namby-pamby civil rights people got involved, saying, "Oh no, you can't kill anyone on television," conveniently forgetting the daily footage of people being killed in Iraq by nice American boys just doing their jobs. I'd be doing my job, too. I'd be defending the Constitution and, not incidentally, reducing the world population of advertising executives by one.
I could go on like this all day, but I'll stop now. There is no "fairness" in society. There is no "fairness" in the media. No one is going to print an opinion piece called "Incest Is Really Cool" or "Let's Make a Car Bomb!" or "Hunger No More! We'll Eat Our Babies." So we're all involved in making judgments about what is an acceptable opinion and what is an unacceptable opinion.
Of course, everyone is still free to express any opinion. But society is going to suppress some opinions, free speech or no, because there is good in the world and there is evil in the world and somewhere along the road to madness we have to acknowledge that. Slavery was real; the Holocaust was real; the massacre of Armenians by Turks was real; the massacre of American Indians by European invaders was real. Those realities are inconvenient, but not so inconvenient that we get to play "wishing makes it so" games.
The lesson of all these realities is the same: Within each of us lies a monster. That monster can be aroused. It takes ideology, circumstances, fear - - whatever. We do not understand the monster within us. It is useful for us to face the monster, and give it a name, and inquire as to its nature. Fairness is of no use in this quest.
The problem comes in the areas in which society has not formed a consensus. Sometimes the consensus changes over time. In 1958, less than 50 years ago, only 4 percent of Americans thought that interracial marriage should be permitted. A plurality of Americans -- 48 percent -- did not accept interracial marriage until 1991. There may be a great conservative wave in this country, but there is a great undercurrent of tolerance too. That's why I think history is on the side of gay marriage.
That's what makes this information business so hard. Everything is a judgment call; there are no rules -- or rather, what is a rule today will not be a rule tomorrow. I'll give you an example: This paper and the New York Times both ban the term "pro-life" to describe the anti-abortion movement. I think that's a terrible idea because it is the only term that gives you a real sense of what the fight looks like from the anti-choice side. That's what they think the stakes are, like it or not.
I think that C-SPAN's decision was wrong, but I can sure see how it happened.
Some ideas are good and some ideas are not good, and it is useful to distinguish between the two, even if it makes some people angry.
Gentle bows and glasses raised, to the charity of firstname.lastname@example.org.
Equal time follies
Fox News is often mocked for its slogan "fair and balanced - we report you decide." In the skewed world of news reporting that is mockable because for so long news was generally presented through a liberal haze -- the opposing side, if given attention, was set up as a straw figure.
C-SPAN, the cable channel devoted mainly to public affairs, took a similar equal time philosophy to bizarre lengths recently when they decided to devote equal exposure not only to respected Holocaust historian Professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University but to racist propagandist David Irving. Lipstadt was to discuss her book detailing her victory in a British court against Holocuast denier Irving. In C-SPAN's distorted world, Irving deserved equal time.
Equal time, equal balance to Bush v Kerry--of course. (Oh, that it should have been!)
Equal time, equal balance to Lipstadt and Irving. Of course not -- truth and racism are not morally equivalent. Lipstadt proved in a British courtroom that Irving distored history.
Tell that to the usually bright folks at C-SPAN, email@example.com.
Ethel C. Fenig 3 22 05
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Lecture and Book Signing
Monday, March 21, 2005
March 21, 2005
JBooks recently ran a threaded discussion about Deborah Lipstadt, which included comments from the Emory professor [herself]. Unfortunately, a number of Holocaust deniers, including David Irving, found their way into the conversation and immediately began desecrating the memory of the Shoah. Therefore, we've discontinued the discussion. If you're interested in the Lipstadt saga, read our review and perhaps Richard Cohen's Washington Post article, then catch her tonight on The O'Reilly Factor (show starts at 8).
You'd think that with the multiplicity of cyber-venues available to them, they wouldn't need to flaunt their bigotry and ignorance elsewhere. Oh, well ... perhaps they don't get much of an audience at their regular posting-grounds.
The editorialists at Troy Record voiced their support of C-Span, one of the few newspapers or blogs to do so. They wonder:
Can there be any reasonable person in the western world who disputes the breadth and depth of the Holocaust?"
The operative word is "reasonable," as we know there are right-wing groups in our own country whose belief system springs from an anti-Semitic fountain that spews lies about the Holocaust. Indeed, one British historian, David Irving, has made a career based on challenging the extent of the Holocaust.
We agree with Lipstadt and the historians who are appalled by what Irving stands for. Anyone who could deny one of history's most horrific examples of inhumanity is a either a fool or someone carrying a misguided burden of hatred for certain people.However, because Lispstadt chose to make an issue of her court battle with Irving by writing a book, Irving's account of the same issue should be fair game for airing. Certainly his lecture would provide viewers a clearer picture of what sparked the battle in the first place.
Letting Irving be heard on a respectable medium like C-Span, a network with no agenda and no pundits, only reinforces the fact that bigotry and hate still run deep among some people the world over,....
But Newsday took a different stance:
No need for equal time on Holocaust
[...]But the channel did itself a great disservice recently when it decided, under the guise of "balance," to give coverage to Holocaust denier David Irving because it was doing a show on a book by Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt.
More than 200 of this nation's leading historians have signed a letter strongly opposing the channel's decision to provide "balance" by including Irving. "Falsifiers of history cannot 'balance' historians," the historians write.
"Falsehoods cannot 'balance' the truth."
Well said. C-Span, given all the good work it has done, deserves a chance to explain better what it thought it was doing. Balance does not always serve the truth.
By SETH STERN
HISTORY ON TRIAL
My Day in Court with David Irving
By Deborah E. Lipstadt
368 pages. Ecco Press. $25.95.
It’s been more than five years since an English judge found Emory University historian Deborah Lipstadt innocent of libeling David Irving in a case that officially branded him as a Holocaust denier. At this point, there isn’t much new to say about the trial or its plaintiff, whom Lipstadt referenced in her 1993 book on the Holocaust denial movement.
The trial garnered international media attention, attracting the hordes of paparazzi usually associated with the British royal family. It was already the subject of two books published in 2001, including one by British historian Richard J. Evans, a man Lipstadt’s defense team hired to deconstruct Irving’s books. HBO even reportedly commissioned a movie about the case starring Anthony Hopkins as Irving.
So why this book? Generally speaking, the defendant usually isn’t the ideal candidate to write a trial’s definitive objective history. Well, there are plenty of good reasons to read History on Trial. It’s a compelling blow-by-blow narrative that began a fall day in 1995 when Lipstadt received a letter informing her of a possible libel action that she tossed aside with barely a second thought.
Of course, as events would prove, that wasn’t exactly how things unfolded. Irving may not have had the facts on his side but he did have British law working for him—at least at the outset.
In British courts, defendants in libel cases must prove the statements at issue are true. That puts libel plaintiffs in a much better position than in the United States, where the burden is placed on them to prove the statements they claimed injured them are false.
Lipstadt was fortunate that her case attracted the sympathies of deep-pocketed backers including Leslie Wexner, founder of The Limited and Victoria’s Secret chains, who could afford to offset more than $1.5 million in legal bills should would rack up. She assembled a dream team of historians and attorneys, who included Princess Diana’s divorce lawyer.
History on Trial offers a fascinating window into trial strategy. From the outset, her defense team pledged not to let the case become a platform for Irving to question whether the Holocaust happened. Instead, they built a case designed to show that even his previously well-regarded books were filled with duplicity and errors that always pointed in the same direction: questioning the Holocaust and favoring Hitler.
Then there are the trial scenes themselves, in which her barrister, Richard Rampton, eviscerates Irving one piece of evidence at a time. In just one of many aspects of British law that might seem arcane to American readers, different lawyers prepare the case and present it at trial.
True, you will have to wade through a few too many references to what wines she and her lawyers drank and how she unsuccessfully sought to unwind at night. (Note to readers: Don’t watch The Sound of Music or The Merchant of Venice to escape a trial centered on Nazis and anti-Semitism.)
But she largely keeps up the suspense even though most readers know well the outcome. The way Rampton boxes Irving into a corner with his evasions reads better than a Grisham courtroom scene. The way Lipstadt tells it, every word Rampton couldn’t recall while cross-examining witnesses, and every averted gaze, served a purpose. Or at least that’s what he told Lipstadt to calm her nerves.
It also helped their cause to have such a foolish opponent, who proved true the old adage that “he who represents himself has a fool for a client.” No responsible lawyer would tell her client to proceed with this sort of libel case. Lipstadt’s lawyers got their hands on Irving’s personal diaries, in which he describes singing racist ditties to his daughter and details speaking engagements before Aryan groups. He also must have known that his previously published books about Nazi Germany could not withstand serious scrutiny.
But Irving just couldn’t pass up such a prominent soapbox, which ultimately proved his undoing. The trial judge’s sweeping decision ruined Irving’s reputation and ultimately left him bankrupt. The British legal system gets at least one thing right in a case like this: Loser pays.
In the years since, Irving has been reduced to a sniveling bigot with little reach beyond his own website, but larger questions raised by the trial still linger.
What’s nearly as disturbing as Irving and his neo-Nazi supporters was the tendency of legitimate historians to defend him in the name of protecting free speech or brush him off as merely quirky. Why were Lipstadt and her team of historians criticized for the potentially chilling effect they might have on academia rather than Irving, who was the one who actually instigated the whole matter in the first place?
Lipstadt blames an old-boy network in which British academics, such as military historian Sir John Keegan, were more apt to sympathize with a sloppy and self-taught colleague with the right accent than an uppity Jewish-American female.
Sadly, the end of the trial did not bring an end to Holocaust denial. In fact, Lipstadt points out, it seems to have received a new lease on life in the Arab world.
Seth Stern is an attorney and a legal-affairs reporter for Congressional Quarterly in Washington, D.C.
Then the antisemites, deniers, and kooks came out of the woodwork. They began to post long email message, most of them filled with drivel trying to prove all sorts of absurd things, e.g. Irving is not a denier and he did not lose the lawsuit.
I stopped commenting and left it some stalwarts to engage these people.
Yesterday, I put a stop to the whole thing. I decided that I don't have to provide a platform for these people. Some people told me that they learned a lot from reading their comments. "I knew these people were out there," one person wrote me, "but I never saw them 'up close and personal.' Ugh."
There are, sadly, many places on the Internet to see them "up close." But no longer on this blog site.
A strike against those who deny the Holocaust
History on Trial My Day in Court With David Irving
Deborah E. Lipstadt Ecco: 346 pp., $25.95
By Edmund Fawcett
Edmund Fawcett, the former literary editor for the Economist, is a contributor to several publications, including the (London) Times Literary Supplement.
March 20, 2005
Toward the end of his libel suit against fellow historian Deborah E. Lipstadt, David Irving made a telling and hilarious slip. His case for defamation, heard in London, was that by calling him a Holocaust denier and falsifier of facts she had traduced his reputation as a scholar of Nazi Germany and World War II. He had chosen to represent himself and was closing out an emotional summation. Bowing slightly to the judge, Irving addressed him, not in the normal way as "my lord," but as "mein führer." The packed courtroom froze for an instant then burst into riotous laughter. An intricate battle of grim documentary citations had morphed into "The Producers." Clownishly, Irving seemed to be admitting that he had lost.
Britain's libel laws are notoriously favorable to plaintiffs. In practice, defendants must show "justification," which means proving that the rude things they have said are true. The 1993 book Irving cited in his original complaint, Lipstadt's "Denying the Holocaust," made two principal claims about him. The first — that Irving denied the Holocaust and vindicated Hitler — was the lesser problem for her. In copious published writings and in speeches to neo-fascist audiences around the globe, he had belittled the extent of Nazi persecution and — somewhat contradictorily — denied Hitler's personal responsibility for genocide. Lipstadt's second charge was that the British author twisted the record knowingly and wrote not as a disinterested historian but as an ideologically motivated anti-Semite. Just by sniffing Irving's language on his website or riffling a few pages of his work most people could agree without more ado. Proving it in court to a scrupulous judge — this was a bench trial, with no jury — was another matter.
Lipstadt's highly readable book chronicles the two-month trial virtually day by day, making lively and pointed use of the court transcript. The Emory University professor writes with a campaigner's passion, but also with humor about herself, as, for example, when she wrestles with her prejudice that clever Englishmen are emotionally dead fish.
Her book opens in 1995, when Irving served his complaint, and ends in April 2000 when the judge gave his ruling. Despite its grave subject, "History on Trial" reads like a well-paced courtroom procedural. Even readers who know or guess the outcome can enjoy the book as the righteous struggling against the wicked.
Lipstadt gathered a powerful defense team: Anthony Julius, a London lawyer and author of a study on anti-Semitism in T.S. Eliot's poetry, supervised strategy. Richard Rampton, a gun-for-hire who had recently won damages for McDonald's in a libel suit against London Greenpeace, argued for her in court. To Lipstadt and Julius, it was important that Irving not only lose, but be seen to lose badly. The case was a cause for them from the start. She believes it also became one for Rampton, particularly after he visited Auschwitz to prepare for trial.
Lipstadt's British publisher and co-defendant, Penguin Books, stood behind her when she refused Irving's early offer to settle in return for the withdrawal of her book and an apology. Penguin had braved censorship laws with "Lady Chatterley's Lover" and death threats over "The Satanic Verses." It was not going to back down before Irving — and, like most prominent British publishing concerns, it had libel insurance.
The defense's central problem, as Lipstadt puts it, was that they had no smoking gun. There was and could be no killer evidence that he was propagandist first and historian second. Indeed, a shelf's worth of widely praised military histories by him suggested the opposite. Furthermore, Irving could always play the underdog. A onetime steelworker, poor and self-taught, he had turned himself into a researcher who mined archives across Europe. He had regrettable views, to be sure. Hadn't many scholars? Reputable historians have said as much of him in print.
The defense first asked Cambridge historian Richard Evans to assess Irving's oeuvre. Evans' 700-page report, which was put into evidence and became the core of his own book on the trial, "Lying About History," proved devastating. Evans found a pattern of transcription errors, twisted or elliptical quotations and slipperiness with dates. The errors tended to buttress the argument that Irving had prejudices. Rampton skillfully exploited this gold mine. With dry patience he exposed Irving's distortions, keeping careful count of the plaintiff's ever lamer excuses — "I was tired," "I was stressed," "I forgot."
Judge Charles Gray's 335-page ruling was a comprehensive defeat and disgrace for Irving. Gray found that in writing of Hitler and the Holocaust, far from offering objective history, Irving had repeatedly "perverted" the record and falsified the facts to bring them into line with an anti-Semitic and racist agenda. There could, in addition, be no serious doubt that gas chambers existed at Auschwitz or that these operated on a "substantial scale to kill hundreds of thousands of Jews," both facts that Irving had repeatedly and often contemptuously denied. Holocaust denial is not a crime in Britain, as it is in some European countries. But Gray's ruling, twice confirmed on appeal, removed a layer of legal protection from Irving and others who make similar assertions: People could now publicly call them liars and scoundrels without fear of the libel courts.
Perhaps wisely, Lipstadt ends there. Her book is compelling enough as the self-contained story of a gripping and important trial. It is not an essay on the political uses and abuses of the Holocaust, on the obligations of historians to objective truth or on the appropriate limits, if any, to the freedom of speech, though no reader can put it down without wondering about all those things.
In closing, she notes the persistence of Holocaust denial in many forms and in many countries — a reminder of how much it matters that there be victories like hers. •
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Reviewed by Dan Markel
By Deborah E. Lipstadt
Until only a few years ago, a veneer of respectability attached in some scholarly circles to the historical writings of David Irving. Famous historians such as Sir John Keegan and Professor Gordon Craig viewed Irving's works as indispensable to understanding the full nature of World War II.
Nonetheless, Irving's statement that "more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz," among others, frustrated, if not outraged, all but the community of Holocaust-deniers in which Irving had ensconced himself.
In 1993, Emory University Professor Deborah Lipstadt wrote Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, a book in which, among other things, she accused Irving of writing nothing more than gussied-up anti-Semitic pap that sought to deny the truth of Hitler's involvement in the plan to murder European Jewry.
Shortly thereafter, Irving sued Lipstadt and Penguin, her publisher in England, under England's libel laws.
This choice of venue was both significant and unsurprising because, unlike the United States, England places the burden of proof upon defendants.
Moreover, England, unlike the United States, did not require a public figure like Irving to prove that Lipstadt made her allegedly defamatory statements with "actual malice." Thus, while a suit against Lipstadt would likely not have even surfaced in America, it required incredible labor on the defendant's part in England.
As Lipstadt's lawyer, Anthony Julius, described the task, the defense had to show that Irving "subordinated the truth to spread anti-Semitism and engender sympathy for the Third Reich."
Although Lipstadt's account of the trial focuses on the many falsehoods underlying Irving's works, she begins with a gripping narrative of her own journey into academia and the origins of this lawsuit.
THE DAUGHTER of modern Orthodox parents, Lipstadt grew up in New York's Upper West Side. Prior to graduate school, she travelled to Israel in 1966 to study at Hebrew University.
Despondent that, at that time (on account of Jordan's closure of the border to Jewish tourists) she was unable to visit Jerusalem's Old City, Lipstadt trekked to Greece to obtain a new passport from the American Embassy there.
She eliminated all traces of the Israeli origins of her trip, and sojourned from there to Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan to the Old City.
Upon her return to Israel through the Mandelbaum Gate, the Israeli border guards remarked that Lipstadt had guts, but maybe no sechel (intelligence).
Five years later, after starting her graduate work at Brandeis, Lipstadt again entered the lion's den, travelling to the Soviet Union in 1972 to meet Jewish refuseniks and help prepare the groundwork for their possible emigration to Israel.
This time, upon the KGB's confrontation with accusations of "spreading lies about the Soviet regime," Lipstadt wisely accepted their "invitation" to leave the country.
These two tales of youthful pluck and pragmatism serve as windows into Lipstadt's ultimate decision to fight the Irving libel accusations rather than save five years of time, emotional toil and expense by simply issuing a retraction and apology.
With the commendable support of her university, her publisher, and philanthropists from around the world, Lipstadt assembled a first-rate team of historians and advocates to show the forensic basis for Irving's deliberate distortions of the historical record. (To that end, interested persons may find an array of relevant materials on the Holocaust Denial on Trial website: www.hdot.org.)
History on Trial not only captures the excitement and occasional despair of the team's ordeal in preparing for and enduring the 10-week trial. It also trenchantly exposes the implications of the team's victory for historians and their readers.
Lipstadt's book, then, functions as far more than a mere "case for the Holocaust." It serves as an introduction to the historian's craft and the kinds of disputes in which reasonable historians engage.
For example, at the outset Lipstadt makes plain that various aspects of the Holocaust are the subject of legitimate and competing historical interpretations, and that it was not her goal, either in her scholarship or at the trial, to shut down rivalling understandings, say, of whether Hitler wanted to take power to eliminate European Jewry or whether Nazi officers in the East "initiated the murders" of the Jews for functional reasons – murders which were subsequently ratified by Hitler's approval.
While one might think this admonition is overcautious, it turns out that this reminder was vitally important because certain well-known historians improperly chastised Lipstadt about the purported "chilling effect" inflicted by her hard-fought victory.
Their concern is arrant tripe. After all, it was Irving who brought suit against Lipstadt and her publisher; Lipstadt never sought to silence Irving.
She simply published her views, which undermined Irving's denials of the Holocaust's nature and scope, and showed that his rendition of history was no more than distortions in service to an extremist ideology.
Indeed, the more limited nature of Lipstadt's ambition is what enabled two vigorous free-speech advocates – Anthony Lewis (formerly of the New York Times), and Harvard Law School's Alan Dershowitz – to write an introduction and afterword, respectively, on Lipstadt's behalf.
In any event, Lipstadt's memoir of her experience as a defendant is one of the best general-interest books I've read in years. It is not only instructive, provocative and riveting – it is inspiring. History on Trial has earned a well-deserved place in every home that cares about truth, and about the courage to speak it.
The writer is a lawyer in Washington D.C. His writing can be found at www.danmarkel.com.
And speaking of headlines ... unlike a few of the papers picking up the AP article yesterday - in which they referred to an "Alleged Holocaust Denier" - Idaho's Spokesman-Review headline got right to the heart of the matter:
Program's Holocaust 'balance' angers historians
Petition to C-Span over 'Book TV' plan says 'Falsehoods cannot "balance" the truth'
C-Span's position is best defended as a matter of general principle: when a court case is being discussed, it is best (if possible) to allow both sides to speak, even if one side has lost (i.e., Irving's), even if the losing side deserves to have lost, and even if it deserves execration.
In this instance, I don't believe their position is defensible. The record of the trial speaks for itself - and certainly with more truth than Irving can be counted on to provide. Not to mention that if Irving's alleged correspondence on this matter can be believed, he's already had the opportunity to present his "side" to the C-SPAN audience. And, it would seem, C-SPAN certainly had no interest in "balance" at that time!
C-SPAN Hit for Plan to Air Holocaust Revisionist's Views
C-SPAN was hit with a barrage of criticism this week when it became public that the producers of the weekend program "Book TV" wanted to air a lecture by David Irving along with one by Lipstadt, a professor of Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta. More than 200 historians nationwide signed a petition opposing the cable network's decision to put Irving on the program.
"He personifies Holocaust denial," said Harvard legal expert Alan M. Dershowitz, who introduced Lipstadt when she spoke to a packed room Wednesday at Harvard Hillel, a Jewish organization associated with Harvard University.
"This is not about free speech. He can stand on a street corner and rant and rave, but C-SPAN ought to let him sell his poison elsewhere. They shouldn't create a debate where one doesn't exist."
"We specifically approached this as historians," [Rafael Medoff, director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington] said. "This is a matter of historical fact, not interpretation." Medoff said that since the first petition was sent to C-SPAN, at least 100 more
historians internationally have signed on.
C-SPAN has not responded to the petition, and Medoff said he hoped that the television executives would publicly apologize rather than allow the controversy to quietly disappear.
"There is an important lesson learned from all this, that historians are united in regarding Holocaust deniers as bigots and frauds, and it is wrong for television to give Holocaust deniers air time," Medoff said.
Lipstadt, meanwhile, is getting some benefit from the controversy in the form of publicity about her book. She is scheduled to be interviewed by Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly on Monday night, and she said she would still be "thrilled" to appear on C-SPAN's "Book TV," without Irving.
Friday, March 18, 2005
I also wrote a summary of the situation for History News Network at George Mason University which we will post here later. [The "We" is really the unbelievably generous Hilary Ostrov, who has helped me keep my head above water.]
Even the broadcast media has weighed in. MSNBC wanted me to appear on Scarborough Country with a representative from CSpan. [I keep typing CSpam, could that be a Freudian slip?] I happily agreed. I am anxious to be in communication with them.
CSpan declined. MSNBC decided not to do the story.
I guess they wanted balance.
Most of the headlines got it right: "Historians irked by C-Span program"; however, in later postings this appears as: "Historians irked by C-Span's plans to air alleged Holocaust denier". Alleged??!
If you do a Google search for "C-Span + Lipstadt" you will see that this matter has been the topic of discussion on many blogs including Little Green Footballs, Solomonia and Blogcritics.org
March 16, 2005
Brian Lamb, Chairman and CEO
400 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 650
Washington, DC 20001
Dear Mr. Lamb:
I was stunned to learn that C-SPAN planned to show David Irving as "balance" to its proposed coverage of a lecture by Deborah Lipstadt at Harvard.
My talks have been covered a few times over the years by C-SPAN. If recollection serves me correctly, I was on twice regarding the militia movement in the mid 1990s. If someone had proposed bringing one of the racist leaders of the militia movement on as "balance," I would have surely refused. It's not that I couldn't expose their failings - but rather the appearance of a reasoned disagreement would have given them an undeserved credibility regardless of what was said. Plus, I had no desire to give them an audience.
My reluctance to appear with militia members is magnified tenfold when it comes to Holocaust deniers, about whom I have also written. Holocaust denial is not quirkiness or confusion or "another point of view," but hatred which abuses history as a vehicle. It is not about the Holocaust, but about Jews just as the medieval claim about Jews poisoning wells was about Jews, rather than about water quality.
David Irving has been found by a judge to be a pro-Nazi polemicist, a racist, an antisemite. He is a liar who twists history like a pretzel. I 'm sure you're aware of his quip about more women dying in Teddy Kennedy 's car than in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Maybe you're not aware that he used to recite ditties to his daughter, such as "I am a Baby Aryan, Not Jewish or Sectarian, I have no plans to marry an, Ape or Rastafarian." Or that he helped edit David Duke's hateful book. Or that during his trial he referred to blacks and whites as being of different "species."
C-SPAN should find better ways to use its programming than to provide an audience for such a bigot, and it certainly should not show Mr. Irving as "balance" to anyone.
Specialist on Antisemitism and Extremism
C-Span's Plan to Cover Talk on Holocaust Is Criticized
More than 200 historians at colleges nationwide sent a petition to C-Span yesterday to protest its plan to accompany its coverage of a lecture by Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of Holocaust studies at Emory University, with a speech by David Irving, who has argued that Hitler was not fully responsible for the mass murder of Jews.
"Falsifiers of history cannot 'balance' histories," said the petition, delivered to Connie Doebele, the executive producer at C-Span who planned the coverage. "Falsehoods cannot 'balance' the truth."
"If C-Span broadcasts a lecture by David Irving, it will provide publicity and legitimacy to Holocaust-denial, which is nothing more than a mask for anti-Jewish bigotry," the petition said.
Although the petition was sent to C-Span yesterday, many more academics are still signing on, so another set of signatures may go to the network next week, said Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of the Wyman institute.
"I've never before heard of a television network offering free time to a Holocaust denier," Dr. Medoff said, "so it was surprising and it may be unprecedented. I think once C-Span realizes the depth of public concern and the strong opposition of the academic community, they will reconsider."
The Atlanta Journal Constitution has a similar article which begins:
Emory scholar tells C-SPAN 'no thanks'
An Emory University scholar who was sued by an author who denied the Holocaust is now at the center of a national storm involving the C-SPAN television network.
On March 16, The Jewish Press Online noted that:
C-SPAN Falls Over The Edge
C-SPAN often teeters on the brink of self-parody, particularly when the hosts of its morning discussion program, “Washington Journal,” stare impassively at the camera while yet another crazed caller recites chapter and verse of the latest conspiracy theories involving the Trilateral Commission or the Bush family’s Nazi/Saudi/Zionist/ KGB/CIA ties (choose one or more and don’t think twice about any seeming contradictions).
Formed in 1979 as, in the words of its mission statement, “a private, non-profit company...by the cable television industry as a public service....to provide public access to the political process,” C-SPAN is deadly serious about maintaining a reputation for non-partisanship — to the point even of allowing viewers to disseminate, unchallenged, all manner of unsubstantiated charges and outright lies.
But the ideal of non-partisanship, admirable when it comes to covering Congress and political conventions, can become something else entirely when used to provide respectability to lunatic-fringe ideologues who insist that a copiously documented, relatively recent historical event never really happened. And this is where C-SPAN has at last fallen over the brink and become a parody of it own sanctimoniousness.
Israel's Arutz Sheva has also weighed in with a brief piece focusing on the petition.
You already covered from start to finish a talk I gave in Washington DC about three years back. You (C-SPAN) also filmed a lengthy interview with me at the BookExpo in New York's Jacob Javits Center in about 2002. You were kind enough to broadcast that interview several times.
I haven't confirmed this with C-SPAN, nor have I confirmed the actual content of the very enthusiastic emails from C-SPAN (although, considering the source - and his creative writing abilities - one should probably do so); however, if true, I have to wonder which historian they invited to provide "balance" to Irving's performances. I do know they didn't invite me.
CSpan would have just be recycling ideas that have been declared by 3 different courts to be false.
One last thougt: In essence this has nothing to do with David Irving. It has to do with Holocaust deniers in general. They are liars and fabricators and we should not force them into a so-called debate. It could not be a debate because they play fast and furious with the truth.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
"Book TV was interested in Deborah Lipstadt's new book about her British libel trial. Our interest in covering David Irving was to hear the plaintiff's story of the trial. Since Professor Lipstadt has closed her book discussions to our cameras, we are still discussing how to cover this book and we don't have an immediate timetable."
202 626 8797
202 236 1236
March 17, 2005: "Fairness" at C-SPAN
I am a great C-SPAN admirer and supporter of free speech, but the network's BOOKS division's choice of notorious Holocaust denier David Irving as a "counter-balance" to Deborah Lipstadt, who was appearing in conjunction with her new book "History on Trial," is on the edge of mind-boggling. Okay, it is mind-boggling ...
In their March 16 communique, Honest Reporting also weighed in:
C-SPAN's Shaky Balance
The cable network insists on granting air time to a notorious Holocaust denier.
Yesterday (3/15), leaders from more than 40 nations gathered in Jerusalem to dedicate a new, expanded Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.
Yet at the very time that this monument to Nazi evil was inaugurated, the American cable network C-SPAN planned to give a notorious Holocaust denier a broad audience to promote his ideology that the murder of six million Jews never occurred. This, in the name of 'journalistic balance'. ...
BOOK TV on C-SPAN2
400 No. Capitol Street, Suite 650
Washington, DC 20001
We are dismayed by the lack of moral clarity in your misguided attempt to create a "balance" between the Professor Deborah Lipstadt, author of the new book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving and the rank anti-Semitic Holocaust denial espoused by David Irving.
C-SPAN has a proud and noble history of bringing government and civic affairs directly to the American people unobstructed by commercial or ideological motives. We have admired C-SPAN's steadfast commitment to present different points of view, from sometimes controversial sources, even though viewers might be offended by the subject matter.
However, in the case of Mr. Irving, you have simply gone too far. You owe Professor Lipstadt an apology for your actions and you owe the American public a full and complete explanation of the dangers to democracy of legitimizing Holocaust Denial
Rumor has it that CSpan may have decided to drop the idea of screening Irving's presentation in Atlanta [which they filmed]. Maybe by now they have had a chance to watch it and they saw what Irivng said.
According to two different people who were there the meeting was attended by perhaps 35 to 40 people, if that. The following is a report from one of the attendees:
All appeared to be affluent and well-dressed but almost all of them were older and apparently Irving’s devoted followers. There were two limousines out front. One very long white stretch limo and another regular black limo. [The Landmark Diner is a family restaurant and not a limousine-type venue.]
Irving had informed attendees in the letter he sent out a few days before that CSpan would be there and laid down rules: “No t-shirts with slogans, no emblems, and no leaflets; and I know I can rely on you to show due propriety in behavior and in any questions you ask in the discussion at the end.”
The low attendance appeared to cause Irving some anxiety. He looked tired and kept scanning the participants as if counting head. By 7 pm (dinner time) the room was only loosely 2/3 thirds full. This meeting featured free complimentary champagne and a buffet with shrimp, beef bourguignon, fish, chicken, pasta, rice, salad, steamed vegetables and a special dessert. The cost was $25. It was catered.
Irving paid little attention to his book table where he usually makes good money on sale of his own books and tapes and the resale of other materials. Irving didn’t circulate around the room shaking hands and visiting each table [as he often does], but huddled with several older men at the center table from 6 pm to 7 pm.
On the book table he featured his newly reprinted Hitler’s War (2002), newly reprinted Nuremberg: The Last Battle, several videos of himself or in programs in which he took part. Irving has produced a DVD (with a VHS version) of his book Hitler’s War, which he had for sale for $40 each. The DVD was professional produced by a Lamancha Productions. Irving told the person who described the meeting to me that the newest version of his Dresden book is due out in just three weeks with the Goebbels biography following soon after.
Irving also had pictures of himself and his family there for people to pick up and others he intended to use in his talk.
C-SPAN had two cameras set up, with numerous sound boards and lights. There were about 4 people there from C-SPAN. The attendees were warned by CSpan that if they didn’t want to be on camera they needed to move to the back of the room by the bar and behind the cameras. Some people did.
[DEL: I would guess that this is one of the first times CSpan prefaced a filming with this kind of announcement. ]
In fact, before Irving did begin to speak he requested that everyone come forward and fill the empty chairs at the front tables so that it would look full for the cameras. I ate dinner and sat with two gentlemen. One was a book dealer from Tucker, Georgia who features Irving books on his website and E-Bay. He was going to pick up 30 books from Irving for resale that night. Irving thanked us all for coming and compared his situation to that of Mozart’s who relied on the patronage of courts and kings to support him while he worked. So, too, we supported him in his work.
Irving showed us the pictures of his family including one of his father whom he extolled as a war hero and for whom he proclaimed great pride. He also showed pictures of Jessica (his daughter) as a baby and now as a 12 year old and her mother, Bente.
Irving then segued into a discussion of the long history of his ‘persecution’ by the ‘Traditional Enemies of the Truth’ (TEOTT), that is, the Jews. According to Irving, it began in 1963 (!) when he published his first book on the bombing of Dresden. He claimed that all the reviews of the book proclaimed it to be superior and a real bombshell. It was a best seller. In all the hundreds of reviews there was just one that trashed it: it was clearly written by a man (whose name I didn’t catch) who he insinuated therefore had to be a member of the Traditional Enemy of the Truth. Irving proclaimed that this proved that his enemies had targeted him all the way back to 1963, recognizing him as a threat to their picture of the Holocaust even at that early stage. The TEOTT have been persecuting him ever since.
Dr. Lipstadt was the person who was chosen to finally bring him down with her book, Denying the Holocaust, which was published by Penguin UK in England in 1995.
Irving then told a story about his first contact with Dr. Lipstadt at DeKalb Community College in Georgia in 1994. He claimed she spoke to a packed room and the people had clearly been dragooned to be there. He sat in the back quietly listening to her talk about him disparagingly. At the end he then stood up and introduced himself as David Irving and the historian in question and challenged her to show any proof that Hitler knew about or ordered the Holocaust. He said that one black man turned around in his seat and said to him, “Man, this is finally going to get interesting.” (He did it in an accent.) He explained how he then waved $1,000 in the air and offered to give it to anyone who could prove there was a Hitler order. (This is a long time stunt of his.) At DeKalb Community College Irving dug money out of his own pocket and waved it at the current crowd to make his point. Then he claimed that Dr. Lipstadt had turned and whispered to someone behind her and security came and immediately evicted him.
[DEL: What I actually said to the security officials was: "DON'T throw him out. Don't make him a martyr.]
That Irving said proved that Dr. Lipstadt had refused to debate him from the beginning. Then he went into a long explanation of how Dr. Lipstadt was a coward for not testifying at the trial even though he did admit that he believed her lawyers had made the decision. He had just been waiting to get her up on the stand and question her on her views of Judaism, and race, and intermarriage. He claimed that he would have demolished her and that he pretty much lost the trial right there because she would not testify so he could destroy her on the stand.
Irving claims that he knew nothing of Dr. Lipstadt’s book Denying the Holocaust until it was published in England in 1995 and people began calling and writing him about being a ‘Holocaust denier.’ He claims that he then hunted it down and read it for himself. He listed all the things Dr. Lipstadt wrote about him in quick order (he was a denier, he had stolen plates from Moscow and damaged them, and that he consorted with right-wing extremists including Hamas and Hezbollah). He claimed that she was funded by Yad Vashem and others who were out to get him. He cited a letter from Dr. Yehuda Bauer to “Debbie” noting that she hadn’t talked about Irving in her manuscript and she should put him in. Then “Debbie” feverishly went to work at the behest of her paymasters to collect her “sources” (which according to him were only newspaper clippings). He claimed that she never called him and if she had he could have set her straight in 15 seconds. (The implication: the whole trial was her fault.) In fact, Irving stated that Dr. Lipstadt was solely responsible for getting his Goebbels biography removed from St. Martin’s list, forcing him to publish it himself later. He also mentioned in suit against Gitta Sereny and the Observer for writing about his Goebbels book. Irving stated that he was just waiting for Dr. Lipstadt to publish her current book in England and he would immediately sue.
Irving stated that in an interview with Deutsche-Welle just two days ago, Dr. Lipstadt had stated that her lawyers “had set out to destabilize him” (direct quote from Irving) before the trial in an attempt to get him to toss in his hat. Then he produced the picture of the wreath that was sent to his daughter Josephine’s funeral service. The funeral directors (they had buried Lord Nelson so he knew they were good folk) called afterward and told him an expensive wreath had arrived and what did he want to do with it? He told to funeral directors to deliver it. It was huge, expensive, and made of white lilies. There was a card attached that implied that her death (she was disabled and died after a very long illness) was a “mercy killing.” It was signed by Philip Bouhler. He explained that Philip Bouhler had been the head of the euthanasia program in Germany that murdered disabled and undesirable people. Irving was visibly distressed, his voice rose and he shook the picture of the card as he read what it said to the audience. He said he had tracked down the florist and found that the clerk had written the card because the person who sent it said he had injured his wrist in a skiing accident and couldn’t write the card. He claims the florist shop turned out to be 100 yards from Dr. Lipstadt’s attorney’s office (Mishcon de Reya). To him that was proof that it had been sent by her attorneys to “destabilize him.” He mentioned the “destabilization” issue at least three times.
Irving then moved on to the general history of the action. Hecast himself in the role of the underdog who had no choice but to finally pursue and confront his long-time persecutors, the TEOTT, now spearheaded by Dr. Lipstadt. He also ran down Anthony Julius as just a lawyer out for money.
Irving noted how quickly Dr. Lipstadt had assembled massive financial resources. She found funding with Stephen Spielberg and a host Jewish financiers—one called Trevor Chinn who he called as “big as crook as Marc Rich.” He also mentioned a Maxwell Clark. (?) Irving was very angry at how much the expert witnesses had been paid and he insinuated that the defense did it on purpose just to ring up the bills to impossible heights. When Irving started discussing the costs of the trial they rose alarmingly over the course of the talk. In the beginning of the speech they started at $2 million, later in the speech they became $5 million, still later $7 million and in the last 15 minutes $12 million.
Irving seems to hate Richard Evans (one of the expert witnesses in the trial). Evans had disassembled Irving’s historiographical skills in his expert witness report. Irving described Evans’ performance in court with dripping contempt and stated that Evans lied when he claimed he was neutral on Irving. Irving pointed out that expert witnesses are supposed to make up their reports without being beholden to either side, but in this case they clearly were because of the amount of money they were paid. He described Professor Evans’ conduct in court as contemptuous of him and showed the audience how he stood with his hands in his pockets with his back turned to him.
Interestingly, he praised Robert Jan van Pelt as a fine gentleman, disliked the Judge (who he claimed had started writing the Judgment one month into the trial), and found Mr. Rampton to be very competent. He said he had the choice of hiring an attorney and trying to get him up to speed as an historian or having as historian (himself) as a lawyer. He claimed he was the only one who could understand the complexities. At that point, he mentioned how the judge praised him having a fine mind and as having performed as well as any attorney. He was plainly very pleased with this praise.
Irving described how Dr. Lipstadt’s side had four benches full of attorneys and helpers (40 or more) and he was on the other side with just one person.
[DEL: Actually at tops we had about 20 people working on the case. Not a small number, but not 40 people. Of course, I have learned that it is best not to depend on Irving for accurate numbers.]
He claimed that everyday he worked into the wee hours (up until 3 am) preparing for the next day and was always behind. He claimed he didn’t even have a chance to read the expert witness reports and often went into court without having read the pages he was going to cover that day. (However, in the matter of the Evans Report, Irving posted that report on his website months in advance of the trial.) He claimed that he had help from around the world by email preparing his defense daily (from what he called the ‘antipodes’).
Irving said that in her book Dr. Lipstadt had not called him a racist or an antisemite but that these matters were part of the trial. He claimed that he was no a racist, just a patriot of the England of his father’s day.
Irving then moved on to Auschwitz. He said that he believed that some 200,000 people had died there, which is a higher figure than he usually admits. He said that the numbers of people murdered had Auschwitz had been lowered dramatically over the years by the Auschwitz Museum’s own authorities and they weren’t considered deniers. But someone like him who questioned anything about the trademarked Holocaust was an out and out denier. He went into detail about what the gas chambers really were—they were air raid shelters. He waved around pictures of pages of a German book that he said was current during the war years and which described the architectural standards for air raid shelters. He claimed that the gas tight doors (which are clearly ordered in the surviving primary documents) were simply an air raid shelter requirement as written right in that book; that the modified door swing (originally into the room but then changed to open out) was also a requirement; and that a peep hole was also required.
Then he made a sarcastic remark about the peep holes: “Why,” he asked, “would anyone want a peep hole in a door just to look in at dead bodies?” Everyone laughed. Irving insisted that there was no proof these buildings were gas chambers and reiterated that there was NOT ONE SINGLE PROOF OF EVIDENCE that they ever were. He recalled how he has stated time and again that if they could prove there were gas chambers he would have backed down and called it all off. All of these matters were dealt with at trial and the idea that they were air raid shelters was discredited.
Irving also mentioned the bombing of Dresden again as proof that the Allies had also committed wartime atrocities and insisted that the death toll was over 130,000. This is despite the fact that at trial the document he bases these figures on was clearly proved to be a forgery. The figure is probably 25,000 or so, which is bad enough. But despite all evidence to the contrary he continues to insist on higher death tolls.
Irving moved on to the aftermath of the trial. He spoke about Dr. Lipstadt’s vindictive attempt to keep his possessions from him which were taken in the bankruptcy. He complained that she wanted to keep from his all his original and valuable papers he had collected and which constituted his work product—the loss of which would be crippling.
[DEL: We only wanted those papers that were of some value. He owed me and my defense fund over a million dollars and we wanted to sell these papers to a library or archive in order to recoup some of our costs. Eventually, as I describe in the book, I gave up the fight because the costs were too high.]
Irving concluded by remarking that he was embattled but unbowed. He had endured all manner of calumnies at the hands of his enemies and he was still fighting. In the last five minutes, he got quite impassioned over his victimization. Then he did something surprising: in front of the C-Span cameras he announced straight out that the Jews had tried to destroy him but they had failed. Irving and most deniers never refer to their “tormenters” straight out; they use code words such as Traditional Enemies of the Truth. I was very surprised when he said it straight out in front of cameras. I think this might have been a slip of the tongue as he was getting a little carried away in the summary.
Irving wrapped up to enthusiastic applause. C-Span announced a 10 minute break and then questions.
I got the clear impression this was gathering was meant to be a triumphant return to the lair of the beast—complete with expensive champagne and catered food. It was to be a celebration of sorts. The low attendance was therefore disconcerting and disappointing.