Sunday, January 30, 2005

Booklist on History on Trial

From Booklist
One of the first attempts to systematically address Holocaust denial, Lipstadt's 1993 book Denying the Holocaust grabbed headlines when she was sued for libel by David Irving for calling the deeply controversial Hitler biographer a Holocaust denier and right-wing extremist. Lipstadt here narrates her lengthy legal battle with Irving, a London media frenzy that, though resulting in no executions, has been compared to the Eichmann trial and Nuremberg tribunals. As a courtroom blow-by-blow account, her story is fascinating and, for those unfamiliar with British civil procedure, even exotic. Lipstadt's barrister deploys enigmatic, roundabout strategies designed to entangle Irving with his own falsehoods; Irving, representing himself, weaves and dodges semantically but eventually crumbles under cross-examination and overwhelming evidence. Despite this book's title, only occasionally does Lipstadt contemplate in the abstract the bizarre gravity of historians cross-examining each other in court. Likewise, she addresses the obvious historiographic elephant in the courtroom--the inevitable twining of history and politics--only superficially. But most readers will be too busy being moved by Lipstadt's satisfying account of the convergence of legal and moral justice to care. Brendan Driscoll
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