Sunday, February 27, 2005

Interview in U.S. News and World Report

U.S. News and World Report

The Week

Until a landmark libel case turned her world upside down, Deborah Lipstadt was known as a chronicler, not a maker, of history. In her acclaimed 1993 book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, the Emory University professor cited widely read World War II writer David Irving--who referred to the Holocaust as a "legend" and refused to acknowledge Adolf Hitler's responsibility in the systematic killing of 6 million Jews--as one of the most prominent deniers. Irving sued Lipstadt for libel. Her new book, History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving, recounts the six-year legal battle that vindicated her.

In what way was history on trial?

We exposed as bogus virtually every argument and contention that Holocaust deniers, like Irving, make to supposedly prove that the Holocaust didn't happen. We showed that you can't take history and twist it any way you want. There is a historical record. There is a massive cache of documents, all of which prove quite clearly that there is evidence for every step of the killing process.

Besides debunking Irving, what else did the trial accomplish?

It was emblematic of the passing of the torch of memory from Holocaust survivors, the youngest of whom are in their 60s or 70s, to historians. Poet Paul Celan once asked, Who will be the witnesses for the witnesses? This trial showed historians can do that.

Why did you fight back?

The case was brought in Britain, where the defendant must prove the truth of what she wrote. This is the mirror image of libel law in the United States, where Irving would have had to prove that I lied. If I had not defended myself, Irving would have won by default and could have claimed that his description of the Holocaust was legitimate. I could not ignore this.

So the suit backfired on Irving.

The irony is that if he had not sued me, no one would have known the extent to which he distorted or misrepresented evidence.

Yet Holocaust denial goes on.

I'm no more amazed that Holocaust denial exists than I am that the Holocaust happened. -Diane Cole

Copyright © 2005 U.S.News & World Report, L.P. All rights reserved.

Review of History on Trial in Washington Times

Rescuing history from the lies and distortions
Published February 27, 2005

By Deborah E. Lipstadt
Ecco, $25.95, 346 pages

It was a curiously anonymous setting for such a dramatic confrontation. Think of London's Royal Courts of Justice, and images of ancient oak-panelled chambers immediately swim into view. But Courtroom 73, where Deborah Lipstadt went to war five years ago against the champion of Holocaust denial, David Irving, could easily have been some anonymous seminar room on a 1970s campus.

The furnishings were drab and functional, adorned with rows of files and laptop computers. After spending one afternoon there during the three-month libel, I wondered how anyone could possibly stay sane in such a depressing room over such a long period.

The answer, of course, is that amidst the swirl of minutiae and legalese, the case generated riveting theater. Everyone present in the room -- from reporters to concentration camp survivors -- was aware that the outcome would had historic consequences.

The title of Ms. Lipstadt's memoir is no overstatement. By demolishing Mr. Irving's claims, her team of lawyers stripped Holocaust denial of the few lingering shreds of credibility it had ever possessed. That may sound a straightforward task; Holocaust deniers are, after all, the flat-earthers of our age. But it is worth remembering that until he met defeat in this case -- which he himself initiated -- David Irving was widely regarded as a legitimate if cranky historian of the Third Reich.

The real mystery is how on earth he ever thought he would prevail. Having issued a libel writ against Ms. Lipstadt in 1995 over her book, "Denying The Holocaust," the British author had ample time for second thoughts. Anthony Julius, the astute London solicitor who marshalled Ms. Lipstadt's team of researchers and historians, assumed that Mr. Irving was simply seeking publicity and would abandon the suit sooner or later.

If Mr. Irving made his task even more difficult by representing himself in court, the incriminating evidence scattered throughout his journals and archives gave his opponents no end of ammunition. The historian John Lukacs -- quoting his Spanish counterpart, Altamira -- has spoken of Mr. Irving's "idolatory of the document," that is, a willingness to build a towering edifice on a single document or fragment.

As Mr. Julius and Ms. Lipstadt's barrister, QC Richard Rampton, demonstrated over and again, the plaintiff was so eager to minimize or conceal the Nazis' crimes that he not only made a point of quoting documents out of context but mistranslated them into the bargain. To see him caught red-handed again and again is almost the stuff of farce. Even Ms. Lipstadt had to repress laughter at times.

There was one all-important factor working in her antagonist's favor, however. In Britain, in stark contrast to America's libel laws, the burden of proof rests on the defendant. (British publishers are acutely aware of this problem, which also explains why so many foreign VIPs choose to pursue cases in London rather than the country where the offending material was actually published.)

Ms. Lipstadt, a professor at Emory University, was thus put on the back foot. What made her position even more frustrating was that Mr. Irving, a past master of public relations, often managed to present himself in media reports as the victim of a legal juggernaut which he had, in fact, set it in motion.

The story of the confrontation has been told before, most notably in D. D. Guttenplan's book "The Holocaust on Trial" and "Telling Lies About Hitler" written by the defence's chief witness, the Cambridge historian Richard Evans. Still, Ms. Lipstadt's acount of her journey from uncertainty and despair to triumph is immensely readable.

At her lawyers' request, she did not testify during the trial itself, and kept her public statements to a minimum. Finally free to unburden herself, she has delivered an account that is fast-moving, shrewd and often unexpectedly droll. Unfamiliar with the archaic rituals of the British legal system, she initially found herself chafing against the coolly forensic approach of her barrister, Mr. Rampton. (Mr. Julius, as a solicitor, was not allowed to address the court.) It is only as the case gains momentum that she realizes that Mr. Rampton's emotional commitment to the trial is no smaller than hers.

We gain a vivid sense of Ms. Lipstadt's combative personality in the chapters devoted to her liberal New York upbringing and her youthful visits to Israel. (Unlike many of her contemporaries, she did not wait until the Six Day War to discover her emotional bond with the Jewish state.)

Mr. Irving's assault on her integrity was consequently more than a purely scholarly affair. Ms. Lipstadt was so consumed by the case and its ramifications that, while in London, she was slow to notice the incongruity of her choice of leisure outing. In the circumstances, "The Merchant of Venice" and a camp "singalong" version of "The Sound of Music", tuneful Nazis and all, were hardly the ideal way to relax.

Even in the moment of victory, a sour note intruded. Immediately after the verdict -- which was even more conclusive than she could have hoped -- two distinguished British historians, Sir John Keegan and Donald Cameron Watt, who had both been subpoenaed to give evidence by Irving -- published newspaper articles which appeared to make excuses for their countryman.

Mr. Watt asked plaintively, "Show me one historian who has not broken into a cold sweat at the thought of undergoing similar treatment?" It was a strange complaint, given what we now know about Mr. Irving's modus operandi.

Sir John's comments were even odder. Praising Mr. Irving's "strong, handsome" appearance, he seemed to find him much more worthy of sympathy than the defendant. He continued: "Professor Lipstadt, by contrast, seems as dull as only the self-righteously politically correct can be. Few other historians had ever heard of her before this case. Most will not want to hear from her again. Mr. Irving, if he will only learn from this case, still has much that is interesting to tell us." Reviewing this book in The Washington Post, the controversial Daniel Jonah Goldhagen argued that Mr. Irving's apologetics had found favor among "a part of the politicized historical profession that has a weakness for such exculpatory writings."

That seems a slight exaggeration. As Ms. Lipstadt acknowledges, even the judge's verdict praised Mr. Irving's work as a military historian. But it remains puzzling that two such distinguished figures -- who had both dismissed Mr. Irving's Holocaust theories -- were still willing to go out of their way to find virtue in a writer who displayed so little respect for truth.

Ms. Lipstadt suspects the Old Boy network may be to blame. It is a depressing thought. Thankfully, the rest of "History on Trial" restores one's faith in the power of good scholarship.

Clive Davis writes for The Times of London and keeps a weblog at

Copyright © 2005 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Review of History on Trial in Los Angeles Jewish Journal

History on Trial

Deborah Lipstadt opens up about the libel case that pitted Holocaust scholarship against denial.

by Michael Berenbaum

“History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving,” by Deborah E. Lipstadt (Echo, 2005) $25.95.

For five excruciating years, from the moment that David Irving sued her for libel in England until the appeals process ran its course, Deborah Lipstadt had to remain silent. Others defended her scholarship and revealed the deceitfulness and deliberately misleading nature of Irving’s writings. But Lipstadt would not, did not take the stand in her own defense.

Lipstadt is a contemporary women not known for her reticence. Silence was hard on someone who prides herself on fighting her own fights — but it was necessary. Now, finally, she speaks freely.

It all started in 1993, when Lipstadt wrote “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault Against Memory and Truth,” a book which described Holocaust denial in our age. A few paragraphs were devoted to Irving, the most informed, original and therefore most dangerous of Holocaust deniers.

Irving could not bring action against Lipstadt in the United States, because as a public figure, the burden was on him to prove that Lipstadt engaged in reckless disregard of truth — a near impossible task — since what she said was true. In England, the burden of proof is reversed. So when Penguin published the book in England, Irving sued both the author and publisher in London.

Lipstadt wrote that Irving was “a Hitler partisan wearing blinkers, who distorted evidence, manipulated documents and skewed and misrepresented data,” and that “Irving seems to conceive himself as carrying out Hitler’s legacy.”

She considered him a dangerous Holocaust denier. As the court determined in 2000, Lipstadt was not wrong, merely understated.

Perhaps Irving thought that Lipstadt would back down, issue a pro forma apology and settle for a symbolic sum. As the trial neared, he asked for a pittance — 500 pounds — to go to charity. Perhaps he thought the potential liability would force the parties to back down.

Lipstadt could not back down. To concede would be to accept defeat, inflict injury upon Holocaust survivors and desecrate the memory of the dead. She had to take a stand to preserve her standing, her dignity and her values.

The lawyers decided that the case would not be tried in the court of public opinion in the press, but in a courtroom. The trial was held before Judge Charles Gray — without a jury.

The press fury Irving induced as he played to them for months allowed his side of the story to be ubiquitous, while Lipstadt was silent. In the end, it was up to the judge to deliver a decisive, clear judgment.

What did Lipstadt do during five years of public silence?

As a blind person may hear more clearly; a deaf person see more intently, one who is muted may listen more carefully.

Lipstadt proves to have the keen eye of a journalist, observing the setting, the demeanor and even the fashion style of everyone from the court clerk to the judge and her barrister. She writes with a novelist’s sense of plot, so that while the reader is led through the entire trial, from first accusation to final vindication, the major story is never lost in the details. She doesn’t tell everything — but she does convey the drama, the anguish and the wealth of emotions that were her day-in, day-out experiences.

She writes without self-pity, but the reader is likely to pity her restraint. For those who did not follow the trial day by day, this book is fascinating reading that gives one a sense of what it was really like to sit there, to see the nature of the evidence, and see how strategic decisions were made.

In the end, all drama aside, the judge understands and renders the clearest of judgments by unmasking the pretense and politics of Irving’s pseudo-scholarship and the racism and anti-Semitism of his beliefs. And the plaintiff, Irving, plays his role to perfection, exceeding even our fondest wishes for him, by destroying himself in public. In defeat, his sting is diminished.

As Lipstadt writes, she did not stand trial alone. Her book is a tribute to those who stood by her. She is the first to recognize their importance, their competence, generosity and dedication.

Her brilliant and dedicated legal team included Anthony Julius, a fine lawyer and literary scholar, who wrote a doctoral thesis on T.S. Eliott’s anti-Semitism, and was a proud Jew known as Princess Diana’s divorce lawyer. His partner, James Libson, and his law firm, Mishcon de Reya, were prepared to take the case pro bono. They recruited Richard Rampton, a distinguished London barrister, to try the case after they prepared it. He, too, was prepared to work pro bono.

In the end, adequate funds were raised for the defense from Leslie and Abigail Wexner, Steven Spielberg, William Lowenberg and other Jewish philanthropists. Rabbi Herbert Friedman, whose distinguished career began as a U.S. Army chaplain working with soldiers and survivors and working with Bricha, organized the fund-raising effort discretely. (For the record, I was honored to assist him.)

The American Jewish Committee stepped in without seeking credit or publicity. Ken Stern, a lawyer and an authority on Holocaust denial, masterfully ran its efforts. Emory University, where Lipstadt is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, stood by her and gave her paid leave. Others taught her Holocaust course; friends visited, called, e-mailed and supported her through the long ordeal.

Scholars were recruited: Richard Evans of Cambridge, a superb historian and an expert on historiography, read each of Irving’s works and then checked and double-checked the original documents Irving cited and his translations — a tedious and increasingly loathsome task, as the depth of Irving’s deceit became clear.

Christopher Browning of the University of North Carolina, a worthy successor of Raul Hilberg as the leading authority on German documents, worked on German documentation of the “Final Solution.” Robert Jan Van Pelt, a Canadian of Dutch origin, an architectural historian who wrote brilliantly of the gas chambers of Auschwitz and who reads German documentation, testified on gassing at Birkenau.

Peter Longerich, a German living in England, analyzed the work of the Einsatzgruppen in former Soviet territory in 1941-42. Hajo Funke examined Irving’s association with neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers and racist groups; the speeches he made, and the manner in which he played to his crowd.

Evans examined Irving’s footnotes and documentation. Their findings were devastating to Irving.

The team’s scholarship became contributions to the historiography of the Holocaust. Evans’ case became an extended discourse on how historians should read documents and reach their learned conclusions, an expression of historiography at its best — that demonstrated the most egregious violations of the cannons of the profession. The books that emerged from this team have added significantly to our knowledge of the Holocaust in clarity and in depth.

No survivors were called as witnesses, no Israelis. The trial was designed to be a trial of documents — an added benefit, since we are approaching the day when the last survivor will leave this earth and living memory will become the stuff of history. To those who feared that this natural development of time would put the memory of the Holocaust at risk, the trial proves otherwise.

Lipstadt is entitled to gloat, but does not. She understands the importance of her vindication — and its limitations. The British press was nasty, seeing it as a battle of class — an English gentleman against an American Jewish woman upstart Some barely concealed their anti-Semitism, and sometimes they confusingly presented the trial as an issue of free speech.

In our world, where rumor and innuendo parade as fact and insight, there is a tendency to believe that in every squabble there is some truth to each side and a basic laziness to uncover the truth. At least in England, Lipstadt was spared cable’s Court TV spinning.

Anyone who opens this book will be gratified by Lipstadt’s vindication. But what was all-important was the unmasking of Irving. He may have made the greatest contribution to that himself by bringing the suit in the first place, defending himself and then destroying himself.

Irving was the superstar of Holocaust deniers, and now he is known as the racist and anti-Semite who deliberately misread and mistranslated documents toward one end, the exoneration of Adolf Hitler. This case — and this book — prove that good scholarship can beat bad scholarship, and that even in our age of relativism and deconstructionism, there is a difference between good history and fraud.

Michael Berenbaum is director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust and an adjunct professor of theology at the University of Judaism.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Transcript of Wash. Post Online Discussion

Here's a transcript of Deborah Lipstadt's online discussion with on Tuesday:
February 22, 2005 Tuesday 03:00 PM


LENGTH: 3198 words


BYLINE: Author, Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University

Author Deborah E. Lipstadt discussed her book, "History on Trial," about her six-year legal battle with Holocaust denier David Irving.

In 1993, Deborah E. Lipstadt's "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory" dissected a fringe, relatively isolated phenomenon of hard-core deniers. By the time she walked into a British court in 2000 to defend herself against a libel suit filed by one of those deniers, David Irving, Holocaust denial had been so transformed as to have become a critical part of the mushrooming global anti-Semitic movement. The trial was an event, covered around the world.

Lipstadt was online Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 3 p.m. ET to discuss her book and her six-year legal battle.

Lipstadt is Dorot professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies and director of the Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University.

Join Book World Live each Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET for a discussion based on a story or review in each Sunday's [ ]" target="new Book World section.

Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Gaithersburg, Md.: Do you agree that David Irving lost his case not based on facts but rather because the judge was afraid that, as it says in Book World, "...had Irving prevailed on the narrow legal issue... (it would have cast) doubt on the ... Holocaust itself."

A few years ago I heard David Irving speak and bought one of his books. He did not deny the Holocaust, he merely presented facts.

Deborah E. Lipstadt: Irving lost his case because on every historical issue that we brought up he was repeatedly shown to have either lied, perverted the evidence, ignored available evidence, or committed some other historical "malfeasance." There were no "legal" issues as such involved in the case. In fact, the judge said exactly that on the day of the verdict when he rejected Irving's attempt to appeal on the basis of the legal issues involved. The judge said, there are none, there are only historical issues.


Deborah E. Lipstadt: For those interested in transcripts of the trial, the expert witness reports, the Judge's judgment, and other material on the trial, you might be interested in going to [ ] It is an Emory-sponsored website on the trial. No bells or whistles just documentation. You might also want to check out


Cleveland, Ohio: Did anyone ever take David Irving to Auschwitz and the other death camps?

Deborah E. Lipstadt: Irving made a big fuss at the trial that he is banned from visiting Auschwitz. When my barrister reminded him that the Auschwitz ban was not issued until eight years after he first testified [at the Zundel trial] that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz. Why, my barrister inquired, in those intervening eight years did he not ever visit the archives? Irving, chuckling, said he would probably have been banned earlier if he had tried to visit. "It is like the big casinos in Las Vegas. They do not the want the big winners to come." When he said that I heard someone in the public gallery gasp. I almost fainted. [See History on Trial, pp. 122-23.]


Washington, D.C.: Deborah,

A voice from your past here. First, congratulations on your perseverance not to mention your victory.

My question relates to the academic community here in the U.S. In the past decade, it seems to be swinging in a more anti-Israel direction which often translates into anti-Semitism. Did you find your peers at colleges and universities supportive of you or did they keep their distance.

Arthur Chotin

Deborah E. Lipstadt: Some of my colleagues [not here at Emory] thought the whole thing was silly. They compare Irving to a flat-earth theorist upon whom it is of no use to expend any time or energy. They contended that I should simply ignore him. Of course, given the nature of British libel laws, I could not do that.


Palo Alto, Calif.: Thanks for carrying the truth torch, and inveighing against an Orwellian mind-set.

Deborah E. Lipstadt: Thanks for your good wishes. I did what I had to do. In the UK the burden of proof was on me. Had I not fought him he would have won by default. I could not let that happen


Laurel, Md.: The fact that 6 millions Jews died in the Holocaust is so widely accepted that almost no one asks the obvious question -- what are the sources for this number and how reliable are they? (Not to suggest the number is zero; but how well established is six million as opposed to 4 or 10 million?)

On a related question -- the number of non-Jews killed is usally quoted as 2 to 6 million. Why is this number known to only a rough approximation, while the number of Jews is almost universally accepted at a single figure?

Deborah E. Lipstadt: Our guesstimate is based on comparing the pre-war Jewish population with the number of survivors. There are, in fact, respected historians [Hilberg] who have lower numbers and those who, in the light of information gleaned from archives that were opened after the fall of the Soviet Union, argue that it is higher. It is generally accepted to be between 5-6 million. Regarding non-Jews: the number 2-6 million has no basis in fact. It depends who you are counting. The number of Soviet citizens, for example, who died in the war is far higher than that. Are you refering to non-Jews who died in concentration camps? In that case the number is far lower. Are you talking about wartime casulties? On the battlefield? Off? Simon Wiesenthal used to talk of the 11 million victims [6 Jews, 5 non-Jews]of the Holocaust. until historians challenged him to demonstrate what 5 million non-Jews he was talking about. He had to admit he virtually pulled the number out of the air. There were many more than 5 million non-Jewish deaths, but not as part of the Holocaust.


Washington, D.C.: Is David Irving still active and what is the extent of his "influence" at this time?

Deborah E. Lipstadt: David Irving continues to lecture and [self] publish his books. He travels and lectures, speaking to his ardent supporters. From reading what he has to say about the case, I sometimes get the impression that he is dealing in "verdict" [actually its called a judgment] denial, i.e. you might think he won the case based on what he has to say about it.


Belmont, Mass.: What differences do you find between Holocaust denial when you wrote your book and today?

Deborah E. Lipstadt: As a result of the trial, all Holocaust denial arguments as they stood until 2001 have be shown to be completely bogus. The deniers suffered a real setback in that when the evidence was on the table their claims were shown to be essentially worthless. Today, the most active area of Holocaust denial is the Arab/Muslim world. You see some really crude examples of it in that arena. In fact, some [though certainly not all] Arab/Muslim intellectuals have caustioned against using Holocaust denial [as well as known forgeries such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion] in the fight against Israel. It just, they argue, makes their side look silly. The kind of Holocaust denial you see today in the Western world [particularly in Europe] is a comparison of the Holocaust with the actions of Israel. However one might feel about the State of Israel and its policies, there is no comparison. To do so is to whitewash the Third Reich


Washington, D.C.: What is to be gained from denying The Holocaust? I mean, who benefits from making these claims? Is it an orchestrated effort by anti-semetic groups alone or are there others who benefit as well?

Deborah E. Lipstadt: It is primarily an antisemitic effort. There is a strange irony here. Deniers say the Holocaust did not happen but suggest that, should it have happened, it would have been entirely justified. [I know that is a convoluted sentence but these are people who think in a very convoluted fashion.] Many deniers [it is hard to generalize about all of them] resent the sympathy they feel Jews have gained as a result of the Holocaust. They resent [if not more so] the existence of Israel. They cannot abide Jews. Denying the Holocaust is deniers' way of getting at the Jews... or trying to do so.


Washington, D.C.: What was Irving's aim in denying the Holocaust. Would you label him an antisemite#63;

Deborah E. Lipstadt: I am not sure of Irving's aims but I can tell you that the judge declared his writings, speeches, and comments to be antisemitic and racist. It seems to me that another factor is that he loves the publicity and this wins him a lot of attention. That, in fact, is one of the challenges in fighting these kind of folks. Defeating them without giving them undue pr.


Tampa, Fla.: What's wrong with denying history? It's really quite common. Goldhagen said Germans had genocide in their genes, until Birn and Finklestein demolished his case. Peters said Palestine was empty when the Zionists first came, until Finkelstein pointed out the flaws in her arguments. Many supporters of Israel claim the Palestinians left of their own accord in 1948, until Benny Morris showed the fraud in that argument. The Israeli and U.S. governments deny the holocaust of the Armenians, yet Bernard Lewis was fined by a Fench court for genocide denial. (And before you blow a gasket, remember the term "holocaust" was first used in a genocidal sense to describe what the Turks did to the Armenians). Cristol says the attack on the USS Liberty was a mistake, even though every survivor allowed to speak says otherwise, as Bamford notes. Yet all these falsifications persist today, encouraged by official governmental policies.

David Irving merely follows a long line of history deniers. It's worked for others, so why single out Mr. Irving? We can shelve his books alongside those of Goldhagen, Cristol, Peters and Lewis. Right in the Holocaust Museums across America.

Deborah E. Lipstadt: I am not going to point out all the historical flaws in your question. I just want to remind you that I did not go after Mr. Irving. He sued me. He tried to force me to withdraw my book from circulation. He tried to curtail my freedom of speech. I don't believe in suing historians or dragging these issues into court. He does.


Falls Church, Va.: Did Irving ever contact you privately after the legal battle#63; Also, do you ever fear that being so outspoken could make you a target#63;

Deborah E. Lipstadt: I don't see why I should have contacted him. I had nothing to say to him and I certainly had heard enough from him during the close to 3 month legal battle. A target? Not really.


Silver Spring, Md.: Would you say that the community of deniers is larger or smaller now than it was 10 or 20 years ago#63;

Deborah E. Lipstadt: It's a bit hard to answer that question. I don't think they have grown substantially but with the Internet their ability to spread their tales has grown. They get to "speak" to a wider audience than they did before. I do believe that my trial -- by hewing closely to the facts -- dealt them a severe blow. As Judge Gray ruled. Their arguments about the Holocaust "distort," "pervert," "[are] misleading," "unjustified," "travesty, and "unreal."


Cheyenne, Wy.: How are Holocaust-denial claims presented (in Muslim/Arab world and the likes of Irving), in light of known facts and pictures that have been available for years? Are these "fakes," not unlike UFO sightings?

Deborah E. Lipstadt: I should have mentioned earlier that for examples of Holocaust denial in the Arab/Muslim world check out MEMRI, the organization which translates from the Arab press. It is a treasure trove of information. Of course the "fakes" are like UFO sightings. There is no logic or factual basis to them. That's why I don't debate them. There is nothing to debate. I am not suggesting that there is nothing to debate about the Holocaust. Historians engage in fierce debates, e.g. could Auschwitz have been bombed? Were the Germans "pre-disposed" to being willing executioners? When did Hitler decide on the murder of the Jews? These things are all open to debate. What is not open to debate is whether it happened or not. On that the victims, bystanders, perpetrators, documents, material evidence etc. etc. etc. all agree.


Washington, D.C.: Can you tell us more about your work at Emory University#63;

Deborah E. Lipstadt: At Emory I teach about the Holocaust. I also have helped set up a website on my trial, [ ], which is, as I mentioned at the outset, a great resource for historical documentation about the trial. Let me also briefly mention -- since you asked -- how supportive of me Emory was during this whole long story. I discuss it in the book. However, since we who work in the unviversity arena are so often cynical about university's and especially their administrations, I thought I should reiterate this. In any case see History on Trial, pp. xvii-xix, 25, 68, 97, 151, 189, 203, 308-09.


Urbana, Ill.: I followed the trial closely, and was particularly impressed by the detail of the judgment against Irving -- a complete point-by-point evisceration of Irving's (sometimes shifting) claims. Isn't it interesting, though, how even this chat shows to what extraordinary lengths some people will go to deny the evidence?

Deborah E. Lipstadt: Though I should not be surprised by it, it does continue to blow my mind. For examples of even more denial see some of the comments on [especially in relationship to Ward Churchill's declaration that there is no difference between a Deborah Lipstadt and an Adolf Eichmann].


Woodbourne, N.Y.: Is the trial you had similar to the QB VII trial that Leon Uris was involved in many years ago?

Deborah E. Lipstadt: It is based on the same principle in that both Uris and I, as the defendants, were required to prove the truth of what we wrote as opposed to the Claimant [Plaintiff] having to prove the falsehood. The difference is that Uris lost because he said the Polish doctor has been responsible for the death of thousands when he was responsible for "only" the death of hundreds. [He had to pay the fine of the lowest coin in the realm, a ha'penny.] BTW, on the eve of the trial I made a small private pilgrimage to Courtroom 7 [QB 7] and resolved that while Uris lost in the courtroom but won in the court of public opinion, I wanted to win in both.


Alexandria, Va.: Ms. Lipstadt,

I just wanted to say thank you for all of your work. I studied the Holocaust while attending the University of Vermont and we would occasionally have a denier sign up for one of the classes or attend a lecture. It was flabergasting how steadfast these people were in their beliefs -- even when presented infallible truths such as detailed records kept at the camps, videos made (show anyone Night and Fog and they will understand the utter distruction of life), and many other examples. And I think that is the scariest part of it all.

Deborah E. Lipstadt: While deniers' attempts to pervert history are deeply disturbing, don't let them get you down. They really are unimportant [as long as we know how extensively they twist history] as are most haters, whomever the object of their hatred. Also, when I last checked, there were more people in the US who believed Elvis was alive and well than who believed the Holocaust did not happen. That may only be half a consolation...


Gaithersburg, Md.: A few years ago a book called "Hitler's Willing Executioners" (or something like that) caused quite a controversy by suggesting that the existence of the Holocaust was wildely known and supported by the German populace.

Is there a common understanding of how many people willingly and with full knowledge participated?

Deborah E. Lipstadt: This is a very important question. We now know that many people in Germany had extensive knowledge of the killings. Let me give you just a few examples. There was a professor who lived in Dresden, Victor Klemperer, who despite having to live in a "Jew house" and was prevented from having a radio, had no family members in the Wehrmacht, Einsatzgruppen, or SS [who could report firsthand on the mass shootings in the East or the killings in the camps] yet he was able to write in August 1942 about a report of a 17 year old boy who died in a concentration camp. Boy supposedly died of colitis. Kelempers wondered, "Since when does a vigorous young person die of this?" In mid-January 1943 Klemperer writes about suffering from a constant and ghastly fear of Auschwitz, a place from which no body every comes back. Now if he knew this, imagine how much more people with direct contacts with the front knew. BTW, there is new book by Eric Johnson and Kar-Heinz Reuband, What We Knew, [Basic Books] which is an oral history of Germans living during that time and addresses precisely this issue. They demonstrate, as have many other historians before them including Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, just how extensive the knowledge of the killing and the participation -- directly and indirectly -- in it by Germans was.


Washington, D.C.: You cite MEMRI as a source for information on Holocaust denial in the Middle East. That seems ironic to me given that that organization is extremely selective in what it chooses to translate and publish.

Deborah E. Lipstadt: I can't speak to what MEMRI doesn't choose to translate and publish. I can only speak to what it does choose to translate and publish and much of that, especially in regard to antisemitism in general and the Holocaust in particular, is pretty frightening. [And MEMRI is not my only source for this kind of material.] And no one has ever argued that their translations are off the mark.


Deborah E. Lipstadt: I think that there are a number of things to keep in mind regarding Holocaust denial in general and my trial in particular: 1. Irving sued me. As I said in answer to another question: I don't believe history belongs in the courtroom. 2. Irving lost in an overwhelming fashion. There was not ONE point of history on which he prevailed and, as Professor Richard Evans, our lead historical witness noted, on every single one of Irving's statements about the Holocaust he found a "tissue of lies." 3. More importantly however, is the fact that deniers themselves are really not important. In fact, they are pretty pathetic figures as their futile attempts to try to disporve the truth are exposed. 4. Those who choose to expose their manipulations of the truth must try to do so without building them up into more than they are. 5. The same goes for racists and other sources of prejudice.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

David Irving on Dresden death toll

Anonymous [why are these people afraid to give their names....] just accused me of playing "fast and loose" with the facts about Irving's statements regarding the Dresden death toll and falsely claiming that he charges that the death toll was 250,000.

Just to ease Anonymous' concerns let me offer him/her the following information: In 1989 with all the contradictory information (from people such as Theo Miller who was there and was responsible for burning the bodies) about death tolls in Dresden in his hands, Irving told reporters “we burned Dresden... killing between 100,000 and 250,000.” [This was at the news conference launching the UK publication of the Leuchter Report.]

Monday, February 21, 2005

More on Mahmoud Abbas

For an example of the attacks on Mahmous Abbas see:

As Dan Yurman, the person who alerted me to this article notes, the authors seek to leverage outrage over documented Holocaust denial writings by Abbas to influence Jewish opinion about the talks.

They make no mention of Abbas' more recent retraction of his thesis argument. I do not think his retraction was all that it should have been but it merits mentioning if one is going to attack him. Unless, of course, one wants to only tell a portion of the story....

They challenge me to speak out. Obviously they have not seen History on Trial where I discuss Abbas' comments.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Review of History on Trial in San Francisco Chronicle

Challenging the lies of a Holocaust denier
- Reviewed by Yonatan Lupu
Sunday, February 20, 2005
History on Trial
My Day in Court With David Irving
By Deborah E. Lipstadt
Proving history can be more difficult than it might seem. Most of us naturally believe that the events we've heard about all our lives -- discoveries, wars, empires rising and falling -- actually took place. But what would we do if someone were trying to convince a court of law that a distorted, nefarious version of history was the truth? That, in simple terms, is the situation Deborah Lipstadt faced five years ago.
In her 1994 book about the international Holocaust denial movement, Lipstadt devoted about 200 words to David Irving, a prominent historian who she argued was a Holocaust denier. Irving had recently eliminated references to the Holocaust in his publications and made inflammatory statements like claiming that "more women died on the back of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz." In response, Irving sued Lipstadt for libel in Britain, arguing that her writing had hurt his reputation as a historian. In "History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving," she recounts every step of the trial process, from gathering the evidence to the final verdict.
Making the case particularly challenging for Lipstadt, British law places the burden of proof on the defendant, meaning she had to prove that her claims about Irving were true. In a U.S. court, Irving would been required to prove Lipstadt's claims were false.
At first, Lipstadt seems reluctant to have the case turn into something larger than a discussion of whether or not Irving is a Holocaust denier. "Our objective," she writes, "was not to prove the Holocaust had happened. No court was needed to prove that. Our job was to prove the truth of my words, namely that Irving had lied about the Holocaust and had done so out of anti-Semitic motives." In fact, she worries that the trial is "destined to morph from an examination of Irving's abuse of historical records into a debate on whether or not the Holocaust took place."
Lipstadt's lawyers see the case differently; they present the court with historical evidence showing that the Holocaust took place and that Nazi Germany's leaders were directing it. As a historian, Lipstadt naturally becomes frustrated by having to give proof of well-settled historical facts to the court. Yet, as the trial goes on, she begins to see the value of her lawyers' strategy: "If [Irving] rejected documents that unequivocally proved him wrong, he would prove me correct, namely that he discounted evidence that disputed his preexisting conclusions. If he accepted these documents, he would have to admit he was wrong about the Holocaust. ... The historical evidence would box Irving in between his lies and the truth."
Step by step, Lipstadt's lawyers pick apart Irving's version of history, showing the judge -- and the reader -- that Irving's conclusions could not come from anywhere but a predisposition to disbelieve in the Holocaust. Presented with evidence that does not fit his story, Irving tries to rationalize it and, when one explanation fails, makes Maxwell Smart-like attempts to find alternate explanations. When pressed about why he has conveniently ignored evidence that does not support his conclusions, Irving often barks that he is a "Hitler historian" rather than a Holocaust scholar.
The more Irving tries to explain his arguments -- with selective quotations, mistranslations and, perhaps most appallingly, understatements like calling the Holocaust a series of "Mi Lai-type massacres" -- the more he gets tangled in his faulty logic. As Lipstadt's lawyer, Richard Rampton, says after a court session, "Irving's real problem is that for the first time he is being forced to explain his contradictions and he can't."
"History on Trial" is not the first book about the Lipstadt-Irving case. The accounts by Richard J. Evans ("Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial") and Robert Jan van Pelt ("The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence From the Irving Trial"), historians who testified on Lipstadt's behalf, provide greater detail into the historical evidence presented at the trial. Finally, "The Holocaust on Trial" by D.D. Guttenplan, who covered the case for the New York Times, gives a journalistic perspective on the case.
But Lipstadt's story is more personal, compelling and intriguing. She presents her mixed emotions as the trail progresses -- aghast at Irving's testimony and the public forum the trial gives him, but gratified to see him exposed and condemned. And she recounts her encounters with Holocaust survivors who encourage her to keep fighting, coming to the trial hearings day after day. These anecdotes don't just make the book more engaging; they help cement the notion that this was no ordinary libel case, but possibly the most important Holocaust-related trial since Adolph Eichmann was tried in Israel in 1961.
Yonatan Lupu is an attorney and writer in Washington, D.C.

Review of History on Trial in Washington Post

[ ]

Bearing Witness
Reviewed by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
Sunday, February 20, 2005; Page BW04

My Day in Court with David Irving

By Deborah E. Lipstadt. Ecco. 346 pp. $25.95
In 1993, Deborah E. Lipstadt's groundbreaking Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory dissected a fringe, relatively isolated phenomenon of hard-core deniers. By the time she walked into a British court in 2000 to defend herself against a libel suit filed by one of those deniers, David Irving, Holocaust denial had been so transformed as to have become a critical part of the mushrooming global anti-Semitic movement.
Today Holocaust denial -- roughly analogous to maintaining that slavery never existed in the United States -- consists of a growing and sophisticated network of anti-Semites who either deny that there was a Holocaust or deny certain fundamental aspects of the Holocaust (such as the basic facts of Poles' or the Catholic Church's participation in crimes). Meanwhile, fellow travelers join in by radically minimizing aspects of the Holocaust or attacking Holocaust scholars or survivors as hucksters. The effect -- and the usually explicit agenda of these traducers -- is to spread suspicion and lies about Jews (in newspapers, books, speeches and all over the Internet), especially those revolving around conspiracy theories about shadowy webs of Jewish power.
This 21st-century context for the libel suit emerging from her 20th-century book (which was featured on the cover of Book World on its release) made Lipstadt's trial more than a difficult personal odyssey and more than an admirably executed exercise in exposing the fraudulence of one of a long list of scholar-masqueraders. The trial was an event, covered around the world, of substantial social and political importance. The truth of the Holocaust was in no sense on trial. Still, had Irving prevailed on the narrow legal issue -- showing that Lipstadt libeled him by calling him a denier -- anti-Semites and gullible reporters would have falsely played the verdict as casting doubt on the existence of the Holocaust itself.
Lipstadt's memoir tacks closely to the events themselves. A disciplined writer, she does not wander into long detours on the many philosophical or sociological paths along her way. Rather, she delivers a well-paced, expertly detailed and fascinating account of the trial process, including the long months of preparation and the courtroom proceedings themselves. Among other things, she provides an education in the very different character of Britain's libel laws (where the defendant must affirmatively prove the veracity of her statements), legal procedures (one kind of lawyer, a solicitor, prepares the case; another, a barrister, tries it) and rules and customs at trial. This alone will interest those by now so familiar with the American legal system.
The core of the book is the preparation for the discrediting of Irving's writings (which cannot properly be called either scholarship or history) and, ultimately, the destruction of his international reputation. Irving had until then been a popular peddler of apologetics for Hitler and German wartime crimes. Even before becoming a full-fledged denier, Irving denied -- against all evidence -- that Hitler even knew of the mass murder of Jews. Shockingly, Irving had been taken seriously by a part of the politicized historical profession that has a weakness for such exculpatory writings. Lipstadt's solicitor, the estimable Anthony Julius (who was also the late Princess Diana's divorce lawyer), was not among them. As he explained to Lipstadt early on, "We will argue that Irving subordinated the truth for ideological purposes and that his comments about the Holocaust were designed to spread antisemitism and engender sympathy for the Third Reich."
So they did. Aided by a team of expert witnesses, Lipstadt's barrister demolished both Irving's general claim that he was not a denier and his individual fabrications (including that Auschwitz had no functioning gas chambers used to exterminate Jews, and that the Germans' systematic mass shootings of Jews in the east were merely arbitrary, unauthorized "Mi Lai-type massacres"). Although this was a great team effort and a major legal victory, their task was inherently easy; Irving was the historians' equivalent of a flat-earther, and he had also previously been on record denying that the Holocaust happened. ("I don't see any reason to be tasteful about Auschwitz," Irving declared in 1991 before a group of rightists and neo-Nazis. "It's baloney. It's a legend. . . . more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz.")
Lipstadt's resounding legal victory in a trial that lasted nearly three months was made still easier by Irving himself, a train wreck in the courtroom. To get the flavor of his behavior, consider another part of his 1991 speech to the neo-Nazis (his arithmetic, of course, is as inaccurate as his taste is vulgar): "There are so many Auschwitz survivors going around, in fact the number increases as the years go past, which is biologically very odd to say the least, because I am going to form an Association of Auschwitz survivors, survivors of the Holocaust and other liars. . . . A-S-S-H-O-L-S." Irving, we see, is an inspiration for those today who attack wholesale the truthfulness of survivors. If he were not so unlikable, so shameless in his lies, it would be hard not to squirm when reading of his courtroom buffoonery and string of embarrassing setbacks.
Lipstadt's steadfastness, which can be seen throughout this book, stood her and historical truth well. A lesser person might have wilted under the enormous financial and media pressure. Against her nature, Lipstadt followed Julius's instruction to remain silent throughout, never speaking either in court or to the media that were not entirely fair to her. Only after the verdict did the world finally hear her voice, and only with this book do we hear it fully for the first time. •
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, author of "Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust" and "A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair," is completing a book on genocide in our time.

Final Word [I hope] on Ward Churchill

I have been asked by a number of people for more background on Ward Churchill's attacks on me. During my trial [Irving v. Penguin and Lipstadt] in 2000 someone alerted me to his attacks on me. I began the article and found two factual mistakes in the first paragraph. [Churchill claimed that Irving was barred from the United States and that the US Government had supported civil suits against deniers: both are wrong.]

I decided that this guy did not deserve too much of my time. I skimmed the rest of the article and saw that much of it was a vicious attack on me for not mentioning the American assaults on Native Americans and declaring that it was the same as the Holocaust.

What the United States did to Native Americans was horrendous. I have not studied it closely and it's not my area of expertise, however, it seems clear that the treatment of the various Native American tribes was revolting. However, it was not the same as the Holocaust. The Native Americans were seen as "competitors" for land and resources. There was, therefore, a certain logic -- horrible and immoral as it was -- to the campaign against the Native Americans. [Please note: I am NOT justifying the attacks.] The German campaign against the Jews had no logic and was often completely illogical. People who were "useful" to the Germans were murdered or exiled, e.g. slave laborers in factories producing goods for the Wehrmacht and scientists who were producing important technological advances for the Germans. In a prime example of illogic, in June 1944 at the time of the landing at Normandy, when the Germans were truly on the defensive, they used precious ships and men to go to the Island of Corfu and deport the 1200 Jews who lived there. They ended up in Auschwitz. Approximately 100 of this old Jewish community survived.

Because of my feelings, Churchill declared me equal to Eichmann because by "denying" the putative Native American Holocaust, I cause more Holocausts.

Only after the current brouhaha over Churchill's comments did I go back and read the article in its entirety. That's how I discovered his comment. His work is repetitive and not particularly enlightening. It's also the first time I ever saw the word "Motherfucker" in what purports to be a scholarly article.

End of story. [I hope.]

Friday, February 18, 2005

Mahmoud Abbas and Holocaust Denial

I keep getting emails asking me about his Holocaust denial. I deal with this in my book, History on Trial, briefly at the end. To summarize, even more briefly: He did engage in denial when he wrote his Ph.D. thesis in the early 1980s in Moscow. More recently he has said that were he writing it now he would not have said what he did [there were only 1,000,000 victims etc.] I wish he had made a more vigorous retraction.

However, the growing focus in Jewish circles on this aspect of his work strikes me as a bit opportunistic. There are far worse deniers in the Arab/Muslim world. There are those who still energetically deny the Holocaust. It seems to me that those who are opposed to any kind of agreement with the Palestinians have jumped on this bandwagon in an attempt to discredit Mahmoud Abbas.

This, of course, is coming from the same folks who thought it appropriate to have settlers wear orange stars..........

Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Antisemitism in the UK: People are Nervous

Just spoke to my blog mentor, Sasha, a savy and sophisticated Londoner. She is really disturbed [freaked out?] by a series of events in the last three weeks in London. First it was Prince Harry's rather stupid choice of costume for a party. Harry may not be the sharpest blade in the drawer, but it's hard to understand how he could have been so oblivious. [Truth be told, this issue is as much [more?] of an insult to the Brits who suffered and died during the war than it is to Jews. After all he is their Prince.]

Then there was the Labour Party's very dumb "pigs could fly" advert about the leaders of the Conservative party, both of whom happen to be Jews and an advert about their slimy ways with money. And finally and most disturbing was the comment by Ken Livingston [Mayor of London]to a Jewish reporter in which he essentially compared him to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

These things have rattled Sasha. But she's even more rattled by the fact that the people who seem most troubled by this are Jews. Can you imagine if Livingston had said to a reporter from Al Gezira, "Are you a suicide bomber?" EVERYONE, including the Jews, who have gone beserk.

Lipstadt on 60th Anniversary of Bombing of Dresden

Forward Forum
60 Years Later, Dresden Bombing Claims Another Victim: Memory
By Deborah Lipstadt
February 18, 2005

On Sunday, some 5,000 neo-Nazis took to the streets of Dresden to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Allied bombing of the baroque city. The march — one of the biggest far-right demonstrations in Germany since the fall of the Third Reich — sought to draw an "immoral equivalence," in the words of one neo-Nazi leader, between the "Allies' Holocaust of bombs" and Nazi crimes.

Unfortunately, it is not only admirers of Hitler who believe in the mythology of Dresden.

The British and American raids on February 13-14, 1945, have entered popular history as an action, taken for no strategic or military reasons against a city that was harboring thousands of refugees, that resulted in the death of between 150,000 and 250,000 people. The facts, however, are remarkably different.

Historian Fredrick Taylor has meticulously demonstrated this in his fascinating book, "Dresden: Tuesday 13 February 1945." Wartime Dresden was a German "administrative, industrial and communications center" that was close to the front lines and home to one of the Reich's largest military garrisons. Dresden, Taylor points out, was a key railway junction. In October 1944, as the military fronts in the East and Southeast were coming closer, 28 military trains carrying almost 20,000 soldiers transited through Dresden daily. By February 1945, that pace would not have measurably decreased. Dresden's railway traffic made it an important Allied target.

Dresden, however, was inviting not only because of what went through it. The city's legendary china, camera, chocolate, bicycle and other factories had been reconfigured to produce precision military equipment and armaments. Zeiss Ikon, the distinguished camera company, made shell cartridges. The Germans, anxious about protecting these factories, kept them secret. Often, only the factory workers knew that its prewar consumer product had been replaced with military equipment. Furthermore, the city's leaders, sure that Dresden's status as a Kulturstadt would protect it, steadfastly refused to prepare basic air raid protection, which greatly increased the death toll.

Critics, relying on hindsight — which is always 20/20 — charge that the raid came when victory was in the offing. But in February 1945, Allied strategists as well as soldiers on the front were quite uncertain that Nazi Germany was collapsing. A month earlier, the Battle of the Bulge had cost the Allies 80,000 killed, wounded or captured. Two months later, the Soviets would lose 80,000 soldiers in the assault on Berlin. Germany fought till the bitter end.

This was particularly so, at least ideologically, in Dresden, which was an avidly Nazi city until the bitter end. After Hitler committed suicide, Dresden observed an eight-day period of public mourning, leading one survivor to recall that "Dresden was the only city that experienced eight days of National Socialism without Hitler."

Critics of the bombing also have charged that the Allies purposely strafed innocent people who were trying to flee the Russian advance from the East. But there is no evidence of strafing in Allied or, even more significantly, German military documents . Neither the Wehrmacht's report on the bombing nor Göbbels's propagandists — who were wont to highlight charges of strafing — mentioned it. In fact, the German and American documentary records of the bombing are remarkably similar, making it unlikely that the American records were subsequently falsified.

Using the number of burials, certified deaths, missing persons lists and other official sources, virtually all historians, Taylor included, have concluded that the death toll was between 25,000 and 40,000 — a substantial figure, but far less than the 250,000 figure that is often cited. So how did strafing, tremendous death tolls and a strategically unnecessary military exercise enter popular mythology?

First of all, immediately after the bombing survivors made all sorts of demonstratively false charges, as Taylor proves. Göbbels's propagandists reiterated these charges and circulated a death toll of between 200,000 and 250,000. For Göbbels, the bombing of Dresden was a "cynical opportunity" to motivate Germans to keep resisting the Allies. Subsequently, Communist authorities, anxious about portraying the West badly, reinforced this version of the bombing.

But most influential, Taylor argues, was David Irving's "The Destruction of Dresden." Irving, a writer of historical works that tend toward a sympathetic view of the Nazis, spread the story of deliberate strafing in his 1963 book and promulgated the notion of a very high death toll. The book, a best seller, was repeatedly reissued and translated into many languages. Kurt Vonnegut used it as the source for his bestselling "Slaughterhouse-Five."

When Irving sued me for libel for describing him as a Holocaust denier, my defense team decided to examine his treatment of the bombing of Dresden. While Taylor attributes many of the misconceptions about the raid to Irving, he does not seem to be aware of the extent to which Irving not only misrepresented the evidence that he had, but also ignored and even suppressed information that proved him wrong — particularly in relation to the death toll. That aspect of the myth has taken on a particular importance, because Holocaust deniers use the inflated figure to "balance" the deaths in camps such as Auschwitz.

In court, Irving claimed that his estimates came from a March 1945 German document, TB-47, which was a "brief extract" from a statement by the Dresden police chief. After the war, a Dresden photographer had seen a copy of it in the home of a Dresden doctor. The photographer surreptitiously copied the doctor's copy and subsequently typed it up. In 1964, when Irving was visiting the photographer, he saw the copy of the copy of the extract, and asked for a copy for himself. The photographer's wife typed up additional copies, and Irving took one. Our historical witness, Richard Evans, testified that, based on this carbon copy of a typed copy of a typed copy of a surreptitiously handwritten copy of an unsigned document that was an "extract" from an official police report, Irving proclaimed to have reliable information about the bombing.

From the witness box, Irving insisted that the doctor, from whom the photographer copied the report, was Dresden's chief medical officer during the raid, and therefore a most trustworthy source. In fact, after the publication of the German edition of Irving's book, this doctor wrote him, protesting that he had only been a urologist and had no hand in any official reports. Irving ignored the doctor's protests, continued to adhere to a higher figure and on the stand argued that the doctor was lying in order to please Communist authorities. This was completely illogical. The Communists wanted a higher, not lower, death toll.

The Dresden official responsible for collecting and counting the bodies, Theo Miller, wrote Irving in 1965 that the highest possible toll was 30,000. Irving ignored Miller's lucid and sober account in the many subsequent editions of his book. In 1965, a copy of the original police report, from which TB-47 had been extracted, was found. It listed a toll of 20,000 to 25,000.

Charles Gray, the presiding judge in my case, found Irving's treatment of the Dresden historical record "reprehensible" and "absurd" and concluded that Irving's work on this topic "fell far short of the standard to be expected of a conscientious historian." Even more telling is what Irving's German publishers wrote on the title page when they republished his book in 1985: "a novel."

Though the devastation of Dresden was immense, Taylor's riveting book conclusively proves that the bombing was not a unique and senseless crime against an innocent city. Holocaust deniers and other extremists, who care little about the facts, will be unmoved, as Irving has been unmoved by all the contradictory evidence that has come his way. That is to be expected. However, in order to thwart their attempt to engage in immoral equivalencies, those who do care about historical accuracy must abandon the exaggerated mythology of the bombing of Dresden.

Deborah Lipstadt, professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University, is the author of "History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving" (Ecco, 2005).

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Ward Churchill says Deborah Lipstadt is the same as Adolf Eichmann


Long before he called the people in the World Trade Center "little Eichmanns," Ward Churchill had written that there was "no difference.... between a Deborah Lipstadt and an Adolf Eichmann." His comments were prompted by the fact that I do not equate the treatment of the Native Americans with the Holocaust.

For his rather incomprehensible ramblings on this point see:

Review of History on Trial in Minneapolis Star Tribune

Nonfiction review: 'History on Trial' by Deborah E. Lipstadt
Reviewed By Martin Schmutterer, Special To The Star Tribune

February 13, 2005 HISTORY0213

When Deborah Lipstadt opened her mail on a "perfect fall day" in 1995, she had no idea that the letter she had received from her publisher would spark a five-year legal battle challenging historical truth, the memory of the Holocaust and freedom of speech.

It was absurd: David Irving, a controversial military historian known mainly for his sympathetic portrayal of prominent Nazis, was accusing her of defamation. She had called him a Holocaust denier and impugned his reputation as a historian in her book "Denying the Holocaust," and upon publication in Britain, Irving would sue. That he was a denier didn't matter. Because of British libel laws, Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin UK, had to take his complaint seriously. In "History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving," Lipstadt finally testifies about being the defendant in one of the most important trials of the 20th century.

Many colleagues and friends told Lipstadt to ignore the lawsuit or settle with Irving. Neither was possible. In England, defamatory words are presumed to be untrue, which is a tremendous burden, and anything less than a vigorous defense would bring credibility to those who view the Holocaust as legend or lie. And as her description of Irving was intended to be defamatory -- damaging to his reputation -- she could not argue that her words were simply misunderstood or that she had meant no harm. Lipstadt was left with only one option: She had to prove the truth of her accusations. With the help of expert witnesses, including eminent historians Christopher Browning, Robert Jan van Pelt and Richard Evans (whose own book about the trial, "Lying about Hitler," is also excellent), Lipstadt's legal team proved a pattern of distortions of evidence throughout his body of work, a history of anti-Semitism and racism and a willingness to downplay and even deny the Holocaust.

To her dismay, Lipstadt's legal team kept her from testifying and making public comment. And her frustration with her lawyers in this regard is a recurring theme, even though she acknowledges that they were usually right. It killed her to see Irving, who served as his own counsel and had no qualms about talking to journalists, swagger roguishly in public and charm the news media. Irving's message was clear and effective: He portrayed himself as an outsider who questioned received wisdom and was being censored for his efforts. Many, including the eminent military historian Sir John Keegan, saw Lipstadt as the politically correct schoolmarm hushing the bright but naughty boy asking difficult questions. Never mind that Irving sued her and has threatened others with similar legal action.

Upon entering her barrister's chambers in London before the trial, Lipstadt told him, "I feel as if I am entering the Dickensian to discuss the Kafkaesque." Indeed, sometimes the proceedings took bizarre turns, such as Irving calling the judge "mein Fuehrer" or Monty Python-esque exchanges between Irving and witnesses. But Lipstadt is continually reminded of the importance of her trial by the kindness of strangers and well-wishes not only from the Jewish community but from everyone she encountered -- from hotel clerks to taxi drivers. She had the "privilege to do hesed shel emet, to stand up for those who did not survive or who could not stand up for themselves."

Most of the coverage of this trial has focused on Irving. It is often referred to as the "David Irving case" or the "Irving libel trial" as if he were the defendant. But Lipstadt doesn't dwell on Irving in "History on Trial"; that he is a liar, a manipulator of historical record and a denier is evident enough. Instead, she takes back the trial for herself, for those who suffered and for those who died. Anything less would be an injustice.

Martin Schmutterer also writes for Ruminator Review. He lives in St. Paul.

© 2005 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Lipstadt in Chronicle of Higher Education on Auschwitz Visit

Chronicle of Higher Education,February 18, 2005


Chronicle of Higher Ed

In late December I received a call from the White House Office of Presidential Personnel asking if I would be part of a small American delegation representing the president and the nation at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The dates fell smack at the beginning of the semester. I am loath to miss classes. Nonetheless, I decided that this merited the absence, and my dean agreed.

The delegation, which was being led by Vice President Dick Cheney, included Elie Wiesel; U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos and his wife, Annette, both Holocaust survivors; Fred Schwartz, who had spearheaded the rebuilding of a synagogue in the town of Auschwitz; Feliks Bruks, a Polish American who had been imprisoned by the Nazis in three concentration camps; and me. When I asked the White House official why I had been included, she explained that it was because of my work, especially my legal travails, exposing Holocaust deniers.

So that was how I found myself in the distinguished-visitors lounge at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Tuesday, January 25. We boarded a Gulfstream jet that seemed like it might have seated 40 but was configured for 10 passengers and six crew members. From the outside it looked like a miniature Air Force One, with the words United States of America emblazoned on the side. (Cheney was leaving later that night on Air Force Two, which was on the tarmac nearby.) I was able to answer my e-mail and to blog from the plane.

When we landed in Kraków in a blinding snowstorm, a convoy of police cars, limos, SUV's, and vans moved forward across the tarmac to greet us. The American ambassador to Poland, Victor Ashe, emerged from a car and thanked us for coming. Our luggage was unloaded and placed on a truck that preceded us to the hotel. By the time I entered my room, the luggage was waiting for me. It was all very heady and quite unlike my life as a professor.

But the Sybaritic pleasures were severely tempered by the reason we were there. While I sat in the "control room" -- a hotel suite that had been turned into an office -- dealing with my e-mail, behind me State Department officials vigorously debated the most efficient way to get us to Auschwitz-Birkenau the next day for the ceremony. With the expected crowds and motorcades, the officials were unsure whether it was better to send us in the vice president's entourage or in our own van. After listening for a while, I turned around and observed that there was something surrealistic about discussing how to get to the death camp, the largest "cemetery" in the world, punctually. We laughed uncomfortably.

The next day we sat for three long hours in the falling snow listening to orations and participating in the commemoration. After a while the speeches, many by heads of state, began to morph one into another. What could the statesmen say, surrounded by camp survivors, in the shadow, literally, of the gas chambers? I was reminded of Adorno's pronouncement that "writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric." It seemed to me that on a day such as this, prose fared little better, except for the words of those who had actually experienced the camps.

I tuned out the speakers and began to reflect on those survivors' writings, which were very much with me because I had just finished teaching a course on memoirs of the Holocaust. In Still Alive, Ruth Kluger describes watching an SS guard preening on the other side of the barbed wire with a walking stick that had a loaf of bread stuck to the end. He tormented the starving prisoners by dragging the bread in the mud. Watching the bread destroyed in the dirt hit Kluger "like a blow in the diaphragm because it was such a crudely sarcastic expression of undifferentiated hatred."

Primo Levi describes a similar experience in Survival in Auschwitz, when, during his first days at the camp, driven by thirst, he saw a large icicle hanging outside his window. He reached out and grabbed it only to have a "large heavy guard prowling outside" brutally snatch it away. "Warum?" Levi asked. The guard replied: "Hier ist kein warum." Here there is no why.

Sitting there in my four layers of clothing, heavy socks, special boots, earmuffs, and hat, and nursing a cup of hot coffee, which our minders had kindly provided us, I was thrust back to the final days of the camp, when the Germans, unwilling to let 60,000 surviving Jews fall into the hands of the Red Army, forced them to march through the snow toward Germany, where they were put in concentration camps.

In Speak You Also, Paul Steinberg recalled that as the march began he knew that "one thing is certain: In the days to come, many will die just when their wildest dreams are about to come true. And that will be the cruelest blow of all." And Steinberg was correct. So many people died that the trek entered history as a "death march."

In the final chapter of his memoir, Levi describes in detail the situation at Auschwitz during the days before the arrival of the Red Army. Levi, left behind in Auschwitz's so-called hospital, saw the camp decompose. "No more water, or electricity, broken windows and doors slamming in the wind. ... Ragged, decrepit, skeletonlike patients ... dragged themselves everywhere on the frozen soil, like an invasion of worms. They had ransacked all the empty huts in search of food and wood. ... No longer in control of their own bowels, they had fouled everywhere, polluting the precious snow, the only source of water remaining in the camp."

Levi attributed his survival during those difficult last days to the friendship and support of a small group of men who were in the hospital with him. Their only goal, he told Philip Roth years later, was to save "the lives of our sick comrades." On the night of the 26th of January one of them died. Levi and his friends were too cold and exhausted to bury him. There was nothing to do but go back to sleep and wait for the next day. "The Russians arrived while Charles and I were carrying Sómogyi a little distance outside. He was very light. We overturned the stretcher on the gray snow. Charles took off his beret. I regretted not having a beret."

Sixty years later, as darkness fell over Auschwitz, I turned to one of the members of our delegation and said: "It's really cold. I regret not having worn another layer of clothing." Suddenly Levi's words came cascading back on me. I was embarrassed. And then without explaining why, I stood up in silent tribute not just to Sómogyi, but to the countless nameless others who had died there or those, such as Elie Wiesel's father, who died soon after the death march. I also stood for people such as Levi, who survived but bore the terrible wounds of the place for the rest of their lives.

Despite the sharp wind, I took off my hat. After all, I had one.

Deborah E. Lipstadt is a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University. She is the author of Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (Free Press, 1993) and the just-published History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving (Ecco).

Section: The Chronicle Review
Volume 51, Issue 24, Page B5

Review of History on Trial in the Atlanta Journal Constitution

BOOKS: Erasing one who would rewrite history

Phil Kloer - Staff
Atlanta Constitution

Sunday, February 13, 2005


History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving.
By Deborah E. Lipstadt. Ecco Press. $25.95. 346 pages.

The verdict: The only one it could have been.

In a 1991 speech, British historian David 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."

It's a tough decision whether to be more outraged at the utter disregard for established fact or the cavalier tastelessness of that statement. That Irving had been considered a serious World War II historian is even worse. Thanks to the work of Deborah Lipstadt, professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, Irving is now known mainly as a liar, an anti-Semite and a man who made a very foolish move when he took on Lipstadt.

In 1993, Lipstadt published her first book, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory," a serious exploration of the topsy-turvy world of people --- some of them well-known and respected, others just pathetic --- who either deny the reality of the Holocaust or play games to twist or diminish it. One of the authors she called out as a dangerous Holocaust denier was Irving, who had written several histories of World War II but whose methods and judgment were increasingly being questioned by his peers.

Irving sued Lipstadt for libel in Britain, where the libel laws differ significantly from ours, essentially forcing Lipstadt to prove her case against Irving. With a team of British lawyers and the attention and support of many people who care about the Holocaust, from Steven Spielberg to survivors, she suffered through a 10-week trial in 2000, which she has now turned into a book, "History on Trial."

Among Irving's claims: Hitler had no role in the Final Solution; gas chambers were not used at Auschwitz; and the murder of Jews was more the random work of overzealous soldiers than of an overall Nazi plan.

On first meeting with her solicitor in London's Brick Court, Lipstadt said, "I feel as if I am entering the Dickensian to discuss the Kafkaesque."

On the advice of her attorney, Lipstadt did not speak to the press during the trial, and did not testify. Her attorney said that having her testify would only divert attention away from what should be the trial's true focus: how Irving had falsified the historical record to build his case, and had done so because he was a committed anti-Semite.

"I feared that people would think I was frightened of facing him," she writes. Her frustration is almost palpable at times, and "History on Trial," important and rationally put forth as it is, sometimes feels like a person unburdening herself of something she has kept bottled up too long.

"History on Trial" can get bogged down in tiny disputes over translations of German documents, but this is a case where the devil is truly in the details; deniers sometimes build their cases on many minor misstatements of fact, and it's Lipstadt's duty --- it has practically become her calling --- to painstakingly refute those errors.

But "History on Trial" is by no means dull. At one point, near the trial's beginning, Lipstadt offers a telling anecdote:

"A small elderly woman had pushed her way through the crush. She had a heavily wrinkled face and very sad eyes. . . . Ignoring the reporters, she thrust her arm in front of me, rolled her sleeve up to her elbow and emphatically pointed at the number tattooed on her forearm. 'You are fighting for us. You are our witness.' "

Deborah Lipstadt is writing for us. And for the ages.

Phil Kloer is a staff writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Reviews of History on Trial [Publisher's Weekly, Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist]

History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving

Publishers Weekly

[Starred] In a much-publicized case, David Irving, the author of numerous books about WWII, sued Emory University historian Lipstadt and her British publisher, Penguin, for libel. Lipstadt had called Irving a Holocaust denier in a book about the Holocaust denial movement, and Britain's libel laws put the burden of proof on her to show that the charge was true. Did that mean proving the Holocaust had happened? Was Lipstadt, as Irving claimed, trying to restrict his freedom of speech, or was he restraining hers? Was the courtroom the proper place to examine historical truth? The press hotly debated these issues, but as Lipstadt relates in this powerful account, she and her adept lawyers felt they simply had to discredit a man who had said that "no documents whatsoever show that a Holocaust had ever happened." In 2000, Judge Charles Gray decided in Lipstadt's favor, finding it "incontrovertible" that Irving was a Holocaust denier. The drama of the book lies in the courtroom confrontations between an evasive and self-contradictory Irving (serving as his own lawyer) and Lipstadt's strategically brilliant barrister, Richard Rampton, and the scholars who testified in her defense. Lipstadt herself is a reluctant heroine, a feisty, outspoken woman forced to remain silent (she did not testify in court) and let her lawyers speak for her. No one who cares about historical truth, freedom of speech or the Holocaust will avoid a sense of triumph from Gray's decision-or a sense of dismay that British libel laws allowed such intimidation by Irving of a historian and a publisher in the first place. Agent, Gary Morris. (Feb. 4) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal
On her lawyer's instructions, Lipstadt (Judaic studies, Emory Univ.) did not publicly defend herself when Holocaust denier David Irving sued her for libel. Now Lipstadt breaks her silence, revealing her personal experiences while reflecting on the trial's relationship to questions of academic freedom and historical veracity. In recounting how she became interested in Holocaust studies and how the trial disrupted her life, Lipstadt effectively blends her story with the wider political worlds of academic publishing and politics. Although readers know that she was completely vindicated, Lipstadt manages to convey the tensions of the trial. She also gives a touching account of the outpouring of support she received from many quarters, not all of them Jewish. Although excessive detail sometimes slows the narrative, the book provides significant insight into how Holocaust deniers ply their trade. Three other books have been published so far on the Irving-Lipstadt trial (Richard Evans's Lying About Hitler, Robert Jan van Pelt's The Case for Auschwitz, and D.D. Gutenplan's History on Trial) and belong with this insider's account in all libraries.-Frederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
[Starred] Absorbing account of the famed libel trial, in London, that brought the whole enterprise of Holocaust denial to the bench. In Denying the Holocaust (1993), Lipstadt (History/Emory Univ.) described British historian David Irving as "a Hitler partisan wearing blinkers," a man who "on some level seems to conceive himself as carrying on Hitler's legacy." Dangerous words, particularly since Irving had written books on the history of the Third Reich that had been well received; the eminent military historian John Keegan, for instance, praised Irving's Hitler's War as one of the best books ever written about WWII. Irving, who had earned enough money from the sales of his books to own a Rolls-Royce and keep a place in London's fashionable Mayfair district, was quick to sue. It took six years for the case to come to trial, but when it did, Lipstadt and her legal team were stunningly well prepared; among other documents, they had a 700-page dossier prepared by historian Richard J. Evans examining the sources Irving claims to have used in making his years-long argument that Hitler was innocent of having ordered the extermination of European Jews. Lipstadt's reconstruction of the trial as it played out day by day has its dry patches, but her account rises above the case itself to indict the demimonde of Holocaust deniers generally. Into the bargain, Lipstadt convincingly characterizes Irving as a litigious anti-Semite with a penchant for bending historical facts to suit repellent theories, as the court concluded. By the end, following a couple of cliffhanger moments, readers will sense that justice has been done, though plenty of puzzling aspects remain: Irving continues to speak and publish, and, inthe wake of the court's judgment, prominent historians, including Keegan, rose to his defense. This last word in the matter of DJC Irving v. Penguin Books Ltd and Deborah Lipstadt is a fascinating and meritorious work of legal-and moral-history.

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 Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Monday, February 7, 2005

Salon Review of History on Trial

"Lipstadt gives a detailed account of the trial that never loses its suspense, readability or momentum. Or humor," writes in its lengthy review today of HISTORY ON TRIAL:

February 7, 2005 Monday


LENGTH: 3136 words

HEADLINE: Shilling for Hitler

BYLINE: By Charles Taylor

Eminent historians defended Holocaust denier David Irving in the name of free speech and scholarship. Deborah Lipstadt's account of her libel trial with Irving proves how colossally wrong they were.

Let's imagine that there was a writer who took as his subject World War II. And let's suppose that because of his ability to amass and cite journals, transcripts, paperwork and all manner of documents, he gained a reputation as a meticulous researcher. Now let's say that the conclusion the writer drew from all of his research was an unshakable conviction that World War II never happened. It was, he insists, a massive fraud, and he declares under oath, "No documents whatever show that World War II had ever happened."

Now let's allow things to get curiouser and curiouser.

Despite this writer's farcical conclusion, historians of World War II, men who have spent their professional lives studying and documenting the war, still insist on the soundness of his research. It is possible, they say, to draw faulty conclusions from solid fact-finding. They do not bother themselves with the obvious question of how good the quality of any research can be if it can be used to support what is patently false. One historian says he and his colleagues should be able to admit the view of those with whom they may not be "intellectually akin."

When journalists began writing about the work of this WWII debunker, they refer to it as an alternate interpretation or a controversial point of view. One suggests that the writer has opened a useful dialogue around the question "Who decides what 'happened' in the first place?"

Eventually, a historian, aware of the esteem in which some of his colleagues hold this writer, agrees to put the writer's famed research to an intensive examination. What he finds is a consistent pattern of deliberate misquotation, misinterpretation and outright lies designed to support the writer's conclusions. Anything that hasn't supported those conclusions has been either discarded or altered. This historian concludes that "deceptions ... had remained an integral part of his working methods across the decades." Even this does not deter other historians from continuing to profess admiration for the WWII debunker. One even writes that the debunker possesses "an all consuming knowledge of a vast body of material." And another, apparently unaware of how he is defaming his profession, announces that no one "could have withstood [the] kind of scrutiny" that the historian had subjected the debunker to.

If you change "World War II" to "Holocaust" in the above paragraphs, you have a precis of how the Holocaust denier and fascist sympathizer David Irving has been both praised and damned. Except for that change, each of the quotes above has been made by or about Irving. The line about Irving's "all consuming knowledge" was said by British military historian Sir John Keegan. The claim that no historian could have survived the scrutiny accorded Irving was made by another acclaimed British historian, Donald Cameron Watt.

What is particularly notable about those two quotes from the leading harrumphers of the "maps and chaps" school of history is that they came after Irving's crushing defeat in a libel case that Irving himself brought against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt. (Keegan and Watt were subpoenaed by Irving to testify on his behalf.) Lipstadt, professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Atlanta's Emory University, had, in her book "Denying the Holocaust," called Irving a "Hitler partisan wearing blinkers" who distorted, skewed and manipulated evidence and documents "in order to reach historically untenable conclusions."

For this, Irving brought a libel suit against Lipstadt and her British publishers, Viking Penguin, in British courts, a suit Irving offered to settle for 500 pounds and a promise not to reprint Lipstadt's book. Lipstadt and Viking Penguin declined, even though facing off against Irving in London meant operating under the asinine British libel laws in which the burden of proof is placed on the accused. After a four-month trial adjudicated not by a jury but by Judge Charles Gray (both parties decided the material was too complex for a jury to digest), Gray handed down a decision that, to anyone sentient and breathing, ended the myth of David Irving as a historian. In his judgment, Gray not only said that Irving was an "antisemite" and a "racist" but that his "falsification of the 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."

Two accounts of the trial followed in 2001. Richard Evans, the British historian who had undertaken a massive examination of Irving's corpus for Lipstadt's defense team (the above quote about deception being an integral part of Irving's working methods is from Evans), published the thrilling intellectual detective story "Lying About Hitler" (whose publication was delayed in the United Kingdom because Evans' original publisher was nervous that Irving might sue). And the writer D.D. Guttenplan wrote "The Holocaust on Trial," which provides a lucid narrative of the trial while playing right into Irving's hands with a sophomoric and shallow discussion of what Guttenplan believed to be the issues raised at that trial. In one passage, Guttenplan writes that taking "so much" for granted -- "so much" referring to "Adolf Hitler's murderous intentions, the horrifying efficiency of the death camps, the fatal consequences for the Jews" -- "conceals" the questions of "How do we know these things really happened?" and "How do we know [the witnesses] are telling the truth?" To which the only response is: How do some people live with themselves?

Now, five years after crushing Irving in a British court, Deborah Lipstadt has provided her own account of her ordeal in "History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving." Hers is the most detailed account of the trial yet, and the most crazy-making. It isn't Lipstadt who drives you nuts -- it's Irving. The man comes off as something dreamed up in a collaboration between the Monty Python crew, George Orwell and P.G. Wodehouse (who might well have been forecasting the arrival of David Irving when he concocted the homegrown fascist Sir Roderick Spode). To sit in a court for weeks on end and listen to Irving's endless insistence that black is white and up is down would be enough to make the most patient among us feel as if we'd slipped into Bizarro world, and Lipstadt is clearly not a woman blessed with patience. (Having a similar temperament, I find that one of the most likable things about her.)

Due, I'm guessing, to her discipline as a historian -- an ability to follow an argument, to provide evidence along the way, to quickly seize upon contradiction and prevarication -- Lipstadt gives a detailed account of the trial that never loses its suspense, readability or momentum. Or humor. Lipstadt feels guilty when some absurdity of the trial causes her to laugh. But how else do you react to a moment like the one that occurred during Irving's closing statement, when he addressed Judge Gray as "mein Fuhrer"?

Long before she landed across the aisle from him in a British court, Lipstadt was fighting not only Irving's reputation as a reputable historian, but also the people who simply wanted to dismiss him as a crackpot. David Irving is surely that, but he is not just that. And Lipstadt's deepest accomplishment in "History on Trial" is in the doggedness with which she drives home the danger of David Irving.

I have to admit to losing patience with Lipstadt at times. When the documentary filmmaker Errol Morris shows her his film "Mr. Death," about Holocaust denier Fred Leuchter, Lipstadt says that Morris' amusement with Leuchter's cracked theories "was, however inadvertently, helping Irving make his case." Morris certainly has a penchant for treating the people who come before his camera as freaks, and he often milks their oddities for laughter, but that's far from helping Irving to make his case. It's more likely that Morris finds Leuchter's claims so outrageous he can't conceive of how anyone can take them seriously. But you understand how Lipstadt's experience keeps her from laughing: She is all too familiar with people, and not just fools, willing to take Holocaust deniers seriously.

Sooner or later, every Jew who perceives anti-Semitism as an encroaching danger gets described as hysterical or paranoid. The flattering self-deception at the root of that reaction is a way of consigning anti-Semitism to the past, of saying, "Surely we've become more civilized than that." "History on Trial" makes the case, as did "Lying About Hitler," that we have not become so civilized we are above tolerating David Irving.

Irving's supporters -- and I include in that group not just the pathetic fools who greet with laughter his comments about "Auschwitz Survivors, Survivors of the Holocaust, and Other Liars," or "ASSHOLS," at the white-supremacy rallies and conferences he often addresses, but the more upscale fools who are not Holocaust deniers but who continue to believe in his efficacy as a historian -- have long tried to cast those who oppose Irving as enemies of free speech.

This is the tack Christopher Hitchens has long taken when writing about David Irving, and it is worth dwelling on him, as his writing provides a useful compendium of Irving apologias. In a June 1996 Vanity Fair column after St. Martin's Press canceled its contract with Irving to publish his biography of Joseph Goebbels, Hitchens, styling himself the macho defender of the First Amendment, called the anti-Irving articles that led to St. Martin's actions "hysterical and old-maidish." Of the historians condemning Irving he wrote, "These are supposedly experienced historians who claim to have looked mass death in the face, without flinching. And they can't take the idea of a debate with David Irving?"

The sly implication of those lines is that Irving's opponents are afraid to confront him. What Hitchens ignores is the position that Deborah Lipstadt has taken for years: that to debate Holocaust deniers implies they are expressing a fact-based vision of history. Shilling for Hitler, Irving is expressing no such thing.

To see this you need look no further than the Goebbels biography that Hitchens is so hot about. In a May 2001 review of the Evans and Guttenplan books for the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Hitchens wrote, of St. Martin's decision, "St. Martin's gave no reason of historical accuracy for its about-face." The implication being that none exists.

What Hitchens perhaps did not know in 1996, and seemingly chose not to mention in 2001, are the falsifications in the Goebbels bio that Richard Evans discovered in his examination of Irving's work. An example: In the book, Irving cited a statistic on the number of cases of fraud perpetrated by Jews in 1933 Germany. Irving's rather insalubrious source for this claim was Kurt Daluege, the head of the German Order Police in the early '30s, and later in charge of the extermination of Jews on the Eastern Front. But having decided to quote a Nazi, Irving apparently decided that he himself could do a better job of making the Nazi case. Daluege had claimed that, under the Nazis, the number of fraud cases dropped from 31,000 in 1933, to 18,000, a majority of which he claimed were committed by Jews. In Irving's book these statistics were twisted into the following sentence: "In 1932 [sic] no fewer than thirty thousand cases of fraud, mainly insurance swindles, would be committed by Jews."

Giving Hitchens the benefit of the doubt about the lies of the Goebbels book still does not excuse this claim from his 1996 Vanity Fair article: "And, incidentally, [Irving] has never and not once described the Holocaust as a 'hoax'." Restricting ourselves just to what Hitchens could have known before writing that, we find that, testifying at the 1988 trial of a Canadian Holocaust denier, Irving said, "No documents whatever show that a Holocaust had ever happened." What's the defense of this? That Irving doesn't use the word "hoax"? OK then. How about these?

In a 1991 speech, Irving said, "Until 1988, I believed that there had been something like a Holocaust ... but [in] 1988 ... I met people who knew differently and could prove to me that story was just a legend."

In 1990: "The holocaust of Germans in Dresden really happened. That of the Jews in the gas chambers of Auschwitz is an invention."

And, again, in 1991: "More women died on the back seat of Senator Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz."

Remember, Hitchens' defenses of Irving did not appear on, to use his own phrase, "some ghastly Brownshirt Web site," but in Vanity Fair and the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Inevitably, in the L.A. Times piece, Hitchens brings up the totem of Irving enablers, "the censorship of Irving." What is he referring to? St. Martin's Press did not censor Irving; it chose not to publish his book because its chairman, Thomas J. McCormack, was sickened by the thought of publishing a book whose subtext, he said, was "the Jews brought this onto themselves." St. Martin's did not prevent the book from appearing elsewhere, and in fact, the Goebbels bio was published in Britain, from where the faithful could order it. Any honest person who talks about David Irving and the censoring of history has to acknowledge that the censoring has been attempted by David Irving himself. This is what the libel trial was about -- Irving's attempts to censor Lipstadt's "Denying the Holocaust" -- though, as the trial showed, the claims Lipstadt made against Irving are demonstrably true. This is not the only piece of litigation Irving has attempted or threatened. His lawsuit threats delayed for years the British publication of historian John Lukacs' "The Hitler of History." When it did appear in Britain, it was published in an edition that bowdlerized Lukacs' case against Irving. These very real attempts to quash the work of historians are never mentioned by Irving's defenders. But somehow, the work of historians who set out to prove the deceptions in Irving's work is depicted as an attempt at censorship, or a way of inhibiting historical examination.

It might be worth pointing out here that Lipstadt, who is Jewish, makes a point in "History on Trial" of speaking against censoring Holocaust deniers, not just from a freedom-of-speech standpoint but from the standpoint that censorship gives work the allure of the forbidden. And she is harsh and direct on the use of the Holocaust to strengthen Jewish identity. "Jews," she writes, "have survived despite antisemitism not because of it."

But even pointing those things out feels somewhat shameful to me. It's almost as if Lipstadt has to be proven "not too Jewish" before her case against Irving can be taken seriously. The only thing that makes her Jewishness relevant is that the reaction against Lipstadt (especially some of the initial British press reaction, which Evans wrote of in "Lying About Hitler") seems to me to be of a piece with the chiding given Jews for being too sensitive or fearful or paranoid about anti-Semitism.

But to paraphrase the old ad for Levy's Real Jewish Rye, you don't have to be Jewish to be alarmed at David Irving. Considered solely as a historian, how could Deborah Lipstadt be privy to knowledge about Irving's long history of lying, deliberately misquoting documents, and baiting Jews in his speeches and not be appalled and disgusted at the persistent myth of David Irving as a misguided chap who is nonetheless a reliable researcher? If the practice of history means taking into account verifiable facts, how could Lipstadt not be alarmed by the failure of two eminent historians, John Keegan and Donald Cameron Watt, to alter their view of Irving after the trial proved his work worthless? Irving did not lose, as Keegan claimed he did, for "faults" of interpreting "an all consuming knowledge of a vast body of material." He lost for a consistent pattern of deceit. Keegan's claim that Lipstadt was a member of the "self-righteously politically correct" when she had not testified, and when he, by his own admission, had not read her work, raises the question of what political correctness possibly has to do with an assertion that the Holocaust actually happened.

Lipstadt is probably right in suspecting that Keegan and Watt were annoyed by what they saw as the impertinence of a woman and a Jew who did not know her place. What seems to bother Irving's defenders is the very notion of professional and intellectual accountability. Running into Lipstadt after the trial, Watt said to her, "None of us could have withstood that kind of scrutiny." In a column for the Evening Standard, he said, "Show me one historian who has not broken out into a cold sweat at the thought of undergoing similar treatment." What Lipstadt was perhaps too polite to say to Watt was that any historian who wishes to be worthy of the title had damn well better be able to withstand that kind of scrutiny.

On the other hand, the case made against Irving has consistently been made to sound like intellectual tyranny. And that risks obscuring one of the most important lessons to be gleaned from Irving's unsuccessful libel case against Lipstadt, namely that intellectual accountability entails moral accountability. The work of Keegan and Watt, and of other historians who have more tentatively applauded Irving's "scholarship," should not be dismissed because of that praise. But now that Irving's mendacity has been revealed, and his research proven thoroughly and irrevocably worthless, those who have praised him have a choice to make. If they choose to stand by their view of Irving, they must, in this at least, be judged as having abandoned the very concept of historical fact, which Richard Evans defined as "something that happened in history and can be verified as such through the traces history has left behind." It is not a simplification but the essence of this case to ask how you can trust any historian who defends a Holocaust denier.

When my piece on the Evans and Guttenplan books ran in Salon in May 2001, I received an e-mail from David Irving that ended, "You appear not to know that June 20, 2001 sees the start of our appeal in the London courts, and after that a lot of journalists, not just you, may well be quaking in their evil smelling boots."

The next month, Irving's attempt to appeal Judge Gray's decision was unequivocally turned down for the third and final time. I won't speak for the odor of my shoes. But, to paraphrase something said to her during the trial, I do know that Deborah Lipstadt has managed to scrape a major piece of shit off the boots of history.


Jill Bernstein
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HarperCollins Publishers
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