Thursday, March 3, 2005

Daily News Tribune on Lipstadt Presentation

Brandeis grad returns to tell tale of rebuffing 'Holocaust denier'

By Mark Benson / Daily News Correspondent

Thursday, March 3, 2005

ALTHAM -- Deborah Lipstadt, a Holocaust scholar, enthralled the audience yesterday inside Brandeis University's Shapiro Campus Center with her clear arguments and passionate voice stating that the horrors of World War II were real and worth remembering.
"History can be interpreted. We can debate the start of World War II and what caused it, but not whether it existed. World War II happened," said Lipstadt. She is a 1976 Brandeis doctorate degree recipient who was invited to give the keynote speech for Truth at Stake, a conference sponsored by the Fisher-Bernstein Institute for Jewish Philanthropy and Leadership.
"The Holocaust deniers want the debate to be about two versions of history. It isn't," continued Lipstadt, who spoke about her successful defense against libel charges by David Irving, a British military historian who took action against Lipstadt for labeling him a "Holocaust denier." "This is about truth and lies, not about versions of history."
Lipstadt's defense of historical truth began years before the libel trial. In 1993, Lipstadt deconstructed Irving's claims about the "Legend of the Holocaust" in her book, "Denying the Holocaust."
Audience members lined up to ask Lipstadt to sign copies of her 2005 memoir, "History on Trial," her first-hand account of her experiences with Irving and the libel suit.
"You can't fight every battle, but there are some battles you can't walk away from," said Lipstadt to Brandeis student Stuart Klammer as she wrote him a personal note on the inside cover of his copy of "History on Trial."
Dorit Ingber, a Brandeis student involved in running the Truth at Stake conference, asked Lipstadt to sign her conference T-shirt.
Lipstadt laughed, then agreed to do it.
"I feel like a rock star!" said Lipstadt, a popular professor at Atlanta's Emory University.
During Lipstadt's hour-long speech yesterday, she cited historical inaccuracies Irving made, including Irving's characterization that in mid-1943, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler took action against Jews concentrated in Budapest, Hungary, because 50,000 Jews in a Warsaw, Poland, ghetto had just staged an uprising against Nazi rule.
"The concern Irving attributes to Hitler about Jews in Budapest and its connection to the Jewish uprising in Warsaw is odd, since the uprising hadn't happened yet," Lipstadt said.
During her libel trial, Lipstadt never said a word. On the advice of counsel, Lipstadt did not testify on her own behalf, nor did she speak to the media.
"For me, not talking is an unnatural act. I love to talk," said Lipstadt, drawing laughter from the audience in the first floor foyer of Shapiro, as Antony Polonsky, Brandeis professor of Holocaust studies, stood by her side. "I begged them to let me talk."
Yet, by deciding not to settle Irving's suit, Lipstadt put her scholarship to the test in a court hearing, confident she would be vindicated.
She was. Judge Charles Gray validated Lipstadt's right to call Irving a Holocaust denier, stating that "no objective, fair-minded historian would have serious cause to doubt" that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz, given the consistency of the voluminous information in records and eyewitness accounts available to scholars today.
"She is gutsy in the fact that in this particular episode in her life, she stood up for the truth, which is why she is one of our profiles in leadership," said Amy Sales, Leadership Institute director and an organizer of yesterday's conference.
"There are people around the world who don't believe there was a Holocaust, that six million people did die," said Masha Lokshin of the Brandeis Center for Modern Jewish Studies, a conference co-sponsor.
In a spirit of open inquiry, Lipstadt still invited the audience to look at Irving's side.
"You can go to his Web site to read his arguments, but if you click a particular button, you'll donate (to his cause), so be careful," Lipstadt said, smiling.
Later in her speech, Lipstadt said historians have refuted all arguments by Holocaust deniers up to the year 2001, but this work continues.
"If David Irving had won, then my mother would have been a victim a second time," Lipstadt read from a letter she got from the daughter of an Auschwitz victim after Lipstadt won her libel case.
"Taking care of the dead is the most genuine act of loving kindness," Lipstadt said.
Lipstadt's Web log is located at

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