Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Moderated Comments on

Hilary Ostrov will soon set up moderated comments on this blog.

For a short while after I started blogging I had allowed comments to be posted. Soon, however, I realized that deniers were using it to post their arguments. The last thing I wanted my blog to be was a bulletin board for their discredited claims. I, therefore, turned off comments.

However, I miss hearing from serious folks. I look forward to a robust discussion, i.e. discussion with both folks who agree and disagree with me.

Deniers and their ilk should be forewarned: don't waste your time [or mine], your comments won't be posted.

Deborah's Speaking Schedule

Many readers and emailers have asked me to post where I will be speaking so that they can try to attend. And my friends and family are constantly commenting that they don't know where I am. This should help resolve the problem. [I have listed certain "private events" so that people will know if I am in their city on a particular date.]

[Hilary Ostrov will shortly create a link to my Emory webpage on which we will post and continuously update my schedule.]

December 4th: Denver Emory Alumni, private event. For information contact John Ingersoll at

December 4th: Denver Jewish Book Fair at the Denver Jewish Community Center, 7 p.m. For information see Mizel Center .

December 7th: North Palm Beach, Fla. Jewish Federation, 4-6 p.m. City Club of the Palm Beaches 11780 US 1, contact: Randee Schneider, 561-242-6679.

December 8th: Palm Beach, 9:30-12 noon:One Woman’s Voice" - Eissey Theatre on Palm Beach Community College’s Palm Beach Gardens Campus. The program includes an address by Dr. Deborah Lipstadt and a special performance of "The Diary of Anne Frank" by Ballet Florida. Continental breakfast will be served. Contact:Sherri Siskin 561-640-0700, ext. 616 or Jewish Federation of Palm Beach.

December 13: JCC in Manhattan 7:00 PM. Upper West Side, Manhattan; For more information and to register or call 646-505-5708.

December 14: Princeton University, private event.

December 16th: Panama City, Panama, noon, for details contact Yvonne Snaider, 011 507 6616 1886

December 20th: Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Wexner Israel Fellows program, private event.

December 23-28th: Limmud, UK, University of Nottingham, UK.

January 7th: Jersey City, Jewish Community Centers of American [JCCA], quarterly board meeting, private event.

January 8-9th: St Mark's School, Dallas, Texas. Most events are closed. For information on any public events contact Roberta Lou Mailer: , Dennard Visiting Scholars Program,St. Mark's School, (214) 346-8130

January 13th: Manhattan Jewish Experience [MJE], Shabbat dinner, at the Jewish Center, W. 86th st. For reservations and information contact Jeannie Doppelt, 212.787.9533

January 22nd: University of Washington, Seattle. 2:30 p.m. For information contact Rochelle Roseman:

January 30th: University of Miami. Details to follow.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Holocaust as Normal?

Yesterday I was interviewed by Corriere della Sera, a major Italian newspaper. [Once the article is published I will create a link to it for you Italian reading folks.]

The reporter asked me if I ever thought there would come a time when the Holocaust would be treated as a "normal" event. I told him that I hoped never. Because for something to be considered "normal" it would have had to have happened a number of times.

For example, it is so hard to get people to respond to the current tragedy in the Sudan, even when you tell them it is genocide. I assume it's because genocide seems sort of run-of-the-mill today.....

Monday, November 28, 2005

David Duke Visits Syria to support Syrian Government and Attack Jews and Israel

According to a Special Dispatch [November 29, 2005, No. 1035] issued by Memri, the organization which translates materials from the Arab and Moslem Middle East which relate to Israel, David Duke, the former KKK leader and an overt Holocaust denier, recently visited Syria to express his support for Bashar al-Assad.

During his visit, Duke, who is also a former U.S. State Representative from Louisiana, spoke at a rally in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, appeared at a Damascus press conference, met with Syrian Grand Mufti Ahmed Hassoun, and gave an interview to speech Duke charged that the U.S. and Syria were both occupied by the Zionists and that the Zionists also occupied "Washington D.C., and New York, and London, and many other capitals.

He charged that "Israel makes the Nazi state look very moderate in terms of its views" and declared that "all over the world you see the same pattern of control over the media, the same pattern of influence."

When David Irving visited the US in the 1990s, he spent time with Duke, playing tennis and editing Duke's book, My Awakening, which can only be described as an antisemitic and racist tirade.

During the course of discovery on my trial, we learned from Irving's diaries, that the two men exchanged fund raising lists. Apparently they assumed a person who would support one would want to support the other.

Birds of a feather..........

Desperate Times call for Desperate Measures or Hitler Diaries Redux?

If, as the Stuttgarter Zeitung speculates [see previous post], Irving wanted to be arrested in order to generate publicity and funding then this would remind me of what he did in 1983 in connection with the Hitler Diaries. As I recount in History on Trial:

In 1983 Der Stern, the German weekly, announced that it had purchased for 3.8 million dollars, 62 previously unknown volumes of “Hitler’s Diaries.” For a brief moment it was the world’s biggest news story. Irving, who had previously purchased documents -- which turned out to be bogus -- from the man who was selling the diaries, was sure they too were bogus.

At a sensational press conference, Stern editors heralded the publication of the diaries and predicted that there would certainly be those who would challenge the diaries, including historians with “no reputation to lose, like David Irving.”

Unbeknownst to Stern, their rival, Bild Zeitung, had snuck Irving into the press conference. A few minutes later, when it was time for questions from the horde of journalists, Irving rushed to the microphone clutching documents which, he said, proved that the diaries were fake.

Dramatically raising them above his head, he demanded that the Stern executives, who had anticipated this as a triumphant moment, to explain how Hitler could have written about the July bomb plot in his diary on the day it happened if, as the film they had just screened demonstrated, his right hand was badly injured. Stern quickly ended the press conference.

Reporters and paparazzi made a beeline for Irving. NBC immediately put him on a live hookup with the Today show, which was then on the air. Irving found this “exhilarating” and marveled at the trail of chaos” he left behind. After spending the rest of the day giving interviews, Irving rose at 3:30 a.m. to appear on ABC’s Nightline. According to his diary he was paid 700 Mark for the appearance. The German publication, Der Spiegel, paid him 20,000 Mark for his story.

Irving was pleased not only by the attention but by the fact that he earned about ,15,000 in three days.

Within a few days, the diaries were becoming yesterday’s news. Suddenly, Irving changed his mind and announced that he now believed the diaries were genuine. Robert Harris, author of Selling Hitler (New York, 1986, p. 359), a study of the diaries incident, believed Irving’s reversal was motivated, in part, by the fact that the diaries “did not contain any evidence to suggest that Hitler was aware of the Holocaust,” thereby supporting the thesis of Hitler’s War.

If Irving was hoping this move would win him publicity, he calculated correctly. The Times (London) immediately put it on its front page. But within a few days the highly respected Bundesarchiv, Germany’s National Archives, concluded, based on careful forensic tests, that the diaries were a forgery and a bad one at that.

When the results were announced Irving quickly composed a press release, accepting the Bundesarchiv’s ruling but stressing that he had been the first person to declare the diaries fakes. “Yes,” a reporter from The Times added when he heard the release, “and the last person to declare them authentic.”

Irving's Arrest: A ploy to solve his financial difficulties?

Did Irving want to be arrested? Some people think, as I suggested in my very first post on this topic [November 18th], that this whole thing may have been contrived for financial and pr motives.

According to a report in the Austrian print magazine, News , the Austrian authorities may well have been told by the student group Irving was going to visit that he was on his way. Why, one has to wonder, would they have done this? They do, after all, sympathize with Irving's views.

A columnist for the "Stuttgarter Zeitung", a daily newspaper from Stuttgart, Germany has a theory. He wonders whether Irving, who had racked up such debts from Irving v. Penguin and Lipstadt, was not courting another trial. A trial in Austria would certainly generate donations from Irving’s sympathizers.

And, I might add, it will also probably prompt donations from those who don’t sympathize with him but see him as the poster child for free speech.
And of course, it would -- as it already has -- generate tremendous publicity.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

"Holocaust denier Irving turns to friends in US"

The Independent has an interesting article today on Irving's sources of support in the United States:

Holocaust denier Irving turns to friends in US

By Andrew Gumbel
Published: 27 November 2005

David Irving's recent life has made him look more like an outlaw than an historian. Broke, shunned and declared "persona non grata" across half the planet, it's been quite a comedown for the world's most notorious Holocaust denier.

His latest comeuppance has been an episode as shabby as any and may force him to spend years in prison.


Denying the existence of the Nazi Holocaust is serious business in the country of Hitler's birth, and what was initially intended as a below-the-radar visit to a far-right student group in Vienna has turned into a legal nightmare.


In the past, Mr Irving railed against any limitation on his activities as an infringement of free speech - not an unreasonable argument, although he has been known to lard it with dark hints about Jewish conspirators being out to get him.

But in Austria, perhaps in recognition of the gravity of the charges he faces, he has taken a different tack. His Viennese lawyer, Elmar Kresbach, insists he has changed his mind about "the views he is so famous for" after an examination of Soviet archives led him to accept the Nazi gas chambers existed.

That line of argument may surprise Mr Irving's white supremacist friends in the United States, more accustomed to his view that "more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz". They have extended numerous invitations and organised frequent books sales for him in the past few years.

Among his Stateside sponsors, according to the anti-racist Southern Poverty Law Center, have been the former Ku Klux Klan leader and one-time candidate for the Louisiana governor's office, David Duke, as well as the leading US neo-Nazi organisation, the National Alliance.

Mr Irving's US friends have been a lifeline since he brought a ruinous libel suit in 2000 against Deborah Lipstadt. She had characterised him as anti-Semitic and racist; the High Court found that the criticism was just and ordered Mr Irving to pay court costs estimated to be about £3 million.


Even his trips to the States have been less than comfortable. In 2003, a restaurant in rural Idaho chose to cancel an event of his and close down for the day after finding out who he was and what sort of people his local fans might be. This summer he received a rare invitation to address a left-wing group in Alabama, the Atheist Law Center, only to provoke outrage among the membership and, this week, the resignation of the group president, Larry Darby.

Mr Darby described Mr Irving to his membership only as "an expert on World War Two, the Nazi era and the erosion... of free speech". In an interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mr Darby made some pointed remarks about Jews and suggested that attacking them was consistent with his general anti-religious worldview. "I think it's easy in this country to speak out on Christianity and even Islam," he said. "I think it's more difficult to speak out on things of a Jewish nature."

Mr Daby now plans to run as a candidate for attorney general of Alabama.

"Irving ordered to pay court costs of about £3 million": A correction, lest you get the wrong impression

Many papers have reported on the fact that Irving was bankrupted by his case against me and was ordered to pay Penguin and me our court costs. The fact is that I never pursued him for my portion of the costs and never received a penny from him.

I explain this all in the final chapter of History on Trial.

Irving "recants": a prediction

To those of you who have been asking me why he recanted, my guess is that he will plead guilty, claim he is no longer a denier, and tell the court that he has "seen the light." I would not be surprised if he then left Austria, returned to London, and claimed that the only reason he "recanted" was to avoid ending up in an Austrian jail.

Irving plans to plead guilty....

The Guardian's report that Irving was convinced by the 1990s of the existence of gas chambers and believes that "the discussion on Auschwitz, the gas chambers and the Holocaust is finished ... it's useless to dispute it'" raises the question:

If he felt this way in the 1990s, then why was he arguing to the contrary in the High Court in 2000??

He really looks ridiculous to me. The Court Jester for sure....

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Irving plans to plead guilty and declare his "remorse" at trial

As noted in an earlier post, after the trial, Irving declared he would continue denying the Holocaust. His lawyer has evidently expanded on the extent of his apparent "change of views". The U.K. Guardian reports:

'Repentant' Irving to plead guilty but must stay in jail

Ian Traynor in Vienna
Saturday November 26, 2005
The Guardian

David Irving, the discredited British historian of the Nazis, will spend Christmas and New Year in a Viennese jail after yesterday being refused bail and being remanded for four weeks pending trial for allegedly lying about the Holocaust.


At yesterday's custody hearing the magistrate dismissed Mr Irving's lawyer's request for bail on the grounds that he might disappear or that Britain would refuse to extradite him back to Austria for trial because the alleged crime is not an offence in the UK.


Mr Irving has 10 days to appeal against the indictment but is not likely to lodge an appeal. His strategy is to plead guilty before a jury trial, but to declare his remorse and insist that he has revised his views on the Third Reich in the years since he made the Austrian speeches in 1989. "This might be a big case, but it's not very difficult," his lawyer, Elmar Kresbach, told the Guardian yesterday. "There are the transcripts of his speeches, there is a newspaper interview that he gave [in 1989]. It's pretty black and white.

"But Irving told me that he has changed his views after researching in the Russian archives in the 1990s. He said, 'I've repented. I've no intention of repeating these views. That would be historically stupid and I'm not a stupid man.'

"He said, 'I fully accept this, it's a fact. The discussion on Auschwitz, the gas chambers and the Holocaust is finished ... it's useless to dispute it'."

According to Mr Irving and his lawyer, the 67-year-old historian, who lost a major libel case against Penguin Books and the US historian Deborah Lipstadt in the high court in London five years ago, entered Austria this month via Switzerland and drove to Vienna to meet student radicals renowned for their pro-Nazi views.


Mr Kresbach argued that his client was elderly, no threat to Austria, and had promised to return for the trial if released on bail of up to €20,000.

"It's not really necessary to keep him here," said Mr Kresbach. "He promised to come back." The magistrate dismissed the argument, however, declaring there was a "flight risk."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Bail denied: court fears Irving might "abscond"

The BBC has reported:

Austrians refuse bail for Irving

Austrian authorities have refused bail for British historian David Irving, who is facing Holocaust denial charges.

Mr Irving, 67, was arrested on 11 November in connection with two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989.

Mr Irving's lawyer has said the historian now no longer denies that gas chambers existed in Nazi death camps.


A court in Vienna ruled on Friday that Mr Irving must stay in custody as there was a risk he could abscond.

His lawyer Elmar Kresbach had offered to post bail.


Mr Irving sued US historian Deborah Lipstadt in London in 2000 for labelling him a Holocaust denier. He lost in a comprehensive verdict.

Despite the mortal blow to his reputation in 2000, he remains a showman and may well relish the opportunity to grandstand before a wider audience if put on trial, BBC legal affairs analyst Jon Silverman says.

In his books, Mr Irving has argued that the scale of the extermination of the Jews by the Nazis in World War II has been exaggerated.

He has also claimed that Nazi leader Adolf Hitler knew nothing of the Holocaust.

Mr Irving was previously arrested in Austria in 1984.

Irving's About-face: We should not be rejoicing. Irving's followers should be worrying.

People seem to want to know more about Irving's about-face regarding the gas chambers. Many of those who have contacted me think his 180 turn around is really significant. They treat it as a victory of sorts. I don't, not because I am not glad Irving has abandoned this particularly calumny. The fact is that I just don't think what he does is significant.... certainly not to people who care about truth.

First of all, let me point out as late as two months ago Irving's was lauding the Leuchter Report and claiming that it was the report that convinced that gas chambers were a scientific impossibility. Now he says that it was evidence he saw in the Moscow archives which convinced him.

[Check it out on his website in his correspondence with Sara Salzman of Denver on September 21, 2005. He wrote to her again on September 23, 2005. In both cases he left no doubt that he did not believe there were gas chambers. What happened in the interim to cause this sudden volte-face? Seems strange to me that he suddenly discovered this information. Was he even in Moscow and if so what evidence did he find there to cause this great reversal? Did his lawyer "misspeak"? Did he take Irving at his word? Hmm....]

Far more important however, is the fact that what Irving thinks does not seem to me to be important at all. Why should we pay any mind to someone about whom a judge writes that he "perverts" the evidence, that his claims are a "travesty" of the evidence, that his findings are "unreal," and his conclusions not mistakes but "deliberate... distortions."

The people who should be worrying are the deniers and those who have hitched their wagons to David Irving's star. Their world seems to be crashing....

History on Trial among Amazon's "Best of 2005" has posted the "Best Books of 2005". In the History category, the list of Top 10 Editors' Picks puts History on Trial at number 4.

Irving's Austrian lawyer: "Austrian politicians share Irving's views"

Yesterday's edition of the Austrian daily "Standard" contains an interview with Irving's attorney. Kresbach. He argued that Irving should be released because there were some Austrian politicians who publicly advocated positions similiar to those advocated by Irving and they were not in jail.

Sad to say, the lawyer seems to have gotten that one right.

"Irving now says there were gas chambers": What's going on?

Since the news "broke" today that Irving acknowledges there were gas chambers, I have once again been inundated with questions. People what to know: "What's going on?" It's late and been a long day, so just a few words on this. I guess that his lawyer may well have read the judgment in Irving v. Penguin and Lipstadt. The evidence for gas chambers [and for virtually everything else that he denied] is so overwhelming that for him to continue to stand by his earlier positions -- despite what he said to Jeremy Paxman [see previous post below] on the night of the judgment -- would guarantee that the court would find him guiltly.

He had one of two choices: stand by his position and be found guilty or claim that he has seen the light [or supposedly discovered new evidence] and now knows that he was wrong. Of course, since he misrepresented, distorted, and invented the evidence [check Judge Charles Gray's judgment in the trial], he has always known the truth. He created the lies in the first place. So this new "discovery" on his part is, once again, a lot of bunk.

My guess is that this will enable the Austrian court to slap a fine on him and hustle him out of the country. My second guess is that they will be delighted to do so....

Seems like he is once again validating my choice of titles for the final chapter of History on Trial: "The Court Jester."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Lawyer claims Irving has 'changed some of his famous views'

As Richard Evans noted in Lying About Hitler (p. 234), shortly after the trial, Irving was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on BBC2 TV's Newsnight. When Paxman asked Irving, "Will you stop denying the Holocaust on the basis of this judgment?" Irving baldly replied, "Good Lord, no."

However, reported today:

Irving acknowledges gas chambers

A lawyer for British historian David Irving said on the eve of a court hearing that Irving admitted past statements could be interpreted as denying the existence of Nazi gas chambers - but now acknowledges they existed.

Prosecutors charged Irving earlier this week under an Austrian law that makes denying the Holocaust a crime.


Irving has changed his views on gas chambers in recent years, his attorney, Elmar Kresbach said.

"He changed some of the views he is so famous for," Kresbach said.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Challenge to the Austrian Authorities: Will an Irving Trial Simply be a Chance for him to Grandstand?

Many people have expressed concerns that Irving will use this trial to "grandstand" and to promote his Holocaust denial pseudo-theories. While I share some of these fears, there is a way of addressing this problem. It is precisely what my stellar legal team did in my case. In short, preparation, preparation, preparation. Irving tried to showboat [grandstand] but he was not able to because at every turn we cut him off with the facts. We did not rely on fancy legal footwork. We did rely on research who did dogged research. With the facts assembled by a dream team of researchers we were able to show that all of Irving's arguments -- and by extension those of the Holocaust denial movement -- were no more than a lot of bunk.

Now that the Austrians have arrested and appear prepared to bring him to trial, it is their responsibility to properly prepare in order to demonstrate that his claims are bluster and bravado not facts. It is not rocket science. It does call for a serious commitment to the effort.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

BBC World [TV] tonight 10:10 EST

I will be on BBC World [TV] tonight around 10:10 p.m. e.s.t. [NYC] regarding Irving's arrest.

What Impact did the fact that I am a woman have on my legal case?

I was in LA this weekend and was asked a question I had not been asked before. What impact did the fact that I am a woman have on the response to my legal travails? I think there are two aspects to this. First of all, it seems to me that Irving was particularly excited about going after a woman. It was easier for him to make the case that I was simply the puppet of the "enemies of truth," i.e. the Jewish community. After all, women could never lead a conspiracy but they certainly can be its puppets.

In terms of the response to the trial, it is possible that after four months of watching Irving try to tear me down and my willingness to remain silent in the face of his, sometimes quite personal, attacks, people's sympathies towards me were enhanced because I am a woman.

It is all speculative... so treat this post as that.

Lipstadt in Denver December 4th

I will be participating in the Denver Jewish Book Fair which is sponsored by Mizel Center for Arts and Culture at the Denver Jewish Community Center.

My talk is on Sunday, December 4th at 7 p.m. For information check out the program of the Mizel Center .

I would be delighted to see you there.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The New Criminologist on Irving's arrest

The New Criminologist has an interesting comment about Irving's arrest. At the end of the post there is a cautionary comment about the dangers of deniers:
This is not usually done on the TNC news desk, but on a personal note, I have spent the last 14 months researching historical revisionism and holocaust denial for a major upcoming project, and as a result have seen the destructive results denying the Holocaust can do.

The rabid anti-Semitism and manipulation of evidence used by these “historians” to prove their ludicrous beliefs is an affront to all people with even a basic grip on reality. The idea that the Holocaust was an invention of “a worldwide Jewish conspiracy” is not only laughable, but also sickening.

Revisionists claim that these laws are a threat to their freedom of speech. They are not. They are stopping the spread of hysterical hate propaganda. Would these same people think it would be justified to allow an open debate encouraging pro-extremist opinions, such as those shared by al-Qaeda, to impressionable students?"
While I don't agree that Holocaust denial should be outlawed, I recognize that some people, such as the author of the New Criminologist, do.

People often ask me, given that I am against these laws, just how dangerous deniers are. Right now I think they pose a relatively limited danger. My trial, together with other reversals they suffered, have left deniers in the Western world on the ropes. [The case is quite different in the Arab/Moslem world.]

However, even if deniers do not present a clear and present danger, we must remain aware of the insidious ways in which misinformation can creep into the historical record.

If anyone doubts how deniers could potentially skew the historical record, I urge them to compare the commonly held perception of the bombing of Dresden with the historical reality.

Most people think of the bombing as something that is well nigh an Allied war crime that caused 100s of thousands of deaths. They are convinced that Dresden had no military significance and the city was bombed just to humble the German people. [Even if this were indeed so, I find it strange that no one considers the Nazi bombing of London a war crime....]

In fact the facts about the bombing are quite different:

1. Dresden had military significance. There were numerous factories in the city which made equipment for the German army and airforce. The city was a railway hub and thousands [probably over 10,000] German soldiers and officers passed through the city on a daily basis.

2. The war, from the perspective of the soldier on the ground, was hardly over. The Battle of the Bulge, which had ended but two weeks earlier, had hardly been an Allied victory and it was very fresh in the Allied memory. For the soldier on the ground the war was certainly NOT almost over.

3. There is no documentary evidence of strafing. Frederick Taylor, the British historian, points out in his study of the bombing that on other occasions when British and American pilots engaged in strafing, they wrote about it in their reports. That was not the case in Dresden. [Yet David Irving claims it is.]

4. The death toll was, according to the Nazi era Dresden Police, between 25-30,000. While not a small number, this is nowhere near the 100s of thousands people, such as Irving claim, it was.

How did we come to have such a different perception of the bombing of Dresden? Taylor identifies 3 sources:

1. Goebbels who believed that frightening the German people was the way to make the fight to the finish. He took the Dresden police’s death toll and added a zero. Hence 25,000 became 250,000.

2. Communist East Germany which used the bombing as a means of demonstrating the compassion of the USSR [which did not participate in the bombing] and mendacity of the USA and UK [which did].

3. David Irving, whose book on Dresden makes false claims about death tolls of up to 250, 000. Irving's influence was greatly inflated when his version of the bombing was relied upon by Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse 5.

For more details on the bombing of Dresden – both the reality and perception – see, the website on Irving v. Lipstadt and Penguin UK. Click on evidence and read the section of Richard Evan’s report on the topic. See also Frederick Taylor’s book, February 13, 1945: The Bombing of Dresden. For how this played out in the trial itself see History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving.

As you will see the historical record can be changed.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Irving's "counterfeit credentials"

D.D. Guttenplan - whose book, The Holocaust on Trial, was his account of Irving vs Lipstadt - comments on Irving's arrest in the Op Ed pages of today's L.A. Times. Here are some excerpts:

The rights of a 'paper Eichmann'
'Holocaust denier' David Irving, still capable of making headlines, deserves obscurity -- but also free speech.

By D.D. Guttenplan, D.D. GUTTENPLAN, London correspondent for the Nation, is the author of "The Holocaust on Trial" (W.W. Norton, 2001). He is currently writing a biography of I.F. Stone.

WHAT DO YOU DO with a problem like David Irving? Until a few years ago, the British author of "Hitler's War" was usually described as a "controversial historian." But in April 2000, a British high court judge held that Irving not only had denied the reality of the Holocaust but was an anti-Semite, a racist and a neo-Nazi sympathizer who "deliberately falsified and distorted" historical evidence in the service of his right-wing views.

Justice Charles Gray's damning 333-page judgment — which ended Irving's libel suit against academic Deborah Lipstadt for calling him a "Holocaust denier" — turned Irving from controversial to disgraced. It also cost Irving his London home (in Britain, the loser in a libel case has to pay the winner's costs), leaving him a bankrupt, marginal figure reduced to lecturing credulous audiences of conspiracy enthusiasts and collectors of Nazi memorabilia. Yet for all that, he is still capable of making headlines.


Countries that outlaw Holocaust denial do so not because they love liberty less than we do but because their history is different from ours. Holocaust denial causes real pain to survivors and their families. To fail to acknowledge that pain, or to treat it as a particularly Jewish problem that need not trouble anyone else, is to deny our common humanity — precisely the denier's aim.

As important, in Germany and Austria Holocaust denial is not just hate speech but also a channel for Nazi resurgence, like the Hitler salute and the swastika, which are also banned. Countries where the experience of occupation and the shame of collaboration still rankle have different views than ours on the balance between dissent and disorder. And Bosnia and Rwanda should have taught all of us that these are not simple questions. Sticks and stones may still break bones but name-calling can clear a path to genocide.


As for Irving, he seems to me exactly what Pierre Vidal-Naquet meant by "a paper Eichmann." A distinguished classical scholar who lost both parents to the Holocaust, Vidal-Naquet coined the term to describe Irving's French ally, Robert Faurisson. "Confronting an actual Eichmann, one had to resort to armed struggle," wrote Vidal-Naquet. "Confronting a paper Eichmann, one should respond with paper." Which need not be passive.

Indeed, Deborah Lipstadt's exposure of Irving's unsavory views in her book "Denying the Holocaust" was effective enough on its own that Irving was willing to risk financial ruin to try and force her, or her publishers, to back down.

In Austria, a country dogged by its own failure to come to terms with the Holocaust, and where Kurt Waldheim's Nazi past was no bar to electoral success, Irving's arrest is not much more than a symbolic gesture. The threat of a 20-year prison term, even if it doesn't come to pass, only burnishes Irving's counterfeit credentials as a martyr to free speech.

Whatever their motives, the Austrians have every right to deny Irving a platform, even to deport him. They do not, though, have the right to rescue him from well-deserved obscurity.

Friday, November 18, 2005

My reaction to Irving's arrest

In the past 24 hours I have been repeatedly asked about my reaction to David Irving's arrest.

I do not know if Irving wanted to be arrested for the PR value of it [his name has now appeared in the media far more than in many previous months] or if he felt that he was “unstoppable” and the Austrian police would never find him.

He may have thought that this was a means, in fact, of gaining some sympathy even from those who have no patience with his Holocaust denial, anstisemitic, and racist comments. I have received a number of emails from people who have little – if any—sympathy for him. Yet they are troubled by what appears to them as an infringement of his civil rights. Ironically, some of these people support hate speech and hate crime legislation. [They don’t seem to grasp the inherent contradiction in their views. Irving was arrested under a form of hate speech regulation.]

I am personally opposed to making Holocaust denial a crime. [This would of course be impossible in the US.] However, I understand Germany and Austria’s sensitivity about this matter. Their history is unique when it comes to the Holocaust.

In the course of my court battle all of his fancy claims about no gas chambers, no plans for annihilation of the Jews, no Hitler complicity and so much more were dismissed by the judge a complete bunk. He did not prevail on even one of his contentions about the historical record.

Some people who have attended his talks since the end of the trial have come away with the impression of a pathetic figure whose only audience is a sorry group of extremists, haters, and losers.

Many historians who have read my book and looked at Judge Gray’s decision -- John Keegan and D.C. Watts excepted – have concluded that when it comes to history they can trust nothing Irving says without checking it out on their own first.

I close with something Anthony Julius said to me at one point during the lengthy preparations for this trial when I was tired and frustrated by the disruption to my life this legal battle had caused. After listening to me rail against Irving, Anthony said: “Think of fighting David Irving as you would the shit you step in on the street. It has no relevance unless you fail to clean it off your feet prior to reentering you home or office.”

My feet are clean, i.e. my fight with him is over. What Austria decides to do is its business.

"Irving's reputation as a historian was shredded"

The BBC has posted a background piece regarding Irving's arrest. Here are some excerpts:

How 'Holocaust denier' fought and lost
By Jon Silverman
Legal Affairs analyst

David Irving's reputation as a historian was shredded at the High Court in April 2000 in a devastating judgement.

At the conclusion of a libel action brought by Mr Irving against American academic Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books, Mr Justice Charles Grey described Mr Irving as a "falsifier of history" an "associate of right-wing extremists" and "an active Holocaust denier".

In a book, Ms Lipstadt had branded Mr Irving "one of the most prominent and dangerous Holocaust deniers".

The three-month case was among the most colourful in British legal history.


Wider issues

Mr Justice Grey's judgement comprehensively dismantled Mr Irving's case and his reputation. It was later published as a book.

Although a libel action, it was Holocaust denial which was, by implication, on trial.

In Britain, to deny the Holocaust is not a criminal offence but it is in Austria and that is why Mr Irving has been arrested there.

In a co-incidence of timing, one of Mr Irving's associates, convicted Canadian Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, is standing trial in Germany, having been extradited to face charges of inciting racial hatred and spreading Nazi propaganda. Like Austria, Germany has a Holocaust denial law, as does France.

Lawyer James Libson, who represented Deborah Lipstadt in her battle with Mr Irving, believes it is right that they should have.

"Given Britain's history, it would be ridiculous to have a Holocaust denial law here. But in countries like Germany and Austria, where far-right, neo-Nazi parties are highly visible, it is different. However, the Holocaust denial message is still being disseminated, despite the law," he says.


Mr Irving is an undischarged bankrupt and the Trustee in Bankruptcy is still trying to recover assets tied up in archive documents and World War II diaries in his possession. Some are thought to be quite valuable.

Since losing his Mayfair flat, the disgraced historian has relied on an international network of supporters for financial help and from his speaking engagements abroad, which are invariably in front of extreme right-wing, anti-Semitic audiences.

Despite the mortal blow to his reputation in 2000, he remains a showman and may well relish the opportunity to grandstand before a wider audience if put on trial.

More Press Coverage of Irving's arrest

Although Irving was apparently arrested on Nov. 11, it took a good number of days before the press seemed to notice. But now that they have ... The following are courtesy of Dan Yurman:

Historian Arrested on Holocaust Denial Charge

Los Angeles Times Fri, 18 Nov 2005 0:34 AM PST
Right-wing British historian David Irving has been arrested in Austria on a warrant accusing him of denying the Holocaust.

Austria arrests historian on charges of Holocaust denial

USA Today Thu, 17 Nov 2005 10:25 AM PST
British historian David Irving was arrested last week in southern Austria on a warrant accusing him of denying the Holocaust, the Interior Ministry said Thursday. Irving was detained on a warrant issued in 1989, a government spokesman said.

Historian arrested for holocaust denial

TVNZ Thu, 17 Nov 2005 10:44 PM PST
British historian David Irving, known for his controversial views on World War Two, has been arrested in Austria on suspicion of denying the Holocaust, an interior ministry spokesman says.

David Irving held on Holocaust denial charges

Haaretz Daily Fri, 18 Nov 2005 4:10 AM PST
VIENNA - Right-wing British historian David Irving has been arrested on a warrant accusing him of denying the Holocaust, Austria's Interior Ministry said yesterday.


Daily Mirror Fri, 18 Nov 2005 1:01 AM PST
HISTORIAN David Irving is facing up to 20 years' jail after being arrested in Austria on charges of denying the Holocaust.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Irving arrested in Austria

There have been several news reports indicating that David Irving was arrested in Austria on Nov. 11. Here are some excerpts from an AP report published in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Thursday, November 17, 2005 · Last updated 11:51 a.m. PT

Historian charged with denying Holocaust


VIENNA, Austria -- Right-wing British historian David Irving, who once famously said that Adolf Hitler knew nothing about the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews, has been arrested in Austria on a warrant accusing him of denying the Holocaust.

Irving, 67, was detained Nov. 11 in the southern province of Styria on a warrant issued in 1989 under Austrian laws making Holocaust denial a crime, police Maj. Rudolf Gollia, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said Thursday.

Austrian media said the charges stemmed from speeches Irving delivered that year in Vienna and in the southern town of Leoben.


Irving in the past has faced allegations of spreading anti-Semitic and racist ideas. He is the author of nearly 30 books, including "Hitler's War," which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.

Besides his assertion that Hitler knew nothing about the Holocaust, he also has been quoted as saying there was "not one shred of evidence" that the Nazis carried out their "Final Solution" on such a scale.


Irving remained in custody Thursday at a prison in Graz, 120 miles south of Vienna, the Austria Press Agency reported, although that could not be confirmed.

If formally charged, tried and convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison, said Otto Schneider of the public prosecutor's office.

But Schneider said it was unclear whether there were sufficient legal grounds to continue holding Irving on such a charge so many years after the alleged offense was committed. A decision was expected by the end of next week on how to proceed, Schneider said.

In March, more than 200 historians from around the world petitioned C-SPAN to cancel a project that would have included a speech by Irving as a counterpoint to a lecture by Deborah Lipstadt, a renowned Holocaust expert at Emory University.

Irving once sued Lipstadt for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier, but his lawsuit was dismissed in 2000 by a British court, which ruled that Irving was anti-Semitic and racist and misrepresented historical information.


Irving has had numerous run-ins with the law over the years. In 1992, a judge in Germany fined him the equivalent of $6,000 for publicly insisting the Nazi gas chambers at Auschwitz were a hoax.

Other media reporting on this include the U.K.'s Guardian, BBC and TimesOnline. The latter notes:

Christoph Poechinger, a spokesman for the Austrian Justice Ministry, said it was likely that charges would be pressed against Irving and that he would be kept in custody until the case came to court.

"There is a grave danger that he will repeat the offence, therefore it is likely he will be kept in custody until it comes to court. A warrant has been outstanding since 1989 and the case will probably be made a priority, but I doubt it will come to court before Christmas," Herr Poechinger told the Austrian newspaper Der Standard.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lipstadt at N.Y. Hebrew-Union College (Nov. 22)

Prof. Lipstadt will be speaking at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York on Nov. 22:

History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier. A Lecture by Emory University Professor Deborah E. Lipstadt.

Tuesday Nov 22 2005 - 7:30 pm to - 9 pm

Deborah Lipstadt, the Director of the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies and Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish Thought and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, will discuss her recent book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving, the story of her successful six year legal battle against Irving, who sued her for calling him a Holocaust denier and right wing extremist. Reception 7:00 PM; Lecture 7:30 PM. Photo ID req. RSVP to

Contact Information:, (212) 824-2293

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Lipstadt in Toronto (Nov. 13)

Prof. Lipstadt is one of the featured speakers at the 2005 UJC General Assembly, which will take place in Toronto:

Seeing Ourselves Through the Holocaust Looking Glass:
The impact of the Holocaust on Jewish identity
Sunday, November 13, 2005
2:30pm – 4:00pm

Sunday, November 6, 2005

"The Final Word"

In the Summer 2005 issue of Emory University's Emory Magazine, Associate Editor Paige Parvin writes about Prof. Lipstadt, History on Trial and the C-SPAN controversy. Here are some excerpts:

The Final Word
By Paige P. Parvin 96G

History Professor Deborah Lipstadt recounts her court battle against Holocaust denial and how she became a public defender of historical truth

Deborah Lipstadt is not accustomed to being quiet.

Even as a kid growing up in Queens, Emory's Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies and chair of the Rabbi Donald A. Tam Institute for Jewish Studies earned a reputation as "feisty and combative" at the Jewish day school she attended, frequently causing her mother to be summoned to the principal's office to defend her red-haired daughter's argumentative nature.

"I had the impression that although she did not appreciate these school visits, she admired my gumption," Lipstadt writes in her most recent book, History on Trial . "I knew I had been named Deborah because she loved the biblical character. When I was still quite young, she had described how Deborah led her people in battle and dispensed justice. I liked the notion that I was named after such a person."

So it follows that some five decades later, when Lipstadt was sued for libel by British author and Holocaust-denier David Irving, she was hardly at a loss for words. But her defense team deemed it best she remain silent throughout the three-month trial, staying out of the witness box and away from the press, in order to keep the focus where it belonged: on Irving's credibility rather than her own.

An eloquent, outspoken college professor and scholar to whom words are as powerful as weapons, Lipstadt called the imposed quietude "excruciatingly hard." Dutifully biting her tongue, she took notes and filed away her impressions, waiting for the time when she could tell her own story. That time came in February of this year with the release of her book History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving .

In the months since, Lipstadt has appeared on TV and in the press around the U.S., Europe, and even in Australia, now unfettered by a promise of silence. The book, described as a "legal thriller" with commercial appeal, has been favorably reviewed and is selling well, she reports.

History on Trial is a blow-by-blow account of the Irving v. Lipstadt trial, from the moment Lipstadt learned of the lawsuit in 1995 to the judge's sweeping ruling in her favor five years later. At issue was Lipstadt's 1993 scholarly book, Denying the Holocaust: An Assault on Truth and Memory , in which she referred to Irving, calling him "one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial." Irving sued her for libel in Britain, where the burden of proof rests with the defense--meaning Lipstadt had to prove, in essence, that Irving was indeed a Holocaust-denier as her book claimed. The lawsuit put Lipstadt in an international spotlight and so dominated her professional and personal life that when it was over, she was compelled to depart from academic writing to put the experience into her own words.

A blend of journalism and journal, historical fact and human feelings, History on Trial was both more and less difficult to produce than a scholarly work, Lipstadt says--and considerably more intimidating because of the deeply personal nature of the work.

"The book was a chance for me to tell the story from my own perspective," Lipstadt says. "After keeping silent throughout the trial, it was a chance for my voice to be heard."


During the late 1970s and 1980s, Lipstadt taught history at the University of Washington and later at the University of California in Los Angeles; but UCLA was a poor research fit for her and she was denied tenure. Soon afterward, two professors at the Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem asked if she would be willing to look into the Holocaust denial movement, an international network that seeks to minimize the devastation of the Holocaust and cast Jews as sympathy-seekers.

Lipstadt agreed, somewhat dubiously.

"Convinced that deniers were fringe extremists," she writes, "I asked these two leading Holocaust scholars: why study the historical equivalent of flat-earth theorists? [The scholars] believed this a new, potentially dangerous form of anti-Semitism. Though they thought it should be analyzed, I was not entirely convinced."

But as she began to examine the practice of Holocaust denial more closely, Lipstadt quickly came to understand their concern. What was most alarming about Holocaust deniers, as she explained to the audience during a talk at the Atlanta History Center in April, was their mask of legitimacy, their insidious portrayal of the Holocaust as a two-sided "issue" subject to academic debate. Leaders of the movement had created scholarly looking organizations such as the California-based Institute for Historical Review; held national and international conferences; and published journals that aspired to academic credibility.

Indeed, Holocaust deniers were so successful in cultivating a serious image that throughout the 1990s college newspapers accepted advertisements from these groups, despite policies that otherwise prevented ads promoting hostility toward any religious or ethnic group. The editors claimed that to reject these ads would be to curb academic freedom of speech.

"If you appear looking like a neo-Nazi, people know exactly how to categorize you," Lipstadt says. "So [the Holocaust deniers] figured out instead how to become Holocaust revisionists . . . they were [posing as] serious historians looking at an issue. And there is a direct link between the attempt to rewrite history and the attempt to push a certain political agenda."

With his silver hair, square jaw and ruddy complexion, David Irving is the picture of the tweedy British history buff. Although he did not finish college, his first book, The Bombing of Dresden , was published when he was only twenty-five to considerable acclaim and commercial success. Known for his thorough research methods that relied mainly on primary sources, Irving quickly became a prolific historical writer. He has written more than two dozen books on history and World War II in particular.

But even in his early work, a theme began to emerge: Irving repeatedly sought to elevate the wrongs of the Allied Forces while minimizing those of the Nazis. [...]

When Lipstadt began researching Holocaust denial, the trail naturally led to Irving. In scholarly circles, he was beginning to gain a reputation for his sympathy with Hitler and the Nazi party and his questionable research and theories on the Holocaust itself. Many historians believed his personal ideology was compromising his work. When Hitler's War was re-released in 1991, for instance, Lipstadt found striking contrasts between the two versions: the gas chambers had disappeared, as had any mention of the Holocaust.

As a public figure, Irving left no doubt where he stood ideologically. A frequent speaker to far-right-wing audiences and groups associated with the neo-Nazi movement, he had publicly declared Auschwitz "Disneyland for tourists," Hitler "the best friend the Jews had in Europe," and the Holocaust a "fabrication" and "legend." He is infamous for tastelessly quipping, "More women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz."

So it's not surprising that when Lipstadt first learned Irving was suing her and British publisher Penguin for libel because she had called him a Holocaust denier, her first response was to dismiss it as "nothing more than sound and fury."

Despite the weighty evidence in the court of public opinion, the British Royal High Court required a more deliberate analysis, and Lipstadt was obliged to mount a formidable defense. While funding for the trial ultimately came from a range of sources, Lipstadt has long praised Emory for its early and sustained support. When she first learned of Irving's intent to sue, she became panicked about money, wondering where the funds for her legal expenses would come from. Emory's board of trustees voted to allot $30,000 to her defense before she even asked. Later the University gave more, as well as leave with pay to attend the trial. "I am grateful for the University's commitment to moral engagement," she says.

"Every so often a colleague tackles a problem of such immense social consequence that the university must support the efforts," says University Provost Earl Lewis. "Deborah Lipstadt earned University support for courageously and truthfully speaking about the relationship of the past to the present. She knows that to deny the Holocaust is to render damage to all humanity. It was an important call, and correct call, for Emory to support her in the ways it did."


During the trial--in which Irving represented himself, declaring no one else as capable of doing so--Lipstadt's defense produced instance after instance in which Irving twisted the truth to conform to his own skewed views of history. Cambridge historian Richard Evans was recruited as an expert witness and worked with two researchers to examine Irving's writings. After some initial skepticism on his part, what he found shocked him deeply.

"A knotted web of distortions, suppressions, and manipulations became evident in every single instance we examined," Evans wrote in his report for the court. "I was not prepared for the sheer depths of duplicity which I encountered in Irving's treatment of the historical sources, nor for the way in which this dishonesty permeated his entire written and spoken output. ...His numerous mistakes...are calculated and deliberate."

Throughout History on Trial , Lipstadt often quotes directly from the court proceedings, giving the reader a window into the courtroom and a sense of the drama that pervaded the ordeal. Many of the most sensational moments sprang not from testimony about Irving's historical research--although that certainly provided ample evidence against him--but from accounts of Irving's public expressions of his personal views.

Ultimately, Justice Charles Gray agreed with Lipstadt that Irving was both an antisemite and a racist, as well as a liar and a cunning manipulator of history. In his 355-page judgment, he found that Irving's "falsification of the historical record was both 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."

Irving was ordered to pay the $3 million cost of the trial, and the judgment was the lead story in newspapers and media around the world. After trying to have her "libelous" book pulled from shelves, David Irving had instead given Lipstadt and her work the spotlight on a world stage.


For Lipstadt, at the heart of the Irving trial lay conflicting desires--one to speak out against Irving in the name of Jews and Holocaust victims, and another to refuse to dignify his arguments by engaging in a debate. The notion that the very existence of the Holocaust is a matter for discussion is one that Lipstadt has resisted from the beginning.

"Our objective was not to prove the Holocaust had happened. No court was needed to prove that," she writes of her legal defense. "Our job was to prove the truth of my words, namely that Irving had lied about the Holocaust and had done so out of antisemitic motives."


Five years after the trial, Lipstadt continues to battle the misguided perception that she and Irving are on opposite sides of an argument. A few weeks after her book appeared, the TV network C-Span invited Lipstadt on Book TV to discuss History on Trial --welcome publicity for any author. C-Span planned to air a lecture by Lipstadt at Harvard to educate viewers about the book.

But there was a catch: C-Span also intended to feature a talk by Irving in the next time slot, for "balance." When she learned of this plan, Lipstadt canceled her appearance on a long-held principle.

"How can one debate someone, on any topic, who deliberately lies and falsifies history?" Lipstadt wrote in a letter to the New York Times. "I would be delighted to appear on C-Span, but not as part of a debate that is no debate."

C-Span's decision to air Irving back-to-back with Lipstadt sparked a national response. Editorials appeared in newspapers around the country, including one by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post : "This is the Crossfire mentality reduced to absurdity, if that's possible," he wrote. "For a book on the evils of slavery, would it counter with someone who thinks it was a benign institution?"

The network received more than three thousand letters and e-mails, including one from Emory's Edward Queen of the Center for Ethics, objecting to the move. Some five hundred university historians and high-profile journalists signed a petition supporting Lipstadt and criticizing C-Span:


C-SPAN wound up producing and airing a show that offered commentary on History on Trial by Washington Post writer T.R. Reid, as well as video clips from past appearances by both Lipstadt and Irving. For Lipstadt, the controversy was a sobering reminder that even though she had won a resounding victory against Irving in court, the dangers he and others like him pose are still clear and present--and must continue to be brazened out.

"Our all-encompassing victory notwithstanding, [the trial] was not the last battle against deniers or, for that matter, against antisemites, because anti-Semitism itself cannot be 'defeated'," she writes in History on Trial. "It will wither away, or not--probably the latter--of its own accord. Since anti-Semitism and, for that matter, all forms of prejudice are impervious to reason, they cannot be disproved. Therefore, in every generation they must be fought."

Lipstadt says she is looking forward to returning to the research on modern anti-Semitism she had only just begun ten years ago, when the letter from Penguin hijacked her academic career. But she acknowledges that the Irving trial has changed her and shaped her as a scholar and teacher.

"My voice has more resonance now," she says. "I happen to be one of those people whose battle got a lot of attention. It's no more important than anyone else's. But students tend to resonate to people who stand up and fight for something."

Jacob Cherry, an Emory College junior from Westchester County, New York, took Lipstadt's Holocaust studies course last year. Although she routinely devotes only one lecture during the semester to the Irving trial, Cherry says Lipstadt's personal experience lends an added layer of poignancy to her teaching about the Holocaust.

"She is one of the most inspirational, passionate people I've ever known," Cherry says. "She is one of those professors who you know, when you look back thirty years from now, you will remember what she said. It's amazing to get to take a class from such a central figure in Holocaust studies."

Although Lipstadt has maintained she never set out to defend the truth of the Holocaust, in many ways the Holocaust survivors and Jews who supported her fight looked to her to do just that. It was a bittersweet burden she both resisted and bravely embraced. And it was finally the victims who brought out the strongest emotion in Lipstadt, leaving her feeling "particularly unnerved." Many survivors contacted her during the trial and afterward; [...]

"Dear Professor Lipstadt," one woman wrote. "You do not know me and we will probably never meet. ... My mother was killed in Auschwitz. If David Irving had won my mother would have been a victim a second time! So too would everybody else who perished there. I loved my mother very much and have not seen her since April 14, 1939 when I was fourteen years old. She was killed on October 23, 1944. Gratefully yours, Anna Bertolina."

This letter, and dozens of others, touched Lipstadt deeply. In a moving passage of her book, she describes her feelings about those who perished in the Holocaust and her role in preserving their memory.

"In Jewish tradition...Taking care of the dead is called hesed shel emet, the most genuine act of loving-kindness, because it is then that we most closely emulate God's kindness to humans, which also cannot be reciprocated," Lipstadt writes. "For five years I 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. I did not choose this field of research in order to perform this act of hesed. I did not write my book on deniers expecting to engage in this act. I did not choose this fight. But now, as I look back, I am filled with gratitude. If someone had to be taken out of the long line to fight this battle, I feel gratified to have been the one."

"Appreciating the Triumph of Truth"

In the November 3 issue of Harvard Law School's The Record, Amos Jones cites Prof. Lipstadt, Simon Wiesenthal and Rosa Parks as examples of people who have made "bold enemies on their righteous missions to reconcile the human family". Here are some excerpts:

Amos's Sermon: Appreciating the Triumph of Truth

By Amos Jones

BERLIN, October 29, 2005 - It all started with a lie. The annexation of Austria. The invasion of Poland. The foray into Russia. The genocide of six million Jews and elimination of six million others, and the abuse of millions more who survived long enough for the Allies' liberation of the concentration camps and the countries occupied by Adolph Hitler's Germany sixty years ago this year. This is the city from which the villains of the Third Reich ruled. Fifty million people died in World War II, and it all happened because of the lie that is racism.


The demise of fact

Before shuttling to Berlin on the cheap for three days during our annual fly-out week, I attended a lecture across campus titled "The Demise of Fact in Political Discussion." Delivered on Tuesday by the highly regarded communications expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the University of Pennsylvania and sponsored by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, it presented her argument that today's political partisans are challenging what once would have been considered fact, molding their readings of fact to political goals and preventing real deliberation from taking place. [...]

Jamieson lamented adherence to facts "as convenient to ideology" and questioned the media's "split-the-difference relativism," which lazily reports as though certain facts are disputed simply because one side says that they are.


The costs of correcting

We can thank a number of dedicated journalists and historians for ensuring that the truth has come out. In many cases, it has taken them years to correct distorted records. Sometimes chroniclers of fact have found it necessary to confront and fight liars publicly. Exposing these most intransigent wretches rarely goes unpunished.

The cover of the current Emory Magazine features a triumphant Deborah Lipstadt, that Southern university's Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, who in February released "History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving." In this book, she recounts the landmark libel trial in the United Kingdom that resulted five years ago in her being cleared of charges brought by a famous Holocaust denier who claimed that she defamed him inasmuch as the Holocaust never occurred. The British legal system essentially required Professor Lipstadt, an unimpeachable authority on the Holocaust, to prove in court that the Holocaust happened. The trial was five years ago. She won.

A recent obituary in The Economist pays tribute to Simon Wiesenthal, a famed Nazi hunter who died on September 20 at the age of 96. The article began: "One of the stranger conversations in Simon Wiesenthal's life occurred in September 1944. He was being taken by SS guards, in his faded striped uniform, away from the advancing Russians. Somewhere in the middle of Poland, he and an SS corporal scavenged together for potatoes. What, the corporal asked him mockingly, would he tell someone in America about the death camps? Mr. Wiesenthal said he would tell the truth. 'They wouldn't believe you,' the corporal replied." We know the rest of the story. [...] Wiesenthal's concurrent pursuit was to remind the world about the dangers of Nazism and to warn on the lecture circuit and in books about motivating trends in far-right politics. Insisting that world leaders had a duty to combat racism, he faced constant threats. In 1982 neo-Nazis blew up his house. Yet Wiesenthal pressed on, because, according to The Economist, "his survival of the Holocaust gave him a duty to seek justice for the millions who died."

On Monday, our own country paid tribute to Rosa Parks, the civil-rights pioneer who rejected white racism fifty years ago, December 1, when she refused to leave her seat for a white man on an Alabama bus. As E.R. Shipp of the New York Times wrote last week, black Americans had been arrested and killed for disobeying bus drivers. [...] As the cradle of the movement, nearly ten of Montgomery's black churches were firebombed the evening the court order forcing desegregation of the buses was announced. Once integrated, many buses were shot at terrorism-style. Within weeks of the integration, the Parks family had to leave Montgomery for good because of white people's violent retaliation against them. The family would settle in Detroit, where Rosa Parks died at the age of 92, on October 24.

Respecting honesty

It was predictable that Lipstadt, Wiesenthal, and Parks would make bold enemies on their righteous missions to reconcile the human family. History reveals that liars hate the truth and the people who tell it. Recall that prophets tend to be murdered. Yet ordinary people, the backbones of mass social movements, often understand the challenge and appreciate the response.


Bill Pretzer, a curator of political history at the Ford museum, revealed how student visitors today often are in disbelief that what happened on the bus could have occurred in America: "They say, 'What do you mean can't sit there? That's impossible,'" he told a reporter. "Which is why we need to keep looking at this. There is a danger that if we don't spark peoples' imaginations as to what in fact happened, we risk it one day happening again."

Friday, November 4, 2005

Lipstadt at Cleveland "Festival of Jewish Books and Authors" (Nov. 17)

Prof. Lipstadt will be one of the featured authors at the Jewish Community Center of Cleveland's seventh annual "book fest". Here is a review of History on Trial from the Cleveland Jewish News:

All you can read buffet


Debunking the lies of a Holocaust denier

By: MARILYN H. KARFELD Senior Staff Reporter

History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving. By Deborah E. Lipstadt. New York. HarperCollins Publishers. 2005. 346 pp. $25.95.

It seems hard to believe today that David Irving, whose name is almost automatically followed by the phrase Holocaust denier, would sue Emory University historian Deborah Lipstadt for libel for calling him just that.

But in 1993, when Lipstadt, a professor of Jewish studies, published her groundbreaking book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, Irving, a British citizen, was a World War II historian and Hitler biographer of some repute. Holocaust denial was still the province of fringe right-wing extremists, yet to emerge as a significant tenet of a global anti-Semitism movement.

In just a few paragraphs in her book, Lipstadt calls Irving one of the most dangerous proponents of Holocaust denial, who distorted and manipulated documents and historical evidence.

In his books and speeches and in the trial, held in London, Irving insisted that Hitler did not order the mass extermination of Jews and that he even tried to halt some of the killings. Among his many outrageous statements: The murder of six million Jews was a myth; most of the Jews who died in the Holocaust were the victims of typhus and unauthorized shootings by rogue soldiers at the front; and “more people died in the back seat of Edward Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.”

Two years after the publication of her book on Holocaust denial, Irving sued Lipstadt and her British publisher Penguin UK for libel. He chose a British courtroom rather than an American one because the libel laws in Great Britain favor the person bringing the suit. The defendant must prove that what he or she wrote was the truth.

In America, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff, not the defendant. And a public figure like Irving has to show that these statements were written with reckless disregard for the truth.

After five years of legal jockeying and $1.5 million in research expenses and legal costs, the case against Lipstadt finally went to trial in 2000.

During her 10 weeks in court, her attorneys refused to put her on the stand or allow her to talk to the press. The articulate professor chafed against the restrictions. In her latest book, History on Trial, Lipstadt finally has her chance to speak about the trial, which was heard by a judge, not a jury. She does so in absorbing, well-paced prose, and her personal memoir reads more like a novel than a nonfiction account.

Although most readers probably know the trial’s outcome, Lipstadt still provides a sense of drama, recording in vivid detail her misgivings and feelings and those of her legal team. The testimony of historians debunking Irving and his many distortions and lies makes for riveting reading.

Knowing that Holocaust survivors were counting on her to stand up for them, Lipstadt frequently worries that the case isn’t going well. She fears that the judge, who often appears to support Irving in his comments and questions, might rule in her favor but in such an even-handed way that she won’t be truly vindicated.

The highly publicized trial resulted in a huge victory for Lipstadt. The judge declared it “incontrovertible that Irving qualifies as a Holocaust denier.” His statements, the judge said, confirm that he was an anti-Semite and a racist who “deliberately skewed the evidence to bring it in line with his political beliefs.”

In Britain, the loser has to pay the defense costs. But after losing his appeals, Irving declared bankruptcy. Lipstadt decided that it wasn’t worth her time and energy, not to mention huge sums, to go after any of his assets.

The trial to her had not been about documents and money. It was, she writes, about “historical - as well as my personal - integrity.”

Deborah Lipstadt speaks on Thurs., Nov. 17, at 7:30 p.m. at Siegal College of Judaic Studies in Beachwood. Free, but limited space. Reservations required. 216-454-4050 or rsvp@siegal