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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 college.edu
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:
Posted by Hilary Ostrov at 5:41 PM
Labels: Lectures by Lipstadt
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THE HOLOCAUST AND DAVID IRVING
Reading one of David Irving's books, "Hess, The
Missing Years", one can discover and measure
the mendacity, perversity and very dishonest
tactics of this author, who would like to be
accepted as a "historian", that many acknowledge
at least as a "historical writer", but that would
qualify only as a man with a despicable racist,
anti-democratic, authoritarian and irrational agenda,
who will stop at nothing to defend it and please the
lunatic fringe that still responds to such delusions.
In that book Irving cunningly presents Hess as a
kind of Parsifal, an idealistic and well-meaning
German who endangers his life to stop a bloody
war and save countless lives, while at the same time
slandering the British government, then leading a
struggle for survival against the nazi Blitz, as a
bunch of unprincipled and corrupt liars.
If his reader is unaware (and many young people
today unfortunately are) that this same Hess was
one of the nazi thugs who played a very important
part in the repression and in the "legal" framework
for the later massacres, who also played a part (as
Irving has to grudgingly concede) in the massacre
of the SA leaders during a nazi power struggle in
1934, then he succeeds in passing his mendacity as
"objective" or "revisionist" history, which should not
be tolerated, every true professional historian must
expose his tricks and misleading style so he cannot
fool anyone anymore.
The following are the ONLY mentions of the Holocaust
in the book by David Irving, "Hitler's War":
Travelling around the world I have found that it has
split the community of academic historians from top
to bottom, particularly in the controversy around ‘the
Nevertheless one wonders how much suffering might
have been spared if both sides had pursued the
negotiations – might all that happened after 1940, the
saturation bombing, the population movements, the
epidemics, even the Holocaust itself, have been
Historians have searched, and will search, in vain for
a clear directive for what has been called since the early
1970s ‘the Holocaust.’ 458
Since the holocaust of Dresden, British night bomber
forces had cascaded incendiaries and explosives into
Chemnitz, Duisburg, Worms, Kassel, and ancient
an allusion to our offer of a reward for any wartime
document showing that Hitler was aware of, or
ordered, the Holocaust. 888
‘Despite a half century of research, no single document
has provided evidence that the Nazi leader gave a written
order for the Holocaust.’ 888
Trying to cast doubts on the Holocaust itself, writing
it between quotation marks, as one does with doubtful
things, comparing it with the Dresden bombing by using
the same word, as if the random and unintended deaths
of 30.000 o even 100.000 civilians (like in the Blitz over
England by the Germans) could be reasonably compared
with the six million Jews deliberately and systematically
murdered during the war, Irving shows his callous and
Let's see what Hitler wrote in "Mein Kampf":
"On putting the probing knife carefully to that kind of
abscess one immediately discovered, like a maggot
in a putrescent body, a little Jew who was often blinded
by the sudden light.
I do not know what amazed me the more--the abundance
of their verbiage or the artful way in which they dressed
up their falsehoods. I gradually came to hate them.
This knowledge was the occasion of the greatest inner
revolution that I had yet experienced. From being a soft-
hearted cosmopolitan I became an out-and-out anti-Semite.
There is no such thing as coming to an understanding
with the Jews. It must be the hard-and-fast 'Either-Or.'
I am certain that this will be easier for us than it was for
our fathers. The scream of the twelve-inch shrapnel is
more penetrating than the hiss from a thousand Jewish
newspaper vipers. Therefore let them go on with their
He will stop at nothing. His utterly low-down conduct
is so appalling that one really cannot be surprised if in
the imagination of our people the Jew is pictured as the
incarnation of Satan and the symbol of evil.
For a fight it will have to be, since the first objective will
not be to build up the idea of the People's State but rather
to wipe out the Jewish State which is now in existence.
Therefore the Jew follows his destined road until he is
opposed by a force superior to him. And then a desperate
struggle takes place to send back to Lucifer him who
would assault the heavens".
Sending the Jews "back to Lucifer"? Can there be a more
clear written definition of Hitler's intentions towards the
Jews he hated so much?
Irving gets even to the point of predicting, like a modern
Nostradamus, that "Historians have searched, and will
search in vain, for a clear directive for what has been
called since the early 1970s ‘the Holocaust.’ ", thus
betraying his own secret hope which he transforms
into a ridiculous and spurious assertion.
Irving's perverse denials and admiration for the Führer
and his nazi thugs should deny him any credibility when
dealing with these topics.
[ As a matter of fact, if this revisionist neo-nazi ex-convict
were an honest man, I would take him up on his promise
of paying 1,000 pounds for proof of Hitler's personal
responsibility for the Holocaust, which the last above
quotation of Mein Kampf should earn me, but of course,
somehow he would wiggle out of that one as well, maybe
like one of the 'maggots' his Führer wrote about? ] :-)
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