Thursday, December 21, 2006

David Irving and the N word

NOTE: December 26. We are experiencing some problems posting to this blog, because of the migration to the new blogger. Please go to to view new posts.

[Posted on Saturday night 12/23 from Limmud UK]

David Irving’s return to the UK was headline news in this country. It received more press than Ahmadinejad’s gathering.

Some reporters – who are not renown for having particularly long memories -- were beginning to wonder whether his claims should not be taken seriously.

[I pointed the BBC reporter who asked me that question to Judge Gray’s findings. See and go to part XIII of the Judgment.]

Then Mr. Irving held a news conference.

He boasted to the press that he had once been rich enough to walk into a Rolls Royce dealership and, using cash, buy a n*****brown color car. Suffice it to say that it’s the same word that got Michael Richards [Kramer] into so much trouble [and rightfully so].

Then he went on to say that, though he is not anti-Semitic, Mel Gibson was right.

Maybe I am being a wee bit optimistic, but if he keeps talking like that he will soon lose any of the credibility the press was still willing to accord to him.

Remember this is the same man who said he feels queasy when he sees Blacks playing for the English cricket team and thinks Black newscasters should be relegated to reading news of criminals and drug busts.

And this is the man who edited David Duke’s book. [Go to and put David Duke into the search engine.]

So I say: give David Irving enough rope and he will proceed to “hang himself.”

In less than 24 hours back in the UK he’s off to a good start.

As for me, I am going back to enjoy events at Limmud.

New York Times on Irving release

From the New York Times:

December 21, 2006
Austria Frees Holocaust Denier From Jail

FRANKFURT, Dec. 20 —

The decision drew pointed criticism, with some Austrian commentators noting that the court’s presiding judge, Ernest Maurer, was widely known to have close ties to the Freedom Party, a far-right organization with a history of appealing to anti-foreign and anti-Jewish sentiment.


Mr. Irving’s books were on conspicuous display last week at a conference of Holocaust deniers in Tehran organized by the Iranian government. Among the speakers was Robert Faurisson, a French academic and outspoken Holocaust denier, who prodded Mr. Irving during the 1980s to be more open about his doubts about the mass killing of Jews.


In Austria, though, some people argued that however noxious Mr. Irving’s views, he should be allowed to express them. Others said the law was necessary because, as Hans Rauscher, a columnist at the Vienna paper Der Standard, put it, “Denial of the Holocaust is not an opinion, it is a political act which tries to bring Nazi thought into the mainstream.”

Mr. Rauscher .... was troubled by the involvement of Judge Maurer, a conservative jurist who Mr. Rauscher said “is known for very lenient opinions toward right-wing extremism.”

In several cases Mr. Maurer ruled in favor of Jörg Haider, the founder of the Freedom Party, after he sued journalists and academics who accused him of trying to rationalize Nazism.

In 2000 Mr. Maurer was the choice of the Freedom Party to serve on a board that oversees the Austrian public broadcasting network, ORF. He is not a member of the party, and he has always said in the Austrian press that he decides cases based on the legal facts.

Even some of Mr. Irving’s fiercest foes opposed the decision to jail him. Deborah Lipstadt, a historian at Emory University in Atlanta who won a libel suit that Mr. Irving filed against her in 1998, said in an interview, “I don’t believe that history should be adjudicated in a courtroom.”

Professor Lipstadt said Mr. Irving’s imprisonment risked turning him into a martyr. “He’s got the best of both worlds,” she said. “He’s now a martyr to free speech, and he’s free to talk about it.”

More on the Judge in Irving's Austrian case

The Austrian daily, Standard and other Austrian media outlets have provided some additional details about the judge. For those who are championing Irving's release as an act of free speech triumphant, pay attention to the judge's background. It is not irrelevant that the presiding judge was Ernest Maurer who is a sympathizer of the right wing who has had some of his decisions overturned by the European Court for Human Rights because they unlawfully restricted freedom of the press. Apparently Maurer had ruled for Jorg Haider, leader of Austria's right wing, when he sued newspapers and commentators who criticized him. The Standard quotes from a decision by the judge in which he express classic Nazi ideologies including Rassereinheit (purity of race).

As I said in my previous post: this is not a simple matter of freedom of speech.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My views on Irving's release: summarized

Since I have been inundated with questions about what I think of all this let me summarize:

1. In principle I am against laws outlawing Holocaust denial.
2. I have a strange affection for the 1st Amendment
3. Furthermore, I don't think they are efficacious -- they tend to make a denier into a martyr for free speech.
4. They suggest that the evidence to prove that deniers are liars does not exist [it exists in droves]

Having said that:
1. Remember that David Irving went to Austria despite the fact that there was a warrant out for his arrest.
2. He announced that he was going. Seems to me he was "taunting" the Austrians or "asking for it."
3. In Austria, as the previous post notes, Holocaust denial has a different resonance than it does in the USA or other countries which are not directly linked to the Holocaust.
4. In a place such as Austria it is a political act that could be said to have incendiary implications and be close to incitement.

1. While I am opposed to such laws
2. I can understand the Austrian perspective.
3. Imagine if Ahamdinejad had decided to hold his conference in Vienna to save having to pay for Duke, the ridiculous rabbis et. al to fly all the way to Iran. There would have been a world outcry of unbelievable proportions.

1. I think David Irving should not be the poster child for Free Speech.
2. Remember that six weeks before my trial he offered to settle with me if I agree to pulp all my books and apologize to him. In essence he was denying my right to free speech.
3. The judge who freed him has a very dicey record [see previous post] when it comes to protecting free speech in Austria.

It's not simple.

From the International Herald Tribune: Perspectives on Irving's release

From the International Herald Tribune:

British author who denied Holocaust freed from jail

By Mark Landler
Published: December 20, 2006


In Austria, though, some people argued that, however noxious Irving's views, he should be allowed to express them. Others said the law was necessary, because, as Hans Rauscher, a columnist at the Vienna paper Der Standard, put it, "denial of the Holocaust is not an opinion, it is a political act which tries to bring Nazi thought into the mainstream."

Rauscher said he believed 13 months in jail was sufficient punishment for Irving. But he said he was troubled by the involvement of Maurer, a conservative jurist whom Rauscher said, "is known for very lenient opinions towards right-wing extremism."

In several cases, Maurer ruled in favor of Jörg Haider, founder of the Freedom Party, after he sued journalists and academics that accused him of trying to rationalize Nazism.

In 2000, Maurer was the choice of the Freedom Party to serve on a board that oversees the public broadcasting network ORF. Maurer is not a party member, and he has always told the press that he decides cases based on the legal facts.

Even some of Irving's fiercest foes opposed the decision to jail him. Deborah Lipstadt, a historian at Emory University in Atlanta who won a libel suit filed against her by Irving in 1998, said in an interview, "I don't believe that history should be adjudicated in a courtroom."


Judges in Irving's probation hearing

Irving case was heard by a three judge panel. The chief judge was a man named Ernest Maurer. According to people with whom I have spoken in Vienna [this has been reported on the Austrian media] he is a follower or sympathizer of the Jorg Haider's right wing party the FPÖ. Some of the decisions of his decision have been overturned by the European Court for Human Rights for unlawful restriction of the freedom of the press.

The Austrian daily "Standard" quotes from a book where Maurer expressed Nazi-like ideologies including "Rassereinheit" (purity of race) for an "idealistic view" (Idealvorstellung).

So for all those who are rejoicing about a putative victory for freedom of speech, note that neither the judge nor the defendant are believers in such a notion. Remember, Irving offered to drop the case against me if I apologized to him and agreed to have all my books pulped.

Not exactly the actions of a paragon of freedom of speech.....

Irving given probation

David Irving has been given probation by an Austrian judge. According to the NY Times bureau chief for Germany, the Judge apparently has ties to Haider, the leader of the right wing in Austria. I am told that many left of center journalists in Austria are very distressed by this intrusion of pure politics into the judicial process. More as the story develops

Emory U to translate HDOT into Arabic, Farsi, etc

AP reports that Emory University, which hosts the HDOT website, is creating a $2 million endowment to translate the site documents into "Arabic, Farsi, Russian and other languages":

Emory rendering Holocaust site in Arabic


Emory University is planning to translate a professor's Web site on Holocaust denial into Arabic, Farsi and other languages common to countries where anti-Semitic views are widespread.

Professor Deborah Lipstadt, who runs the site Holocaust Denial on Trial (, said she hopes the translations will provide resources to people who have no historical accounts of the Holocaust in their native tongue.

"I'm convinced that there are people in predominantly Muslim countries, especially in the Middle East, who are being inundated with Holocaust deniers' claims and don't know that the deniers are fabricating and distorting," she said in a news release.

She pointed to last week's gathering of Holocaust deniers in Iran - an event supported by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - as evidence that such viewpoints are gaining strength throughout the Muslim world.


The university will use scholars in its various foreign language departments to do the translation.

The Web site provides the legal and historical documents from the trial where right-wing British historian David Irving sued Lipstadt for libeling him in her book 1994 book "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory." In a highly publicized 2000 decision, a British court ruled in Lipstadt's favor and declared Irving a Holocaust denier and racist.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Lipstadt letter to New York Times

Some of you might be interested in a letter I had in the New York Times last week:

To the Editor:

Your Dec. 13 report about the Holocaust-denial conference in Iran quoted Germany’s chancellor referring to the attendees as “revisionists,” and France’s foreign minister criticized “the resurgence of revisionist ideas” regarding the Holocaust.

While these leaders are well intentioned and their condemnations of the Tehran conference are most welcome, we take issue with their use of the term “revisionists” when referring to those who deny the Holocaust.

The deniers prefer to be called “revisionists” because they believe that the term gives them legitimacy, hearkening back to post-World War I historians who disputed conventional portrayals of various aspects of that war.

Typically, those 1920s revisionists were well-regarded scholars offering legitimate alternative interpretations of historical facts. By contrast, the “Holocaust revisionists” are bigots whose denial of the Holocaust is merely a new mask for old-fashioned anti-Semitism, a fact confirmed by last year’s United States government report on anti-Semitism around the world, which pointedly included manifestations of Holocaust denial as examples of anti-Semitism.

Deborah E. Lipstadt

Rafael Medoff

Washington, Dec. 13, 2006

Review of Robert Satloff's AMONG THE RIGHTEOUS

From the Washington Post:

The Schindlers of the Middle East

Can learning that some Arabs saved Jews from genocide in the 1940s heal wounds today?

Reviewed by Deborah Lipstadt
Sunday, December 10, 2006; BW05


Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands

By Robert Satloff

PublicAffairs. 251 pp. $26

Robert Satloff is a man with a mission. He believes that if contemporary Arabs knew about Arabs who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, they would reject the Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism that are now so prevalent in the Arab/Muslim world. This book tells of his quest to track down the history of those Arabs' deeds.

Satloff begins by relating the oft-ignored story of how Nazi Germany, Vichy France and fascist Italy exported their anti-Semitic policies to North Africa. They deprived Jews of their civil rights, confiscated their property, forced them to do slave labor and established concentration camps across the Sahara. Had Germany prevailed, North African Jews would have been annihilated.

Many Arabs willingly -- and, according to survivors, gleefully -- played an essential role in this persecution, serving as camp guards, clerks, policemen, foremen, overseers and torturers. Some assisted Germans as they went door to door hunting Jews. One Arab volunteer military unit, after being flown to Berlin for training, fought with the Germans in Tunisia. Some Arabs were so closely aligned with the Nazis that they fled to Germany when the Allies landed.

But Satloff has discovered "noble, selfless deeds" by Arabs. In normal times, such acts would have been routine, but during World War II, routine kindness was in short supply. When Vichy officials offered Algerian Arabs windfall profits if they took over Jewish property, not a single Arab in Algiers participated. (Vichy had no trouble finding willing Frenchmen.) On a Friday in 1941, religious leaders throughout Algiers delivered sermons warning Muslims against participation in schemes to strip Jews of their property. Some Jews were able to get false identity papers at the Grand Mosque in Paris. In 1940, two months after the Germans entered Paris, the Germans warned the head of the mosque to cease assisting Jews. In short, Arabs behaved like many Europeans during the Holocaust: Some helped Jews; others persecuted them or benefited from their persecution; the majority looked the other way.

The most interesting aspect of this story is the reluctance of contemporary Arabs to acknowledge noble past acts. Satloff speculates that Arab attitudes toward Jews are now so hostile that to acknowledge the help given Jews by preceding generations would inflame Middle Eastern passions. It would run counter to the prevailing myths in the Arab world about the Holocaust, which range from crude Holocaust celebration (in which Hitler is a hero) to Holocaust denial.

As Satloff notes, the Holocaust has become part of the high-stakes battle against Israel -- a battle in which history itself has been turned into a weapon. Some of the most virulent Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism today emanate from mainstream figures in the Muslim world. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, alas, is not alone. Typical of the anti-Semitic invective that has become so common in the Arab world was a 2002 article by the editor of Egypt's state-owned al-Ahram, the largest newspaper in the Arab world, entitled "Jewish Matza Is Made from Arab Blood." In popular Arab culture, Satloff observes, Zionism is a more heinous crime than Nazism.

Satloff believes that if Jews and Arabs were less reluctant to address the history of Arabs and the Holocaust, relations could be improved. He faults the custodians of Yad Vashem, the Israeli national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, for not being more energetic in seeking out Arab rescuers. Jews from Arab lands have also been strangely reluctant to address their experiences -- positive and negative -- during the Holocaust.

But Satloff is being a bit naive here. It is strange that the highly respected executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a well-trained historian should have convinced himself that history could serve as an antidote to irrational hatred. Holocaust denial is a form of anti-Semitic prejudice. The etymology of the word "prejudice" illustrates the futility of Satloff's mission: Prejudice means pre-judging. It amounts to saying, "Don't confuse me with the facts; forget evidence; I have already made up my mind."

The deniers' arguments are a tissue of lies. This was the finding of Judge Charles Gray of England's High Court of Justice, who presided when Holocaust denier David Irving sued this reviewer for libel. He concluded that deniers' claims are "unreal," a "travesty," and "unjustified." Deniers, he found, "pervert" and "distort" history. Rationally telling stories of Arab rescuers, however admirable, will not change the minds of those whose views of history are rooted in unreasoning bigotry.

To be sure, Satloff's efforts to tell the story of Arab behavior -- both complicity and heroism -- during the Holocaust are important. The stories of rescuers of all faiths and ethnicities should be told. Not only is their courage part of the history of the Holocaust, but it also gives the lie to bystanders' claims that nothing could have been done. But these stories should be uncovered for the sake of history, not for the purpose of changing irrational attitudes. Satloff has told an important story and told it well, but he has done so for noble but misguided reasons. ?

Deborah Lipstadt is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. Her most recent book is "History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving."

Three Monkey's Interview

An online publication, Three Monkeys , recently interviewed me. In the interview -- which took place prior to the Iran conference -- I address related issues.

Defending History - Deborah E. Lipstadt and Holocaust Denial

Author: Three Monkeys Online
Date: November 2006

When Professor Deborah E. Lipstadt first decided to study and write about the phenomenon of Holocaust denial, in the late 1980s, many of her colleagues counselled her against her decision. Holocaust denial was, in their eyes a fringe movement of no-importance, akin to the Flat Earth Society. She was, in short, warned against taking 'these kooks' seriously.

Almost twenty-years later, and Lipstadt's concern seems prophetic. The development of the world wide web has meant that global publishing has never been easier or more economic, a fact that applies equally to those who publish racist, neo-nazi propoganda.

Lipstadt is, perhaps, best known as the historian whom David Irving sued for libel. Lipstadt had referred to Irving, author of Hitler's War as a Holocaust denier in her authoratitive work Denying the Holocaust - The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. A British court, in a landmark ruling, found in favour of Lipstadt, judging that Irving was an "active Holocaust denier".

Professor Lipstadt was kind enough to agree to an interview with Three Monkeys Online, to discuss Holocaust denial

For the benefit of those who haven’t read Denying the Holocaust, how has Holocaust denial evolved since 1945?

It began almost immediately after the war when some fringe intellectuals tried to denigrate the Jews’ suffering at the hand of Nazi Germany. They spread the notion that the Holocaust had been a myth. Their attempts gained little traction until the mid-1970s when the Institute for Historical Review was founded in Southern California. The IHR claimed that it was interested in “revising” mistakes in history. Interestingly enough, virtually the only “mistakes” they addressed related to the Holocaust. They insisted on calling themselves “revisionists.”

With the establishment of the IHR deniers changed their tactics. Instead of engaging in overt anti-Semitic attacks, they adopted the modus operandi of scholars and academics. They gave their publications the look of academic journals. They made their conferences appear to be academic gatherings.

Rather than marching wearing swastika laden clothing and carrying neo-Nazi flags and looking like skinheads, they tried to appear as if they were respectable folks with a sincere academic interest whose intent it was to fix historical mistakes.

It was telling, of course, that the only mistakes in which they were interested were the Holocaust and other matters which were designed to portray the Allies as aggressors, the Germans as victims, and the Jews deserving of whatever was done to them. As one pundit observed, when you read the material published by the deniers you were left with the impression that “the Jews were not killed but they were so awful they should have been.” [By the way, I fully expect some denier – possibly David Irving – to take that last sentence out of context and use it in some article on web posting.]

Three Monkeys Online recently published an interview with A.C.Grayling, whose latest book addresses the issue of whether the Allied bombing of Germany and Japan in 1945 constituted a war crime. Unfortunately this is a topic also close to the hearts of Holocaust deniers, as you point out in Denying the Holocaust. It poses a problem for Academics like Grayling, and magazines like Three Monkeys Online. Should we steer clear of valid historical questions like these for fear of unwittingly providing material that can be used/abused by neo-Nazis?

We should NEVER avoid valid historical questions. For example, when historians realized that the death tolls for Auschwitz/Birkenau were too high, they recalculated and lowered them. They did not hesitate to do so, even though some people feared – correctly so – that it would “give comfort to deniers.” Instead, serious historians welcomed the corrected information.

Another example of correcting a mistaken notion relates to the accusation that the Nazis rendered Jewish corpses into soap during the Holocaust. During the war and afterwards many people said that the Germans made Jews into soap. No one knows the precise origins of this rumor, but it persisted after the war. Survivors who arrived in Israel were sometimes called: ‘Sabonim’ [Soaps]. In fact, there is no proof that the Germans regularly processed Jews into soap. They may have and probably did experiment in doing so, but we have no indication that it was ever done on a mass basis. Many historians, myself included, have regularly talked and written about this, despite the fact that there are those who argue that it “plays into” deniers’ hands.

Correcting mistakes does not, in any way, lessen the Germans’ crimes. The Germans’ actions were horrendous enough that there is no need to support myths in lieu of facts or to fear the facts.

By the same token, if the Allies did things wrong, then we should address it and acknowledge it. I have no doubts that they did some terrible things. Nothing, however, that they did can compare to the Nazis’ crimes which include the Holocaust, the T-4 [euthanasia program], medical experiments on prisoners, and so much else.

To return to the heart of your question: historians do not need to fear the truth. Deniers, it should be stressed, as was demonstrated in my trial and affirmed by five different judges, are not proposing an iconoclastic version of history. They twist the truth and lie about the facts. As Judge Charles Gray, the presiding judge in my trial, wrote in his decision, “Irving had “significantly misrepresented what the evidence, objectively examined, reveals.” Judge Gray’s choice of words to describe Irving’s writings about the Holocaust were unambiguous: “perverts,” “distorts,” “misleading,” “unjustified,” “travesty,” and “unreal.” And, the Judge further stressed, these were not mistakes. Irving’s “falsification of the historical 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.” [see Part XIII of the judgment]

Sixty-six years after the liberation of the death camps, we’re approaching the point where there are no living witnesses to the Holocaust. What implications does that have both for the teaching of the Holocaust, and for Holocaust denial?

I used to worry a great deal about this. There is a unique power possessed by the person who can say: “This is my story. This is what happened to me.” But the tyranny of time guarantees that we will only have those voices for a few more years. In fact, I concluded my book, Holocaust Denial: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, with this very concern.

Yet during my trial my fears were assuaged about what will happen when the survivors are gone. My defense team chose not to use survivors as witnesses because we did not perceive of this trial as being about proving that the Holocaust happened. We saw our job as having to prove that I told the truth when I called David Irving a Holocaust denier. In other words, we were not proving precisely what happened. We were proving that what Irving claimed happened did not. It is a distinction with a difference. Survivors would have been, in the view of the court, “witnesses of fact.” We did not think we needed witnesses of fact. [see Lipstadt, History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving, (Ecco 2005)]

Furthermore, Irving was representing himself and we did not want to ask elderly survivors to stand in the witness box to be cross examined by a man whose objective, we feared, might well be to humiliate and confuse them. Instead we relied on first rate historians and on documents. Some of the historians relied on testimony given by survivors. However, the testimony on which they relied was all given in the years immediately following the war. In other words, it was written documents.

Relying only on written documents and transcripts of testimony, we nonetheless achieved a stunning victory. As our lead historical expert, Richard Evans, wrote after the trial: “The trial demonstrated triumphantly the ability of historical scholarship to reach reasoned conclusions about the Nazi extermination of the Jews on the basis of a careful examination of the written evidence.” [Evans, Lying About Hitler, p. 266]

In an article in the Jerusalem Post you wrote: “Other forms of denial -- declaring President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to be Hitler's equivalent or denouncing Israeli soldiers as Nazis -- are still prevalent. These charges are a form of Holocaust denial because, irrespective of how one feels about the United States' or Israel's policies, comparing them to the actions of the Third Reich is a complete distortion of the truth." To compare torture in Abu Ghraib with Nazi interrogation methods, or Israel's often-used policy of collective punishment with tactics deployed by Nazi troops against partisans are charges that are not without some historical merit. There are differences and similarities that deserve to be discussed - if only to prove clearly that there are important differences. To label these charges as forms of Holocaust denial surely plays into deniers hands, seeming to be a political usage of the Holocaust designed to prevent criticism of either the US or Israel.

I do not think my criticism plays into deniers’ hands. One simply cannot compare what the Germans did and what the Americans or Israelis are doing.

The Germans attempted to murder an entire people in Europe and beyond, e.g. North Africa. The Germans were intent on murdering every Jew on which they could lay their hands. They were so committed to this objective that in May 1944, two weeks before the Allies reached Rome, the Germans were engaged in deporting Jews from Rome. One might have assumed that they would be focused on repelling the enemy.

Similarly, in July 1944, a month after the landing at Normandy and over a month after the liberation of Rome, they took ships to the island of Rhodes in order to round up the members of that Jewish community, most of whom traced their roots on the island back over two thousand years, and take them to Auschwitz to be murdered. Of the thousands who were taken, only 151 Jews survived. One might have assumed that with the Allies on the European continent and the Russians steadily advancing on the eastern front, the Germans would have focused all their energies and military resources on fighting the Allies. Instead they were intent on tracking down every Jew they could find in order to kill them.

When the Russians were on the outskirts of Auschwitz the Germans gathered up the remaining Jews in the camps and took them on a horrendous “death march” back to Germany. They did not want to allow live Jews to fall into the hands of the Russians.

Whatever you think of Israel’s policies or of those of the United States in Iraq, the objective is not to murder all the Iraqis or Palestinians. To make such comparisons is to engage in “soft-core” denial.

What difference, if any, has 9/11 had on the Holocaust denial movement?

I don’t think it has had a tremendous impact in Europe and North America. It has energized denial in the Arab/Moslem world, as exemplified by Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

Holocaust denial has become an increasingly widespread phenomenon in the Arab world in countries like Egypt that have close economic and diplomatic ties with both the European Union and the US. Do you think that it’s time that official pressure was brought to bear, for example limiting foreign aid to countries that turn a blind eye or encourage Holocaust denial?

One would have hoped that intelligent and responsible people in these countries would have put an end – through public criticism – to these efforts. One might have expected that there would be a recognition of the fact that the active denial so prevalent in the Arab/Muslim world makes those who express these views look silly at best and nefarious at worst. This has not happened.

I have not seriously considered the notion that denial should be linked to foreign aid. I am not sure this is the best direction to take. I would certainly argue that any country which encourages Holocaust denial and fails to condemn those who engage in it, would be a questionable ally at best.

Prominent Holocaust deniers like Ernst Zundel and David Irving have been quick to take to the net, taking advantage of its cheap and fast ability to publish worldwide. The net seems, unfortunately, precisely because it’s cheap and accessible, to be the perfect place for disseminating hate literature. I would suggest that serious academics have been slow off the mark to use internet publishing and blogs constructively, leaving a dangerous vacuum for the likes of Zundel to fill. Would you agree, and what was the thinking behind the setting up of your blog?

I agree wholeheartedly. The internet has given deniers a new lease on life. They use it energetically. Whereas in the 1990s, before the explosion of use of the internet, a number of countries, Germany prominently among them, were limiting the activities of deniers by stopping them from shipping denial materials through the mail. That, of course, is obsolete today. No one need rely on the mail.

I also agree that most scholars have been incredibly slow in utilizing the internet and blogs as a means of responding to deniers. In fact, after my trial, for a short while, the only place one could retrieve the transcripts of the trial was on deniers’ websites. That is why Emory University, where I teach, created , a website devoted to the trial. On this site one can find not only transcripts, the judgment, and the expert reports but also increasing numbers of documents which were used in the trial. We have also put up the materials related to the various appeals Irving submitted to the court.

The site is being used in university and law school classes and by law enforcement officers in their attempt to educate themselves about deniers and their arguments.

[In preparing this interview and particularly my comments about the rumor of making Jews into soap, I used Google to see what it brought up. I entered soap + Jews + Holocaust + Nazis. The first 4-5 sites were deniers’ sites.]

The dilemma for historians with regard to Holocaust denial, as you pointed out in Denying the Holocaust, is whether to challenge the falsehoods face-on, or to try to starve them of the oxygen of publicity. Six years on from your successful defense against the libel case brought by David Irving, what do you think the best method to counter Holocaust denial is? Your vindication in the courts, for example, should have been a clear victory and yet it’s not uncommon to hear the misrepresentation that it was you who initiated the court proceedings rather than Irving (thus presenting him as a persecuted figure). In the face of such a protean ability to twist the facts around, is it naive to believe that historical facts are enough to counter Holocaust denial?

This is a tough question. In certain respects you are right. Historical facts are not enough alone to counter denial. They are, however, our most important weapon. They certainly are a far better weapon than laws which outlaw Holocaust denial. I am an opponent of such laws. I don’t agree with them in part because of my advocacy of free speech. I also think that they have the potential of making the denier appear to be, as you put it, the “persecuted figure” or martyr. Moreover, such laws suggest that we cannot rely on historical documentation to make the case.

Rather than law, there is another “weapon” in our arsenal. That is the quick and forceful condemnation by scholars, political and religious leaders, and other people of stature of denial and deniers. There must be condemnation of both “hard-core” and “soft-core” denial.

In a recent controversy in Italy, provoked by the publication of a paid for ‘information notice’, the Minister for the Interior spoke of shared values necessary for all participants in the recently established dialogue body between the Italian government and representatives of the Islamic community. Affirming recognition of the Holocaust as an essential value, he described the Holocaust as “incomparable to any other event in our time”. What do you think of the argument that the Holocaust was a unique event, and more importantly that it should remain incomparable to other events?

There are many aspects of the Holocaust which might be called unique or, to use a more efficacious term, unprecedented. Unlike other genocidal events, the Holocaust was not a civil war with two warring factions going after one another. It was not, as was the case in Cambodia, the imposition of terrible treatment – including torture and murder -- by the regime of a country on its own citizens. The Khmer Rogue, unlike the Third Reich, did not try to enslave Cambodians who lived in countries outside the country’s borders.

The Armenian genocide comes the closest to the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler, on ordering his military commanders to attack Poland without provocation in 1939, dismissed objections by saying `[w]ho, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?' and thus set the stage for the Holocaust. What it suggests that, had the world remembered the Armenian genocide, then the Holocaust might not have been possible. There are, of course, stark differences between the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust. An Armenian living in Paris or Brussels or possibly even in Istanbul was safe from the perpetrators’ murderous reach. A Jew in the 1940s who was on the European continent or even in North Africa was not safe from Germany’s intention to find them and deport them. Armenian children were often taken – kidnapped – and raised as Moslems. Jewish children were murdered.

In no other genocide do we see a government throwing all its resources into the annihilation of a people; not just those within its borders but in every area to which it had access.

Nor can the Holocaust be compared to America’s treatment of the Native Americans. America’s unspeakable treatment of the Native Americans – which remains a blot on my country’s history -- was prompted, in great measure, by the fact that the Native Americans occupied land that the American government wanted for its people. There was perverse logic – however totally immoral and terribly cruel it might have been – to the perpetrators’ actions. It might be more exact to say, rather than logic, there was something for the perpetrators to gain by their annihilation of the Native Americans.

In contrast, though the Nazis gained immeasurable amounts of material goods, real estate, and art work from Jews, this was not the prime motivation of the massacres. All Jews – rich and poor, those with a great cache of wealth and those with none – were in danger. The Jews did not “occupy” land that the Germans wanted. They murdered Jews who were serving important tasks as slave laborers. There was no ostensible “logic” to the murder of the Jews.

The Third Reich did not assault only those of a military age. Instead, it went after men, women, and children of all ages. This government chased down everyone of those it deemed an enemy, even when it was to its own detriment to do so.

While there were unprecedented aspects to the Holocaust, I – together with most other historians -- reject the notion that it was uniquely unique, i.e. that it was an event which cannot be compared to any other event. First of all, there is no historical event which is sui generis. Every event can be compared and contrasted with another event. If it does somehow stand alone, then there is little we can learn from it. Moreover, from the perspective of the educator if something is unique unto itself, it is very hard – if not impossible – to teach to students.

I would argue that we banish the term “unique” to the dust bin and adopt “unprecedented.” Unique means something which stands alone. Unprecedented means that when it happened there were no other examples of such a thing. But unprecedented does not preclude the fact that there might be other examples which follow in the wake of the Holocaust.

The field of "Holocaust studies" has traditionally existed in a tension between introversion, stressing the uniqueness of the Nazi genocide of Jews, and extroversion, applying the ethical stance and expertise of the field to other cases of genocide and "ethnic cleansing," past and present. Introversion may have been a useful strategy for the early years of the field. Over the years, however, Holocaust studies have greatly advanced and developed a wide array of resources and it would be a pity not to put them to use also for the research, documentation and help in other relevant cases.

Like Women's Studies or African-American Studies, Jewish Studies were developed as a satellite field that was supposed to fill in the gaps left in "general" disciplines when it came to minority matters. As a satellite field, Jewish studies were merely expected to flesh out a theoretical skeleton developed in the "general" disciplines with Jewish-related subject matter. But Holocaust studies is one of the rare instances, where Jewish studies actually has a theoretical and methodological edge over "general" disciplines, and it is here that we can for once offer to reciprocate the theory stream.

Leading Holocaust deniers like Ernst Zundel embrace with vigor campaigns for freedom of speech, suggesting that they’re victims of censorship. Does the fact that Holocaust denial is a crime in certain jurisdictions support their claims? The argument goes that no other historical fact is protected by law – if someone wishes to say that World War II didn’t happen, while obviously wrong they don’t face prosecution. Why is the Holocaust different?

As I said earlier, I don’t believe that Holocaust denial should be outlawed. However, if one looks closely at some of the statements made by deniers they, on occasion, go beyond simple historical deception and enter into the realm of hate speech and incitement. That kind of talk, incitement to violence in particular, should be outlawed.

By the way, it is not only Holocaust denial which is outlawed. France recently passed a law outlawing Armenian genocide denial.

Does the continued underground existence of Holocaust denial, despite the overwhelming historical evidence, suggest that there’s a problem with how we teach history, or is it simply unfortunate proof that anti-Semitism still has strong roots in our culture? To put it another way, are there any lessons for us to learn from the continued survival of Holocaust denial?

Hmm, I think it may be a reflection in small measure of how badly history is taught. However, in the main it is really proof of the fact that anti-Semitism [which I prefer to spell as one word, antisemitism] has very deep roots. At its heart, Holocaust denial is naught but a form of antisemitism. And antisemitism is a form of prejudice. Like any other form of prejudice it is an irrational sentiment. [Think about the etymology of the word prejudice, pre-judge, i.e. “don’t confuse me with the facts, I have already made up my mind about this person or this group.”] Therefore, to imagine that one can thwart it with rational arguments is wrong.

One should not discount the impact of Irving v. Penguin and Lipstadt, even deniers acknowledge that it was one of the worst mistakes they ever made. Virtually every argument that they had in their arsenal was shown to be a “tissue of lies.” Five different judges and three courts emphatically agreed.

Of course denial persists, but not in the same overt manner that it did before [with the primary exception of the Arab/Moslem world.]

I think that the primary lesson to be learned from the fact that it exists at all – after all, it really is absurd -- is that the haters don’t go away and that those who are willing to challenge them must continue to do so. It’s not an easy task but if you cannot abide prejudice and hatred, you have no choice.


Before I turn to Holocaust denial, here are some thoughts about Borat. [This was originally written for the Wexner Foundation Newsletter.]

I saw Borat on a Saturday night in November. The movie had only opened the previous night. I laughed uproariously at Sasha Baron Cohen’s antics.

When we emerged after the film, the lobby of the New York theatre was filled with people waiting for the next show. I saw some friends. As I approached them to say hello, one of them said, only partially in jest, to his friends: “Whew, it’s ok to see Borat. Deborah Lipstadt just did.” When I praised the film one said: “So it’s not anti-Semitic?”

The only other time I had been used to give a hechser to a film was The Passion of the Christ. [I hated this film in which the filmmaker seemed to consciously choose every possible way in which to depict Jews negatively. I told people that if they really wanted to see it, they should go to a multiplex, buy a ticket to another film and sneak into the Passion.]

Borat antisemitic? Heck no. If anything the film shows the ludicrousness of prejudice. Borat’s antisemitism as well as that of the people he skewers [admittedly, some were unfairly taken advantage of] is depicted as just plain stupid.

Since that exchange in the lobby of the theatre, I have been struck by the passion with which some people and organizations have condemned this film. Have they never heard of sarcasm and irony? I acknowledge that there may be some people who will use the film to validate their negative feelings about Jews. But anyone whose anti-Semitism is reinforced by this film did not need the film to give expression to his or her Jew hatred.

I am writing this from Washington were I have come to meet with approximately fifteen other scholars and journalists to discuss the rise of contemporary anti-Semitism. In Iran the conference on the Holocaust convened by Iranian President Ahmadinejad has just opened. Despite depicting itself as a scholarly gathering, it is nothing but a forum for deniers and antisemites.

Throughout the Arab/Muslim world Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism are growth industries. It is expressed there in a way that shocks those who live in the “Western” world where, since the Holocaust, expressions of unambiguous antisemitism are considered unacceptable in polite circles.

That does not mean, of course, that anti-Semitism has disappeared in the Western world. It is expressed in far more subtle and, consequently, insidious ways. When Israel’s actions are described as “Nazi” like or Israeli soldiers are called storm troopers, this is anti-Semitism. [Whatever one may think of Israel’s policies, to compare it to Nazism is to reveal not only a deep animus towards Jews but a failure to understand what Nazism was all about.] Some people would even say that someone who uses “Apartheid” in the title of a book about Israel is suffering from, at the very least, from a streak of antisemitism.

What then about Borat? One could say that it is just a very funny movie made by an incredibly talented person. Actually, I think it is more than just that.

Sasha Baron Cohen seems intent on demonstrating just how stupid anti-Semitism is. Ultimately, anti-Semitism is a form of prejudice and prejudice is itself irrational. As I recently wrote in the Washington Post [ ]“Prejudice means pre-judging. It amounts to saying, ‘Don't confuse me with the facts; forget evidence; I have already made up my mind.’”

When I teach about anti-Semitism I tell my students the joke about the Jew and the Chinese man who were sitting in a bar getting drunk. Suddenly the Jew knocked the Chinese man off his stool. As the man struggled to his feet he asked “What was that for?” “THAT,” the Jew emphatically replied, “was for Pearl Harbor.” “PEARL HARBOR??!!,” the Chinese man responded incredulously, “Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese.” “Chinese….Japanese,” the Jews responded, “It’s all the same. Let’s drink to it.” After a few more drinks the Chinese man knocked the Jew off his stool. As the Jew struggled to his feet, he asked “What was that for?” “THAT,” the Chinese man responded, “was for the Titanic.” “THE TITANIC??!!,” the Jew replied, “that was an iceberg.” “Iceberg… Goldberg,” the Chinese man responded, “it’s all the same. Let’s drink to it.”

Prejudice and anti-Semitism are irrational. Borat knows that. Sasha Borat Cohen makes us laugh at the stupidity of anti-Semitism and those who would indulge in it. He does so without in any way diminishing its importance or threat.

If you are one of those who worries about hatred of Jews and its implications and works to try to combat it, go see this film. For 85 minutes you will have a bit of a respite. And, God knows, you deserve it.


After a long hiatus I have decided to start blogging again. I have been inundated with questions about what I think about the Iran Holocaust denial conference, Ahmadinejad, and a host of other things. I decided that the best way of answering is to begin blogging. I shall start by posting some of the things I have written recently and then I shall get to recent events in Teheran.

Sorry for the long absence.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lipstadt discusses free speech on campus

At a recent Hillel sponsored Washington conference on "The University and the Jewish Community", Prof. Lipstadt was among the speakers who addressed the subject of free speech on campus. Inside Higher Ed has a report on the conference; here is an excerpt:
People of the Book (and the University)


Not all of the talk at the meeting was about broad issues of faith — much of it focused on the specifics of campus politics.

Deborah E. Lipstadt, director of the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University, led a discussion about how colleges should respond to incidents of “hate speech” against Jewish students. Lipstadt, who is considered one of the world’s leading experts on Holocaust deniers, noted that she is a strong supporter of unrestricted speech and that she opposes laws in some countries that limit the ability to argue or publish Holocaust-denying materials. “We have history on our side,” she said, and bans on Holocaust deniers turn them into “martyrs.” For similar reasons, she said she was very skeptical of attempts to regulate campus speech.

In some sense, everyone on the panel agreed, with all endorsing free speech. But some focused on other issues.

Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor known for his fierce defense of the First Amendment and his equally fierce devotion to Jewish causes, said in a video presentation that he is pretty close to being an “absolutist” on free speech issues on campuses. He said that he applauded the idea that campuses needed to have a “circle of civility” for discussion of tough issues. But he said that there needed to be “ism equity” when talking about which kinds of criticism would be tolerated in what way.

Dershowitz said that on many campuses, criticism of Arabs would be labeled harassment while equal criticism of Jews or of Israel would be considered protected free speech. He said that this “double standard” was wrong — and that campuses needed to treat all groups the same way. “You can’t have affirmative action on free speech.”


Sunday, May 21, 2006

"The peculiar persistence of Holocaust denial"

Today's issue of the Baltimore Sun has an article in which Prof. Lipstadt and the Irving trial are cited. Here are some excerpts:
The peculiar persistence of Holocaust denial

Holocaust denial flies in the face of overwhelming evidence. Yet, decades after the Nazis' crimes, it continues -- and the president of Iran is merely its latest, and highest-profile, advocate.

By Arthur Hirsch
Sun reporter

May 21, 2006

When a three-day conference in Tehran on the future of the Palestinians ended last month, the few hundred militant leaders and their backers had heard speeches condemning Israel and pledging support for Hamas - but not, as many anticipated, any experts challenging evidence of the Holocaust. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he'd stage a conference of Holocaust skeptics, right around the time he referred to the mass murder of European Jews during World War II as a "myth."

Ahmadinejad may be the first president of a country to challenge the Holocaust, allying himself with an array of claims viewed among serious historians in much the same light as the case for a flat Earth. He seemed to soften that a bit during the April meeting, referring to his "serious doubt" that the Nazis killed 5 million to 6 million Jews.

If the Iranian president does convene a conference challenging Holocaust evidence - a former Iranian foreign minister said it is still being planned - he'll step into what scholars describe as a parallel universe, an arena of minutiae and semantic gamesmanship where the weight of historical evidence is never so great that it cannot be dismissed with a fine point, even if the point has been willfully or innocently misconstrued.


Deborah E. Lipstadt, who teaches modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta, published one of the early books on the phenomenon in 1993 only after overcoming strong impulses to ignore Irving and others, hoping they would go away. In Denying the Holocaust, she insists deniers are racist extremists who demand attention not for the merit of the ideas but "because of the fragility of reason and society's susceptibility of such farfetched notions. Many powerful movements have been founded by people living in similar irrational wonderlands, national socialism foremost among them."


The tendency to see the Holocaust as propaganda aiding Jewish causes has run through this form of extreme "revisionism" at least since the Frenchman Paul Rassinier published The Drama of European Jewry in 1964. The gas chambers, he said, were an invention of the "Zionist establishment."

When Ahmadinejad threatens Israel in one breath and in the next calls the Holocaust a "myth," he echoes a familiar song. How it's playing, and what his remarks do for the cause of the likes of Irving, is hard to say.

[IHR's Mark] Weber certainly does not seem enthusiastic about the remarks, saying Ahmadinejad is not a historian and should keep these thoughts to himself.

Next to the Irving trial outcome, Lipstadt says Ahmadinejad is the deniers' "worst nightmare ... I don't think it helps."

Ahmadinejad's intended audience is clearly not the world's academic historians, but Lipstadt figures that his remarks do say something significant about the leader of a country that apparently has serious nuclear aspirations.

"Some say he's crazy," says Lipstadt. "I say he's crazy like a fox."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Reaction to Latest Austrian Holocaust Denial Trial

The BBC has posted an European press review on the latest Holocaust denial trial in Austria.

Holocaust denier

Austria's Der Standard praises a court decision to hand down a suspended one-year prison term to a former politician for playing down the Holocaust.

John Gudenus, a former member of Austria's upper house, was tried for suggesting that the existence of gas chambers in the Third Reich should be verified. Later he said there had been gas chambers in Poland but not in the Third Reich.

The paper argues that these two remarks are "cynical and humiliating and show contempt for the Verbotsgesetz", Austria's Holocaust denial law.

"He has rightly been convicted for this," it says.

The paper adds, however, that comparisons with Holocaust denier David Irving, who was jailed for three years by an Austrian court in February, are not warranted.

It feels that while David Irving has caused "great ideological damage", John Gudenus is more of a marginal figure who has "learned absolutely nothing from history".

Austria's Die Presse agrees that the two cases are different.

The paper observes that David Irving has written books and "is admired as an icon" in neo-Nazi circles.

John Gudenus, on the other hand, is regarded as an "eccentric", it adds.

The paper believes that, as a result, the jurors did not take him seriously, and "this helped Gudenus in court".

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/04/27 03:09:12 GMT


A moving moment: Visiting with Paola Castagno

As readers of this blog know, I have just returned from a few months in Rome. While there I made contact with Paola Castagno who wrote me a very moving email after my trial. Below is the story of that enconter.

About a week after I arrived in Rome I began trying to find Paola Castagno. Paola is the young woman who sent me the incredibly moving email which I include in my book. She talked about her grandfather Aldo having been in Auschwitz for 8 months and that “he didn’t say me nothing about it.”

I sent her an email but heard nothing. The email did not come back. So I tried again. Still no response. Then I asked Flavia, our secret weapon, to help. She sent her an email in Italian. I am not sure if it was Flavia’s email that did it, but shortly thereafter she called the office.

I immediately called her and she said she would try to come to Rome. Turns out she lives in Torino [Turin]. My student Syliva Haya, who works in the Roman Jewish archives, told me that Castagno was not a Jewish name. So we began to surmise that either Aldo has not been Jewish or that he was her mother’s father and that her mother had married someone named Castagno, who was not Jewish.

A few days later I received an email that she was coming down from Torino with her mother and would arrive in the afternoon. Since the trip is about 5-6 hours, I figured that they would stay overnight. Turned out that they were planning to go back that evening. So, in essence, they were making a 10 hour train ride for a three hour visit.

They were coming on a Tuesday when I teach. It was the day we were scheduled to discuss Primo Levi’s Se Questo e un Uomo [If this is man]. I told her we would be doing so. She emailed me that she was excited about being there for that.

I told them to have the receptionist call me when they arrived. I immediately went down to find them. As soon as I walked into the area I spotted her. She is a tall, dark haired, long legged beautiful young woman with large dark eyes. Her mother is also a beautiful woman. She has a great spirit about her – but I knew that from the fact that she went to the trouble to find my email address after the trial and wrote me that beautiful email.

We got some coffee and I showed her that I had included her email in my book. She was touched. Her mother seemed quite proud. Turned out that Aldo was not Jewish and that they truly know virtually nothing about his Auschwitz experience or even why he was deported. It is obviously a big hole in their lives.

The mother brought a picture of Aldo. He was a stunningly handsome man. The picture was taken about six or seven months after he came back from Auschwitz.

At one point I asked her if she came to Rome often. She said, a bit sheepishly, that this was her first trip. People from Piedmont go North she said jokingly. She has traveled much – London, Germany, France, Oslo – but not Rome. I told that she was a couple of blocks from the Coliseum and the Roman Forum and since she had shlepped so far to see me, I felt obligated to show them some of Rome. So on this bright, beautiful late winter/early spring day we walked over to these ancient sites. I gave her a “tour.” We laughed at how the American was showing the Italian Roman history.

Paola told me how in life he suffered terribly from stomach problems which he attributed to his time in the camp and the terribly poor nutrition there. She stressed how he never told them anything. She described how she would ask him to come to her class to describe his experiences, as other Italian survivors did, but he refused adamantly. Every April 25th, the day on which the Italians mark the Holocaust, he would sit in front of the TV and cry. When she talked about it was as if she was relieving it.

I was struck by the fact that she talked in the present tense and as if she had personally experienced. “When he came back he was so much sadder than when he went.” “When he came back he was so much skinnier.”

When we returned to the Gregg [the University] a TV crew was waiting to film me. They had already done an interview and wanted some shots of me in front of the school and in my class. The reporter, who had attended my talk and read my book, knew about Paola. She was touched to meet her.

In the class we talked about Levi’s experience. A number of things struck me: First of all, we were discussing Levi in 3rd person, not dispassionately but certainly analytically. For them it was Aldo’s experience. We were discussing the author of this important work. They were hearing Aldo’s story.

Secondly, it also struck me that technically one could say that Aldo was not part of the Holocaust per se. After all, he and his entire family were not destined for death, as Jews would have been. Paola and her mother know he “did” something but did not know what it was. For a Jew it was not a matter of “doing” something, it was simply because they were Jews. Yet watching them sit there listening – with tears in their eyes – to our discussion of Levi’s experience, I realized that while my distinction was historically correct on a personal level it was somewhat irrelevant.

It was a brief but moving moment.

New Holocaust Denial Trials

From Ha'aretz:

John Gudenus, a former legislator in Austria's upper house of parliament, was sentenced on 26 April 2006 to a suspended one-year prison term for denying aspects of the Holocaust. Gudenus had declared in April 2005, during an Austrian television interview, that the existence of gas chambers in the Third Reich should be "seriously debated." Later he amended his remarks to say that "there were gas chambers, though not in the Third Reich but in Poland." According to Austrian law, Gudenus could have faced up to 10 years in prison for denying the Holocaust had he been found guilty by the eight-member panel of jurors.

Two weeks earlier, on 11 April 2006 Spanish Holocaust denier Pedro Varela was arrested in his bookstore Libreria Europa in central Barcelona and hundreds of books denying or minimizing the Holocaust were seized by the police. After posting bail, Varela was released. He may be subject to 5 years in prison if convicted. On 16 November 1998 Varela was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, Spain's first conviction for Holocaust denial.

Sources: Ha’aretz, 26 April 2006;, 16 April 2006; Journal of Historical Review, 1998

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Katrina vanden Heuvel in Washington Post:"Stop Using Hitler analogies"

A group of scholars of the Holocaust -- myself included -- have sent a letter to the Washington Post supporting an op-ed by Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the liberal political newsweekly The Nation, who offered what she called “A modest proposal for improving national political discussion”: a “cease-fire” on Nazi analogies.

Friday, March 24, 2006

David Irving as a metaphor for ignorance

The opening line of a review of in the Music Express, a London based publication reads as follows:
"Aside from the deaf or those in a level of denial up there with David Irving's idiot pronouncements on the Holocaust, everyone's aware that we live in great times for music."

This clearly demonstrates that Irving is being subjected to the worst fate of all for someone who so desperately wants to be taken seriouly: ridicule.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Humor is a wonderful weapon

As I have said before on this blog, humor is a wonderful way of exposing the idiocy of your opponents arguments. Charlie Chaplain and Mel Brooks knew that in their powerful riffs on Hitler.

And now a Swiss cartoonist whose work was reprinted in the International Hearld Tribune has done the same to the Iranian president.

I am unable right now to post a link to it but it essentially showed the Iranian president Ahminajead at a meeting of the IAEA [Int. Atomic Energy Commission] and saying: I would like to announce the Hisoshima cartoon contest. The other people present have their heads in their hands.

It is a commentary on how he and -- to some degree his country -- have become the laughing stock of the world.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Holocaust denier Rbert Faurisson outreach to the Iranians on a White supremacist website

For a long rambling but revealing letter by Robert Faurisson see the website of Storm, a White power and rather revolting website. Fauri

Faurisson is full of priase for the Iranian effort to deny the Holocaust.

For those of you not in the "know" on these matters [and be happy you are not], Faurisson is the same man who declared that the Diary of Anne Frank must be a hoax because it's written in green ball point pen. It's not.

His many other claims are equally trustworthy.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A no-holds barred attack on me....

Some people have asked about some of the attack mail I receive. I thought, therefore, that I would post the following. It really calls for no comment, except that it says a lot about the mental state of the author.

The author threatens to publicize her email to millions of people, unless I apologize to Arthur Butz of Northwestern among others. I thought I would help her out by posting it here.

Actually, two things deserve comment. Even I, who am rarely surprised by these things, find myself a bit gob smacked at the correspondent's use of the murder of Ilan Halimi as proof of the world's awakening against the Jews.

In fact, I would have assumed that even virulent antisemites would try to distance themselves from this terribly gruesome act. It reveals a side of the antisemites that does their efforts no good.

And secondly, please note, that for someone who declares herself to not be an antisemite, she hardly misses any of the antisemitic canards.

Clearly not one of the sharper knives in the drawer.....

Dear Ms. Lipstadt,

I am appauled at your disgusting and one-sided attack of Dr. Arthur Butz at Northwestern University on FOX News. Have you no shame!! Although I am not anti-semitic, your Jewish greed is overbearing and crippling. The world is beginning to see the collective Jewish attempt to control the world economy and world media.

In fact, the recent arrest of Dr. Irving in Austria shows that European Jews are scared.

Another example: the recent killing of the French Jew raises interesting questions. There is no doubt that the world is beginning to feel the oppression of Jewish greed.

Why have attacks on Jews been increasing in Europe and Russia? Why is the Jewish media pressuring the arrest of people speaking out against the extent of the Holocaust? Why have the Jews written all major history books for! our young children to become indoctrinated with? Why have thousands of Palestians been slaughtered yet Jews will not accept the Palestian holocaust? Two-faced?

Why have the Jews created laws making freedom of speech a crime? Is it merely chance? Fortunately, you know the answer. Please call up Dr. Butz and extend your deepest apology!!

Please call Mr. O'Reilly and extend your apology!! Please write a letter to all students, faculty and Americans extending your apology!! Remember what you say... those who forget history are bound to repeat it.

Have you no intellect? The world Jews are doing exactly what the Romans did 2,000 years ago: they got arrogant, stupid and overextended their luck. By the end of the Roman empire, they had more enemies than allies. STOP your exaggeration of the Holocaust to simply get more $$$.

The world is catching on sister!! I ! have a feeling that you will probably not extend you apologies to the above mentioned individuals. Thus, let me do it for you. As you know, the internet is a beautiful thing. I will extend this e-mail to your president and faculty, to individuals of interest, to hundreds on my e-mail address list and have them send it to thousands more. Hopefully, within 5 days tens of thousands will read this e-mail. Good day...
[In a fashion that is typical of the people who send these kinds of attacks, the whole email was one long paragraph. I broke it down into shorter ones. I figured the stuff is hard enough to read as is... why make it any harder for the readers of this blog. Other than that, it is precisely as I received it.]

Lipstadt in Wall Street Journal

David Irving's 'Bit of Fun' -- Who's Laughing?
Wall St. Journal

March 4, 2006; Page A9

I agree with much of your Feb. 24 editorial "Defending the Indefensible1" (Taste page, Weekend Journal) regarding David Irving. Censorship laws are not efficacious, especially when, as is clearly the case with Holocaust denial, the fight can be won with history, evidence, and the truth. During Mr. Irving's libel suit against me, his Holocaust denial claims collapsed when we tracked his sources and found all of them predicated on lies and fabrications.

I must disagree, however, with your statement that, as a result of jailing him, "Austria has forced serious people to come to the principled defense of a detestable man." I disagree. David Irving knew there was a warrant for his arrest. Yet he went to Austria anyway, announcing his visit on the Internet. According to his wife, Mr. Irving thought it would "be a bit of fun, to provoke a little bit." He assumed that, if the Austrians arrested him they would release him with a slap on the wrist. He had even booked a first-class ticket home for Monday night, the day of the trial. Spectators report that he looked "stunned" when his little prank resulted in a three-year sentence. Given that this was a lark designed to provoke the Austrian authorities, and that he could have voiced his protest without entering that country, I am not sure why serious people should feel compelled to make a principled defense of him.

I have repeatedly criticized the notion of Holocaust denial laws, but I have no intention of defending someone who is not only an anti-Semite and a racist, but who goes out of his way to get himself in trouble.

Deborah E. Lipstadt, Ph.D.
Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies
Emory University

Saturday, March 11, 2006

March 21: At the Gregoiran Pontifical Institute in Rome

If you happen to find yourself in Rome on 21 March you are invited to attend my lecture at the Gregorian Pontifical Institute:

La presente per invitarVi alla conferenza dal titolo "The Holocaust: From Memoirs to Material Evidence - How Can We Know and Understand What Happened" della Prof.ssa Deborah Lipstadt della Emory University di Atlanta (USA). La conferenza, in lingua inglese, si terrà martedì, 21 marzo, 2006 alle ore 16.00 nell'Aula delle Tesi (C012) della Pontificia Università Gregoriana.

In allegato la locandina dell'invito.

Con la speranza che possiate partecipare e con preghiera di massima diffusione, Vi inviamo i nostri più cordiali saluti,

Prof. Joseph Sievers, Direttore
Sr. Lucy Thorson, nds, program planning
Ms. Flavia Galiani, Segretaria

Centro "Cardinal Bea" per gli Studi Giudaici
Pontificia Università Gregoriana
Piazza della Pilotta, 4
00187 Roma - Italia
Tel. +39/06-6701-5522
[ ]
[ ]

Friday, March 10, 2006

Attacks on Lipstadt for references to Armenian genocide: Part 2

I am not looking for any kudos for the little I have done.

At the risk of being accused of "protesting too much," I don't want folks to think I am looking for praise. I am not.

I just wonder why that attacks?

Now I shall go back to enjoying the beauty of Florence, where I am lectuing on Monday p.m.

Attacks on Lipstadt for references to Armenian genocide

There have been a number of people -- including those whose comments I have posted on this blog -- who have attacked me for being concerned "only" with the Armenian genocide.

When other folks have taken them on, e.g. the Artyom Reader, and said that I was being unfairly attacked, my critics have responded by saying things such as "it’s sad that some people feel the need to go and bow in front of people like Lipstadt just because she mentioned the ‘Armenian genocide’.

Though these negative comments have not come from a lot of people, they have been pretty voiciferous in their critiques of me. [Some were so obnoxious that I stupidly deleted them, which I now regret doing.]

I find this all very strange. A simple Google search of lipstadt + Armenian will bring up a number -- though certainly not all - my references to and comments, many of the quite public, about the Turkish denial of the genocide of the Armenians.

Some of my statements have even been posted on Armenian websites, placed in the Congressional Record, and reported on at top American universities, e.g. Princeton.

Given this easily accessible record, I can only assume that there is another motive behind these attacks. But what is it?

I have to wonder. It seems there is another agenda here but I can't figure out what it is.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Arson at the Holocaust HIstory Project

Someone -- and the authorities are sure it was deliberate --- tried to burn down the offices of the thhp causing over a million dollars of damage. This is not the first time that thhp has been targetted. The project does great work and this attempt is quite disturbing. The following press release on the fire has just been released:

Trial By Fire: Holocaust History Project Won't Be Silenced

In the early hours of March 6, 2006, a fire broke out at a warehouse complex near San Antonio International Airport, causing extensive damage to the offices of The Holocaust History Project (THHP), an organization that has been, for the last ten years, in the forefront of confronting Holocaust denial online, in addition to providing educational materials to students throughout the world. Arson investigators now have confirmed that the fire was intentionally set and are continuing their investigation.

It was just the latest in a series of attacks with the apparent intent to silence THHP. For the past 18 months, the THHP website has been under an unprecedented Distributed Denial of Service attack. This cyber attack began on September 11, 2004, and is being carried out by a specially modified version of the MyDoom computer worm, programmed to target the THHP web server. (see the THHP statement: [ ]

Harry Mazal, the Director of THHP said, "We have been able to defend our work against these cyber attackers. They tried, but couldn't shut us down. We have strong indications that this arson is the next step in a series of attacks against our educational and scholarly work. Although the fire caused significant damage to our offices, there is no way we will be silenced. Our web site has not been affected, and our work will continue."

While an arson attack such as this cannot be specifically anticipated, THHP has long ago taken steps to minimize the impact of any attacks, physical or virtual. Several mirror sites ensure that even as serious an attack as occurred Monday morning will be unsuccessful in forcing THHP to go offline.


THHP ([ ] is one of the largest repositories of information relating to the Holocaust on the Web. For the last ten years, an international staff of volunteers has worked tirelessly to make information on the Holocaust, and on those who would deny it, easily accessible to students, scholars, and anyone who has an interest in the truth.

Among the material on the site are essays about various events and people, scientific and legal analyses, original Nazi documents, expert witness testimony, transcripts of many of the Nuremberg trials, and the complete texts of two seminal works, Jean-Claude Pressac's "Auschwitz" and Robert Jay Lifton's "The Nazi Doctors." In addition, THHP volunteers personally answer emails from thousands of students each year who are looking for information to further their studies.

The site registers more than 50 million hits a year. "Traffic to our site increases every year," said Mr. Mazal, "we intend to keep adding new content to the site. Right now we are preparing the Belsen trial transcripts, and the transcript of Adolf Eichmann's trial in Israel."

The Holocaust History Project Internet site may be reached at
[ ]

Media questions should be addressed to Sara Salzman, 303-617-9412, [ ]


Monday, March 6, 2006

Neteurei Karta rabbis visit Iran

According to the Mehr [Iranian] news service, two Neturei Karta rabbis visited Iran "to set the record straight" about the difference between Judaism and Zionism.

Maybe while they are there they can also set the record straight about the Holocaust. Methinks, they lost some folks in that tragedy.

Dissenting from Iran's Holocaust denial: The voice of the moderate Muslim

I mused in my previous post whether the Holocaust denial in certain Muslim quarters and the violent reaction by Muslims in many parts of the world to the Danish cartoons might not prompt moderate Muslims to feel freeer to speak out in dissent.

Would they not feel even more motivated to differentiate their world view from that of adherents to Islamicism, i.e. reactionay Islam.

Such seemed to be the situation in the case of the "Manifesto," which , as I have noted was signed by a number of self professed moderate Muslims.

Such also seems to be the case, according to Deutsche Welle, among certain Muslims in Germany who are distressed by the Iranian presidents outright Holocaust denial.,2144,1907670,00.htmls

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Manifesto on Islamism: signed by Rushdie, Bernard Henri-Levi, and other Europeans

A manifesto [that is apparently the term used by the signatories] signed by leading European intellectuals and writers including Bernard Henri Levy and Rushdie has been issued in Paris. It attacks Islamism which it defines as “reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism.”

It declares that "After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new global threat: Islamism."

Their concerns were aroused by the violent reaction to the Danish cartoons Many Europeans, as exemplified by these intellectuals, see the violent reaction to the cartoons as exemplifying the threat to Europe from adherents to Islamism who, the intellectuals believe, lack fidelity to democratic values.

Not all Muslims share these views, but the signatories worry about those who do. It should be noted that the signatories included a number of self-professed Muslim moderates who worry that their religion is being hijacked by extremists.

While this has not gotten great press, it may well be the beginning of a trend among moderate Muslims who are less afraid to speak out. Maybe the completely out of proportion reaction to the cartoons and the fact that there is has been a far greater outcry about the violence of the reactions than about the cartoons themselves, have given the moderates a feeling that this is a moment that must be seized.

Portland State Univesity Vanguard on Irving sentence

Riggs Fulmer, writing in the Portland State Vanguard, issues another ringing defense of freedom of speech.

He cites my position that opposes Holocaust denial laws correctly. However, he misstates my position when he says that I don't think Holocaust denial is a form of antisemitism. That it is, without doubt.

He also fails to understand the national context. As I said in the previous post, the same words, costumes, and symbols have different meanings in different contexts.

I must say that I continue to be amazed at the column inches this is getting

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Lipstadt in New York Jewish Week: Irving's No Martyr

In this week's New York Jewish Week, I add a postscript to some of my comments about Irving. One of the points I don't stress, though I have made it before, is that of national context. The context in Austria for Holocaust denial is different from that in other places [with the exception of Germany].

Some people have called this a double standard. But I saw a picture of some people walking in Seville today in the newspaper. Except for the fact that their hoods were black, they looked precisely like Ku Klux Klan folks. Except they were not. Yet before I read the caption, I did a double take.

Another example that a number of people have raised is cross burnings. In America when a cross is burned with the intention to intimidate it is against the law. That's because of the context in which it was used for so many years, particulalry -- but not only -- in the south.

Bottom line: don't be for censorship [especially in an arena where there is no need since truth and evidence are available to show the deniers to be the liars that they are] but understand that in certain places Holocaust denial has a very different resonance that it does in other places.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Irving Denies Holocaust from his cell: Does he intend to provoke or can't he help himself???

According to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the German press service, Irving has been using his meetings with various journalists to recant his recanting [which the court did not accept as genuine] of Holocaust denial, i.e. he is using his time to deny the Holocaust.

The proves that the court, from the perspective of Austrian law, got it "right," i.e. his recantations were not genuine.

What is so striking about this -- even to me who has seen him in action -- is how he can be saying these things when his lawyer is trying to get a reduced sentence and the prosecutor is trying to get a stiffer one.

Austrian prosecutors: We'll have to react to new Irving remarksMar 1, 2006, 14:12 GMT

Vienna - Austrian prosecutors said Wednesday they would have to act over a fresh denial of the Nazi Holocaust by jailed British
historian David Irving.

The new denial came in interviews with several British journalists in his Austrian prison cell, where he is beginning a three-year sentence.

A spokesman of the state prosecution said: 'We're going to have to react to that. We can't overlook it.'

It was possible that Irving had again broken Austrian laws banning Nazi 'revivalism.' In a British BBC interview, Irving cast doubt on the number of victims in Auschwitz.

He described the organized annihilation of the Jews under the eyes of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler as 'absolutely wrong.'In the immediate future, said observers, the 67-year-old historian's latest remarks would not improve his chances of lowering his prison sentence on appeal.

But more than that, they could result in new charges being raised against him under Austrian law.Critics also questioned whether the Austrian justice system had been put in a good light by allowing Irving to 'hold court' to journalists in his prison cell.

On February 20, Irving was jailed for three years in a one-day trial in which he was accused of falsifying history and claiming there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz.The charges carry prison sentences of one to ten years.


© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

BBC radio documentary on the 2000 libel trial

In the wake of Irving's Austrian conviction and sentence, on Feb. 26, BBC Radio 4 aired a 40 minute updated documentary (link below is to audio and will open in new window):
David Irving: The London Trial

The inside story of the famous libel trail in 2000 in which Irving sued the American historian Deborah Lipstadt for calling him a holocaust denier and falsifier of history.
In a Feb. 28 review of this program, Gillian Reynolds notes in The Telegraph:
No point arguing with deluded minds

There was much here I didn't know or hadn't remembered. So why, if the material was gripping enough for me to make four pages of notes, and given that I am an admirer of both Cockerell's and Hyman's work, did I feel this programme seemed out of place?

Perhaps if it had happened on Monday or Tuesday night, I wouldn't have. By Sunday, the story had had a lot of coverage and analysis. People, from Monday onwards, were saying that for an Austrian court to bring to trial an offence committed 17 years ago was dubious. This is not an argument I, personally, accept. If a law is broken, the culprit should be tried and, if guilty, sentenced.

My big reservation is about something different from timing. This was a good programme, dispassionately presented, but could anyone listen to it and be convinced that Irving was anything other than deluded? This newspaper, I seem to remember, took the decision not to describe him as a "historian" some years ago.

But if there really are political parties or religious activists who take him seriously and, like him, deny the existence or the record of the Nazi death camps, would they be persuaded otherwise by Cockerell's account of his humiliation in court six years ago? I doubt their response would be the one Radio 4 was seeking.

Irving expands on Holocaust "views"

Today's BBC news has an article based on another interview with Irving. There's an audio available of the interview in which he ludicrously claims that Anne Frank's diary "proves that [he's] right" - notwithstanding the fact that he had previously adhered to that tenet of the "revisionist bible" which has declared the diary to be a hoax. Here are some excerpts from the article:
Irving expands on Holocaust views

Jailed British historian David Irving has again said he does not believe Hitler presided over a systematic attempt to exterminate Jews in Europe.

During his trial in Austria, Irving said he had changed his mind over claims the Holocaust did not happen.

But, speaking from his cell later, he told BBC News the numbers killed at Auschwitz were smaller than claimed.

He is appealing for a reduction in the three-year jail term. Prosecutors are seeking for it to be lengthened.

The Austrian state prosecutor's office said it believed Irving's sentence for Holocaust denial was too lenient in light of a possible sentence of up to 10 years.


Speaking from prison, where he is in solitary confinement for 23 hours each day, Irving told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he now believed there had been cases of Jewish people being gassed during World War II.

But he said that while he accepted 1.4 million were killed in the so-called "Operation Reinhard" camps which included Treblinka and Sobibor, he did not accept that large numbers were murdered at Auschwitz.

He claimed there were two "small" gas chambers there, not the large-scale gas chambers identified by other historians.

"Given the ruthless efficiency of the Germans, if there was an extermination programme to kill all the Jews, how come so many survived?" he said.

When asked whether there was an organised programme to exterminate the Jews in Europe, overseen by Hitler, Irving told Today: "That is absolutely wrong and nobody can justify that.

"Adolf Hitler's own involvement in it has a big question mark behind it."


Speaking on Today, Richard Evans, professor of German history at Cambridge University and a witness against Irving at a libel trial in 2000, dismissed the latest comments.

"He was, I think, arrogant enough to believe that he wouldn't be arrested," said Professor Evans.

"But having said that, I think the Austrian action is ill-advised. I don't think that law which bans Holocaust denial is really necessary any longer and I think it's really regrettable the vast media circus that's surrounding Mr Irving now [is] just simply giving prominence to his absurd views."

Irving's views: "straight from the Munich beer halls of 1923"

William Rubenstein, professor of modern history at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, argues - in a posting to the U.K.'s Social Affairs Unit blog - that:
Irving holds absurd views about the Holocaust and his dislike of Jews comes straight from the Munich beer halls of 1923 - but he should not have been imprisoned.


As everyone knows, David Irving was recently jailed for three years in Austria for propagating the denial of the Holocaust. His conviction raises many very serious questions about both Irving himself and the nature of free speech, and deserves a close discussion. The issues here are, I think, much more complicated than is apparent at first glance.

First, as to Holocaust denial, there is no doubt that it is one of the most offensive and shocking of all aspects of modern anti-semitism. It is also absurd.[...]

It has also entered, even more dangerously, into the rhetoric of Islamic anti-semitism, most recently in the statements of the appalling President of Iran. I state these self-evident propositions here purely to show that I fully understand the evil nature of Holocaust denial.

Secondly, there is David Irving. Irving is such a complex character that writing about him in a brief space is very difficult. As an historian - and entirely apart from any question of his views on the Holocaust - he has been a highly energetic and arguably important researcher of primary evidence about the Nazi period whose judgments are often reasonable.

Nevertheless, he is also evidently full of deficiencies. Like most non-academic historians, he fails to place his narratives in a wider contextualized framework.


It seems clear, however, that Irving has a chronic, deep-seated, ideological problem (to put it no more strongly) about Jews, whom he often refers to on his website as the "traditional enemies". Irving dislikes the Jews - although not necessarily individual Jews - and his attitude towards them seems to come straight from a Munich beer hall in 1923 - they are all Marxist revolutionaries, international financial swindlers, white slavers, and so on - to which he has added a particularly venomous hostility towards Israel and its policies more commonly associated in the Western world today with the extreme left. [...]


One can understand why Austria, Hitler's homeland, should make Holocaust denial illegal. [...] Obviously, I fully understand (and understand from a personal perspective) the anguish of Holocaust survivors and their relatives who encounter such propaganda, but there is no rational reason to punish the exposition of Holocaust denial while leaving other perhaps equally offensive forms of expression untouched. Criminalising Holocaust denial simply invites all other groups to lobby for enacting similar legal penalties against their pet hates [...]

The Austrian government acted unwisely in prosecuting him, although I might have a different view if he could be shown to be working with Austrian neo-Nazis. It will also be interesting to see what would happen if the odious President of Iran ever visits Vienna - not a lone wolf autodidact, but the head of state of a country of 70 million people which is developing nuclear weapons and wants the State of Israel destroyed - he is also a Holocaust denier. Let us then see if the Austrian government has the courage of its convictions over this question.