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Source: Kirkus Reviews, January 12, 2005, Vol. 72 Issue 23, p1134, 2p


Deborah E. Lipstadt,

HISTORY ON TRIAL: My Day in Court with David Irving

Ecco/HarperCollins (368 pp.)
Feb. 4, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-0593-76-8

Absorbing account of the famed libel trial, in London, that brought the whole enterprise of Holocaust denial to the bench.

In Denying the Holocaust (1993), Lipstadt (History/Emory Univ.) described British historian David Irving as "a Hitler partisan wearing blinkers," a man who "on some level seems to conceive himself as carrying on Hitler's legacy."

Dangerous words, particularly since Irving had written books on the history of the Third Reich that had been well received; the eminent military historian John Keegan, for instance, praised Irving's Hitler's War as one of the best books ever written about WWII. Irving, who had earned enough money from the sales of his books to own a Rolls-Royce and keep a place in London's fashionable Mayfair district, was quick to sue.

It took six years for the case to come to trial, but when it did, Lipstadt and her legal team were stunningly well prepared; among other documents, they had a 700-page dossier prepared by historian Richard J. Evans [right] examining the sources Irving claims to have used in making his years-long argument that Hitler was innocent of having ordered the extermination of European Jews.

Lipstadt's reconstruction of the trial as it played out day by day has its dry patches, but her account rises above the case itself to indict the demimonde of Holocaust deniers generally. Into the bargain, Lipstadt convincingly characterizes Irving as a litigious anti-Semite with a penchant for bending historical facts to suit repellent theories, as the court concluded. By the end, following a couple of cliffhanger moments, readers will sense that justice has been done, though plenty of puzzling aspects remain: Irving continues to speak and publish, and, in the wake of the court's judgment, prominent historians, including Keegan, rose to his defense.

This last word in the matter of DJC Irving v. Penguin Books Ltd and Deborah Lipstadt is a fascinating and meritorious work of legal -- and moral--history.

See also on this website:

Richard Evans index
Lipstadt index

YES, among the puzzles for Kirkus is that they reviewed every one of my books until "Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich" in the most glowing terms! Then they got The Message.

© Focal Point 2005 F Irving write to David Irving