Baton Rouge, May 3, 2000
Professor says Holocaust trial win important
By TOM GUARISCO
Meggan David reaches up to cut her butterfly down in memory Sura Andrejezk who died in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
An Atlanta professor Tuesday told an audience at Beth Shalom Synagogue how she successfully defended a libel lawsuit brought by a British author she had criticized for denying the Holocaust ever happened.
Deborah Lipstadt, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta, came to Baton Rouge fresh from her victory in a British court. The case was the first in which someone who argued that the Holocaust didn't happen assumed the role of plaintiff in a court case.
In one of her books, Lipstadt wrote at length about Hitler biographer David Irving.
In her book, she described him as "a Nazi apologist and an admirer of Hitler, who has resorted to distortion of facts and to manipulation of documents in support of his contention that the Holocaust did not take place."
"At times there is no compromise," Lipstadt said. "There is no comprising with someone who spouts evil."
The trial, Lipstadt said Tuesday, was a sometimes sickening, often surreal odyssey in which the claims of an extremist withered under the scrutiny of the court.
During his five-hour closing arguments, Irving addressed the judge as "mein fuhrer," and referred to modern Germany as the "reich," she said.
In Germany, Irving has been convicted of denying the Holocaust, which is a crime there. He is a fugitive from that country.
Lipstadt detailed some of the key facts of the court case, and talked about what it was like to endure a court fight with a zealot. She also said Irving continues to be a dangerous spokesman for hate, and even has connections to Louisiana.
Lipstadt said Irving has ties with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Irving met Duke, supports his views, and has exchanged with him lists of fund-raisers, she said. Irving edited Duke's book, "My Awakening," she said.
Irving, Lipstadt said, can influence people who remain uninformed about the Holocaust.
"This is a man who, until April 11, had a reputation in the larger world as a serious historian," Lipstadt said.
Irving wrote a biography of Hitler in the late 1970s and asserted Hitler never knew about the Holocaust. He said Anne Frank's diary is a fraud, and that her eventual death was the fault of the Allies, not the Nazis.
Irving has claimed that there was no master plan to wipe out the Jews and that the 6 million who died at Nazi hands is a complex concoction.
But during the trial, even some of Irving's own witnesses said his views were "perverse," Lipstadt said.
Irving is part of an active, passionate movement to deny the Holocaust, Lipstadt said.
That makes the court victory significant because it debunks much of what the movement bases itself on, she said.
The court case centered on Lipstadt's 1993 book, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth And Memory," which offers a look at people who deny the Holocaust happened.
The book lays out a number of arguments made by Holocaust deniers and debunks them.
Among those claims: Auschwitz was like a country club; gas chambers were delousing rooms; and Allied bombing cut off supply lines and led to the deaths of Jews, if there were such deaths.
Lipstadt argues such absurd claims are based on cooked-up evidence, and says Holocaust deniers ignore reams of documents and witness accounts of what really took place.
On Tuesday, Lipstadt shared excerpts from letters she has received from survivors of the Holocaust and their family members.
One woman wrote: "My mother was killed in Auschwitz. If David Irving would have won, my mother would have been a victim again."
Lipstadt's first book was "Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust 1933-45."
In it she chronicled the U.S. media's downplaying or missing of the critical story of the Holocaust as it developed in Germany. She studied press clippings of the time and concluded the domestic press failed to report the story.
Better coverage of the story could have swayed public opinion and prompted the U.S. government to do more, she said.
Lipstadt joined Emory University's faculty in 1993, and for the past year has directed its Institute of Jewish Studies. She plans to write a book about the Irving trial.
May 3, 2000
Website fact: The stamina of the defence team in the Lipstadt libel action was aided by a six million dollar slushfund provided by Stephen Spielberg, Edgar J Bronfman, and the American Jewish Committee, which enabled them to pay 21 lawyers and "experts"; the experts like the "scholars" Prof. Evans, Prof. Longerich and others were paid up to £109,000 each (on top of the academic salaries they continued to draw) to testify as they did (while the defence's star team of lawyers was paid considerably more). Nobody was paying for Mr Irving, who has been fighting this battle for three whole years. His defence witnesses testified without payment, from conviction. [Help!]