London, April 14, 2000
Jewish groups hail judge's damning High Court verdict against right-wing author
Spielberg helped fund defeat of 'racist Holocaust-denier' Irving
By Bernard Josephs, Lee Levitt, Simon Rocker and JC Foreign Staff
"SCHINDLER'S List" director Steven Spielberg is understood to have been a key financial backer of the American academic who this week delivered a body blow to Holocaust-denial by defeating David Irving's High Court libel action.
Mr Spielberg -- who used the movie's earnings to set up a foundation to record memories of the Shoah -- was said by informed sources to be among a small group of prominent American Jews who helped fund Professor Deborah Lipstadt's defence.
Her co-defendant, Penguin Books, also helped finance the legal battle.
The right-wing author emerged discredited and humiliated -- and facing an estimated £2 million in costs -- at the end of the three-month case. He was branded by the judge, Mr Justice Gray, as an anti-Semite and a Holocaust-denier who twisted history for his political ends.
In his judgment on the case -- one of the most emotive heard in the High Court for years -- the judge said that not only had Mr Irving "denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz and asserted that no Jew was gassed there, he has done so on frequent occasions and sometimes in the most offensive terms."
Mr Irving was also judged to have skewed the historical record in an effort to distance Adolf Hitler from the murder of European Jewry -- and to have associated with neo-Nazis and other extremists in Europe and America.
It was Mr Irving who brought the action, suing Professor Lipstadt and Penguin over accusations in her book, "Denying the Holocaust," that he was "one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust-denial."
But, the judge concluded, Mr Irving had "persistently and deliberately manipulated historical evidence," portraying Hitler in a favourable light for ideological reasons.
As Professor Lipstadt was being feted as a hero by British Jews following the verdict, the Israeli Education Ministry announced it would publish the judgment in Hebrew for use in schools so that Israeli pupils "could learn about Holocaust-denial and how to fight against it."
In London, the Holocaust Educational Trust called the judge's decision an "epic victory for truth and justice."
Yet despite the demolition of Mr Irving's reputation, a Board of Deputies official warned of the danger of his becoming "a media star."
Hendon Labour MP Andrew Dismore, who has long campaigned for a law against Holocaust-denial, said the Irving case signalled the need for a wide-ranging debate.
A report on the issue is due to be published after Passover by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. The JPR inquiry has been chaired by Anthony Julius, who was a key member of Professor Lipstadt's defence team.
He said that while there was scepticism about the introduction of a specific law against Holocaust-denial, this did not preclude the case for including it in broader racial incitement legislation.
Meanwhile, an unrepentant Mr Irving said he would appeal against the verdict. Speaking on Wednesday, he told the JC: "I have many friends around the world, and I am confident they will not abandon me."
Claiming that £10,000 had arrived in his mail that morning, he added that more than 600 Americans had contributed at least $100 each to his website-based "fighting fund." Some 25 British backers had also given him more than £100 each.
"I am sure Mishcon de Reya [Professor Lipstadt's solicitors] will come for their pound of flesh, but I can assure them I am made of British beef," Mr Irving declared. "I know how to fight."
London, April 14, 2000