Speaker heralds personal victory over Holocaust revisionists
Picture JOE NICHOLSON/The Daily
Dr. Lipstadt speaks to a crowd of more than 300 in Kane Hall about how denying the Holocaust took place is harmful to society.
"I don't debate whether the Holocaust took place. I mean you don't ask a scientist to debate whether the earth is flat," Professor Deborah Lipstadt told an overflowing crowd in Kane hall last night.
Lipstadt spoke to over 300 people about her intense four-year libel battle against prominent Holocaust denier David Irving in a London courtroom. Lipstadt was one of the first in the American Jewish community to speak out against Holocaust deniers.
"When you are confronted with a man set on doing evil, you must battle to the end," said Lipstadt, referring to her conflict with Irving.
Lipstadt's book "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory" had prompted Irving to sue for libel. As a British citizen he was able to take advantage of Britain's libel laws, which require the accused to prove the truth of what they said.
Lipstadt's courtroom strategy was to put Irving's own writings on trial and show that he routinely twisted and distorted historical facts.
Despite having to shoulder the burden of proof, Lipstadt won a decisive victory over Irving, a victory that he and his supporters still do not seem to accept.
Irving's supporters claiming to be from Student Revisionist Resources passed out revisionist literature and held signs outside the hall supporting Irving.
Neil Camberly, claiming to be a UW biology student who knows Irving personally, held a sign reading, "Irving Defeated? Yeah Right. Read the Transcripts."
Lipstadt said she laughed when she saw the sign, and thought it would be better to read the verdict.
Mercer Island resident John Friedmann, who was born in Germany, confronted Camberly outside the hall.
"If the Holocaust didn't take place, what happened to my parents and grandparents?" said Friedmann.
Camberly responded that they had simply died of starvation or typhoid. Friedmann then simply shook his head and went inside to the presentation.
The crowd was made up of all ages including many elderly Jewish people. Several of the people present were related to victims of the Holocaust and were quite emotional.
Lipstadt tried to keep her presentation serious, but also pointed out that her legal opponent sometimes resembled the village idiot.
According to Lipstadt, during the trial Irving called the judge my Fuhrer, rather than your Lordship. When referring to Germany he called it the Reich, prompting the judge to sarcastically ask if there was a Fourth Reich.
Several in the crowd referred to Lipstadt as their hero, but she doesn't consider herself as such.
"I'm not a hero. Hero's choose between good and evil. I had no choice," said Lipstadt.
Many former students of Lipstadt's were present. Some knew her from when she taught at the UW from 1974 to 1979. She was then the first full-time UW professor of Jewish studies.
Lipstadt currently teaches at Emory University in Georgia. She was invited to speak by Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
Copyright © 2000 The Daily University of Washington
Seattle, Washington, Saturday, January 20, 2001