Author recounts ‘day in court’ with Holocaust denier

Courtney Cook

Deborah Lipstadt discussed her trial against David Irving and the issue of new anti-semitism last night in Rockwell Hall. TRACY TUCHOLSKI | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

David Irving filed a libel lawsuit against Deborah Lipstadt for naming him a Holocaust denier in her book, Denying the Holocaust.

Lipstadt recounted the case in another book, History on Trial: My Day in Court With a Holocaust Denier, which was the topic of her speech last night in the Rockwell Auditorium. The speech was sponsored by the Kent State Jewish Studies Department, the Office of Dean of Libraries and Hillel.

In her book, Denying the Holocaust, published in 1993, Lipstadt said she spent about 300 words describing the public anti-Semitic remarks Irving had made, including his denial of the Holocaust.

“Even if he wasn’t a denier, he gave the deniers leverage,” Lipstadt said of the England native. “He was the most dangerous of all deniers because he had an outside reputation other than being known as a Holocaust denier.”

“Instead of mourning another genocide, let’s try preventing it.”

Since February 2003, a government-backed militia called the Janjaweed has been engaged in a systematic “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur, Sudan, and neighboring state, Chad, victimizing the African population.

• More than 2 million people in Darfur displaced

• More than 112,000 people in Chad displaced

• 4 million people are still in need of assistance

• More than 450,000 men, women and children have been killed since February 2003

Lipstadt immediately gathered a legal team when she received a letter that notified her of the lawsuit, despite multiple sources advising her to simply ignore the case.

“In America, if I say, ‘You libeled me,’ you have to prove it,” Lipstadt said. “In England, if you say, ‘You libeled me,’ then I have to prove that I didn’t. It is very different. If I didn’t fight back, he would have won by default, therefore making the ‘Irving’ version of the Holocaust valid. That is just not something I could bring myself to allow.”

Lipstadt did not testify in the trial. She and her legal team also decided not to use any Holocaust survivors as witnesses, for fear that the prosecutor would only make the survivors feel embarrassed and confused.

“We were going to try as hard as possible not to make this a ‘did the Holocaust happen’ trial, but to prove that David Irving is, in fact, a Holocaust denier,” she said.

Lipstadt’s legal team advised “nothing she said to the press could be inconsequential.” She said she felt “uncharacteristically bewildered” because she could not answer the media’s questions, especially when Irving was all over the media.

But a Holocaust survivor gave her the courage to stay silent to the media.

Lipstadt said she was approached by an elderly woman who had pushed herself to the front of the crowd immediately following the first day of the trial. Lipstadt said the woman pulled up her sleeve to show the serial number tattooed on her arm, which was given to her upon her arrival at a concentration camp during the Holocaust.

“She looked at me and said, ‘You are fighting for us. You are our witness.’ It was then that I knew I could not fail,” Lipstadt said.

Contact religion reporter Courtney Cook at [email protected].