Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lipstadt's talk

Professor Lipstadt's talk on Thursday night was excellent and very well-attended. Many students and community members came to hear her clear and cogent account of her libel trial in England, when David Irving, a notorious Holocaust denier, sued her for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier. One of the most interesting parts of her presentation was the description of the strategy that she and her legal team devised to counter Irving. They decided that since the Holocaust is a well-known and documented historical event, they did not need to prove that it occurred in order to defeat Irving. Instead, they decided to demonstrate how Irving misused evidence, misquoted sources, invented incidents, and engaged in other techniques to distort history. Scholars went through Irving's books exhaustively and checked all of his footnotes, which revealed that he systematically distorted his sources in order to support his own conclusions. His aim was to prove that Hitler knew nothing of the Holocaust and in fact tried to prevent it - something which all reputable historians know is utter nonsense. The judge in the case decided for Lipstadt based on this argument.

She also spoke of the emotional burden the case imposed on her. Many survivors of the Holocaust and their children saw her as their standard-bearer for the truth, and she felt even more responsible because of this to win the case on their behalf. Her talk was moving and I am glad that we were able to bring her to Ithaca College.

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