ATLANTA CONSTITUTION 04.09.00 http://www.accessatlanta.com/partners/ajc/epaper/editions/today/news_830f319 0050262e71012.html Verdict looms in libel trial of Emory scholar A British judge may rule Tuesday whether Atlanta professor's book damaged historian by accusing him of denying Holocaust. Bert Roughton Jr. - Staff Sunday, April 9, 2000 London -- A British judge is expected to rule Tuesday in the legal struggle pitting a maverick historian against an Atlanta professor who accuses him of manipulating history to diminish the Holocaust. The trial, which began in January, has presented a rare opportunity for Holocaust experts to confront a representative of the small cadre of revisionist historians who claim that the Nazi program of mass extermination either never happened or was greatly exaggerated. On the surface, the lawsuit by writer David Irving against Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt has been a test of his charge that she libeled him in her 1994 book, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory." Yet, in many ways, the case has been an exploration of basic assumptions about what happened in Germany and Eastern Europe during the World War II era. The Israeli government considered the trial important enough to provide Lipstadt's lawyers with the unpublished prison papers of Hitler lieutenant Adolf Eichmann to help undermine Irving's assertions. However, the documents were too late to be used in the case. The witness box has been filled with experts who packed the record with documents and analyses to sustain accepted accounts of the Holocaust. The mass and quality of the defense's witnesses and documentation contrasted sharply with Irving's sometimes curious interpretation of events. Richard Rampton, the lawyer representing Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, took the offensive during much of the two-month trial, which ended in mid-March. The defense portrayed Irving as a fraud and a liar who manipulated historical records and ignored others in his effort to belittle the Holocaust. Rampton argued that Irving was motivated by an extremist political agenda, deep anti-Semitism and a misplaced respect for Adolf Hitler. Irving contends the Nazis didn't kill as many as 6 million Jews in a systematic extermination effort. But he accepts that the Nazis were responsible for the deaths of many Jews, maybe 1 million, most of whom were killed by malnutrition, disease or firing squads. Furthermore, he contended the scope of the Holocaust has been overblown by Jews seeking to boost reparations from Germany. Irving also rejected as fiction accounts of Nazis gassing Jews at concentration camps and says the gas chambers still seen by tourists at Auschwitz are fakes. A biographer of Hitler, Irving also argued that the Nazi leader was unaware of the campaign against Jews and other minorities until late in the war. Hitler, in Irving's words, had "a Richard Nixon kind of complex" and didn't really want to know what others were doing to Jews. Conspiracy alleged In his 104-page closing address, Irving asserted that Lipstadt's book had been financed and directed by Israeli Holocaust specialist Yehuda Bauer, then a professor at the Hebrew University, who, he said, had urged Lipstadt to incriminate him. He said this was part of a 30-year international campaign against him, led by the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and others. "It is quite evident that the ADL, in cahoots with Lipstadt, set itself the task of destroying my career," he said. As a result of their campaign, he said, he is banned from Germany, Austria, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. "I have been subjected since at least 1973, and probably before then, to what would be called in warfare a 'campaign of interdiction,' " he said. "I know of no other historian or writer who has been subjected to a campaign of vilification even one-tenth as intense." He said his once lucrative career as an author and public speaker has been left in ruins. Rampton countered that Irving was a victim of his own failures as a historian and his tireless campaign to debunk the Holocaust. Irving's denial that Auschwitz was a death camp had been based on worthless scientific research, Rampton argued, noting that Irving had never been to Auschwitz himself. Lipstadt, who is flying back to London for the verdict, did not testify. Throughout the trial, she sat silently near the front of the court, typing at two laptops on the table in front of her. One laptop was loaded with court papers; the other contained notes on the book she is writing about the case. She has refused to discuss the case until the judge reaches his decision. The judge, Charles Gray, has provided few clues about where he stands. A libel expert himself, Gray, wearing his traditional wig and robes, often provided guidance to Irving, who represented himself. Yet he on occasion was clearly impatient with Irving's rambling, inefficient style. Irving took exception to two particular points in Lipstadt's book. One was an assertion that he keeps a portrait of Hitler on the wall behind his desk. The only portrait on his wall, he said, is that of Winston Churchill. The second point concerned a report by Lipstadt that Irving had agreed to speak in Sweden in 1992 along with American black nationalist Louis Farrakhan, members of the Russian anti-Semite organization Pamyat and representatives of two Middle East terrorist groups, Hezbollah and Hamas. The Swedish government canceled the planned meeting. Irving argued that linking him to terrorists and anti-Semites was a "reckless lie" that exposed him to possible assassination. Irving depicted himself as an unconventional researcher who is being punished for challenging conventional wisdom. "This trial is about my reputation as a human being (and) a historian of integrity," he said.
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