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HA'ARETZ 03.22.00

'Holocaust denier showed his anti-Semitism in court'

By Sharon Sadeh
Ha'aretz Correspondent

LONDON - When she sat in the courtroom during the hearings of the libel suit
against her and against Penguin Books by British historian David Irving,
says Deborah Lipstadt, what surprised her most was the ferocity of his
anti-Semitic and racist statements.

"I sat there and I couldn't believe my ears," said Lipstadt, who in her 1994
book "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory" called
Irving "one of the most dangerous spokesmen in the service of Holocaust

Speaking to Ha'aretz, she said that Irving displayed "mockery and contempt"
for Holocaust survivors, and for survivors of Auschwitz in particular,
treating them as pathological spinners of fanatsies. And his loathing for
blacks and for English people of Pakistani origin was also manifest.

She was "in shock" at the cumulative effect of all the findings and
utterances that came out at the trial - and as "an expert in anti-Semitism"
she is not easily frightened by such material.

Lipstadt says she stands by every word she wrote in the book about Irving,
and in light of what she has since learned about him, she would have written
much more. "He takes up only six pages in a book of about 300 pages," she

The hearings in the trial, which lasted about ten weeks, ended last week and
the judgment is expected early next month. Lipstadt, could not give
interviews during the trial and the legal team decided not to put her on the
stand. "It wasn't because I didn't want to testify," she explains. "I asked
them whether they wanted to me to take the stand, even though personally I
had no interest in geting into a discussion with him [Irving, who conducted
his own defense], but I was told there was no need.

"My book speaks for itself and I was sued for what I published. The legal
arguments consisted of proof of the arguments against Irving."

The trial, she says, was forced on her, and in contrast to the U.S. system,
"the burden of proof was on me."

Lipstadt was born in Manhattan in 1947 to a traditionalist Jewish family and
grew up in Queens. She describes herself as a member of the Conservative
stream in Judaism. She once entertained the idea of settling in Israel and
lived in the country, where she has many relatives in Be'er Sheva and
Jerusalem, from 1966 to 1968.

However, her father's worsening health forced her to return home, her
academic career developed in the United States, "and somehow it was already
too late to change things. If I could turn back the wheel, I would immigrate
to Israel."

She took paid leave from Emory University in Georgia, where she teaches
modern Jewish history, to attend the trial.

A good many of her friends and relatives visited her in London - she stayed
in a plush apartment hotel near Buckingham Palace - and she was inundated
with hundreds of messages of support from around the world. Their main
thrust, she says, was: "We know what you re going through, but you are on
the front, you are waging an important struggle and you have to fight for
what you wrote."

Irving sued in 1996, two years after the book appeared, and claimed that his
contentions - that Hitler did not authorize the Final Solution and that the
buildings at Auschwitz are fakes and were build by the Poles after the war -
did not make him a Holocaust denier because they were true.

Lipstadt maintains that Irving is a frightening and dangerous phenomenon
because he is deeply acquainted with the relevant historical material and
because of his manipulative ability, his articulate presentation and because
of the status he has secured in academic circles.

"But we dug deep into his work, the roots of his conclusions, we checked his
footnotes one by one," Lipstadt says. "We simply saw that he was distorting
things from A to Z."

She admits that as an observer from the side, she found that the trial
sometimes seemed to be not over freedom of expression, as Irving claimed,
but about the existence of the Holocaust, though that was not the intention,
of course.

"Our line was to focus on Irving, and that was why, for example, we did not
bring Holocaust survivors to testify."

Lipstadt says she will now return to the United States "and try to resume a
normal life." Still, she says, "despite the tension and the fears, and
contrary to my advance expectations, it was a very uplifting experience,
which strengthened my awareness and my ties to Judaism, to the Jewish
heritage, and internalized for me the importance of belonging to the Jewish


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