http://www.newsday.com/nd1/edits.htm Newsday, Apr. 13, 2000, p. A54. EDITORIAL Truth Is Winner in Holocaust Denier's Libel Defeat It's always sweet to see a fraud get his comeuppance, but this week's verdict in a high-profile British libel trial is particularly satisfying in several different ways-not least because the loser is on the hook for the winner's legal bills, which could amount to $3 million. David Irving, once a reputable British historian of Nazi Germany, had accused Deborah Lipstadt, an American professor of Jewish studies, of defaming him in her 1993 book, "Denying the Holocaust." But the judge in the case - which was tried without a jury - concluded firmly that Irving was not only a Holocaust denier, as Lipstadt had charged, but had "for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence." In short, the judge wrote, Lipstadt's characterization of Irving was "substantially accurate." And even under Britain's plaintiff-tilted libel laws, the truth isn't libelous if you can prove it. So if Lipstadt's charges undermined Irving's reputation as a historian, that was his problem, not hers. Irving complained that the verdict was "perverse" and "historically incredible"-terms many historians would apply to his own revisionist view of the Nazi era. He has said, for instance, that there were "no gas chambers at Auschwitz" and the Holocaust was "a propaganda hoax by the British." His claim that there is an "organized international endeavor" to destroy his career has more than a whiff of anti-Semitism about it. The British court's ruling doesn't restrict Irving's right to spread such noxious falsehoods. What it does do is send a clear message that a crank historian has no right to whine about his reputation when his distortions are forcefully rebutted by another scholar. Majority views are entitled to free speech, too. Not bad for a country with no First Amendment. === http://www.newsday.com/coverage/current/editorial/thursday/nd8765.htm Newsday, Apr. 13, 2000, pp. A55-A56. Law Catches Up With Denial of Holocaust Kenneth S. Stern. Kenneth S. Stern is a program specialist on anti-Semitism and extremism for the American Jewish Committee. I CAME TO LONDON for the verdict in the Holocaust-denial libel case brought by British writer David Irving against Penguin Books Ltd. and my friend, Deborah Lipstadt. But the most moving moment occurred the night before the verdict. Lipstadt and I were eating dinner in her London apartment when the phone rang. Lipstadt - one of the more outspoken people I know -sat quietly, listening. Her eyes misted. It was a Holocaust survivor who called, simply to wish her "good luck." My eyes misted, too. These old men and women who had gone through so much nearly 60 years ago were, in a way, also on trial. Holocaust deniers had, for years, ridiculed their experiences. Irving had claimed that "more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz." And that "here are so many Auschwitz survivors going around, in fact the number increases as the years go past which is biologically very odd to say the least, because I am going to form an association of Auschwitz survivors, survivors of the Holocaust and other liars." Lipstadt is a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta. She had written the book, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory," to expose the lies, distortions, hate and political agendas that drive Holocaust denial. She called Irving-a prolific writer of such books as "Hitler's War"-a "dangerous spokesperson" for Holocaust denial. He, in turn, sued, saying his reputation as a historian was defamed. To defend this suit, Lipstadt's team spent thousands of hours tracking Irving's footnotes in his voluminous books, from his volume on Dresden to his writings that claim Hitler was a "friend" of the Jews. Justice Charles Gray of the British high court ruled Tuesday in favor of Lipstadt. He cited example after example where Irving "significantly misrepresented . . . the evidence . . . pervert[ed] the evidence . . . misrepresentation . . . misconstruction . . . omission . . . mistranslation . . . misreading. . . . double standards." The judge found Irving's explanations for his writings "tendentious . . . unjustified . . . specious . . . distorted . . . fanciful . . . hopeless . . . disingenuous . . . [and] a travesty." "It appears to me," Gray also wrote, "that Irving qualifies as a Holocaust denier . . . . Irving is anti-Semitic . . . . Irving is a racist. . . . Irving [is] a right-wing pro-Nazi polemicist." The irony is Gray's findings are even stronger than the words Lipstadt had written. He concluded that Irving's distortion of the historical record was "deliberate" and "borne of his own ideological beliefs to present Hitler in a favourable light." That is the core of the matter. People such as Irving don't deny the Holocaust because they have a peculiar view of the world or because they are sloppy or incompetent historians. The judge found that Irving had significant associations with neo-Nazis and right-wing anti-Semitic organizations, and that his political and hateful agenda was the explanation for his historical distortions. While many of Irving's neo-Nazi friends were European (he had even joined them in Germany, where they celebrated Hitler's birthday), he also counts former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke as a friend. And this was no casual acquaintance. Irving dined at Duke's house, played tennis with him, edited Duke's racist book "My Awakening" (which Irving referred to as a "quasi Mein Kampf"), tried to get a book agent for Duke and was given hundreds of names and addresses of what he called Duke's "best" contributors to "milk" for his own purposes. It is gratifying that Lipstadt had the courage to fight this battle against hatred and historical distortion and that her publisher, Penguin, had the courage to support her despite the large costs involved. But I'm also under no illusions. Despite the severe blow that a British court gave Irving and his fellow deniers, the hatred that drives this movement is not going to evaporate. But it was a good day for those who want to write and publish the truth about anti-Semites and racists without fear of being sued. And it especially was a good day for those who somehow managed to survive the Holocaust, so many of whom have dedicated their lives to making the world a better place. They deserved it. == Chicago Tribune, April 13, 2000 http://chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/article/0,2669,SAV-0004130046,FF.html THE DISGRACE OF A HOLOCAUST DENIER April 13, 2000 Truth, justice and history were well served Tuesday when British writer David Irving lost his libel suit against an American academic who had branded him a Holocaust denier and an apologist for Adolf Hitler. This won't mark the end of Holocaust denial, which sadly still has plenty of vocal, despicable adherents. But Jewish groups rightly saw it as vindication of historical fact--that 6 million Jews were slaughtered by Nazis in the European Holocaust. The Simon Wiesenthal Center wisely hailed it as "a victory of history over hate." In his 333-page opinion, Justice Charles Gray was justified in his unsparing condemnation of Irving, 62, as an anti-Semite and a racist who, "for his own ideological reasons," deliberately distorted historical evidence to deny the Holocaust and try to absolve Hitler of responsibility for it. Irving was perhaps the most prominent of the revisionists who have questioned what is arguably history's most abominable crime. Such views are grievously offensive to Holocaust survivors and world Jewry, not to mention anathema to fair-minded people who see them as hate speech at best, anti-Semitic incitement at worst. Yet he has no regrets and plans to appeal. Irving has said Hitler did not know about the mass killings until at least 1943. He has questioned whether gas chambers at the Auschwitz death camp were used to kill Jews, once observing derisively: "More people died in the back of Ted Kennedy's car." While admitting hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed by the Nazis, he has disputed the accepted figure of 6 million. Irving's libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta, and her publisher, Penguin Books, comes at a time when a growing number of neo-Nazis and Hitler apologists have been questioning the facts and the scale of the Holocaust. Lipstadt noted that Irving was "hoist on his own petard" and expressed hope that no reputable U.S. group would give him a platform now to spread "perverted and distorted views." Freedom of speech is a principle as dear as any to Americans, but it also means freedom for pernicious speech and opinions we find contemptible. In this case, Irving's speech was hateful and despicable. While he has a right to say what he thinks, it has cost him his reputation and perhaps also his wealth and livelihood. In the end, there could be no more fitting punishment than the self-inflicted one he brought on himself by espousing hatred of Jews, falsifying history and dishonoring the memory of innocent victims of Nazi genocide. == Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal. WITNESS TO THE DARKEST NIGHT April 13, 2000 Betty Bayť ELIE WIESEL speaks so softly that you have to lean in close to make out what he's saying. I did and was rewarded with a feeling I hadn't felt since July 1998, when John Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement who is now in Congress, sat in the same spot at the same table talking about why and how he's able to love his enemies and, even, to pray for them. Elie Wiesel was in town to talk about his new book, And the Sea is Never Full: Memoirs 1969 - , at the Kentucky Author Forum sponsored by the University of Louisville. He's written 40 books, but before addressing his larger audience, the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner had lunch with members of The Courier-Journal's editorial board. Wiesel and Lewis are kindred souls. They behave honorably, righteously, morally and lovingly. Yet both endured vicious hatred directed toward them, in Wiesel's case because he's a Jew, and in Lewis' case because he's black. Unlike some 6 million others, including his parents and a younger sister, Wiesel, who was imprisoned in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, survived the Nazi death camps. He was 16 when finally liberated, and didn't know until after the war that his other two sisters had also survived. Lewis was a youngster growing up in America's segregated South when Wiesel was in the concentration camps in Europe. Both Wiesel and Lewis refused to die -- refused to succumb to the oft-stated libel that they were members of some sub-species, only partly human, if human at all. Wiesel and Lewis lived to tell their stories and their peoples' stories, and to dream of a world better than that of their youths. Each has made a life's work of speaking larger truths to new generations. Wiesel draws people to his light. It's warm there, and quite frankly, I didn't wish to leave. I wanted to lean in closer and closer and listen to him talk and talk and talk -- and teach and teach and teach. In Wiesel's company, as with Lewis, one feels oneself in the presence of goodness. In a private moment, I asked Wiesel, now an American citizen, how he handles his critics who accuse him of being "too 'Judeocentric.' " He shrugged, as if to say, "It is their problem, not mine." Later, I read an interview in which Wiesel said that he's not indifferent to any tragedy or the death of any child. But that in no way contradicts the reality that he's also "profoundly Jewish" and is "profoundly linked to the Jewish people." I loved Wiesel's non-apology for loving his Jewishness. Of greater concern, Wiesel said last December in an Israeli newspaper, The Jerusalem Post, are the academics who question the testimony of Holocaust survivors. "The Holocaust is being assaulted," he said, contending that certain scholars and teachers feel as if they must "say something new." But those who lived the Holocaust -- and others, such as Emory University historian Deborah Lipstadt, who study it -- are fighting fire with fire. The day after Wiesel's Louisville visit, a judge in Great Britain ruled that Lipstadt did not libel British historian David Irving. In her book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, Lipstadt asserts that Irving is "one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial." The verdict in the British court does more than vindicate Lipstadt's scholarship. It vindicates Wiesel's own experiences and memories. Over lunch, Wiesel discussed the Pope's recent outreach to Jews and admission that the Catholic Church had treated Jews badly over the centuries. Some Jews were disappointed that the Pope was not more specific in condemning the Catholic Church's role during the Holocaust. But Wiesel said that the truth is that "nobody can accept an apology, only the dead can do it." As far as he's concerned, "the Pope's gesture was good if it means that the church recognizes that something was wrong in those times." The gesture "doesn't erase everything," he added, but the Pope "deserves our respect and our affection. "In the beginning, I was skeptical about this Pope, but I have changed." Still, it pains Wiesel that during his Holocaust nightmare, there were apparently many who knew or suspected, but didn't act to stop the carnage. Why weren't the rail lines over which Jews were transported to death camps bombed and bombed and bombed? Wiesel insists that President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew, "but it was not on his agenda. The priority was to win the war. "It hurts," Wiesel said. It hurts as well to bear witness close up to the hurt in the piercing eyes that sit below Wiesel's bushy brows. At the end of lunch, I embraced Wiesel and was surprised that this man, who was tough enough to survive horrors that most of us could not imagine, felt soft to the touch. A critic, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, in a New York Times review, scoffed at Wiesel's humility. It's "professed," he wrote, implying that it is, therefore, contrived and dishonest. When reading certain passages of Wiesel's latest book, Lehmann-Haupt wrote, "You come away persuaded that Wiesel is not entirely innocent of political skills and that his motives for entering the public arena are not all connected to self-sacrifice." Frankly, it doesn't bother me that Wiesel gets paid for his labors. I get paid, and so does Lehmann-Haupt. All of us who are writers, in one way or another, peddle our memories. It comes through in the topics we select, the words we choose and the people we say are our heroes. Wiesel is living proof that one person can simultaneously remember and move forward. All of us, I suspect, who were around the luncheon table with Elie Wiesel on Monday, experienced his humility, his humanity, as real and refreshing. I am reminded that some people doubted Martin Luther King Jr.'s humility. And he died broke. Betty Winston Bay''s column appears Thursdays in The Forum.
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