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Subject: Irving v. Penguin & Lipstadt: Judgment Introduction
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Keywords: David Irving libel action Deborah Lipstadt

Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/judgment-01.01
Last-Modified: 2000/04/11

I. INTRODUCTION

A summary of the main issues

1.1 In this action the Claimant, David Irving, maintains that he has
been libelled in a book entitled "Denying the Holocaust - The Growing
Assault on Truth and Memory", which was published by Penguin Books
Limited and written by Professor Deborah Lipstadt, who are respectively
the First and Second Defendants in the action. (For the sake of brevity
I shall refer to them, as in due course I shall refer to the expert
witnesses, by their last names).

1.2 The essential issues in the action can be summarised as follows:
Irving complains that certain passages in the Defendants' book accuse
him of being a Nazi apologist and an admirer of Hitler, who has resorted
to the distortion of facts and to the manipulation of documents in
support of his contention that the Holocaust did not take place. He
contends that the Defendants' book is part of a concerted attempt to
ruin his reputation as an historian and he seeks damages accordingly.
The Defendants, whilst they do not accept the interpretation which
Irving places on the passages complained of, assert that it is true that
Irving is discredited as an historian by reason of his denial of the
Holocaust and by reason of his persistent distortion of the historical
record so as to depict Hitler in a favourable light. The Defendants
maintain that the claim for damages for libel must in consequence fail.

1.3 Needless to say, the context in which these issues fall to be
determined is one which arouses the strongest passions. On that account,
it is important that I stress at the outset of this judgment that I do
not regard it as being any part of my function as the trial judge to
make findings of fact as to what did and what did not occur during the
Nazi regime in Germany. It will be necessary for me to rehearse, at some
length, certain historical data. The need for this arises because I must
evaluate the criticisms of or (as Irving would put it) the attack upon
his conduct as an historian in the light of the available historical
evidence. But it is not for me to form, still less to express, a
judgement about what happened. That is a task for historians. It is
important that those reading this judgment should bear well in mind the
distinction between my judicial role in resolving the issues arising
between these parties and the role of the historian seeking to provide
an accurate narrative of past events.

The parties

1.4 David Irving, the Claimant, embarked on his career as an author in
the early 1960s shortly after he left Imperial College London. He is the
author of over 30 books, most of which are concerned with the events of
and leading up to the Second World War (some of which were written and
published in Germany). Amongst the better known titles are The
Destruction of Dresden, Hitler's War (1977 and 1991 editions), Goebbels
- Mastermind of the Third Reich, Goering - a Biography and Nuremberg -
The Last Battle.

1.5 As these titles suggest, Irving has specialised in the history of
the Third Reich. He describes himself as an expert in the principal Nazi
leaders (although in his opening he was at pains to make clear that he
does not regard himself as an historian of the Holocaust). Many of his
works have been published by houses of the highest standing and have
attracted favourable reviews. It is beyond dispute that over the years
(Irving is now aged 62), he has devoted an enormous amount of time to
researching and chronicling the history of the Third Reich. The books
themselves are eloquent testimony to his industry and diligence.

1.6 Apart from his books Irving has written numerous articles and,
particularly in recent years, lectured and spoken both in Europe and the
Americas and participated in numerous radio and television broadcasts.
He emphasises that his reputation as an historian is founded upon his
output of books.

1.7 As to his political beliefs, he describes himself as a Conservative
with laissez-faire views. He mentions that he has not applauded the
uncontrolled tide of Commonwealth immigration.

1.8 The 2nd Defendant, Deborah Lipstadt, lives and works in the United
States. She was raised in a traditional Jewish home (her parents having
migrated from Germany and Poland). She attended City College of New York
and spent a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where she took a
series of courses on the history of the Holocaust, subsequently staying
on for a further year. On her return to the United States she completed
an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Jewish Studies.

1.9 Since then Lipstadt has pursued an academic career teaching modern
Jewish history with an emphasis on the Holocaust. In 1993 she moved to
Emory University, a research institution in Atlanta, Georgia, where she
is Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies. She has written two
books about the responses to the Holocaust, Beyond Belief: the American
Press and the Coming of the Holocaust 1933-1945 and the book which has
given rise to the present action, Denying the Holocaust. The latter was
published by Penguin Books in an American edition and thereafter in an
English paperback edition.

1.10 I should for the sake of completeness add that initially a number
of individuals were joined as additional Defendants. The action is not
pursued against them.


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