Lipstadt in Australia

August 15, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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Deborah Lipstadt was sued by Holocaust-denier David Irving for libel in an English court in 1996. She won her case proving that the Holocaust happened.She told a meeting of lawyers and judges in Sydney how it felt to have her fate in the hands of the judicial system and its practitioners.

Deborah Lipstadt   photo: Henry Benjamin

Deborah Lipstadt                         photo: Henry Benjamin

The 66-yr-old historian originally from New York but now resident in Atlanta, Georgia, was sued for libel in 1996 by Irving following the publication of her book “Denying the Holocaust” in 1993. It put the Holocaust on trial.

In the UK, the onus of proof falls on the defendant but in 2000 the courts found for Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books. When the judge in delivering his decision said that Irving had distorted history The Times newspaper printed “History has had its day in court and scored a crushing victory”.

Lipstadt is in Australia for the Shalom Institute to deliver the Graf Oration for the Shalom Institute which she did last night to over 500 guests Sydney’s Sofitel. Tonight she will deliver the Gandel Oration in Melbourne to an audience of over 800.

She told the members of the legal profession that as a child “me do it”  were very important words for her and she found herself in an English court with a full grasp of the facts and in the hands of others. Although admitting that she had been frustrated by not being put on the stand, she said that the outcome of the trial speaks for itself.

J-Wire asked Deborah Lipstadt if there was a particular moment in time which cast the die for David Irving’s Holocaust denial future. She said : “When he was a child during the Blitz, he would stand on mounds of rubble giving the Nazi salute”.

Vic Alhadeff and Deborah Lipstadt

Vic Alhadeff and Deborah Lipstadt

She also refuted claims that Irving is a professor. She said: David Irving is not a professor anywhere that I am aware of and I would question if could even be called a historian. A historian is someone who presents all sides even if they are diametrically opposite. He certainly is a writer.”  She explained that the strategy applied to her defence was not to prove that the Holocaust happened but to disprove that the deniers say. She said: “So when Holocaust deniers say ‘ I have a document that proves only 68,000 people died at Auschwitz’ when you look at the document and it proves nothing of the kind. We follow the sources back to the sources and in every single case we found some sort of invention, some sort of fabrication, some sort of distortion.”

Lipstadt said that one of the reasons Irving sued her was because he was a misogynist. I was also in the United States and he was in the UK and he thought I wouldn’t fight. She said that members of the British Jewish community also thought I would not fight and that I “shouldn’t make a fuss”. They thought Irving would turn into a publicity battle which he would win.

Her main fear was that she would not get a clear cut decision and that the judge would give a “on the one hand and on the other hand” decision. She said: “Our legal strategy was not to prove that the Holocaust happened. In fact, we did not call Survivors as witnesses. They would have been witnesses of fact thereby showing that we felt it necessary to prove that the Holocaust happened. We also felt that if we put a Survivor on the stand, Irving’s goal would be to humiliate and confuse them. The other reason is that we soon will not have the Survivors to speak for themselves so we focused on the documents themselves.”

She explained that victims who were taken directly to their deaths on arrival were never registered in the camp’s books making it impossible to use them as accurate records. We repeatedly stressed that he did not have the evidence to substantiate his figures. She added: “Following his footnotes back to their sources produced, omissions, distortions, fabrications.”

She said that “we stripped him of any legitimacy. We demonstrated to the court over and over again how he manipulated the evidence.” My solicitor told Lipstadt that ‘our strategy for the case was the truth”.

In Sydney, Lipstadt addressed a meeting organised by  The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies attended by members of communities whose ethnic backgrounds had been the subject of genocide in recent history.

The Shalom Institute’s Dr Hilton Immerman told J-Wire: “We were packed to capacity and all 500 guests found Deborah Lipstadt’s conversation with Professor Avril Alba totally engaging.”

Janet Neustein was at Sydney’s Sofitel Wentworth Hotel to hear Lipstadt deliver the Graf Oration for the Shalom Institute.

She reports:

Her delivery hasn’t changed – she is as compelling as ever. Her wit hasn’t changed – that wonderfully wry “Woody Allenesque” mode self preserving humour. Let’s not be overwhelmed by the horror of the Holocaust – we need to balance the “oy” of misery with the “joy” of living our lives in the present.

What may have been new for the 500 who crammed the Sofitel Wentworth ballroom to hear Deborah Lipstadt deliver the Ervin Graf Oration last night and to support Shalom Institute’s programs?

Perhaps the focus on education. Not only is Deborah Lipstadt a historian, a writer of histories, and, as Avril Alba said, “A maker of history”. Prof Lipstadt is above all an educator. At Emory College she teaches the Holocaust, she teaches anti-Semitism and she teaches  to counter the “hard core” and “soft core, squishy” pornography of Holocaust denial.

Last night’s audience listened intently to strategies for taking the wind out of the sails of people who misrepresent the Holocaust, or endeavour to deligitimise Israel.

Prof Lipstadt sounded a caution, not an alarm as she educated her audience to tackle the challenges presented by those who use a range of tactics to express their hatred of Jews, including by undermining Israel’s sovereign right to exist.









2 Responses to “Lipstadt in Australia”
  1. Richard says:

    I would be interested to know (a) who claims that David Irving is a professor; and (b) who claims to have a document that proves that 68000 died at Auschwitz. I have also heard people claim that Israel has a list of the names of six million Jews who were killed by the Nazis, which many professors claim is exaggerated. Does Ms. Lipstadt also educate people about the 4 million to 10 million Ukrainians who were slowly starved to death by Stalin’s henchmen in 1932-33, that was widely reported at the time in American newspapers, for example ?

  2. David says:

    Lipstadt in Australia. Lipstadt (“what, me a libeller?”) said : “When he was a child during the [1940] Blitz, he would stand on mounds of rubble giving the Nazi salute”. – Gosh, we had forgotten doing that in the Essex countryside at age 2…

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