On September 24, John Marshall had the honor of playing host to Renowned Jewish Studies Historian, Professor Deborah E. Lipstadt. Her 1996 book, “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory,” which drew her into a libel suit both in the United States and in the United Kingdom. David Irving, who was then a World War II historian, sued her for libel after she labeled him a holocaust denier in her book. She was ultimately successful in both suits and the proceedings helped to illustrate the continuing relevance of her work.
Holocaust denial continues to be a pernicious cultural phenomena. Whether due to some ideological bias or simple ignorance, denial of Nazi war crimes against the Jewish people take many forms. Lipstadt has identified two key varieties, which she differentiates as hardcore and softcore denial. Hardcore denial tends to take the form of works like Irving’s, where historical records are either distorted or the impact of evidence is minimized in order to support an argument that death camps and government sponsored extermination programs either didn’t exist or were the product of exaggeration. Softcore, on the other hand, is defined by rhetoric comparing Israeli soldiers to Nazis for their operations in Palestinian Territories. Lipstadt believes that such rhetoric is hurtful and insensitive, and that there is a “difference between criticism of Israeli policies and being anti-Israel.”
Among her many appointments and accolades, Lipstadt has served on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, consultant to Congress on combating Holocaust denial, and in 2006 she was elected to the American Academy of Jewish Research. The AAJR is a prestigious organization made up of the most distinguished scholars of Judaic studies in the United States. She captured her experience in defending her scholarship against Irving’s accusations of libel in “History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving,” which is in the pre-production stage of become a feature film. Her latest book is “The Eichmann Trial” and is available to purchase on Amazon.
By Michael Reed