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Emory religion professor Deborah Lipstadt knows she hasn’t heard the last of David Irving, now the world’s most infamous Holocaust denier. But she looks forward to ignoring him again. The first time she encountered the pugnacious, silver-tongued Brit was when he interrupted her speech at Georgia’s DeKalb Community College in 1994 by standing up and heckling her with demands that she provide “one scrap of evidence” that Jews really were gassed to death in concentration camps. Not wanting to dignify his comments with a response, Lipstadt refused to answer Irving, who was asked to sit down or to leave. She recalls that he elected to stay, smirking and taking copious notes. Six years later, Lipstadt found herself face to face with him in another confrontation forced by Irving, this time in a packed London courtroom. In 1996, the British author of some 30 World War II-related books had filed a libel suit against Lipstadt and Penguin Books Ltd., accusing her of defaming him in her 1993 book, “Denying The Holocaust: The Growing Assault Against Truth and Memory.” In it, she had exposed some of his shoddy and deceitful scholarship aimed at exonerating Hitler from knowledge of Germany’s chillingly orchestrated murder of several million European Jews and minimizing the horrors and purpose of the death camps. She also revealed his long-standing ideological alliances with anti-Semitic, rightwing extremists that seem to drive his poisonous brand of historical revisionism. Because of his standing as a marginally respected military historian, she called Irving “one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial.” Irving claimed Lipstadt ruined his reputation with several false and damaging statements, and that he lost major book contracts and speaking engagements as a result. Representing himself in the three-month trial that concluded April 11, he was hoping to tear into her on this more hostile turf, where the law tipped in his favor. A DIFFERENT LEGAL STANDARD In America, where freedom of expression is so heralded, it is left to plaintiffs in libel cases to prove that defendants have erred, maligning them intentionally and maliciously. Conversely, British libel law puts the burden of proof squarely on defendants. This meant Lipstadt and Penguin had to prove not only the veracity of their published claims about Irving’s distortions of history but also that he erred willfully and recklessly, in large part because of his anti-Semitic, pro-Hitler beliefs. If the defense team tripped Irving up on his mishandling of the facts but couldn’t prove that he knew better, Irving could still have prevailed, leaving the defendants liable for millions in damages and attorneys fees. Or, as in the 1964 libel case in which American author Leon Uris was sued for libel by a German doctor he had vilified in a novel dealing with Auschwitz horrors, the judge could have found the defendants had committed libel, but that the plaintiff’s reputation was worth nothing more than a halfpenny. Irving’s shot at winning was considered narrow, but the parties’ and the public interest in the case did not rest on the verdict alone. Any points he scored in the courtroom threatened to rehabilitate Irving’s standing as a historian and to fuel the fires of Holocaust deniers and neo-Nazi sympathizers everywhere. However, Irving was on such shaky financial ground a few months before the trial he cheekily offered to drop his claim if Lipstadt would make a modest donation to a charity for limbless ex-servicemen. Though the process had been an “excruciating five-year distraction” for Lipstadt, she says she was in no mood to settle and to give him any opportunity to cast himself as an avenger of truth, which would further demean the memories of Jews who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis. Backed by deep pockets at Pearson, the British media conglomerate that owns Penguin Books, Jewish groups worldwide and others, Lipstadt’s defense team had spared no expenses on discovery and research. They were poised and ready for battle. AN ARSENAL OF EXPERTS Though the stakes were exponentially higher in this venue, Lipstadt still planned to say nothing to Irving. Instead, lined up to speak on her behalf was a team of Britain’s top libel lawyers, prominent world historians and scientists who had spent the last three years assembling an arsenal of historical and forensic evidence to counter and explode a list of 30 of Irving’s most outlandish and offensive historical claims. Lipstadt’s legal team, led by Anthony Julius and Richard Rampton of the blue-chip London firm Mishcon de Reya, chose the plea of “justification.” That defense strategy admits, essentially, that many of the claims made in her book may indeed be defamatory and damaging to Irving, but asserts that they are justified, because they are true. Led by eminent Cambridge University historian Richard Evans, a German specialist, the historians had “chased Irving’s skewed facts and footnotes all over Europe,” says Lipstadt, interviewed in her Emory office in Atlanta recently. The meticulously detailed, 750-page report of the historians, who examined many of the primary documents Irving cites in his books, as well as Irving’s own notes and diaries, chronicles dozens of glaring mistakes, distortions and omissions made by Irving. On the stand, Evans testified that he was taken aback “by the sheer depth of duplicity” he had discovered in Irving’s treatment of primary sources. Irving, 62, was brimming with self-confidence when he began his defense last January. He declared that he had brought his suit to restore his reputation as a historian of integrity, unfairly sullied by Lipstadt, whom he chided for not having the courage to testify. In a finely tailored double-breasted pinstriped suit and speaking in what observers called an “elegant tone,” he positioned himself as a well-bred, intelligent, widely published scholar baffled by the attacks against his diligent efforts to shed light on the history of the Third Reich. JEWISH CONSPIRACY CLAIMED He described Lipstadt as the spearholder of an international Jewish conspiracy to discredit him and other “dissident historians” who dare to re-examine what has become the Holy Grail of Holocaust scholarship, zealously guarded by gatekeepers who won’t allow anyone to “quibble with the means, the scale, the dates and other minutia.” He says the term “Holocaust denier” that Lipstadt has coined and branded him with is “a verbal Yellow Star” that has turned him into a pariah in publishing circles. He argued that this “artificial label” is completely at odds with his true position on “one of the greatest and still most unexplained tragedies of this century.” Rampton, the British barrister representing Lipstadt and Penguin, quickly reminded the court that the sort of details Irving takes issue with are actually major points of history. Namely, that Irving has repeatedly stated that nowhere near six million Jews died in the Holocaust, that gas chambers were not used at Auschwitz or other “labour camps,” and that in many ways Hitler was actually “the best friend the Jews ever had.” He promised to produce documents and witnesses that would show Irving to be not an indolent or careless historian, “but a falsifier of history. To put it bluntly, he is a liar.” IRVING FALTERS ON CROSS-EXAM Irving represented himself and his ideas with gusto for most of the trial, but he faltered in his cross-examination of some expert witnesses, whom he found difficult to outwit. And when crossed by Rampton, he made a number of crucial concessions that destroyed many of his chief historical claims, while exposing his fraudulent methodology. Irving’s many errors are concisely summarized in Justice Charles Gray’s impressively detailed 333-page ruling which chronicles dozens of telling distortions and omissions made by Irving. Among them were Irving’s longstanding Hitler apologies. Irving has often minimized and sanitized what Hitler knew about the Final Solution, arguing that the mass extermination of Jews was directed by Himmler and other top SS leaders, outside of and perhaps against Hitler’s wishes. In his 1977 edition of his best-selling book, “Hitler’s War,” Irving cited minutes of meetings in April 1943 between Hitler and Hungary’s ruler, Admiral Miklos Horthy, who had refused to deliver up Hungary’s Jews to the Nazis. Irving’s citations of the documents show that on the first day, when Horthy complained that the Jews “can hardly be murdered or otherwise eliminated,” Hitler assuaged him by responding, “There is no need for that,” and added that they could be sent to work camps. Irving wrote that the reason Hitler wanted to deport the Jews was because of the recent Warsaw ghetto uprising. In fact, as Evans pointed out, the Warsaw uprising didn’t occur until two days later. And Irving fails to mention that on the second day of meetings, the minutes show that Hitler and his Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, change their tune dramatically. When Horthy complains about brutality against Jews, Ribbentrop says plainly that the Jews “must either be annihilated or taken to concentration camps.” Hitler then calls the Jews “pure parasites” who must be shot or otherwise “perish” if they couldn’t work, and that the Jews must “be treated like tuberculosis bacilli, from which a healthy body could be infected.” In his ruling Gray criticized the “partial and misleading” account of the meetings given by Irving, whom he said had ignored “powerful evidence” that Hitler and Ribbentrop “spoke in uncompromising and unequivocal terms about their genocidal intentions in regard to the Hungarian Jews� In my judgment, Irving materially perverts the evidence.” ‘EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE’ The linchpin of Irving’s professed “empirical evidence” showing that gas chambers were never employed to kill Jews on a massive scale also crumbled under the scrutiny of the defense experts. Since 1989, Irving has asserted that “the Leuchter Report” definitively negates the “mythological” accounts by Auschwitz survivors that inmates there were gassed to death. Written by Fred Leuchter, a Canadian “engineering consultant” who has been involved in the construction of a few execution facilities in the United States, it details the analysis Leuchter did of bricks and concrete stolen from Auschwitz /Birkenau in the mid-1980s. The samples were taken to a reputable lab in Massachusetts and examined by Dr. James Roth, a chemist. Roth found on their surface traces of cyanide, the active element in the Zyklon-B pellets dropped in the gassing facilities at the camp. Because there were significant amounts of cyanide found on bricks taken from the delousing area, and much smaller amounts in the samples taken from the gas chamber, Leuchter concluded that the “supposed” gas chambers were never used for the sinister purposes claimed by so many camp survivors. He concluded that lice might have been gassed to death there, but not humans. Based on Leuchter’s findings, Irving surmised that the facility widely assumed to be a deadly gas chamber was instead a shelter used to protect prisoners from Allied air raids, and proof positive that Auschwitz survivors have exaggerated the nature and scale of the killings there. Lipstadt’s defense presented details of Roth’s chemical analysis to show how Leuchter, who is not a degreed engineer or a chemist, simply got it wrong. In fact, the concentration of cyanide required to kill humans is 22 times less than is required to kill lice. Judge Gray noted in his ruling that “Leuchter’s false assumption vitiated his own conclusion.” Under cross-examination by Rampton, Irving was forced to admit that the Leuchter report was fundamentally flawed, that the errors in it had been pointed out to him many times since 1988, and ultimately, that Jews were gassed to death at Auschwitz, Treblinka and other camps in genocidal proportions. TRIAL CALLED BIZARRE Some of those who attended the trial say it was a bizarre proceeding, with players from two distinctly identified, enemy camps vying for validation. David Blumenthal, a professor of religion at Emory, and his wife, Ursula, a travel agent, both of whom are good friends of Lipstadt’s, spent about four weeks in the spectators gallery, between them. They describe walking the same gauntlet of well-wishing supporters, “blank-faced Neo-Nazis” and pushy reporters that Lipstadt and her lawyers did as they entered the courthouse, and “feeling some trepidation about it,” says Ursula. In the gallery, they met or observed several Holocaust survivors and German Jewish refugees, including one man who said his grandfather was a friend of Lipstadt’s grandfather, Gustav Lipstadt. The man wept openly and often during the trial, especially during particularly gruesome bits of testimony, as when Irving sparred with witnesses over the number of human bodies that could be burned in an incinerator per day. During a break one day, Ursula Blumenthal introduced him to Lipstadt. He said he was honored to meet her, and told her a broom in his boyhood home had been nicknamed Gustav, after her grandfather’s bushy eyebrows. Lipstadt, whose family left Germany in 1928 because of hard economic times and resettled in New York, says she was touched by the encounter. She had never met her grandfather. ATLANTA JEWS SHOW SUPPORT Though she was too wrapped up in the trial to socialize much, Lipstadt says she was comforted by the strong showing of Jewish Atlantans in the courtroom, which included community activists; a Hebrew school teacher; former U.S. Rep. Elliott Levitas; Sherry Frank, who heads the Atlanta chapter of the American Jewish Committee; David N. Minkin, Lipstadt’s private lawyer; and Glenda Minkin, Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell’s director of marketing and communications. Also in the gallery at various times were Orthodox Jews, Israeli boy scouts and television’s Judge Joseph Wapner. “It was a scary, strange process,” Lipstadt says. “I’d never been involved in any kind of law case before, much less in this kind of high-pressure atmosphere. I was glad to see some of those familiar faces.” Among surreal moments she’ll never forget, Lipstadt says she was “flabbergasted” when Irving slipped during his closing remarks and called the judge “Mein Fuhrer,” instead of “My Lord,” as was his habit. The slip was followed by a few moments of stunned silence, and then broad laughter in the courtroom. “We already had him, but he certainly showed his true colors there,” she says. DRAMATIC MOMENTS The drama inside the courtroom was punctuated by other moments of high historical and political import outside. The release of the Adolf Eichmann diaries in March, which had been suppressed by the Israeli government for 40 years, caused an international stir. Released at the request of Lipstadt’s lawyers, Eichmann’s memoirs, penned while the Hitler lieutenant awaited trial for crimes against humanity in 1961, provided a graphic account of the sort of methodical, large-scale, heartless planning of Jewish genocide that originated at the highest levels of German leadership. The diaries were ruled irrelevant to the case, since Irving couldn’t have relied upon them to form his opinions. But they were deemed historical dynamite by others around the world seeking to counter future Holocaust deniers. Though the trial was billed in the media as an epic battle of historians, Justice Gray made it clear at the outset that his task was not to determine what happened in Germany, Poland or Austria in the 1940s, but instead to hone in on questions of evidence that had bearing on whether the defendants were “justified,” in publishing what they did about Irving. But the High Court judge said plenty about the historical record during the two hours he spent delivering his ruling, which was in essence a passionate, powerful rebuke of Irving’s claims, as well as his overall character. Ever fair, Gray said, “as a military historian, Irving has much to commend him” and that he has left a legacy to other historians in his unearthing of many important documents. The judge allowed that a few statements made by Lipstadt in her book, such as that Irving has a self-portrait of Hitler over his desk, were not “justified” by the evidence. But otherwise, Gray’s comments were nothing but a searing indictment of Irving. Calling him a shameless Hitler partisan who “displays a distinctly pro-Nazi and anti-Jewish bias,” the judge said, “Irving has, for his own ideological reasons, persistently and deliberately manipulated historical evidence.” He said the defendants were “substantially justified” in their claims about him because Irving is “an active Holocaust denier, an anti-Semite and a racist” who “associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.” No significant legal precedents were set by the case or the verdict, which dealt primarily with questions of fact and evidence rather than of law. But its historical and political significance is mammoth. Immediately after Gray’s ruling was read, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center said the decision “definitively places Irving as a leading apologist for those who seek to whitewash the most heinous crime in human history.” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak sent Lipstadt his congratulations “in the name of Israel and all the Jewish people.” Irving, who had been pelted with a raw egg on his way into the courtroom, made no statement afterwards, and exited through a back door of the courthouse. Lipstadt was greeted outside by applause, cheers and swarms of well-wishers, including concentration camp survivors who thanked her. Moved to tears, Lipstadt said during her statement to the media: “I see this not as a personal victory, but also a victory for all those who speak out against hate and prejudice.” CREDIBILITY LOST The consensus among reputable scholars and historians is that whatever scintilla of credibility Irving had before the trial is gone. “The British High Court’s ruling reaffirms vigorously, and with impressive detail, the claims that credible people have made about the Holocaust, and it eviscerates many of the recurring irrational and unreasonable claims to the contrary,” says David Little, a professor of religion, ethnicity and international conflict at Harvard Divinity School. “The Holocaust was a defining moment in modern world history, and without it, we wouldn’t have the surge of concern over human rights, the revolution in world thinking about what harm authoritarian regimes may do, and what people may do, in the name of religious or ethnic superiority,” he observes. “Whether you’re looking at ethnic cleansing in Bosnia or South Africa, we must always face up to the fact that the Holocaust was the father of all of these atrocities. We can’t ever stop reaffirming the facts of what happened as we continue to struggle with why it happened. And those who would minimize and lie about the Holocaust, as Irving has, must be always be confronted.” Pending a hearing, Irving is expected to owe the defendants $3.2 million in legal fees. He has indicated that he likely will declare bankruptcy and that he’ll be forced to sell his flat in London’s fashionable Mayfair district, one of few remaining assets. But Irving, describing himself as “defeated but unbowed,” already was repositioning himself in the days after the verdict, bragging of his ability to “withstand” expert questioning. His web site, http://www.fpp.co.uk/, promotes a “Real History, U.S.A.” conference to be held in Cincinnati this fall, sponsored by his vanity publishing label, Focal Point Publications. That also includes verbatim trial transcripts, the judge’s ruling, ongoing world press coverage of the trial, and solicitations for donations to fund his appeal. Lipstadt acknowledged the case has been a thorn in her side for several years, and regrets that the wide exposure given to Irving during the trial may harden the currency of his ideas among his followers. But she dismisses the ongoing effort to put deniers and revisionists in their place as “pest control,” and a necessary evil of the work she has chosen. ATLANTAN HELPED LIBERATE CAMP Among those who appreciate her sacrifice is Bert Weston, 80, an Atlanta resident who helped liberate Ebensee, a concentration camp in Austria in 1945, as part of an Army medical unit. “This was a monstrous project that she undertook, and I’m proud of her for persevering,” he says. Weston, who is Jewish, recalls the rage he felt upon viewing the mass graves of thousands of Jews, and the suffering of the “living skeletons” who remained to choke down rations and recount what had happened to them. He saw the evidence that Irving denies ever existed-extermination ovens, charred human bones, and he heard first-person accounts of murders and cruelties committed by Nazi guards. An amateur photographer, he took thousands of photos of the camp, and his experience was recorded on videotape a year ago by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation project, which has recorded 50,000 survivor and witness accounts of the Holocaust. “It’s obscene that this kind of fastidious documentation is still necessary,” says Weston. “But there were deniers the world over, even while it was happening. So, I guess we can’t ever stop.” Lipstadt and Emory aren’t quite finished with documenting the Irving affair yet, either. The university is sponsoring a forum in September to discuss the trial, possibly featuring appearances by Rampton and Julius, her British barrister and solicitor. Lipstadt plans to write a book about the trial experience. Minkin, her local counsel who is now with Greenberg Traurig, says he is helping her to field offers for book publishing and movie deals that have come pouring in since the verdict was announced.

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