It’s been ten years but historian Deborah Lipstadt still relishes her victory in the libel suit brought by Holocaust denier David Irving in London.
Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, recalled her harrowing court experience at a Yom Hashoa commemoration Saturday at Young Israel of Hillcrest in Queens. President Kevin Leifer said more than 400 people packed the sanctuary for the event, which was sponsored by New York State Assemblyman Rory Lancman.
Rabbi Richard Weiss introduced Lipstadt as the author of "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory," in which she identified Irving as a prominent Holocaust denier. Irving sued when the book was published in the United Kingdom.
The golden haired Lipstadt, looking professorial in a black pant suit, said she had felt at a disadvantage.
"In the UK," she explained, "the libel law is stacked in favor of the one who sues." British law compelled her to prove that she was telling the truth (unlike the U.S. where the one who sues must prove his claim).
"I couldn’t understand why I needed to go to trial to prove that the Holocaust happened. Do you have to prove that World War II happened? That the Korean War happened?"
Friends got her a lawyer named Anthony Julius, who had published a book on T.S. Eliot and anti-Semitism. He was also Princess Diana’s lawyer. They assured her he was smart, clever and may do it pro bono.
Lipstadt was elated. "Tony had all the qualities that appealed to me: smart, clever and pro bono."
The court was packed with reporters. Irving, representing himself, relished the opportunity to lecture to an eager audience. He even engaged the journalists outside, which was forbidden by the court. "He’s an egomaniac," Lipstadt said.
Lipstadt said that in his verdict the judge condemned Irving as an active Holocaust denier, anti-Semite and racist who perverts the truth and lies deliberately.
Lipstadt’s American friends and supporters were so happy they hugged and kissed her. The Brits just said, "Well done, madam, well done."
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