44 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2005
Professor Lipstadt's account of her trial for libel brought by disgraced writer David Irving manages to be full of suspense even though I knew what the judgement was. She describes the origins of the lawsuit, the months of build-up to the trial, the trial itself, and the judgement, which vindicated her of libel, and showed David Irving to be more than a Holocaust denier, but a liar and anti-semite amongst other things. The fear that although they might win, she and Penguin books would not win absolutely, is well described. I did not find Lipstadt to be humorless, just serious about what were a harrowing few years of her life. The pace of the book is excellent, it is well written and clear, and the insights into the difference between English and American law are thought-provoking. The book also shows that the British "old-boy" system is still alive and well for some people, notably Keegan with his odious writing in the Daily Telegraph, but refreshingly not so in the defence's team nor in the judge. The reactions from survivors and plain Brits - taxi drivers, restaurant patrons, hotel employees, are a heart-warming counter to this. Professor Lipstadt is remarkably restrained in her descriptions of Irving, merely letting his words and actions, as well as the judgement, get across what he is like, which is quite sufficient.
There is a lot to learn from this book, not least importantly that one must be very careful about believing what one reads in newspapers and books. Many of the journalists writing about the trial made basic mistakes and put them in print, and the C-Span debacle has made it clear that even when money is not a motive, a tv channel purporting to be independent of ratings may want to entertain rather than inform.
31 of 41 people found the following review helpful
definitely a quick and entertaining read. I started reading when I got on a bus at 1 PM, and finished the book at about 6 or 7 (despite napping for an hour or so in the middle of a journey).
Other reviewers have adequately discussed this book's coverage of the Irving/Lipstadt trial: but I was also interested in learning about the toll litigation can take on the time and energy of even a victorious party.
After reading this book, I am definitely more supportive than before of American libel law (which typically places the burden of proof on the plaintiff to show falsity, and provides that public figures can only recover if they show that their opponent was truly reckless): Britian's pro-plaintiff libel law, by encouraging libel suits, caused both Mr. Irving and Ms. Lipstadt to subject themselves to levels of scrutiny that I suspect few scholarly reputations could survive.
One minor point: I wish Lipstadt had included some of the relevant documents (in particular, Irving's initial complaint) in the appendix so readers could follow exactly what the parties needed to prove.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2007
After the trial was over an editorial cartoon appeared in the Daily Telegraph that showed a man holding up a book entitled "That Libel Trial Never Happened", by David Irving. After reading about the trial you can easily picture Mr. Irving making such a denial. Deborah Lipstadt was involved in a libel suit brought against her by David Irving who claimed his character was defamed by her calling him, in essence, a Holocaust denier.
The book gives us a courtroom seat for the entire trial in which Irving represented himself. While Ms. Lipstadt exhibited anxiety about the outcome, the reader of the book will probably be shaking his/her head at what seemed to be a total farce. Mr. Irving was constantly confronted with inaccuracies, incorrect data, and suppression of important facts in the books that he wrote. His response most frequently was that he had made innocent mistakes, that he was up late working and in his tired state he made trivial mistakes. He made many speeches to ultra right wing groups, and denied that he knew anything about the organizations. He denied that he was racist, and stated that he had hired "colored" people, and then talked in a belittling way about them.
The judge decides in favor of Ms. Lipstadt, and soundly criticizes Mr. Irving, although he does make a few favorable remarks about him at the very beginning of his long decision. Mr. Irving made three appeals of the decision, all of which were denied.
The book is well written and quite suspenseful even though you know how it will end. It is also interesting to read some of the other reviews of this book which are obviously written by other holocaust deniers. One reviewer presents only the initial positive remarks of the judge, and seems to be a denier of the bulk of the very long decision. One other reviewer comments that this book brings nothing new to the story and mentions two other books, one by Professor Evans who testified at the trial. Admittedly if you have read these books first Ms. Lipstadt's might seem superfluous, but I thought this book was excellent, and highly recommend it.
British libel trials are interesting affairs that are in direct contrast to American libel laws. If you find this book as fascinating as I did you might want to read this book:
"McLibel: Burger Culture on Trial" by John Vidal. This book is about a libel suit brought by McDonalds against a couple of ordinary citizens who passed out leaflets that were critical of the McDonald's operation. It is an interesting coverage of a trial that turned out to be the longest libel trial in British history.
26 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Want a true life legal thriller that reads like fiction? Want a plot so outlandish that it is hard to remember that it is real? Something that will make you think, laugh, get angry, and make you proud, all in the same story?
Well, here it is. This is an acocunt of the case whereby Deborah Lipstadt was asked to prove in a British court of law that the Holocaust happened!
The plaintiff: David Irving - a British historian who makes claims such as that no gassings took place in Auschwitz and that Hitler was unaware of the "final solution." The defendant: Deborah Lipstadt - an American historian sued by Irving for writing a book that, in its pages, takes Irving to task for practicing bad history. Irving sued for libel and, per the backwards legal system of Britian, put the burden of proof on Lipstadt to prove that libel DID NOT occur. The only way to do this? Prove that the things Irving has said about the Holocaust are not only untrue, but that Irving willfully distorted the facts. She must, in other words, prove the Holocaust.
This book is Lipstadt's first-hand account of the trial. In so reading, we gradually witness Irving's "history" being held under a microscope by various witnesses who meticulously demonstrate Irving's less-than-honest methods of "history." We watch how Irving quotes only very select passages from documents (and not others), mistranslates words, phrases, and dates, discredits disfavorable evidence as bogus (while being all too ready to accept more 'favorable' evidence without question), etc.
What this all leads to is one doozy of a circumstantial case that Irving's "mistakes and errors" were deliberate misrepresentations. As the prosecution liked to put it, mistakes are mistakes, but when 500 mistakes all move towards one and only one conclusoion - exculpation of Hitler - one can be sure that they are "calculated mistakes." (At one comically sad point in the book, historian Richard Evans says something to this effect whiloe being cross-examined by Irving. Irving, seemingly oblivious to the indictment, comments something like, "You mean, like a waiter who consistently gives back wrong change, always in his favor?" He had no idea he was indicting himself!)
The book is of interest, then, in two different ways. First, it is strangly entertaiing for such a grave subject. (The Scopes trial has nohting on Irving/Lipstadt.)Lipstadt does a great job telling the story. Second, it is of interest to all who care about history. We get to see how history is done, and how history is not to be done. In so many words, we witness the difference between academic historians and con-artistic ideologues.
As this trial recieved remarkably scant attention in the states, it is fun to read of what was a "front page" trial in Britian. We had OJ - they had Irving v. Lipstadt. So, if you are ever in a position to read a gripping true-life courtroom drama, skip the books on the OJ trial, and read Lipstadt's "History on Trial." The truth IS stranger than fiction (even the fiction David Irving calls the truth.)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2014
This is one of the most gripping courtroom dramas I ever read, and I have read it a number of times.
Deborah Lipstadt, an Emory University professor, wrote a book, "Denying the Holocaust," ripping the lid off of critters who distort one history's most horrific episodes of genocide and organized slaughter, turning it upside down, presenting it as a hoax, making the victims into blood-sucking liars and the perpetrators into innocents or heroes. The purpose of denying the Holocaust, of course, is to make Nazism a legitimate political force and continue Jew-hating. Remove the Holocaust, and Nazism goes from being a genocidal sadistic kleptomania to a tough, rough, but viable form of ethnic nationalism, which builds good roads and fights Communism.
After Professor Lipstadt published her book, one of the people she assailed (almost in passing), Englishman David Irving, whose career as a historian was on the downswing because of his open support of Holocaust denial, sued Prof. Lipstadt. Irving did so in a British court, which places a heavy burden on defendants -- they have to prove the plaintiff is wrong, instead of the plaintiff having to prove he is right.
As matters turned out, Prof. Lipstadt whupped Irving pretty effectively. She assembled a crack team of historians, who presented reports that ripped Irving's research and knowledge of history bloody. Her barrister, Richard Rampton, tore Irving apart on the witness stand. At the end, the judge ruled for the defendants, shredding Irving's reputation as a historian, calling him a liar and a racist.
Prof. Lipstadt's book is a fascinating, well-written account of her side of the trial, and three aspects of it jump out at the reader: one is the meticulousness with which she defended her right to free speech. (Irving offered to drop the suit for a $650 payment to a charity for disabled sailors and soldiers, as long as she and her publisher apologized and pulped the book. Prof. Lipstadt wasn't going to do that. Irving later used his "offer" as proof that he was being a nice guy, and the trial was all her fault.) Instead of buckling, Prof. Lipstadt assembled a team that said the simple thing: Irving was indeed a liar and a bully.
The second aspect was the emotional ordeal Prof. Lipstadt went through through the trial, which alternated between the horrific (cross-examination about how Auschwitz worked) and the bizarre (cross-examination about Irving's links to neo-Nazis who insist that modern dancing be banned in favor of jigs and polkas) and the surreal (Irving addressing the judge as "Mein Fuhrer"). It was an immense struggle for Prof. Lipstadt, who often was physically and mentally exhausted by the stress. I cannot even begin to imagine how she held up. Knowing that you're on the side of truth is not enough.
The third aspect was the bizarre nature of Irving's case -- throughout the text are her comments and those of her solicitor and barrister as to the strange stuff that Irving was spouting or including as evidence. The theory of his case was that Prof. Lipstadt was the pointed tip of a Jewish spear designed to destroy his reputation as a historian, but he did a fatuous job of doing so. The best he could do was produce a nutty California professor who said "Jews stick together to create chaos." Prof. Lipstadt's side didn't even bother to cross-examine him.
Irving also produced the highly esteemed British military historian Sir John Keegan, and didn't even bother to prep him, let alone meet him. Keegan took the stand and said, "I'm here under subpoena, and think your idea that Hitler didn't know of the Holocaust is absurd and defies common sense." Irving tried to then impeach his own witness, failed, and Sir John was dismissed.
In between, Irving did odd things, like present the plans for the PoW camp at Colditz, which showed a delousing shed, which somehow proved that Auschwitz "deloused" prisoners, not murder them. He also ridiculed the defense for not having a black lawyer on its team, while denouncing the BBC for having Sir Trevor MacDonald broadcasting the news (Sir Trevor is black), and saying he (Irving) had black female staffers, "who have very nice breasts." Sometimes he came off as a pompous clown. He was most upset that he could not have his Darrow-Bryan moment of confronting Prof. Lipstadt on the stand, and presumably playing the role of Clarence Darrow, hoping he could break a Jewish woman into tears and confession a la Perry Mason.
Oddly, I've read American analyses of Irving's case, and he could very easily have done better in an American courtroom. Irving, being ignorant of American law, misunderstood the Sullivan decision, and could have sued Prof. Lipstadt there. He could have hired an American lawyer on contingency to handle the case (better than Irving), and sat Prof. Lipstadt across from him during discovery to grill her about his theory that Prof. Lipstadt was the point of a Jewish conspiracy, and even cross-examined her.
Ironically, Irving's prime argument, that the Holocaust didn't happen, would not have probably flown in American courtroom. An American judge would likely have simply tossed it, saying that was taking "judicial notice" that the Holocaust happened, and the only question would be Irving proving that Prof. Lipstadt had falsely and/or maliciously libeled him.
But I don't think that Irving actually sued Prof. Lipstadt to win money or push Holocaust denial...he wasn't doing too well as a one-man book publishing enterprise, was getting negative publicity, couldn't sell his strange books too well, so he figured that by suing Prof. Lipstadt (and hopefully, winning), he could get back into the spotlight he craves, get taken seriously as a serious historian again, and sell his books. He actually did get that -- he got a lot of media interviews after the trial was over, and his catastrophic closing argument was more aimed at shoring up and impressing his supporters than winning over the judge.
But in the end, he drew more ridicule than applause, and many of his confreres in anti-Semitism were annoyed that he didn't call them to testify as "experts on his behalf. Instead of being known as a "great" historian, he's universally described as a "disgraced" or "racist" historian.
Prof. Lipstadt writes movingly and powerfully of this incredible struggle for truth and emotional ordeal, with rigor, gravitas, humor, and restraint. She showed incredible courage and determination in the face of vicious cynicism, hypocrisy, and raw evil. Hers is a book that should be read now and for all time.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2014
This is a book about the libel trial of David Irving (Hitler's War) vs Deborah E.Lipstadt (Denying the Holocaust)
In her work, Denying the Holocaust, Miss Lipstadt had exposed David Irving as a 'Holocaust denier' that is one who denies the fact that the Holocaust was a real historical event. That there was a systematic attempt to wipe out the Jews in Europe, that approx 6 million were killed.
She did this in a matter of fact manner, since, as she believed, Mr. Iriving's views were so clear on the subject it wasn't an issue of controversy. She was thus, shocked when she found that Mr. Irving had sued her and Penguin books for libel.
Mr. Irving, took Miss Lipstadt to court in England, where the burden of proof of libel is on the defendent, so defending oneself can be quite daunting and exhausting.
Mr. Irving had often used threats of libel lawsuits to intimiate other authors, who would often just back down rather than go through the trouble of fighting a costly law case.
However, Miss Libstadt and Penguin books, were made of firmer stuff.
Recognizing the threat to the very history of the Holocaust itself, Miss Lipstadt gathered the best legal minds to defend her.
The Jewish community also saw the threat that David Irving's charges represented and rallied around Lipstadt.
What follows is a case in which truth itself is on trial.
The Defense lawyers are dedicated and brillant. David Irving, who was his own defense attorney, clever and ruthless.
The battlefield was the historical reality of the murder of 6 million men, women and children, whose only 'crime' was being Jewish.
Was the Holocaust real? was it exaggerated? Was Hilter responsible for it?
This case would render a verdict on these questions, a verdict that could have devastating consequences to the history of the Holocaust.
And a single judge would make that decision.
The book is brillantly written by Miss Lipstadt, as she is able to make the reader feel he is sitting in the court witnessing this battle between titans.
The reader watches in admiration as the Defense team rises to each challange and exposes lie after lie that Mr. Irving brings forth, showing that his 'history' had an agenda rooted in anti-semitism, and he had no qualms about changing, omitting or twisting any fact that didn't meet that agenda.
This is history at it's finest, a story of individual people rising to face a crises, a war that none of them wanted to fight, but in doing so, found out what was in themselves.
It was a battle that had to fought and won for those 6 million who must never be forgotten.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2013
I have read this book every last page. Once I started, I could not put it down. I intend to read it again, after I read the books written by the witnesses and read all 2,700 pages of the trial transcript. I can appreciate her not understanding, at times, what her legal team is trying to do. I also praise her for her stance on not debating with deniers. It has been shown their arguments do not stand up to any kind of scrutiny and do not fair well in a court of law. What keeps them going? What I really got from the book is the links between the deniers and antisemitism. I have read the other reviews of this book and I would be willing and talk to anyone about their views, were it not for the name calling of those who game this book two stars and lower. Name calling and gender-specific anatomical references usually indicate some other reverse bias. If you are an antisemitic, then take your foul language elsewhere. Above all else, I urge people to find the facts for themselves. Go to your local library and read and read and make up your own mind. People who read your reviews can tell when you are being pulled around by your nose.
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
In 1993 Deborah Lipstadt published a book on Holocaust Denial that called David Irving, a man who was respected as a Hitler scholar, a Holocaust denier. In response David Irving sued Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin, for libel. Deborah and her team (Richard Rampton, Anthony Julius, James Libson, Heather, Michaela, Richard Evans, Robert Jan van Pelt, Christopher Bowning, Peter Longerich and Hajo Funke) mounted a vigorous defense. To prevent Deborah Lipstadt's book from being taken off the shelves, they had to prove that Irving was a racist and a liar who denied the Holocaust because he hates Jews and admires Hitler. This is the story of how they proved their case.
It is a page-turner of a story. It is an engrossing account of court-room drama and, at the same time, a wonderful story of how historical research ought to be done. What it is not is an "even and balanced account" which gives Lipstadt's "side" and Irving's "side" equal airtime. It is not the book's intention to be that; it is a deeply personal and passionate book and an attempt to briefly document that Irving was a liar and that his work is composed of malicious lies. And it is this moral clarity that (above all) makes this book so valuable and so engrossing.
Which is not to say that the book is without its faults. Deborah Lipstadt states often how difficult it was for her to say farewell to her team. The last two chapters of this book (unfortunately) bear this out. For they are (in essence) a prolonged and fond farewell to her team. Reading them reminded me of the many (slightly awkward) occasions when friends and relatives and I stood at the door, making awkward small-talk because we had to leave but didn't want to. Had Deborah Lipstadt compressed those two chapters into one, this book would have (in my opinion) been much better.
Despite this one minor flaw, I heartily recommend this work to anyone interested in one of the most important cases of our time.
26 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2005
There are varying degrees of published untruth. One can accidentally cite what turns out to be a lie that has slipped into the international information supply. One can simply "forget" to search through works that might refute one's thesis. One can cite dubious claims, recklessly disregarding the inconsistencies between them and plenty of other information. But in the case of David Irving, the problem is fraud, where there is actual falsification of the historical record.
Now, any work can be used in part to taunt others. But it seems to me that in the case of denying what happened to so many Jews in World War II, a primary goal must be to taunt people. Too many people are too aware of the truth for deceit to be the whole plan. The liars know they are lying, and they know that many others know it as well.
So I wondered what would happen in this trial. Could liars truly get away with anything? And the answer in this case was no.
It's important to realize that David Irving was not the defendant in some sort of case to censor his lies. If that had been the situation, some folks would have raised issues of freedom of speech. However, Irving was actually suing Lipstadt for defamation. If anyone's right to free speech was threatened, it was Lipstadt's.
As one who strongly opposes antischolarly lies, I found this book very interesting. And I was not surprised to see how bad an impression Irving made in court. After Irving lost, even the Guardian had as a headline, "Irving: Confined to History as a Racist Liar."
Lipstadt explains that the actual falsifiers of history are not the issue. "Though the battle against our opponents is exceptionally important, the opponents themselves are not. Their arguments make as much sense as flat-earth theory. However, in dramatic contrast to flat-earthers, they can cause tremendous pain and damage." And we see some of that in the reactions of some of the survivors of death camps.
I wondered if Lipstadt would make any mention of the stunning number of lies that are in print about the Middle East. She did. Lipstadt naturally mentioned Holocaust denial on the part of Mahmoud Abbas and Abdel Aziz Rantisi. But she also noted, um, Nobel Laureate Yasir Arafat's denial of any connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. As well as the incresed status of various blood libel myths and the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." In addition, she explains that one of Arafat's fellow Nobel Laureates, Jose Saramago, compared Arabs in the Levant with Jews at Auschwitz. And that Tom Paulin called Yeshan Jews "Nazis and racists" who "ought to be shot dead."
Now, what is to be done with the liars? Must they be refuted? Lipstadt says yes. And she says it is important to leave them dressed "in the jester's costume." I agree. At some point, the entire scholarly endeavor of our civilization will be in jeopardy if we can't pass proper judgment on such absurd lies.
I recommend this book.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2011
This is a very well written, detailed account of a court case in which a person, who writes and speaks positively about Hitler and denies that the Holocaust took place, sues for libel an American historian who has written accurately about him. It deals with fears (from the American historian's perspective)that come with facing a trial and the strength of the good people who are doing the "right thing". I think it is an important book because of the terrible history (man's inhumanity) that is reviewed and, as important, the necessary reminder of the extremes some people will go to distort history and the truth. It is a good reminder that decent people can not standby when others do harm.