Synopses & Reviews
In 1993, Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of Jewish Studies at Emory University, published the first comprehensive history of the Holocaust denial movement. In this critically acclaimed account, Lipstadt called David Irving a prolific, respected, and well-known writer on World War II who had, over the years, made controversial statements about Hitler and the Jews one of the most dangerous spokespersons of the denial movement. A year later, when Irving sued Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin UK, for libel in a London courtroom, the media spotlight fell on Deborah Lipstadt and, by extension, on the historiography of the Holocaust. Five years later, when David Irving lost his case after an intense ten-week trial, Lipstadt's resounding victory was proclaimed on front pages of newspapers worldwide. The implications of the trial, however, were far from over.
History on Trial is Deborah Lipstadt's personal, riveting chronicle of the legal battle with Irving, in which she went from a relatively quiet existence as a professor at an American university to being a defendant in a sensational libel case. This blow-by-blow account reveals how Lipstadt raised $1.5 million for her defense, which included a first-rate team of solicitors, historians, and experts, among them Anthony Julius, a literary scholar who is better known as the late Princess Diana's divorce lawyer. Lipstadt describes how in forced silence she endured Irving's relentless provocations, including his claims that more people died in Senator Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, that survivors tattooed numbers on their arms to make money, and that nonwhite people are a different "species." She also reveals how her lawyers gained access to Irving's personal papers, which exposed his association with neo-Nazi extremists in Germany, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and the National Alliance, which wants to transform America into an "Aryan society." In the course of the trial, Lipstadt's legal team stripped away Irving's mask of respectability through exposing the prejudice, extremism, and distortion of history that defined his work, even his once highly regarded account of the Dresden bombing.
Part history, part edge-of-your-seat courtroom drama, History on Trial goes beyond the historiography of World War II and the Holocaust to reveal the intricate way in which extremism and deliberate historical distortions gain widespread legitimacy and help generate hatred. An inspiring personal story of perseverance and unexpected limelight, here is the definitive account of the trial that tested the standards for historical and judicial truths, a trial that the Daily Telegraph of London proclaimed did "for the new century what the Nuremberg tribunals or the Eichmann trial did for earlier generations."
"In a much-publicized case, David Irving, the author of numerous books about WWII, sued Emory University historian Lipstadt and her British publisher, Penguin, for libel. Lipstadt had called Irving a Holocaust denier in a book about the Holocaust denial movement, and Britain's libel laws put the burden of proof on her to show that the charge was true. Did that mean proving the Holocaust had happened? Was Lipstadt, as Irving claimed, trying to restrict his freedom of speech, or was he restraining hers? Was the courtroom the proper place to examine historical truth? The press hotly debated these issues, but as Lipstadt relates in this powerful account, she and her adept lawyers felt they simply had to discredit a man who had said that 'no documents whatsoever show that a Holocaust had ever happened.' In 2000, Judge Charles Gray decided in Lipstadt's favor, finding it 'incontrovertible' that Irving was a Holocaust denier. The drama of the book lies in the courtroom confrontations between an evasive and self-contradictory Irving (serving as his own lawyer) and Lipstadt's strategically brilliant barrister, Richard Rampton, and the scholars who testified in her defense. Lipstadt herself is a reluctant heroine, a feisty, outspoken woman forced to remain silent (she did not testify in court) and let her lawyers speak for her. No one who cares about historical truth, freedom of speech or the Holocaust will avoid a sense of triumph from Gray's decision or a sense of dismay that British libel laws allowed such intimidation by Irving of a historian and a publisher in the first place." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A fascinating and meritorious work of legal and moral history." Kirkus Reviews (Starred)
"Fascinating....[Lipstadt] takes us into the moment and produces a courtroom drama as enthralling as any fictional one." San Jose Mercury News
"Lipstadt gives a detailed account of the trial that never loses its suspense, readability or momentum. Or humor." Salon.com
"History on Trial is not the first book about the case....But Lipstadts story is more personal, compelling and intriguing." San Francisco Chronicle
"A well-paced, expertly detailed and fascinating account of the trial process." Washington Post Book World
"Deborah Lipstadt is writing for us. And for the ages." Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Immensely readable....History on Trial restores ones faith in the power of good scholarship." Washington Times
"[F]ive years after crushing Irving in a British court, Deborah Lipstadt has provided her own account of her ordeal in History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving
. Hers is the most detailed account of the trial yet, and the most crazy-making. It isn't Lipstadt who drives you nuts it's Irving....Due, I'm guessing, to her discipline as a historian an ability to follow an argument, to provide evidence along the way, to quickly seize upon contradiction and prevarication Lipstadt gives a detailed account of the trial that never loses its suspense, readability or momentum." Charles Taylor, Salon.com
(read the entire Salon.com review
About the Author
Deborah E. Lipstadt is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies and director of the Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University. She is the author of Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory.