What I Learned from Deborah Lipstadt Tara Loughery '18
Growing up, I have always learned about the Holocaust in school, so in my mind it is historical fact. It shocks me that anyone could ever question its occurrence. There is overwhelming proof in documentation, evidence from camps, and survivors themselves. Anyone who denies this evidence must either be incompetent or sadistic. Either way, people like that having any literary merit or hold in the academic world is extremely dangerous, just as Dr. Lipstadt wrote in her first book, specifically mentioning David Irving. She was totally justified in calling him out for what he is: a Holocaust denier and anti-Semitist. I can understand why he sued her for saying these things though, because insane, narcissistic people often can't handle hearing the truth about themselves.
Dr. Lipstadt spoke before an audience of W&L students, faculty and staff, as well as members of the Lexington/Rockbridge Community in the Stackhouse Theater. Her talk was co-sponsored by the German Law Journal, JLSA (the Jewish Law Students Association) and the W&L History Department. Photo by Kevin Remington.
Going to trial to fight Irving was very brave on her part. It was also very necessary, because to let him win would serve as a confirmation of his position, which would devastate all of those who suffered as a result of the Holocaust. It was great that so many people came to support her, and I think that alone shows how seriously dangerous David Irving could be, because clearly all of these people saw the importance is Professor Lipstadt winning. It was smart of her to not put Holocaust survivors on the stand. She was right that her strategy should not be to prove the Holocaust happened, but rather to prove that David Irving denies it. As she said, to prove that it happened would mean that it was in question in the first place.
Winning the trial was a major victory and likely a huge relief to Professor Lipstadt as well. It was fantastic that she won, but I didn't see how she could lose. Irving was clearly in the wrong. I personally don't think that even Irving believes the things he writes. He knows the Holocaust happened, because when faced with circumstances where he lied, he acknowledged that Lipstadt's evidence was correct and he simply "made a mistake". He knows the truth but he is just so twisted and evil that he wants to use his position of power to make those of lesser intelligence and mental malleability believe that it didn't. In this way he will be able to gain followers in the same way that Hitler did when he convinced everyone that Jewish people were inherently evil. In America we don't have laws to prohibit people from denying the Holocaust because that would impede freedom of speech. I think that's how it should be here, but I can't say that I am sorry that Irving had to serve time for his ludicrous reinvention of history.
Dr. Lipstadt pictured with the Horn family, David Horn, Dr. Eva Horn and Dr. Mark Horn, who sponsored this event. Photo by Kevin Remington.
My favorite part of the lecture was at the end, when Dr. Lipstadt read the letters people wrote her to thank her for what she did. They were all very moving and really captured the significance of what she accomplished. She protected the families of millions of people who were affected by the Holocaust and honored the memories of lost loved ones. She also protected the reputation of women everywhere by defying Irving's expectation that she would simply accept being wrong because women can't fight. She is an extremely intelligent and powerful woman and I truly respect her for what she has done for the Jewish community, as well as the world as a whole. People like David Irving must be stopped.