Significant Denial

Debra Lipstadt’s scholarly analysis of the Holocaust and its ugly denial industry in her prize-winning 1993 Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory spurred a libel suit by one of the chief soi-dixit “historians” of anti-Semitic and Nazi-affiliate lineage, the rancid David Irving.

The Irving v. Penguin Press Ltd trial not only caused a sensation in its natal Great Britain, but occasioned intense interest and shudders too in the United States, where Lipstadt lives and writes.

Historians, ethicists, and scholars alike feared the verdict, which could have cast a cruel shadow over future such cases and the reliability of history itself, were it to go in a direction that did not accord acknowledgment of the horrors to future investigators, remaining survivors, and their offspring.

Though there is only fact and history behind all Holocaust witness, there is now, as Lipstadt chronicles, a growing shelf of denial that threatens to increase as Endlösung witnesses die out.  The thesis of the book’s author is that such denial is simply pure anti-Semitic diatribe scarcely varnished by the not-even-gossamer of truth, veracity, or historicity.

Irving sought to diminish and denigrate the claim of six million dead, the genocidal intent on the part of the Nazis, and indeed the very existence of gas chambers in the infamous death camps kitted out by the Germans and their brethren haters.

It is painful to experience the trial at the start, where the barristers determine that testimony at trial from survivors and even Lipstadt herself would be deleterious to winning, rather than a help to the defense.  This runs contrary to what most people instinctively want, so the film generates a tension of continuous “Unfair!” that adds to the fine legal arguments on both sides that stretch the tension taut for the defendant.  Richard Evans’s brief played a major role in convicting Irving.

The sole criticism is that for some reason, Rachel Weisz, a practiced and attractive actor in so many films, effects an unpleasant and assertive flat “New York accent” that sounds unnatural and works against the viewer’s suspension of disbelief (although the film is completely based on real events).  Tom Wilkinson as peruked chief defense barrister Richard Rampton was a complete delight to watch and listen to as he made telling point after telling point.  As the scurrilous, self-proud Irving, Timothy Spall evokes the correct mix of appalled fear for truth and broad-based silent hisses for a contemporary villain in bespoke suiting.  The script is superior, matching the gravity of the subject matter.

For those unacquainted, somehow, with the bizarre dreck-specked cubbyhole of pseudo-historic absurdity that is Holocaust denial, the film works well to air their self-pitying hatreds, unquestioned antipathies, and rarely flinching rationalizations.

At our showing admittedly late on a weekday night there were only eight others in the audience.  Denial warrants wide attention and viewing, by adults, of course, but also by interested or open-minded teenagers fuzzy on some aspects of recent history.

Not incidentally, the neo-scam of attacking authors for true but uncomfortable coverage of sensitive topics is materially discouraged by such a lawsuit, largely propagated in England because of favorable legislation that permits nuisance suits of decent authors not even within the perimeters of the country.

On the obverse end, where the author of a book that cites facts uncomfortable to those cited in a work of nonfiction chooses to bankrupt the writer, our colleague Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, in 2008, won such a landmark case.  The field has become known in the literature as “libel tourism,” owing to Great Britain’s lenient court attitudes toward such groundless lawsuits, although Dr. Ehrenfeld never set foot in England, and very few copies of her excellent book, Funding Evil, were nominally sold in the country.  The law going forward that bars such pernicious libel charges is now known as “Rachel’s Law.”

One reason for publishing such obviously trumped up faux history is to make such odious fictionalizers appear to gullible observers as more scientific than they are.  Lipstadt is not alone in thinking that current value relativism nourishes Holocaust denial, as a recent unpleasant several days in a respected NYC college demonstrated, sadly, in matters closely aligned with these issues.

Among those also described as Holocaust fabricators in Lipstadt’s finely researched Denying the Holocaust are Paul Rassinier, Austin App, Arthur Butz, David Hoggan, Richard Verrall, Erst Zundel, Fred Leuchter, Bradley Smith, and Robert Faurisson.  For all these vitriol-spewers, Caveat lector.

Debra Lipstadt’s scholarly analysis of the Holocaust and its ugly denial industry in her prize-winning 1993 Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory spurred a libel suit by one of the chief soi-dixit “historians” of anti-Semitic and Nazi-affiliate lineage, the rancid David Irving.

The Irving v. Penguin Press Ltd trial not only caused a sensation in its natal Great Britain, but occasioned intense interest and shudders too in the United States, where Lipstadt lives and writes.

Historians, ethicists, and scholars alike feared the verdict, which could have cast a cruel shadow over future such cases and the reliability of history itself, were it to go in a direction that did not accord acknowledgment of the horrors to future investigators, remaining survivors, and their offspring.

Though there is only fact and history behind all Holocaust witness, there is now, as Lipstadt chronicles, a growing shelf of denial that threatens to increase as Endlösung witnesses die out.  The thesis of the book’s author is that such denial is simply pure anti-Semitic diatribe scarcely varnished by the not-even-gossamer of truth, veracity, or historicity.

Irving sought to diminish and denigrate the claim of six million dead, the genocidal intent on the part of the Nazis, and indeed the very existence of gas chambers in the infamous death camps kitted out by the Germans and their brethren haters.

It is painful to experience the trial at the start, where the barristers determine that testimony at trial from survivors and even Lipstadt herself would be deleterious to winning, rather than a help to the defense.  This runs contrary to what most people instinctively want, so the film generates a tension of continuous “Unfair!” that adds to the fine legal arguments on both sides that stretch the tension taut for the defendant.  Richard Evans’s brief played a major role in convicting Irving.

The sole criticism is that for some reason, Rachel Weisz, a practiced and attractive actor in so many films, effects an unpleasant and assertive flat “New York accent” that sounds unnatural and works against the viewer’s suspension of disbelief (although the film is completely based on real events).  Tom Wilkinson as peruked chief defense barrister Richard Rampton was a complete delight to watch and listen to as he made telling point after telling point.  As the scurrilous, self-proud Irving, Timothy Spall evokes the correct mix of appalled fear for truth and broad-based silent hisses for a contemporary villain in bespoke suiting.  The script is superior, matching the gravity of the subject matter.

For those unacquainted, somehow, with the bizarre dreck-specked cubbyhole of pseudo-historic absurdity that is Holocaust denial, the film works well to air their self-pitying hatreds, unquestioned antipathies, and rarely flinching rationalizations.

At our showing admittedly late on a weekday night there were only eight others in the audience.  Denial warrants wide attention and viewing, by adults, of course, but also by interested or open-minded teenagers fuzzy on some aspects of recent history.

Not incidentally, the neo-scam of attacking authors for true but uncomfortable coverage of sensitive topics is materially discouraged by such a lawsuit, largely propagated in England because of favorable legislation that permits nuisance suits of decent authors not even within the perimeters of the country.

On the obverse end, where the author of a book that cites facts uncomfortable to those cited in a work of nonfiction chooses to bankrupt the writer, our colleague Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, in 2008, won such a landmark case.  The field has become known in the literature as “libel tourism,” owing to Great Britain’s lenient court attitudes toward such groundless lawsuits, although Dr. Ehrenfeld never set foot in England, and very few copies of her excellent book, Funding Evil, were nominally sold in the country.  The law going forward that bars such pernicious libel charges is now known as “Rachel’s Law.”

One reason for publishing such obviously trumped up faux history is to make such odious fictionalizers appear to gullible observers as more scientific than they are.  Lipstadt is not alone in thinking that current value relativism nourishes Holocaust denial, as a recent unpleasant several days in a respected NYC college demonstrated, sadly, in matters closely aligned with these issues.

Among those also described as Holocaust fabricators in Lipstadt’s finely researched Denying the Holocaust are Paul Rassinier, Austin App, Arthur Butz, David Hoggan, Richard Verrall, Erst Zundel, Fred Leuchter, Bradley Smith, and Robert Faurisson.  For all these vitriol-spewers, Caveat lector.