Denial

I bought this book after seeing the film of the same name. They describe the events surrounding a 1996 lawsuit, when historian David Irving accused Deborah Lipstadt, another historian, of libeling him as a Holocaust denier and bigot. Lipstadt won and Irving was discredited.

The film shows all this, and well, but it is a film and by its nature short; it can’t present all the twists and turns and arguments of a trial that lasted close to ten weeks. A viewer might, in fact, be forgiven for thinking that Irving lost because of one willful mis-translation of an order by Heinrich Himmler.

He didn’t of course, and this is where the strength of the book lies. Because Deborah Lipstadt describes it all: the initial accusation, the hiring of lawyers to fight her case and their research, and then the trial and the day-by-day testimonies: all the arguments, falsifications, mis-translations, evasions and obfuscations.

It might sound dry and dull. It isn’t. The whole account is extremely readable. And perhaps surprisingly, given her own involvement, calm and even-handed. She goes to great lengths to describe in detail the evidence that sank Irving’s accusations. She makes the case against him; she doesn’t just assume it.

It’s a fascinating account.

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