In 1996, David Irving filed suit in England against Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin Books, charging that she libeled him in her book Denying the Holocaust, because she characterized some of his writings and public statements as Holocaust denial. Using the justification defense, Dr. Lipstadt, Penguin and their defense team demonstrated that what she wrote about Irving was substantially true and therefore not libelous.
The case reverberated around the world and Dr. Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, was lauded for shining light on the Holocaust denial movement.
Keneseth Israel is bringing Dr. Lipstadt to Louisville on Thursday, November 10. At 6 p.m., KI will host a VIP meet and greet for the distinguished professor, and at 7, Dr. Lipstadt will speak at an open community event about her book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, and the new movie, Denial, that is based on the book.
The community event is free. The cost of the meet and greet is $54 per person, and will include a signed copy of History on Trial. Proceeds from the meet and greet will go to the Ilse Meyer and Ernie Marx Education Fund, which supports a biannual trip for local teachers to visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum and helps them bring Holocaust education to life in the classroom. The value of the book is $18 and is not tax-deductible. RSVP by Monday, November 7, at www.jewishlouisville.org/lipstadt or contact Yonatan Yussman at 502-459-2780.
In addition, there will be a private screening of Denial at the Baxter Avenue Theatres on Sunday, October 30, at 10 a.m. Tickets, which will be available at the door, are $5 per person and seating limited.
“To me, this is personal,” said Keneseth Israel President Scott Weinberg. “I was in her class at the time she was served with the papers, so I distinctly remember her talking about receiving the papers when I was in class with her.”
Throughout the ordeal, she showed resilience and determination. “If it weren’t such a compelling story,” he added, “it wouldn’t have been made into the major motion picture.
“It is particularly relevant today,” he continued, “when we have people on both sides of the political aisle who confuse fact with opinion. You can have opinions, but can’t treat opinions as fact.”
Lipstadt is a preeminent Holocaust educator. At Emory she created the Institute for Jewish Studies and was its first director from 1998-2008. She directs the website known as HDOT [Holocaust Denial on Trial] which, in addition to cataloging legal and evidentiary materials from David Irving v. Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt, contains answers to frequent claims made by deniers.
Lipstadt was an historical consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and helped design the section of the Museum dedicated to the American Response to the Holocaust. She was appointed by President Clinton to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council on which she served two terms. She was a member of its Executive Committee of the Council and chaired the Educational Committee and Academic Committee of the Holocaust Museum.
Her three other books are The Eichman Trial, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, and Beyond Belief: The America Press and the Coming of the Holocaust. She is frequently called upon by the media to comment on a variety of matters.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs awarded her its highest honor, the Albert D. Chernin Award given to “an American Jew whose work best exemplifies the social justice imperatives of Judaism, Jewish history and the protection of the Bill of Rights, particularly the First Amendment.” Previous winners included Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Professor Alan Dershowitz. She has received many other accolades, too.
“Wherever she goes,” Weinberg added, “her talks draw capacity crowds. We are lucky to have her in our community, particularly so close to the release of her movie.
“At Emory,” Weinberg said, “her classes at Emory were always full. I had a small seminar with her of about eight students, and we studied the Holocaust and the American media.”
While he was a student, Weinberg served as president of Emory’s Hillel and from time to time turned to Lipstadt as a resource. “She was helpful when issues would come up like confronting anti-Semitic speakers on campus. She was always willing to give her time. She is passionate about the community; she is passionate about the students; she is passionate about the Holocaust.
“Everyone who attends this event will come away with great admiration for Dr. Lipstadt as a person, for what she went through and for what she’s done for the Jewish community.”
This program was made possible by a grant from the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence and with support from the Jewish Federation of Louisville.