I’m studying for my History class and need an explanation.
This is a role-playing assignment based on a true story. You are an expert on the Holocaust.You have been asked to advise historian Deborah Lipstadt, the author of Denying the Holocaust, who has received some unwanted attention in the form of a multi-million dollar lawsuit brought against her in England by British historian David Irving. In her book, Lipstadt labeled Irving a Holocaust denier, indeed a particularly “dangerous” Holocaust denier because, unlike virtually all other deniers, Irving has some academic credibility.Irving believes that he is a legitimate historian (although he does not have a degree in the subject) and his books, like Hitler’s War and Churchill’s War, have received academic attention. He speaks and reads German, and he has used primary German sources to which few other scholars had access.Believing that his reputation as a historian has been tarnished by Lipstadt, he has sued her for libel.
Irving has also challenged Lipstadt to show that the Holocaust had actually occurred.Using a “revisionist” approach, he has argued that there was no intent by Hitler to kill Jews and no actual Nazi policy to exterminate the Jewish people; there was no order given by Hitler or anyone else to annihilate the Jews; and there were no extermination gas chambers used to kill Jews and others. Therefore there was no Holocaust, at least as commonly portrayed.
Irving has stated that, “There were never any gas chambers at Auschwitz.”In a speech delivered in 1991, he said that “I don’t see any reason to be tasteful about Auschwitz.It’s baloney.It’s a legend…”Irving does admit that Jews were “enemies of the state” and that they were transported to the East to work in slave labor camps like Auschwitz, but they were not exterminated.Some Jews were treated brutally and shot, but not gassed, according to Irving.He cites the Leuchter Report as demonstrating that the so-called “gas chambers” could not have been used to kill people. Therefore he believes that perhaps a few hundred thousand Jews may have died during World War II, but nowhere near the 6 million usually cited.And their deaths were not the result of a deliberate genocidal policy by the German government under Nazi control; instead they were due to wartime shortages of food and medicine that were endured by everyone on the German side at the end of the war. People died of disease and deprivation as the Germans were losing the war, not genocidal intent. According to Irving’s research, the Holocaust as it is usually conceived never happened.
Is this just a publicity stunt by Irving, an amusing legal sideshow? Apparently not. Irving is serious, and the stakes are high.If he loses the case, he could be financially ruined and no reputable publisher would touch his work.If Lipstadt loses, the same would be true for her and her work. More important, the Holocaust — the best documented genocide of the 20th century — would be discredited. The results of seventy five years of accumulated knowledge about the Nazis and the Third Reich, including numerous war crimes trials, would be thrown into historical limbo.
Lipstadt faces two questions. One question is whether she should go to trial or settle out-of-court? Some of Lipstadt’s advisors recommend settling out-of-court, but other advisors believe that would be a mistake. They say Irving is a Holocaust denier and that Lipstadt can win the trial. But will truth really prevail over clever legal argumentation? Second, should the case go to trial, can she, her lawyers, and a team of expert witnesses demonstrate to the satisfaction of a court of law that the Holocaust occurred? Was there a genocidal policy that led to millions of deaths? Did the gas chambers exist, and were they used to annihilate Jews and others?
Given these issues, would you advise Lipstadt to seek an out-of-court settlement or go to trial? And suppose that Lipstadt does go to trial.How would you demonstrate that the Holocaust occurred and that Irving and other deniers are wrong?Is there evidence that will convince a judge that the Holocaust is not a “myth”, as deniers argue, but an established historical fact?
Your assignment asks you to offer advice in your role as an expert consultant to Lipstadt.You will be writing a short, two-part advisory summary to Lipstadt’s legal team about strategy and historical evidence.
1. First you will be writing about a page of legal strategy.Should you allow Lipstadt to stand trial or should she settle out-of-court? Explain your recommendation.
2. Next, regardless of whether the case goes to trial, you will be writing three to five pages about Auschwitz, the largest and best known of the Nazi death camps, and whether the Holocaust actually happened.The second part of the assignment asks you to examine Irving’s specific assertion that there were no gas chambers used for exterminating Jews and others at Auschwitz.Evaluate this argument based on evidence from your reading of Denying History and the relevant sections of The World Must Know. Which three specific lines of evidence will you recommend to best refute Irving’s claim? What evidence will you use to count for the existence of extermination gas chambers at Auschwitz? What about the evidence from the Leuchter Report?
Your essay should be in the form of an advisory memorandum to Lipstadt’s British lawyer, Anthony Julius. It can be between 4 and 6 pages in length, typewritten and double-spaced please.It may be longer or shorter as needed, but be sure to answer both sets of questions.You must use material from Denying History and The World Must Know in your papers.You may also consult sites like Bradley Smith’s Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust at
and the Nizkor Project, which is dedicated to rebutting the deniers
This assignment counts for 15% of your final grade and is due in class on February 25th.Good luck.For general grading criteria on your take-home essays, see the attached pages on “HOW TO EARN A GOOD GRADE…”