Deborah Lipstadt, author of “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth & Memory” and “The Eichmann Trial,” will speak in the Big 12 Room of the Kansas Union tonight at 7 p.m.
In addition to authoring several books, Lipstadt is a Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, a consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and was a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council for two terms, appointed by Bill Clinton in 1994. Students will also be able to meet Lipstadt before her talk in Alcove G of the Union from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. today.
“Denying the Holocaust” explains how people came to deny the events of the Holocaust. She lists the names of several groups and individuals who have publicly denied the Holocaust, and addresses their allegations. Lipstadt states that anti-Semitism is on the rise, and that it shouldn’t be disregarded, since it is distorting history and discrediting scholarship in the West.
After publishing “Denying the Holocaust,” Lipstadt and her publisher were sued by David Irving for libel because she claimed Irving denied the Holocaust in some of his public statements. Lipstadt and her publisher won the case, “Irving v. Penguin Books & Lipstadt,” after it was proved the things Lipstadt wrote were true.
Today, Lipstadt actively fights against anti-Semitism and educates people about the Holocaust and Judaism.
Kansan: Why do you think it’s important to educate young people about the events of the Holocaust?
Lipstadt: The worst genocide in history happened not in some remote corner of the world but in the heart of Christian Europe. It was perpetrated by one country with the active support of many other countries and groups of people. Much of the rest of the world knew about it while it was happening. And of course, it was preceded by almost a decade of virulent anti-Semitic actions.
Since then we have had numerous other instances of genocidal-like actions, for example the former Yugoslavia [and] Rwanda. This would suggest we have not learned much from the Holocaust.
Nonetheless, if there is a chance of avoiding repetition of these events they must be studied and understood. One of the things to understand is that well-educated, cultured, sophisticated people are just as capable of doing this as are those who are not any of those things, or whom we in the West dismiss as not being any of these things.
Kansan: What do you have to say about the Holocaust being compared to contemporary political conflicts like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Lipstadt: The Holocaust must and should be compared to Rwanda [and] the Armenian genocide. How is it the same or different? But to compare to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is historically inaccurate. Whatever one thinks of Israel’s policies or those of the Palestinians, what is happening there is not a genocide and to call it such is historically wrong.
Kansan: Since you won the libel suit “Irving v. Penguin Books & Lipstadt,” do you think that brought positive publicity to the topics you discuss in “Denying the Holocaust?”
Lipstadt: Yes, David Irving [and his comments are] hardly paid any attention [now]. When he is quoted [today] he is identified as the man whom the British courts declared to be a Holocaust denier. Hardcore Holocaust denial — no gas chambers, no plan to kill the Jews, it’s all made up, etc. — is seen as ludicrous and out of touch with historical reality.
Kansan: Regarding your lecture tonight, what do you want the biggest takeaway to be?
Lipstadt: Anti-Semitism is a real threat. It’s not another Holocaust in the offing, not at all. But it is dangerous and irrespective of whether you are Jewish or not, you must take it seriously. If you value the multi-cultural, liberal, democratic society in which you live, then note that anti-Semitism is a threat to it. Anti-Semitism is like a weather vane. It predicts which way the winds of tolerance and acceptance are blowing.
— Edited by Jordan Fox