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History on trial -

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History on trial

Reporter: Tony Jones

TONY JONES: With us now is the academic and historian, Deborah Lipstadt, the author of History on
Trial. Thanks for joining us. It seems to be the strangest thing of this case is that it was
brought in the first place, the very basis of it that David Irving would actually claim that you
had defamed him by calling him a Holocaust denier when that's what he was actually most famous for.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: That's right. It's very strange. It is strange because much of what we know about
him now, in terms of his denial, in terms of his racism, in terms of his anti-semitism, we'd never
have known had he not brought the case against me. I never would have sued him - I had no grounds -
but I don't believe in suing people for their historical views, even if those views are complete
bonkers. His are. He came after me knowing full well that - he should have known full well that we
would expose him as the liar that he is.

TONY JONES: He had been denying it from 1988, I think. He said there was no overall right policy to
kill Jews. There were no documents whatsoever to show that the Holocaust had ever happened. Hitler
was the best friend the Jews had ever had.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: Outrageous statements, but no-one had ever challenged him, no-one had ever
tracked his footnotes. That's not what historians do. Historians generally try to find new
information to uncover dark places that we don't know about to shed light on unknown events in
history. They don't go over and look at someone who is clearly lying and say, "Let me show you how
he is lying." He forced us to do that.

TONY JONES: Bearing that in mind, Irving defended himself here and in his opening statement to the
court he promised to prove that the gas chambers in Auschwitz were nothing but fakes built by Poles
after the World War 2. He obviously was setting out to prove a point and that point was denial.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: The point was denial. There were such inconsistencies. At one point he was
arguing, "I don't deny", but then he's pointing out and trying to set out to prove denial. I think
what he was doing is show to someone - let's say a parent brings a child into the emergency room
and the child is completely beaten up and someone says, "Who did this?" and the parent said, "I
did." They say, "That's child abuse." The parent says, "No, that's discipline." He's trying to
reinvent, redefine and then say, "I don't do it." It doesn't have a logical consistency. He should
have realised this before. We were able to prove that and point it out over and over in the

TONY JONES: Let's go through a little bit of what he tried to base his case on. When it came to
Auschwitz, he relied very heavily on the committed Holocaust denier, a man called Fred Leuchter,
who claims to have gone to Auschwitz, gone to the gas chambers, chiselled out little pieces of
concrete, put them into his underwear and took them back to the US and sent them off for chemical
analysis to prove whether or not there was cyanide actually contained within them. That was the
main piece of evidence.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: That's his main piece of evidence. Leuchter was in Auschwitz and did take these
chunks and illegally went in and hacked them out of the walls of the gas chambers. What he did is
he took chunks of concrete, pretty thick chunks, out of the homicidal gas chambers where people
were murdered and out of the walls of the rooms where clothing and articles were deloused with the
same gas. And he brought them back to Canada and sent them to a lab which does industrial testing
and the lab pulverised the chunks and found that in the places where the clothing and objects had
been deloused, there was a much higher residue of HCN, of hydrogen chloride, than there was in the
places where people had been killed. Leuchter said, "Eureka! More residue where clothing was
deloused than where people were killed. This is impossible. Nobody ever died at Auschwitz."

TONY JONES: You were forced to counter this kind of argument to produce your own counter evidence?

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: Well, yes, exactly. We were forced, but this one was an easy one to prove. The
fact of the matter is it takes much more gas to kill lice than it does to kill humans. So you
should find a greater residue. Showing that Leuchter didn't even know the basic principle on which
he was building this great report. Irving read the report in '88 and overnight said, "Aha, I've
seen the evidence. There were no gas chambers." He was just looking for evidence and he took the
flimsiest evidence - of course there is no evidence, but took this flimsy evidence and tried to
build a whole house of cards around it.

TONY JONES: The title of your book History On Trial, as we've just suggested in the piece that
preceded the interview has a double meaning. Your main job was to actually prove that Irving was an
historical charlatan, that he was essentially a liar. But you had the other incredible burden, it
seems to me, this legal burden of having to prove the Holocaust actually happened. How did you
actually go about doing it? I know you had experts.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: We really weren't setting out to prove the Holocaust happened. What we were
proving is that this man had the documents, knew the truth and lied about them. In the course of
doing that we were showing that these things happened, but our objective was to prove this man is a
liar. The irony is - let me just build on your question - the irony is my greatest concern was
about history in the courtroom because history doesn't belong in the courtroom. History isn't
adjudicated like laws and cases are adjudicated and yet it fared well in this case. Part of why we
fared well in this case a is we had a magnificent judge. We had terrific expert reports.

TONY JONES: Turned out to be a matter of evidence, didn't it?

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: Most of all we had the evidence. Most of all we had the evidence, we had the
facts. There were no Perry Mason surprises. We pointed out that in every - not most, not many, but
in every single point where this man talked about the Holocaust, he either invented, lied,
obfuscated, misinterpreted, twisted documents, changed dates, changed sequence, something, always
to move in one direction - exoneration of Adolf Hitler; making it look like the Jews deserved what
they got or they had been wrong and making it look like what happened didn't happen.

TONY JONES: Let's go back to Auschwitz for a moment because you and your team went there. In fact,
you went there with your barrister at one point. He cross-examined your expert witness on the spot
which must have been extraordinary.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: This was a couple of months before the trial and I was really at the height of my
nervousness and concern and stress and we were standing in the delousing chamber and he begins to
cross-examine our expert witness and the questions to me sounded so hostile that I suddenly burst
out - there were about six of us - "Why are you asking those questions?" He got quite cross with
me. We were very good friends and I'm a tremendous friend of his, Richard Rampton. He said, "I have
to ask these questions." I pulled back and I just thought, "Oh, my God, this is going to morph into
did the Holocaust happen trial, prove the Holocaust." Essentially what he is doing and now it is
obvious to me I feel quite stupid I didn't see it then, he was preparing our expert witness for
cross-examination. He was asking the questions that David Irving was going to ask him and of course
that's what was what was going on.

TONY JONES: Considering you had to go back over the evidence, your expert witness comes up with
some amazing facts that some of us just simply didn't know. I didn't know, for example, that the
architectural plans for Auschwitz actually survived to destroy all documents. Tell us about that.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: The Germans right before they abandoned Auschwitz in January 1945 destroyed
documents, destroyed archives. They forgot that there was a construction shed which had been used
for when things were being built, when things were being designed and it hadn't been used in a
number of years because they stopped building at Auschwitz for quite a while. It was just left and
the chaos of that retreat, it was just left. There we found the working drawings torn, tattered,
marked with little - obviously taken out on someone's arm to the site and we found the drawings and
the plans for the gas chambers and the crematorium.

TONY JONES: Which actually showed the transformation -

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: Yes, that's the amazing -

TONY JONES: - of a concentration camp into an extermination.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: Into a death camp. In a canal, which was the death camp, there was originally
built crematorium, according to German civil law every place there is a crematoria and in the
bottom were morgues because according to German civil law every place there is a crematoria there
have to be morgues. When they decided to use it for gas chambers, they took those morgues and
turned them into gas chambers. So doors that used to be a slide - there was a concrete slide
because you slide dead bodies down to the morgue on a guerny. When it was determined it would be
used as gas chambers, the concrete slide was taken out and steps were put there because bodies are
slid, live people walk down. And we found those changes over and over again showing the
transformation, showing how it's done.

TONY JONES: And even going down to the gas protected windows.


TONY JONES: Gas sealed windows - the metal windows - which you actually found, I think.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: This isn't in the one that was transformed. Later on when they built gas chambers
purposely for gas chambers they made them more efficient - no steps, etc. Everything was on one
level. Instead of dropping the gas into the ceiling they had small windows 30-40cm through which it
would be thrown. We found the plans which showed these 12 windows for throwing the gas and then we
found the work order, from I think February '43, calling for the production of 12 gas-tight
windows, 30 x 40cm. And then later in the store room in Auschwitz 1 - in part of the prison camp -
we found three old windows exactly 30 x 40cms, the gas seals still evident and the handle for the
window on the outside. If it was a normal window you never would have put a handle on the outside.
You would put it on the inside. You would only put a handle on the outside if you want the people
who are inside not to be able to open it.

TONY JONES: So once again, it's a burden of facts we're talking about.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: It's evidence.

TONY JONES: Your barrister, Richard Rampton, he didn't mince words when it came to his opening
statement. We've talked a little bit about what Irving suggested in his opening statement he was
going to prove. Rampton came straight out and said that Irving is not a historian at all.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: He's a liar. He's a liar. He proved that. he took one case to demonstrate it. In
Himmler's diary - from November 30, 1941, Himmler kept a diary - there's a diary entry of Himmler
going to see Adolf Hitler. And when Irving writes about this he writes, "Himmler was summoned to
see Hitler and when he appeared there he was told the Jews - the liquidation - there was to be no
liquidation of the Jews". What Irving was basing that statement on was a diary entry of Himmler
where it said "Jewish transport - one train from Berlin, not to be liquidated." So there was one
train that was coming from Berlin that Hitler was telling Himmler was not to be liquidated,
possibly because of certain people who were on the train. But first of all, it's one train, it's
not everybody. Second of all, if Hitler is saying "Don't liquidate this train, stop the
liquidation" - you only stop something that's already going on. But for Irving this is proof that
Hitler was saying there was to be no liquidation. It's a complete misreading of the evidence and
misleading of his readers.

TONY JONES: Now another of your expert witnesses who we've had on this program, Richard Evans, took
on the job of cross-checking through all of Irving's historical text and there are many of them,
including the Bombing of Dresden and so on and so forth. He found in the cross-checking of quotes
and references there were an extraordinary number of mistakes.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: He found - it is very interesting. Before Richard Evans began his work we were
having dinner one night in London and I said you ought to make the argument in your expert report
that this man is no historian. Richard Evans said to me he didn't think that wise. He said "No
judge or jury" - it turned out to be just a bench trial. He said, "This man has written 20 books on
history, nobody will think he's not a historian." So I dropped it. When I get his expert report -
his magnificent expert report, which has been turned into a book Telling Lies About Hitler, - 10
pages into it he says "There's no way this man can be called a historian". Now why did he change
his mind? Because he confronted the evidence. And in every single example relating to the Holocaust
where he looked he found some invention, some distortion, something was just wrong and was
something to mislead the reader.

TONY JONES: Tell us a little bit about the atmosphere in the trial? How did Irving react as his
reputation is taken apart piece by piece through this long process?

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: Well, based on his trial diary, which he would post each night on his web page,
he thought he was doing great. He thought the judge was just supporting him. I think he seemed to
me to be a man so filled with his own ego that he's blinded by his own vanity and he just didn't
see how we were step by step demolishing him: how he was going down in flames. Even on the last day
of the case there was a dramatic moment where he looked at the judge and instead of saying, "My
lordship" he looked at the judge - a quintessential Brit - and said "Mein Furore".

TONY JONES: But was it a dark joke?

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: No, it was a slip, it was a slip. There were 250 people in the room. The room was
packed with reporters. It's the last day of the case and everybody stopped breathing in unison and
then broke into laughter. He just looked around - I was looking at him and he didn't know what was
going on - and he just kept going forward. I think it was something just subliminal, but it was a
quite telling moment.

TONY JONES: One final question, because we're nearly out of time. But I was surprised to read in
your account about a prominent Jewish lawyer in London who advised you right at the beginning of
this process to settle with Irving and not to go ahead with the case. He wasn't alone in not
wanting the trial to go ahead?

DEBORAH LIPSTADT: There were a lot of people who were frightened. Not only British Jews, but
particularly British Jews, who thought this would be a win-win for Irving. That even if he lost the
case he'd get so much publicity out of it and he'd come out with an enhanced reputation. They were
very nervous - "Who was this American who was coming over?" And I said, "Look, he is suing me. I'm
not doing this. I'm defending myself. There's no way I'm going to settle. There's no way I'm going
to apologise." And sometimes it was a lonely fight, because people were questioning what I did. But
even this man in the end apologised and said I was wrong and you were right.

TONY JONES: Deborah Lipstadt, we thank you very much for taking the time to come in and giving us
this account, in 15 minutes, of a very long trial.

DEBORAH LIPSTADT; Thank you for having me.

TONY JONES: Thank you very much.