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Holocaust on Trial, The [Paperback]

D D Guttenplan
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

21 May 2002
David Irving is the leading Holocaust revisionist. He sued Penguin Books for libel. The trial was one of the strangest ever to take place in an English court: the judge had to give a verdict on history. At stake was the freedom of neo-fascist historians to exonerate Hitler and to deny that the Nazis set out to commit genocide, but his was also a trial about the present day, about what our society finds it politically and morally acceptable to say in public. It was also a libel trial about evidence: how do we know that the genocide happened. D.D. Guttenplan has followed David Irving's career for years and has studies the furious debates over the Holocaust. This is a dramatic recreation of a bizarre trial and a mediation on truth and discovery.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (21 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393322920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393322927
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 375,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

DD Guttenplan's choice of David Irving's libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books as subject matter for his first book, The Holocaust on Trial, proves a challenging but ultimately justified one. Guttenplan, an American writer now living in London, sat through every day of the trial in 1999. At stake were two things of varying importance: the position in law of the Holocaust and its definable constituents, and the reputation of David Irving. Irving was suing the defendants for remarks in Lipstadt's book, Denying the Holocaust which, he claimed, falsely labelled him a Holocaust denier. His argument was that while he did not believe there had been a systematic murder of Jews, and questioned the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz for such a purpose, he did not deny that millions had met their deaths. The result was nine weeks of intense and wide-searching debate, which saw history, and historiography, very much on trial.

In a way, it was a strange performance. The female lead, so to speak, did not have a single line, and the decision to dispense with a jury left narrative gaps for Guttenplan to colour in with an informed and informative sweep of alternative texts and secondary material. He describes the woefully tragicomic story of Fred "Mr Death" Leuchter, as well as the characters and lives of Irving, Lipstadt, Grey, Richard Rampton, Penguin's QC, solicitor Anthony Julius, and witnesses such as Richard Evans, a desert-dry academic whose pedantry slowly eats away at Irving's scholarship. Irving, who defended himself, sniped around the margins, correcting footnotes, and trying to undermine rather than refute. A Hitler partisan who referred to him casually as "Adolf" and the judge as "Mein Führer", while denying the Nazis' systematic oppression and attempted extermination of European Jewry, he maintained indignantly that he himself was the victim of systematic abuse by a Jewish conspiracy. That Penguin and Lipstadt won the case was absolutely essential for future legal actions concerning Holocaust denial, though Guttenplan rightly expresses concern that a history of "facts", shorn of personal testimony, should never be mistaken for Truth. Even with the caveat that his text is distractingly geared to an American readership, Guttenplan's scrupulous, thoughtful account renders accessible and human a legal battle as crucial as it was, to most, distasteful. --David Vincent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Don Guttenplan sat through every day of the trial, and no wiser, more honest or more melancholy book will ever be written about it' Neal Ascherson 'Well written, this is the best overall account we have so far of the trial as a whole and the personalities involved in it' Sunday Telegraph --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing read 4 Sep 2011
D D Guttenplan is a US journalist who sat throughout the libel trial in 2000 between David Irving and Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books over her book, "Denying the Holocaust". I have not read this book and I suspect that had it not been for the trial, it would have been largely forgotten and been regarded as merely a book of academic interest.

In this book, Deborah Lipstadt had named a number of historians who had publically written in ways to deny that the Holocaust had ever happened. David Irving was among this number.

The irony is that David Irving is a military historian who does not have a particular interest in the treatment of Jews by the Nazis. Most of what he wrote about the Holocaust was largely taken from people like Robert Faurisson and Arthur Butz. Indeed there is not much in Deborah Lipstadt's book that concerned David Irving directly.

However, David Irving felt strongly enough about the slight to his reputation as a respectable and popular historian that he decided to sue for libel. I was not aware until reading this book that there are differences in the way that libel is treated in the US and the UK legal systems. In the US, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff (i.e. Irving) to prove that he has been libelled. In the UK, the burden of proof is on the defendent (i.e. Lipstadt) to prove that she had NOT libelled the plaintiff.

The stakes were high on both sides. If Irving had won his case, Deborah Lipstadt would not be able to make any statement regarding Irving's views on the Holocaust without suffering criminal sanctions. Furthermore, it would also bolster the claims of Holocaust deniers thoughout the world turning our conventional undertanding of the history of this period on its head.
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21 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spectator's View of the Irving Trial 1 Dec 2002
By taking a rest HALL OF FAME
'Lying About Hitler', by Professor Richard J. Evans was the first book I read regarding the trial of David Irving. Professor Evans was part of the defense team, and he prepared a sweeping indictment of David Irving and his writings that were an integral part of Irving losing the suit he had brought. Mr. D.D. Guttenplan author of, 'The Holocaust On Trial', describes himself as a reporter. This man was not only present at the trial, but on several occasions spoke with David Irving, and was allowed access to his files. The idea that a trial was needed to prove that the Holocaust did take place despite the writings of the anti-Semite David Irving is almost beyond belief. I highly recommend both of these books, for while they cover the same event, the first is from a participant, while the second is from an observer.

Mr. Guttenplan does much more than report on this trial. He takes the reader through the difficulties of why proving history is so difficult. The idea of proving historical events, especially one as prominent as the Nazi Programs of WWII would seem absurd. Absurdity is quickly dismissed when a judge is brought into a courtroom along with history, and the record of past events must meet legal thresholds. Again this would seem to be an astonishingly easy case to make; however the opposite is true.

Eyewitness survivors were never put on the stand, for a legitimate lapse in memory of whether a set of doors opened inward or outward can mean the difference between documenting an accepted fact, and stating an error that is meaningless in the eyes of anyone except those that exploit these missteps to place widely held, accurate beliefs into question.
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17 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Neither History Nor Justice 17 Jan 2009
Conspiracy theories are fundamentally flawed and the one track minds that believe in them frequently go off the rails. Unfortunately, their irrationality tends to infect all around them and that includes this account of the David Irving libel case. Indeed, if Irving wanted validation for believing in the discredited theory that Jewish interests rule the world, Guttenplan's book provides him with plenty of "evidence" with which to feed his distorted view of reality.

No one reading this book with an open mind could regard it as being a balanced account of the events leading up to the trial or the contents of the trial itself. Guttenplan is too anxious to pursue his own agenda to allow for neutrality. Which is a pity because Irving's arrogance (and pride always goes before a fall) was sufficient of itself to have buried his reputation without Guttenplan's foot stamping indulgences.

In addition to reading the book, I undertook further research and was surprised at the contents of Lord Justice Gray's verdict. While denying that the courtroom is the place to determine issues of historical dispute Justice Gray did precisely that in his judgement.

The definition of Irving as a Holocaust denier is given in terms of a strict definition of "Holocaust". In practice, Irving does not deny that extermination of Jews took place under the Nazis. He denies that it was systematic; he denies its incidence (much of it was caused by disease); he denies its extent (about one tenth of the figures claimed by traditional historians); and he denies Hitler had prior or ongoing knowledge that it happened. I have no doubt he is wrong on all accounts and that, in common with many historians, he sees what he wants to see and disregards what is inconvenient.
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