Deborah Lipstadt

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Deborah Lipstadt
Born Deborah Esther Lipstadt
(1947-03-18) March 18, 1947 (age 71)
New York City, New York U.S.
Occupation historian

Deborah Esther Lipstadt (born March 18, 1947) is a Jewish-American scholar, best known as author of the books Denying the Holocaust (1993) and The Eichmann Trial (2011). She is currently the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University.[1]

Lipstadt was a consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In 1994 she was appointed by Bill Clinton to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, serving two terms.[2]

Early life

Lipstadt was born in New York City, the daughter of Miriam (née Peiman; 1915-2013) and Erwin Lipstadt (1903-1972).[3] Her mother was born in Canada, and her father, a salesman, was born in Germany. Her parents met at their neighborhood synagogue. She has an older sister, Helen, a historian, and a younger brother, Nathaniel, an investor on Wall Street. She studied at the Hebrew Institute of Long Island, and grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens. She studied with Rabbi Emanuel Rackman at Temple Shaaray Tefila. Lipstadt spent summers at Camp Massad. She spent her junior year of college in Israel during the Six-Day War, where she stayed as an exchange student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She completed her undergraduate work in American History through City College of New York in 1969. She then enrolled at Brandeis University where she completed her Masters and then Ph.D. in Jewish History in 1976. After finishing her college career, she began teaching, first at the University of Washington in Seattle. [4][5]

David Irving libel suit

On September 5, 1996, David Irving sued Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books for libel in an English court for characterizing some of his writings and public statements as Holocaust denial in her book Denying the Holocaust.

Lipstadt's legal defence team was led by Anthony Julius of Mishcon de Reya while Penguin's was led by Kevin Bays and Mark Bateman of Davenport Lyons. Both defendants instructed Richard Rampton QC while Penguin also instructed Heather Rogers as junior counsel. The expert witnesses for the defence included Cambridge historian Richard J. Evans, Christopher Browning, Robert Jan van Pelt, and Peter Longerich.

Although English libel law puts the burden of proof on the defendant rather than the plaintiff, Lipstadt and Penguin won the case using the justification defence, viz. by demonstrating in court that Lipstadt's accusations against Irving were substantially true and therefore not libelous. The case was argued as a bench trial before Mr Justice Gray, who produced a written judgment 334 pages long detailing Irving's systematic distortion of the historical record of World War II. The Times (April 14, 2000, p. 23) said of Lipstadt's victory, "History has had its day in court and scored a crushing victory."[6]

Free speech

Despite her acrimonious history with Holocaust denier David Irving, Lipstadt has stated that she is personally opposed to the 3-year prison sentence Austria imposed on Irving for two speeches he made in 1989, where he claimed there had been no gas chambers at Auschwitz. In Austria, minimizing the atrocities of the Third Reich is a crime punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment. Speaking of Irving, Lipstadt said "I am uncomfortable with imprisoning people for speech. Let him go and let him fade from everyone's radar screens... Generally, I don't think Holocaust denial should be a crime. I am a free speech person, I am against censorship."[7][8]

The Holocaust, denial and abuse

In February 2007 Lipstadt used the neologism "soft-core denial" at the Zionist Federation's annual fundraising dinner in London. Referring to groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain, reportedly she stated: "When groups of people refuse to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day unless equal time is given to anti-Muslim prejudice, this is soft-core denial."[9] According to Paul, "She received huge applause when she asked how former United States President Jimmy Carter could omit the years 1939-1947 from a chronology in his book"; referring to his recently published and controversial book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, she said: "When a former president of the United States writes a book on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and writes a chronology at the beginning of the book in order to help them understand the emergence of the situation and in that chronology lists nothing of importance between 1939 and 1947, that is soft-core denial."[9]

Along the same lines, Lipstadt has criticized the German philosopher and historian Ernst Nolte for engaging in what she calls "soft-core denial" of the Holocaust, arguing that Nolte practises an even more dangerous form of negationism than the Holocaust-deniers. Speaking of Nolte in a 2003 interview, Lipstadt stated:

"Historians such as the German Ernst Nolte are, in some ways, even more dangerous than the deniers. Nolte is an anti-Semite of the first order, who attempts to rehabilitate Hitler by saying that he was no worse than Stalin; but he is careful not to deny the Holocaust. Holocaust-deniers make Nolte's life more comfortable. They have, with their radical argumentation, pulled the center a little more to their side. Consequently, a less radical extremist, such as Nolte, finds himself closer to the middle ground, which makes him more dangerous".[10]

In late 2011, Lipstadt attacked American and Israeli politicians for what she called their invocation of the Holocaust for contemporary political purposes, something she thought mangled history. She rebuked Republican party presidential candidates for speeches that 'pandered' to the Evangelical constituency, as much as it did to the Republican Jewish Coalition. She also judged Howard Gutman's remarks on causal links between Muslim anti-semitism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as 'stupid.' She decried:

"the 'hysteria' and 'neuroses' of many Jews and Israelis who compare the current situation in Europe and in the Middle East to the Holocaust era. 'People go nuts here, they go nuts. There’s no nuance, there’s no middle ground, it’s taking any shade of grey and stomping on it. There are no voices of calm, there are no voices of reason, not in this country, not in Israel.'"[11][12]

In the same interview, she argued that:

If anti-Semitism becomes the reason through which your Jewish view of the world is refracted, if it becomes your prism, then it is very unhealthy. Jewish tradition never wanted that.[12]

On a visit to London in September 2014, Lipstadt criticised the Israeli government and said that the government had "cheapened" the memory of the Holocaust by using it to justify war.[13] She has also rejected the view that Israeli military actions during the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict constituted a genocide on the same level as the Holocaust.[14]

Portrayal in media

British-Jewish actress Rachel Weisz will portray Lipstadt in a film based on her book, Denial, directed by Mick Jackson.[15]


In 1997 Lipstadt received the Emory Williams teaching award for excellence in teaching.[16]


  • Lipstadt, Deborah E. (1986). Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust, 1933-1945. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-02-919161-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lipstadt, Deborah E. (1993). Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. New York: Plume. ISBN 0-452-27274-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lipstadt, Deborah E. (2005). History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving. New York: ECCO. ISBN 0-06-059376-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lipstadt, Deborah E. (2011). The Eichmann Trial. New York: Nextbook Press/ Schocken. ISBN 0-8052-4260-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. "Deborah E. Lipstadt". Emory University. Retrieved 2 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion News & Publications. "Third Annual Bamberger Memorial Lecture with Deborah E. Lipstadt (11/22/05)". Retrieved 2008-06-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Miriam Lipstadt obituaryaccessed 12-30-2015
  4. Deborah Lipstadt biographyaccessed 12-30-2015
  5. Deborah Lipstadt profileaccessed 12-30-2015
  6. Holocaust Denial On Trial: Holocaust Denial and the 2000 Libel Trial in the U.K., a project of The Rabbi Donald A. Tam Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University.
  7. Paterson, Tony (November 18, 2005). "Irving held in Austria over Holocaust comments". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved September 27, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. O'Neill, Brendan. "Irving? Let the guy go home" BBC News, January 4, 2006
  9. 9.0 9.1 Quoted by Jonny Paul, "Holocaust Scholar Warns of New 'soft-core' Denial," The Jerusalem Post (February 6, 2007).
  10. "Denial of the Holocaust and Immoral Equivalence" The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (August 1, 2003).
  11. Chemi Shalev, 'Top Holocaust scholar blasts 'Holocaust-abuse' by U.S., Israeli politicians.' at Haaretz, 16 December 2011.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Chemi Shalev 'Full Interview with Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt,' at Haaretz, 16 December 2011.
  13. Gulliver, John (11 September 2014). "Israel government has 'cheapened' memory of the Holocaust – Lipstadt speaks out". Camden New Journal. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Lipstadt, Deborah (17 September 2014). "To call Gaza a genocide is a distortion of history". Camden New Journal. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Denial - Full Cast & Crew". Retrieved 25 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Emory Williams Teaching Award, Emory University, accessed April 8, 2011.

External links