three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
17-July-Aug-2005
user_rating: 
0

My Day in Court with David Irving

A-HistoryTrialIn 1993, Emory University Professor of Jewish Studies Deborah Lipstadt wrote a groundbreaking book about the Holocaust denial movement. In it, she called prominent British historian David Irving one of the most dangerous spokespersons of that movement. Irving retaliated by suing Lipstadt and her publisher for libel, claiming that her writing had damaged his reputation as a historian. Per British libel law, the burden of proof fell to Lipstadt to show that her claims about Irving were true. In this book, she retells each step of the process, from gathering evidence to the final verdict of the ten-week trial, an event of worldwide social and political importance.
Ecco. 346 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0060593768

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"A disciplined writer, [Lipstadt] does not wander into long detours on the many philosophical or sociological paths along her way. Rather, she delivers a well-paced, expertly detailed, and fascinating account of the trial process, including the long months of preparation and the courtroom proceedings themselves." Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The Emory University professor writes with a campaigner’s passion, but also with humor about herself …"
Edmund Fawcett

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"… Lipstadt doesn’t dwell on Irving in History on Trial; that he is a liar, a manipulator of historical record, and a denier is evident enough. Instead, she takes back the trial for herself, for those who suffered and for those who died." Martin Schmutterer

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[Lipstadt] recounts her encounters with Holocaust survivors who encourage her to keep fighting, coming to the trial hearings day after day. These anecdotes don’t just make the book more engaging; they help cement the notion that this was no ordinary libel case, but possibly the most important Holocaust-related trial since Adolph Eichmann was tried in Israel in 1961." Yonatan Lupu

Baltimore Sun 2.5 of 5 Stars
"[T]he showdown is hardly the tension-filled drama that the first third of her book promises. …The perverse fascination in History lies in seeing the tricks of the contortionist revealed, the lengths to which a pernicious man will go to subvert truth." Michael Ollove

San Jose Mercury News 2.5 of 5 Stars
"[T]he issues it raises—of how we learn about the past and what use we make of that knowledge, and of the limits of free speech and critical inquiry—are timeless. … [B]ut a writer with access to both Lipstadt and Irving might have given us a fuller story, might have helped us enter the mind of the denier and traced the strange roots of Irving’s life." Charles Matthews

Critical Summary

Emotions run high when the subject of the Holocaust comes up for discussion, yet reviewers approached Lipstadt’s account with even, critical, and generally positive eyes. Many gave the author credit for presenting a multifaceted case in a riveting, highly readable manner—her spin differs from books written by those who testified on her behalf—Richard J. Evans’s Lying About Hitler (2001) and Robert Jan van Pelt’s The Case for Auschwitz (2002)—and one journalist’s account—D.D. Guttenplan’s The Holocaust on Trial (2001). A few critics, however, found the narrative slowed by excessive detail, and noted that the book suffers from a few dry patches. In terms of tone, opinions ranged from "a little self-righteous" (Baltimore Sun) to "never loses its suspense, readability or momentum. Or humor" (Salon.com). Despite these disparate comments, all critics agreed that Lipstadt’s story is a fascinating one and an important historical lesson for the record.