Holocaust denial on trial

In the year 2000, David Irving sued the American academic Deborah Lipstadt after she accused him of being a Holocaust denier. As a new film on the trial airs in cinemas, Richard J Evans describes how the case – and his role as an expert witness – made the journey to the big screen...

US academic Deborah Lipstadt exults the High Court in London after winning a libel case brought against her by British historian David Irving, 11 April 2000. (Photo by Martyn Hayhow/AFP/Getty Images)

Seeing yourself played on the screen by an actor is a rather odd experience, but it’s one that has befallen me more than once. It’s come as a result of having been the main expert witness in the libel action brought by the writer David Irving against the American academic Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books in the year 2000.

In her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, published in the UK in 1994, Lipstadt (now the Dorot professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University in the US) had called Irving a Holocaust denier and a falsifier of history. He sued her for defamation in the high court, alleging, correctly enough, that what she had written damaged his reputation as a popular writer on Nazi Germany and the Second World War.

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