Irving v. Lipstadt
Holocaust Denial on Trial, Skeleton Argument of the Claimant (long): Electronic Edition, by Adrian DaviesTable of Contents
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Van Pelt's qualifications as an expert
30.On Day 9 (25th January 2000) the following somewhat extraordinary exchange took place between Irving and Van Pelt:
"Q. You studied at the University of Leiden, am I correct?
"A: Yes, I did.
"Q: And you are now Professor of the History of Architecture at the University of Waterloo in Toronto?
"A: No. The issue of my appointment is kind of confusing. I am in the Department of Architecture and hence I am officially a Professor of Architecture. Your title as Professor depends on the department you are in. However, I teach in what we call the Cultural History stream, so normally, in order to prevent confusion in ordinary usage, I would call myself Professor of Cultural History because, both in my background, my PhD and my teaching duties, I teach cultural history in the architectural school. However, when I was advised about the way I had to create my curriculum vitae for this proceeding, I was told that I had been to be extremely precise in the legal sense of what I was, so again I put in Professor of Architecture.
"Mr Justice Gray: So you are really a cultural historian?
"A: I am really a cultural historian.
"Mr Irving: This is a point of some substance, my Lord. We need to know precisely what your qualifications are to offer your expertise to the court. I do not mean this in the least sense in a derogatory manner because, as I say, I have read both your book and your report with the utmost interest. However, we need to know what your areas of expertise actually are. In Britain, of course, we have the Royal Institute of British Architects. Are you familiar with the fact that it is illegal in England to call yourself an architect unless you are registered with the RIBA?
"A: That is in most countries like that, yes, I know.
"Q: In Holland, the equivalent is the Bond van Nederlandse Architecten, am I correct? I am sorry about my pronunciation.
"A: Yes, Bond van Nederlandse Architecten.
"Q : Which is the rough equivalent of the RIBA?
"Q: Am I right in saying that you are not registered with the Bond van Nederlandse Architecten?
"A: I have never had any reason to do so, since I never studied in an architectural school.
"Q: So you cannot legally pretend to be an architect, if I can put it like that?
"A: No, I could be prosecuted.
"Q: You could be prosecuted?
"Q: Rather like Mr Leuchter was prosecuted in Massachusetts for pretending to be an engineer?
"Q: You can probably see the thrust of this particular question. In other words, your expertise, as an architect, is the same as Mr Leuchter's expertise was an engineer?
"A: I do not really know. I have been teaching in architecture school now since 1984. I have taught design courses, specially in small architecture schools one needs to chip in wherever one does. I have been on architectural juries and quick sessions, mostly on a weekly, bi-weekly, kind of frequency. I did. . .
"Q: You have never learned architecture? You have never studied architecture at university? You have never taken a degree in architecture?
"A: I do not have a degree in it, but I have been confronted with the architectural practice and, apart from that, I have worked for various architects, one of them, Sir Dennis Leston, here in England, when he was designing the Synagogue in Jerusalem. I have worked with Jack Diamond in Toronto. So I have been in architectural offices very often and other practices.
"Q: And, of course, you are now advising the present Auschwitz authorities on the reconstruction, if I can put it like that, of the Auschwitz site?
"A: I was advising them, yes."
31.Even if Van Pelt has sufficient practical experience of architecture to be classified as an expert in that field, which is certainly not conceded, it is strongly submitted that Gray J erred seriously in law in admitting Van Pelt's evidence on that subject, since the Defendants adduced his evidence as a historian not an architect. On no view should Gray J have heard Van Pelt on the chemistry of fumigation and gas chambers (7.123) or the technology of crematoria (7.124). Van Pelt knows nothing whatsoever about these subjects.