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Defense Documents

Witness Statement of Deborah E. Lipstadt: Electronic Edition, by Deborah E. Lipstadt

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Holocaust Deniers: Their Modus operandi, Arguments, and Objectives

86.How then do deniers attempt to avoid being relegated by the public to the category of crazed conspiracy theorists with "off the wall" views; views that, by any measure of logic, should be simply dismissed as ludicrous? Deniers use simple but efficacious tactics. They camouflage their extremist and antisemitic agenda in the trappings of scientific investigation and scholarly discourse. They hold conferences that are structured as scholarly gatherings. They design their journals to appear, at first glace, to be academic publications. In their publications, they often adopt the language and form of academic inquiry. They do this as a means of entering the legitimate conversation and scholarly debate about the Holocaust.
87.Deniers claim that their objective is to uncover historical falsehoods, all historical falsehoods, and not to deny anything. They contend that they are only interested in getting at the truth and "revising" some of the mistakes that have crept into history writing. That is why they call themselves "revisionists," i.e. those who revise the mistakes in history. I call them deniers because they are denying historical facts. By cloaking themselves in the trappings of academic inquiry they are less likely to be dismissed by the general public as the historical equivalent of "flat earth theorists."
88.One might legitimately assume that the deniers' strategy of presenting themselves as a group of academics engaged in an intellectual, not ideological, quest would be particularly efficacious with people who have only the haziest notion of the history of the Holocaust. Sometimes this strategy is also successful, due to the deniers skillful obfuscation of their real identity, with those who might be expected to know better. Staff members at the USHMM related the following incidents to me: a history major at Yale University submitted his senior essay on the Luftwaffe in the Spanish Civil War to the Journal of Historical Review, the leading Holocaust denial journal, which in format and tone mimics serious, legitimate social science journals. The student acknowledged that he had not closely examined the Journal before submitting his essay. He selected it from an annotated bibliography where it was listed together with respected historical and social science journals. (This bibliography, the student later discovered, did not differentiate between legitimate journals and those of far less, if any, historical value. It simply listed all journals which described themselves as interested in questions of history.) Based on its description, title, and, most significantly, its proximity to familiar journals, he assumed that it was a legitimate enterprise dedicated to the reevaluation of historical events. Only when it appeared in print and he saw the other articles in that issue of the Journal of Historical Review did he recognize the mistake he had made.
89.A number of student newspapers in the United States have accepted advertisements from a Holocaust denial group which has constituted itself as CODOH, the Committee on Open Debate on the Holocaust. Some did so without closely examining the text of the advertisement and had no idea as to precise nature of the contents.
90.Another one of their strategies is to present themselves as the victims of "fascists" who deny them their freedom of speech. They claim that I, a "Holocaust zealot," am personally silencing their right to speak. In an ad published in many American university and college newspapers I was described as follows:
"Deborah Lipstadt argues in her much-praised Denying the Holocaust, that revisionists ['deniers'] should not be debated because there 'can not be' another side to the Holocaust story. She charges that it is 'hateful' to listen to a defense of those accused of mass murder! In essence she argues that we bury America's old civil virtues of free inquiry and open debate -- but to what end?
The Deborah Lipstadts -- and there is a clique of them on every campus -- work to suppress revisionist research and demand that students and faculty ape their fascist behavior. If you refuse to accept the Lipstadt clique as your intellectual fuhrers, you risk being slandered as an 'anti-Semite'. These quasi-religious Holocaust zealots claim that because of the 'purity' of their own feelings about the Jewish experience during World War Two, yours are soiled if you doubt what they preach as 'truth.'" (see Appendix, Tab 5).
91.In the United States, because of the First Amendment, deniers have the right to claim the Holocaust never happened, to publish their articles and books, and hold their gatherings. They can make their speeches on any street corner or in any public auditorium which will grant them the right to do so. The First Amendment proclaims that "Congress," a term which the American courts have interpreted to mean any governmental agency, shall make no law abridging a citizen's right to freedom of speech, religion, and press. But that right does not guarantee them space in a newspaper. Newspapers are not obligated to accept deniers's articles, letters, and advertisements -- just as they are not obligated to accept other articles, letters or advertisements.
92.The accusation lodged against me, that I try to silence deniers, is patently false and insulting. I believe that newspapers are not obligated to turn over their pages to those who advocate prejudicial ideas that have no basis in history. Moreover, they are not obligated to accept advertisements that are designed to mislead those who read them. I have, however, repeatedly counseled those who have sought legislation preventing the deniers from speaking or holding gatherings that these efforts, while giving their supporters a sense of self-satisfaction, would ultimately be struck down by American courts because of the First Amendment. I have also refrained from speaking out in favor of European laws which would relegate Holocaust denial to the status of a crime. I have serious misgivings about the strategic efficacy of such legal manoeuvres.
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