The ProsenPeople

Deborah Lipstadt: Behind the Lies of Holocaust Denial

Monday, May 08, 2017 | Permalink

“There are facts, there are opinions, and there are lies.” Watch Deborah E. Lipstadt deliver her TED Talk on Holocaust denial in the twentieth and twenty-first century:

Related Content:

It’s tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 | Permalink

A reminder to everyone looking forward to the JBC Twitter Book Club tomorrow–

Discussion of The Eichmann Trial with Deborah Lipstadt (@deborahlipstadt) will begin at 12:30pm Eastern.

Search for the hashtag #JBCBooks on Twitter to keep up with the conversation.

This Time Next Week: Twitter Book Club

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Dani Crickman

Our July Twitter Book Club is approaching fast!

Wednesday the 20th at 12:30 pm (Eastern) join us to discuss  The Eichmann Trial with Deborah Lipstadt.

Full details are available here.

Need something to hold you over till next week? Watch an interview with Deborah.

Book Giveaway

Wednesday, June 22, 2011 | Permalink

Posted by Dani Crickman

We’re giving away copies of The Eichmann Trial by Deborah Lipstadt for our upcoming Twitter Book Club!

Want to win? Tweet out a link to your favorite JBC blog post. Include@JewishBook so we’ll be sure to see it.

All tweets before 12pm (Eastern) tomorrow will get your name in the drawing. We’ll announce the winners tomorrow afternoon.

Best of luck!

Jewish Books: The Building Blocks of Jewish Life

Monday, June 06, 2011 | Permalink

[Remarks by Deborah Lipstadt at the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature]

A number of years ago I agreed to teach a Jewish Studies course at Emory’s Candler School of Theology, a school which trains ministers for Methodist and AME churches.  The School tries to ensure that every student who graduates from the program will have the opportunity to take at least one course on a topic related to Jewish Studies before they graduate.

Generally the Jewish Studies faculty rotates the teaching of this class.  Each faculty member offers a course based on their own area of specialization: rabbinics, medieval history, modern history, theology, literature and so forth.

That year it was my turn to teach the course.   A few months before the course was to begin the Theology School’s registrar called and asked me to send over the course title and description.  I did.  Shortly thereafter I received a call from the office of the Dean of the school: “Deborah.  Are you sure this is the course you wish to teach?”  “Yes,” I answered. “Is there something wrong?”  “No, not at all.  It’s just not what we expected. We were just checking to make sure we got it right.”

The course I had proposed teaching was “Introduction to Judaism: The Beliefs and Practices of Judaism.”  It was to be a basic introduction to Judaism.  Why then the confusion?  Because I am a professor of Holocaust Studies.  That is the title of my chair and my area of expertise.  The school assumed that I would teach a course in that area.

When we uncovered why the confusion, I said to the Dean: “If your students, who are going to be Christian Ministers are going to take one course in Jewish Studies prior to their ordination it should be about Jew as subject, NOT Jew asobject.  It should be about what Jews do and NOT what was done to Jews.  It should address how Jews lived NOT how they died.  The dean agreed and I proceeded to teach a successful class.

I did not then and do not tonight, in any manner, shape, or form, intend to denigrate the importance of Holocaust studies or Holocaust courses.  I would not have devoted my entire career to the topic if I did not think it was of great scholarly and didactic importance.  I would not have invested years in fighting Holocaust deniers – both inside the courtroom and outside of it – if I did not think study of the topic was crucial.   Moreover, there is much left to be studied and researched.  The next generations of Holocaust survivors are doing exciting and important work.   I encourage young scholars to work in this field.

But tonight I come before you with a different message.  Even as we continue vigorous research and investigation of the Holocaust, we as a community must maintain our vigilance against the possibility of transmitting to younger generations of Jews the message that the thing which binds us, what is distinctive about our culture and our history, is what was done to us.

If the main thing the next generations know about Jewish history is that we were persecuted and suffered, they will lose sight of the tremendous heritage of Jewish culture, theology, and wisdom.  There is the danger that they will assume that what distinguishes us is the attempts by others, those who cannot abide our existence, to destroy us.

Long ago the revered scholar of Jewish history, Columbia Professor Salo W. Baron, who was the first person to occupy a chair in Jewish history at a distinguished American university, warned against succumbing to a lachrymose view of Jewish history.

Baron worried that people would glean the impression that the Jewish experience was naught but a string of persecutions, expulsion, pogroms, and other forms of devastations.  [There is contemporary and far less vigorous version of this theory.  It is entailed in the oft-repeated joke: “What is a Jewish holiday? They tried to kill us. We survived.  Now let’s eat.”]

There were great devastations in Jewish history and Baron did not shy away from studying them.  But he wanted to shine a spotlight on the tremendous bursts of Jewish creativity: poetry, literature, learning, self-rule, and commentaries which marked our history.

So too, let us for just a moment shine a spotlight on contemporary bursts of Jewish creativity.  There is too little time to review all of them so let me just mention institutions and developments which have crossed my email transom in the past week: new Jewish music, Zamir Choral, contemporary Jewish art, the Center for Jewish History, the rejuvenation of Hillel on campus, the proliferation of Chabad houses, Limmud worldwide, and last, but far from least, the hundreds of thousands of students – Jews and non-Jews – who have taken course in Jewish studies on a myriad of different topics.

For these wonderful accomplishments to be overshadowed by the actions of anti-Semites would only compound the tragedy wrought by them. A creative, thoughtful, and accomplished people such as the Jewish people should be known by what they have done and not by what has been done to them.

Fifty years ago there was a vigorous debate in Israel about what should be done to Adolf Eichmann if he were to be found guilty.  Some people were adamant that he should be hung.  Others wanted his death sentence to be commuted. Yet others suggested that, irrespective of whether he was hung or forced to live the rest of his life in jail, he be taken on a sightseeing trip through the length and breadth of the State of Israel.  Let him have to see what we have built. Let him see our kibbutzim and moshavim and our cities built where none existed before.  Let him visit our coffee houses where vigorous debate and discussion goes on continuously.  But above all, take him to our libraries, universities, and theatres.  Take him to the Israeli Philharmonic.  Make him stand in the middle of the campus of the Hebrew University watching students rushing to their classes.  Let him visit the laboratories and the seminar rooms.  Do all this not to change his mind about Jews or to rid him of his anti-Semitism, nothing will do that.  Do it to demonstrate to him that: Mir Zaynen do, we, indeed, are here.  Despite your best efforts to destroy us we survived.  But we have done more than just that: WE THRIVE.

We thrive not, davka l’hachi’is, not just to show the anti-Semites that they cannot destroy us.  We thrive as a people and we thrive as a culture because that is in the Jewish communal DNA.  We create.  We innovate.  We take the old and make it new.  We take the new and infuse it with the best of the old.  That is what, I would argue, Jews mean when, upon returning the Torah to the Aron Ha-Kodesh, the Holy Ark, during services they say: “Hadesh yameynu kekedem. Renew our days as days of yore.”  Not return us to the past but take the best of the past and let it help shape the new.

And that is what we are doing here tonight.   We are here to celebrate Jewish creativity and culture in the form of the Jewish book.  And how appropriate it is that we do so on the eve ofShavuot, a Jewish holiday which celebrates the giving of THE Book.   It is that book that instructs us, even as we remember how others tried to destroy us, “Zachor et asher asah lecha Amalek, Remember what Amalek did to you when you were leaving Egypt, how they attacked you on your way”, also reminds us u’vah’rta ba-chayim, to ultimately “choose life.”  It is that book that teaches us “v’samahta b’hagecha, v’hayita ach sameach.”  “You should rejoice on your holidays and you should be very happy.”

One of the ways in which we choose life, one of the ways in which we show our embrace of life  is by writing, publishing, reading, and celebrating Jewish books.

So tonight let us celebrate the authors who have written a new crop of Jewish books.

Let us celebrate the publishers who publish them.

And let us celebrate the readers, who buy them in print, download them electronically, take them out of the library, and, above all, read them.

Let us also celebrate a family that so treasures Jewish books that it has created this magnificent prize.

Though we are still one week from Shavuot, let us not just celebrate tonight but let us be ach sameach, very very happy indeed.

Thank you very much.

Deborah Lipstadt’s most recent book, The Eichmann Trial is now available.

Testifying for the Holocaust

Monday, May 02, 2011 | Permalink

Last week, Deborah Lipstadt wrote about eerie anniversaries  and Hannah Arendt. Her posts have been appearing as a part of Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

This blog entry appears during the time that we mark Yom HaShoah.  It is also the time of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.  I am reminded of a small article which appeared on the front page [upper half] of the New York Times on April 22nd 1943.  The article read as follows:

The secret Polish radio appealed for help tonight in a broadcast from Poland and then suddenly the station went dead.  The broadcast as heard here said: The last 35,000 Jews in the Warsaw ghetto have been condemned to execution.  Warsaw is echoing with musketry volleys.

The people are murdered.  Women and children defend themselves with their naked arms.

Save us…

I am also reminded of  some of those who buried the Oyneg Shabbes archival collection which documented the destruction.  [The following material appears in Sam Kassow’s magisterial book, Who Will Write Our History?]  Israel Lichtenstein wrote on the day he buried the archives:

I do not ask for any thanks, for any memorial, for any praise. I only wish to be remembered…. I wish my wife to be remembered, Gele Sekstein.  She has worked during the war years with children as an educator and teacher, has prepared stage sets, costumes of children’s theatre… both of us get ready to meet and receive death.  I wish my little daughter to be remembered.  Margalit is 20 months old today.  She has fully mastered the Yiddish language and speaks it perfectly… I don’t lament my own life or that of my wife.  I pity only this little nice and talented girl.  She too deserves to be remembered.

With Lichtenstein on that day was Nahum Grzywacz who was  18 years old.   When they were burying the archives he heard his parents’ building was being blockaded.  He wrote:

I am going to run to my parents and if they are all right.  I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.  Remember my name is Nahum Grzywacz.  [emphasis in original]

Also present was David Graber who was 19.  As they buried the archives Graber wrote:

What we were unable to cry and shriek out the world we buried in the ground. … We shall certainly not live to see it, and therefore I write my last will:  May the treasure fall into good hands, may it last into better times, may it alarm and alert the world to what happened… in the twentieth century.  We now died in peace.  We fulfilled our mission.  May history attest for us. [emphasis added]

None of these people seem to contemplate the possibility of survival.  They hungered to be remembered.

May the history we write, read, and remember attest for them.  They have attested for themselves

Deborah Lipstadt’s most recent book, The Eichmann Trial, is now available.

Hannah Arendt and the Eichmann Trial

Friday, April 29, 2011 | Permalink

On Monday, Deborah Lipstadt wrote about eerie anniversaries. She is the author of the new book The Eichmann Trial.

I have spent much of the past few weeks talking about my new book, The Eichmann Trial. I don’t want to make this blog entry about the book. (To be blunt, I’d rather have folks read the book.) But something has struck me in the talks and interviews I have conducted.

For so many people the issue of the Eichmann Trial remains Hannah Arendt. They seem to have a hard time conceiving of the Eichmann trial independent of Arendt’s “analysis.” I am speaking of who abhor what she said as well as of those who espouse her views.

I take a more “middle of the road” or balanced perspective. Let me be explicit (for nuance, you’ll have to read the book. OK, I won’t repeat that again. Twice is certainly enough. Though, please note, I wrote read, not buy). When I speak about Arendt I try to discern where my audience – whether it be one person or a multitude — stands on the issue. I then try to stress the “other” side, i.e. if they hate – and that’s not too strong a term – her words I tell them the affirmative things she had to say about the trial and Israel. If they are enthralled with her views, I point out the glaring historical mistakes on which they are based.

Sometimes that leads to trouble.

At a talk I gave at the Center for Jewish History I assumed that many of the people in the audience were familiar with all the negatives that had been said both by and about Arendt. They knew of her [c]overt antisemitic – if not racist – comments about Israeli society and of her historically inaccurate statements about the Judenrate, the Jewish councils established in the ghettoes by the Nazis.

I, chose, therefore to speak of some of the insights she had and powerful statements she made about the significance of the Holocaust. I wanted to make it clear to them that there are a lot of grays when it comes to Arendt. Sure enough, I received a number of emails and comments accusing me of having “gone soft on Arendt.”

Conversely, when I have spoken with those, whose view of the trial has been completely refracted thorough Arendt, they hear me as critical of her and have also reacted viscerally. They defend her in a knee-jerk fashion and excoriate me for being critical of her.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if people set aside their preconceived conclusions and read what I have to say about her? (Oops, there I go again. Clearly this is the place to end this blog entry.)

Deborah Lipstadt will be blogging all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning. Her new book, The Eichmann Trial, is available now.

April 11th: An Eerie Confluence of Dates

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 | Permalink

Deborah Lipstadt’s most recent book, The Eichmann Trial, is now available. She will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

It was the 50th anniversary of the start of the Eichmann Trial and the 11th anniversary of the verdict [judgment] in my libel trial in the UK when David Irving sued me for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier.

More significantly, on April 11th I spoke at the United States State Department to mark the anniversary of the Eichmann trial. In addition to State Department staff members, there were a number of diplomats present [Turkey, Morocco, Ukraine, and Israel among others], as well as friends and colleagues. It was quite meaningful that I was speaking about this seminar act of genocide to an audience composed in part of people who deal with genocide and persecution-related issues. One of the people with whom I spoke has spent years working to rid the world of land mines. Another had been involved in the genocide in Darfur. Another had worked on issues related to the former Yugoslavia. Tragedies all.

There was another factor that made this a meaningful moment. The audience was composed of Federal employees. My book is dedicated to three men who worked for a Federal institution, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. One of them, Special Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, gave his life for the institution. The quick response by the other two, Special Officer Harry Weeks and Special Officer Jason “Mac” McCuiston, prevented this tragedy from assuming far greater proportions.

I began by taking note of that fact and reading from the dedication. I was surprised by the emotion it evoked, not just from the audience, but from me. Soon it will be two years since the tragedy but the pain of that moment is still palpable.

Deborah Lipstadt’s The Eichmann Trial  is now available. Check back all week for her posts on the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Visiting Scribe.