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A Landmark Trial

It's about Holocaust denial and about our past & future

by Douglas Davis

January 13, 2000 | 7:00 pm

A British defense attorney gave a taste of the drama to come in the libel trial brought by a Holocaust revisionist against a Holocaust scholar when, during his opening statement this week, he addressed the plaintiff.

"To put it bluntly," Richard Rampton, who is defending Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt against David Irving, told the judge Tuesday, "he is a liar."

This landmark trial, held in the august setting of London's Royal Courts of Justice, is expected to last for some three months and is likely to involve the most detailed judicial examination of the Holocaust since the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem almost 40 years ago.

If Irving wins, analysts say, it could give credibility to Holocaust revisionism at a time when those who witnessed the horrors themselves are dying out.

The case centers around claims made against the British historian by Lipstadt, a professor of Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta, in her 1993 book "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory," published by Penguin Books.

Lipstadt has a daunting task ahead of her. Under British law, the burden of proof is squarely on her and her publisher to show that Irving is indeed a deliberate distorter of events in World War II.

Irving, who is representing himself, suggested in his opening argument that beyond his claims against Lipstadt, there was an international Jewish conspiracy to destroy him.

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