In 1993, Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of Jewish Studies at Emory University, published the first comprehensive history of the Holocaust denial movement. In this critically acclaimed account, Lipstadt called David Irving –– a prolific, respected, and well–known writer on World War II who had, over the years, made controversial statements about Hitler and the Jews –– one of the most dangerous spokespersons of the denial movement. A year later, when Irving sued Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin UK, for libel in a London courtroom, the media spotlight fell on Deborah Lipstadt and, by extension, on the historiography of the Holocaust. Five years later, when David Irving lost his case after an intense ten–week trial, Lipstadt's resounding victory was proclaimed on front pages of newspapers worldwide. The implications of the trial, however, were far from over.
History on Trial is Deborah Lipstadt's personal, riveting chronicle of the legal battle with Irving, in which she went from a relatively quiet existence as a professor at an American university to being a defendant in a sensational libel case. This blow–by–blow account reveals how Lipstadt raised $1.5 million for her defense, which included a first–rate team of solicitors, historians, and experts, among them Anthony Julius, a literary scholar who is better known as the late Princess Diana's divorce lawyer. Lipstadt describes how in forced silence she endured Irving's relentless provocations, including his claims that more people died in Senator Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, that survivors tattooed numbers on their arms to make money, and that nonwhite people are a different "species." She also reveals how her lawyers gained access to Irving's personal papers, which exposed his association with neo–Nazi extremists in Germany, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and the National Alliance, which wants to transform America into an "Aryan society." In the course of the trial, Lipstadt's legal team stripped away Irving's mask of respectability through exposing the prejudice, extremism, and distortion of history that defined his work, even his once highly regarded account of the Dresden bombing.
Part history, part edge–of–your–seat courtroom drama, History on Trial goes beyond the historiography of World War II and the Holocaust to reveal the intricate way in which extremism and deliberate historical distortions gain widespread legitimacy and help generate hatred. An inspiring personal story of perseverance and unexpected limelight, here is the definitive account of the trial that tested the standards for historical and judicial truths, a trial that the Daily Telegraph of London proclaimed did "for the new century what the Nuremberg tribunals or the Eichmann trial did for earlier generations."