Graduations With A Shoah Theme


"My mother was killed in Auschwitz. If David Irving had won, my mother would have been a victim a second time! So too would everybody else who perished there."

"Congratulations on achieving not only the ruling in your favor, but also the justice for survivors."

Those were just two of the letters Deborah Lipstadt was to tell Yeshiva University graduates this week that she received following her successful defense of a libel suit by Holocaust revisionist David Irving. The letters, she said, "touched me so deeply" and illustrated the "reaction my experience has evoked in so many people worldwide."

Her commencement remarks on May 25 came a week after Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat told graduates of the Jewish Theological Seminary that although efforts are under way to restore to survivors and their heirs property that rightfully belongs to them, "the final chapter of the Holocaust should not be about money but about memory."

Eizenstat said he hoped the "history of these terrible events [would] break down national and cultural stereotypes and help people appreciate the common humanity that underlies differences in religions and race." And he suggested the creation of an educational network that would transmit to future generations the "intellectual richness of the Eastern European culture destroyed by the Holocaust."

In her address, Lipstadt, a professor at Emory University, said "not fighting [the Irving suit] was never an option." She said a friend said her stance reminded her of the non-Jewish rescuers during the Holocaust who acted instinctively.

"The alternative (turning their backs on those who desperately needed help) was simply not an option," said Lipstadt, who was sued after she labeled Irving a Holocaust denier in her book, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory." "It was not an option despite the risk it posed for them and their families. Of course, any risks I assumed were naught compared to theirs. However, in both cases the alternative (letting the scoundrels do their evil deeds) was simply unpalatable."

Irving would have won by default had she not contested his suit, Lipstadt said. That would have given him the right to say that a "British court had found that he was not a Holocaust denier and that his lies and distortions about the Holocaust were true."

Lipstadt said she gained strength during the trial from the knowledge that she had support from the community-at-large.

"They too felt that they could not abide a man who spews hatred and prejudice, who dances on the graves of Holocaust victims, who makes vile jokes about survivors, who scorns people of color, who is repulsed by homosexuals, and who believes women a lesser form of being," she said.

Lipstadt quoted also from the following letters:

"I read with great pleasure of your success in winning your lawsuit for libel by David Irving. Those ‘revisionist historians’ aggravate me to no end, particularly since I was an 18-year-old GI in Germany at the end of WW II and had the rare privilege of seeing Buchenwald concentration camp in the spring of 1945. … I just wanted to let you know of another pair of eyes who saw the aftermath of it first hand."

"Fair-haired and light-eyed, Christian, goy and stranger I may be, but I cannot understand how that dreadful creature persuaded some of our children that their parents and grandparents are either liars or fools. There are still plenty of us who will remember until we die: including those who, unlike me, were there."

Lipstadt asked the graduates also not to compromise their principles just because it may be the easy way out, and to "stand up for what is right, even when it demands much to do so."