26 October 2016


We saw the UK-produced film Denial Saturday night. I had heard a brief snippet about it on the radio a few days earlier and it was conveniently showing at the Naro Cinema, only a few blocks from where we planned to have dinner.

Denial is an excellent film. The reviews have been generally positive and, for a film devoted to justifying historical accuracy, dramatic tension was maintained.

But what is Denial about, you ask? In short, Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt (played by Rachel Weisz) wrote a book, "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory", debunking the work of various Holocaust deniers including David Irving. Irving sued Lispstadt in London where, under the English common law, once defamatory words have been published, the burden is on the defendant to prove their truth.

After nearly four years of preparation followed by four months of trial, Lipstadt was ultimately vindicated in a 349-page judgment by Judge Charles Gray. (Irving, probably unwisely, agreed to a trial to the court rather than a jury.) As I explained to my Contracts students, the most useful legal take-away was the attorneys' relentless focus on the theory of the case. Rather than try to prove that the Holocaust actually happened--something that would have given Irving a platform to attack Lipstadt and survivors--barrister Richard Ramson, QC, briefed by solicitor Anthony Julius, focused on proving that Irving lied.

Proving that Irving was incorrect would not have been enough. Every historian makes mistakes so Lipstadt's attorneys painstakingly built a brick-by-brick wall of facts from which the only reasonable inference was that, as the court concluded, Irving had, “for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence” in order to portray Hitler “in an unwarrantedly favourable light” particularly in his treatment of the Jews. Irving had “significantly” misrepresented, misconstrued, omitted, mistranslated, misread and applied double standards to the historical evidence in order to achieve his ideological presentation of history.

Denial is a fine historical film and should be seen by many.

No comments:

Post a Comment