Holocaust expert to speak

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Photo of author and historian Deborah Lipstadt

Author and historian Deborah Lipstadt will speak about anti-Semitism Oct. 27 in Ritsche Auditorium.

Historian Deborah E. Lipstadt, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on the Holocaust and the people who deny it happened, will speak on anti-Semitism and the politics of denying the Holocaust at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 in Ritsche Auditorium.

The author of four books, Lipstadt stresses the importance of telling the story of the Holocaust to the generation that is seeing the last survivors die and is witnessing new genocides in Africa.

"Professor Lipstadt's visit is important because she brings a scholarly perspective to the sometimes heated campus discourse on anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and Israel," said Daniel Wildeson, director of St. Cloud State's Center for Holocaust & Genocide Education, which is hosting her visit.

"She has made major contributions to the contemporary discourse and research about the Holocaust, particularly in settings of higher learning," Wildeson said.

Lipstadt is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta.

“The New Anti-Semitism: How New? How Bad?” is free and open to the public. Parking is free on some streets adjacent to campus. Parking in the 4th Avenue Parking Ramp is a dollar per hour.

In her first book, “Beyond Belief: The American Press & the Coming of the Holocaust 1933-1945,” Lipstadt said American journalists had trouble comprehending the Nazi plan for the extermination of all Jews, even as they reported the systematic murder of six million Jews among the millions of people killed by the Nazi regime.

She will discuss how anti-Semitism was key to making mass murder possible and how, even today, people trivialize the Holocaust by denying its existence or downplaying its significance.

Lipstadt’s newest book, “The Eichmann Trial,” appears on the 50th anniversary of the trial in Israel of one of the Nazi architects of the Holocaust in Germany. The trial of Adolf Eichmann, who was executed in May 1962, helped Holocaust survivors tell their stories.

The Eichmann trial accelerated and, in certain cases, generated a process whereby the private and very personal world of the survivor met the public world of commemoration,” Lipstadt wrote. “Today, as the generation of survivors grows smaller and there are few people left to speak in the first-person singular, it behooves us to pay special heed to and event that gave the victims an enhanced and more authoritative voice and also helped create an ‘audience’ to listen to them in a new and different fashion.”

Lipstadt says the Holocaust survivors’ stories are valuable to victims of other genocides. Lipstadt once saw survivors of genocide in Rwanda meet with Holocaust survivors in Israel. She said the young Africans and the older survivors shared the importance of telling their stories so that future generations who were not there can remember.

On May 16, the New York Times published her article, “Demjanjuk in Munich,” on the importance of holding officials accountable for war crimes and the value of testimony by victims – even decades after the events.

John Demjanjuk, who had been an Ohio autoworker for years, was convicted in May of accessory to the murder of 28,060 people in the Sobibor death camp in Poland.

Lipstadt's “The Eichmann Trial,” published by Schocken/Nextbook, was called by Publisher's Weekly, "a penetrating and authoritative dissection of a landmark case and its after effects."

CNN television analyst and Harvard University Professor David Gergen called the book "a powerfully written testimony to our ongoing fascination with the proceedings, the resonance of survivor tales, and how both changed our understanding of justice after atrocity."

Following publication of Lipstadt's 1993 book “Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory,” she was sued by a man she called a Holocaust denier and right-wing extremist. The 2001 court room victory became the subject of her next book, “History On Trial: My Day in Court With a Holocaust Denier,” published in 2005.

View the British High Court ruling, which among other things, declared Irving is "anti-semitic and racist and that he associates with right wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism." The ruling acquitted Lipstadt of libel charges.

An advocate of free speech, Lipstadt has opposed jail sentences for people who deny the Holocaust – a crime in Germany.

At Emory University, she created the Institute for Jewish Studies and was its first director from 1998 to 2008. She directs the website known as Holocaust Denial on Trial which contains answers to frequent claims made by deniers.

Lipstadt was a consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and helped design the section of the Museum dedicated to the American Response to the Holocaust. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, on which she served two terms. On July 7, President Barack Obama appointed  Lipstadt to the council again.

She received her bachelor's degree from City College of New York and her master's and doctorate from Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass.

Lipstadt is also appearing at the University of Minnesota. Her visit to the state is sponsored by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota; Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas; Temple Israel of Minneapolis; Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, Saint John's University and the University of St. Thomas; and the Christian-Jewish Center and Library.

Call 320-308-4205 or email for more information.

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