Charlottesville Civil Trial Brings Deborah Lipstadt into Court Against Hate AgainHistorians in the News
tags: Charlottesville, antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt, White Supremacy, Unite the Right
Deborah E. Lipstadt, a renowned Holocaust scholar, was not in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 when torch-bearing neo-Nazi marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us” and a young woman was killed in the violence. And yet Dr. Lipstadt is to take the stand in the continuing trial, where she will testify as a historian linking the antisemitism of the past to the politics of the present.
Dr. Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, is scheduled to appear in Charlottesville on Wednesday for the plaintiffs in Sines v. Kessler, a civil case brought against two dozen neo-Nazis and white nationalist groups who organized the 2017 Unite the Right rally in the college town. The nine plaintiffs include people who were injured when James Alex Fields Jr., a white supremacist, drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring at least 19 others.
The Charlottesville plaintiffs are suing the white nationalist groups under Virginia laws and the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, which Congress passed to help protect formerly enslaved African Americans from mob violence. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say the groups unlawfully conspired to deprive the plaintiffs of their rights as citizens. The groups and their lawyers say they were exercising their right to free speech, and their advance planning centered on self-defense.
The plaintiffs, who seek unspecified damages, say they want to show Americans how the chants of the marchers are connected to other forms of racism and have gained a renewed foothold in American politics. Dr. Lipstadt declined to comment for this article — attorneys for the plaintiffs barred her from interviews before her testimony — but in a 48-page report she prepared for the trial, she wrote that “this fear of active replacement by the Jew, derived directly from the historical underpinnings of antisemitism, is a central feature of contemporary antisemitism.”
“Two animuses — racism and antisemitism — come together in the concept of a ‘white genocide’ or ‘white replacement’ theory,” Dr. Lipstadt wrote in the report. “According to adherents of this theory, the Jews’ accomplices or lackeys in this effort are an array of people of color, among them Muslims and African Americans.”