Deborah Lipstadt went up against one Holocaust denier in a trial, but the death of another – Ernst Zündel – prompted her to say trials might make these figures more sympathetic

Historians in the News
tags: Holocaust denial

Ernst Zündel, who from a ramshackle Victorian house in central Toronto churned out books, posters, audiotapes and memorabilia denying the Holocaust and spreading neo-Nazi messages worldwide, died on Saturday at his home in Bad Wildbad, Germany. He was 78.... 

Mr. Zündel was on some levels “a run-of-the-mill neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier,” said Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta. But, she said, he had stood out for his determination to use mass media to spread his views.

“Prior to the digital age, he was responsible for spreading these materials across Europe and the Americas,” she said. “They became important resources for an array of neo-Nazi, white-supremacist and Holocaust-denying groups.”

During Mr. Zündel’s trials, his defense team commissioned a report from a self-proclaimed expert on executions, Fred A. Leuchter Jr., who denied the existence of the gas chambers. In fact, he had no such expertise and was later charged with fraud.

“The report, which became and remains a cornerstone of the Holocaust-denial movement, claimed that gas chambers were a scientific impossibility,” Professor Lipstadt said. “Based on shoddy methodology, it was riddled with basic scientific errors, miscalculations and false claims.”

Taking the witness stand at Mr. Zündel’s second trial, David Irving, perhaps the world’s best-known Holocaust denier, vouched for the Leuchter report. He later wrote the introduction when it was published as a book. (In Britain, Mr. Irving unsuccessfully sued Professor Lipstadt for libel, a case dramatized in the 2016 film “Denial.”)

 Professor Lipstadt was among those who expressed worry that the attention Mr. Zündel received over the years was what he wanted. “On a strategic level, sometimes I wondered if the various trials did not create a modicum of sympathy for a man who deserved not sympathy but utter contempt,” she said....

Read entire article at NYT