Holocaust scholar returns to BrandeisReleased on March 03, 2005
Contact: David Nathan 781-736-4203
The campus may look different, but the fond memories and comfortable feelings associated with Brandeis never change for Deborah Lipstadt, who returned to her alma mater on March 2 to participate in a leadership conference and speak about her new book.
"I always love coming back," said Lipstadt, who earned a master's degree at Brandeis in 1972 and a Ph.D. four years later. "But this is different to come back to this kind of welcome and this response."
Lipstadt participated in Truth at Stake, a conference on the protection of historical truth, but the events at the Shapiro Campus Center centered on Lipstadt's book about her libel trial against a Holocaust denier. Before the conference, she spoke about her book as part of the Office of Communications' Meet the Author series.
"History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving" recounts the hardships of being sued for libel by David Irving, a man Lipstadt named the most dangerous of Holocaust deniers in an earlier book.
Irving was dangerous not only because he was a revisionist historian, but also because he was broadly read and even praised by the mainstream media, according to Lipstadt.
Lipstadt's triumph in the London courtroom changed people's opinion of him. Irving is now infamous for being a Holocaust denier, a discredited historian, and a liar.
"I have not dealt a death blow to Holocaust deniers - it doesn't go away," said Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University and the director of the school's Institute for Jewish Studies. "You don't win the battle, but you keep fighting the war."
Presented by the Fisher-Bernstein Institute for Jewish Philanthropy and Leadership at Brandeis, Truth at Stake focused on the ways in which scholars, government officials, educators, and philanthropists have risen to the challenges of the post-Holocaust era.
Speakers include Stuart Eizenstat, the Clinton Administration's special representative who negotiated agreements compensating Holocaust survivors; Howard Gardner, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who studies moral dilemmas, ethics, and excellence in work; Margot Stern Strom, co-founder and executive director of the Facing History and Ourselves National Foundation; and Leslie Wexner, chairman, president and CEO of Limited Brands and the leader in raising funds for Lipstadt's defense.
During the trial in 2000, Lipstadt felt the need to invalidate Irving and thus validate all the victims of the Holocaust, both the 6 million who were killed but the survivors as well.
She was moved by the survivors who diligently took their seats in the public gallery each day of the trial. She read heart-rending letters of gratitude she received. One woman called her a "great hero."
"I did not feel (like) anyone's great hero," Lipstadt said. "If someone had to be taken out of line to fight these battles, I feel gratified to be the one."
Lipstadt feels that Brandeis prepared her well for her life's work. At Brandeis, she learned about teaching, learning and Jewish life. Lipstadt is often described as a public scholar, another quality she attributes to her Brandeis education.
"I wouldn't be where I am if I hadn't been able to study and do my work here," she said. "We can't help looking at the world through the prisms of our studies."
The challenges of the trial provided Lipstadt with an opportunity to learn.
"I learned you can't fight every battle, but there are some you can't walk away from," she said. "Also, have people who believe in you and share your values, and lastly, be ready because you don't know when you will be called upon to fight."
Lipstadt said the visit to Brandeis was special and unlike any other event during her book tour.
"The conference is such a validation of everything I believe in and it's tremendously moving," she said.
Daily News Tribune
submitted by David Nathan