Renowned Holocaust Scholar Deborah Lipstadt Speaks at USC Shoah Foundation Community Event at Aspen Jewish Community Center

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 5:00pm

Deborah Lipstadt, renowned Holocaust scholar, author and professor, was a guest speaker at USC Shoah Foundation’s community event at Aspen Jewish Community Center on August 9. Now, a few weeks later, her remarks are more critically relevant than ever before.

Lipstadt spoke about Holocaust denial and its role in the rise in global antisemitism. The event, which was free and open to the public, also included a demonstration of New Dimensions in Testimony – USC Shoah Foundation’s interactive Holocaust survivor testimony – and educational virtual reality film “Lala,” about Holocaust survivor Roman Kent and his beloved dog, which is available on IWitness.

Lipstadt is the author of Denying the Holocaust (1993), History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier (2005), and The Eichmann Trial (2011). She is the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University.

She is most known for the libel suit Irving v. Penguin Books Ltd, in which David Irving accused her of libel for characterizing his writing and public statements as Holocaust denial in her book Denying the Holocaust. Lipstadt won the case by arguing that her accusations against Irving were true and therefore not libelous; in other words, that the Holocaust did happen and any claims otherwise are lies.

The suit is the subject of the 2016 film Denial, directed by Mick Jackson and starring Rachel Weisz as Lipstadt.

Just a week after the Aspen event, hate groups marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of Confederate statues while espousing racist, antisemitic and fascist ideologies. Lipstadt called these events “chilling in the extreme,” and said the marchers’ two slogans – “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us” are pure fascism and antisemitism, respectively.

“Although some have seen this as a battle over a statue, that is a smokescreen and a separate issue,” Lipstadt said. “This was antisemitism and racism and fascism, pure and simple.”

Lipstadt pointed out that while not all ideological group hatred results in genocide, all genocide begins with ideological group hatred. 

“The Charlottesville marchers came poised for violence,” she said. “They came bearing swastikas. There were no “fine people” among them. Fine people do not march with swastikas.”

In light of Charlottesville and the rise in antisemitism around the world in the past several years, genocide survivor testimonies like those in USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive offer a unique and powerful perspective: personal experiences.

That’s why USC Shoah Foundation’s educational resources on IWitness and new technology like New Dimensions in Testimony (which Lipstadt called “impressive”) can be such useful tools to teach future generations the consequences of hatred and discrimination, and the importance of standing up and speaking out.

“The survivor may not have a full sweep of the history – how could they?  They “only” experienced one small and horrific part of this massive thing called the Holocaust – but they can speak in the first person singular and that gives added heft to what they are saying,” Lipstadt said. “They can say this happened to me. This is my story.  For them it is not history.  It is a lived experience.”

Following Charlottesville, USC Shoah Foundation announced a new initiative called “Stronger Than Hate,” which will provide powerful educational tools to counter the clear and present danger of hateful ideas, while helping us develop curious, creative and courageous critical thinkers. Find out more on