Historians and Holocaust Denial in the Courtroom
Historians of the Holocaust have faced the unusual task of not only writing for one another, their students and the general public but also bringing their research and knowledge into the courtroom. Most often this has taken the form of giving expert witness testimony in the trials of accused Holocaust perpetrators, such as the recent Sawoniuk trial in London. But on occasion they have also been involved in so-called ‘Holocaust denial trials’. When the legal bases of these trials have been ‘anti-hate’ laws (such as in the Keegstra case in Canada) or laws explicitly banning such denial (such as the ‘Auschwitz Lie’ law in Germany), testimony by historians was not crucial. But on three occasions — the two trials of Ernst Zündel in Toronto in 1985 and 1988 and the libel suit of David Irving against Deborah Lipstadt in London in 2000 — historical expert witnesses have played a central role. As I was the historical expert witness for the Crown Prosecution in the second Zündel trial as well as a member of the team of historical experts in the Irving-Lipstadt trial, I should make clear that the following comments are those of an engaged participant, not a detached and neutral observer.
KeywordsExpert Witness Defence Attorney Racist Attitude Witness Testimony Professional Historian
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- 1.Canadian Criminal Code, Section 177, cited in Leonidas Hill, ‘The Trial of Ernst Zündel’, Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual, VI (1989), p. 169.Google Scholar