Read the case study and answer the questions below. Each question can be answered in one PARAGRAPH. No out side Source please. Just do your best.
Case Study 8.1: Team Denial
Emory University Holocaust studies professor Deborah Lipstadt faced an uphill battle when she was sued by British amateur historian David Irving in 1995. Irving was the world’s best known Holocaust denier. He claimed that Hitler didn’t order the killing of Jews. Instead, the Führer’s subordinates acted on their own, without his knowledge. Irving’s most audacious assertion was that no Jews and other victims were gassed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. He denied that there were gas chambers. Instead, deaths were caused by typhus and other illnesses, not murder. Speaking before neo-Nazi groups, Irving declared that more people died in the back of Senator Edward Kennedy’s car (one young woman) than were deliberately killed at Auschwitz.
In her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, professor Lipstadt called Irving “a Hitler partisan wearing blinkers” who distorted historical evidence to “reach historically untenable conclusions.”1 Irving then threatened to sue unless she retracted her comments. He likely thought she would settle out of court. Not Lipstadt. Surrender would give deniers a victory, meaning a “second death” to the victims of Auschwitz and other Jews who perished under the Nazis. But Irving had the upper hand. Under British law, Lipstadt had to defend herself from the allegations. (In the United States, accusers have to prove that they have been libeled and defamed.) The lengthy court case would cost over a million dollars to fight and would be held in London, thousands of miles from Atlanta, where Lipstadt taught.
Fortunately for Dr. Lipstadt, others rallied to her cause. Emory gave her financial support and paid leave while hiring adjuncts to teach her classes. (School officials believed that canceling Holocaust courses would be a victory for Irving.) Penguin, her publisher, provided legal and financial support and Jewish groups raised money for her defense. Most important, she gained the support of a top-notch legal team who believed in her cause. This team included (1) those who prepared her case—a team of researchers who gathered information and the attorneys who assembled court documents; and (2) a pair of barristers who argued in front of the judge. (In Britain, one set of attorneys prepares the case while a different set of attorneys presents the case in court.) Lipstadt needed all the help she could get. Preparation for the trial took five years. Researchers had to sift through thousands of documents checking footnotes as well as hundreds of Irving’s personal diaries. They generated an eight-foot-tall stack of trial notebooks.
The legal team decided to put Irving on trial, demonstrating how he systematically altered historical evidence to support his anti-Semitic views. That meant that Deborah wouldn’t testify, turning her into a spectator at her own trial. Lipstadt, a skilled public speaker, objected to these restrictions but eventually gave in. She said, “Being quiet for me is an unnatural act. But I had legal and historical experts second to none.”2 To prepare for the trial, Lipstadt and barrister Richard Rampton—the attorney who would present the defense case in court—traveled to Auschwitz to collect data. Rampton called the visit a “forensic tour” and gathered information about the size of the camp, the location of the crematoria, and other details. Lipstadt, who treated the camp as a sacred memorial, was offended by the attorney’s aggressive questioning.
The trial took five weeks before a judge with Irving representing himself. Because Irving could cross-examine witnesses as his own lawyer, concentration camp survivors (some of whom attended the trial and were eager to speak) were not called upon to testify for fear that Irving would humiliate them. Earlier he had ridiculed a camp survivor on an Australian radio show by asking her, “How much money have you made out of that tattoo since 1945?”3
The defense team argued that the amateur historian systematically misreported, altered, and distorted historical documents and photographs to support his racist views. The reason for attorney Rampton’s behavior during the team’s visit to Auschwitz became clear during the trial. When Irving asserted that the gas chambers were bomb shelters, the barrister was able to demonstrate that the chambers were too far away for the SS guards to take shelter there.
In a 355-page ruling, the trial judge ruled in favor of Lipstadt. He rejected Irving’s claims that he had made inadvertent mistakes while doing research. Instead, the judge concluded, “He has deliberately skewed the evidence to bring it in line with his political beliefs.”4 He declared Irving to be “an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-Semitic and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.”5 Irving’s subsequent appeals of the verdict were denied.
Professor Lipstadt credits her victory to her legal team. She acknowledges that her advisers were right to suppress her desire to testify. (They also forbid her from saying anything to the press outside the courtroom during the proceedings.) Her researchers not only identified deliberate misstatements but were able to produce the needed documents at critical moments during the trial, often catching Irving in contradictory claims. Trial attorney Rampton mastered the historical details of the Holocaust and demonstrated that Irving systematically altered the truth and had ties to radical right-wing groups.
Members of Deborah’s team viewed their participation in her defense as a watershed moment in their lives. Rampton said that working on the case was “a privilege,” and now that the trial was over, he missed the daily contact with other team members who had become friends. His young assistant felt “enormous pride” that “I have done something that is so important to many others. I made a difference.”6 One of the law partners who prepared the case noted that this was the rare legal confrontation where no accommodation could be made with the other side: “Here there was an absolute difference between right and wrong. We could wholeheartedly be on the side of the angels.”7
1. What risks did Lipstadt take in deciding to go forward with her case? What if she had lost?
2. Why was the denial defense team successful? How did the mission of the team and the values of its members contribute to its success?
3. How do you determine when to follow or when to reject the advice of the group?
4. Have you ever been on a team that performed at a high level? What similarities do you note between your experience and that of the denial defense team?