There are a few truths I have grown up with that I would never imagine questioning:
- My parents were my real parents, even though my sisters teasingly told me I was adopted;
- I was born Jewish;
- I gave birth to 2 beautiful boys;
- The human race has been involved in wars for as long as we have existed;
- The Holocaust happened.
Throughout my childhood I was constantly reminded, “it could happen again.” We always knew what “it” meant.
“Don’t believe for a moment that the Jews are free from persecution and that the Holocaust couldn’t happen again,” my parents cautioned me. I viewed my parents as paranoid and dismissed this warning. I never, in my wildest imagination, considered that someone would deny history…deny that the Holocaust actually did happen.
It turns out that since 1944, over two-dozen individuals have publicly denied the Holocaust. In 1977, David Irving published “Hitler’s War”, arguing that Hitler neither ordered nor condoned the Nazi policy of the genocide of the European Jews.
The film Denial tells the real life story of how acclaimed writer and historian Deborah Lipstadt (played by Rachel Weisz) battled for historical truth to prove the Holocaust actually occurred when David Irving, (played by Timothy Spall), a renowned denier, sued her for libel.
Lipstadt was a Professor at Emory in Jewish Studies and had written several books on the Holocaust.
Lipstadt had accused David Irving, “a noted historian,” of being a “denier” and revising history by saying the Holocaust was a hoax.
Irving sued Lipstadt for libel, claiming her accusation tarnished Irving’s career as an historian. He filed a the suit in England.
Deborah Lipstadt had to prove in a British Court that Irving intentionally disregarded historical facts to support his thesis, truth being a defense to libel.
What is incredible for the viewer to experience is a questioning of a piece of history that is seemingly undeniable to all of us — that the Holocaust happened. However, the Germans destroyed all records of the death camps; proving a case in court turned out to be a monumental task.
Lipstadt’s book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier chronicled this 5-year trial against David Irving and is played out in this film. The book was adapted for film by David Hare (screenwriter of two other great historical films, The Reader and The Hours)
After viewing the film, we were lucky to have the Co-Producer Gary Foster discuss the film’s background with us. He explained that in making the film the dialogue was taken directly from the testimony during the trial.
We have watched plenty of Law and Order and Good Wife episodes depicting courtroom drama. However, what was unusual about this film was it was totally realistic and not “Hollywoodized” as it was based on an accurate and authentic unfolding of this court case.
Watching the unfolding of Lipstadt’s lawyers’ strategic approach to the trial was riveting. But what put a lump in my throat was seeing how this one voice – Lipstadt’s -felt the weight of history on her shoulders and a responsibility to honor the holocaust survivors and preserve an accurate accounting of history.
Rachel Weisz was brilliant in her portrayal of Lipstadt’s passion and humanity and her life’s work. Timothy Spall captured David Irving’s villainy, his pompous arrogance, and hatred.
Everyone should see this film as it is not only entertaining but it stimulates an important dialogue about racism and the danger of anti-Semitism and hatred. You will see how difficult it was to disprove a hater like David Irving and how destructive revisionist history can be.
Producers are Gary Foster and Russ Krasnoff of Krasnoff/Foster Entertainment alongside Shoebox Films. Participant Media developed the project with BBC Films.