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Denial Reviewed

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The movie Denial, which recently came to theaters, is based on true events that Professor Deborah Lipstadt spoke about when she came to Ramaz. The movie depicts the trial between Professor Lipstadt, a historian of the Holocaust, and David Irving, a British historian and Holocaust denier. Irving brought a libel suit against Lipstadt, accusing her of using defamatory language about him in her books, thereby hurting his reputation. Irving sued Lipstadt in Britain, where there is no presumption of innocence. Essentially, Professor Lipstadt had to prove Irving’s accusation false instead of Irving having to prove himself correct, as in America. The film shows the process of preparing a court case and then focuses on the trial itself.

Throughout the film, the audience notices both the obvious external conflicts between Lipstadt’s party and Irving and also the internal conflicts between Lipstadt and her counsel as they disagree about strategies to argue the case.

One of the main internal conflicts is whether or not to have Holocaust survivors testify as witnesses. Lipstadt believes that as eyewitnesses to the atrocities committed, the survivors should have a chance to speak. However, Lipstadt’s lawyers disagreed because, in reality, the trial was not about whether or not the Holocaust happened, but rather about the truthfulness of Lipstadt’s accusations about Irving. Putting the survivors on the stand would validate Irving’s prerogative to question whether or not the Holocaust happened. If these survivors testified, it would give Irving a chance to attack and attempt to discredit their testimonies and memories.

Outside of the trial, the movie included some poignant emotional scenes, especially one taking place at Auschwitz, where Lipstadt and her lawyers went to collect evidence. The scene allows the viewer to feel the scope of the horror committed at Auschwitz. At this point, the viewer understands Lipstadt’s desire to say Kel Malei Rachamim as she stands on the remains of a gas chamber. This instance is another example of internal conflict, as Lipstadt fights with her lawyer over him seemingly treating the trip as one solely for collecting evidence, with no emotional significance whatsoever.

Another integral component of the film was the intentional similarities between David Irving and Adolf Hitler, which turned the Holocaust denier into a symbol for the German dictator. There are scenes in which Irving gives speeches to a crowd of neo-Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. The salutes and shouting in German are unnervingly reminiscent of videos of Hitler speaking to large crowds. The palpable anger in the faces of the two speakers is identical.

Ultimately, the movie addresses the balance between the right to free speech and the right to truth. As it says in the movie, Irving’s statements allow the perpetuation of Holocaust denial and gives validity to lies. He turns lies into valid opinion, which can have very dangerous consequences. However, limiting free speech also has its problems, and the movie leaves the viewer to decide his or her opinion.

Overall, this movie is extremely meaningful and has many important messages. It was also interesting and captivating to watch. We highly recommend that you see it.

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The student newspaper of the Ramaz Upper School