The American anti-Semitism and Holocaust researcher will be publicly honoured for her academic work and her commitment to counteract publicly disseminated lies
Oldenburg. Deborah Esther Lipstadt is the recipient of the 2018 Carl-von-Ossietzky-Prize of the City of Oldenburg for Contemporary History and Politics. The independent jury voted unanimously to award the prize and the accompanying €10,000 to the historian living in Atlanta, Georgia. The official awards ceremony, in which the prize will be presented to the recipient by mayor Jürgen Krogmann, will take place in Oldenburg on May 4th. The laudatory speech will be given by television journalist Thomas Roth, former head of the ARD-Studios New York and current anchor of the news broadcast “Tagesthemen”.
Deborah Esther Lipstadt is one of the most renowned Holocaust researchers internationally. She came to prominence in the years 1996 to 2000 when she won a legal case taken against the Holocaust denier David Irving. In 2016, the spectacular court case was made into an internationally successful British-American film.
In providing the reasons for its decision, the jury wrote: “The City of Oldenburg is awarding the 2018 Carl-von-Ossietzky-Prize to Professor Dr. Deborah Esther Lipstadt due to her consequent and unflinching commitment to the historic truth and human dignity. Her academic work has been underpinned by an in-depth consciousness for the social and political responsibility of each individual person. In her dealings with Holocaust deniers, Deborah Esther Lipstadt laid down an impressive marker for the power of reason and rationality during the discourse that was aimed at educating and informing. The continued fight that she has taken against the publicly disseminated lies and untruths is an uplifting example of civil courage.”
The jury was made up of five people, including the literary scholar Professor Dr. Sabine Doering (Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg), the journalist and author Dr. Gunter Hofmann (Die ZEIT, Berlin), Friedrich-Wilhelm Kramer, former director of the NDR Broadcasting Centre Schleswig-Holstein, freelance journalist and Lecturer for Media and Politics in Riga and Hamburg, the sociology Professor em. Dr. Dieter Rucht (Freie Universität Berlin) as well as the historian Professor Dr. Martin Sabrow, Director of the Centre for Contemporary History in Potsdam and Professor for Modern and Contemporary History at the Humboldt University in Berlin.
A Profile of Deborah Esther Lipstadt
Deborah Esther Lipstadt was born on March 18th, 1947 as the daughter of an immigrant Jewish family. Her mother was Canadian, while her father had already emigrated from Germany to the United States in the 1920s. Lipstadt studied in New York and completed her doctorate in 1976 at the Brandeis University in Massachusetts, writing her doctoral thesis on Louis Lipsky. She held a number of lectureship positions for history and religion at universities in Los Angeles and Washington, since 1993 she has been Professor for Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at the Emory University in Atlanta. From 1998 to 2008 she was director of the local Institute for Jewish Studies, which she established herself. Her work on anti-Semitism, the Eichmann trial and the role of the United States media during the Second World War, in particular with respect to the history of Holocaust denial, have brought her international fame. This was followed by guest professorships at renowned universities both within and outside of the Unites States.
Lipstadt was appointed to various advisory boards and committees, as well as being appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Council by President Clinton and President Obama. There she was a member of the Executive Committee, as well as heading up the museum’s Educational and Academic Committee. In 2005, at the request of then President George W. Bush, she was part of the delegation that was invited to the White House to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp Auschwitz.
Lipstadt has already received numerous awards. In 2018, she received the Annetje Fels-Kupferschmidt award and delivered the Nooit Meer Auschwitz' Lezing (Never Again Auschwitz Lecture). In 2006, she also received the National Jewish Book Award for her book “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier”. And not only that, she has furthermore been awarded honorary doctorates by the Ohio Wesleyan University, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the Yeshiva University, the Bar Ilan University, the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Hebrew Union College.
The case of Irving versus Lipstadt
In 1996, she and her British publisher were sued for libel and defamation by the Holocaust denier David Irving following the 1993 publication of her book “Denying the Holocaust”. According to the requirements of British law, the burden of proof rested on Lipstadt. Following a legal case that took many years, the London-based court dismissed Irving’s case and decided in favour of Lipstadt and her publisher.
Lipstadt, however, is not in favour of pursuing Holocaust deniers in the courts, because any contesting of the crime should only occur through examining the historical truth and not by limiting freedom of speech.
The spectacular case of Irving versus Lipstadt, which exposed Holocaust denial as a construct of lies, resulted in the 2016 British-American film production “Denial” with Rachel Weisz playing Deborah Lipstadt and Timothy Spall in the role of David Irving, with the film being directed by Mick Jackson. The film was released in German cinemas in April 2017.
Deborah Lipstadt appears regularly in the American media. She is a frequent guest in various television formats, writes for and is frequently quoted in the Washington Post and New York Times, among other publications, and is active on Facebook. This involves Lipstadt analysing the conflation of facts, opinions and lies in order to make the antisemitic, racist, sexist and right-wing populist attitudes and strategies transparent. Beyond this, she also comments on the global political situation, as well as current US domestic and foreign policy. In doing so she makes reference to the increasing “softcore” denial – the trivialisation of the extermination – even when it comes to high levels of government, she warns about the underlying subtle tactics and mechanisms. This could be seen, for example, in the fact that the extermination of the Jews was not mentioned in the White House statement released on Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th, 2017 as she argued in the Atlantic Magazine.
About the Carl-von-Ossietzky-Prize
The Carl-von-Ossietzky-Prize for Contemporary History and Politics has been awarded by the City of Oldenburg every two years since 1984 to works, complete bodies of work or to persons who have excellently examined the life and works of Ossietzky, the resistance against National Socialism and the democratic tradition and present, or who have confronted and examined the topics of politics and contemporary history in the spirit of Ossietzky.
Extended Jury statement on their choice:
The Carl-von-Ossietzky Prize of the City of Oldenburg for the year 2018 is to be awarded to the American professor and historian Dr. Deborah Esther Lipstadt. The academic has consistently and fearlessly campaigned for the historical truth and human dignity. This commitment and her academic work have been underpinned by an in-depth consciousness for the social and political responsibility of each individual person.
In her dealings with Holocaust deniers, Deborah Esther Lipstadt laid down an impressive marker for the power of reason and rationality during the discourse that was aimed at educating and informing. Her academic depiction of Holocaust denial that was published in German in 1994 (“Betrifft: Leugnen des Holocaust” [Denying the Holocaust]) was subject to a large degree of international attention. The legal case taken against a known British holocaust denier, which Deborah Esther Lipstadt impressively won, became the topic of an internationally successful film with the title “Denial” and a book written by Eva Menasse with the title “Der Holocaust vor Gericht’’ (English: “The Holocaust on Trial”).
The continued fight that Deborah Esther Lipstadt has taken against the publicly disseminated lies and untruths is an uplifting example of civil courage.