Austrian Court Jails Historian Who Denied Holocaust An Austrian court sentences British historian David Irving to three years in prison Monday, for the crime of denying the holocaust. Guests examine whether or not anti-Nazi laws are needed more than 60 years after the end of World War II.

Austrian Court Jails Historian Who Denied Holocaust

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This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

In Vienna yesterday, controversial British historian David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison for denying the Holocaust during a visit to Austria 17 years ago.

The sentence came after a day-long trial, during which Irving apologized for what he called his mistakes and errors of judgment, in his claims that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, and that the Holocaust was a huge swindle, perpetrated by Jews to obtain billions of dollars from Germany in reparations.

The Irving conviction comes amid the controversy over the publication of cartoons satirizing the Prophet Muhammad, and to some, seems to describe a double standard. The state makes some forms of offensive speech a crime, while offensive cartoons are defended as part of a right to free expression.

More than 60 years after the end of the Second World War, there are laws in both Germany and Austria that prohibit Nazi and neo-Nazi political parties, forbid public displays of Nazi emblems, and make Holocaust denial a crime.

Later in the program, an al-Qaeda bomb maker describes a plot to blow up an Israeli cruise liner in Turkey, and your letters.

But first, the crime of denying the Holocaust. If you have questions about why anti-Nazi laws were written in the first place, about how they're used, and whether they're still needed, our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255, that's 800-989-TALK. The email address is

We begin in Vienna with Derek Scally, a Berlin correspondent for the Irish Times who attended the trial of David Irving yesterday.

Good of you to be with us tonight.

Mr. DEREK SCALLY (Reporter, Irish Times): Hello, Neal.

CONAN: How did David Irving end up facing a jury and a judge in Austria after statements he made so long ago?

Mr. SCALLY: That seemed to be the question hanging over the trial yesterday. He seemed to sit completely stunned that he was even in the court. And when the verdict came yesterday evening, after a one-day trial, that he was now facing a further three years in Vienna, he seemed scarcely, he seemed, for once, lost for words.

It all goes back, as you said in your introduction, to 1989. He was on a tour of Austria, and he said during two speeches, and in an interview to an Austrian journalist, three things that we now know breached what Austria calls its Verbotsgesetz, it's the law you described in your introduction that deems illegal any kind of, any attempt to deny the Holocaust, any attempt to justify Nazi crimes.

And, in his speeches back in 1989, he said that the Auschwitz gas chambers didn't exist, that Hitler had protected Jews, rather than been behind the genocide, that he was not in any way directly connected to the Holocaust, and even then, he said the Holocaust as we know it didn't happen. That it was largely a myth. These were the charges that came back to haunt him yesterday in Vienna.

He had to answer for them, and his defense, well, first thing he did, he admitted to the charges, he conceded that he had breeched the law. But his lawyer argued that he was a changed man. And, in the years since then, he had actually revised his views on all of these controversial points.

CONAN: The judge in the case has said he was not persuaded by Mr. Irving's claims that he'd had a change of heart.

Mr. SCALLY: No, I mean, anyone who's followed Mr. Irving's career over the years knows that he really hasn't changed his spots. You may recall in, six years ago, in London, the American Academic Deborah Lipstadt had to fight off a libel charge from Mr. Irving along similar issues about the gas chambers at Auschwitz, and about Hitler's role in the Holocaust, and the Holocaust itself. But that was a libel trial, and as you know, British libel laws are actually weighted against the Deborah Lipstadt, in this case, and she literally had to prove the charges that, she had to prove that Mr. Irving was a Holocaust denier, that the Holocaust as we know it did happen.

The case yesterday was a lot dryer. He was just presented with his charges, and the jury were asked if they felt that this breeched the law.

CONAN: Yes, Professor Lipstadt will be joining us in just a moment, but I wanted to ask you to describe the scene in the courtroom yesterday.

Mr. SCALLY: Well, it was a wonderful Vienna criminal courtroom. It's the main courtroom that was, as an intern said to me, it was only used for special occasions. And I think most people thought yesterday's case against Mr. Irving was a very special occasion, because he did face Deborah Lipstadt in a civil action in 2000, but this was a criminal action. He was the defendant, and he was on trial for his statements.

He came in around 9:00, and he was looking rather worse-for-wear. He was, he's known for his fondness for Seville Row suits, and for the finery of life, despite being bankrupt. He cut a rather depressing figure yesterday. The journalists occupied the first three rows. There were a few supporters. But there were dozens of armed court guards there to protect Mr. Irving, and to make sure that there was no disruption to the court.

When the verdict came in, early in the evening, it was a one-day trial, he, Mr. Irving appeared absolutely stunned. He seemed to shudder for a moment as he stood. And then, as he was being led from the court, supporters stood up and said, "Be strong David, best of luck to you." This supporter was also escorted from the court by armed guards.

It was a very tense, very dry, sometimes often confusing day. Mr. Irving speaks perfect German, but the legal arguments were being shot back and forth in a very heavy Austrian-Viennese accent, so even Mr. Irving said he had difficulty sometimes following the proceedings.

But it was a very dry, very unemotional day. The judge very much kept Mr. Irving on a very tight leash. He led him through the arguments being put to him, he led him through all of his statements over the years about the Holocaust, did he still believe the Holocaust was a myth. Mr. Irving had to admit, no, it did happen. Were the gas chambers in Auschwitz a myth? No, I do admit now the gas chambers existed.

So, for Mr. Irving, it was almost a humiliating shopping list. He was basically asked to recant everything he had said on this issue, on these issues, over the last years. And then, at the end of it, he got a slap in the face and was told, well, we still believe you believe these things. You're staying with us for another three years.

CONAN: Immediately, the defense said it would appeal the sentence. Then today, the prosecution said it too would appeal, because it believed the sentence was too lenient.

Mr. SCALLY: Excuse me, could you repeat the question?

CONAN: Both sides are now appealing the verdict, not the verdict but the sentence, yes.

Mr. SCALLY: Yes, that's it. The prosecutors have said they feel that three years is too light a conviction. He could have faced up to ten years in prison. The defense immediately said after the trial that they are going to appeal this. They hope to bring it down to at least 1 and a half years, if not less.

But the prosecutors were very, very determined that Mr. Irving be put in jail. They said this is not a historian. He has been proven not to be a historian as the Lipstadt trial proved. He had, this is not a historical debate; the Holocaust is not up for discussion. It's a historical fact.

And he said, most importantly, this isn't a freedom of speech trial. This is about protecting freedom of speech from abuse, from misuse. And he reminded the court, in a country like Austria that has its own Nazi past, he said freedom of speech defense was the one used by the Nazis, until they came to power. As soon as they were in power, they removed that right to freedom of speech from their opponents, and put them in concentration camps.

CONAN: Derek Scally, I know you have to run to catch a plane. We appreciate your time this evening.

Mr. SCALLY: You're very welcome.

CONAN: Derek Scally, Berlin correspondent for the Irish Times. He spoke to us on the phone from Vienna.

Joining us now from a BBC studio in Rome is Deborah Lipstadt, professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emery University in Atlanta. As you just heard, in 2000, David Irving sued her for libel for describing him as a Holocaust denier. Irving lost that case, and many say, all of his professional reputation.

Professor Lipstadt wrote a book about the experience, called, History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving.


Professor DEBORAH LIPSTADT (Modern Jewish and Holocaust studies, Emery University): Thank you, Neal. It's a pleasure being here.

CONAN: What's your reaction to the conviction and sentence yesterday?

Professor LIPSTADT: Well, let me say this, first and foremost, generally, I'm against laws that censor. I don't believe in censorship, I don't, I'm a free speech tradition, as most Americans are, and I don't, but also, I don't think censorship is efficacious. I think that, certainly, in the case of Holocaust denial, we won my case, in which David Irving was trying to curtail my freedom of speech and force me to pulp my books and, you know, apologize to him, but we won not by relying on the law, we won by relying on history, on facts, on material evidence, on interviews.

We also won by showing, not so much, though I appreciated Derek Scally's comments and his very astute observations about the trial, both mine and this current trial, but we really won by proving that the guy's a liar, that if we tracked every one of his footnotes on the Holocaust, and in every single one, not the most, not many, but in every single one, we found some fabrication, some distortion.

Let me say that, even though I am against laws curtailing the freedom of speech, and against censorship laws, I understand the situation in Germany and Austria. Germany and Austria is where the Holocaust started, where it was conceived, where its leaders came from, the countries that profited from it, Germany and Austria.

So, I can understand their sensitivity, and, you know Neal, I come, most of the time I live in Atlanta. If you were to walk down the streets of Atlanta or Sellmore or Montgomery in a white sheet and a cone head with a mask on your face, you would be signaling that you believe something quite specific, i.e. the Ku Klux Klan. If you were to put on that same costume and walk in parts of Spain, or even Italy at Easter time, you'd be looking, you'd be saying something very different. So, I think that Holocaust denial has a different resonance in Germany and in Austria than it does in the rest of the world.

CONAN: We're going to have to take a break in a couple of minutes, but I did want to ask you, before we, then we'll start taking calls, also, but I did want to ask you, there's a sense that David Irving brought this on himself. He sued you for libel and lost, and lost a lot of money and his professional reputation. And, in this case, he knew this indictment was outstanding against him in Austria, and went back to make an advertised speech.

Professor LIPSTADT: Exactly. This started out, first, I think both cases started out as sort of a lark for him. He sued me for libel, I think, thinking because I was an American, I was far away, I was a woman, he's a great misogynist in addition to being an anti-Semite and a racist, and because I was, you know, a Jew. I don't know, certainly because I was an American, I was a woman, I was, you know, far away from the British courts that I wouldn't fight back, and I fought back, and I fought back hard, and I won. And the same thing happened, I think, with this trip to Austria.

He knew, as you say, there was a warrant out for his arrest. He announced on his web page that he was going to Austria. The right wing students who invited him there announced on their web page that he was coming, and my sense is that he was going, he thought one of two things would happen: either the Austrians would ignore him, and then he could say, you know, ha, you don't even enforce your own laws, you think they're stupid or they're wrong, or whatever. Or, they would arrest him, he'd get a lot of media attention, and then he'd come back to England, you know, hail the conquering hero.

In fact, he told a British reporter that he had bought a, and he stressed this, a first class ticket from Vienna to London for last night, the night after the trial. He expected to be sent home.

CONAN: Stay with us, we're going to take a short break. If you'd like to join the conversation, 800-989-8255 is our phone number. You can also send us e- mail, I'm Neal Conan, we'll be back after the break. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're discussing today the conviction yesterday of David Irving in a court in Vienna, Austria, for the crime of denying the Holocaust. We're talking about why those laws are in place 60 years after the end of the Second World War. If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255, e-mail is

Our guest is Deborah Lipstadt, Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. She is with us from a studio in Rome. She had a legal run- in with David Irving six years ago, and wrote a book about it called History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving.

Let's get a caller on the line, and this is David. David is calling us from Salt Lake City.

DAVID (Caller): Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

CONAN: Sure.

DAVID: I guess my comment is, you know, in the case of the Holocaust denial, it just seems to me that it would be best to fight words with words, and, you know, not legislation, not the criminalization, the expression of opinions, you know, regardless of how unpopular or repugnant. And it concerns me that, you know, if this particular view can be criminalized, what's to stop other views from being legislated against? I mean, it seems like a bit of a slippery slope, and I just kind of wanted the comments on that and I'll take those off the air.

CONAN: Okay, thanks for the call, David. Deborah Lipstadt?

Professor LIPSTADT: Well, I agree. I think that it is a slippery slope. That's why I don't think there should be laws outlawing Danish cartoons from being made that lampoon Muhammad, however distasteful they are, and I don't think there should be laws against Holocaust denial. But, again, I say that I recognize the different situation in Austria and Germany. And even though I understand the free speech link between Holocaust denial and the cartoons, in fact, I made it myself.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Professor LIPSTADT: I think it's also, you have to be a little careful in the comparing the two, because one is a cartoon, however outrageous it may seem to the believers in Islam, and the other is murder of Jews and others and human beings, so there is a slight difference. But, none the less, I don't think these laws work, though I recognize, again, the Austrian and German special case.

CONAN: Well, joining us now is Mark Weitzman, Director of the Task Force Against Hate at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in New York City, and he joins us from our bureau in New York. Nice to have you on the program as well.

Mr. MARK WEITZMAN (Director, Task Force Against Hate, Simon Wiesenthal Center): Thanks, nice to be here.

CONAN: Would you think that after 60 years, it's time that these laws are phased out?

Mr. WEITZMAN: I think, ideally, we would have been in a position that we could have said that everyone has learned lessons from the Holocaust, and it's not an issue anymore, but when we see, even though it's not located in Europe, but when we see the president of a major international entity, namely Iran, claiming that the Holocaust never happened, and trying to convene an international conference to deny that it happened, this is still a political football going on.

We also see, unfortunately, cases in Europe, not just in Germany or Austria, where Holocaust education in itself, the education of what happened in World War II has been disrupted, has been sometimes denied and denigrated by people with political agendas. So, it seems that these laws are still necessary from that perspective. The free speech issues, obviously, raises different questions.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. What, how many countries have these laws? Is it just Germany and Austria?

Mr. WEITZMAN: Almost every country in Europe has a certain form of, as a matter of fact, we could easily make a different generalization, which is that no country in the world has the same approach to freedom of speech as the United States. Even a country like Canada bars some of these types of activities, and Canada even deported Ernst Zundel, a major Holocaust denier and anti-Semite, Neo-Nazi, to Germany where his trial has been going on currently as well.

Professor LIPSTADT: There are no laws against it in the United Kingdom. There are about nine countries that have laws, but there are a number of countries that don't.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Professor LIPSTADT: So, I think that you have to really differentiate.

CONAN: And, Mark Weitzman, how often are these laws imposed? I mean, how often are they used? How many people have been tried?

Mr. WEITZMAN: Again, I can't give you a specific number, but they're not that often imposed. What generally happens is that they're often used only when a person has become a major public, or try to make it as a major public figure in this. When you have people who are either teaching this in academic institution, or publishing works, or trying to draw attention to themselves on a large scale basis, have they been applied. Some websites have been shut down. Some individuals have had academic degrees stripped from them, but basically, we're talking about, I would say, probably less than a hundred or so that I can think of.

CONAN: Okay, let's get some more listeners on the line. Steven joins us. Steven is in San Francisco.

STEVEN (Caller): Yes, hi, this is Steven.

CONAN: Go ahead, you're on the air.

STEVEN: Yeah, with regard to these laws, I personally feel they're very, I mean, I too, believe very much in freedom of speech, but I think this is a very different situation. The question was after 60 years, is it still necessary? I (unitelligible) recall Wertheim, and there's been an enormous lawsuit going on in Germany over the past ten years or so to recover properties that had been stolen from the wartime family.

They were one of the wealthiest families in Germany, in fact, their land, Hitler's last bunker was on wartime land. My grandmother was a Wertheim, and her sister and children disappeared during World War II, she never knew what happened to them, and it's only because of this lawsuit that just two years ago, we found out that the sister and the children were all killed in Auschwitz.

So, it's really, to say that's its no longer necessary, isn't true. If we didn't have these laws, we wouldn't even know what actually happened to them. My grandmother never knew, you know, finally, we know what happened to them.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Professor LIPSTADT: Yes, but I'm not sure that the law against Holocaust denial, I know about the Wertheim case, and it's a very important case, and very significant in many respects, both in terms of the information you found out, and in terms of the return of property that belonged to that family, that was taken from that family.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Professor LIPSTADT: But, I don't think, I'm not sure that the laws of Holocaust denial really were connected there. You know, but Neal, I think one of the points that I'd like to make and I'd like to make to your listeners and maybe have them react, is that I won my case, which really destroyed Irving's reputation. It may have also destroyed him financially, I never saw a penny from him, so I don't want listeners to get that impression, but we won it by relying on the history.

Holocaust denial can be fought easily, because the history is on our side. The history is on the side of those who acknowledge there was a Holocaust. There's much to debate about the Holocaust, historians still debate many things. Who originated the order to kill the Jews, and who originated the idea of the gas chambers, but you don't need laws to stop something that can be proven, easily proven to be the truth, and it's easy to demonstrate, just as we did with David Irving, I mean, we did it in a very exacting fashion, but that every one of the claims made by Holocaust deniers is based on a fabrication, a lie, a misstatement. The judge said it, the judge said David Irving perverts, David Irving distorts, it's a travesty, it's a lie...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Professor LIPSTADT:'s made up, and it's deliberate.

CONAN: Steven, thanks very much for the phone call.

STEVEN: Sure. Thanks.

CONAN: Just on Steven's point, though, Mark Weitzman, wasn't there just a case, also, in Vienna about the return of art that, finally ,after a long adjudication, was determined to belong to a Jewish family now living in New York?

Mr. WEITZMAN: Right, and the Austrian government actually said that they could not afford to pay for the paintings, so they are going to turn them over in the future, but I think even, perhaps even more germane is the announcement yesterday, it was in the New York Times, the story of how the International Red Cross is still holding thousands of archives of files about Arelson(ph), and not letting them open to researchers, to the public after you know, 50, 60 years after the Holocaust.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. WEITZMAN: I think what one of the things that people are concerned about is the fact that there are still aspects of the story that need further research, and the issue with Holocaust denial is that, not only is it a political football now, but it also is used, many cases, to cover up inquiry into the historical record. The Holocaust and the effects of World War II were not just a Jewish issue. This has to do with the national record of all the countries that were participants, whether they were conquered, whether they were combatant countries. It has to do with collaboration, resistance, restitution issues, and to close it up by saying that it never happened is to just, basically, close down the historical record and to deny its reality today, when we're still dealing with the after effects.

The one last point that I'll make on this is that, while I tend to share a lot of Professor Lipstadt's concerns about and appreciation of free speech, and I would not want to see, for example, the first amendment weakened in the United States, we need to point out, as well, that these laws are laws that exist in countries that are democratic countries, the citizens of these countries have the option to debate and to change these laws if they so desire, whether through legal, whether through legislative procedures, but so far, the laws that they have, out of their own free will and historical context, chosen to adopt for the benefit of their population.

CONAN: Let's get another listener on the line, and this will be Anne(ph). Anne calling from South Bend, in Indiana.

ANNE (Caller): Hello?

CONAN: Hi, you're on the air, Anne. Go ahead, please.

ANNE: I would like to make a comment. I mean, I have absolutely no grief for David Irving, but I think the guy's an ass. But I wonder if Austria isn't, if this isn't a bit of a gimmick on Austria's part, because we all know that Austria has had an ongoing problem with, sort of, fascist sympathies in Austria, and hence the rise of a politician like Jorg Heider. And I would far rather see them dealing with that than, as I say, this gimmick of trying David Irving and putting him away for three years.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. I wonder if you had a reaction to that, Deborah Lipstadt.

Professor LIPSTADT: Yes, I do. I, I don't know that I would call this a gimmick, but I do, it is true, and Helen from South Bend does point this out correctly, that you can, in Austria you can say Hitler did a good thing, but you can't say he didn't do it. You can be a, a former Nazi and live very comfortably in Austria, but you can't deny the Holocaust. So I think what, if Austria is going to impose this law, they, they have to be more consistent on the other laws, though I think Austria took this very seriously.

You know, one of the things, and Derek Scally wrote about this in the Irish Times this morning, one of the things that happened in that courtroom, and I heard about it from others as well, was that when the judge, as you said, Neal, in the beginning of the program, the judge didn't accept that Irving was a changed man, because Irving, David Irving has a history of thinking he can get away with saying whatever he wants to, and there are no consequences.

So, he went into the courtroom and he said, I now believe the Holocaust happened, I've believed it since I saw different evidence of it in the 1990s. Well, if he believed it in the 1990s, how come in 2000, he was in a courtroom suing me for libel and spouting all sorts of Holocaust denial, no gas chambers, you know, Hitler was a, didn't have anything against the Jews, Hitler, etcetera, etcetera, or that as late as the fall of 2005, there were documents on his website arguing that there were no gas chambers.

And, and last summer he wanted to go to New Zealand as a New Zealand interviewer reminded me today, he wanted to go to New Zealand to argue that there were no gas chambers. So, he can't say, you know, in 2000 he sues Lipstadt and makes all these statements and wants, in 2004 wants to go to New Zealand, and 2005 has documents on his website saying there was no Holocaust, and then show up in an Austrian court and say to the judge, oh, I'm a changed man as of 1993. I now believed there was a, I believe there was a Holocaust. Words have consequences.

CONAN: Anne, thanks very much for the phone call, we appreciate it.

ANNE: Okay.

CONAN: We're talking with Professor Deborah Lipstadt, and with Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, about yesterday's conviction in Austria of historian David Irving. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And here's an email we got from Brian Killem(ph) in Oswego, New York: "If a government makes certain topics off-limits, it gives those ideas credence, because people will assume the government wouldn't ban them if they were false. It also has the effect of keeping the adherents of such ideas or beliefs underground, where it's harder to see the harm they do. If their ideas have to withstand the scrutiny of the public square, then it won't be too long before they're shown to the tissue of lies that they actually are."

And I guess, Mark Weitzman, isn't sunshine the best disinfectant?

Mr. WEITZMAN: That's a traditional American statement, and it comes, I think it was Justice Holmes or Brandeis, I forget which one, who is credited with, as being the author of that statement. But what a government also has to do as well, is take into account the possible effects of these types of statements.

And I'm assuming, again, I'm not an Austrian certainly, and, and, and I can't say that I speak for their government, or, or their laws. But it would seem to me that we have to recognize, first of all, that no country has absolute free speech, including our country, which is perhaps, as I said earlier, the widest application of it. We have the famous statement of Justice Holmes of that crying fire in a crowded theater is the limit of free speech, and the reason for that is, obviously, because it can lead to damage, of physically damaging and harming a certain segment of the population.

CONAN: And as I was reminded just last week, I think it's, it's only a false cry of fire in a crowded theater that's the problem.

Mr. WEITZMAN: Right, exactly.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller on the line. This is Rick, Rick's calling us from Marin in California.

RICK (Caller): Yeah, hi. Deborah, I was fortunate enough to hear Anthony Julius, your lawyer, speak on the case. I was actually living in England for a couple of years when it happened, so I followed it pretty closely, and, actually, this evening, I'm teaching a class on neo-anti-Semitism at Berkeley JCC out here, and in that class, we'll look at the cartoons, the anti-Semitic cartoons, and for the first time, I'm going to look at the Danish cartoons and see if we can judge them by the standards of neo-anti-Semitism.

My question for you is, to what extent do you think Holocaust denial is part of the new anti-Semitism, and how do you respond to people like Norman Finkelstein and Alexander Coburn and Chomsky on the issues of the, not so much Chomsky, but certainly the first two, on the issues of the Holocaust?

Professor LIPSTADT: First of all, I do think you're right. I do think Holocaust denial is part of this new form of anti-Semitism. It's been wrapped up into it. But one of the things that's happened in the past couple of years, certainly in the "Western" quote-unquote world, in part, not wholly, but in part as a result of the loss Irving suffered in, in his case against me, was that Holocaust denial has been pretty much discredited, so that anti-Semites who begin to rely on that tend to look more like fringe, sometimes kooks, than they look like serious people raising serious anti-Semitic issues. Someone who's really canny and smart about, or is going to play it smart about trying to spread anti- Semitism, is going to tend to stay away from Holocaust denial.

The one place where it has been on the ascendancy, as someone mentioned earlier, is in the Arab/Muslim world, as exemplified certainly by the president of Iran. In terms of Norman Finkelstein, I don't pay him much mind. He doesn't, he really, he's a child of Holocaust survivors, and he's milked that position, to my mind, to use it as a way of attacking Israel. He's defended David Irving, not so much for what he says, but as a victim. During my trial, he came out in support of David Irving, etcetera, so you know, at one point during my trial, you mentioned Anthony Julius, who was my lawyer in England and who was just absolutely terrific, he was...

CONAN: And we just have a few seconds left.

Professor architect of the case, but at one point, Anthony Julius said to me about David Irving, and I would say the same thing about Norman Finkelstein, think of him as the dirt you step in, in the street, and you know what kind of dirt I'm talking about, it has no importance unless you fail to clean it off your feet before you go into the house.

CONAN: Thank you very much for the call, Rick.

RICK: Thank you!

CONAN: Deborah Lipstadt, thank you very much for being with us today.

Professor LIPSTADT: You're welcome. Thank you for having me, Neal.

CONAN: Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University, author of History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving. She joined us from a BBC studio in Rome. Mark Weitzman, thank you for your time, as well.

Mr. WEITZMAN: Thanks for having me. It was a pleasure.

CONAN: Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, with us from our bureau in New York. When we come back from the break, the story of an al-Qaeda would-be suicide bomber. This is NPR News.

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