Movie Review: Denial

One of the great things about historical movies is that you learn about things that have happened that you thought you knew about or in this case, something that you never knew even existed.

Over the years I heard rumors about some diseased people in the world who have denied that the Holocaust has ever happened but I never knew that one of them would be the subject of a major trial in England that cost many millions of dollars to prosecute and many years to prepare for and try. David Irving is an author of several books about Hitler, Germany and World War 2. Irving is also the most famous Holocaust denier. Deborah Lipstadt is an American historian and writer of several books, including one book discrediting Irving for attempting to deny the Holocaust, which is the reason for the lawsuit he filed against her and her publishing company. My thoughts while watching this movie were that how can anyone even consider denying something that so obviously happened? There are thousands of hours of videos, dead bodies, evidence including clothing, teeth, human hair. There are many crematoriums and concentration camps all throughout Europe, the most famous being Auschwitz. Even in the case of David Irving who is an Anti-Semite and clearly mentally ill, you would think that he would not want to bring a libel case against case Deborah Lipstadt, who wrote the book Denial Holocaust History on Trial where she called Irving a Holocaust denier, falsifier, and bigot, and said that he manipulated and distorted real documents, because of course, he would lose, how could there be any doubt of this?

What this movie points out is that when you look at this case like a lawyer and without emotion then the entire legal argument changes. First of all, in England when you are charged with libel the burden of proof is on the defendant and not on the plaintiff, which is the reverse of how something like this is trialed in the United States and is also the reason why this case was tried in England. The law firm in England that handled this case, spent about 6 years reading the many books that David Irving wrote plus his many hundreds of diaries, looking for errors and discrepancies in his arguments that tried to prove the Holocaust never happened. The firm found many discrepancies and at one point of the movie the lawyer trying the case Richard Rampton, played extremely well by Tom Wilkinson told the court a great analogy about a waiter making mistakes with money and statistically speaking if the mistakes were honest ones, then they would be over time be errors both in his favor and in the favor of the customer. In the case of the historical mistakes in David Irving’s books, all of his errors were in favor of Hitler and denying the Holocaust and this was used against him in court. David Irving played extremely well by Timothy Spall was cross-examined several times by Rampton in the courtroom scenes and these are the best moments in the entire movie. “No holes no Holocaust” was another big point in the movie where Irving made the case that of the so called crematoriums were not crematoriums at all, because their roof’s had no holes in them. This was also disproven by the defense that was able to provide pictures from high flying airplanes during that time, clearly showing that there were in fact holes in the roofs of these buildings.

Most surprisingly this entire case was far from ever an easy win for the defense because they had to prove that not only were many of the historical facts in Irving’s writings were incorrect, but they also had to prove that he deliberately created and altered these facts to serve his own end of trying to prove that the Holocaust never happened. On top of this, the defense called no witnesses or victims of the Holocaust because their strategy was to make the entire case about Irving and never give him the opportunity to cross-examine any of the victims of the Holocaust. This strategy understandably created conflicts between Deborah Lipstadt and one Holocaust victim and resulted in several huge arguments between Lipstadt, played very well by Rachel Weisz and the lead attorney of the firm Anthony Julius played by Andrew Scott. Considering the time and money the law firm Lipstadt hired to defend this case and the fact that if they lost their entire firm would be ruined, you can just imagine the pressure this law firm was under for a long period time as they prepared for and eventually tried this case. I thought this movie was very well done and I do recommend it.