introducing readers to writers since 1995

January 27, 2005

by Ron Hogan

Among those accompanying Vice President Dick Cheney in the American delegation to the observances of the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation by allied troops are two authors: Elie Wiesel, whose role in the literature of Holocaust survivors needs no explication, and Deborah Lipstadt, the defendant in a prominent--and unsuccessful--libel suit brought by David Irving when her 1993 book, Denying the Holocaust, told the world exactly who Irving is and what he stands for. Lipstadt ultimately prevailed against Irving's attempts to redeem his public image, through a difficult trial which she recalls in the recently published History on Trial:

"For a long time after the court battle was over, I felt pain when I thought of the many people who had watching Irving ravage their memories. I could not fathom what it felt like to have one's experiences not just denied, but deprecated and ridiculed. I was reminded of the fact that Jewish tradition highly values acts of loving-kindness, including visiting the sick, sheltering the needy, feeding the hungry, and welcoming the stranger. There is, however, one act of loving-kindness that supersedes all the others because it cannot be reciprocated. Taking care of the dead is called hesed shel emet, the most genuine act of loving-kindness, because it is then that we most closely emulate God's kindness to humans, which also cannot be reciprocated. For five years I had the privilege to do hesed shel emet, to stand up for those who did not survive or who could not stand up for themselves. Being able to do that was thanks enough."
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