Dr. Deborah Lipstadt

By Rabbi Bill Kuhn

 It is timely that we will welcome Dr. Deborah Lipstadt to Congregation Rodeph Shalom on Friday, November 13 at our 8:00 p.m. Shabbat Service, as this year’s Joseph J. & Lulu S. Rosenbluth Memorial Lecture guest speaker. Dr. Lipstadt is an internationally renowned expert and author on Holocaust denial. We have all heard with horror all of the publicity given Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who recently stole the election for the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He has repeatedly spread his lies that the Holocaust did not happen, and that he believes Israel should be wiped off the map. The fact that Iran is developing nuclear weapons is extremely frightening, in light of these statements and sentiments spewed by Ahmadinejad. One can only hope that President Obama and the world community can find a way to stop Iran’s efforts to destroy Israel before it is too late.

 Holocaust denial is nothing new, unfortunately. Dr. Lipstadt made a thorough study of this topic in her ground-breaking book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (The Free Press, NYC, 1993).

 Dr. Lipstadt, the Dorot Chair in Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, explores the phenomenon that there are those who would deny that six million of our Jewish brothers and sisters were systematically murdered by the Nazis during World War II. At first, people who spread these lies were considered nothing more than a lunatic fringe. But they have begun to gain an actual following, as more and more people have given them a serious hearing.

 Holocaust deniers try to argue that they should be allowed to present “the other side” in a debate over whether the Holocaust really happened or not. Dr. Lipstadt points out that these deniers have a right “to stand on any street corner and spread their calumnies…But free speech does not guarantee them the right to be treated as the other side of a legitimate debate.”

 But there is a dilemma posed by these deniers. On the one hand, we need to fight and oppose them at every turn. But this does not mean they should be allowed to be the other side in a serious discussion, because this makes them seem credible. It makes them appear that people are taking them seriously.

 We must oppose their assault on the truth with a strong response, by educating people about the truth of the Holocaust, and about the dangers of denial. As Dr. Lipstadt says, “We must expose these people for what they are.”

 On Friday, November 13, we will also commemorate “Krystalnacht,” the “Night of Broken Glass.” On November 9-10, 1938, the Nazis staged vicious pogroms and state-sponsored anti-Jewish riots, when they destroyed countless synagogues throughout Germany. This was the official beginning of the state-sponsored violence against the Jews in Germany and the actual beginning of the Holocaust.

 I hope that you will join us for this important speaker and for this moving Shabbat Service on November 13th.