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(photo credit: AP [file])
With David Irving just sentenced to three years in prison for the crime of Holocaust denial in Austria, historian Deborah Dwork of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts said outspoken deniers receive admiration and financial support from other deniers.
Some people become Holocaust deniers because they long for the authority and governance of the Nazi regime, Dwork told The Jerusalem Post. She said the Nazi regime seemed like a wonderful period to these people, if it weren't for the Holocaust.
"There are people who wish for that sort of dictatorship," she said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may want to check his facts with Dwork and architect Robert Jan van Pelt next time he denies the Shoah.
In 1996, Dwork, along Robert Jan Van Pelt of the University of Waterloo in Ontario came out with Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present, which has been called a "definitive study of Auschwitz."
Dwork and van Pelt's research made denying well-established facts about the Holocaust even more difficult.
Irving gave Dwork and Van Pelt an opportunity to show off their historical detective work when Irving sued Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt for libel, for characterizing him as a Holocaust denier in her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. Van Pelt served as the expert witness and "I was the expert kibitzer," said Dwork, the Rose Professor of Holocaust History and the director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark. The Strassler Center has hosted Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer as a visiting professor.
Irving's contention, said Dwork, was that he did not think he qualified as a Holocaust denier because he actually believed that the Holocaust never took place. "David Irving claimed there were no homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz," said Dwork. "Using German documents, we had the expertise to show indeed there were homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz." Dwork said, "Any reasonable historian" who looked at the same evidence would come to the same conclusion.
"It's not so much the Holocaust that is on trial as how historians do their work," said Dwork. "How do you tell a story if there is nobody left to tell?"
However, Dwork has mixed feelings as to whether denial of the Holocaust should be illegal, as it is in many European countries. "Every country has its boundaries [of acceptable speech]. I think it is up to the citizens to decide what speech is considered legal and what is not." Dwork also said it was unclear to her that making Holocaust denial illegal was effective.