News Release: Faculty Experts, Religion and Ethics

Jun. 11,  2009

Holocaust Denial 'Gives Ammunition' to Shooters, Says Emory's Lipstadt

News Article ImageDeborah Lipstadt

Emory University's Deborah Lipstadt was preparing to teach a class yesterday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., when she heard the shots. She and others were ushered out in the wake of the fatal shooting of a security guard by a white supremacist.

In an interview today with CNN's Heidi Collins, Lipstadt said "the museum staff did a magnificent job reuniting families; it was really quite amazing."

Also see from CNN:  Commentary: Witness to history and horror by Deborah Lipstadt

Lipstadt said she wasn't surprised to learn that the gunman, James von Brunn, was a Holocaust denier as well. As she and others left the building, she heard the news that the shooter was a white supremacist. "He's not only that, I can assure you," Lipstadt said at the time.

"It's part of a whole jigsaw puzzle: white supremacist, anti-semite, Holocaust deniers-it's a package deal," said Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies.

Lipstadt said she had heard of von Brunn's Web site but not of him. "I generally track what I call the guys in suits, the people who provide the material for a von Brunn to put up on his Web site," she said.

"The guys I track aren't the kind who go out shooting people, but they provide the ammunition for those who will go do the shooting."

Lipstadt said that Holocaust denial as a movement is widespread, principally because of the Internet. "The Internet is a wonderful tool, used to educate, but it's also used by Holocaust deniers to spread their hate," she says. "The dangerous thing is if you put in certain words when you're in your search engine, whichever one you use, whether it's Anne Frank or Holocaust, these sites will come up, maybe not first or second, but third or fourth. It's very easy for people to be fooled by them."

Lipstadt told the CNN audience that her concern over online hate is one of the reasons "why I'm involved at Emory University in an effort called www.hdot.org (which stands for Holocaust Denial on Trial), a site to answer deniers."

"We're not trying to change the minds of deniers; there's no changing the mind of a von Brunn or any of the people who sued me or others like that," said Lipstadt. "But I'm worried about the people who maybe instead of going to the Holocaust Museum are on these people's sites and maybe being influenced by them."

HDOT.org teaches about the dangers of Holocaust denial, taking deniers' claims head on, such as listing various claims about the Holocaust by deniers and providing historical evidence that shows them to be false.

"The thing we do," said Lipstadt, "is educate."

In April, HDOT.org re-launched in four new languages: Arabic, Farsi, Russian and Turkish, to spread the original site's messages to areas where Holocaust denial goes most unchallenged.

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