London, Sunday, April 16, 2000
Spielberg funded fight against Irving
by CHRIS HASTINGS
STEVEN Spielberg, the Oscar-winning director of the Holocaust movie Schindler's List, was one of the main financial backers of the American academic unsuccessfully sued by the disgraced historian, David Irving.
Sunday, April 16, 2000
Mr Spielberg was one of a group of prominent American Jews who gave money to Professor Deborah Lipstadt, the academic whom Mr Irving sued for libel after she described him as a Holocaust denier. Professor Lipstadt, who was vindicated in the courts last week, told The Sunday Telegraph yesterday that she had received financial backing from a number of different individuals and organisations, but declined to go into details.
Speaking from her home in Atlanta, Georgia she said: "I was helped by a variety of people but I am really not at liberty to say who did or didn't back me. It's not for me to confirm or deny one way another. I just don't feel comfortable giving the details. I will say there are people who gave $18 and people who gave more."
However, one individual close to the case told The Sunday Telegraph that naming Mr Spielberg as a financial backer "would not be far off the mark".
According to a report in the Jewish Chronicle, contributions to Professor Lipstadt's defence fund may have been funnelled through the Shoah Foundation, an organisation set up by the film director to raise awareness of the treatment of Jews during the Second World War.
Penguin books and Professor Lipstadt's own university both contributed to the huge costs of the case. But a number of wealthy individuals agreed to help when they realised a defeat for the American academic would be a gift for far-Right extremists across the world.
A ready cash flow was essential given the enormity of the task facing the defence team. More than a dozen lawyers and experts gathered witnesses and evidence from around the world. Professor Lipstadt's successful defence depended upon painstaking research into Mr Irving's background, in particular his links with neo-Nazi organisations in America and Germany.
Additional funding may still be needed because Mr Irving has announced that he is to appeal against the Mr Justice Gray's ruling.
Last week he claimed to have received as much as $10,000 from one supporter in the United States. Mr Irving who has been told he must meet the entire £2 million costs of the case, said he would not be surprised if Mr Spielberg had provided financial help.
He said: I know she has received funding from a number of sources. I will say this whole thing has backfired on them.
"If they had agreed to pay £500 to charity then the whole thing would have gone away. But they insisted on making it such a big issue and spending so much money on it. I think they are beginning to regret that because there has never been so much interest in me."
Since the release of Schindler's List in 1993, Mr Spielberg, who is himself Jewish, has emerged as a key figure in the fight to promote awareness of Hitler's Final Solution.
Most of the profits of the film, which won seven Oscars, have been poured into the Shoah Foundation which aims to create a permanent record of the suffering of Hitler's victims. One of its principal aims is to undermine revisionist propaganda of the kind espoused by Mr Irving and his supporters.
Shoah is the Hebrew term for the Holocaust. The Foundation has produced a documentary called The Last Days, that recorded the testimony of 50,000 survivors, from 57 countries and in 32 different languages.
In a separate development, Penguin Books is in talks with Mr Justice Gray to see if they can publish his judgment in book form.
The company is already planning to reissue the book that sparked off the original libel trial. It will have a new introduction giving a detailed history of the case.