Category Archives: Books

Ein schönes Kleid – Roman über eine queere Familie

Written by Eike Pierstorff

Normalerweise interessiert mich nichts weniger als das Familienleben anderer Leute, aber weil ich weiß das der Author boxen kann wollte ich ihm nicht auf der Strasse begegnen ohne sein Buch gelesen zu haben. Außerdem habe ich gewisses akademisches Interesse an LGBT-Themen, wahrscheinlich weil das einer der wenigen Bereiche ist in dem die westliche Zivilisation ernsthafte Fortschritte zu verzeichnen hat. Als ich ein Kind war gab es keine schwulen oder lesbischen Jugendlichen. Allenfalls gab es Jungs die sich nicht für Mädchen interessierten und Mädchen die lieber unter sich blieben, und wenn sie weit genug aus sich herauskamen um sich als lesbisch oder schwul zu bezeichnen war das was danach kam normalerweise keine Jugend mehr. Was Erwachsene anging – nun, unsere Nachbarin hatte aus beruflichen Gründen öfter die Schauspieler des örtlichen Ensembles zu Besuch und wir durften nicht alleine mit ihnen in einem Zimmer sein, weil ja jeder weiß was die so (ich wusste tatsächlich ziemlich lange nicht was die so. Anspielungen funktionieren immer erst wenn man sie erklärt bekommt, und Gott sei Dank manchmal auch dann nicht). Heute können sich Teenager verlieben und Erwachsene zusammenleben und, wie das Buch nochmal demonstriert, Familien gründen und die Welt ist ein kleines bißchen besser deswegen. Klar gibt es immer noch Diskriminierung bei Besuchsrechten, Adoptionen, Steuern etc., aber das sind Dinge die sich, ein paar ewiggestrige Stoffel hin oder her, durch das konsequente Breittreten existierender Rechtsnormen in ein paar Jahrzehnten erledigt haben werden. Es geht, zumindest in unserer Oase der Glücklichen, nicht mehr um existenzielle Grundsatzfragen.

Der Autor weiß das (klar, er war ja dabei), aber es mag zur Erinnerung dienen das sich heute auf verhältnismässig hohem Niveau jammern lässt. Das Buch handelt von einem queeren Paar das ein Pflegekind aufnimmt, und der Fragebogen der zur Vorbereitung für das Jugendamt ausgefüllt werden muss dient als thematische Klammer über die verschiedenen Kapitel hinweg.

Die Behauptung dass “Heteropaare keine Fragebögen ausfüllen müssen, die können einfach poppen” finde ich ein bißchen unsensibel gegenüber Heteropaaren die aus verschiedenen Gründen nicht einfach poppen können oder wollen (mal abgesehen davon dass noch andere Motive für die Aufnahme von Pflegekindern gibt), aber vor allen ist das keine genderspezifische Diskriminierung, den muss jede/r Bewerber/in ausmalen. Das Buch kommt auch mit einem netten Disclaimer das es sich nicht als Anleitung zur Aufnahme vom Pflegekindern eignet. Apropos, Bladerunner eignet sich nicht als Anleitung zum Betrieb elektrischer Schafe.

Das (handwerklich rundum gelungene) Buch hat den Untertitel “Roman über eine queere Familie”, aber “zwei Papas” und einer davon trans und jeder weiß was die so hin und her, es ist halt hauptsächlich mal ein Roman über eine Familie. Es läuft mal besser und mal schlechter, und das Kind ist manchmal anstrengend (sind die fast immer), und natürlich lohnt sich die ganze Anstrengung total und der Erzähler hat einen Hund der alles denken darf was der Erzähler selbst nicht denken darf und der stirbt kurz bevor das Kind da ist. Das ist wahrscheinlich sehr symbolisch, oder vielleicht ist auch nur der Hund gestorben. Das alles sehr zauberhaft und da liegt dann auch das Problem: Je mehr queere Geschichten Lebens- statt Leidensgeschichten sind um so mehr sind sie eben genauso öde wie die Lebensgeschichten von allen anderen auch, zumindest wenn man so weit von der Zielgruppe entfernt ist wie ich – das ist die Art von Buch die ein Paar einem anderen (oder vielleicht auch ein Partner dem anderen) schenkt wenn mit winkenden Zaunpfählen darauf aufmerksam gemacht werden soll das es jetzt mal Zeit für eigenen Nachwuchs wird. Also wirklich wundervoll, und schön das es das Buch gibt, aber für meine Zwecke hätte es auch gereicht, das zu kaufen und ungelesen ins Regal zu stellen.

Jasper Nicolaisen
Ein schönes Kleid – Roman über eine queere Familie
Querverlag 2016

    History has vindicated me

    Written by Eike Pierstorff

    In 2008 I gave a lecture (read here – german only) on apocalyptic themes in science fiction. I was chastised for being unfair after I suggested that cyberpunk renders the genre meaningless as it only predicts things that are happening anyway. If you don’t read german, I used Darko Suvins definition (which I suspect Suvin has nicked from german studies, specifically from the definition of “Novelle” (novella)) that says science fiction explores the consequences of a ‘novum’ (‘unerhörte Begebenheit’ in the classic german definition) that is introduced earlier in the story [1] and I pointed out that if the imagined world is just as, and in the same way, fucked up as the real world there really isn’t much of a novum to explore. People, as far as they still listened at that point, disagreed heavily.

    Now, earlier this december Charles Stross wrote in his blog that the “Halting State” trilogy (not cyberpunk, but close enough) would not actually get a third installment because real life has turned out to be pretty much congruent with the plot of the two published novels. Which of course makes the whole excercise pointless.

    I’d say when it comes to authorities in contemporary science fiction Stross is as big as it gets, so as far as I’m concerned I’d say that history has vindicated me [2].

    1. Of course when Suvin wrote this most science fiction actually was written in the novella format. Now that the genre expresses itself mostly in multi-volumned tomes is Suvin still relevant or do we need a new definition ? Discuss.
    2. Somehow I had hoped that I do not need to point this out, but since I was asked –  of course  that headline was supposed to be funny. Hahaha.

    Reading list

    Written by Eike Pierstorff

    Postal services are rather unreliable at the moment, what with the weather and all, and more often than not I have to pick up my parcel from the post office instead of having them delivered to my home. Since this pretty much defies the purpose of ordering stuff on the internet I decided that, instead of following the price-reduced meanders of the electronic amazon basin I would actually (physically!) go for a walk to pick up some new reading material. Luckily  one of the finest sources for phantasy and science fiction is within walking distance.

    It is strange – I consider myself a Hard SF Fan, but then my purchases tend to be somewhat more diverse, this time stretching from New Wave to Steampunk. So let’s  see what we have here.

    1) Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
    This was a fun read, enough so that I finished it a day after I bought it. If the book is ever brought to the silver screen undoubtly it will made to look like a steampunk version of Resident Evil, what with zombies and evil scientists roaming an ahistoric Seattle poisoned by a flesh-eating gas. Actually the book is less focused on action (and frankly, prolonged action scenes in books do not work well that anyway) and more on it’s characters – a mother looking for her son, the son looking to clear his dead fathers name, a mad scientist lusting for power and  assorted  crew to provide  an interesting scenery. This is the first of a series and even though I  think the end is a bit weak Iwill definitely read  the follow-ups.

    2) Cosmos, by Carl Sagan
    The late Carl Sagan did a lot to popularize science and frankly the longer he is dead the more he is missed (especially since he talked to those who would listen instead of yelling at those he found annoying, which seems to be the preferred method today). I love the TV-Series Cosmos so I figured I could pick up the book as well. A better tribute to his memory would be to join the Planetary Society (the largest and most influential public space organization group on Earth)  but the last time I tried a credit card was needed to join.

    3) Galileo’s Dream, by Kim Stanley Robinson
    I’m in two minds about KSR. On the one hand I agree pretty much with his politics (except for his advice to “believe in goverment“. I’m not totally opposed to the idea of goverment as such, but as far as he implies I should trust the government my country actually has, well, that would be clearly insane). On the other hand he bores me to death –  to me, he is a competent but rather uninspiring writer. Yet I always return to his books in the hope that one day the artist will be on par with the political theoretician. Who knows, it might be  this time.

    4) House of Suns, by Alastair Reynolds
    Finally something that fits the “Hard SF”-Label.  I love big Space Opera because  it has a certain kind of momentum – larger-that-life people in giant spacecraft doing enormeous deeds on a galactic scale etc.  Alas, the fact that these books are less timid makes them also less relevant – but then there’s nothing wrong with a bit of escapism which Alastair Reynolds readily supplies (and pretty-please with a cherry on top, I’d like to have another Verity Auger-Novel).

    4) The Cornelius Quartet, by Michael Moorecock
    Gibson et al claimed Jerry as the first cyberpunk hero. The rock band Human League claimed Jerry as their inspiration. Cornelius is also the acknowleged inspiration for Alan Moore’s “Watchman” graphic novels; for much of Neil Gaiman’s work in graphic novels; the film “The Crow” and many other works. And I for one know most of the references but not the originals, which over time led to a strange und nearly
    unpronounceable baudrillardesque feeling, so I guess it’s time to do some catching up.

    Also on my reading list is some work related stuff, but I won’t bore you with that ( except to say that you should avoid “Pro Smartphone Cross-Platform Development” by Sara Allen which is a crap book without any redeeming feature).

    But it feels good to do some reading –  I have almost forgotten that there are so many better books than facebook.

      Joomla! 1.5 Beginner’s Guide

      Written by Eike Pierstorff

      I do have a love-hate-relationship with Joomla. I hate it because of its glacial pace of development, because I think it falls short as a framework and because of the quite simplistic ways it organizes content. I love it because slow development means you have a stable platform and because the easy-to-use admin interface allows even not too technical minded people to set up and maintain their own website without getting a computer science degree first. And I will always have a soft spot for Joomla! because this is the CMS that got my little business started.

      Joomla! 1.5 Beginner’s Guide by Eric Tiggeler [1] is the book that will get you started with Joomla.

      To make the best use of the book you should have some prior knowledge – namely, you should be aware that on the internet there are server- and client side processes, that there are such a things as “databases” to store your content in and languages like HTML and CSS to structure and display your text. You will not actually need to know all this stuff to make your website work (the book sees to that) but it will sure help you appreciate what the CMS does for you.

      A Content Management System, Tiggeler writes, is like a coffee machine – you press a button and “the machine invisibly fetches all the ingredients […] to serve a cup of fresh coffee, latte, frapuccino or decaf”. Unfortunately, the analogy doesn’t end here. Every coffee machine is made of different parts and control elements which, while they more or less do the same thing, are labeled differently with every brand of machine. In fact I found that learning brand specific idiosyncrasies is the biggest hurdle you have to clear when learning a new CMS.

      This is where the Joomla! Beginner’s guide comes in handy: It introduces new terminology step by step and in the order in which you will need it – no back and forth between different chapters necessary. And while each section introduces new terms and concepts on a need-to-know basis for the task at hand, by the end of the book you will have a pretty complete picture of what you can do with Joomla.

      Each of the twelve chapters (covering topics from installation via content editing, template customization etc to search engine optimization) is divided into small, tutorial-like sections. Every section defines a discrete task (e.g. “add an article”, “edit the css file” ), provides (under the headline “Time for action”) a set of instructions on how to accomplish the task and explains afterwards “what just happened”, i.e., why things work the way they do. To round everything off, there is a summary at the end of each chapter and a quiz to test your newly acquired knowledge.

      The book also exemplifies the proper perspective towards web site building: This is not about the technology, fancy as it may be. This is also not about you, the developer. This is about the people who visit your site, so you have to make the site usable (Chapters 5 to 8, content and menu organization), engaging (Chapter 9, “Enabling User to contribute and interact”) , attractive (Chapter 11, “Working with templates”) and, of course, easy to find (Chapter 12, “Attracting search engine traffic”).

      The Joomla! Beginners Guide succeeds, not only because it is well-structured and comprehensive, but also because of its clear and simple language – Eric Tiggeler largely avoids metaphors and analogies which might be helpful to the English and Americans, but tend to confuse matters for non-native speakers (in fact, my own style is much more convoluted than Eric Tiggeler’s, so if you’ve made it this far in the review you will have no problems understanding the book). There is also some humor – the example site you are working on throughout the book is for the fictitious SRUP, the “Society for the Re-appreciation of Ugly Pictures” and I couldn’t help but smile when a screenshot announced an upcoming Bob Ross exhibition.

      Of course, I have to do some nitpicking: I don’t know if it makes sense to introduce Content Management Systems as the next big thing when powerful Open Source CMS have been around for the better part of the last decade; I certainly do not agree that Joomla has “powerful multi-level site organization capabilities” (two does not qualify as “multi” , or powerful) and as a somewhat seasoned developer I’m silently gnashing my teeth when somebody suggest that CSS is actually quite easy. But then the book is a little like the IPCC Climate Report in that you really don’t want to dismiss lots of valuable information just because there’s something wrong with one or two inconsequential paragraphs.

      You will not need the book if have already done a few sites with Joomla! and felt comfortable with the CMS. It does not contain any super-secret stuff , you will find all of the information on the Joomla! documentation pages or by asking in the Joomla! community forum.

      But the Joomla! Beginners Guide is an excellent book if you have never worked with Joomla, or tried to build a site and got frustrated with the intricacies of the backend, or else, if you looking for a resource to train your in-house staff. And while most of your questions will be answered in the forum, this is the book that will give you an idea what to ask for.

      I can’t directly compare it to similar books (having outgrown the need for Joomla Beginners books for some time) but I can still say that, specific software aside, the Joomla! Beginners Guide could very well serve as a benchmark for other writers; this is how introductory material should be written.

      1. Joomla! 1.5 Beginner’s Guide
        Paperback : 380 pages [ 235mm x 191mm ]
        Release Date : March 2010
        ISBN : 1847199909
        ISBN 13 : 978-1-847199-90-4

      “Mastering Joomla! 1.5”

      Written by Eike Pierstorff

      I’m not so sure this is a good book. The blurb says “community experience distilled” – I think it could have used some more distilling.

      “Mastering Joomla! 1.5” by James Kennard is an introduction to extension- and framework developement with the 1.5 branch of Joomla. In twelve chapters it covers component, module and plugin design, the Joomla HTML library, templates, error handling and web services with J!.

      According to the subtitle this is a “professionals guide” and indeed you need to be familiar with Joomla and know something about OOP in PHP to put the book to good use. Problem is, if you’re a professional, or a not-quite-professional with some patience and an internet connection you might as well save the money. It’s not like you get much more out of the book than you can have for free from the Joomla documentation pages.

      The book is a nice-to-have for people like me who prefer paper and read programming books in the bathtub subway, but if you think some 35 Euro should entitle you to some more information than you can get for free in the web then you might want to avoid it [1].

      1. But then you might want to buy it to support the author of a potentially useful extension, especially since he donates a part of the proceeds to the Joomla project

      I am footnote

      Written by Eike Pierstorff

      Yesterday I went to the movies to see “I am Legend”. I love Mathesons novel, so I knew I would be disappointed. But I had at least hoped for some kind of mindless action flick, a dumbed-down version of the original story with cool special effects. The movie was mindless, alright, but in a annoying rather than a fun way.

      It was probably not the fault of the leading man. I had seen Will Smith first in Men in Black and had cast him down as a decent Eddy-Murphy stand-in, but had really come to like him after his performance in Ali. Smith makes an excellent Robert Neville; here he is very much a character actor, and at the end of the movie he looks exhausted and even old, an Robinson Crusoe without hope for rescue on his desert island of Manhattan. So, no objections here.

      Nor was it the scenery, the desert Manhattan through which the Protagonist stumbles. Of course the movie is in large parts a Quiet Earth-ripoff, with much better production values and a lot less atmosphere. But plagiarism is a form of flattery, plus IaL had some potentially cool monsters thrown in so that was okay also.

      (massive spoilers below the fold)

      (more…)

        The Voice of Ursula K. LeGuin

        Written by Eike Pierstorff

        Ursula LeGuin is one of my favourite writers, despite the fact that I hardly ever read poetry and fantasy and thus confine myself to the science fiction portions of her work. Even there the quality is a bit uneven (for example “Eye of the Heron” reads like a second rate LeGuin-ripoff despite being an original work). On the other hand when she scores, she scores big – even after nearly forty years “The Left Hand of Darkness” and “The Dispossessed” are landmarks of the genre and as an incessant writer she has published a number of immensly readable novels and short storys ever since (my favourite piece is “The Shobies’ Story” from the collection “A Fisherman of the Inland Sea”).

        78 year old LeGuin also maintains an expansive presence on the World Wide Web , a small part of which is dedicated to the spoken word. I will never have opportunity to see her at a live event – Ursula LeGuin doesn’t travel anymore and even if she did it would be unlikely that she would come to Germany – so I really appreciate that she published a piece as “read by the Autor” – alas it’s not SciFi but fantasy, but I still think it’s great to hear the voice of a favorite author (and she has a good reading voice, too).

        So here is the link: Ursula K. LeGuin reads an excerpt from A Wizard of Earthsea, Chapter 10: “The Open Sea” [5Mb MP3]

          Denying the Holocaust

          Written by Eike Pierstorff

          [1] When she started to study the topic, Deborah Lipstadt writes in the Preface to Denying the Holocaust, few people thought the effort was warranted; the idea that somebody would take holocaust deniers seriously obviously seemed strange to them.

          To me that was, in a way, the most surprising thing in the whole book. Holocaust denial and antisemitism have been from the very start a part of post-war german culture. Writer Erich Kästner observed how germans during the reeducation period would insist that the pictures of emaciated corpses taken in liberated concentration camps were merely “allied propaganda”. In his book Notabene 45 Kästner quoted an american officer who said “Of course we will rebuild the country with the help of former nazis collaborators.” [2]. The officer added something to the effect of “who else is there”.

          Who else, indeed. Heinrich Lübke, head of the west german state from ’59 to ’69 had worked during the “Third Reich” for the company that built the facilities at Peenemünde (and used KZ inmates as workforce) [3]. At the end of the sixties, during the time of the first “Grand Coalition” between social democrats and conservaties the FRG was governed by the odd couple of Willy Brandt, a Nazi opponent and Kurt Georg Kiesinger, who had been during the Nazi era a propagandist in the foreign office under Ribbentrop [4]. Kiesinger eventually resigned after the German Democratic Republic published its “Black Book” with records of some 5000 high ranking politicans, judges, industry leaders and other public figures who had started their respective careers under Adolf Hitler. The Blackbook was quickly denounced as communist propaganda – which it was, only it was still correct, and it exposed a large number of politicans, jurists, industrial leaders etc as Nazi supporters and former members of the NSDAP. Later there was the Bitburg Affair, Historians debate, these days we have Neo-Nazist partys in some state parliaments and in between there has been hardly a year in which nobody either denied or justified the holocaust in public. Since not even the democratic insitutions could extricate themselves from their Nazi roots it would have never occured to me that holocaust deniers could be looked at merely as “kooks” who could be easily ignored.

          However “Denying the holocaust” is a book about the USA and for an american audience. Deborah Lipstadt traces holocaust denial back to it’s origins from World War I revisionism- originally a school of thought by serious historians who would have preferred a isolationist position for the US in the war, but was quickly annexed by people who sought to exonerate Germany (which in the treaty of Versailles was considered to be solely culpable for the war) and maintained that the allied forces had committed far greater war crimes than the germans. When in the late 1930s and the 1940s the US again faced a choice if they should join a war in distant europe this radical brand of revisionists added antisemitism to their repertoire, either based on homegrown products like Henry Fords antijewish brochures or on stuff that had been fed to them by the Nazi propaganda machine; it portraited jews as members of a vast international conspiracy that employed both capitalism and communism to subjugate the world under jewish rule and more specifically to drive to USA to war against Germany.

          From these beginnings – or so it would seem from the way Lipstadt presents her facts – holocaust denial after World War 2 was inevitable. When the self styled revisionists tried to exonerate Germany from the – horribile dictu – comparatively small infraction of starting WW I they could hardly sit by as it was brought to trial for the much greater crime of genocide against the jewish population of europe. Since they were already convinced that Germany was innocent victim of jewish machinations they now contended that no jews had been killed or at least the number of deaths had been greatly exaggerated and that those killed had been legaly executed for espionage, sabotage or treason.

          Ideologically the worldview of holocaust deniers was by now pretty much complete. What followed was a shift in emphasis, as antisemitism became the goal and exonoration of germany the means, and a change in tactics. Holocaust Denial tried to move away from the fringe of self-publishing rabble rousers into the mainstream of academics and mass media. They gave themselves fancy names – but the name alone does not make a reputable “Institute” (sc. “for Historic Review”). Their publications emulated serious publications – but this was all appearances, no real substance. They claim to use historicals sources, but their quotes are either taken out of context, or misquoted, or they are complete fabrications. Their biggest success however was to establish holocaust denial as the legitimate “other side” in public discourse. Allowing holocaust deniers to disseminate their claims through newspapers, radio shows and tv programmes suddenly became a matter of “free speech”, as if the right for free speech had ever included a right to be published in all relevant media, even those with specific anti-discrimation policies (which inexplicably never seem to cover antisemitism). More important than a deep commitment to civils rights was perhaps that right wing antisemitism met with antizionism from the left. To claim that the holocaust had been somehow invented by the jews to blackmail the germans serves both sides, so ideology could not work as a safeguard (it used to be the case that right wingers and lefties disagreed with each other as a matter of principle, so you had usually one faction that was correct).

          The book includes too much detail to be easily summarized in a review – which is a good thing of course, it means Deborah Lipstadt did a good and thorough job. However I have one “but”, but I think that’s a big one: Holocaust denial in Germany, and/or by Germans would have deserved much broader coverage. There’s a small chapter about the “Historikerstreit” (historians debate) but there’s no mention of, for example, Hennecke Kardel (who contented that Hitler and all leading Nazis were jews who arranged the Holocaust to discredit National Socialism) [5], Ingrid Weckert (who perpetuated in Feuerzeichen the myth of a “jewish declaration of war” against germany), the very versatile Germar Rudolf [6], who authored one of the countless bogus reports on the unfeasibility of murder in gas chambers [7] and others (it should be not suprising that the german holocaust denial scene is large and diverse, since it were germans who perpetrated the holocaust in the first place). Given the neo-nazis curious penchant for internationalism I would be surprised if the german denial scene hasn’t had some influence on it’s american counterpart.

          Even so – I’m not too god a lavish praise, so I just say it’s a must-read if your at all interested in the topic. Plus it’s much more useful than History on trial, since it is a comprehensive history of a political “idea” rather than a report of a tiresome court case brought forth by a disgruntled holocaust denier.

          1. After I wrote about History on trial a commenter asked for a review of Denying the Holocaus, since the former is more or less a consequence of the latter. So, here’s the review. I planned to amend this with a few of my own musings about holocaust denial in germany, but I guess I’ll save this for a later blog post. So here we go.
          2. Kästner, Erich, Notabene 45 p.299 in: Kästner für Erwachsene, Zürich 1983. “Collaborator” might be a bit sharper than the german original “[Leute] die mit Hitler zusammengearbeitet haben”
          3. http://www.zeit.de/2007/30/Heinrich-Luebke?page=all
          4. Enzyklopädie des Holocaust, Benz/Graml/Weiß (ed.), München 1997, p. 852
          5. Kardel, Hennecke “Adolf Hitler, Begründer Israels”, Geneva 1974
          6. Rudolf habitually assumes different personalities with different “qualifications”, sometimes even within the same text where he quotes his own pen names as authorities to bolster his own argument
          7. while the “Rudolf-Report” was written in 1991 as “expert” testimony for Otto Ernst Remer, a holocaust denier (see http://h-ref.de/personen/rudolf-germar/rudolf-report.php), it seems that it wasn’t published as a book before 1994, so maybe the document wasn’t well known when Listadt published her book in 1993

          History on Trial

          Written by Eike Pierstorff

          Deborah Lipstadt is one of those people whom I admire for their competence and tenacity but cannot quite bring myself to like because I’m still a bit of a lefty and they, well, they are not. However the feeling is quite arbitrary and in any case her work is quite important to one of my own interests; in my spare time I work for a non-profit called shoa.de that provides information about the Holocaust and the “Third Reich” and arguments against those who still (or again) claim that the destruction of the european jews by the nazis did not happen. Deborah Lipstadt is Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta. In 1993 she published Denying the Holocaust – The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. Among those who bend the truth she counted David Irving who is mentioned on multiple occasions in the book.

          David Irving is an english writer who for some 40 years covered mostly historical topics in his books. Some renowned historians hold him in high regard, although it is unclear why they would do so; from his first book on Irving made regularly claims that are either unsupported by evidence or supported only by evidence that has been purposefully manipulated and that try to exonerate Hitler and other leading Nazis. Also Irving regularly suggested that it was in fact Nazi Germany that showed restraint during WW II and that instead it were the Allied factions that had committed war crimes.

          Lipstadts Denying the Holocaust was not primarily a book about Irving, but naturally she had to mention his wrong conclusions, distortions and lies. Although David Irving had denied the holocaust quite unambiguously (what with tasteless aperçus like more people “died in Kennedys car than in a gas chamber in Auschwitz”) in 1996 he still decided to sue Lipstadt. The case came under british libel law, which not only meant that Professor Lipstadt had to prove that Irving indeed was a holocaust denier, she also had to prove that his denial was done on purpose and not a result of mis-interpretation of evidence on his part. And the evidence had to be presented not to a jury of fellow scientists, but to a judge who was an expert on british law, not german history, and who could have easily given in to the temptation to render a “balanced” judgement when in fact a bias toward the truth was called for. Still, in the end Irving suffered a crushing defeat and his attempt to curtail Lipstadts right of freedom of speech failed.

          This is a quite important bit. It is important because Holocaust Deniers now claim that it was Lipstadt who tried to silence Irving. So remember: It was Irving who sued Lipstadt and he lost, because she was right and he was wrong.

          History on trial (Harper Perennial 2006) is Lipstadts account of the trial – a trial that took four years and millions of dollars in funds to prepare. The book demonstrates why it’s so hard to win against holocaust deniers. A denier can make up a lie in the spur of the moment. But if you want to prove him wrong you have to find the source he allegedly quotes, check the text, establish the proper context … and after you have refuted the lie the denier simply shrugs and tells another lie. And so it goes on, again and again, for some 300 pages.

          Of course there are some benefits from the trial: The Holocaust Denial on Trial – Website has published the testimonials of the expert witnesses, that’s an interesting read, and there are also quite interesting fact sheets that refute some of the more notorious denial claims. And these days nobody could claim that he is a holocaust denier due to innocent errors or a lack of information – the trial presented the evidence not only to the judge but to the world at large.

          On the other hand, after I had read the book I couldn’t help to think, what a waste of time and ressources. After some five years of preparation and in court we know exactly as much as before (to wit, the Holocaust really happened and David Irving is a liar). Professor Lipstadt could have done a lot more to further our understanding of the Holocaust had she had opportunity to proceed with her regular research instead of having to fight that twit. I would recommend to buy History on Trial to show support for the cause, but unless you want, through Deborahs Lipstadts eyes, a study on how the mind of a holocaust denier works (not something a sane person would want to witness from close up) it makes a somewhat depressing read. But at least there was a happy end.