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'Denial': Adding Insult to Injury
By Michael S. Goldberger, iBerkshires Film Critic
01:26PM / Friday, November 04, 2016
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Point of disclosure: That was the number on the inside of my mother's arm ... my personal proof that there was a Holocaust. The A denoted Auschwitz. The numbers added up to 13. She said it was her lucky number. I don't think she'd mind me telling you. While there were times when Dorothy Goldberger (R.I.P.) absolutely drove me out of my mind, I can't remember her ever lying to me.

She didn't talk about it at first, nor did any of the other survivors who visited our home shortly after WWII. Or at least I didn't hear it ... only snippets, the name Hitler used interchangeably with the still not popularized term, Holocaust. All were firsthand witnesses. Later, when world outrage took hold and the facts became common knowledge, some were emboldened.

They told their stories. Nazis were hunted. Memorials were built. If there were any deniers back then other than those whose lives were earlier at stake during the Nuremberg Trials, they were still under their rocks. It is this background and information that I bring to my following review.

Director Mick Jackson's "Denial" is a solid, responsible dramatization of historian Deborah Lipstadt's defense in the English court of a libel suit brought against her and Penguin Books by Holocaust denier David Irving. While it is well written, acted and directed, and treats the subject matter with proper reverence, we can't help but feel there's something missing in this otherwise important, studiously informative chronicle ... something else we want to know. It's a bit hazy at first, this missing puzzle to our total satisfaction, and then there it is: the big enigma.

You see, although the depiction of Lipstadt's great legal team proving to the court that there was indeed a Holocaust is a gripping exercise in altruistic argument and common sense, what we can't wrap our brains around is how someone could possibly be a Holocaust denier. While in the course of the narrative we get a pretty good inkling of why Irving himself, superbly portrayed by Timothy Spall, chose to embrace this bizarre genre of historical revisionism, we are nonetheless left wondering about all the other deniers. One could hardly pervert history any worse.

Hence, while fully absorbed by the intelligent deductions rendered by the protagonist's barristers, counselors and solicitors, we also experience a strong indignation. Evil permeates. How dare one put us into the defensive position of having to prove something so horrifically indisputable?  
Although the film is exciting only in the cerebral sense, director Jackson, working from a script David Hare adapted from Deborah Lipstadt's book, "History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier," shuffles a good verbal choreography among the principals. Rachel Weisz is credible as the anguished, properly abashed but never say die expert on the Holocaust, alternately flummoxed, bemused and enlightened by the meditations of Brit legal beagles Richard Rampton and Anthony Julius, excellently portrayed by Tom Wilkinson and Andrew Scott, respectively.

A good complement of supporting players, depicting various ancillary legal folk who say witty things and make smart suppositions in behalf of Professor Lipstadt's defense, supply us with a tutorial on the British system of justice. While it is an ingrained fact of being American that one is innocent until proven guilty, over there in the constitutional monarchy from which we broke in 1776 the burden of proof is on the accused. It's precisely why Irving brought suit there. Gee, mulling that fact, and considering the prevalence of warm beer, sure makes us glad we revolted.

But back to the somber, the story goes that Ike, after first viewing the atrocities at a just freed concentration camp, ordered photos taken and had GIs force German townsfolk to view the horror because, "The day will come when some son of a bitch will say that this never happened." The message, cleaned up and sent in a cable to General George C. Marshall on April 15, 1945, and now inscribed on a plaque at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, reads as follows:

"The things I saw beggar description ... The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering ... I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give firsthand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations to propaganda."
So there you go: Mom and Ike. Unfortunately, truer words were never said. It reminds us to beware hatemongers in pursuit of domination who may wrap themselves in a flag and promise greatness instead of tolerance and understanding. They can only be stopped through the power of truth delivered by the sane and better portions of humanity through deeds, writings and movies like "Denial" that keep the instructive memory of this nadir in history in the forefront of our consciences.

 "Denial," rated PG-13, is a Bleecker Street Media release directed by Mick Jackson and stars Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall. Running time: 110 minutes

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