It is important to acknowledge what this book is not. I suspect the book has been deliberately called " The Holocaust on Trial" rather than " The David Irving Trial". Whilst much of the book provides an entertaining description about the David Irving trial the book does not investigate the primary source material of the trial itself. American readers may not be familiar with a tradition of English trial reporting as in such series as Notable British Trials . In those books extracts from the transcripts, speeches by Counsel and final judgment are reproduced. You will not find that type of detailed treatment here. What you will find, however, is sufficient information for the lay reader to understand the issues that were involved with the trial.
What the book does provide, however, are thought provoking questions about the Holocaust, about the study of history and the application of the law to resolve complex historical disputes. These questions, which must have been formulated by the author after much thought and research, are in my view the great strengths of the work.
One of the earlier reviewers suggested that the David Irving trial will not be relevant in 10 years time. That might be so but I suspect that the questions asked by Mr Guttenplan will remain relevant a century from now.
Another reviewer was critical that Mr Guttenplan did not deal more extensively with the questions raised. The author has been careful to identify the origins of his questions. If the reader so desires the reader can investigate further using the information the author has provided.
The other members of my household who have also read "Lying about Hitler" by Richard Evans and "The case for Auschwitz" by van Pelt have nominated this book to be the best of the three. This book therefore appears to be a good entree for the novice to understand the issues involved with the Holocaust debate and the David Irving trial.
What I admire most about the author is his courage in acknowledging that some sections of the Jewish community have exploited for their own purposes the memory of the Holocaust. One rarely sees comments like this committed to print.
A test I sometimes use to rate a book is to ask myself: `would I ask the author to a dinner party - is the author that interesting ?' In this case the answer would be a resounding yes!
The story that D.D. Guttenplan tells is often informative and occasionally riveting, but unfortunately it does little more than what you'd get from a thorough journalistic account of the case, which is what this book originally was. Guttenplan does not do an adequate job of assessing the phenomenon of Holocaust denial -- or of the laws that several European nations and Canada have passed making Holocaust denial a crime. He is usually good on the cut-and-thrust of the trial, but, having actually read Judge Charles Gray's mammoth and devastating opinion, I wish that Guttenplan either had given more room to analyzing it or had reprinted it as an appendix for the reader.
In sum, there are other, better books on the phenomenon of Holocaust denial, and I regret that this book was not better.
-- R.B. Bernstein, Adjunct Professor of Law, New York Law School