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NOV 18, 2016

Moving and Shaking: LAMOTH fundraiser

From left: Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) President Beth Kean, professor Deborah Lipstadt, “Denial” producer Gary Foster, LAMOTH Vice President Andrea Cayton, LAMOTH Secretary Paulette Nessim and LAMOTH Treasurer Paul Nussbaum attend the LAMOTH gala. Photo by Gina Cholick

by Ryan Torok, Jewish Journal

About 600 supporters of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) attended its annual fundraiser Nov. 6 at the Beverly Wilshire hotel, which honored deceased Holocaust survivor Jona Goldrich and film producer Gary Foster for his film “Denial.”

Historian Deborah Lipstadt — the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, and author of the book “History on Trial: My Day in Court With a Holocaust Denier,” upon which “Denial” is based — was the guest of honor and presented Foster with his award.

“When I learned that David Irving, the leading Holocaust denier, was suing me for libel, my first reaction was to laugh,” Lipstadt said. “This was a guy who claimed more people died in Sen. Ted Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick than in the Holocaust. But the burden of proof was on me to prove the truth of what I [wrote], and we did that. The man was left destroyed, and much of the foundation of hardcore Holocaust denial was destroyed too.”

In accepting his award, Foster said he was inspired to make a film about Holocaust denial after hearing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then president of Iran, publicly deny the Holocaust. Foster began researching the topic and happened upon Lipstadt and her book, “History on Trial,” pretty much by accident. Once he discovered Lipstadt, he said, he knew he had to turn her story into a movie.

Lipstadt said she was skeptical: “I told him, ‘I’m ready to sign [the film contract] but you’ve got to understand this story is about truth. This movie has got to be accurate.’ ”

Holocaust survivors pose for a photo at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust annual gala. Photo by Gina Cholick

Foster and Lipstadt were able to persuade Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, to allow them to film several scenes there. Foster said they were so committed to the authenticity of the story that Jewish actress Rachel Weisz, who plays Lipstadt in the film, even wore Lipstadt’s clothes.

“I wanted to tell the story about the difference between truth, lies and opinion,” Foster said.

Goldrich, the Los Angeles philanthropist and Holocaust survivor, was honored posthumously for his role as one of the museum’s founding benefactors. “Without Jona, we wouldn’t have our beautiful museum in Pan Pacific Park,” LAMOTH honorary director E. Randol Schoenberg, said. Goldrich died in June, and his family accepted the honor in his memory.

LAMOTH said it raised nearly $1 million at the event.

— Danielle Berrin, Senior Writer

To read the article in the Jewish Journal, click here.