Robert Jan van Pelt


Robert Jan van Pelt

Robert Jan van Pelt (born August 15, 1955 in Haarlem, Netherlands) is an internationally renowned author, architechtural historian, Professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and an esteemed Holocaust scholar. One of the world's leading experts on Auschwitz, he regularly speaks on Holocaust related topics, through which he has come to address Holocaust denial. He successfully helped defend Deborah Lipstadt in the civil libel suit brought against her by David Irving.

Life

At Leiden University, van Pelt obtained an undergraduate degree in art history and classical archaeology, a graduate degree in architectural history, and a PhD in the history of ideas. While pursuing his studies, he worked as an architectural historian, involved with the restoration of the Royal Palace in The Hague.cite web|url=http://www.gvsa.on.ca/index.php?id=200|title=Grand Valley Society of Architects - Robert Jan van Pelt of the UW school of architecture.|accessdate=2008-06-02] He joined the University of Waterloo in 1987 and has taught courses pertaining to the cultural history of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, the 19th century, and also participates in topics including urban history and film history.cite news|url=http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0009821|title=Van Pelt, Robert Jan|last=Jen|first=Leslie|work=The Canadian Encyclopedia|accessdate=2008-06-02] He is currently Professor of Cultural History in the university's architectural faculty,cite web|url=http://www.pbs.org/auschwitz/about/advisors.html|title=Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State . About . Advisors | PBS|accessdate=2008-06-02] and lives in Toronto.

Holocaust research

Van Pelt's Holocaust studies began while he was studying the Temple of Solomon under Renaissance scholar Frances Yates as part of his doctorate. He has stated that he was stunned when he first entered the Auschwitz architectural archive, commenting that the place allows one to imagine what the place looked like during the war and holds a "tactile reality" as to how the camp was built, and that here, he found his mission.cite news | url=http://www.errolmorris.com/film/mrd_transcript.html| title=Mr. Death: Transcript|publisher=| first=Errol | last=Morris | accessdate = 2008-06-02] His pursuit of Auschwitz as a point for architectural study arose when he nominated one of the crematoria and gas chamber complexes at Auschwitz-II Birkenau to be included in the University of Virginia architecture classes canon, a decision which he says was controversial among academics there.cite book|last=van Pelt|first=Robert-Jan|title=The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial|publisher=Indiana University Press|location=p. 66|date=2002|pages=570|isbn=0253340160|url=http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=83dvJxPm--EC&pg=PA67&lpg=PA67&dq=%22My+proposal+to+include+Crematorium+2+among+the+key+buildings+%22&source=web&ots=va8fxsYPCt&sig=imQJqkLQHdThRekG_8y8JDrjQOM&hl=en#PPA66,M1|accessdate=2008-06-02] Van Pelt has also appeared in Errol Morris's "", a biographical film about Fred Leuchter where he comments on and criticises Leuchter's methods and findings that constituted Leuchter's report for the defense of Ernst Zündel. In the film, van Pelt offers the analogy that the Nazis were the first Holocaust deniers, because through the obscure euphemisms and terminology they used in reference to their homicidal equipment, they attempted to deny to themselves what they were doing.

In the successful defence of Deborah Lipstadt, van Pelt was one of the four internationally distinguished Holocaust historians who served as expert witnesses,cite news|url=http://www.jfr.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pelt|title=The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous:|accessdate=2008-06-02] and he defended the 770 page report he produced during five days of cross-examination.

Works

Van Pelt has written five books and co-athored two with Dr. Debórah Dwork. He has also contributed chapters to twenty books, and has published more than thirty articles. In addition, he has served as an advisor on films and has also contributed in both the physical and dramatical reconstructions in Laurence Rees' "" television documentary.

Van Pelt's awards include University of Waterloo Outstanding Professor 2005, the National Jewish Book Award (1996) for "Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present", and the Spiro Kostof Award (1997) from the Society of Architectural Historians. He was a 1994-95 fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and was a 2002-04 fellow of the University of Waterloo's faculty of environmental studies.

References


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