More than 1,500 sign petition calling on Manchester to move books by Holocaust denier David Irving

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More than 1,500 people have signed a petition calling on Manchester University to move books by the Holocaust denier David Irving from open display on library shelves or to label them as 'Holocaust denial' literature.

The online petition follows a campaign led by Dr Irene Lancaster, who was Manchester University's first Teaching Fellow in Jewish history, Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Anglican former interfaith adviser, Canon Guy Wilkinson.

The petition was launched by the North West Friends of Israel after the Sunday Times reported on Manchester's ongoing refusal to move Irving's works at the weekend, despite a prolonged campaign that has been reported over the months by Christian Today.

The Sunday Times report pointed out that in recent months, growing numbers of British institutions, including Churchill College, Cambridge and University College London (UCL), have reclassified works by the controversial writer. They either moved them to 'closed access' areas, or inserted disclaimers inside the books, following complaints from Dr Lancaster, whose grandmother was exterminated by the Nazis at the Treblinka concentration camp.

Last week, Manchester also refused a request from the Campaign against Antisemitism to insert a disclaimer into the books describing them as Holocaust denial literature.

Manchester has repeatedly sought to defend its position on the grounds of freedom of speech, adding that it had surveyed more than 20 university libraries and that its 'approach was consistent with theirs'.

However, it has moved to reclassify them from 'history' to 'historical studies' following a letter in April from Dr Williams, who is Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, to Manchester University's president and vice chancellor, Dame Nancy Rothwell.

(L to R) Guy Wilkinson, Irene Lancaster and Rowan Williams at the launch of 'Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen: Between War and Peace' by Yechiel Frish and Yedidya Hacohen.

UCL last week told Lancaster and Williams that it had decided to move some of the books to an off-site store, and to move others 'from their regular place alongside works of serious scholarship to the historiography section'. Further, it will add the label 'Holocaust denial literature' to catalogue records for all copies of Irving's books 'where appropriate'.

Lancaster told Christian Today: 'It was extremely heartening to receive a phone call from North West Friends of Israel yesterday morning saying that they wanted to start a petition using my grandmother's story.

'I was the first to establish at Manchester University the difference in the study of Jewish history between fact and fiction, myth, historiography and history...It is heartening to find that over 1,500 have now signed the petition.

'The signatories at least understand the pain that Manchester University is causing the Holocaust survivors and their families who live in the city as well as the duty of universities, like everyone else, to abide by this country's laws on incitement to hatred and definition of anti-semitism.

'Antisemitic discourse and deliberate falsification of the facts of the Holocaust are not the same as academic freedom. Academic freedom has its boundaries. Manchester University has overstepped these bounds and it is to be hoped that the petition started on Monday by North West Friends of Israel will have the desired effect and that Manchester University will re-label these books as "Holocaust Denial" and re-locate away from the shelves marked "Modern History".'

In April, Christian Today reported that Irving had praised Manchester University's 'suitably frosty reply' to Lancaster, whom he repeatedly described on his website as 'the Jewess'.

In 2000, Irving lost a libel battle against a book by the American historian Deborah Lipstadt that described him as a 'Holocaust denier'.

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