Public Activities

Since its inception I have been a member of the Spoliation Advisory Panel established by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in 2000 to advise on claims for the restitution of, or compensation for, artworks currently in government-funded museums and galleries alleged to have been spoliated from their original owners by the Nazis. The chairman of the Panel was Sir David Hirst PC QC until his death in 2011, and since then Sir Donnell Deeny QC. So far we have issued 12 reports, all of which have been accepted by the Secretary of State. The Panel is empowered to recommend legislation, and I played an active part in drafting a Bill to enable the British Museum and similar institutions to deaccession items found to have been spoliated between 1933 and 1945. This became the Holocaust (Restitution of Cultural Objects) Act 2009. The website of the panel is:

In 1998-2001 I was lead expert witness and co-ordinator of panel of expect witnesses and researchers for the defence in the High Court defamation case of Irving vs. Lipstadt and Penguin Books, 1998-2000. In this capacity I was fully involved in preparing the defence from January 1998 onwards, attended the trial from January to April 2001, prepared a 740-page typescript report for the High Court, spent 28 hours in the witness box under cross-examination by the claimant, and attended a three-day appeal hearing in 2001.

In 2000 I acted for a commission of enquiry at the University of Christchurch at Canterbury, New Zealand, in reporting on a case of alleged Holocaust denial in an M.A. thesis submitted to the University and accepted some years before. I wrote a 20,000-word report whose main findings were accepted, though the commission of enquiry concluded that the University statutes did not allow for the withdrawal of a degree once granted.

In 2001 I acted for the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts as Mentor to the writer W. G. Sebald in respect of his grant from the Endowment and worked closely with him on his next novel. The project was tragically ended by Sebald’s sudden death at the end of the year. The novel was never finished.

I have given expert advice in a number of legal cases, including advising the defence in a criminal prosecution brought against a representative of the trade union UNISON charged with causing criminal damage to a wreath laid by BNP councillors in Oldham at a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, and advising the claimant’s solicitors in a case for breach of privacy brought by Max Mosley against the News of the World and involving allegations that he engaged in a ‘Nazi-style’ sadomasochistic orgy with five prostitutes (my role was to advise on the alleged Nazi element).

From 2007 to 2010 I was a Governor of the Perse School, Cambridge by virtue of my Fellowship of Gonville and Caius College, resigning on my move to Wolfson College.

I have been a member since its foundation of the Stakeholders’ Group for the British Digital Copy of the ITS archive. We succeeded in persuading the Foreign Office to back the idea of a British digital copy of this immense archive of 17 million files on concentration camp prisoners and displaced persons, and its location at the Wiener Library.

Most recently I have been involved in a national debate on the teaching of history in schools, through articles in the London Review of Books and in the New Statesman and discussions with Michael Gove and David Willetts, respectively Secretary of State for Education and Minister of State for Higher Education, in conferences. This debate is ongoing and I expect to make further contributions.