Dering v Uris

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Dering v Uris and Others was a court case for libel heard in London in 1964.

Dr Wladislaw Dering sued the writer Leon Uris over claims made in his novel Exodus that he had been involved in medical experiments in Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust. The court awarded him damages of one half penny on May 6, 1964.[1]

The novel QB VII and its 1974 miniseries adaptation are loosely based on this case.[2]

Background[edit]

Doctor Wladislaw Dering claimed he was libelled in the Leon Uris book, Exodus (published by William Kimber Ltd, London, in June 1959) on page 155:

‘Here in Block X (the Roman numeral) Dr Wirths used women as guinea pigs and Dr Schumann sterilised by castration and X-ray and Clauberg removed ovaries and Dr Dehring [sic] performed 17,000 ‘experiments’ in surgery without anaesthetics.’

Uris had copied his data from Underground by Joseph Tennenbaum when he referred to doctors working in Auschwitz.[3] The complex issue of Dr Dering's role—whether villain or hero—continued to be a subject of debate through 2010.[4]

Immigration hearing[edit]

Dr Dering was the subject of extradition proceedings where the Polish government wanted to extradite him as a war criminal. [5] The matter was later debated in Parliament on 23 September 1948 and the Secretary of State for the Home Department responding to questions from the floor by members Mr Paget, Mr Piratin and Mr Platts-Mills, stated that the testimony was based on one of mistaken identity and the extradition denied.[6]

Court case[edit]

Living at that time in Ealing, London, Dr W A Dering, OBE, sued in defamation. Purnell the printer had capitulated early on, with damages and an apology. The case against Kimber and Uris was concluded in May 1964. The high court action heard before Mr Justice Lawton lasted 19 days and cost £50-60,000. Dr Dering's share was said to be £30,000.[7] The jury awarded Dering a halfpenny in damages, the smallest coin of the realm. Since publisher and author had paid a marginally larger token sum of £502 into court, Dering was liable for all the legal costs amounting to £25,000 from that point, due to court rules.[8] Dering died, however, leaving Kimber saddled with the heavy legal costs.

At a news conference held at the Howard Hotel by Uris and publisher Kimber, Uris is reported to have made a comment that future editions of Exodus would omit Dr Dering's name.[9] Uris and the publishers, William Kimber and Company, are reported to have admitted that a paragraph in the book, referring to Auschwitz medical experiments, was defamatory to Dr Dering, but they also contended that it was true in substance, subject to certain qualifications.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Doctor Wins Half Penny in 'Exodus' Libel", Chicago Tribune, May 7, 1964, p1D
  2. ^ John Sutherland, Bestsellers: Popular Fiction of the 1970s (Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 1981)
  3. ^ "A H'penny & the Truth Dr.Dering's Trial in London by Jack Winocour In Points of Compass Encounter, August 1964, pp. 71-88". Sunday Times. 13 September 2008. Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  4. ^ "Was doctor Wladislaw Dering a hero or was he a criminal? Newsweek Polska in Filip Gańczak, Władysław Dering, doktor z Auschwitz, "Newsweek Polska" , 23 sierpnia 2010". Sunday Times. 23 September 2010. Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  5. ^ "Polish request for repatriation of Dr Wladislaw Dering for trial. Code 55, file 458". nationalarchives.gov.uk. 1948. Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  6. ^ "DR. WLADISLAW DERING HC Deb 23 September 1948 vol 456 cc1070-3". Hansard. 23 September 1948. Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  7. ^ "A H'penny & the Truth Dr.Dering's Trial in London by Jack Winocour In Points of Compass Encounter, August 1964, pp. 71-88". Sunday Times. 13 September 2008. Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  8. ^ "A H'penny & the Truth Dr.Dering's Trial in London by Jack Winocour In Points of Compass Encounter, August 1964, pp. 71-88". Sunday Times. 13 September 2008. Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  9. ^ "A H'penny & the Truth Dr.Dering's Trial in London by Jack Winocour In Points of Compass Encounter, August 1964, pp. 71-88". Sunday Times. 13 September 2008. Retrieved 2013-11-12. 
  10. ^ "London Court Told Poles Saved Some Auschwitz Inmates from Death". Sunday Times. April 15, 1964. Retrieved 2013-11-12.