David Irving v Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt/V
- 1 Contents
- 2 Introduction
- 3 The general case for the Defendants
- 4 Irving’s general response
- 5 The specific criticisms made by the Defendants of Irving’s historiography
- 6 (ii) Crime statistics for Berlin in 1932
- 7 The events of Kristallnacht in November 1938
- 8 The aftermath of Kristallnacht
- 9 Expulsion of Jews from Berlin in 1941
- 10 Shooting of Jews in Riga
- 11 Hitler’s views on the Jewish question
- 12 The timing of the “final solution” to the Jewish problem: the ‘Schlegelberger note’
- 13 Goebbels’s diary entry for 27 March 1942
- 14 Himmler minute of 22 September 1942
- 15 Himmler’s note for his meeting with Hitler on 10 December 1942
- 16 Hitler’s meetings with Antonescu and Horthy in April 1943
- 17 The deportation and murder of the Roman Jews in October 1943
- 18 Himmler’s speeches on 6 October 1943 and 5 and 24 May 1944
- 19 Hitler’s speech on 26 May 1944
- 20 Ribbentrop’s testimony from his cell at Nuremberg
- 21 Marie Vaillant-Couturier
- 22 Kurt Aumeier
- The general case for the Defendants
- Irving’s general response
- The specific criticisms made by the Defendants of Irving’s historiography
- Crime statistics for Berlin in 1932
- The events of Kristallnacht in November 1938
- The aftermath of Kristallnacht
- Expulsion of Jews from Berlin in 1941
- Shooting of Jews in Riga
- Hitler’s views on the Jewish question
- The timing of the “final solution” to the Jewish problem: the ‘Schlegelberger note’
- Goebbels’s diary entry for 27 March 1942
- Himmler minute of 22 September 1942
- Himmler’s note for his meeting with Hitler on 10 December 1942
- Hitler’s meetings with Antonescu and Horthy in April 1943
- The deportation and murder of the Roman Jews in October 1943
- Himmler’s speeches on 6 October 1943 and 5 and 24 May 1944
- Hitler’s speech on 26 May 1944
- Ribbentrop’s testimony from his cell at Nuremberg
- Marie Vaillant-Couturier
- Kurt Aumeier
5.1 A central tenet of Irving’s historical writing about the Nazi era is that Hitler was not the vehement and ruthless persecutor of the Jews that he is usually portrayed to have been. Irving has on occasion gone so far as to say that Hitler was “one of the best friends the Jews ever had in the Third Reich”. Even if that can be disregarded as hyperbole, Irving would not, I think, dispute that he has on many occasions put forward the contentious view that, at least from the date when he seized power in 1933, Hitler lost interest in his former anti-semitism and that his interventions thereafter in relation to the Jewish question were consistently designed to protect them from the murderous inclinations of other Nazis.
The general case for the Defendants
5.2 At p161 of Denying the Holocaust Lipstadt attributes to scholars the description of Irving as a “Hitler partisan wearing blinkers”. That phrase, importing the suggestion that Irving deliberately ignores what is revealed by the historical record, encapsulates one of the main defamatory meanings of which Irving complains and which the Defendants seek to justify.
5.3 The way in which the Defendants summarise their plea of justification on this part of the case is as follows:
“that the [Claimant], driven by his obsession with Hitler, distorts, manipulates and falsifies history in order to put Hitler in a more favourable light, thereby demonstrating a lack of the detachment, rationality and judgment necessary for an historian”.
In their Summary of Case the Defendants highlight claims made by Irving as to Hitler’s friendship for and leniency towards Jews, which claims they assert ignore a large and powerful body of contradictory evidence. The Defendants contend that Irving
“misstates, misquotes, falsifies statistics, falsely attributes conclusions to reliable sources, relies on books and sources that directly contradict his arguments, quoting in a manner that completely distorts the author’s objectives, manipulates documents to serve his own purposes, skews documents and misrepresents data in order to reach historically untenable conclusions, bends historical evidence until it conforms to his ideological leanings and political agenda, takes accurate information and shapes it to confirm his conclusion and constantly suppresses or deliberately overlooks sources with which he is familiar because they contradict the line of argument which he wishes to advance”.
5.4 The Defendants advance a similar case against Irving in relation to his account of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, culminating in the genocide which they assert took place in the gas chambers, and his claims as to the extent of Hitler’s involvement in that persecution. I shall deal with that part of the defendants’ plea of justification in sections VI to VIII below. The present section is confined to certain specific instances where the Defendants attack Irving’s historiography.
5.5 The principal protagonist amongst the Defendants’ witnesses of the view that Irving persistently and deliberately falsifies history is Evans. In seeking to make good this full-blooded assault on Irving’s historiographical approach, Evans included in his lengthy written report multiple examples of the way in which in his opinion Irving portrays Hitler in a manner which is utterly at odds with the available evidence. He cited numerous occasions when, so he alleged, Irving distorted the historical record by one means or another; suppressed evidence; made uncritical use of unreliable sources and arrived at perverse irrational conclusions about events and documents. Evans also drew attention to occasions when Irving has written in inappropriately flattering terms about him. One example is Irving’s description of the Fuhrer in Hitler’s War as “a friend of the arts, benefactor of the impoverished, defender of the innocent, persecutor of the delinquent”. Evans considers that the consistent bias in favour of Hitler which is manifested in Irving’s works may stem in part from Irving’s identification with Hitler and from his professed intention to write Hitler’s War from Hitler’s perspective. Irving has himself written that he sees himself as having acted as Hitler’s “ambassador to the afterlife” when he was engaged upon writing his biography of Hitler. On the evidence of what Irving has written and what he has said in his talks and speeches, Evans concludes that Irving remains an ardent admirer of Hitler despite the overwhelming evidence which condemns him.
5.6 Evans does not stand alone in making these harsh criticisms of Irving’s historical method. In the narrower fields covered by their evidence van Pelt, Browning and Longerich level similar criticisms at him.
5.7 The Defendants based their attack on Irving’s historiography upon a number of selected episodes. They contend that a detailed analysis of the evidence which was available to Irving supports their case that in his account of those episodes Irving has persistently and deliberately falsified, manipulated and suppressed documents so as to presents a picture which is skewed and misleading. The Defendants focus their attention on a “chain of documents” which Irving has relied, initially on BBC television in June 1977 and on several later occasions, in support of his view that Hitler opposed the persecution of the Jews and sought to protect them from the excesses advocated by other Nazis. I shall consider the parties’ arguments in relation to each of the incidents to which the chain of documents relates.
5.8 Evans’s detailed examination of those documents reveals, so he alleged, consistent falsification of the historical record on the part of Irving. Evans expressed the opinion that what he described as Irving’s “egregious errors” were calculated and deliberate. He accepted that anyone can make mistakes but pointed out (as did Browning) that, where all the so-called mistakes are exculpatory of Hitler, the natural inference is that the falsification of the record is intentional. Evans did not resile in his oral evidence from the view expressed in his written report that Irving does not deserve to be called an historian.
Irving’s general response
5.9 As I have already observed, Irving regards the imputation that he has deliberately falsified the historical record as one of the most serious which can be levelled against an historian. He testified that he had never knowingly or wilfully misrepresented a document or misquoted or suppressed any document which would run counter to his case. He repudiated each and every one of the Defendants’ allegations of misquoting, misconstruing, mistranslating, distorting or manipulating the evidence.
5.10 Irving denied any obsession with Hitler, as he denied any falsification of history so as to portray Hitler in a more favourable light. Irving argued that he has every right to praise Hitler where praise is merited. Other historians, such as AJP Taylor, have taken a similar line. Irving also resents the claim made by Lipstadt that he has placed above his desk a self-portrait of Hitler. In fact it is nothing more than a postcard-sized sketch which is not on display, although he occasionally shows it to visitors.
5.11 Irving drew attention to the fact that in Hitler’s War, as well as in his other published works, he frequently includes material to the discredit of Hitler and other senior Nazis and makes criticism of them. He pointed out that he has expressly drawn his readers’ attention to crimes committed by Hitler. In his closing submission he included a list of derogatory references which has made about Hitler. He refuted the notion that these critical references were inserted for tactical purposes, that is, to enable him to point to them in the event of commentators accusing him of being a Hitler partisan. He has made no attempt to conceal from his readers the rabid anti-semitism displayed by Hitler in the early days. In his use of material obtained in his interviews with Hitler’s former adjutants or their widows, he has included information provided by them which reflects adversely on Hitler.
5.12 As Evans acknowledged, Irving has uncovered much new material about the Third Reich. He has researched documents not previously visited by historians, for example the Himmler papers in Washington and the Goebbels diaries in Moscow. He has tracked down and interviewed individuals (such as Hitler’s adjutants or their widows) who participated in or observed some of the events which took place during Hitler’s regime. Irving pointed out that, when he uncovers new documents or sources, he habitually makes them publicly available by placing them on his website or by some other means. Irving argues that no duplicitous historian would behave in this way, for he would be providing the evidence of his own duplicity to other historians. Irving advances a similar general argument in rebuttal of the claim that he has deliberately misrepresented or skewed or mistranslated documents. Irving said that he invariably indicates in a footnote where the document is to be found and often quotes the document in the original German. Irving contended that a historian intent on misleading his readers would not so forthcoming with the evidence of his own disreputable conduct.
5.13 Irving rejected the attack upon his historiography mounted by Evans: the criticisms are sweeping but the instances cited in support of them are, he claimed, relatively insignificant. Evans takes no account, Irving complained, of the quality of the historical work displayed in his many published works many of which have been favourably reviewed by fellow historians. Irving was critical of frequency with which Evans resorted to “the consensus amongst historians” by way of support for his attack on Irving. He suggested that many of the criticisms advanced by Evans were derived by him from the work of Professor Broszat, who had personal reasons for writing corrosively about him. Irving stressed that he should be judged by the use which he made of the evidence which was available to him at the time of writing and not by reference to evidence which has come to light more recently.
5.14 Irving was, understandably, indignant that Evans included in his report a reference to his having been required by the British Museum to read Hitler’s War in the section of the library reserved for pornographic material. By way of rejoinder he stated that the librarian of the Widener Library in New York apparently thinks well enough of him to stock forty-seven of his books.
5.15 Irving’s general response to this part of the Defendants’ case of justification is that, when the pertinent documentary evidence is subjected to “rigid historical criteria” (i.e. when due account is taken of the authenticity and the reliability of the evidence, the reason for its existence and the vantage point of the source or author), a relatively slim dossier of evidence emerges which does indeed show Hitler intervening in every instance to mitigate or lessen the wrongdoing against the Jews. Few, if any, documents point in the opposite direction.
The specific criticisms made by the Defendants of Irving’s historiography
5.16 In dealing with the Defendants’ examples of Irving’s alleged distortions of the historical record, I shall adopt the approach taken by the Defendants in their Summary of Case and deal with them one by one and, so far as practicable, in a chronological order. In each case I shall start with a brief account of the relevant historical background. Then I shall by setting out in summary the criticisms made by the Defendants of the use made by Irving of the evidence available to him in relation to the particular episode and thereafter I will summarise Irving’s response to those criticisms.
(i) Hitler’s trial in 1924
5.17 In 1924 Hitler was tried and, following his conviction, imprisoned for his role in the Nazi uprising in Munich in November 1923.
5.18 At p18 of the 1991 edition of Hitler’s War Irving makes a passing reference to Hitler’s attempted putsch, on which occasion, according to Irving, Hitler “disciplined a Nazi squad for having looted a Jewish delicatessen”.
5.19 A more detailed account of Hitler’s role in the putsch is given at p59 of Goering, where Irving writes:
“Meanwhile Hitler acted to maintain order. Learning that one Nazi squad had ransacked a kosher grocery store during the night, he sent for the ex-Army lieutenant who led the raid. ‘We took off our Nazi insignia first!’ expostulated the officer – to no avail, as Hitler dismissed him from the party on the spot. ‘I shall see that no other nationalist unit allows you to join either!’ Goring goggled at this exchange, as did a police sergeant who testified to it at the Hitler trial a few weeks later”.
Case for the Defendants
5.20 Evans noted that, whereas in Hitler’s War it is claimed by Irving that the whole squad which was involved in the looting was disciplined by Hitler, in Goering it is just the ex-army lieutenant. The reader who seeks to resolve the inconsistency is not assisted by any footnote identifying either the police sergeant who is said by Irving to have witnessed the dismissal or the occasion when he gave his evidence (as would be conventional practice for a reputable historian). Irving says at p518 that his account is knitted together from eye-witness evidence at the trial.
5.21 Evans managed to track down the identity of the police officer, who was called Hofmann. The Defendants criticise Irving for his failure to inform the reader that Hofmann was a loyal member of the Nazi party who participated in the putsch and who was on that account likely, when testifying on his behalf at his criminal trial, to give a favourable account of the conduct of his Fuhrer in his testimony and to depict him as a law-abiding citizen.
5.22 According to Evans, examination of the transcript of Hofmann’s testimony reveals several inaccuracies in Irving’s account. There is no support for the claim that Hitler summoned or “sent for” the former lieutenant or that either the police sergeant officer or Goering “goggled” when Hitler admonished him for raiding the Jewish shop. The admonition took place before the putsch and so cannot have formed any part of an attempt by Hitler to maintain order during it.
5.23 Irving’s account is also criticised for misrepresenting the nature of Hitler’s concern about the raid on the Jewish shop. The record of the evidence given at the trial demonstrates that Hitler’s concern was not to punish the officer for victimising a Jewish shopkeeper but rather that the incident might convey a bad impression of his new party.
5.24 Evans maintained that, far from acting to protect Jewish property during the putsch, there is reliable evidence that Hitler (as he himself admitted at his trial) ordered a raid on a Jewish printing house by armed Storm Division troops, who under threat of violence stole 14.5 billion marks. This robbery is presented by Irving at p59 of Goering as a “requisition” of “funds”.
5.25 The Defendants maintain that in the respects which I have summarised, in his account of Hitler’s reaction to the raid on the Jewish delicatessen and the evidence given at his trial, Irving persistently twists and embroiders the facts so as to exculpate Hitler and portray him as having acted sympathetically towards the Jews. Evans emphasised that it is essential for any historian to pay close attention to the background of any source he intends to quote so as to ensure that he is a reliable witness. He concluded that Irving deliberately suppressed the information as to Hofmann’s background, preferring instead to present him to the reader as an objective and trustworthy source, when to Irving’s knowledge he was nothing of the kind.
5.26 In the course of his own evidence and his cross-examination of Evans Irving made a number of claims about his treatment of Hofmann’s evidence. He repudiated the suggestion that he had deliberately provided a footnote for Hofmann’s evidence which would make it difficult for anyone so minded to track it down. By way of explanation, he explained that his publisher had called for cuts to be made in the text, so he had abbreviated the footnotes with the result that they are not as helpful as they might otherwise have been.
5.27 Irving initially excused his version of events by saying that what he wrote was based on the microfiches of Hofmann’s testimony rather than the verbatim transcript of the evidence given at the trial. But Evans pointed out that the contents of both were the same. Irving next claimed that he had no way of knowing that Hofmann was a longstanding member of the Nazi party and so likely to present Hitler in a favourable light. Evans responded that this would have been apparent on the face of Hofmann’s testimony, which Irving read on microfiches and which recounted his close relationship with Hitler and his involvement in the putsch. Moreover the Judge is recorded on the transcript as having congratulated Hofmann for speaking out on behalf of his Fuhrer. Irving responded that he had not had the transcript of Hofmann’s evidence when he wrote Goering or, if he had, he had not read that section of the testimony which related to Hofmann’s membership of the Nazi party. When it was the pointed out to Irving that, in the course of his own cross-examination, he had said that he had read the whole transcript of Hofmann’s evidence (which was only five pages long), Irving explained that, whilst it was true that he had read Hofmann’s evidence, he had not “paid attention” to what he had said about his background. He added that readers of Hitler’s War and Goering would be able to work out for themselves that Hofmann was not an objective witness without that fact being spelled out.
5.28 Irving accepted that there is no evidence that Goering “goggled” when Hitler disciplined the former lieutenant but regards that as permissible “author’s licence”. Irving defended his description of the robbery of the bank as “requisitioning” the bank’s funds by saying that the robbery was an obvious prank: he was seeking to write with a “light touch”.
(ii) Crime statistics for Berlin in 1932
5.29 During the Weimar Republic statistics were maintained for the numbers of crimes committed year on year. The crimes were broken down into types of offences.
5.30 In the context of describing in his book Goebbels how Goebbels turned anti-semitic when he realised the dominant position occupied by the Jews in Berlin in the 1930s, Irving wrote that Goebbels was unfortunately “not always wrong” to highlight every malfeasance of the criminal demi-monde and identify it as Jewish. He added at pp46-7:
“In 1930 no fewer than 31,000 cases of fraud, mainly insurance swindles, would be committed by Jews”.
Irving cited in the supporting footnote various references including Interpol figures which are said to be quoted in the Deutsche Nachrichten Buro (DNB), 20 July 1935 and Kurt Daluege “Judenfrage als Grundsatz” in Angriff, 3 August 1935. Two other sources are also given, namely Kiaulehn and Wieglin.
Case for the Defendants
5.31 The Defendants assert that the claim about offences of fraud committed by Jews, espoused by Irving in Goebbels, is factually incorrect and that the references cited by him in the footnote do not bear out his claim.
5.32 Indeed, say the Defendants, Interpol did not exist in 1932. The DNB, according to Evans, was a news agency which acted as the mouthpiece of the Nazi regime. In any case the DNB article cited by Irving did not contain any Interpol statistics but quoted remarks made by Daluege at a press conference which was nothing more than a propaganda exercise designed to justify the brutal persecution of the Jews.
5.33 As for Daluege, he was an enthusiastic member of the Nazi party who later emerged as a mass murderer on the Eastern front. His article in Angriff, relied on by Irving, was an attempt to justify the remarks made at the press conference in July 1932. The transcript of those remarks does not bear out the figure which appears in Irving’s text. Nor, claimed Evans, do the other two references given by Irving in the footnote.
5.34 The Defendants argue that, if (as a reputable historian would and should do) Irving had checked the official statistics, it would have been obvious that no more than 74 Jews were convicted of insurance frauds. Irving has greatly exaggerated Daleuge’s already suspect claim as to the number of such offences committed by Jews. No evidence is cited by Irving, or has been subsequently produced by him, for the claim that Jews committed 31,000 offences of fraud that year or anywhere near that many.
Response of Irving
5.35 The “conditional response”, as Irving put it, to this criticism is that due to an error on his part the footnote cites the wrong sources. He was, however, unable to identify the correct sources because, since he was banned from entering Germany in 1993, he no longer has access to the material documents.
5.36 Irving was unwilling to accept that the figure which he quoted was wrong. He claims that it was not unreasonable to rely on Daluege, who was admittedly “a dodgy source” but was at the time the head of the German police system making it necessary to rely on him. Irving said that everyone would know that Daleuge was an active Nazi, so there was no reason to include in the text or in the footnote a cautionary note warning readers about placing reliance on Daluege as an objective and trustworthy source. Irving added that the two other sources cited by him do confirm the figure he quoted but, as already explained, Irving cannot gain access to them.
The events of Kristallnacht in November 1938
5.37 The next example of alleged historical distortion by Irving relied on by the Defendants is his account of the events in Munich and elsewhere on the night of 9/10 November 1938 known as Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass). This is the second link in the chain which Irving regards as proving that Hitler defended the Jews.
5.38 9 November 1938, being the anniversary of the failed putsch of 1923, was marked by various parades and a celebratory dinner at Munich Old Town Hall attended by Hitler. After Hitler’s departure, Goebbels made a speech in the course of which he informed his audience of anti-Jewish demonstrations which had been taking place in Hesse and Magdeburg-Anhalt and which had resulted in the destruction of Jewish businesses and synagogues. These demonstrations had apparently been prompted by the murder in Paris of a German diplomat named von Rath by a young Pole (described by Irving as “a crazed Jew”).
5.39 Goebbels said in his speech at the Old Town Hall:
“On his briefing the Fuhrer had decided that such demonstrations were neither to be prepared nor organised by the party, but insofar as they are spontaneous in origin, they should likewise not be quelled”.
Those present understood Goebbels to mean that the party should organise anti-Jewish actions without being seen to do so. Accordingly during the night of 9/10 November, 76 synagogues were destroyed and a further 191 set on fire, 7500 Jewish shops and businesses were destroyed; widespread looting occurred and 20,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps where they were severely mistreated. Such incidents were not confined to Munich: it was a nationwide pogrom.
The Defendants’ case
5.40 The principal account of Kristallnacht by Irving is to be found at pp273-7 of his biography Goebbels but other references are to be found at pp196, 281 and 612-4. There are also accounts of the events of Kristallnacht in Hitler’s War and in other articles published by Irving. All these accounts were subjected to detailed and severe criticism by Evans and by Longerich.
5.41 The first and main point on which the Defendants’ experts take issue with Irving’s account is his claim that the nationwide pogrom was conceived and initiated by Goebbels and that Hitler did not approve or even know about the pogrom until it was well under way and, when informed, was livid and tried to stop it. In order to make this claim, the Defendants allege that Irving has resorted to systematic distortion and suppression of data.
5.42 According to Goebbels’s diary
“Big demonstrations against the Jews in Kassell and Dessau, synagogues set on fire and businesses demolished …I go to the party reception in the Old Town Hall. Colossal activity. I brief the Fuhrer. He orders: let the demonstrations go on. Withdraw the police. The Jews must for once feel the people’s fury. That is right”.
This passage is rendered as follows by Mr Irving at pp273-4 of Goebbels:
“..[Goebbels and Hitler].. learned that the police were intervening against anti-Jewish demonstrators in Munich. Hitler remarked that the police should not crack down too harshly under the circumstances. ‘Colossal activity’, the Goebbels diary entry reports, then claims: ‘I brief the Fuhrer on the affair. He decides: allow the demonstrations to continue. Hold back the police. The Jews must be given a taste of the public anger for a change’.
5.43 Evans claims that the cumulative effect of the mistranslations and omissions in Irving’s account give the false impression that Hitler merely ordered the police not to intervene against some unspecified anti-Jewish demonstrators in Munich, when in truth he had given positive orders that the demonstrations should continue not just in Munich but also elsewhere. These orders had been given by Hitler after he had been briefed by Goebbels about the burning of synagogues and demolition of businesses in Kassell and Magdeburg-Anhalt. Evans alleged that Irving has mistranslated zuruckziehen as meaning ‘hold back’ when it actually means ‘withdraw’. What Hitler had actually wanted was that the police should be removed from the scenes of violence altogether. The reason, according to Goebbels’s diary, was that the Jews might feel the people’s fury (not, as Irving translates the German, be ‘given a taste of the public anger’).
5.44 Evans criticises as being contrary to the evidence Irving’s suggestion that it was not until after Hitler had left the Old Town Hall that Goebbels learned of widespread anti-Jewish violence and decided off his own bat to unleash the pogrom. This suggestion distances Hitler from responsibility for the violence which occurred later that night and the following day. The Defendants contend that, in making that suggestion, Irving ignores or suppresses the evidence that it was Hitler who authorised the continuation of the widespread violence of which he had been informed by Goebbels before he (Hitler) left the Old Town Hall.
5.45 Longerich expressed the view that the course of the pogrom clearly demonstrates Hitler’s personal initiative. Goebbels’s diary entry for 9 November, already quoted, refers to big demonstrations against the Jews in Kassell and Magdeburg, which had in any case been reported in the Nazi press that morning. So the suggestion that Hitler did not know about them when he left the Old Town Hall is unsustainable, as is the further suggestion that Goebbels first learned of the scale of the violence them after Hitler had departed.
5.46 At pp 275 and 281 of Goebbels, Irving refers to “Goebbels’s sole personal guilt” and to his “folly” respectively. In the following passages Irving claims that Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich were all opposed to the pogrom. Another person presented by Irving as an opponent of the burning of synagogues and violence towards the Jews is the SA leader Victor Lutze. Irving also claims that SA Gruppenfuhrer Fust (wrongly called Lust by Irving) explicitly ordered that no synagogues were to be burned. These claims buttress the contention advanced by Irving that Goebbels was solely responsible for the orgy of violence which marked Kristallnacht.
5.47 Evans dismissed these claims as being the product of a manipulation of the evidence by Irving. According to Evans, the evidence tends to suggest that the SA group leaders generally played an active role in starting the violence. Evans argues that Juttner, who was the source for Irving’s claim that Lutze opposed the pogrom, is wholly unreliable: he was himself a senior SA leader and his role in the events of that evening make it very improbable that he disapproved the violence. As for Irving’s claim that Fust took action to prevent the burning of synagogues, Evans concluded that it was simply invented by Irving.
5.48 On this aspect of Kristallnacht, Evans was also critical of the omission of any reference in Irving’s account of the night’s events to the report of the internal enquiry subsequently held by the Nazi Party in February 1939. According to that report, Goebbels in his speech at the Old Town Hall told party members that Hitler, having been briefed by him about the burning of Jewish shops and synagogues, had decided that in so far as they occurred spontaneously they were not to be stopped. Evans pointed out that it would have been foolhardy in the extreme for Goebbels to have lied to old party comrades in the context of the party enquiry about what Hitler had said and decided about the anti-Jewish demonstrations.
5.49 The Defendants further contend that Irving’s account of events during the night of 9/10 November seriously distorts the role played by Hitler. In the first place the Defendants criticise Irving for his omission to refer to a telegram sent from Berlin at 23.55 on 9 November by Muller, head of the Security Police, to officers warning them of the forthcoming outbreak of anti-Jewish demonstrations and ordering that they were not to be interrupted. The Defendants contend that this is an important document which reflects precisely what Hitler had ordered earlier that evening. They argue that it is obvious that Muller (who was answerable to Heydrich, who in turn was answerable through Himmler to Hitler) was acting on instructions from the highest level. Yet no mention of Muller’s telegram is made in the text of Irving’s writing about Kristallnacht.
5.50 Evans canvassed the question whether Hitler was consulted before the telegram from Muller was dispatched. He pointed to evidence, consisting in the testimony at Nuremberg of one SS officer (Schallermeier) and the witness statement of another (Wolff) and confirmed by a contemporaneous report to the Foreign Office, which suggests that it is very likely that Hitler and Himmler met before Muller sent the telegram. Himmler and Hitler were seen together in conversation earlier that evening before the dinner at the Old Town Hall. If Hitler and Himmler did meet, argued Evans, it is inconceivable that Muller’s telegram would have been sent out in those terms without Hitler’s approval. According to Evans, it is therefore to be inferred that, far from ordering that action against Jews be halted, Hitler in truth ordered it to continue. The evidence relied on by Evans in support of this inference is ignored or dismissed by Irving, unwarrantably so in the opinion of Evans.
5.51 Criticism of Irving was made by the Defendants for his omission to make reference to an instruction issued by the leader of SA group Nordsee, Bohmcker, which alluded to the wish of Hitler that the police should not interfere with the anti-Jewish demonstrations. The reason why Irving omits this message, suggested the Defendants, is that it runs counter to his thesis that Hitler was throughout concerned to protect the Jews.
5.52 At pp276-7 of Goebbels Irving writes that, when Hitler learned of the pogrom at about 1am on 10m November, he was “livid with rage” and snapped to Goebbels by telephone to find out what was going on. Hitler is said to have made a “terrible scene with Goebbels” who did not anticipate Hitler’s “fury”. Hitler’s alleged reaction supports the thesis advanced by Irving that Hitler did not instigate the violence of that night.
5.53 In this portrayal of Hitler’s reaction, Evans accused Mr Irving of further invention, manipulation and suppression. Irving’s account of the events of the night of 9/10 November, including in particular his account of Hitler’s reaction when apprised of the violence, depends heavily on the interviews which he conducted long after the war with Hitler’s adjutants, that is, officers closely attached to Hitler. Evans claimed that Irving adopted a deplorably uncritical attitude towards the adjutants’ version of events. Not only were they trying to call to mind events which took place long ago, they were also highly likely to slant their accounts in favour of Hitler. Another reason for scepticism about their accounts is their wish to exculpate themselves. Moreover, argued Evans, it is essential for an objective historian to weigh the testimony of such witnesses against the totality of the available evidence in order to test its reliability. The contemporaneous documents created during the night of violence are likely to prove a far more reliable guide than the self-serving and untested accounts of Hitler’s staff. Irving, he contended, failed lamentably to weigh that evidence in the balance.
5.54 The principal source for the claim that Hitler was observed by Eberstein, Chief of Police in Munich, to be “livid with rage” is said by Irving to be Hitler’s chief former personal adjutant, Wilhelm Bruckner. Irving obtained Bruckner’s papers from his son and donated them to the Institute of History in Munich to which Irving no longer has access. He was therefore unable to produce documentary verification of Bruckner’s account. He was able to produce a Deckblatt (cover sheet) which includes a summary of the contents of the relevant file in Munich but that does not indicate the presence in the file of any Kristallnacht material. Evans’s assistant searched the relevant file in Munich but was unable to find any document there which related to Kristallnacht. So the evidential position is unsatisfactory. Another reason put forward by Evans for doubting Irving’s account is that contemporaneous documents establish that later that night at 2.10am Eberstein telephoned to the Gestapo in various towns repeating the order that police were not to interfere with actions against Jews. Eberstein would have done no such thing, argued Evans, if indeed he had seen Hitler livid with rage about the actions against the Jews. Irving makes no mention of Eberstein’s instruction in his book about Hitler.
5.55 Be that as it may, Bruckner was a close associate of Hitler, so that, according to Evans his evidence needs to be treated with caution. In any case, according to a second-hand summary made by a German historian of a statement made by Bruckner, he was able to say no more than that Eberstein “probably” went to see Hitler. In his evidence at Nuremberg, Eberstein did not mention having had this meeting with Hitler. So, according to Evans, the evidence for Hitler’s reaction having been one of anger is very thin and difficult to reconcile with other events that evening. The violence continued virtually unabated throughout the night; this is unlikely to have occurred if indeed Hitler had at any stage wanted to bring it to a halt.
5.56 Another witness relied on by Irving for Hitler’s reaction to the mayhem which broke out is Julius Schaub, a long-standing Nazi party member and senior SS officer (who after the war described Hitler as a peace-loving man). In his papers Schaub claimed that Goebbels “ordained Kristallnacht Sunday (sic)” and that Hitler was furious when he learned of the outrages. Evans argued that Schaub too was close to Hitler and his evidence on that account should be treated with scepticism. Schaub’s evidence, like that of the other witnesses relied on by Irving, is impossible to reconcile with Hitler’s attitude towards the violence in the early evening of 9 November or with the orders (to which I shall shortly come) which went out in the early hours of 10 November permitting the excesses to continue.
5.57 The third witness relied on by Irving for Hitler’s reaction on hearing of the anti-Jewish outrages is von Below, who was a Colonel in the Luftwaffe. Irving interviewed him some thirty years after the event. He was present in the hotel where Hitler was based at the time. He claimed to recall that Hitler’s reaction, when hearing of the violence from von Eberstein, was to ask what was going on. He said that Hitler became angry and demanded that order in Munich be restored at once. Evans noted that in his memoirs (as opposed to his interview by Irving) von Below made clear that he was not present when, on learning of the pogrom, Hitler spoke to Goebbels by phone and so could not have overheard any part of their conversation. Evans argued that Irving’s note of his interview with von Below makes clear that, contrary to Irving’s claim in Goebbels, Hitler asked Eberstein (not Goebbels) to find out what was going on. There is no evidence, said Evans, for Irving’s claim that Hitler “snapped” orders at Goebbels. Evans regarded von Below as a variable witness whose account of Kristallnacht is wholly unreliable.
5.58 Another source for Irving’s contention that Hitler condemned the pogrom is Hederich, a longstanding senior Nazi. Evans criticised Irving for his reliance on him. Hederich based his assessment of Hitler’s attitude towards the violence upon his impression of a speech which he claimed Hitler made at the Old Town Hall before Goebbels spoke. But the evidence is clear, according to Evans, that Hitler made no speech at the Old Town Hall that evening.
5.59 At p276 of Goebbels Irving gives the following account of the message sent shortly after 1am by Heydrich (Head of German Security Police):
“What of Himmler and Hitler? Both were totally unaware of what Goebbels had done until the synagogue next to Munich’s Four Seasons Hotel set on fire around 1am. Heydrich, Himmler’s national chief of police, was relaxing down in the hotel bar; he hurried up to Himmler’s room, then telexed instructions to all police authorities to restore law and order, protect Jews and Jewish property and halt any ongoing incidents”.
According to Evans this is a blatant manipulation of the historical record. Heydrich’s telex sent to police chiefs and security service officers at 1.20 am on 10 November, which emanated from Himmler, instructed them that the demonstrations against the Jews expected during that night were “ not to be obstructed” subject to the following restrictions:
“a) only such measures may be taken as do not involve any endangering of German life or property (eg synagogue fires only if there is no danger of the fire spreading to surrounding buildings),
b) the shops and dwellings of Jews may only be destroyed not looted. The police are instructed to supervise the implementation of this order and to arrest looters.
c) care is to be taken that non-Jewish shops in shopping streets are unconditionally secured against damage,
d) foreign nationals may not be assaulted, even if they are Jews”.
Evans maintained that the meaning is clear: apart from those specific, narrow circumstances, the police were ordered not to intervene. The Defendants contend that Heydrich’s order confirms and repeats the instruction of Himmler (which Irving accepts would have originated from Hitler) that the demonstrations were not to be interrupted. The restrictions only applied in identified and limited circumstances (eg where there was risk of damage to non-Jewish property). So it is alleged that Heydrich’s telex ordered the exact opposite of what Irving claimed in Goebbels.
5.60 Evans advanced a similar criticism of Irving’s treatment at p277 of Goebbels of a telex sent at 2.56am from the office of Rudolf Hess. Irving writes that
“Hess’s staff began cabling, telephoning and radioing instructions to Gauleiters and police authorities around the nation to halt the madness”.
In fact, according to Evans, the order read:
“On express orders from the very highest level, acts of arson against Jewish shops and the like are under no circumstances and under no conditions whatsoever to take place”.
It is common ground that the message is referring to an order from Hitler (“the very highest level”). That order, according to Evans, had the limited effect of preventing fire-raising in Jewish shops and the like (‘Geschaften oder dergleichen’) and was not aimed at preventing attacks on Jews and their property generally. The concern for shops arose, said Evans, because they were in most cases owned by Germans. The order did not purport to proscribe attacks on Jewish homes or on synagogues. It referred only to arson and not to other forms of violence. Its tenor is consistent with the telegrams sent out by Muller and by Heydrich earlier that evening. There is, asserted Evans, no warrant for the claim which was made by Irving in an article published in 1983 that this order shows that Hitler ordered “the outrage” to stop forthwith. If he had so ordered, why, asked Evans, did the violence continue. Far from ordering the outrage to cease, Hitler was by necessary inference authorising the continuation of most of the lawlessness.
5.61 Evans alleged that Irving is guilty of further manipulation of evidence in relation to the account given by Hitler’s adjutant, Wiedemann, which Irving uses to support his thesis that Hitler ordered Goebbels to stop the attacks when he heard about them. In Goebbels Irving writes:
“Fritz Wiedemann, another of Hitler’s adjutants, saw Goebbels spending much of that night, 9th/10th, telephoning … to halt the most violent excesses”.
Evans claimed that there are good reasons to doubt the reliability of Wiedemann and that in any event Irving has distorted or at least exaggerated his evidence. What in fact Wiedemann wrote was that “it is reliably reported that” Goebbels had been seen making these telephone calls. There was therefore no justification for Irving’s claim that Wiedemann “saw” Goebbels making these calls. It was mere hearsay. In any event, said Evans, the picture conveyed by Irving is wholly inconsistent with other evidence of what Goebbels was doing that night.
5. 62 Irving is further criticised by the Defendants for ignoring evidence, which according to Evans is inherently more reliable, namely the evidence contained in the report of the Supreme Party Tribunal report of 13 February 1939. That report includes a finding that when, at about 2am on 10 November, Goebbels was informed of the first death of the Jew in the progrom, he reacted by saying it would be the first of many. This reaction accords, say the Defendants, with the diary entry made by Goebbels that morning rejoicing in the violence (“Bravo!”).
5.63 Lastly in relation to the events of Kristallnacht, Irving at p281 of Goebbels quotes from the diary of a diplomat named van Hassell recording the reaction of Rudolf Hess to the violent actions directed at the Jews. It reads:
“[Hess] had left [the Bruckmanns] in no doubt that he completely disapproved the action against the Jews; he had also reported his views in an energetic manner to the Fuhrer and begged him to drop the matter, but unfortunately completely in vain. Hess pointed to Goebbels as the actual ‘originator’ ”.
In Goebbels Irving refers only to Hess’s view that Goebbels was the originator of Kristallnacht. Whilst no objection was taken by him to the use of that part of the quotation, Evans did criticise Irving’ for his failure to refer to what Evans regarded as the far more significant aspect of Hess’s account, namely that Hitler had ignored his plea to halt the progrom. That omission amounts, according to Evans, to a blatant misrepresentation of the diary entry. Evans also criticised Irving for his failure to mention the immediately following passage from the same diary which recounts a conversation Hassell had with the Prussian Finance Minister, Popitz, who is recorded as having said that Goering considered Hitler responsible for the events of Kristallnacht.
5.64 Evans concluded that Irving’s claim that during the night of 9/10 November Hitler did everything he could to prevent violence towards the Jews and their property is based upon a tissue of inventions, manipulations, suppressions and omissions.
5.65 Irving denied that in his account of the events of Kristallnacht he had misrepresented the attitude Hitler adopted towards the violence directed at the Jews and their property. He maintained that the violence was initiated and promoted by Goebbels, who was acting without the authority of Hitler. He argued that, once Hitler became aware of the scale of the anti-Jewish rioting, he did his best to limit the violence.
5.66 Irving justified his translation of the account given by Goebbels in his diary of the remarks made by Hitler when he was told about the demonstrations as an attempt on his part to convey to his readers in the vernacular the flavour of Goebbels’s style of writing in his diary. He denied that his version contains any mistranslation of the entry. As to the significance of what Hitler ordered at that early stage of the evening’s events, Irving at one stage in his evidence suggested that what Goebbels had reported to Hitler was the death of van Rath rather than that demonstrations against Jews had broken out. But he later conceded that Hitler would have been told about the demonstrations against Jews. He emphasised that, at the point when Hitler gave his order for the police to be pulled back, the scale of the anti-Jewish demonstrations was modest. So it could not be said, claimed Irving, that Hitler was sanctioning excessive violence. It was not until later that night, towards midnight, that the demonstrations got out of hand and turned into a full-scale pogrom against the Jews.
5.67 Irving accepted that his account of Hitler’s reaction on hearing in the early hours of the morning of 10 November about the outrages which were taking place is heavily reliant on the testimony of Hitler’s adjutants provided many years after the event. Irving said that he was scrupulously careful not to put words into the mouths of those whom he interviewed. Irving testified that he spoke to von Below on no less than ten occasions. He claimed that what von Below then said is more worthy of belief than what he wrote in his memoirs. Irving pointed out there is no evidence which directly contradicts the accounts of the adjutants on which he has placed reliance. Their accounts converge and so may be said to corroborate one another. Irving did not accept that, in accepting the evidence of the adjutants about Kristallnacht but rejecting for example the evidence of survivors about events at Auschwitz, he has been guilty of applying double standards.
5.68 As to Muller’s telegram, Irving agreed that he was aware of it but made no mention of it in Goebbels. He testified that he did not regard it as adding much. Moreover Irving did not accept that the evidence shows that Hitler authorised or even knew of Muller’s order. Muller was in Berlin whereas Hitler was in Munich. Nor, said Irving, does Bohmcker’s message add anything to what is already known from other sources. He pointed out that he did refer to Bohmcker in a footnote.
5.69 Irving denied having misrepresented Heydrich’s telex of 1.26am. The reference given in the footnote in Goebbels for this message is ND:3052-PS. In cross-examination the message with reference number ND:3051-PS, which the Defendants claim is Heydrich’s 1.20am message, was put to Irving. He said that he was quoting from a different message sent by Heydrich, namely ND:3052-PS, which is the reference given in Goebbels. He disagreed with the suggestion that it was unlikely that Heydrich would have sent another telex at about the same time. His answer to the Defendants’ accusation of misrepresentation was therefore that he was summarising the content of a different message sent by Heydrich at about the same time (which he was unfortunately unable to produce). However, when confronted with the text of message ND:3052-PS which the Defendants had obtained overnight, Irving accepted that it cannot have been the source for what he wrote. When reminded that on his own website he had admitted muddling 3051 and 3052, Irving conceded that there had been no other source for what he wrote about Heydrich’s telex. In the end, as I understood him, Irving answered the criticism made by the Defendants of his account in Goebbels of Heydrich’s telex by saying that, if he misinterpreted it, it was an innocent error or glitch which occurred in the redrafting process. He maintained that the error is in the context of the book as a whole a trivial one. In any event Irving reiterated that at this stage in the evening (1.20am), the full-scale pogrom had still not developed.
5.70 As regards Eberstein’s telephone message at 2.10am, Irving gave various reasons why he attached no importance to it. He claimed that the original message would have gone out earlier. It is, he argued, a mere repetition of the instruction to the police not to interfere. Irving put to Evans various suggestions about the message: that Eberstein might not have been present when it was sent; that Eberstein might have been with Hitler when it went out; that it was an “igniting” document. In any event, said Irving, the message was overtaken by events. For these reasons Irving said that he saw no need to refer to it in Hitler’s War. Evans accepted none of these suggestions. Whether or not it is likely that Eberstein would have sent that message after seeing Hitler’s reaction to the news of the night’s events, Irving stated that two eye-witnesses, namely adjutants von Below and Futkammer, had confirmed Hitler’s angry reaction to the news. In regard to Hederich, Irving justified his reliance upon his evidence. He contended that there was no reason for doubting what Hederich was quoted as having said. Despite having written in Goebbels that what Goebbels said “conflicted with the tenor of Hitler’s speech”, Irving denied that Hederich had meant that Hitler made a speech at the Old Town Hall: he was referring to what he understood Hitler to have been saying about the violence. Irving did not accept the criticisms advanced by Evans of his reliance on these witnesses (summarised above).
5.71 Irving disagreed totally with the interpretation placed by the Defendants upon Rudolf Hess’s message sent at 2.56am. He pointed out that it was he who had discovered the message and first brought it to the notice of historians. Whilst he accepted that there might have been reasons for singling out Jewish businesses for protection, such as the danger of damage being done to adjacent non-Jewish property or the likelihood that the Jewish property was insured with non-Jewish insurance companies, he was adamant that the order was intended to confer blanket protection on all Jewish property. He read the words und dergleichen as qualifying acts of arson, so that his interpretation of the message is that it covers acts of arson and all other forms of violence. He did not accept that the order of words in the message indicates that und dergleichen qualifies shops, so extending the order to shops and the like. It was Irving’s case that the order sent at 2.56am emanated from Hitler and it was a direction that all actions against the Jews must stop forthwith. Accordingly his description of the message as conveying an order from Hitler “to halt the madness” was appropriate and justified. Furthermore, in his response to the Defendants’ closing submission, Irving also drew attention to a telegram sent out at 3.45am by Gestapo Section II signed “p.p. Bartz” which required the immediate execution of Heydrich’s order that all kinds of arson were to be hindered.
5.72 Given the passage of time since he had tried to decipher the handwriting of Wiedemann, Irving felt unable to respond the criticism that he had misrepresented his account. He did agree that he may have made a mistake. Irving agreed that at the time when he was writing Goebbels he was aware of the diary entry of Hassell recording the comments made about Kristallnacht by Rudolf Hess. Irving argued that, when Hess said he had reported his views in an energetic manner to Hitler and begged him to drop “the matter”, Hess was obviously referring to the action subsequently taken by the Nazi party to fine the Jews. Hess was not begging Hitler to drop the anti-Jewish actions when they were in progress that night. Evans dismissed that as a blatant misconstruction of the diary entry which was plainly referring to the violence. Irving commented that he did not in any event consider that the entry adds much to what is already known.
The aftermath of Kristallnacht
5.73 Once the killing, rape and wholesale destruction of property which marked Kristallnacht came to an end, questions arose how these actions against the Jews had come about and what should be done with the perpetrators. Discussions took place between Hitler and Goebbels. In due course the Oberste Parteigericht, a party court which formed no part of the criminal justice system, conducted an investigation and compiled a report about the affair.
The Defendants’ case
5.74 In relation to Irving’s portrayal of the events immediately following Kristallnacht, Evans again made criticisms of the manner in which he manipulated, misquoted and discounted reliable evidence. Evans contended that, contrary to the impression conveyed by passages in Goebbels at pp277-8, the diary entries made by Goebbels, as well as statements made by him at the time, provide convincing proof that Hitler wholeheartedly approved the pogrom and himself afterwards proposed economic measures to be taken against Jews.
5.75 Page 277 of Goebbels includes the following paraphrase of Goebbels’s diary entry:
“As more ugly bulletins rained down on him the next morning, 10 November 1938, Goebbels went to see Hitler to discuss ‘what to do next’ – there is surely an involuntary hint of apprehension in the phrase”.
The vice which the Defendants perceive is that Irving's account suggests that Goebbels knew he was to blame for the pogrom and was apprehensive that Hitler would be angry with him. The Defendants contend that Irving had no basis whatever for adding the gloss that Goebbels was apprehensive since there is no such indication to be found in the diary. Far from being apprehensive, Goebbels’s diary entry for 11 November shows how delighted he was at the success of the pogrom. Irving claimed that this entry is mendacious.
5.76 Goebbels’s diary entry continues:
‘I report to the Fuhrer in the Osteria. He agrees with everything. His views are totally radical and aggressive. The action itself has taken place without any problems. 17 dead. But no German property damaged. The Fuhrer approves my decree concerning the ending of the actions with small amendments. I announce it via the press and radio. The Fuhrer wants to take very sharp measures against the Jews. They must themselves put their businesses in order again. The insurance will not pay them a thing. Then the Fuhrer wants a gradual expropriation of Jewish businesses’.
The Defendants contend that this passage from Goebbels’s diary makes crystal clear that, far from condemning Goebbels for what had occurred during Kristallnacht, Hitler in fact approved what had happened. The Defendants add that this is borne out by the fact that Goebbels that same afternoon told the local party chief that the Fuhrer had sanctioned the measures taken thus far and had declared that he did not disapprove of them.
5.77 Yet at page 278 of Goebbels Irving described the meeting at the Osteria in the following terms:
“[Goebbels] made his report [on ‘what to do next’] to Hitler in the Osteria … and was careful to record this – perhaps slanted – note in his diary which stands alone, and in direct contradiction to the evidence of Hitler’s entire immediate entourage. ‘He is in agreement with everything. His views are quite aggressive and radical. The action itself went off without a hitch. 100 dead. But no German property damaged. Each of these five sentences was untrue as will be seen”.
The Defendants cite this as an instance of Irving perverting what Goebbels recorded in his diary and distorting what actually happened in order to exculpate Hitler.
5.78 Evans deduced that the probable sequence of events was that during the morning of 10 November Hitler and Goebbels discussed what to do next. Hitler told Goebbels to draft an order calling a halt to the violence because, in effect, the objective had by that stage been achieved. They then met for lunch at the Osteria and Hitler approved the order Goebbels had drafted. The terms of the order were broadcast at some stage during the afternoon and the order was formally promulgated at 4pm. The significance of the timing, according to Evans, is that the violence was in effect permitted to continue for most of 10 November. (In Vienna the violence against the Jews did not begin until 10 o’clock that morning).
5.78 At a meeting held on 12 November, attended by amongst others Goering and Goebbels, the decision was taken that the Jews should, irrespective of any insurance cover, bear the cost of the pogrom; that Jewish property should be “aryanised” and that Jews should be forbidden to run shops or businesses. Evans criticised Irving for omitting to mention, in his account of this meeting at p281 of Goebbels, that these decisions reflected the wishes expressed by Hitler on 10 November and, according to Goering, were taken in response to Hitler’s express request. Nor does Irving mention that, according again to Goering and to an official of the Four Year Plan named Kehrl, Hitler had expressly endorsed the action taken against the Jews.
5.79 At p281 of Goebbels, Irving writes:
“Hess ordered the Gestapo and the party’s courts to delve into the origins of the night’s violence and turn the culprits over to the public prosecutors”.
The Defendants assert that, since the court in question was a party and not a criminal court, there was no warrant for Irving to write that the culprits were to be handed over to the public prosecutors. Further Evans pointed out that the document cited in support of this passage, an order of 19 December 1938, made clear that referrals to the prosecution service were to take place only in cases arising out of “personal and base motives”. The Ministry of Justice had already ordained that no action was to be taken in those cases where Jewish property was set on fire or blown up. None of this is mentioned by Irving. On the Defendants’ case, the intent and effect of Hess’s order is thus completely misrepresented by Irving, whose wording suggested to his readers that the Nazis determined to take firm disciplinary action against party members who had been guilty of unlawful violence during Kristallnacht and that anyone guilty of any misdemeanour would be handed over to be dealt with in the criminal courts.
5.80 In the event, according to the Defendants, the proceedings of the Party Court were a farce. According to its report of 13 February 1939, it investigated only sixteen cases of alleged unlawful activity. In only two of those cases were the suspects handed over to the criminal courts. Those two cases involved sexual offences against Jewish women: the reason for their referral was that the offences involved ‘racial defilement’. In the other fourteen cases (which included allegations that twenty-one Jews had been murdered), the punishments were trivial, apparently because the Party Court took the view that the culprits were carrying out Hitler’s orders. Hitler was asked to quash the proceedings against those fourteen. The criticism of Irving is that he makes no reference to what the Defendants describe as a scandalous manipulation of the justice system. The disciplinary action instituted by the Nazi party was virtually non-existent.
5.81 Irving suggested in Goebbels that following Kristallnacht Hitler distanced himself from Goebbels because he disapproved what he had done. But Evans contended that the record, including Goebbels’s diary, suggests otherwise. For instance Goebbels reported in his diary that, when Hitler visited him on 15 November , Hitler “was in a good mood. Sharply against the Jews. Approves my and our policy totally”. Evans asserted that there is no justification whatever for supposing that, as Irving implies at p282 of his book, that that was an invention on the part of Goebbels.
5.82 Evans also disputed Irving’s claim that the memoirs of Ribbentrop are further evidence that of Hitler’s disapprobation of Goebbels. According to Evans, the documents cited by Irving do not upon examination support his claim that Goebbels was a pariah in Berlin and even less popular than Ribbentrop and Himmler. Evans noted Irving makes several references to an author named I Weckert, without giving the reader any indication that she is a well-known anti-semitic Nazi sympathiser, who in Evans’s opinion is discredited as an historian.
5.83 The final criticism made by Evans is that at p276 of Goebbels and elsewhere Irving seriously understates the suffering inflicted upon the Jews in the pogrom. The number of synagogues destroyed far exceeded Irving’s figure of 191. The extent of the damage to Jewish shops is also downplayed by Irving. The number of Jews killed was many more than the thirty-six claimed by Irving, even if those who died en route to concentration camps are left out of account.
5.84 By way of explanation of his reference to Goebbels having felt apprehensive when he went to see Hitler on 10am November 1938, Irving stressed that his paraphrase “what to do next” is an accurate rendition of the German :
“Ich uberlege mit dem Fuhrer unsere nunmehrigen Massnahmen”.
According to Irving, those words mean that Goebbels discussed with Hitler the measures which need to be taken “now more than ever”. The reason why he wrote that Goebbels was apprehensive was that he had been summoned to see Hitler at a time when Germany was going up in flames. Goebbels had believed that he had acted in accordance with Hitler’s wishes but to his consternation he had discovered that he had been doing the exact opposite of what Hitler wished. Irving did, however, agree that Goebbels’s diary entry indicates that he was discussing with Hitler whether to let the actions against the Jews continue or to call a halt. He claimed (and Evans agreed) that the probability is that in the course of a telephone conversation on the morning of 10 November Hitler instructed Goebbels to draw up an order calling a halt to the violence.
5.85 But Irving did not accept the rest of Evans’s reconstruction of the sequence of events on 10 November. In regard to Goebbels’s account in his diary of his meeting with Hitler at the Osteria restaurant, Irving argued that the claim that Hitler endorsed what Goebbels had done was false, that is, Goebbels was lying in that diary entry. Goebbels was prone, said Irving, to claiming that Hitler had approved his actions when in truth he had done nothing of the kind. Goebbels was being denounced on all sides so he needed to claim he had the approval of Hitler. Irving did, however, agree that Hitler did express the intention that Jewish businesses should be expropriated. Irving suggested, on the basis of information said to have been uncovered by Ingrid Wechert (to whom I have already referred), that an instruction to halt the demonstrations and actions was broadcast as early as 10am on 10 November. Evans doubted the timing claimed by Wechert and Irving: the only record of the content of the broadcast gives the time of transmission as the afternoon. It is accepted that the order calling a halt to the violence was issued at 4pm. Evans considered it to be unlikely that there would have been a delay of six hours between the broadcast and the promulgation of the order.
5.86 Irving justified the doubt which he cast in Goebbels on the diary entry in which Goebbels recorded Hitler’s visit on 15 November and claimed that Hitler had indicated that he approved totally “my and our policy”. According to Irving, it was obvious from the handwritten diary entry that “my” was inserted by accident and Goebbels then added “and our” as an afterthought because it would have been, as Irving put it, a bit of a giveaway if he had crossed out “my”. Evans refused to accept that interpretation of the entry.
5.87 Similarly in relation to the message sent by Goebbels to the Nazi party chief in Munich-Upper Bavaria that “the Fuhrer sanctions the measure taken so far and declares that he does not disapprove of them”, Irving argued that it cannot be taken at face value. The reason, according to Irving, is the double negative in the second part of the sentence, which indicates that Goebbels was providing an alibi for himself by claiming that he had Hitler’s authority when in fact he did not.
5.88 Irving did not accept that in his account in Goebbels he had falsely given the impression that firm action was taken against those involved in the violence on Kristallnacht. He defended his reference in Goebbels to “turning the culprits over to the public prosecutors” by claiming that there were a large number of prosecutions and that many were sent to gaol. He did, however, accept that it was inappropriate to refer to the party court as the public prosecutor. He also agreed that there would have been many who had committed grave crimes against the Jews who were let off. Irving sought to justify this lenient treatment on the basis that their acts of violence had been authorised by the state. Irving made reference to a passage in the report of the Party Court which was in the following terms:
“The individual perpetrators [of the acts of violence etc] had put into action, not merely the supposed will of the leadership, but the to be sure vaguely expressed but correctly recognised view of the leadership”.
Irving took this to be saying by implication that the perpetrators knew they were not acting on the order of Hitler. Evans claimed in reply that that is the exact opposite of what the report says: the perpetrators were acting in accordance with the wishes of the leadership. That is the basis on which those who compiled the report concluded that the perpetrators should not be punished.
5.89 Whilst Irving accepted that only two of the sixteen suspects referred to in the report of the Party Court were handed over to the criminal courts, he claimed that many others were prosecuted. Space reasons prevented him from telling his readers how many escaped virtually scot-free. He did not accept that it was the intention of the Nazi party that all but a tiny minority should get off.
Expulsion of Jews from Berlin in 1941
5.90 In the autumn of 1941 there remained living in Germany, albeit under increasingly restrictive conditions, some 146,000 Jews of which 76,000 or so resided in Berlin. In October 1941, following the invasion of the Soviet Union, which was accompanied by the mass murder of Soviet Jews by Einsatzgruppen, the compulsory deportation of Jews from Berlin to the East and principally to Poland commenced.
5.91At 1.30pm on 30 November 1941 Himmler had a telephone conversation with Heydrich. The relevant part of Himmler’s note of that conversation reads:
“Judentransport aus Berlin. (Jew-transport from Berlin.)
Keine liquidierung. (No liquidation.)”
Despite that instruction a trainload of Jews who arrive in Riga that day were massacred on arrival.
The Defendants’ case
5.92 The Defendants advance numerous criticisms of the manner in which Irving has written about the deportation of the German Jews from Berlin and in particular the role of Hitler in the affair. The Defendants are also critical of the account given by Irving of the circumstances surrounding the execution of the Berlin Jews on arrival in Riga (with which I shall deal later).
5.93 The starting point for the Defendants’ criticisms is the claim made by Irving that, unlike Goebbels, Hitler was not at this time driven by anti-semitism. In Goebbels Irving quotes from an article by Goebbels published in Das Reich to show that he was more violently anti-semitic than Hitler. But Evans observed that Irving omits to mention that Goebbels started his article by quoting Hitler’s celebrated 1939 prediction of the annihilation of the Jews. In his report Evans quoted numerous utterances by Hitler at this time to show that Hitler was expressing similar views to those of Goebbels about the Jews. A comprehensive list of Hitler’s statements about the Jews, covering the period 1919 to 1945 has been collated by the Defendants and is include at tab 5(i) of their written closing submissions. I shall revert to the list hereafter.
5.94 Irving claimed in Goebbels that it was Goebbels’s article in Das Reich which inspired the killing of thousands of the Berlin Jews in Riga in November 1941. This claim is based on the testimony of Wisliceny (one of Eichmann’s top officials who was responsible for the Final Solution in Slovakia and elsewhere). At p379 of Goebbels, Irving wrote that Wisliceny described the Das Reich article as “the watershed”. Wisliceny did indeed refer to that article but he also reported that “In this period of time, after the beginning of the war with the USA, I am convinced must fall the decision of Hitler which ordered the biological annihilation of European Jewry”. The Defendants contend that, not only was Irving wrong to attribute to Wisliceny the view that the article in Das Reich was in truth the watershed, but that he also deliberately suppressed the crucial passage referring to Hitler’s order for the biological annihilation of the Jews.
5.95 At p377 of Goebbels Irving claims that Hitler was neither consulted nor informed about the deportation of Jews from Berlin in 1941. Evans contended that this claim is another manipulation of the historical record. Goebbels in his diary on 19 August 1941 states that the Fuhrer gave him his approval for the transports of the Jews out of Berlin. A corroborative entry is to be found in entries in Goebbels’s diary for 19 and 24 September 1941. Greiser, who was stationed in the Warethegau and was answerable to Hitler, was similarly told by Himmler that the Fuhrer wanted the Old Reich and the Protectorate to be cleared of Jews. The evidence of Hitler’s involvement is clear, say the Defendants.
5.96 Irving based his assertion of Hitler’s non-involvement upon his Table Talk of 25 October 1941. (I interpolate that the Table Talk is a record in note form, compiled by adjutants of Bormann named Heim and Picker, of remarks made by Hitler at informal gatherings). But, said Evans, Irving misconstrues and mistranslates the record of what Hitler then said, which properly understood was that he was no longer remaining “inactive” against the Jews and had started to deal with them.
5.97 The Defendants contend that the claim made by Irving that Hitler personally intervened in an attempt (unsuccessful as it turned out) to prevent the Berlin Jews being liquidated is wholly unwarranted by the evidence. In the 1977 edition of Hitler’s War Irving wrote at p332 that Himmler was “summoned” to the Wolf’s Lair (Hitler’s Headquarters) and “obliged” to telephone an order to Heydrich that there was to be no liquidation of Jews. The reader is given to understand that Hitler procured an order which applied to all Jews. Moreover in the introduction to Hitler’s War Irving describes that note as “incontrovertible evidence” that Hitler issued a general order prohibiting the liquidation of Jews generally. He attaches sufficient importance to the note to reproduce a photograph of it in the book.
5.98 The Defendants assert that Irving’s interpretation of Himmler’s note (cited above in the Introduction to this section) is perverse and a clear falsification of the document. Evans alleged, firstly, that it is clear on the face of the note that it is referring to a single transport of Jews out of Berlin which departed on 27 November: the German word transport is in the singular, the plural would be transporte. Both the language and the context make it plain that what is being referred to is a single transport of Jews. What is more it is clear that the note is talking only of Berliner Jews because it includes the words aus Berlin. Moreover, say the Defendants, there is no evidence for the claim that any order was issued by Hitler or indeed that he was involved at all. True it is that the telephone call was made by Himmler from Hitler’s bunker. But it was made at 1.30pm and Himmler’s appointment diary suggests that Hitler and Himmler did not meet for lunch until later that afternoon.
5.99 From about the mid-1980s Irving accepted that the note does indeed refer to the single transport out of Berlin and not to Jews generally. Nevertheless the error was not corrected in the 1991 edition of Hitler’s War. Irving explained this by saying that the 1991 edition went to press in the mid-80s. It is, however, right to note that in Goebbels Irving no longer claims that the order applied to Jews generally. However, he continued to assert that the order emanated from Hitler. Thus at p379 of Goebbels Irving writes that, even as the Jews were being shot in Riga, “Hitler…was instructing Himmler that these Berlin Jews were not to be liquidated”. In May 1998 Irving accepted through his website that his theory that Hitler told Himmler to tell Heydrich to stop the shooting had been wrong. Despite this on 31 August 1998 Irving posted another document in which he asserted that Hitler had demonstrably originated the order not to kill the Jews in Riga. Evans apostrophised this behaviour on the part of Irving as egregious and disreputable. The Defendants cite this as an example of Irving continuing to twist the evidence in order to portray Hitler favourably even after the error of his ways had been pointed out to him.
5.100 Nor, according to Evans, is there any basis for Irving’s claim in the 1977 edition of Hitler’s War that on 1 December 1941 Himmler telephoned Pohl, an SS General, to tell him that Jews were to “stay where they are” (that is, out of harm’s way). Irving based this claim on Himmler’s phone log, which contained this entry:
Verwaltungsfuhrer der SS (Administrative leaders of the SS) haben zu bleiben (have to stay)
Irving now accepts that he misread “haben” as “Juden” and that the order was stating that administrative leaders of the SS had to stay where they were. The Defendants do not accept that the mistranscription was due to an innocent misreading of Himmler’s manuscript. They point to other manuscript words in the same document which should have alerted Irving (and on the Defendants’ case did alert him) to the fact that the word Himmler actually wrote was ‘haben’. Irving ignored the fact that there is no full stop after SS and before haben. He also ignored the fact that haben zu bleiben is indented, suggesting that it is linked to the previous line. Irving agreed in cross-examination that to read that entry as “Administrative officers of the SS Jews to remain” would be meaningless because it would be saying nothing in relation to the administrative officers. Evans considered this to be deliberately a perverse misreading by Irving borne of his overwhelming desire to portray Hitler as a friend of the Jews.
5.101 Irving argued that there is what he describes as another “chain of documents” which impels one to the conclusion that Hitler was intent upon protecting the Berlin Jews.
5.102 In regard to his claim in Goebbels that Hitler was neither consulted nor informed about the expulsion of Jews from Berlin, Irving accepted on the basis of the evidence now available that the initiative for the expulsions came from Hitler. He denies having suppressed any relevant material of which he was aware at the time. Irving discounted the Wisliceny report with its reference to an order by Hitler for the biological annihilation of the Jews because it was made in 1946 when Wisliceny was facing the gallows. In any case Irving dismissed the report as speculative and made by a man “at janitorial level”. Irving did not accept that in this context “vernichtung” connotes extermination. He denied having applied double standards in his reliance on Wisliceny, adopting those parts which suited his case and discarding the rest.
5.103 In support of his argument that Hitler was protective towards the Jews, Irving pointed to an entry in Himmler’s telephone log for 17 November 1941, which he said imports that Himmler has had his knuckles rapped by Hitler for wanting to get rid of the Jews in the General Government. He also relied, as a “tiny dent” in the public perception that the Jews were transported in cattle trucks in atrocious conditions, on messages which indicate that the trains taking Jews from Berlin to the East were amply provisioned and that Jews were permitted to take with them the tools of their trade. Irving claimed that this is inconsistent with the existence of a policy of systematic extermination.
5.104 In relation to the entry in Himmler’s log for 30 November 1941 (quoted in in the introduction to this section) which included the phrase “Judentransport aus Berlin - keine liquidierung”, Irving accepted that he has no direct evidence that Himmler was “summoned” to see Hitler or that he was “obliged” to issue the order. But he pointed out that Himmler had spent that morning working at Hitler’s headquarters and suggested that the probability is that Himmler would have spoken on the telephone to Hitler before the two of them met for lunch at 2.30pm. Irving argued that the likelihood of such a conversation having taken place before Himmler spoke to Heydrich of the telephone, together with the fact that Himmler was at Hitler’s headquarters when the call was made, suggest that it was Hitler who originated the order that the Jews were not to be liquidated. He agreed that there is no evidence that Himmler and Hitler met before the call was made to Heydrich at 1.30pm on 30 November 1941. However, he suggested that the reasonable inference “with very strong evidence” is that they spoke on the phone before that time. He maintained this position despite the entry on his own website accepting that his original theory that Himmler had discussed the matter with Hitler before phoning Heydrich had been wrong. Evans replied that there is no evidence that Himmler spoke to Hitler that morning. There were several bunkers at Hitler’s headquarters and there was no reason for Himmler to communicate either face to face or by telephone with Hitler before they met for lunch.
5.105 Another reason advanced by Irving to justify his contention that the instruction Keine Liquidierung emanated from Hitler is that it was Himmler who telephoned Heydrich and not vice versa. This is not apparent from Himmler’s note of the call. But Irving pointed to another instruction issued by Himmler to Heydrich made from Hitler’s headquarters months afterwards on 24 April 1942 that there was to be no annihilation of gypsies. Irving inferred that that instruction emanated from Hitler and argued that the same inference is to drawn in relation to the instruction on 30 November 1941. Evans’s response was that there is no reason whatever to suppose that there was any connection between Hitler and either of these instructions issued by Himmler.
5.106 In relation to the entry in Himmler’s log for 1 December 1941, Irving said that he misread Himmler’s spidery Sutterlin handwriting: he thought he had written Judentransporte in the plural. It was, he said, a “silly misreading”. He firmly denied any deliberate manipulation. He denied that he was lying when he claimed to have made an innocent slip. He was, however, constrained to admit that in a letter to Dr Kabermann written in 1974 he had correctly transcribed the word in the singular. On reflection he claimed that his original explanation that he though the note referred to transports in the plural was a slip of the memory. He explained that he believes he understood transport to mean transportation in the generic sense. He pointed out that no definite article comes before the noun (which Evans says is rare in the case of Himmler’s notes). He argued that dictionary definitions of the meaning of that word bear him out but he was unable to produce a contemporaneous (ie 1930s) dictionary which gave the meaning “transportation”. He rejected the claim made by Evans that this explanation is equally unconvincing, not least because it omits to take account of the words aus Berlin.
5.107 Despite his eventual acceptance that the conversation between Himmler and Heydrich on 30 November related to a single trainload of Jews, Irving continued to suggest in his cross-examination of Evans that the instruction Keine Liquidierung had a wider significance and applied to all European Jews. He relied on a message sent on 1 December 1941 to the local SS commander in Riga, named Jeckeln, summoning him to a meeting with Himmler in Berlin on 4 December. Irving pointed out that this summons had followed rapidly upon a request made from Riga to Berlin by the murderous Jeckeln for ten military pistols for Sonderactionen (special measures). Irving interpreted Himmler’s appointments diary for 4 December 1941 as showing that he gave Jeckeln a rap over the knuckles.
5.108 Irving relied also on the contents of a telegram sent on the same day to Jeckeln by Himmler, which reads:
“The Jews being outplaced to Ostland are to be dealt with only in accordance with the guidelines laid down by myself or the Reichssicherheitshauptamt on my orders. I would punish arbitrary and disobedient acts”.
Irving described this as an incredibly important message because it shows that at headquarters the shooting of the Jews was disapproved. He further asserted that the absence of any reference to Hitler in the message indicates that Hitler had nothing to do with the promulgation of guidelines as to circumstances in which European Jews were to be killed. Irving claims that the consequence of this sequence of events was that the shooting of German Jews stopped for many months. Evans accepted the killing of German Jews was halted for some months after December 1941 but pointed out that the surviving Jews in the ghetto in Riga were murdered on 8 December presumably with the concurrence of Himmler. The massacre of non-German Jews in the Ostland continued unabated.
5.109 Irving argued that the inference to be drawn from the communications referred to at paragraphs 5.107-8 indicate that there were in existence at the time guidelines which prohibited the killing of European Jews and that the shooting of the Berlin Jews in Riga was a transgression of those guidelines.
5.110 In reference to Himmler’s telephone log for 1 December 1941 Irving testified that he innocently misread “haben” for “Juden” because the two words appear similar in the Gothic manuscript. He said that Himmler’s handwriting at this point is very indistinct. He did not spot that there was no full stop after Verwaltungsfuhrer SS. It was a reasonable mistake to make and certainly not a deliberate misreading. In any event Irving dismissed this entry in the log as totally immaterial. The failure to correct the 1991 edition of Hitler’s War was an oversight. Evans disagreed that the misreading of the note was an innocent mistake. He argued that no historian who was not biased could read the words as saying anything other than haben zu bleiben.
Shooting of Jews in Riga
5.111 It is common ground between the Defendants and Irving that, from about the summer of 1941 onwards until the end of 1942, a large number of Jews in the area of the General Government (as a large part of occupied Poland was called) were shot and killed by Nazi Einsatzgruppen. There are issues between the parties as to the scale of the executions which took place and as to whether Hitler approved or knew of the executions. I shall revert to these issues when I come to deal later in the judgment with the extent of Hitler’s knowledge of and responsibility for the mass extermination of the Jews.
5.112 The immediate issue relates to the manner in which Irving deals in his published works with the circumstances under which the Berlin Jews who, as I have just described, were deported to Riga came to be executed by Jeckeln and his henchmen.
Case for the Defendants
5.113 The Defendants also cite Irving’s treatment of the shooting of these Jews as another instance of his misrepresentation of events and his determination to exculpate Hitler from responsibility for their fate. In particular the Defendants criticise Irving for his omission to record what Bruns had to say about the shooting of Berlin Jews. In 1941 Bruns had been a colonel stationed in Riga. Later in 1945, when in captivity, he spoke about the shooting to fellow prisoners. His words were surreptitiously recorded so (say the Defendants) there is no reason to suppose he was not telling the truth. The transcript records him as saying that a junior officer named Altemeyer had told him that the Berlin Jews were to be shot “in accordance with the Fuhrer’s orders”. According to the same transcript, after Hitler had been informed of the shooting Altemeyer showed Bruns another order and said:
“Here is an order just issued, prohibiting mass-shootings on that scale from taking place in future. They are to be carried out more discreetly”.
The Defendants contend that Bruns’s words represent important and credible evidence from a reliable witness, firstly, that Hitler personally ordered the Riga executions and, secondly, that once informed of the shooting Hitler, far from prohibiting such conduct in the future, ordered that shootings of this kind it should continue but on a more discreet basis.
5.114 Despite the crucial importance of Bruns’s evidence, of which Irving was aware, there is no reference in any of Irving’s books to his claim as to the apparent role of Hitler in regard to the deaths of the Berlin Jews in Riga. Reference is made to Bruns in the introduction to the American edition of Hitler’s War, where Irving refers to Hitler’s “renewed orders that such mass murders were to stop forthwith”. The Defendants contend that this reference wholly perverts the sense of Bruns’s account.
5.115 In the text of Goebbels at p645 Irving writes that 1000 Berlin Jews and 4000 Riga Jews were shot on 30 November. According to Evans and Browning, the true figure was found in later reports to be at least twice that number and higher estimates of 13-15,000 were given in post-war trials. The Defendants are critical of Irving for minimising the number of those killed. They accept that he refers, albeit tucked away in a footnote, to a claim that 27,800 Jews were murdered but he there describes that claim as exaggerated. Evans testified that the figure of 27,800, which was reported by Einsatzgruppe A was probably justified.
5.116 In relation to Hitler’s attitude towards the shooting of the German Jews in Riga, the Defendants also criticise Irving for making no mention whatever of the evidence of Schultz-Dubois. This young Nazi officer was entrusted with the task of conveying to Admiral Canaris a report prepared by another officer based in Riga protesting at the shooting. The intention was that Canaris should raise the matter with Hitler. According to a letter from the widow of Schultz-Dubois, which is quoted in a book by Professor Gerald Fleming, Canaris did so but was met with the response:
“You want to show weakness, do you mein Herr! I have to do that, for after me there not be another one to do it”.
This, say the Defendants, is clear evidence that Hitler approved the shooting the Jews yet Irving suppressed it.
Case for Mr Irving
5.117 Irving in his evidence adopted an equivocal attitude towards the covertly recorded words of General Bruns about events in Riga. He accepted that in general Bruns is reliable and credible, partly because he did not know his words were being recorded. Nevertheless, noting that Bruns at his trial had denied even having been present at the Riga shootings, there were parts of Bruns’s recorded account which Irving discounted. In relation to Bruns’s account of Altemeyer having said to him:
“Here’s an order that’s come, saying that mass shootings of this kind may no longer take place in future. That is to be done more cautiously now”
Irving claimed that the first part means that Hitler had ordered that the mass killings had got to stop. But Irving dismissed the second part, that is, the instruction that the shooting should be done more cautiously in future as nothing more than a sneering aside by Altemeyer.
5.118 Irving’s reason for discounting these words is that Altemeyer was at the time a young officer in his early 20s and so likely to have fobbed off criticism by a senior officer of what he was doing by referring to “the Fuhrer’s orders”. It was, according to Irving “a throwaway line”. Irving argued that his interpretation of Altemeyer’s words is consistent with the intercepted message from Himmler to Jeckeln of 1 December 1941 requiring him to comply with the guidelines for dealing with deported German Jews.
5.119 In contrast to his initial assessment of Bruns’s reliability, Irving went so far in his cross-examination of Evans as to suggest that his account was third hand and, having been provided four years after the event, could not be treated as hard evidence.
5.120 As to the number of casualties in Riga on 30 November 1941, Irving sought to justify the figure he gave in the text of Goebbels, namely 5,000, by a calculation of the number of corpses which could have been fitted into the pits which General Bruns described in his account of the shootings. If those pits measured 25metres long by 3 metres wide and 2 metres deep, Irving worked out that, assuming 10 bodies per cubic metre, the pits would have accommodated in the region of 7,000 bodies. Evans expressed the view that such a calculation was meaningless because it contained so many assumptions, not least the assumption that the pits were only 2 metres deep. Irving added that he had not concealed the claim that there were over 28,000 deaths: the claim was in the footnote to which readers could refer.
5.121 Irving rejected the Defendants’ criticism of him for ignoring altogether in his writing about the Riga shootings the evidence of the widow of Schultz-Dubois, who had been responsible for transmitting a report by a young army officer protesting about the shootings to Admiral Canaris in order that the Admiral might bring it to the attention of Hitler. I understood Irving to say that, although the letter of Mrs Schultz-Dubois which contains this information is to be found on his website, he had not at the material time read it. Irving testified that, whilst he had in 1982 looked at parts of the book by Professor Fleming in which the letter of Frau Schultz-Dubois is quoted, he had not read that passage which at page 98 contains the quotation from her letter. It was put to Irving in cross-examination that the markings in his copy of Flening’s book indicate that he read as far as page 104 and so would have read the contents of the letter at page 98. Irving denied that allegation.
5.122 Irving did, however, agree that Hitler’s reaction as recounted in the letter of Frau Schultz-Dubois is some evidence that Hitler considered it to be his task to kill the Jews. That, Irving agreed, must be what meant by Hitler’s phrase “after me there will not be another one to do it [carry out the shooings]”. But Canaris was known to be anti-Nazi and so, argued Irving, his report of Hitler’s reaction to the report has to be discounted.
Hitler’s views on the Jewish question
5.123 This is another topic to which I shall need to revert at greater length when I come to deal with the criticisms levelled by the Defendants against Irving for his denial that Hitler was complicit in the genocidal policy of deporting and subsequently killing by the use of gas vast numbers of Jews from all over Europe. At this point I shall confine myself to a summary of the criticisms advanced by the Defendants of Irving’s portrayal, in selected passages from his books, of Hitler’s stance on the Jewish question, together with Irving’s answers to those criticisms.
The Defendants’ case
5.124 The case for the Defendants is that at every opportunity Irving portrays Hitler as adopting a non-confrontational posture towards the Jews and being kept in ignorance, at least until the autumn of 1943, of the wholesale liquidation which was under way. This picture is a wholly false one, say the Defendants. It will suffice if I give a selection of the statements made by Hitler on the subject of the Jews on which the defendants place reliance.
5.125 The Defendants accuse Irving of perverse and selective quotation and deliberate mistranslation in a passage at p377 of Goebbels which purports to give an account of an occasion described in Hitler’s Table Talk for 25 October 1941. Irving describes how Hitler soliloquised to Himmler and Heydrich in the following terms:
“Hitler was neither consulted nor informed [about the mass deportation of Jews from Berlin]. Ten days after the forced exodus began, he referred, soliloquising over supper to Himmler and Heydrich, to the way the Jews had started the war.’ Let nobody tell me’, Hitler added, ‘that despite that we can’t park them in the marshier parts of Russia! By the way’, he added, ‘its not a bad thing that public rumour attributes to us a plan to exterminate the Jews’. He pointed out, however, that he had no intention of starting anything at present. ‘There’s no point in adding to our difficulties at a time like this’ ”.
Evans asserted that the claim that Hitler was neither consulted nor informed about the deportations is pure invention. He contended that a true translation of that extract from the Table Talk is as follows:
“Nobody can tell me: but we can’t send them into the morass! For who bothers about our people? Its good if the terror (schrecken) that we are exterminating Jewry goes before us .. I’m forced to pile up an enormous amount of things myself; but that doesn’t mean that what I take cognisance of without reacting to it immediately, just disappears. It goes into an account; one day the book is taken out. I had to remain inactive for a long time against the Jews too. There’s no sense in artificially making extra difficulties for one self; the more cleverly one operates, the better ….”.
5.126 A series of cumulative criticisms are made of Irving’s version of this extract from Hitler’s Table Talk. The original text does not refer to “parking” nor to Russia. By rendering schrecken as “rumour” Irving waters down the original. Besides there is no reference in the original to “attributing”: the extermination is presented as a fact. The German original makes clear that Hitler regarded the period of inaction vis-à-vis the Jews to be over. The moment has come to strike. The Defendants argue that the net result of Irving’s version of Hitler’s remarks is wholly to misrepresent the thrust of Hitler’s remarks.
5.127 In his diary Goebbels recorded a meeting with Hitler on 21 November 1941 in terms which included the following:
“The Fuhrer also completely agrees with my views with reference to the Jewish question. He wants an energetic policy against the Jews, which, however, does not cause us unnecessary difficulties”.
Yet at p379 of Goebbels Irving writes that Goebbels displayed a far more uncompromising face than Hitler’s towards the Jews. That is followed by a passage quoting the extract from Goebbels’s diary just cited in the following terms:
“ …[Hitler] again instructed Goebbels to pursue a policy against the Jews that does not cause us endless difficulties …”.
The Defendants claim that Irving distorts the sense of the diary entry by omitting the reference to Hitler wanting an energetic policy towards the Jews and by omitting the first sentence recording Hitler’s agreement with his (Goebbels’s) views about the Jewish question.
5.128 The Defendants rely also upon Irving’s account of a speech made by Hitler to the Gauleiter on 12 December 1941, when, according to Goebbels’s diary (in Longerich’s translation):
“As concerns the Jewish question, the Fuhrer is determined to make a clean sweep. He had prophesied to the Jews that if they once again brought about a world war they would experience their own extermination (vernichtung). This was not just an empty phrase. The World War is there, the extermination of Jewry (Judentum) must be the necessary consequence. This question must be seen without sentimentality. We are not here in order to have sympathy with the Jews, rather we sympathise with our own German people. If the German people have now once again sacrificed as many as 16,000 dead in the Eastern campaign, then the authors of this bloody conflict must pay with their lives”.
The Defendants’ case is that, according to Goebbels’s account, Hitler was expressly contemplating the extermination of Jews generally. The Defendants argue that his passage, which followed one day after the outbreak of war between Nazi Germany and the Unites States, echoes what Goebbels had earlier written in an article in Das Reich and that it demonstrates that Hitler was determined to act no less brutally towards the Jews than was Goebbels. It marks, say the Defendants, the reaction of Hitler to the outbreak of world war, which was that the Jews must be annihilated.
5.129 According to the Defendants, confirmation for this proposition is to be found in the account of General Governor Hans Frank (who Irving accepts was in Berlin when Hitler spoke to the Gauleiter), which states:
“In Berlin we were told ‘why all this trouble? We cannot use them in the Ostland or the Reichscommissariat either. Liquidate them yourselves! We must destroy the Jews wherever we encounter them and wherever it is possible in order to preserve the entire structure of the Third Reich”.
Frank’s diary contains the following further passage:
“… we cannot shoot these 3.5 million Jews. We can’t poison them. But we will, however, be able to undertake interventions which in some way lead to a successful annihilation, and indeed in connection with the large scale measures to be undertaken from the Reich and to be discussed. The General Government must become just as free of Jews as the Reich is. Where and how that happens is a matter for the institutions which we must put into action and create here and the effectiveness I will report on to you in good time”.
The Defendants contend that Frank was there recording what had in effect been a direction to the General Government from Berlin to liquidate the Jews. The Defendants assert that the latter passage is “an evolutionary document”, presaging the extermination of Jews by gassing.
Criticism was levelled at Irving for his claim at p428 of the 1991 edition of Hitler’s War that Hitler was in East Prussia when the instruction to liquidate the Jews was issued. The probability is that Hitler was in Berlin at the material time, since he did not leave Berlin for the East until 16 December. This, according to the Defendants, is an instance of Irving manipulating the record and telling “a fib” in order to distance Hitler from the instruction to liquidate the Jews.
5.130 Next the Defendants rely on a manuscript note made by Himmler of a conversation he had with Hitler on 16 December 1941 which includes the words:
“Jewish question / to be extirpated (auszurotten) as partisans”.
Longerich regarded this note as confirmation of Hitler’s intention to continue and intensify the mass murders of Soviet Jews. It is consistent with the way in which the killing of 363,211 Jews was treated in report by the Einsatzgruppen of 26 December 1942 (to which I shall refer again later): in that report the number of Jews killed was included as a separate category under the heading of partisan accomplices. This report is endorsed in manuscript “laid before [vorgelegt] Hitler”.
5.131 The Defendants criticise the account given by Irving at p465 of Hitler’s War (1991 edition) of Hitler’s attitude towards the Jews in March 1942. The reader is given to understand that the concern of Hitler was to procure the deportation of Jews out of Europe. Irving refers to Hitler’s wish, repeatedly stated, to postpone dealing with the Jewish problem until after the war is over. He claims that Goebbels never discussed with Hitler the realities of what was happening to the Jews in the General Government.
That account, say the Defendants, takes no account of the statements repeatedly made by Hitler from 1941 onwards that the Jews must be eliminated and that they were a “bacillus” which needed to be eliminated. Examples are to be found in the entries made by Goebbels in his diary on 15 February and 20 March 1942 and in Hitler’s Table Talk on 22 February 1942).
Also omitted by Irving is the reference made by Goebbels to Hitler as a protagonist for and champion of the radical solution to the Jewish question necessitated by the “way things are”. There is, according to the Defendants, no justification for Irving’s claim that Goebbels discussed with Hitler “the realities” of the situation. What Irving is unwarrantably seeking to do, say the Defendants, is to distance Hitler from the policy of killing the Jews.
5.132 Next the Defendants accuse Irving of suppressing several references made by Hitler in January and February 1942 to the extermination (ausrottung) of Jews, for example in his Table Talk on 25 January 1942. Hitler is there recorded as having said on that occasion:
“The Jew has to get out of Europe … If he collapses in the course of it, I can’t help there. I can see only one thing: absolute extermination, if they don’t go of their own accord ..”.
The latter sentence is omitted at p464 of Hitler’s War (1991 edition) in order, so the Defendants say, to exculpate Hitler.
5.133 Similarly the Defendants point to the omission by Irving of any reference to Hitler’s statements in the Table Talk for 22 February 1942: “We will get well when we eliminate the Jew”, They rely also on the omission of a similar remark by Hitler to NSDAP party members on 24 February 1942 when Hitler again talked of extermination and removing parasites.
5.134 Evans in his report criticises the omission from Irving’s account of Goebbels’s diary entry for 30 May 1942 but the Defendants no longer rely on this criticism. Similarly the Defendants no longer pursue Evans’s criticism of Irving for not recognising that the reference in the Hitler Table Talk of July 1942 to Jews emigrating to Madagascar was euphemistic.
5.135 However the Defendants rely further in this connection on the following: the reaction of Hitler to the shooting of the Jews I Riga in November 1941, as reported by the widow of Schultz-Dubois (referred to at (vii) above); Himmler’s minute of 22 September 1942; Himmler’s note of 10 December 1942; Hitler’s meetings with Antonescu and Horthy in April 1943 and Ribbentrop’s statements made at Nuremberg (all of which will be referred to later in this section).
5.136 The Defendants contend that, individually and collectively, the misinterpretations, partial quotations and omissions which I have summarised amount to a serious misrepresentation of Hitler’s attitude towards the Jewish question. As further evidence of the uncompromisingly harsh and active role in the persecution of the Jews the Defendants rely also on his role in such events as the expulsion and shooting of the Berlin Jews in Riga (with which I have already dealt); his role in the deportation of European Jews to the East; his attitude towards the Jews in France; his determination to procure the extermination of the Hungarian Jews and Ribbentrop’s assessment of Hitler’s responsibility for the fate which befell the Jews (to all of which issues I will shortly come).
5.137 In the course of his cross-examination, Irving produced another “chain of documents” by way of positive rebuttal of the contention of the Defendants, that his portrayal of the attitude of Hitler to the Jewish question was fundamentally false. It consisted of a selection of documents which, he said, support his contention that Hitler was a friend of the Jews. Included amongst those documents were, firstly, an order dating back to 1935 that isolated actions against Jews were not to take place and would be severely punished; a directive issued in 1936 that there were to be no excesses against the Jews following the assassination of a Swiss named Gustlov; another directive of July 1937 by which Hitler permitted selected non-Aryans to remain in the Nazi party and a 1939 document in which the Czech Foreign Minister reports Hitler saying the Jews were being economically annihilated and talking of deporting them to Madagascar.
5.138 Later documents in Irving’s “chain” include a note made by the Nazi ambassador to France in August 1940 recording Hitler’s wish to include in peace treaties with nations defeated by the Nazis a condition that they should deport their Jews out of Europe. Another document relied on by Irving is a query raised in November 1941 by the Reichskommssar for the Ostland asking whether all Jews in his area are to be liquidating since he can find no directive to that effect. Irving claimed that this indicates that there was no such directive. Irving also relied on the instruction given by Himmler in November 1941 (which is considered above) that there is to be no liquidation of Jews from Berlin. Next in the “chain” relied on by Irving is a note by Rosenberg of a conversation he had with Hitler in December 1941 (shortly after war was declared on America) which records Hitler as having approved Rosenberg’s policy of not talking about the extirpation of Jewry. According to the note, Hitler had said that Jews had brought about the war and had thereby brought about their own destruction. Rosenberg did not record Hitler as favouring a policy of exterminating the Jews.
5.139 As to Himmler’s note of his discussion with Hitler on 18 December 1941 about the Jewish question, which records that the decision that Jews were to be extirpated as partisans (auszurotten als Partisane), Irving interpreted this note as meaning that the Jews were to be executed as partisans because that is what they were. Irving made reference to the recollection over twenty years afterwards of one of the authors of Hitler’s Table Talk that Hitler had in December 1941 said that all he was asking of the Jews was that they should perform hard labour somewhere. In the same vein Irving referred to a document dated 6 July 1942 recording Hitler’s decision that Jews in specific occupations should be protected from persecution. Then Irving cited Hitler’s Table Talk for 24 July 1942 for Hitler’s comment about getting rid of the Jews to Madagascar.
5.140 The last documents in Irving’s “chain” is the letter from Himmler to General Berger dated 28 July 1942 in which he writes that the Fuhrer has placed on his shoulders the burdensome task of rendering the eastern territories free of Jews. Irving interpreted this to mean that Hitler has ordered Himmler to remove the Jews from those territories (whereas Evans said it plainly means they were to be killed).
5.141 Irving relies also upon extracts from the agenda for two discussions between Hitler and Himmler on 17 or 22 July and 10 December 1942 respectively. The former includes the words “Judenauswanderung (Jewish emigration) – how to proceed further”. The latter has the word abschaffen (abolished) written beside a reference to 600-700,00 Jews supposedly in France. It is followed by a memorandum from Himmler that these Jews are to be abtransportiert (deported). Irving maintains that the terms used in these documents all suggest that deportation was the policy towards Jews. Irving’s chain ends there because, with effect from October 1943, he accepts Hitler knew of the policy of exterminating the Jews.
5.142 Evans’s response to the series of documents was that they do not amount to much. He did not accept that they justified or excused the way Irving portrays Hitler’s position on the Jewish question. Evans agreed that Hitler undoubtedly in specific occasions did intervene on behalf of identified Jews or groups of Jews. He accepted that until the latter part of 1941 Hitler’s preferred solution to the Jewish problem was deportation. Thereafter Evans contended that Hitler approved their extermination even though he did not say so in terms. That is the interpretation which he puts on Rosenberg’s note of December 1941. The reference to deportation to Madagascar in Hitler’s Table Talk for 24 July 1942 is camouflage, according to Evans, since the Madagascar plan had been abandoned in February 1942. Bearing in mind what was going on in mid-July 1942 Evans takes the view that Judenauswanderung and abtraansportiert are plainly euphemisms for extermination. Evans asserted that Irving’s selection of documents ignores the vastly greater number of documents which evidence Hitler’s murderous intentions towards Jews of all nationalities.
5.143 Dealing with the specific passages in his books which the Defendants highlighted, Irving excused the inaccuracies in his version of Hitler’s reported comments made in October 1941 about parking Jews in the marshier parts of Russia by saying, correctly, that at the time in the 1970s when he wrote the first edition of Hitler’s War the only version which was available to him was the English translation of those comments made for Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1953. Irving followed that translation. Irving conceded, however, that even after the German original became available to him, he repeated the translation errors in the second edition of Hitler’s War and retained some of them in Goebbels. This he excused on the basis that the Weidenfeld’s translation is not a serious deviation from the original and has the virtue that it is not a “wooden” version. Irving totally disagreed with the suggestion put to him that he was deliberately using a mistranslation in order to exculpate Hitler.
5.144 Irving rejected the criticism of his account of Goebbels’s diary entry for 22 November 1991 which gives an account of his meeting with Hitler the previous day. He admitted that he omitted the word “energetic” but contended that it was legitimate to leave the matter “neutral” because the account had been filtered through the evil brain of Goebbels who was given to claiming falsely to have the Fuhrer’s authority for what he had done.
5.145 In regard to Hitler’s speech to the Gauleiter on 12 December 1941, Irving claimed that the account given by Goebbels of what Hitler said was mendacious. He argued that the extermination (vernichtung) of Jews was not a quotation of what Hitler had said (although Hitler had used that word in relation to the Jews in his famous speech to the Reichstag in 1939) but rather Goebbels expressing his own view and intention. If he had been quoting Hitler, said Irving, Goebbels would have used the subjunctive tense. He did, however, agree that it is impossible to say which part of the diary is recording Goebbels’s own thoughts and which parts are recording what Hitler said. Irving was reluctant to accept the translation of vernichtung as extermination. He claimed that what the reference was to the annihilation of Judaism as opposed to the extermination of Jewry.
5.146 Irving agreed that there is no reference in his biography Goebbels to this part of Hitler’s speech to the Gauleiter on 12 December 1941. The reason, according to Irving, is that at the time of publication he had not seen the microfiche containing those words. Irving offered the explanation that, when he went to Moscow to inspect the microfiches of the Goebbels diaries there, he was looking for entries relating to Pearl Harbour. He claimed that, when he came to the entry for 13 December 1941 (in which entry Hitler’s remarks of the previous day are recorded) he did not read as far as the passage relating to what Hitler said to the Gauleiter about the Jews. The Defendants do not accept the veracity of Irving’s answer: they assert that Irving, when in Moscow, started reading the entry for 13 December. The Defendants refuse to accept that Irving would have stopped reading the entry mid-way through and before the highly significant passage relating to the Jews which is contained in Goebbels’s account of Hitler’s speech to the Gauleiter. Irving responded that he was under pressure of time when in Moscow. He firmly denied having read that passage, adding that, even if he had read it, he would not have regarded Hitler’s remarks it as significant since it is “the old Adolph Hitler gramophone record”.
5.147 As to General Governor Frank’s account on 16 December 1941 of what he had been told in Berlin, Irving claimed in cross-examination that the logical interpretation was that he (Frank) had told the authorities in Berlin to liquidate the Jews themselves and not the other way round. It was put to Irving that this was not how he had interpreted Frank’s words at p427 of Hitler’s War (1991 edition). Irving refused to accept that the “large scale measures” of which Frank spoke in his diary meant that Jews were to be exterminated. Asked why, in that passage in Hitler’s War, he had taken pains to claim out that Hitler was not in Berlin at the time, Irving conceded that he was indicating to readers that Hitler had not been in Berlin when Heydrich’s agencies were giving the instruction to liquidate the Jews. Irving accepted that there was no indication in Goebbels’s diary or in Frank’s account that it was Heydrich or his agencies which had issued that instruction.
5.148 Irving gave evidence that did not see the note of Hitler’s conversation with Himmler on 16 December 1941 until the summer of 1999 and so could not be criticised for not referring to it in the 1991 edition of Hitler’s War. But he accepted, with some reluctance, that it does establish that Hitler authorised the liquidation of Jews in the East as if they were partisans.
5.149 In answer to the criticism that he omitted from his account of Hitler’s Table Talk for 25 January 1942 Hitler’s reference to exterminating the Jews, Irving responds that he gave the reader “the meat” of what Hitler said by recording that he repeated the prophecy made in the Reichstag in 1939. Irving dismissed the criticism of his account of Hitler’s attitude towards the Jewish problem in March 1942. Nowhere is there any sheet of paper recording Hitler as having said “liquidate the Jews”. Irving asserted that he has faithfully reflected what Goebbels reported. Hitler was still talking of deportation. Even in the reports Hitler’s Table Talk (when Hitler was amongst friends and so, according to Irving likely to be candid and unlikely to resort to camouflage), he is recorded as speaking of the plan to deport the Jews to Madagascar at the end of the war. Irving repudiated the suggestion that this was a euphemism. When asked how he reconciled the notion that Hitler was thinking in terms of deportation with his acceptance that Hitler knew about and approved the mass shootings of Jews on the Eastern front, Irving responded that he believes Hitler drew a distinction between European Jews (for whom he planned deportation) and the Jews in the East (whom he regarded as vermin fit only to be shot).
5.150 Irving regarded Goebbels’s diary entry for 30 May 1942 as constituting “acres of sludge” not worth including in his book. He maintained that he is right to treat the reference to Madagascar in Hitler’s Table Talk of 24 July 1942 as Hitler talking of resuming the Madagascar plan after the war. Irving insisted that his portrayal of Hitler’s views about the Jews over this period was fair, objective and warranted by the available evidence.
The timing of the “final solution” to the Jewish problem: the ‘Schlegelberger note’
5.151 One central document cited by Irving in support of his case that Hitler consistently intervened to mitigate the harm sought to be done to the Jews is a note said to have been dictated by an official in the Reich Ministry of Justice, namely Schlegelberger, which is undated but which is claimed to have come into existence in the spring of 1942, which records what he has been told by Lammers, a senior civil servant at the Reichskanzlerei:
“Reichsminister informed me that the Fuhrer has repeatedly declared to him that he wants to hear that the solution to the Jewish question has been postponed until after the war is over”.
That note, says Irving, is incompatible with the notion that Hitler authorised or condoned the wholesale extermination of Jewry during the war.
The Defendants’ case
5.152 Evans identified several curious features about this note and its provenance: it is undated; it bears no signature; the addressees are not listed in the conventional manner; it appears to come from a file containing miscellaneous documents about Jews which was put together after 1945 by the prosecutors at Nuremberg. Not all the documents in the file deal with the same subject-matter. Despite these unsatisfactory features Evans accepted that the memorandum is an authentic copy or Abschrift of an original document which has gone missing. He does, however, add that it is no more than speculation that Schlegelberger is the author of the memorandum.
5.153 Evans canvassed the possibility that the note dates back to 1941, in which case the view attributed to Hitler would be consistent with the attitude towards the Jewish question which he was advocating at that time, namely to postpone dealing with it until after the war was over. In support of this theory Evans drew attention to figures appearing on the document “17.7”. If the document is dated 17 July 1941, that would be the day after an important meeting at which arrangements were set in place for the administration of the Eastern territories.
5.154 Another possibility recognised by Evans is that document did come into existence in early 1942 in the wake of the Wannsee conference, at which the Defendants (basing themselves largely on the admissions which were made by Eichmann in the course of his interrogation by the Israelis) contend the extermination of the Jews was discussed and the means of achieving that end were in broad terms agreed upon. Evans accepted that on balance it is more likely that the date of the memorandum is 1942 rather than 1941.
5.155 He expressed the opinion that the subject matter of the note was probably not the Jewish question generally but rather the narrower issue of mixed marriages between Jews and gentiles and the children of such marriages (mischlinge). This contentious question had been discussed at the Wannsee conference in January 1942, at which time no decision was arrived at how mischlinge should be treated, although the policy of deportation of ‘full Jews” to the East had already been agreed upon. There is, according to Evans, evidence that active discussions thereafter took place within the Ministry of Justice as to what policy and classification should adopted in relation to the mischlinge. A further conference was called for 6 March 1942 with a view to hammering out a solution. It is an important component of the Defendants’ argument that, as the minute of the meeting on 6 March shows and as Schlegelberger testified at his trial, it was devoted exclusively to a discussion of the mischlinge problem.
5.156 Various proposals were canvassed, including suggestions that sterilisation should be undertaken and that mixed marriages should be annulled by law. But the meeting was inconclusive. At the meeting on 6 March it was decided that the issue should be referred to Hitler for his decision. Evans stressed that, odd though it may seem with the Nazi army in dire straits in Russia, the problem of mischlinge was taken extremely seriously. Contemporaneous documents reveal Shlegelberger to have been seriously concerned at the ramifications of one of the proposed courses of action, namely deciding on a case by case basis what should be done with individual mischlinge Jews. Suggestions such as sterilisation and the annulment of mixed marriages were also a cause for concern within the Ministry which would have the responsibility for the supervision of whatever policy was decided upon.
5.157 Accordingly Schlegelberger wanted to raise the matter with Lammers and did so on 10 March 1942. It is not clear whether Lammers did in fact consult Hitler on the issue. The language of the memorandum does not suggest that Lammers went to Hitler and obtained a fresh ruling from him on the specific question of the mischlinge. In any case the likely reaction of Hitler to the complex issues raised by the many problems surrounding the question of half and quarter Jews would have been to postpone their consideration. Whether or not Hitler was consulted, the natural inference, according to Evans, is that the memorandum is confined to the question of mischlinge. The description in the memorandum of the discussions as “theoretical” is also suggestive of the fact that the subject matter is confined to Mischlinge. Hitler would not have agreed to the postponement of the Jewish question in its entirety, argued Evans, so soon after the Wannsee conference. Moreover, added Evans, it was Hitler who had set in train the policy of deporting the Jews to the Eastern territories. That policy had been implemented over the previous months. In those circumstances Hitler is unlikely to have ordered that the whole Jewish question be postponed until the end of the war.
5.158 Evans concluded that it is very likely that the Schlegelberger note should be interpreted as addressing the limited question of the solution to the problem of half Jews. Longerich concurred with this opinion.
5.159 Evans was critical of Irving for the way in which he describes the memorandum in Goebbels:
“Hitler wearily told Lammers that he wanted the solution of the Jewish problem postponed until after the war was over, a ruling that remarkably few historians now seem disposed to quote”.
Evans regarded that passage as a complete misrepresentation of the memorandum. There was no ruling by Hitler. In any case the deportations and killings continued unabated, which would scarcely have happened if Hitler had ordered their suspension.
5.160 But Evans reserved the main thrust of his criticism for the account of the memorandum in Hitler’s War, where the reader is clearly given to understand by the passage at p464 that the note is “highly significant” because it shows Hitler to be wanting to put off the entire Jewish question until the end of the war. Irving regards the note as so important that he includes the following reference to it in the introduction:
“Whatever way one looks at it, this document is incompatible with the notion that Hitler had ordered an urgent liquidation programme”.
Evans maintained that evidence of actions taken within the Ministry of Justice and elsewhere belie Irving’s claim. Moreover, if Hitler had indeed given an instruction to postpone the final solution of the Jewish question until after the war, how, asked Evans, is it that the extermination programme pressed ahead in the remaining months of 1942 and thereafter.
5.161 The Defendants argue that no reputable and objective historian would nail his colours to the mast in the way that Irving has done by admitting only one possible interpretation of the note. The nub of their criticism is that Irving treats the Schlegelberger memorandum as if it permitted of only construction, namely that it evidences Hitler ordaining the postponement of the Jewish question until the end of the war. Irving glosses over the many doubts which exist about the document. He ignores the alternative construction of which the memorandum is equally susceptible (to put it no higher), namely that it is confined to the problem of the mischlinge. An unbiassed historian would have placed squarely before his readers the problems and doubts about the document. It is, say the Defendants, another instance of deliberate distortion.
5.162 Irving acknowledged that the Schlegelberger memorandum is an unsatisfactory document. But he is satisfied that it is authentic. He pointed out reference was made to a complete copy of the memorandum (typed out in full with initials) as early as 1945 in a list compiled by the British Foreign Office of documents found in the files of the Nazi Ministry of Justice. That copy subsequently went missing. Irving has attempted, without success, to obtain the top copy from the US National Archives. He speculated that the copy in the file which was assembled by the prosecutors at Nuremberg file may have been removed by them because they did not want Lammers to be able to use it to exculpate himself. At all events Irving has no doubts about the genuineness of the memorandum. (Evans agreed that the Abschrift is a record of an authentic memorandum, adding the rider that Irving’s eagerness to treat this document as genuine contrasts starkly with his scepticism about the integrity of documents which do not fit in with his thesis).
5.163 Regardless of its unsatisfactory features, Irving remained firm in his view that the Schlegelberger note is vital document which provides a clear indication of Hitler’s wish expressed in the spring of 1942 to postpone a decision on the Jewish question generally until after the end of the war. During the evidence Irving made reference time and again to the memorandum, which he regards as the linchpin of his case for saying that Hitler sought to protect the Jews.
5.164 Irving dismissed the notion that the note dates back to 1941 as a “vanishingly small probability”. In support of this conclusion Irving referred to a Staff Evidence Analysis sheet, apparently prepared by the prosecutors at Nuremberg who assembled the file which contained the memorandum. Irving points out that, with one exception, the documents in the file come from the period March to April 1942. So the 1942 date tallies with the dates of most of the documents in the file.
5.165 In support of his contention that Schlegelberger was referring to the Jewish question generally, Irving argued firstly that the discussion at the continuation of the Wannsee conference on 6 March 1942 was not confined to the mischlinge problem (although he agreed that the minute of the meeting suggests otherwise). Irving cited in support of this contention the post-war evidence of Ficker and Boley who were both present. (Evans dismissed their evidence as self-exculpatory). Irving went on to point out that the file in which the memorandum was contained is broadly entitled “Treatment of the Jews”. Another document in the file is “Overall solution of the Jewish problem”. Irving maintained that the immediately preceding document in the file supports his interpretation of the note that it is dealing with the question of Jews generally, not just mischlinge. In that document dated 12 March 1942 Schlegelberger referred to the meeting which had been held on 6 March as having been concerned with the treatment of Jews and mixed races. He expressed the wish that Lammers should consult Hitler about the decisions which would need to be taken which he considered to be completely impossible. Irving argues that this letter also indicates that both the Jews generally and the mixed race issue were under discussion. Following his receipt of that message, it appears that Lammers offered to meet Schlegelberger on the return of the former to Berlin at the end of March. As Evans agreed, the pair probably met in early April. Irving argued that this chronology suggests that the date of the memorandum would be early April by which time Lammers had spoken to Hitler.
5.166 Irving relied on the terms of the Schlegelberger memorandum itself. He pointed out that it refers conjunctively to Jews and mixed marriages as if both (separate) topics were under consideration. It is headed “The solution of the Jewish question”, which suggests a broad not a narrow subject-matter. (Were it not so headed he would have considered Evans’s interpretation a viable alternative theory). Irving argued that there is nothing in the terms of the memorandum itself to justify the narrow interpretation put on it by the Defendants. Irving argued that in the spring of 1942 Hitler was preoccupied with events on the Eastern front. In that situation his likely reaction, upon being asked about the Jewish question, was that it should be put off until the end of the war. Evans considered that this argument ignores Hitler’s obsessive anti-semitism which continued to dominate Hitler’s thinking, even at times of military crisis.
5.167 Irving produced what he described as an extract from the evidence which Lammers gave at his trial when he testified that Hitler had told him that he had given Himmler an order for the evacuation of the Jews and that he (Hitler) did not want to hear any more about the problem until the end of the war. Evans took the view that that Lammers was seeking to avoid incriminating himself when he claimed that Hitler wanted no more than the deportation of the Jews.
5.168 Irving defended his treatment of the note at p 464 of the 1991 edition of Hitler’s War by pointing out that he did make mention of the problem of the mischlinge. He explained that pressure of space prevented him from making clear to the reader of the text of Goebbels that the 6 March 1942 conference was confined to the mischlinge issue. There was, he said, no question of his having distorted the evidence.
5.169 Irving maintained that the Defendants are trying to devalue what is a “high level diamond document” when they argue that it bears only on the problem of the mischlinge.
Goebbels’s diary entry for 27 March 1942
5.170 After the successful Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, part of the newly acquired territory was absorbed into the Reich. In order to make way for ethnic Germans from other parts of Eastern Europe, the Poles from that area were deported eastwards into central Poland, which constituted the western sector of the General Government. The Jews and gypsies were deported into the eastern sector of the General Government in the region of Lublin.
5.171 Initially the Jews were concentrated in ghettoes where living conditions were atrocious. But, following the Nazi invasion of Russia in June 1941, there was a change of policy. As I will describe in greater detail hereafter, task forces called Einsatzgruppen set about the systematic killing of Soviet Jews. In about the autumn of 1941 the extermination policy was extended to Jews in the area of the General Government. The gassing of Jews commenced in December 1941 at an extermination centre called Chelmno in the Warthegau; the latter being an area containing territory incorporated into the Reich after the conquest of Poland. In November 1941 construction of another death camp started in the General Government at Belzec which is situated south-east of Lublin. Jews were murdered in gas chambers at this camp. Two further camps were established the following year at Sobibor and Treblinka.
5.172 So much is common ground between the parties. What is in issue is the manner in which Irving deals with the question of whether Hitler was aware of the policy of exterminating Jews.
The case for the Defendants
5.173 In Hitler’s War (1977 edition) Irving claims that Hitler was kept in the dark about the policy of exterminating Jews in the East. He wrote at p392:
“The ghastly secrets of Auschwitz and Treblinka were well kept. Goebbels wrote a frank summary of them in his diary on March 27 1942, but evidently held his tongue when he met Hitler two days later, for he quotes only Hitler’s remark: ‘The Jews must get out of Europe. If need be, we must resort to the most brutal methods’ ”.
Irving wrote in similar terms in the 1991 edition. After quoting the references in Goebbels’s diary to the brutal methods being employed against the Jews, he continued:
“ ‘The Jews have nothing to laugh about now’, commented Goebbels. But he evidently never discussed these realities with Hitler. Thus this two-faced Minister dictated, after a further visit to Hitler on April 26, ‘I have once again talked over the Jewish question with the Fuhrer. His position on this problem is merciless. He wants to force the Jews right out of Europe…’ ”.
5.174 The Defendants’ case is that Irving’s claim that Goebbels deceived Hitler when (according to Irving) they met on 29 March is wrong: they accuse Irving of manipulating the diary entry for 27 March and ignoring other documents and sources which demonstrate that Hitler was well aware what was happening to the Jews in the East. The full diary entry (quoted at p400 of Evans’s report) included the following passages:
“The Jews are now being pushed out of the General Government, beginning near Lublin, to the East. A pretty barbaric procedure is being applied here, and it is not to be described in any more detail, and not much is left of the Jews themselves. In general one may conclude that 60% of them must be liquidated, while only 40% can be put to work. The former Gauleiter of Vienna [Globocnik], who is carrying out this action, is doing it pretty prudently and with a procedure that doesn’t work too conspicuously. The Jews are being punished barbarically, to be sure, but they have fully deserved it. The prophesy that the Fuhrer issued to them on the way, for the eventuality that they started a new world war, is beginning to realise itself in the most terrible manner. One must not allow any sentimentalities to rule in these matters. If we did not defend ourselves against them, the Jews would annihilate us. It is a struggle for life and death between the Aryan race and the Jewish bacillus. No other government and no other regime could muster the strength for a general solution of the question. Here too the Fuhrer is the persistent pioneer and spokesman of a radical solution, which is demanded by the way things are and thus appears to be unavoidable. Thank God during the war we have a whole lot of possibilities which were barred to us in peacetime. We must exploit them. The ghettos which are becoming available in the General Government are now being filled with the Jews who are being pushed out of the Reich, and after a certain time the process is then to renew itself here. Jewry has nothing to laugh about … “.
5.175 Evans argued that the references to Globocnik and to killings to the east of Lublin make clear that Goebbels was writing about Belzec and not about Auschwitz or Treblinka, as Irving claimed in his text. But the key omission in Hitler’s War, according to Evans, is Goebbel’s description of Hitler as “the persistent pioneer and spokesman of a radical solution”. The radical solution cannot in the context be taken to refer to the policy of deporting Jews to the East. It must indicate that Hitler was aware what was going on in the extermination camps in the East. By deliberately omitting of that reference, Evans alleges that Irving perverts the true significance of the entry. There is absolutely no evidence that Goebbels “held his tongue”. The overwhelming likelihood that the pair of them would have discussed enthusiastically what treatment was being meted out to the Jews in the General Government.
5.176 The Defendants claim that, when Hitler is recorded as having spoken at this time of the annihilation (vernichtung) or extirpation (ausrottung) of the Jews he was indeed using the terms in a genocidal sense. Moreover the stance attributed to Hitler by Goebbels accords with sentiments previously expressed by Hitler, notably in his speech to the Gauleiter on 12 December 1941 (to which I have already referred) when Hitler spoke of the Jews “experiencing their own annihilation” if they should once more bring about a world war. It also accords with two of Goebbels’s diary entries from this period. The entry for 20 March 1942 records Hitler as having remarked:
“We speak in conclusion about the Jewish question. Here the Fuhrer remains now as before unrelenting. The Jews must get out of Europe, if necessary, with the application of the most brutal means”.
The entry for 30 March 1942 includes the following passage:
“Thus I plead once again for a more radical Jewish policy, whereby I am just pushing at an open door with the Fuhrer”.
5.177 In both editions of Hitler’s War, Irving asserts that Hitler was speaking of deporting the Jews from Europe and so must be taken to have been ignorant of the programme of extermination. But Evans, having analysed the quotations given by Irving together with other reports of statements made by Hitler on the topic, concluded that they show that, when Hitler talked of pushing the Jews out of Europe to the East, he was well aware of the genocidal fate which awaited them. Evans expressed the opinion that this was the radical solution which Hitler was advocating, in full knowledge of what it entailed. Hitler knew that Jews were being systematically killed in the East. Hitler spoke frequently of the murderous fate awaiting the Jews, using such terms as “annihilation” and “extermination” although he took care not to go into the detail of the programmes. Irving, so it is alleged, was at pains to suppress this body of evidence.
5.178 Evans on behalf of the Defendants concluded that Irving’s treatment of Goebbels’s diary entry for 27 March 1942 wholly misrepresents Hitler’s state of knowledge.
5.179 Irving suggested (and Evans agreed) that it is apparent from Goebbels’s diary entry for 27 March 1942 that he is there summarising information which has been provided to him. There is no evidence that Hitler was provided with that information. Irving advanced the somewhat technical argument that Goebbels’s diary entry might be evidence against him as to his state of knowledge but could not be evidence of the state of knowledge of Hitler because as against him it is hearsay. As Evans pointed out, historians, including Irving, perforce use hearsay evidence all the time. But Irving persisted in his assertion that the entry is at worst evidence of Goebbels’s knowledge of the gassing and does not touch upon the question of Hitler’s knowledge. Irving claimed that Hitler and Goebbels did not see each other in private more than about ten times in 1942.
5.180 Moreover, according to Irving, the entry does not establish that even Goebbels knew what was happening in the death camps: he is just speculating when he writes that 60% of the Jews must be liquidated. Evans pointed out that this contention is difficult to reconcile with Irving’s claim that on 27 March 1942 Goebbels was summarising in his diary “the ghastly secrets of Auschwitz and Treblinka”. Irving criticised Evans’s translation of “Im grossen kann man wohl feststellen…” as “In general one may conclude that …” because it omits the word wohl which is indicative of the speculative nature of this part of the diary entry.
5.181 A further argument advanced by Irving is that, in several of the diary entries relied on by the Defendants, Goebbels falsely claims to be acting with the knowledge and authority of Hitler so as to provide himself with an alibi or excuse in case of later blame or criticism.
5.182 Irving claimed that there are many other contemporaneous documents which show Hitler displaying an attitude towards the Jews which is anything but homicidal. One example which Irving cites is Goebbels’s diary entry for 30 May 1942 on which Evans also placed reliance. Irving drew particular attention to the following;
“Therefore the Fuhrer does also not wish at all for the Jews to be evacuated to Siberia. There, under the harshest living conditions, they would undoubtedly for an element of vitality once more. His preferred solution would be to settle them in central Africa. There they live in a climate which would surely not render them strong and capable of resistance. In any case it is the Fuhrer’s wish to make west Europe completely Jew-free. Here they will not be allowed to have any home anymore”.
Irving argued that this passage demonstrates that Hitler was still thinking in terms of deportation and resettlement. Hitler was “talking tough” about the loss of life which the Jews might suffer in the course of deportation but he was not contemplating genocide. Irving argued that, when Hitler uses such terms as ausrotten in relation to the Jews, he is talking of them being uprooted and transported elsewhere not of their being liquidated. Irving cited other instances where Hitler is recorded as having used at about this time such terms as Auswanderung and Evakuierung. Hitler talked also of resettling the Jews in Siberia of Lapland or even Madagascar. Evans rejected that argument. Hitler’s references to resettlement of the Jews at this time are euphemistic. It would have been impractical, Evans suggested, to carry out a programme of extermination by the use of coded language. Hitler’s reference to deporting the Jews to Madgascar must be camouflage because Hitler himself had earlier in the year called a halt to that plan and ordered that the Jews be sent to the East.
5.183 As to the entry in Goebbels’s diary for 30 March 1942, it is, according to Evans, clear from the earlier section that, in his confidential meeting with Goebbels, Hitler told him he favoured a radical solution of the Jewish problem. The latter part of the entry, relied on by Irving, corresponds very closely with Hitler’s Table Talk on 29 May 1942. Evans considered that Goebbels in the latter part of the entry was recording in his diary what he had heard Hitler say in the course of a general discussion on 29 May rather than continuing with his account of their private meeting. That, according to Evans, explains why camouflage language is to be found in the latter part of the diary entry. Evans contended that Hitler habitually resorted to camouflage when others were present. According to Picker (one of those who recorded Hitler’s Table Talk) Hitler never spoke over the table of the concentration camps. Evans concluded that the reference in the diary entry to sending the Jews to central Africa is therefore not to be taken seriously.
5.184 Similarly the record of Hitler’s reference on 24 July 1942 to the emigration of Jews to Madagascar cannot, according to the Defendants, sensibly be taken at face value: the “Madagascar plan” had, on Hitler’s own orders, been abandoned long since. Hitler was pretending to be ignorant about the killing of Jews.
5.185 Another reason relied on by Irving for his contention that Hitler was unaware of deliberate extermination of Jews being carried out on a massive scale in 1942 is that none of his adjutants or stenographers recalls any mention being made by Hitler of anything of the kind. Irving described the time and trouble he has devoted to tracking down and interviewing those who remain alive and to obtain the papers of those who have not survived. Irving claimed that none of them had any recollection of Hitler discussing concentration camps either generally or individually. The Holocaust was not mentioned.
5.186 Evans does not accept that the evidence of the adjutants and secretaries is of any real value. In the first place, Hitler when in company deliberately refrained from talking of the concentration camps and used euphemistic language when talking of the Jews. Moreover Hitler’s personal staff had good reason to be cautious in making public statements about what Hitler said in their presence. Moreover, claimed Evans, several of them expressed the view that Hitler was aware of the genocide which was being perpetrated. He named Major (later Lieutenant General) Engel, who recorded in his diaries that Himmler reported to Hitler about the shooting of Jews in Riga and Minsk; von Puttkamer, who impliedly suggested that Hitler kept from his press spokesman the fact that Jews were being exterminated; von Bruckner, who suggested that discussion about the extermination of the Jews was kept by Hitler within a limited circle; Krieger, one of Hitler’s stenographers, who was undecided whether Hitler issued orders to exterminate the Jews or gave general orders to others to that effect and Buchholz, who considered that it was possible Hitler had issued such an order and was convinced that the matter was discussed between Himmler and Hitler. Others mentioned by Evans as coming within this category were Linge; Brautigam; Sonnleithner and Schroeder. Evans readily accepted that many of these former Hitler aides are unreliable for one reason or another. The point he sought to make was that, whatever weight is to be attached to the evidence of the adjutants and stenographers, they do not support Irving’s claim that Hitler was ignorant of the extermination programme.
Himmler minute of 22 September 1942
5.187 Himmler prepared a handwritten agenda for a meeting he was to have with Hitler on 22 September 1942. Its format and wording were as follows:
1.Emigration of Jews
How to proceed further
2. Settlement Lublin Circumstances
Lorrainers Gen Gouv.
Germans from Bosnia Globus
The Defendants’ case
5.188 The Defendants’ case is that this note, despite its camouflaged language, raises the strong suspicion that Himmler proposed to discuss with Hitler at their meeting the mass annihilation of Jews. The background to the note is that the killing of Jews had (on the Defendants’ case) commenced in November 1941 at Chelmno and some months later at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. During the summer of 1942 there was a wish to accelerate the extermination process but it met with resistance. Himmler, who was in overall charge of the programme, needed the support of Hitler.
5.189 Evans interpreted the agenda note made by Himmler as meaning that he intended to discuss with Hitler the extermination of Jews (for which auswanderung or “emigration” was a euphemism). Evans interpreted the note in the following way: “Globus” was the nickname of Globocnik, the Lublin Chief of Police to whom, according to the Defendants, was delegated the executive responsibility for both deportation and extermination in the General Government area. Two months earlier, just before the mass killings started at Treblinka, Globocnik had welcomed the order recently issued by Himmler saying that with it “all our most secret wishes are to be fulfilled”. Evans interpreted Himmler’s agenda note as contemplating the repopulation of Lublin with Lorrainers, Germans and Bessarabians. The Jews were to be deported to make way for them and then executed. That was Globocnik’s “most secret wish”. The significance of Himmler’s note, so the Defendants contend, is that it implicates Hitler in the extermination policy.
5.190 The Defendants allege that Irving glosses over this significant note and perverts its true sense. Indeed at p467 of the 1991 edition of Hitler’s War Irving uses it to support his thesis that Himmler did not enlighten Hitler about the true fate of the Jews. He prefaced his reference to Himmler’s note of 17 September with these words: “Himmler meanwhile continued to pull the wool over Hitler’s eyes”. According to the Defendants, there is no evidence that Himmler did any such thing. Evans argued that the euphemistic reference in the note to “emigration of Jews” is not indicative of a wish to keep Hitler in the dark but rather a reflection of the common Nazi practice of camouflaging references to the policy of exterminating Jews. The Defendants contend that it is inconceivable that Himmler should have prepared an agenda for a discussion with Hitler about these matters in the knowledge that Hitler knew nothing about them and with the intention of concealing them from him.
5.191 In his evidence Irving accepted that there was possibly something sinister under discussion between Himmler and Hitler. But he argued that there is no reason to suppose that Himmler went into any detail about it. Irving maintained that in Hitler’s War he quoted what Himmler’s note said and let the readers draw their own conclusions.
5.192 However, when cross-examining Evans, Irving advanced the contention that what Himmler was discussing with Hitler was the resettlement of Lublin with ethnic Germans and the removal of the Jews then in Lublin to make way for them. Irving claimed that resettlement of those Jews, rather than their extermination, was the topic under discussion. He contended that Evans’s interpretation of the note is speculative and over-adventurous. He agreed that the note proposed the evacuation and repopulation of Lublin. But he maintained that there is no warrant for reading into it that any discussion was intended by Himmler to take place with Hitler about killing the displaced Jewish Lubliners. Indeed, he argued, it was the resettlement of Lublin which was Globocnik’s “most secret wish”. Evans responded that the deportation of the Lubliner Jews and their execution are so intimately connected that it is impossible to draw a distinction between them.
5.193 Irving defended the use of the phrase “pulling the wool over Hitler’s eyes” by pointing out that there is no reference on the face of Himmler’s the note to any of the sinister things which (as Irving agreed) were by then in train.
Himmler’s note for his meeting with Hitler on 10 December 1942
5.194 In accordance with his usual practice, Himmler listed in manuscript the points which he proposed to raise with Hitler at their meeting on 10 December 1942. One of them reads: “Jews in France 600-700,000”. Alongside those words there appears a tick. Himmler has also added in manuscript the word “abschaffen”. Longerich translated this as “to liquidate”. After his meeting with Hitler, Himmler sent a note to Muller, the head of the Gestapo, to the effect that the French Jews should be arrested and deported to a special camp (Sonderlager). At the same time Himmler secured the agreement of Hitler that a camp should be set up for 10,000 well-to-do Jews from France, Hungary and Romania, in conditions “whereby they remain healthy and alive”.
Case for the Defendants
5.195 The significance of Himmler’s agenda, according to the Defendants, when considered in the light of the note to Muller and the setting up of a camp for well-to-do Jews, is that it reveals him discussing with Hitler the liquidation or extermination of large number of French Jews. The contrast between the fate of the French Jews who are to kept healthy and alive and the remainder is obvious, say the Defendants.
5.196 The Defendants criticise Irving for his treatment of the note in Hitler’s War (1977 edition) where Irving translates abschaffen as “to remove”, which the Defendants allege misrepresents the true significance of the note. In the 1991 edition abschaffen is translated as “to extract” and the reference to setting up a camp for well-to-do French Jews has disappeared in order, claim the Defendants, to remove the highly significant contrast between their treatment and that awaiting the deported French Jews.
5.197 Irving asserted that there were nowhere near 600,000 Jews in France. He argued that his translation of abschaffen is correct and is consistent with the word abtransportieren which is to be found in the typed version of the note. Irving did not accept the suggestion put to him that abtransportieren was euphemistic language adopted for the official record of the meeting. He argued that his interpretation of the note is borne out by what in the event happened to the French Jews: they were transported to camps in Germany, where large numbers of them were put to work in the armaments industry.
5.198 Irving claimed that his account in the 1977 edition of Hitler’s War is accurate. He explained that the reference to the note was deleted from the 1991 edition because it was an abridged edition and part of the text had to be deleted.
Hitler’s meetings with Antonescu and Horthy in April 1943
5.199 On 12/13 April 1943, Hitler met the military dictator of Romania, Antonescu in order to discuss Romania’s position in the war. In the course of their discussion the question of the Jews in Romania was raised.
5.200 In 1943 there were in Hungary some 750,000 Jews if not more. The Hungarian government, under the leadership of Admiral Horthy, deported many non-Hungarian Jews over the border into Nazi-controlled territory where most of them were murdered. The Nazis brought pressure to bear on the Hungarians to identify and deport in a similar manner the very considerable number of Jews who remained in Hungary. But the Hungarians were reluctant to comply, preferring to solve their own Jewish question in their own way. A meeting was arranged between Hitler and Horthy: it took place on two separate days, namely16 and 17 April 1943, shortly after Hitler’s meeting with Antonescu. The object was to resolve the impasse.
5.201 In the result the Hungarian refused to hand over Hungary’s Jews. Hungary was subsequently invaded and occupied by the Nazis. Eichmann thereupon organised the forcible deportation of the Jews from Hungary to the General Government. According to the Defendants in June 1944 450,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered at Auschwitz. Irving alleges that the number killed is smaller.
Case for the Defendants
5.202 In relation to Hitler’s meeting with Antonescu, the Defendants reproach Irving for his omission to mention in either edition of Hitler’s War the uncompromising and anti-semitic words used by Hitler on 13 April in reference to the Jews. The minutes record him as having said:
“Therefore, in contrast to Marshal Antonescu, the Fuhrer took the view that one must proceed against the Jews, the more radically the better. He … would rather burn all his bridges behind him because the Jewish hatred is so enormously great anyway. In Germany, as a consequence of the clearing up of the Jewish question, one had a united people without opposition at one’s disposal … however, once the way had been embarked on, there was no turning back”.
This, say the Defendants, evidences Hitler placing pressure on Antonescu to effect a radical “removal” of Romania’s Jews. Yet Irving ignores it altogether in his account of the meeting.
5.203 As to the meeting which started three days later between Hitler and Horthy, the Defendants’ contention is that the evidence indicates that at the first session, which took place on 16 April and which was attended by amongst others Hitler and Ribbentrop as well as Horthy, Hitler sought to persuade Horthy to agree to the expulsion of the Hungarian Jews. He reassured Horthy that there would be no need to kill them. But Horthy remained unpersuaded.
5.204 Accordingly, say the Defendants, at the next session on 17 April Hitler and Ribbentrop expressed themselves more explicitly. The Defendants contend that the language used by Hitler on the second day points unequivocally to Hitler’s knowledge of the extermination of Jews in Poland, as does the language used by Ribbentrop in Hitler’s presence on that occasion. Minutes of the meeting on 17 April were taken by Dr Paul-Otto Schmidt. They record Ribbentrop saying in the presence of Hitler:
“On Horthy’s retort, what should he do with the Jews then, after he had taken pretty well all means of living from them – he surely couldn’t beat them to death – the Reich Foreign Minister replied that the Jews must either be annihilated or taken to concentration camps. There was no other way”.
Shortly afterwards Hitler himself is recorded as having said:
“If the Jews [in Poland] didn’t want to work, they were shot. If they couldn’t work, they had to perish. They had to be treated like tuberculosis bacilli, from which a healthy body can be infected. That was not cruel; if one remembered that even innocent natural creatures like hares and deer had to be killed so that no harm was caused. Why should one spare the beasts who wanted to bring us bolshevism? Nations who did not rid themselves of Jews perished”.
The Defendants’ case is that these passages are significant in that they afford powerful evidence that Hitler knew of and approved the extermination of Jews. The flavour of Hitler’s remarks points towards an intention to exterminate the Hungarian Jews. It is difficult, say the Defendants, to visualise any other reason why the Nazis were so insistent to get their hands on the Hungarian Jews.
5.205 The Defendants contend that Irving in Hitler’s War uses a variety of discreditable devices to obscure the significance of the minutes and to twist their meaning. They allege that the passage at p509-10 of the 1977 edition of Hitler’s War is a “shocking manipulation” of Schmidt’s note of the meeting. In the first place, Irving gives as the pretext for the pressure being brought to bear on Horthy by Hitler and Ribbentrop the Warsaw ghetto uprising. But there is no mention of that uprising in the note of the meeting, which, say the Defendants, is unsurprising because it did not take place until three days later (19 April). Irving marginalises the significance of Ribbentrop’s remarks in the presence of Hitler by tucking away what he said in a footnote (where Irving seeks to cast doubt on the accuracy of Schmidt’s note by quoting Horthy’s later draft letter to Hitler of May 7 which refers to the “stamping out” (Ausrottung) of Jewry). Further Irving depicts Hitler as having used the devastation wreaked by Allied bombing to justify a harsher policy towards the Jews, whereas the contemporaneous evidence shows that Hitler regarded the bombing as “irritating but wholly trivial”.
5.206 But the major criticism directed by the Defendants at Irving’s account arises out of the transposition by Irving to the 17 April of a remark made by Hitler in the course of the meeting on 16 April. The Defendants allege that in a similar manner Irving minimises the significance of what Hitler said. After quoting the statement made by Hitler on 17 April which is set out above, Irving adds the following words:
“But they can hardly be murdered or otherwise eliminated”, [Horthy] protested. Hitler reassured him: “There is no need for that”.
Hitler had indeed used those words but not on 17 April. He spoke those words at the earlier session on 16 April. By the following day the Nazi attitude had hardened. By transposing to 17 April remarks which Hitler had in fact made on 16 April, so the Defendants say, Irving diluted the uncompromising and brutal language Hitler used on 17 April when exhorting Horthy to kill all Hungary’s Jews. Irving was, as he accepted, warned in 1977 that he had made an error about the date when Hitler made this remark. But took no action to correct the error in the 1991 edition.
5.207 The Defendants are further critical of Irving for watering down what Hitler did say on 17 April when it came to the 1991 edition of Hitler’s War. Irving omitted Hitler statement about having to kill hares and deer; he omitted the question why the “beasts” (ie the Jews) should be spared and he omitted his reference to nations who did not get rid of the Jews perishing. According to the Defendants Irving was guilty of atrocious manipulation of what Hitler said.
5.208 Irving agreed that in his account in Hitler’s War of the meeting which took place between Hitler and Antonescu, he omitted to refer to Hitler’s anti-semitic outburst which included the remark that “one must proceed against the Jews, the more radically the better”. Irving justified the omission by saying that it adds not one iota to what is already known.
5.209 In this connection Irving, in order to rebut the claim that Hitler displayed a vindictive attitude towards the Jews on this (or any other) occasion, drew attention to the willingness of Hitler on occasion to approve some merciful disposal for individual Jews or groups of Jews. Irving instanced the permission given by Hitler for 70,000 Jewish children to leave Romania and travel to Palestine. Longerich agreed that there were times when Hitler exempted certain Jews from deportation or extermination.
5.210 In regard to the meeting between Hitler and Horthy, Irving in his response laid stress on what Hitler said at the first session on 16 April, namely that the Jews would not need to be killed. He argued that it was throughout Hitler’s position that there was no need to murder the Hungarian Jews, since they could be accommodated in concentration camps as had happened in the case of the Slovakian Jews. Irving argued that, when Hitler is recorded in the minutes of the meeting taken by Hilgruber as having referred to Jews having “vanished” to the East, he was referring to their deportation. Evans’s answer to this was that on 16 April Hitler was setting up a smoke-screen and seeking to conceal from Horthy what his true intentions were. Longerich concurred, adding that Hitler’s reference to the Slovakian Jews is significant because (as Hitler must by this time have known) they had been put to death in extermination camps.
5.211 Irving did not in his evidence dispute the accuracy of the record made by Schmidt of the meeting on 17 April. Irving argued that the reason why Ribbentrop said what he did is that the Hungarian Jews were posing a security threat: what Ribbentrop was proposing was that, on that account, they should be sent to concentration camps; if they refused (but not otherwise) they would be shot. Evans replied that Irving is perverting and distorting the clear sense of what Ribbentrop said. Irving persisted in his claim that the use of the term “Ausrottung” in Horthy’s draft letter to Hitler of 7 May is significant because it contemplates the Jews being forcibly deported rather than killed.
5.212 Irving agreed that he wrongly reported Hitler as saying on 17 April what he had in fact said on 16 April. He also agreed that his error had been pointed out to him as long ago as 1977 by the historian Martin Broszat. But he contended that his error as to the date is a matter of no consequence. That, he claimed, is why he did not correct the reference in the 1991 edition of Hitler’s War. There was no deliberate misrepresentation or deliberate suppression. Irving asserted that he included in the 1977 edition the substance of what Hitler said about the Jews on 17 April. His explanation for the removal in the 1991 edition of part of what Hitler said is that it was an abridged edition. In any case he considered that the omitted words do not add much.
5.213 As regards Hitler’s language, Irving drew attention to the fact that the internal record of the meeting kept by the Hungarians (as opposed to the official Nazi minute) made no mention of the deported Hungarian Jews being killed. There would have been no reason for the Hungarians to conceal the fact that they were to be killed, if that had indeed been stated at the meeting to be the intention. If Hitler had said that the Nazis were proposing to kill the Hungarian Jews, one would expect, suggested Irving, the Hungarians’ internal record to include a protest at such barbarism.
5.214 Irving explained that Hitler was distressed and angry about recent the Allied bombing raids of cities in Germany. That was the reason for Hitler’s outburst to Horthy. Evans pointed out that in the 1977 edition of Hitler’s War Irving gave a different explanation for Hitler’s menacing words, namely the Warsaw uprising. Another explanation offered by Irving for the words used by Hitler is that he was full of resentment about the massacre at Katyn. All these explanations and excuses are bogus, according to Evans.
The deportation and murder of the Roman Jews in October 1943
5.215 Although this episode is one of those deployed by Evans in his report to substantiate the attack upon Irving’s historiography, I will take it shortly because the Defendants did at one stage indicate that they were not intending to rely on it. Irving nevertheless chose to cross-examine Evans about it.
5.216 The position in Italy in October 1943 was that Mussolini had been overthrown three months earlier to be replaced by a new Italian government which promptly surrendered to the Allies. The Nazis thereupon invaded Italy. Rome fell to the advancing Nazis. The country in general and Rome is particular were in a state of some administrative confusion. The position in the north of Italy was unstable.
5.217 Both the 1977 and 1991 editions of Hitler’s War recount how on 6 October 1943 the SS chief in Rome received an order to transfer 12,000 Roman Jews to northern Italy where they would be liquidated. According to Irving’s account, the matter was then referred to Hitler’s headquarters and the order came back that these Jews were to be taken to a concentration camp in upper Italy named Mauthausen to be held there as hostages, rather than be liquidated as had been ordered by Himmler. Irving argued that this episode reveals Hitler again showing concern for the Jews and striving to ensure that they would be kept alive.
The case for the Defendants
5.218 The Defendants’ case is that in his account Irving has again manipulated the historical record and misrepresented the effect of Hitler’s intervention. According to Evans, Irving achieves this by, firstly, suppressing documents which demonstrate that the background to Hitler’s intervention was a dispute whether (as Field Marsahll Kesselring was urging) the Jews should be kept in Rome on fortification work or whether (as Himmler had ordered) they should be sent to the Reich and liquidated. There was strong local feeling in Rome that the Jews should stay there. Evans agreed that the documents show that Hitler directed via Ribbentrop that the Roman Jews were to be taken to Mauthausen as hostages. But their fate was then to be left in the hands of the SS, that is, effectively in the hands of Reichsfuhrer-SS Himmler. So, Evans contended, far from interceding on behalf of the Jews, the effect of Hitler’s intervention was to place these Jews in the murderous hands of the SS. The dispute was thus resolved by Hitler against those like Kesselring who were trying in Rome to save the Jews and in favour of the SS who had already made clear that they intended to kill the Jews when they got their hands on them.
5.219 The Roman Jews were transported northwards, not to Mauthausen, but to Auschwitz where they were in due course murdered. According to Evans, the claim that the Jews were to be held at Mauthausen “as hostages” was intended to disguise the fate which the SS had in mind for the Jews in the hope that it would appease the anxious officials in Rome. Hitler knew perfectly well what was going to happen to them. It was in reality no part of Hitler’s intention that the Roman Jews should be kept alive. Mauthausen was a notorious concentration camp, where the inmates were systematically worked to death.
5.220 Irving, say the Defendants, having unjustifiably praised Hitler for his intercession on behalf of the Jews, compounds the error by suppressing the fact that the Roman Jews were murdered.
5.221 The nub of Irving’s response is that the order handed down by Hitler meant what it said, namely that the Jews were not to be liquidated as the SS had apparently been intending, but rather that they should be kept alive in Mauthausen for later use as hostages should the need arise. Irving claimed that Hitler did indeed intercede in a manner which was intended by him to preserve the lives of the Roman Jews. He did not accept that Hitler foresaw, still less that he intended, that the SS would send them to their deaths. That the Roman Jews were in the event murdered was a violation of Hitler’s express order and contrary to his intention. Irving denied any manipulation of the evidence or suppression in his account of this episode.
Himmler’s speeches on 6 October 1943 and 5 and 24 May 1944
5.222 On 6 October 1943 Himmler spoke to a gathering of Reichsleiter and Gauleiter. He said:
“I do ask you to keep secret, to listen to what I am saying and never to speak about it, what I am saying in these circles. We came up against the question, what about the women and children, and I took the decision here too for a clear solution. I did not consider myself justified in liquidating just the men to leave alive the children to act as the avengers against our sons and grandchildren. There had to be taken the grave decision to have this people disappear from the face of the earth”.
5.223 The following year, on 5 May 1944, Himmler spoke to the generals of the Wehrmacht. According to the transcript of his speech he said:
“The Jewish question has been solved within Germany itself and in general within the countries occupied by Germany. It was solved in an uncompromising fashion in accordance with the life and death struggle of our nation in which the existence of our blood is at stake. You can understand how difficult it was for me to carry out this soldierly order (soldatische Befehl) and which I carried out from obedience and from a sense of complete conviction”.
5.224 Next on 24 May 1944 Himmler spoke to the generals again, saying:
“Another question which was decisive for the inner security of the Reich in Europe was the Jewish question. It was uncompromisingly solved after orders and rational recognition. I believe gentlemen that you know me well enough to know that I am not a bloodthirsty person. I am not a man who takes pleasure or joy when something rough must be done. However, on the other hand I have such good nerves and such a developed sense of duty I could say that much for myself. When I recognise something as necessary, I can implement it without compromise. I have not considered myself entitled, this concerns especially the Jewish women and children, to allow the children to grow into the avengers who will murder our fathers and grandchildren. That would have been cowardly. Consequently, the question was uncompromisingly resolved”.
5.225 The Defendants contend that in all three speeches Himmler is speaking in brutal terms of the murder of the Jews. Irving did not dissent from this. But for present purposes, the primary significance of this trilogy of speeches is that they shed light on the question whether Hitler knew of the killing. As to the first of these speeches the Defendants say that Himmler would not have spoken in such explicit terms if Hitler was unaware of the killings. Himmler would have realised that members of his audience would or might raise the matter with Hitler. In relation to the speech on 5 May 1944 the Defendants contend that the reference to a “soldierly order” must signify that Himmler had taken his order as to the solution to the Jewish problem from Hitler since he is only person in a position to give orders to Himmler. Similarly, in relation to the speech of 24 May, the Defendants assert that the “orders” must connote orders from Hitler. Read together, the Defendants maintain that the terminology of the speeches by Himmler in May 1944 demonstrate Hitler’s knowledge of and responsibility for the murders of Jews including women and children.
5.227 The Defendants direct particular criticism at Irving for the way in which he deals at p630 of Hitler’s War (1977 edition) with the speech of 5 May. He there paraphrases what Himmler in such a way as to conceal the uncompromisingly brutal language used by Himmler. After the reference to Himmler’s speech, Irving adds:
“Never before, and never after, did Himmler hint at a Fuhrer order, but there is reason to doubt that he showed this passage to his Fuhrer”.
The Defendants reply that it is pure surmise on Irving’s part that the relevant passage was not shown to Hitler but it is presented by him to the reader as established fact. They point out that in the 1991 edition the reference to Himmler’s speech of 5 May has been omitted altogether. The Defendants maintain that it is an important part of the narrative because it casts light on Hitler’s role in the extermination of the Jews. The inescapable inference is that Irving was determined to avoid compromising Hitler.
5.228 The reader is directed to a footnote in which Irving claims that the page containing the key sentence referring to a military order was “manifestly” retyped and inserted in the transcript at a later date. Irving suggested that this indicates that the version of the speech which was shown to Hitler was sanitised so as to exclude any reference to Himmler having been ordered by Hitler to carry out a bloody solution to the Jewish problem. It is Irving’s argument that Himmler did this because he knew very well that Hitler had given him no such order.
5.229 Irving accepted that with effect from October 1943 it has to be conceded that Hitler cannot have been ignorant of the extermination programme. But he emphasised that in his speech on 6 October 1943. Himmler spoke of a decision which he, rather than Hitler, had taken. He disputed the contention that the speech of 5 May points towards the existence of a Hitler order. From the facts the transcript of the relevant page of the speech has evidently been typed on a different typewriter and the pagination has been altered, Irving deduced that the document has been tampered with and is accordingly unreliable. He rejected the mundane explanation that Himmler was simply revising what he proposed to say in his speech. Irving further argued that it is to be inferred that the transcript was sanitised before it was submitted to Hitler because Himmler did not want Hitler to know that he (Himmler) was claiming falsely to have been acting on the order of Hitler. As to the speech of 24 May (which Irving suspects has also been tampered with) he argued that the orders referred to could just as well be taken to mean orders given by Himmler to his subordinates.
5.230 Irving defended the treatment of these speeches in Hitler’s War by saying that he quoted them and left the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. He pointed out that at the meetings between Hitler and Himmler which took place during the summer of 1944 Hitler is reported to be referring still to the expulsion (rather than the extermination) of the Jews. These statements cannot be airily dismissed as camouflage since Hitler had no need to use euphemisms when speaking to Himmler.
Hitler’s speech on 26 May 1944
5.231 Hitler addressed senior officers of the Wehrmacht on 26 May 1944 in the following terms:
“By removing the Jew, I abolished in Germany the possibility to build up a revolutionary core or nucleus. One could naturally say to me: Yes, couldn’t you have solved this more simply – or not simply since all other mans would have been more complicated – but more humanely? My dear officers, we are engaged in a life or death struggle. If our opponents win in this struggle, then the German people would be extirpated”.
The case for the Defendants
5.232 The Defendants maintain that this amounts to an admission by Hitler that had used inhumane means to remove (that is, to kill) the Jews. They contend that Irving obfuscates the true sense of what Hitler was saying at p631 of Hitler’s War (1977 edition). Irving there prefaces his quotation from Hitler’s speech with the comment that Hitler was speaking “in terms that were both philosophical and less ambiguous”. He writes that Hitler was speaking of the reasons why he had “expelled” the Jews. The Defendants argue that by these devices Irving sought to blunt the significance of the reference by Hitler to the “extirpation” of the Jews.
5.234 Irving pointed out that it was he who first discovered the text of this speech. He claimed that he quoted it accurately. He agreed that the less humane method of which Hitler spoke may well have been killing. But again he said that he left it to his readers to draw their own conclusions.
Ribbentrop’s testimony from his cell at Nuremberg
5.235 In a footnote at p851 of the 1977 edition of Hitler’s War Irving quoted a passage extracted from notes made by Ribbentrop when incarcerated in the prison at Nuremberg:
“.. that [Hitler] ordered [the destruction of the Jews] I refuse to believe, because such an act would be wholly incompatible with the picture I always had of him”.
The case for the Defendants
5.236 The Defendants make no complaint of what Irving did quote from Ribbentrop’s notes. But they do criticise him severely for his omission to quote the immediately following passage which reads:
“On the other hand, judging from [Hitler’s] Last Will, one must suppose that he at least knew about it, if, in his fanaticism against the Jews, he didn’t also order [it]”.
The Defendants say that this editing of Ribbentrop’s notes is indefensible. They further criticise Irving for not questioning the reliability of Ribbentrop as a source, given his unwavering loyalty to Hitler and his own demonstrably false claim to have been unaware of the fate awaiting the Jews after their deportation.
5.237 Further the Defendants allege that Irving has unjustifiably ignored the account by the prison psychologist at Nuremberg, Dr Gilbert, of his conversation with Ribbentrop in which the latter appears to concede that Hitler may have ordered the extermination of the Jews in 1941. Evans asserted that Irving has also ignored the transcript of a conversation in which Ribbentrop tells a British officer how in 1944 he discussed with Hitler the atrocities taking place in the camps.
5.238 The consequence of Irving’s carefully selected quotation together with his omission of other quotations is that the reader is given a wholly distorted impression of Ribbentrop’s view of the knowledge of the Holocaust possessed by Hitler.
5.239 Irving agreed that he left out from his citation of Ribbentrop’s prison notes the passage which is cited above. He did so because writers have to be selective and avoid writing “pages of sludge”. The omitted passage cried out to be cut. It was mere supposition on Ribbentrop’s part. Irving disagreed with the suggestion that his account gave a false and unbalanced picture of Ribbentrop’s assessment of Hitler’s responsibility for the extermination of the Jews. Irving justified his omission of the other statements made by Ribbentrop about Hitler’s knowledge of the extermination of the Jews by saying that none of them is reliable.
5.240 Marie Vaillant-Couturier, a gentile and member of the resistance in France, was a prisoner in the womens’ camp at Auschwitz from 1942 until the end of the war. In 1946 she gave vivid and detailed evidence to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg about the atrocious conditions in the camp, the sterilisation of women, the killing of babies born to women who arrived pregnant and so on. One of the presiding was judges was an American, Judge Biddle.
Case for the Defendants 5.241 In relation to Mme Vaillant-Couturier the criticism directed at Irving by van Pelt relates, not to his published work, but to his claim, made on occasions, including a press conference in 1989 to celebrate the English publication of the Leuchter report (with which I shall deal in the section VII relating to Auschwitz), that:
“she gave a heart-breaking testimony about what she had survived and in his diary at the end of the day, Judge Biddle privately wrote ‘I don’t believe a word of what she is saying, I think she is a bloody liar’ “.
Irving made a similar statement earlier, on 13 August 1988, at Toronto, when he claimed that the Judge had written “All this I doubt” (emphasis added).
5.242 The Defendants contend that these statements wholly misrepresent the view which the Judge took of Vaillant-Couturier’s evidence. The Judge’s contemporaneous note of her evidence reveal that he inserted in parentheses the words “This I doubt” at the end of a paragraph in which he noted her claim that all camps had a system of selecting prostitutes for SS officers. That does not appear to have been a claim that she made of her own knowledge. There is no reason whatever, say the Defendants, for supposing that Judge Biddle disbelieved any other aspect of her testimony. The statement made by Irving at the press conference was a disreputable attempt by him to discredit the witness on a basis which, as he must have appreciated, was utterly untenable. The addition of the word “all” in the Toronto speech was, say the Defendants, deliberate distortion.
5.243 Irving did not accept that Judge Biddle’s note was referring merely to the passage which I summarised above. He asserted in his closing submission that, when cross-examining her, defence counsel had suggested that she had not even been in Auschwitz. This was not a proposition which Irving put to Evans in cross-examination (and he directed no questions on this topic to van Pelt). Irving argued that Mme Vaillant-Couturier had made some absurd claims in her testimony (for example that there was a man-beating machine at the camp). Irving persisted in his claim that, from what he had read of the Judge’s private papers on the testimony given by the various witnesses, he was able to assert that Judge Biddle was making a general comment on her evidence. Irving did not produce whatever papers he was basing this claim upon.
5.244 In his evidence he asserted that Judge Biddle “became so fed up with this woman’s testimony that he can finally stand it no longer and he dictates in parenthesis into his report – he says ‘this I doubt’”. But he did agree that what he had said at the launch of the Leuchter report was a “gloss” on the Judge’s comment. He excused it by saying, incorrectly, that it was years since he had read the judge’s notes. By way of explanation for the fact that he had quoted the Judge as saying ‘All this I doubt” when he spoke in Toronto, Irving claimed, firstly, that he added the word ‘all’ to make it more literate for his audience and later that the Judge had altered the words “This I doubt” to “All this I doubt”. He produced no evidence for the latter claim.
5.245 Kurt Aumeier was for a while Hoss’s deputy at Auschwitz. Shortly after the war he was captured and interned by the British. Whilst in captivity he wrote two hundred pages of hand written memoirs about his experiences at the camp. He went into great detail about the manner in which the gas chambers were operated. He described the gassing procedures and referred to the construction of crematorium 3. He was subsequently extradited to Poland, where he was tried, found guilty and hanged. His memoirs did not become available to historians until 1992, when they were read by Irving shortly after their release by the Public Record Office in London.
The Defendants’ case
5.245 The Defendants contend that, despite the existence of a number of inaccuracies in his account, Aumeier is an important and credible witness whose detailed description of Bunkers I and II and the way the gas chambers in crematoria 2 and 4 were operated powerfully supports their case for saying that gas chambers were used on a massive scale at Auschwitz. Through van Pelt and Evans the Defendants allege that Irving recognised the problem Aumeier’s memoirs posed for revisionists in relation to the existence gas chambers at Auschwitz. He wrote to Marcellus of the Institute for Historical Research (“the IHR”) on 4 June 1942 that “these MSS are going to be a problem for revisionists, and need analysing now in advance of our enemies and answering”.
5.246 In order to meet the “problem” posed by Aumeier’s account, Irving first surmised, without any evidential basis for doing so, that his account had been extracted by brute force on the part of his interrogators. Thereafter, Defendants allege that Irving suppressed the Aumeier material because it powerfully undermined his thesis that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz. He continued to make speeches denying the Holocaust without mentioning Aumeier’s account. Although Irving had read the memoirs in 1992, it was not until May 1996 that Irving informed van Pelt by writing to tell of their existence. Van Pelt observed that the private disclosure of the memoirs to him is a far cry from placing them in the public domain, which is what a reputable and objective historian should and would have done.
5.247 Irving agreed that he wrote to Marcellus of the IHR saying that the Aumeier manuscripts were going to be a problem for revisionists and that they needed to be analysed in advance of “our enemies” and answered. What Irving claimed he meant by this was that the memoirs were damaging to the revisionist position. He said that the “enemies” referred to were irresponsible historians who will leap onto any document and inflate it.
5.248 Despite what he wrote to the IHR, Irving argued that Aumeier is an unreliable witness. Amongst the errors in his account to which Irving pointed was his claim that during his tenure of office at Auschwitz (which lasted for most of 1942) 15,000 people were killed by gas at Auschwitz. That estimate does not accord with other evidence. In addition many of his dates are confused. Irving maintained his claim that Auemier had been subjected to maltreatment by his British captors. He identified a British officer who, he claimed, used brute force to compel Aumeier to provide a more detailed and exaggerated account of what he had seen. These were the reasons why Irving confined his reference to Aumeier’s evidence in his writings about Auschwitz to a footnote in his book Nuremberg. When it was pointed out to him that he had there referred to Aumeier’s testimony as “compelling”, Irving explained that he meant it was compelling evidence which needed to be examined. Irving pointed out that the footnote did also make reference to the pressure brought to bear upon Aumeier during his interrogation.
5.249 Irving denied the charge of suppression. He said that he drew the attention of various historians to Aumeier’s account. In May 1997 he wrote to van Pelt, the acknowledged world expert, telling him of the memoirs but received no reply. (Van Pelt gave evidence that he had not received the letter). He agreed that it was not until the publication of Nuremberg in the same year that he first made public the memoirs. Irving (correctly) dismissed the suggestion made at one stage by the Defendants that this disclosure was made only because their legal advisers had been alerted to the existence of the memoirs because Irving disclosed them in this action.