David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial: Electronic Edition, by Richard J. Evans

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(J) Conclusion >>

(A) Misquotation and Skewing of Documents: The Goebbels Diary

1. A number of historians have argued with some force that while the initiative for these events came from Goebbels, he wanted to have Hitler's approval from the very outset, and Hitler gave it. The fact that Hitler left the Old Town Hall after dinner on the evening of 9 November without giving his traditional speech is taken as evidence that he and Goebbels considered it important for Hitler, as Head of State, not to incur international   opprobrium by being associated with the pogroms, which were presented by Goebbels's propaganda machine as spontaneous outbreaks of popular anger (contemporary reports in fact indicate that there was widespread disquiet among the German population, especially at the destruction of so much property).
2. However, in his various accounts of the events, David Irving argues that Hitler did not approve of the pogrom, did not know about it until it was well under way, and tried to stop it when he found out about it. In order to give this impression, he systematically distorts and manipulates the evidence in a way that is wholly unacceptable to serious historical scholarship.
3. The first example of such falsification of the historical record is on pages 273-274 of his book Goebbels: Mastermind of the 'Third Reich', where Irving writes:
Events that evening, November 9, are crucial to the history of what followed. As Goebbels and Hitler set out to attend the Nazi reception in the old city hall, they 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 Führer 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.'
4. The original German of the entry in Goebbels's diary to which Irving refers in this passage reads as follows:
In Kassel und Dessau große Demonstrationen gegen die Juden, Synagogen in Brand gesteckt und Geschäfte demoliert. Nachmittags wird der Tod des deutschen Diplomaten vom Rath gemeldet. Nun aber ist es g.(ar). Ich gehe zum Parteiempfang im alten Rathaus. Riesenbetrieb. Ich trage dem Führer die Angelegenheit vor. Er bestimmt: Demonstrationen weiterlaufen lassen. Polizei zurückziehen. Die Juden sollen einmal den Volkszorn zu verspüren bekommen. Das ist richtig.
5.An accurate translation of this passage would be as follows:  
Big demonstrations against the Jews in Kassel and Dessau, synagogues set on fire and businesses demolished. The death of the German diplomat vom Rath is reported in the afternoon. But now the goose is cooked. I go to the Party reception in the Old Town Hall. Colossal activity. I brief the Führer about the matter. He orders: let the demonstrations go on. Withdraw the police. The Jews must for once feel the people's fury. That is right. 13
Irving's account of this diary entry, given above, misquotes it and skews it so as to misrepresent its contents.
6. In this passage, Irving completely omits the reference to the demonstrations and widespread destruction of Jewish property in Kassel and Dessau which is the context of Goebbels's talk with Hitler as reported in the diary, and gives the entirely false impression that the context was provided by 'some anti-Jewish demonstrators' in Munich. This suggestion is nonsensical. No contemporary source, neither Goebbels's diary nor the Nazi Party's Supreme Tribunal, makes any reference to 'anti-Jewish demonstrators' making their presence felt in Munich before Hitler's arrival at the Town Hall. As Irving himself admits in his Pleading, such events did not take place in Munich until much later, on the evening of 9 November 1938.
7. Irving also fails to note that the phrase 'colossal activity' refers to the meeting in the Town Hall (basically it just means there were a lot of people there) and not to the alleged demonstrations in Munich. 'Hold back the police' is absolutely wrong as a translation of Polizei zurückziehen: its proper translation is: 'withdraw the police'. 'Hold back the police' would be 'Polizei zurückhalten'. 'The Jews must be given a taste of the public anger for a change' is also erroneous as a translation of the last sentence in the   German quotation above. Nowhere do the words 'taste' or 'for a change' occur. The cumulative effect of these mistranslations and omissions is to give the impression that Hitler merely ordered the Munich police not to intervene against some unspecified 'anti-Jewish demonstrators in Munich'. But what Hitler really said to Goebbels, as is evident from the Goebbels diary entry, was that police forces should be withdrawn in the case of 'demonstrations' against Jews, so that the Jews would feel the 'people's fury', as expressed in the burning of synagogues and the destruction of property which had occurred in Kassel and Dessau.

Notes

13. For a similar translation to the one provided above see Saul Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Persecution 1933-1939 (London, 1997), p. 272.
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