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Defense Documents

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

Table of Contents
(vii) Further misuse of ... >>

(ii) Unreliable evidence: the testimony of Hans Voigt.

1. Irving's falsification of these statistics is based on the use of an insignificant and unreliable piece of evidence to dismiss or ignore more substantial evidence that does not support his thesis. Through all the years it has been the evidence of only one source that has allowed Irving to argue that 135,000 people died in Dresden. Irving's faith in Hans Voigt is enduring.
2. Four days after the attack a missing persons search bureau was set up in the Saxon Ministry of the Interior. At the same time in each of the seven Dresden districts a register of missing persons was established. In one of these districts a central bureau of missing persons was set up to collate information from the six others. Hans Voigt, at the time an assistant school master, was put in charge of establishing a dead persons department for the bureau to collect the records and personal effects of those people already dead, and of those still buried in the ruins. Irving said that it was this department which was 'responsible for the identification of the victims and for arriving at some final estimate of the death-roll.'53
 
3. Voigt's office had four different filing systems for different data. The first were garment cards, onto which samples of garments taken from unidentified bodies were pasted, together with date, location and so on. Voigt told Irving that up to the time of the capitulation 'we had almost twelve thousand of these cards completed.' The second list was of miscellaneous personal belongings of the unidentified. The third was an alphabetical list of bodies identified by personal papers. The fourth was a list of wedding rings recovered from bodies. According to Irving in 1966, this had been done with bolt croppers. In 1995 he only claimed that they were cut off. Voigt told Irving that between ten and twenty thousand of these had been collected by the time the Russians entered Dresden. With these four indexes the dead persons department was 'able to clear up the identity of some 40,000 of the dead.' Thus Irving arrives at his 'absolute minimum' death roll of 40,000.54 This in turn would tally with the figure of 39,773 given by Georg Feydt.
4. However, Irving did not accept 40,000 as the actual figure because Voigt had told Irving that he himself 'estimated that the final number would have been 135,000'.55 In 1995 Voigt remained Irving's favourite source for a higher death roll. According to Voigt the Russians closed down his offices and quite '"simply struck off the first digit"' to arrive at their own official figure of 35,000.56 Irving repeated this story to a reporter in 1963 as his own opinion, but with an elaboration: '"The Germans simply struck off the first digit to make the figure more acceptable to the Russians, who contended that Bomber Command was not a powerful   weapon."'57 This does not seem to be a particularly strong motive for such a blatant act of falsification. Strangely Voigt wrote to Irving as early as September 1962, asking Irving to correct the passage: 'It was probably not the Soviet officials who struck off the first figure, rather Dresden officials (especially the then mayor and later Lord Mayor Weidauer) reduced the figure out of fear of the "Big Four," so as not to speak ill of them.'58
5. Voigt had first contacted Irving in February 1961 in response to an announcement concerning Irving's research in the Dresdener Monatsblätter 59. Voigt provided Irving with a long report of his experiences of the raids on Dresden. The crucial passage in his report read:
The number of dead people registered as "known" or "unknown" is, as long as I was working on it, as far as I remember at about eighty to ninety thousand. I think that with 135,000 approximately one would be near the correct figure for the death roll of these raids.60

This opinion formed the basis of Irving's figure in the first editions of his book, and was the number he sought safety in again after having been forced to retreat from an even higher estimate.
6. It cannot be too heavily emphasised that this is all based on the spoken testimony of one man. No amount of bureaucratic detail about his former post can hide the fact that his statement is not backed up by a single piece of documentary evidence, wartime or otherwise, and cannot be authenticated. In other words, there is no corroborative evidence of any kind about the missing   digit. Moreover Voigt was apparently not a popular man with the cold-war Dresden authorities. Weidauer decries him a 'virulent fascist', who had been rightfully thrown out of East Germany. Voigt, then living in West Germany, may therefore have had a political motive in accusing the Soviet and East-German authorities of falsifying the statistics. Weidauer added that far from being destroyed, the death register which Voigt claimed showed 80,000 to 90,000 dead was still extant in the Dresden Town Hall with a highest card number of 31,102 for an unidentified body. In addition the so-called street books, which were compiled based on the streets and houses where the dead were found, were likewise extant. The numbers in the street books exactly matched those on the registration cards.61

Notes

53. Corgi 1966, pp. 200-1; Focal Point, pp. 208-9.
54. Corgi 1966, pp. 212-13; Focal Point, pp. 223-4.
55. Corgi, 1966, p. 225.
56. Focal Point, p. 242.
57. Doc. 142, newspaper clipping from the Daily Sketch, 29 April 1963.
58. DJ 10, Voigt to Irving, 6 September 1962, enclosing comments on Irving's draft.
59. DJ 10, Voigt to Irving, 28 February 1961; Irving to Voigt, 7 March 1961.
60. DJ 10, SG 22, Report of Hans Voigt, Survivor of Dresden Raids, dated 5 June 1961.
61. Walter Weidauer, Inferno Dresden, Über Lügen und Legenden um die Aktion 'Donnerschlag' (East Berlin, 1965), 2nd. ed. 1966, p. 120. Bergander cited Weidauer, p. 268, but perhaps due to a misprint the figure is put at 3,102.
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