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Defense Documents

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

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(D) Unreliable testimony: the Red Cross, Walter Kleiner, and Karl Mehnert.

1. What else did Irving have to follow up? Funfack, who in the meantime had fallen foul of the East German authorities as a result of being named in right-wing and nationalist West-German newspapers as the source for a figure of over 200,000 dead at Dresden, continued to be as helpful as possible to Irving. This despite Irving's unscrupulous use of Funfack's name without his permission, let alone his knowledge. Funfack refused to comment on the death-roll contained in TB 47 or to send Irving a copy, but he did offer to show him his copy if Irving were to obtain permission from the East-German authorities. He also suggested a number of people Irving might find it useful to contact:
Therefore I can give no firm [verbindlichliche] information about the figure of the dead but only repeat what was reported to me. The city commander Herr General Mehnert spoke on about 22 February 1945 of 140,000, Herr Professor Fetscher of the civilian air defence of 180,000. Nevertheless I have never seen written documentation to this effect. I set great store by these facts to tell the truth. The International Red Cross delegation headed by a Swiss man should actually know best. All the figures were put at their disposal when they as commissioners enquired about prisoners of war. Unfortunately I do not know their names, but was briefly with them at a meeting.122
 
2. Irving duly wrote to the Red Cross asking if they could confirm that a Red Cross official was shown the official casualty figures at the time, and if so could they send him the report it might be contained in.123
3. The Red Cross replied: 'It is correct to say that one of our delegates, Mr. Walter Kleiner, was in the Dresden area during the period you mention, for the purpose of carrying out his duties of visiting camps. We have in fact in our possession the reports he made at the time on prisoner-of-war camps. We have, however, no information concerning the victims of the Dresden air raids.'124 In a second reply to a second letter, presumably inquiring into the exact contents of Kleiner's report, the Red Cross replied, 'There were no PoW camps in Dresden itself, consequently Mr. Kleiner's reports did not even allude to the air raids on the town. Moreover, the ICRC's rule is only to hand its delegates' reports to the Detaining Power and to the prisoners' Power of origin.'125 The Red Cross appended Kleiner's address of 1945, but Irving's letter to Kleiner was returned to him 'not known.'126
4. In his second letter, responding to the detailed questions which Irving should have put to Funfack four months earlier, before going to press, Funfack reiterated: 'I was only more or less a witness to the attack and one of those badly effected and have had no official function, as for   example counting the dead, whatsoever.' He also informed Irving that unfortunately both Karl Mehnert and Professor Fetscher were dead.127
5. Never a man to be deterred by a lack of corroborating evidence, Irving then proceeded to distort Funfack's suggestions in order to give more credence to TB 47. In the published version, Irving wrote that Mr Walter Kleiner, the Swiss leader of an International Red Cross delegation, toured Allied PoW camps in the Dresden area on 22 February 1945 and 'was in the presence of witnesses informed by the Dresden city commandant, General Karl Mehnert, that the current death-roll was 140,000'.128 The source reads that 'information on Kleiner's visit to Dresden was supplied by the International Red Cross Committee in Geneva; the figures given him were provided to the author by a third party, a Dresden private citizen.' Both sources were in a strict sense correct. The Red Cross had informed Irving that they had had a representative in the area and the private citizen was of course Funfack, whom Irving was no longer at liberty to name since Funfack had distanced himself from TB 47. But the account had become subtly altered. Funfack had indeed written to Irving that General Mehnert had spoken of a figure of '140,000,' but stressed that he [Funfack] had he 'had never seen written documents about it.' Moreover Funfack did not mention Mehnert and the Swiss Red Cross official in the same context; rather he had named himself as the person who had heard Mehnert's figure.129 There is no evidence, in other words, not even of an indirect nature, that a figure of 140,000 was supplied to the Red Cross This small slip gives the story a glimmer of authenticity to the unsuspecting reader by associating the figure with the Red Cross, whereas in fact no such association existed.
 
6. Moreover, in the 1966 edition of his book, Irving added that General Mehnert, the Dresden City commander who had accompanied Kleiner's visit, 'was " amazed" at the figure of 35,000 published in the central German press by the authorities.' Irving gave no source for Mehnert's alleged amazement.130 In fact again Mehnert's amazement was likewise reported second-hand in one of Funfack's letters. He had written that in the years following the war: 'We [Funfack and Mehnert] were both astonished at the low figure of 35,000 which took root here in the press.'131
7. Even on the most basic level Irving cannot disguise the fact that this is not an eyewitness account. It is a story told him at third hand by Funfack, a man who had himself denied being in a position to relay any reliable evidence on the numbers killed, other than his own opinion or repeating gossip and rumour. This is hardly evidence enough to confirm the deaths of a staggering 250,000 people.
8. In 1995, Irving cryptically wrote that: 'It is also known that on February 22 a representative of the International Red Cross had visited Dresden to inquire after the fate of the prisoners of war; his report to Geneva may well have contained other information than about the number of prisoners amongst the casualties.'132 But the Red Cross had expressly told Irving that Kleiner's report 'did not even allude to the air raids on the town' and Irving's own letter to Kleiner stated that 'they [the Red Cross] have informed me that you made no reference to the   air raid in your reports, as of course there was no reason why you should.'133 So Irving's suggestion about his report was demonstrably invention.
[ not part of quoteAll that was left to Irving in 1995 was a last passing jibe at Funfack:]

Grosse's figures were allegedly provided by Dr med. Max Funfack, described as the deputy surgeon-general of Dresden. Funfack, still living in the Soviet zone, protested at having his name dragged into the newspaper columns of West Germany as a witness for the death-roll figures. He claimed to have learned such figures at third hand only, and never to have been surgeon-general.... He will have had good reason in the Soviet zone to express himself thusly. He did not however take the opportunity to repudiate the figures.134
9. This is pure sophistry. Funfack had quite clearly stated he was in no position to comment on the figures. There is no reason to doubt that he was telling the truth, and no evidence that it was because he was under pressure from the East-German authorities that he denied having provided the figure of 250,000. On the contrary, Funfack was surprisingly frank in expressing his personal doubts about the official East German figure of 35,000, even after he had fallen foul of the authorities thanks to the unsolicited exposure Irving had given him in the media.135

Notes

122. DJ 35, Max Funfack to Irving, 19 January 1965, partially reproduced as a plate in Weidauer, pp. 126-7.
123. Doc. 160, Irving to Croix-Rouge, Comite International, Geneva, 27.1.65.
124. DJ 35, P. Vibert (International Committee of the Red Cross) to Irving, 4 February 1965; P. Vibert (International Committee of the Red Cross) to Irving, 17 February 1965.
125. DJ 35, P. Vibert (International Committee of the Red Cross) to Irving, 17 February 1965.
126. DJ 35, Irving to Walter Kleiner, 20 February 1965.
127. DJ 35, Max Funfack to Irving, 19 March 1965.
128. Corgi 1966, p. 225.
129. DJ 25, Max Funfack to Irving, 19 January 1965.
130. Corgi edn., 1966, p. 280.
131. DJ 35, Max Funfack to Irving, 19 March 1965.
132. Focal Point edn., p. 266.
133. DJ 35, P. Vibert (International Committee of the Red Cross) to Irving, 17 February 1965; Irving to Walter Kleiner, 20 February 1965.
134. Focal Point edn., p. 298, fn. 29. This would tie in with Irving's claim that it was Dr. Funfack who first related the figures to him, and only later did he come to the source itself. See doc. 155, Irving to Dr. Dieter Struss, 28 November 1964.
135. DJ 35, Max Funfack to Irving, 19 March 1965.
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