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

Table of Contents
(xv) Additional evidence... >>

(i) Double standards dealing with a source containing material counter to Irving's arguments : the "diaries" of Gerhard Engel.

1. Amongst the private diaries Irving collected in the course of his research was the diary of Gerhard Michael Engel [1906-1976], army adjutant to Hitler from 1936 to 1943. Irving's research itineraries for December 1970 and February to March 1971 showed his intention to interview Engel. The entry under March reads: '[...] and read his diaries'.118 His research itinerary for April to May 1971 showed an intention to allot two-and-a-half days out of a total of 5 days in Germany to a visit to Engel's offices in Düsseldorf.119 In January 1972 he described it as 'a really excellent diary' to prospective publishers Collins.120
2. By the time the diaries were published by the Munich Institute for Contemporary History in 1974, Irving claimed they had long troubled him.121 He wrote to his research assistant Elke Fröhlich in February 1974 that in late 1972 he had begun to have his doubts, having been warned by Major i. G. Kehrig of the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt of their   'problematic nature'.122 In 1979 he lambasted the Munich Institute for Contemporary History, 'a body which distinguished itself by publishing in 1974 the diary of Gerhard Engel [...] although knowing it to have been faked post-war, as [Professor Martin] Broszat has now conceded to me in a recent letter'.123 In 1979 he wrote to the German weekly Die Zeit defending his dismissal of the diaries, claiming that while the Institute had proven the diaries to be post-war with a chemical analysis as late as 1974, he himself had recognised this as early as the late 1960s, because of 'discrepancies in the contents' (a claim contradicted by his letter to Collins of 28 January 1972 and his letter to Fröhlich of 15 February 1974).124 In 1991 he included the Engel diary amongst those works which sought to 'pillory' Hitler after the war.125 He also wrote in the 1991 edition of Hitler's War that the diaries had unfortunately 'been published' althrough they were written years after the war.
3. Irving's main doubt about the Engel diary is in the dating. He criticised Johannes Fischer's study of the Stalingrad airlift decision in the journal Militärgeschichtliche Mitteilungen because it 'relies too heavily on the since-discredited "Engel diary" for its dates.'126 Nevertheless Irving quoted the Engel diary no less than eight times in the 1977 edition of Hitler's War.127 He also used the very same diary to place Hitler in Berlin on 11 November 1938 during the   Night of Broken Glass [Kristallnacht].128 This would seem to suggest either that he was lying in his letter to Die Zeit claiming he had recognised the diaries as forgeries several years earlier, or that he knew the diaries were fakes but used them all the same in 1977 when it suited him.
4. What are we to make of these contradictory evaluations? It is certainly true that the Engel Diaries are problematic. First and foremost because they are not diaries, but post-war comments and insights hung on to the framework of contemporary notes and diary-like sketches. 'As Engel's editor explained. Engel kept his diary from Spring 1938 to Autumn 1943. After the war, Engel was often asked to explain various political and military decisions by Hitler, to put particular events into context, and to add detail to the military directions of World War II. Engel developed the habit of writing his answers down parallel to the chronology given in his prewar notes. By the time he deposited his papers in the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, the original notes were no longer extant.' But this was not mischievously hidden from the reader, as Irving implies.129 Engel's editor introduced the diary as 'a mixture of contemporary substance and memoir' and urged caution on the historian in relying on Engel's dating., as it was no longer possible for either editor or author to distinguish the two source elements from one another: "In some cases the contemporary case will be stronger, in others the product of memory will dominate." 130 Other historians have also expressed their caution when using the Engel diaries.131 This does not mean that they are in any way 'forgeries'. Regardless of whether they were presented to the Munich Institute for Contemporary History as original diaries or not, they still represent the memories, albeit hung on a diary form, of an insightful observer, who for seven years was privy to Hitler's ruminations and decision-making. It is therefore a source that enjoys equal ranking with any of Irving's other post-war testimonies and certainly should be weighed against them.
5. One example should suffice to illustrate the quality of Engel's observations on Hitler's role in the Final Solution' On 2 October 1941 Engel placed Hitler at the Wolfsschanze in the presence of Chief of the OKW Jodl, Himmler, Heydrich, adjutant Rudolf Schmundt, and later General Walter Warlimont.
Himmler reports about the evacuation of foreigners (Jews), comes to the situation in the Baltic and Ruthenien, mainly Riga, Reval and Minsk. Raises a question about the Jewish population in Salonika saying that Salonika was a city with one of the largest Jewish communities; danger of an entwinement of Jews and Levantines. F.[ührer] agrees with him and demands that the Jewish elements be removed from S.[alonika] To this end Himmler demands authority and receives it. SD commandos will be deployed with reinforcement. Keitel asks if military command should be engaged. F.[ührer] answers only if urgently need be. But asks Keitel to inform military command that Reichsführer SS [Himmler] had   received authority that was not to be interfered with. Sch.[mundt] and I happy that armed forces and troops will not become involved.137
6 Salonika was one of the leading centres of European Jewry, known proudly to its Jewish inhabitants as the 'Mother of Israel'. After Greece was divided up between the Axis powers the fate of the Jews in the Italian and German-controlled areas diverged sharply. The Italians successfully resisted all German pressures to introduce antisemitic measures and the Germans were forced to go ahead with preparations for the 'Final Solution' in the areas they controlled, first and foremost in Salonika.138
7. The first public action against the Jews en masse took place in July 1942 when the army commander of northern Greece, General von Krenzski, mobilised the city's Jewish population for forced civilian labour. The great Jewish cemetery of Salonika was demolished in December. Adolf Eichmann appointed his 'Jewish expert' Dieter Wisliceny to direct the planned deportations. In early February 1943 Wisliceny and his colleague Alois Brunner arrived in Salonika. With the help of the military administration ghettos were created pending the deportations which began in March with the arrival of a police unit from Belgrade.139 The   majority of Salonika's Jews were deported between 15 March and early June, although the last transport left in early August. Almost all of the transports were destined for Auschwitz. Of the 48,974 Jews who arrived there from northern Greece as a whole, 37,386 were immediately gassed.140
8. According to Himmler's recently published appointments diary, Himmler was on a tour in the occupied Eastern territories and at Kiev on 2 October 1941, so he could not have been in Hitler's headquarters as Engel claimed.7 However, while the published version of Engel's 'diaries' gives 2 October, the date in the original transcript is 2 November. On 2 November 1941, Himmler was indeed present at Hitler's headquarters, as corroborated by two separate sources.8 This turns the possibly problematix nature of Engel's entry into a crucial source for Hitler's knowledge of the fate of the Jews in the East. It also renders Engel more credible and reliable as a witness. We must recall at this point that in the long extract above, now dated to 2 November 1941, Engel recorded that Himmler waws reporting to Hitler personally about the 'evacuation' of Jews to Riga and Minsk, and that these two towns were the scenes of mass killings of Jews deported from the German Reich at precisely this time. It strains credulity to imagine that Hitler remained ignorant of what was happening to German Jews in Riga and Minsk when Himmler reported to him on 2 November as reported by Engel.
9. The dating in the 'diaries' has thus certainly become confused, but with a little patience it is possible to dientangle it. Engel made two visits to the Institute for Contemporary History: one in 1959 and another in 1960. On both occasions he read extracts of his 'diary' to staff at the institute, from the recordings of which transcripts were drawn up. These presumably formed the basis of the published edition. In 1959 he read out the entries up to and including 26 August 1942, and in 1960 further entries 'including' those entries from 'the entire second volume' from 30 August 1942. It was left to the staff of the Institute to reconstruct the chronology, as Engel on his second visit returned to earlier entries missed out on his first visit.9
10. The Engel files in the Institute include Engel's 'original' shorthand notes of his manuscript memoir/diary (hence Engel's role in reading out his notes to staff): one set of copies from microfilmed originals, one set of copies from paper originals, and the Institute's typed transcripts of Engel's two visits, corrected by hand.
12. Irving chose to ignore what Engel related to him when Irving interviewed him on 5 April 1971. According to Irving's own notes of the interview with Engel, when asked about Hitler's
association [sic.] with the Judenausrottung [extermination of the Jews] he confirmed broadly Karl Wolff's statements, and added that the 'Führerbefehl' frequently resulted from remarks F[ührer] made at his late discussions, wo 'Hitler dozierte Stundenlang' [where 'Hitler lectured for hours'] (he referred to the Hewel Tagebuch [diary] as proof.) He never summarised the conclusions of these discussions. Each was left to pick his own meat from the talk - Himmler in his way, quiet, but efficient (that was how the 3/4 million strong Waffen SS had been born) and Bormann more crudely, issuing edicts on Party notepaper, beginning, 'Der Führer had befohlen...' [The Führer had ordered...'], etc.10 .26
In other words, Engel, precisely in the context of being asked by Irving about Hitler and the 'Final Solution', offered a lucid explanation of the mechanics of how Hitler's orders were formulated, an account collaborated by others on Hitler's staff, as we shall see later in this Report. Rather than confront the account and all that implied for his arguments about Hitler, Irving chose to ignore it.
13. In conclusion, it is clear that Engel's diaries have demonstrable weaknesses; but they also have demonstrable strengths. These can be identified only in a cas-by-case critique of the individual entries, in each case carefully comparing the shorthand originals, the typed transcripts, and the final published version and checking them against other relevant sources. Irving had free access to the original shorthand diaries. He was in a position to confirm those entries if he had care to do so. Instead, he chose to dismiss the whole source out of hand, rather than doing the hard work of detailed comparison; and he clearly chose to do this because it contradicted his a priori thesis about Hitler's role in the 'Final Solution'. As illustrated by the above discussion, the Engel diary is in fact a significant historical source on Hitler and the extermination of the Jews. No serious historian can sweepingly dismiss it out of hand in the way Irving has done.


118. Document 267, itinerary for December 1970; document 275.
119. Document 277, itinerary for April-May 1971.
120. Document 328.
121. Hilddegard von Kotze (ed.) Heeresadjutant bei Hitler 1938-1943. Aufzeichnungen des Majors Engel (Stuttgart, 1974).
122. Document 400, Irving to Elke Fröhlich, 15 February 1974.
123. Document 1921, Irving to Douglas Unfug, Central European History, 26 October 1979; Douglas Unfug to Irving, 16 July 1980; proofs of letters to be published.
124. Document 714, Irving to Die Zeit, 6 October 1979; document 328; document 400.
125. Hitler's War (1991), p. 11.
126. Hitler's War, p. 865, fn. to page 455.
127. Ibid., p. 72, fn. p. 833; p. 121, fn. p. 836; p. 128, fn. p. 837; p. 351, fn. p. 854; pp. 433-4, fn. p. 863; p. 444, fn. p. 864; p. 453, fn. p. 865; pp. 483-4, fn. p. 870.
128. Ibid., p. 406, fn. p. 860; p. 416, fn. p. 861; p. 472, fn. p. 868; document 382, pre-draft working notes for manuscript of Hitler's War, ca 1974, on "The consequences of Kristallnaacht": see this report, above, for details.
129. Irving stated that the editor 'rather feebly' drew attention to the diary's shortcomings (Hitler's War (1991), p. 11).
130. Heeresadjutant bei Hitler, p. 13.
131. For instance Magnus Brechtken, "Madagaskar für die Juden" Antisemitische Idee und politische Praxis 1885-1945 (Munich, 1997), p. 276.
137. 'Himmler berichtet über Verlagerung von Fremdrassigen (Juden), kommt auf Lage im Baltikum und Ruthenien zu sprechen, Hauptpunkt Riga, Reval und Minsk. Schneidet Frage der jüdischen Bevölkerung in Saloniki an, behauptet, Saloniki sei eine Stadt mit einer der größten jüdischen Gemeinden; Gefahr wegen Verflechtung zwischen Juden und Levantinern. F. pflichtet ihm bei und verlangt, jüdische Elemente aus S. zu entfernen. Himmler verlangt hierfür Vollmacht und erhält sie. SD-Kommando würde verstärkt eingesetzt. Keitel fragt, ob Militärbefehlshaber eingeschaltet werden soll. F. antwortet: Nur soweit dringend erforderlich. Bittet jedoch Keitel, Mil.Bef. darüber zu unterrichten, daß Reichsführer SS Sondervollmacht erhalten habe, welche nicht zu stören seien. Schm. und ich froh, daß Wehrmacht und Truppe hiervon nicht berührt werden.' (Heeresadjutant bei Hitler, p. 111).
138. Mark Mazower, Inside Hitler's Greece. The Experience of Occupation, 1941-1944 (New Haven/London, 1993), pp. 235-244.
139. 'The evacuation [sic] of the some 56,000 local Jews of Greek nationality began today with the removal of 2,600 people from Saloniki to the General Gouvernment. The prospect is to undertake four transports a week so that the whole action will be finished in approximately six weeks.' (Schreiben des Generalkonsulats Saloniki an das Auswärtige Amt, 15.3.1943, in Longerich, pp. 295-6).
140. Mazower, p. 244.
7. Peter Witte et al (eds.), Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42 (Hamburg, 1999), p. 224.
8. Peter Witte et al (eds.), Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42 (Hamburg, 1999), p. 224.
9. IfZ, ED 53, 2401/59, notes by Dr. H. Heiber, 16 June 1959 and 17 March 1960.
10. IfZ. 25 222, 4770/72, 'Notes on Interview of Genlt a D Gerhard ENGEL, at his home(?)...from 2 to 4.50 pm, 5 April 1971.' Underlining in original
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accessed 11 March 2013