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

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(x) Misrepresentation of source material: the evidence of Hitler's secretary

1. Christa Schroeder [d. 1984] was Hitler's personal secretary from 1933 to 1945. Irving interviewed her a number of times and remained in contact with her until her death. This contact is an obvious source of pride for Irving who has superfluously presented the court with a number of letters and postcards from his correspondence with and about her, without any ostensible relevance to the case.205 Schroeder provided Irving with a part of her wartime correspondence with a friend, some of it in an adapted form.206 In her posthumous memoirs Schroeder wrote of how she regretted the decision:
In the 1950s my friend Johanna Nusser returned my letters written to her from the Berghof and the Führerhauptquartier. The following extracts come from them. I once rashly put a part of them at David Irving's disposal. I passed on (parroted) the judgements expressed therein from Hitler's conversations, for instance about the Russian mentality. Today I am horrified about these views thoughtlessly taken from Hitler.207
2. Irving has made none of these original letters available to the court.
Schroeder's evidence would seem to be clear at first glance.  
In all the conversations that we attended Hitler always stressed that everything he did resulted from the wish to give the German people a better future. He never spoke of matters which had to do with concentration camps or persecution of the Jews. He acted towards us as if such things did not exist. When from time to time he mentioned the fact that the war was a necessary thing, that millions of human lives were destroyed, that afterwards life would resume its peaceful path, so his face took on a cold, decisive expression. The cruelty one sensed in this way of talking was mitigated to a certain extent by the sympathy he showed when one told him of the misfortunes of an individual.208
3. But Schroeder had given another account of herself as early as 1949, albeit written up by Albert Zoller, a French interrogation officer she met during her internment.209 Irving rejected this first account as 'spurious' and listed it amongst those documents which sought to 'pillory' Hitler: 'The anonymous "memoirs" of the late Christa Schroeder [...] were penned by Albert Zoller, a French army liaison officer to the US Seventh Army.'210
4. This dismissal is misplaced and wilful. Once again Irving's source criticism rests solely on his desire to ride roughshod over sources which contradict his thesis. Schroeder herself was certainly unhappy at Zoller's financial double-dealing, but this is not ground enough to dismiss the accuracy of the contents of Schroeder's first account. The historian Gerhard L. Weinberg called   for a critical source investigation of the Zoller book in 1961. Happily, Schroeder's 1985 memoirs were given an exemplary critical apparatus by her editor Anton Joachimstahler.211 He wrote:
Frau Schroeder said that the Zoller book was also based on the interrogations of Heinrich Hoffmann [Hitler's photographer] and Julius Schaub in the camp in Augsburg (CIC Centre of the 7th. US Army). In a copy [of the book] she had crossed out all the passages which were not by her. When one flicks through the book one can approximately say that of 238 pages about 160 to 170 originate from Frau Schroeder. However, according to her comments, there are also individual passages changed by Zoller, i.e. reproduced with other words or significance. Frau Schroeder did not doubt the truth of the statements in the least, only that they were polemically distorted in some details and not represented quite exactly. At this point it is also to be established that Zoller's interviews were undertaken shortly after the internment of the persons in question and that the truth of these statements under the pressure of events at the time is to be given more weight than those which were made later. Seen thus the Zoller book represents a contemporary source that is to be taken seriously, as for example Gerhard L. Weinberg has explained.212
5. What did Schroeder (or Schaub or Hoffmann respectively) tell Zoller during internment?
With regard to Hitler and the murder of the European Jews the book was unequivocal.  
I can categorically affirm that Himmler meticulously informed Hitler about the events in the concentration camps. He regarded all the atrocities as measures necessary to maintain his regime. But here as in all other areas he was very concerned about his good reputation. He thought it unbearable that his name be brought into connection with the actions in the camps that flew in the face of all humanity. For this reason he played his most hypocritical role exactly here and abused the good faith of his numberless adherents. / It is characteristic that he always held all his discussions with Himmler in private and behind carefully locked doors. Only Bormann was occasionally admitted.
If in the conferences the talk came to the rumours of the mass murders and torturing in the concentration camps then Hitler would not answer or brusquely broke off the conversation. Only very rarely did Hitler deign to answer, and then only too deviously. He would have never have admitted, in front of witnesses, the inhuman severity of laws issued by him. / One day Himmler was confronted by a few generals about the atrocities committed in Poland. To my surprise Himmler defended himself with the assurance that he was only carrying out the 'Führer's' orders. But he immediately added: 'The Führer's person may on no account be brought into connection with this. I take on full responsibility.'213
6. Schroeder, perhaps more likely Schaub in this case, was equally detailed in describing Hitler's attempts to force other foreign dignitaries to follow Germany's example in their policies against the Jews.  
Hitler systematically tried to drum his hatred of those opposed to him into those close to him. In the process he did not even spare the leading men of the allied states. I was impressed time and time again by the sharp words with which he repudiated the attempts of Mussolini or Horthy to bring him to a more conciliatory stance in the Jewish Question. At this moment Hitler would dispense with every diplomatic form and allow himself to paint the Jewish danger in the shrillest colours to his partners. He always closed his long explanations with the demand to 'eliminate' the Jews. He never used a stronger expression, but always spoke the word 'eliminate' with such a vehement malice that no one could be in doubt as to his true meaning.
Hitler was always visibly satisfied when he could tell us that foreign visitors had given him information about hard anti-Jewish measures in their own land. Antonescu clearly went up in his estimation on the day he informed him of the 'disappearance' of the Jews from Bessarabia. In comparison it was incomprehensible to him how Horthy attempted to explain to him with warm-hearted arguments "that in the end one could not simply throw the Jews onto the street or kill them".
Even during diplomatic negotiations Hitler allowed himself unbridled comments against his political opponents. He never missed the opportunity to demand that his visitors to finish off their political opponents in the same way as he used in the concentration camps.214
 
7. Gitta Sereny spoke to Christa Schroeder in 1977 whilst researching into Irving's Hitler's War. Schroeder told Sereny ' " [...] Of course Hitler knew! Not only knew, it was all his ideas, his orders " ' and added:
I clearly remember a day in 1941, I think it was in early spring ... I don't think I will ever forget Himmler's face when he came out after one of his long, 'under four eyes' conferences with Hitler. He sat down heavily in the chair on the other side of my desk and buried his face in his hands, his elbows on the desk. 'My God, my God,' he said, 'what am I expected to do.' Later, much later ... when we found out what had been done, I was sure that that was the day Hitler told him that the Jews had to be killed.215
8. Even Irving himself described a talk with Schroeder about the murder of Ernst Röhm and scores of others on Hitler's personal orders in 1934 in the so-called 'Night of the Long Knives' in which she said (in Irving's own words) '"You know, he [Hitler] could be quite cruel. I don't think that you're right about Hitler's Jewish problem. He could be very cruel."'216 Thus Irving's key witness was explicit in her belief that Hitler not only knew of, but ordered the 'Final Solution'

Notes

205. Documents 450, 451, 681, 802, 982, 1904, and 1011.
206. Er war mein Chef, p. 188.
207. 'Meine Freundin Johanna Nusser gab mir in den 50er Jahren meine aus Berlin, dem Berghof und den Führerhauptquartieren an sie gerichteten Briefe zurück. Aus diesen stammen die nachfolgenden Auszüge. Einen Teil davon hatte ich einmal leichtsinnigerweise David Irving zur Verfügung gestellt. Die darin ausgesprochenen Urteile über die Mentalität der Russen u. a. hatte ich aus Hitlers Gesprächen aufgegriffen und weitergegeben (nachgeplappert). Heute bin ich über diese bedenkenlos von Hitler übernommenen Ansichten entsetzt.' (Er war mein Chef, p. 93).
208. 'In allen Gesprächen, bei denen wir anwesend waren, betonte Hitler stets, daß alles, was er tat, nur aus dem Wunsch heraus geschehe, dem deutschen Volk eine bessere Zukunft zu bereiten. Nie sprach er über Angelegenheiten, die mit Konzentrationslagern oder Judenverfolgung zusammenhingen. Er tat uns gegenüber so, als ob derartige Dinge gar nicht existierten. Wenn er bisweilen die Tatsache erwähnte, daß der Krieg eine notwendige Sache sei, daß bei Naturkatastrophen Millionen von Menschenleben vernichtet würden, daß aber hinterher das Leben ruhig sienen Gang weiterginge, so nahm sein Gesicht einen kalten, entschlossenen Ausdruck an. Die Grausamkeit, die man aus dieser Art zu sprechen herausfühlte, wurde indes gewissermaßen durch die echte Anteilnahme gemildert, die er zeigte, wenn man ihm vom Unglück eines enzelnen berichtete.' (Er war mein Chef, p. 272).
209. Albert Zoller, Hitler Privat. Erlebnisbericht seiner Geheimsekretärin (Düsseldorf, 1949).
210. David Irving, Hitler's War (1991), p. 5.
211. Gerhard L. Weinberg (ed.), Hitlers zweites Buch. Ein Dokument aus dem Jahr 1928 (Stuttgart, 1961), p. 19.
212. 'Frau Schroeder erzählte, das dem Zoller-Buch auch die Vernehmungen von Heinrich Hoffmann und Julius Schaub im Lager Augsburg (CIC-Center der 7. US-Armee) zugrunde liegen. In einem Exemplar hatte sie die Stellen durchstrichen, die nicht von ihr sein sollten. Wenn man das Buch durchblättert, so kann man überschlägig sagen, daß von 238 Seiten rd. 160-170 Seiten von Frau Schroeder stammen sollen. Allerdings sind nach ihren Einmerkungen dabei auch einzelne Passagen, die von Zoller abgeändert, d.h. mit anderen Worten und Bedeutungen wiedergegeben worden sind. Über den Wahrheitsgehalt der Aussagen zweifelte Frau Schroeder in keiner Weise, nur sollen sie auch in manchen Details polemisch entstellt und nicht ganz exakt wiedergeben sein. Hier ist auch festzustellen, daß die Einvernehmen Zollers kurz nach der Gefangennahme der entsprechenden Personen gemacht wurden und der Wahrheitsgehalt dieser Aussagen, unter dem Druck der damaligen Ereignisse, höher zu bewerten ist, als derjenigen, die später gemacht wurden. So gesehen stellt das Zoller-Buch eine ernstzunehmende zeitgeschichtliche Quelle dar, was z. B. Gerhard L. Weinberg ausführte ('Hitlers zweites Buch').' (Er war mein Chef, p. 281, fn. 3).
213. 'Ich kann mit Bestimmtheit versichern, daß Hitler von Himmler über die Vorgänge in den KZ-Lagern genaustens unterrichtet war. Er sah alle die Scheußlichkeiten als für die Erhaltung seines Regimes notwendige Maßnahmen an. Aber auch hier wie auf allen anderen Gebieten war er sehr auf seinen guten Ruf bedacht. Er hielt es für untragbar, daß sein Name mit den in den Lagern verübteen, aller Menschlichkeit hohnsprechenden Handlungen in Verbindung gebracht wurde. Deshalb spielte er grade hier seine größte Heucherrolle und trieb Schindluder mit dem guten Glauben seiner zahllosen Anhänger./ Es ist bezeichnend, daß er alle seine Besprechungen mit Himmler stets unter vier Augen und hinter sorgfältig verschlossenen Türen abhielt. Nur Bormann wurde hin und wieder zugelassen./ Kam der Lagebesprechungen das Gespräch auf die Gerüchte über Massenmord und Folterungen in den KZ-Lagern, so antwortete Hitler nicht oder brach das Gespräch brüsk ab. Nur selten bequemte er sich zu Antworten, und dann auch nur zu auszuweichenden. Vor Zeugen würde er niemals die Unmenschliche Härte der von ihm erlassenen Gesetze zugeben haben./ Eines Tages wurde Himmler von einigen Generalen wegen der in Polen begangenen Greuel zur Rede gestellt. Zu meiner Überraschung verteidigte er sich mit der Versicherung, daß er nur die Befehle des 'Führers' ausführe. Aber gleich darauf fügte er hinzu: "Die Person des Führers darf aber auf keinen Fall damit in Zusammenhang gebracht werden. Die volle Verantwortung übernehme ich."' (Zoller, pp. 194-5).
214. 'Hitler versuchte systematisch, seinen Haß gegen die ihm feindlichen Personen auch allen ihm Nahestehenden einzuimpfen. Er verschonte damit nicht einmal die führenden Männer der verbündeten Staaten. Ich war immer wieder beeindruckt, mit welch scharfen Worten er die Versuche Mussolinis oder Horthys zurückwies, ihn zu einer versöhnlicheren Haltung in der Judenfrage zu bewegen. In diesen Augenblicken stand Hitler von jeglicher diplomatischer Form ab und ließ sich dazu hinreißen, seinen Partnern die Judengefahr in den grellsten Farben zu schildern. Er schloß seine langen Ausführungen immer mit der Aufforderung, die Juden zu "beseitigen" stets mich solch leidenschaftlicher Bosheit aus, daß niemand über seine wahre Bedeutung im Zweifel stehen konnte./ Hitler war immer sichtlich befriedigt, wenn er uns erzählen konnte, daß ausländische Besucher ihm Mitteilungen über scharfe antijüdische Maßnahmen in ihren Ländern gemacht hatten. Antonescu stieg deutlich in seine Achtung an dem Tage, an dem er ihm das "Verschwinden" der Juden aus Bessarabien meldete. Dagegen war es ihm völlig unverständlich, wie Horthy ihm mit warmherzigen Begründung klarzumachen versuchte "daß man ja schließlich die Juden nicht einfach auf die Straße werfen oder umbringen könne"./ Selbst bei diplomatischen Verhandlungen ließ sich Hitler zu zügellosen Bemerkungen gegen seine politischen Gegner hinreißen. Er versäumte es nie, seine Besucher auszufordern, sich ihrer politischen Gegner auf dieselbe Art zun erledigen, wie er sie in den KZ-Lagern anwandete.' (Zoller, pp. 201-2).
215. Sereny, p. 248-9.
216. Explaining Hitler, p. 230.
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