Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Judgment: Electronic Edition, by Charles Gray

Table of Contents

The Defendants' case

5.40The principal account of Kristallnacht by Irving is to be found at pp273-7 of his biography Goebbels but other references are to be found at pp196, 281 and 612-4. There are also accounts of the events of Kristallnacht in Hitler's War and in other articles published by Irving. All these accounts were subjected to detailed and severe criticism by Evans and by Longerich.
5.41The first and main point on which the Defendants' experts take issue with Irving's account is his claim that the nationwide pogrom was conceived and initiated by Goebbels and that Hitler did not approve or even know about the pogrom until it was well under way and, when informed, was livid and tried to stop it. In order to make this claim, the Defendants allege that Irving has resorted to systematic distortion and suppression of data.
5.42According to Goebbels's diary
"Big demonstrations against the Jews in Kassell and Dessau, synagogues set on fire and businesses demolished ...I go to the party reception in the Old Town Hall. Colossal activity. I brief the Fuhrer. He orders: let the demonstrations go on. Withdraw the police. The Jews must for once feel the people's fury. That is right".
  This passage is rendered as follows by Mr Irving at pp273-4 of Goebbels:
"..[Goebbels and Hitler].. 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 Fuhrer 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'.
5.43Evans claims that the cumulative effect of the mistranslations and omissions in Irving's account give the false impression that Hitler merely ordered the police not to intervene against some unspecified anti-Jewish demonstrators in Munich, when in truth he had given positive orders that the demonstrations should continue not just in Munich but also elsewhere. These orders had been given by Hitler after he had been briefed by Goebbels about the burning of synagogues and demolition of businesses in Kassell and Magdeburg-Anhalt. Evans alleged that Irving has mistranslated zuruckziehen as meaning 'hold back' when it actually means 'withdraw'. What Hitler had actually wanted was that the police should be removed from the scenes of violence altogether. The reason, according to Goebbels's diary, was that the Jews might feel the people's fury (not, as Irving translates the German, be 'given a taste of the public anger').
5.44Evans criticises as being contrary to the evidence Irving's suggestion that it was not until after Hitler had left the Old Town Hall that Goebbels learned of widespread anti-Jewish violence and decided off his own bat to unleash the pogrom. This suggestion distances Hitler from responsibility for the violence which occurred later that night and the following day. The Defendants contend that, in making that suggestion, Irving ignores or suppresses the evidence that it was Hitler who authorised the continuation of the widespread violence of which he had been informed by Goebbels before he (Hitler) left the Old Town Hall.
5.45Longerich expressed the view that the course of the pogrom clearly demonstrates Hitler's personal initiative. Goebbels's diary entry for 9 November, already quoted, refers to big demonstrations against the Jews in Kassell and Magdeburg, which had in any case been reported in the Nazi press that morning. So the suggestion that Hitler did not know about them   when he left the Old Town Hall is unsustainable, as is the further suggestion that Goebbels first learned of the scale of the violence them after Hitler had departed.
5.46At pp 275 and 281 of Goebbels, Irving refers to "Goebbels's sole personal guilt" and to his "folly" respectively. In the following passages Irving claims that Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich were all opposed to the pogrom. Another person presented by Irving as an opponent of the burning of synagogues and violence towards the Jews is the SA leader Victor Lutze. Irving also claims that SA Gruppenfuhrer Fust (wrongly called Lust by Irving) explicitly ordered that no synagogues were to be burned. These claims buttress the contention advanced by Irving that Goebbels was solely responsible for the orgy of violence which marked Kristallnacht.
5.47Evans dismissed these claims as being the product of a manipulation of the evidence by Irving. According to Evans, the evidence tends to suggest that the SA group leaders generally played an active role in starting the violence. Evans argues that Juttner, who was the source for Irving's claim that Lutze opposed the pogrom, is wholly unreliable: he was himself a senior SA leader and his role in the events of that evening make it very improbable that he disapproved the violence. As for Irving's claim that Fust took action to prevent the burning of synagogues, Evans concluded that it was simply invented by Irving.
5.48On this aspect of Kristallnacht, Evans was also critical of the omission of any reference in Irving's account of the night's events to the report of the internal enquiry subsequently held by the Nazi Party in February 1939. According to that report, Goebbels in his speech at the Old Town Hall told party members that Hitler, having been briefed by him about the burning of Jewish shops and synagogues, had decided that in so far as they occurred spontaneously they were not to be stopped. Evans pointed out that it would have been foolhardy in the extreme for Goebbels to have lied to old party comrades in the context of the party enquiry about what Hitler had said and decided about the anti-Jewish demonstrations.
5.49The Defendants further contend that Irving's account of events during the night of 9/10 November seriously distorts the role played by Hitler. In the first place the Defendants criticise Irving for his omission to refer to a telegram sent from Berlin at 23.55 on 9 November by Muller, head of the Security Police, to officers warning them of the forthcoming outbreak of   anti-Jewish demonstrations and ordering that they were not to be interrupted. The Defendants contend that this is an important document which reflects precisely what Hitler had ordered earlier that evening. They argue that it is obvious that Muller (who was answerable to Heydrich, who in turn was answerable through Himmler to Hitler) was acting on instructions from the highest level. Yet no mention of Muller's telegram is made in the text of Irving's writing about Kristallnacht.
5.50Evans canvassed the question whether Hitler was consulted before the telegram from Muller was dispatched. He pointed to evidence, consisting in the testimony at Nuremberg of one SS officer (Schallermeier) and the witness statement of another (Wolff) and confirmed by a contemporaneous report to the Foreign Office, which suggests that it is very likely that Hitler and Himmler met before Muller sent the telegram. Himmler and Hitler were seen together in conversation earlier that evening before the dinner at the Old Town Hall. If Hitler and Himmler did meet, argued Evans, it is inconceivable that Muller's telegram would have been sent out in those terms without Hitler's approval. According to Evans, it is therefore to be inferred that, far from ordering that action against Jews be halted, Hitler in truth ordered it to continue. The evidence relied on by Evans in support of this inference is ignored or dismissed by Irving, unwarrantably so in the opinion of Evans.
5.51Criticism of Irving was made by the Defendants for his omission to make reference to an instruction issued by the leader of SA group Nordsee, Bohmcker, which alluded to the wish of Hitler that the police should not interfere with the anti-Jewish demonstrations. The reason why Irving omits this message, suggested the Defendants, is that it runs counter to his thesis that Hitler was throughout concerned to protect the Jews.
5.52At pp276-7 of Goebbels Irving writes that, when Hitler learned of the pogrom at about 1am on 10m November, he was "livid with rage" and snapped to Goebbels by telephone to find out what was going on. Hitler is said to have made a "terrible scene with Goebbels" who did not anticipate Hitler's "fury". Hitler's alleged reaction supports the thesis advanced by Irving that Hitler did not instigate the violence of that night.
5.53In this portrayal of Hitler's reaction, Evans accused Mr Irving of further invention, manipulation and suppression. Irving's account of the events of the night of 9/10 November, including in particular his account of Hitler's   reaction when apprised of the violence, depends heavily on the interviews which he conducted long after the war with Hitler's adjutants, that is, officers closely attached to Hitler. Evans claimed that Irving adopted a deplorably uncritical attitude towards the adjutants' version of events. Not only were they trying to call to mind events which took place long ago, they were also highly likely to slant their accounts in favour of Hitler. Another reason for scepticism about their accounts is their wish to exculpate themselves. Moreover, argued Evans, it is essential for an objective historian to weigh the testimony of such witnesses against the totality of the available evidence in order to test its reliability. The contemporaneous documents created during the night of violence are likely to prove a far more reliable guide than the self-serving and untested accounts of Hitler's staff. Irving, he contended, failed lamentably to weigh that evidence in the balance.
5.54The principal source for the claim that Hitler was observed by Eberstein, Chief of Police in Munich, to be "livid with rage" is said by Irving to be Hitler's chief former personal adjutant, Wilhelm Bruckner. Irving obtained Bruckner's papers from his son and donated them to the Institute of History in Munich to which Irving no longer has access. He was therefore unable to produce documentary verification of Bruckner's account. He was able to produce a Deckblatt (cover sheet) which includes a summary of the contents of the relevant file in Munich but that does not indicate the presence in the file of any Kristallnacht material. Evans's assistant searched the relevant file in Munich but was unable to find any document there which related to Kristallnacht. So the evidential position is unsatisfactory. Another reason put forward by Evans for doubting Irving's account is that contemporaneous documents establish that later that night at 2.10am Eberstein telephoned to the Gestapo in various towns repeating the order that police were not to interfere with actions against Jews. Eberstein would have done no such thing, argued Evans, if indeed he had seen Hitler livid with rage about the actions against the Jews. Irving makes no mention of Eberstein's instruction in his book about Hitler.
5.55Be that as it may, Bruckner was a close associate of Hitler, so that, according to Evans his evidence needs to be treated with caution. In any case, according to a second-hand summary made by a German historian of a statement made by Bruckner, he was able to say no more than that Eberstein "probably" went to see Hitler. In his evidence at Nuremberg, Eberstein did not mention having had this meeting with Hitler. So, according to Evans, the evidence for Hitler's reaction having been one of anger is very thin and   difficult to reconcile with other events that evening. The violence continued virtually unabated throughout the night; this is unlikely to have occurred if indeed Hitler had at any stage wanted to bring it to a halt.
5.56Another witness relied on by Irving for Hitler's reaction to the mayhem which broke out is Julius Schaub, a long-standing Nazi party member and senior SS officer (who after the war described Hitler as a peace-loving man). In his papers Schaub claimed that Goebbels "ordained Kristallnacht Sunday (sic)" and that Hitler was furious when he learned of the outrages. Evans argued that Schaub too was close to Hitler and his evidence on that account should be treated with scepticism. Schaub's evidence, like that of the other witnesses relied on by Irving, is impossible to reconcile with Hitler's attitude towards the violence in the early evening of 9 November or with the orders (to which I shall shortly come) which went out in the early hours of 10 November permitting the excesses to continue.
5.57The third witness relied on by Irving for Hitler's reaction on hearing of the anti-Jewish outrages is von Below, who was a Colonel in the Luftwaffe. Irving interviewed him some thirty years after the event. He was present in the hotel where Hitler was based at the time. He claimed to recall that Hitler's reaction, when hearing of the violence from von Eberstein, was to ask what was going on. He said that Hitler became angry and demanded that order in Munich be restored at once. Evans noted that in his memoirs (as opposed to his interview by Irving) von Below made clear that he was not present when, on learning of the pogrom, Hitler spoke to Goebbels by phone and so could not have overheard any part of their conversation. Evans argued that Irving's note of his interview with von Below makes clear that, contrary to Irving's claim in Goebbels, Hitler asked Eberstein (not Goebbels) to find out what was going on. There is no evidence, said Evans, for Irving's claim that Hitler "snapped" orders at Goebbels. Evans regarded von Below as a variable witness whose account of Kristallnacht is wholly unreliable.
5.58Another source for Irving's contention that Hitler condemned the pogrom is Hederich, a longstanding senior Nazi. Evans criticised Irving for his reliance on him. Hederich based his assessment of Hitler's attitude towards the violence upon his impression of a speech which he claimed Hitler made at the Old Town Hall before Goebbels spoke. But the evidence is clear, according to Evans, that Hitler made no speech at the Old Town Hall that evening.
 
5.59At p276 of Goebbels Irving gives the following account of the message sent shortly after 1am by Heydrich (Head of German Security Police):
"What of Himmler and Hitler? Both were totally unaware of what Goebbels had done until the synagogue next to Munich's Four Seasons Hotel set on fire around 1am. Heydrich, Himmler's national chief of police, was relaxing down in the hotel bar; he hurried up to Himmler's room, then telexed instructions to all police authorities to restore law and order, protect Jews and Jewish property and halt any ongoing incidents".
According to Evans this is a blatant manipulation of the historical record. Heydrich's telex sent to police chiefs and security service officers at 1.20 am on 10 November, which emanated from Himmler, instructed them that the demonstrations against the Jews expected during that night were " not to be obstructed" subject to the following restrictions:
"a) only such measures may be taken as do not involve any endangering of German life or property (eg synagogue fires only if there is no danger of the fire spreading to surrounding buildings),
b) the shops and dwellings of Jews may only be destroyed not looted. The police are instructed to supervise the implementation of this order and to arrest looters.
c) care is to be taken that non-Jewish shops in shopping streets are unconditionally secured against damage,
d) foreign nationals may not be assaulted, even if they are Jews".
Evans maintained that the meaning is clear: apart from those specific, narrow circumstances, the police were ordered not to intervene. The Defendants contend that Heydrich's order confirms and repeats the instruction of Himmler (which Irving accepts would have originated from Hitler) that the demonstrations were not to be interrupted. The restrictions only applied in identified and limited circumstances (eg where there was risk of damage to non-Jewish property). So it is alleged that Heydrich's telex ordered the exact opposite of what Irving claimed in Goebbels.
 
5.60Evans advanced a similar criticism of Irving's treatment at p277 of Goebbels of a telex sent at 2.56am from the office of Rudolf Hess. Irving writes that
"Hess's staff began cabling, telephoning and radioing instructions to Gauleiters and police authorities around the nation to halt the madness".
In fact, according to Evans, the order read:
"On express orders from the very highest level, acts of arson against Jewish shops and the like are under no circumstances and under no conditions whatsoever to take place".
It is common ground that the message is referring to an order from Hitler ("the very highest level"). That order, according to Evans, had the limited effect of preventing fire-raising in Jewish shops and the like ('Geschaften oder dergleichen') and was not aimed at preventing attacks on Jews and their property generally. The concern for shops arose, said Evans, because they were in most cases owned by Germans. The order did not purport to proscribe attacks on Jewish homes or on synagogues. It referred only to arson and not to other forms of violence. Its tenor is consistent with the telegrams sent out by Muller and by Heydrich earlier that evening. There is, asserted Evans, no warrant for the claim which was made by Irving in an article published in 1983 that this order shows that Hitler ordered "the outrage" to stop forthwith. If he had so ordered, why, asked Evans, did the violence continue. Far from ordering the outrage to cease, Hitler was by necessary inference authorising the continuation of most of the lawlessness.
5.61Evans alleged that Irving is guilty of further manipulation of evidence in relation to the account given by Hitler's adjutant, Wiedemann, which Irving uses to support his thesis that Hitler ordered Goebbels to stop the attacks when he heard about them. In Goebbels Irving writes:
"Fritz Wiedemann, another of Hitler's adjutants, saw Goebbels spending much of that night, 9th/10th, telephoning ... to halt the most violent excesses".
Evans claimed that there are good reasons to doubt the reliability of Wiedemann and that in any event Irving has distorted or at least exaggerated   his evidence. What in fact Wiedemann wrote was that "it is reliably reported that" Goebbels had been seen making these telephone calls. There was therefore no justification for Irving's claim that Wiedemann "saw" Goebbels making these calls. It was mere hearsay. In any event, said Evans, the picture conveyed by Irving is wholly inconsistent with other evidence of what Goebbels was doing that night.
5.62Irving is further criticised by the Defendants for ignoring evidence, which according to Evans is inherently more reliable, namely the evidence contained in the report of the Supreme Party Tribunal report of 13 February 1939. That report includes a finding that when, at about 2am on 10 November, Goebbels was informed of the first death of the Jew in the progrom, he reacted by saying it would be the first of many. This reaction accords, say the Defendants, with the diary entry made by Goebbels that morning rejoicing in the violence ("Bravo!").
5.63Lastly in relation to the events of Kristallnacht, Irving at p281 of Goebbels quotes from the diary of a diplomat named van Hassell recording the reaction of Rudolf Hess to the violent actions directed at the Jews. It reads:
"[Hess] had left [the Bruckmanns] in no doubt that he completely disapproved the action against the Jews; he had also reported his views in an energetic manner to the Fuhrer and begged him to drop the matter, but unfortunately completely in vain. Hess pointed to Goebbels as the actual 'originator' ".
In Goebbels Irving refers only to Hess's view that Goebbels was the originator of Kristallnacht. Whilst no objection was taken by him to the use of that part of the quotation, Evans did criticise Irving' for his failure to refer to what Evans regarded as the far more significant aspect of Hess's account, namely that Hitler had ignored his plea to halt the progrom. That omission amounts, according to Evans, to a blatant misrepresentation of the diary entry. Evans also criticised Irving for his failure to mention the immediately following passage from the same diary which recounts a conversation Hassell had with the Prussian Finance Minister, Popitz, who is recorded as having said that Goering considered Hitler responsible for the events of Kristallnacht.
 
5.64Evans concluded that Irving's claim that during the night of 9/10 November Hitler did everything he could to prevent violence towards the Jews and their property is based upon a tissue of inventions, manipulations, suppressions and omissions.

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