Irving v. Lipstadt

Defense Documents

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

Table of Contents

(B) Bending and wilfully mistranslating reliable sources

1. Once more, Irving manipulates his sources so that they fit his argument. His first obvious mistake is that there is no correspondence in the German original to Hitler's alleged   statement in Irving's text concerning the 'parking' of Jews in the 'marshier parts of Russia!'. In the German original there is no reference to Russia, and the action described is not the innocuous-sounding 'park them', which implies some kind of reasonably long-term stay, but 'send them'. In all probability Hitler was referring to the Pripet marshes. What may well have been meant by his statement was illustrated by an order given by Himmler to the SS in the area of the Pripet marshes on 30 July 1941 three months prior to this monologue: 'All Jews must be shot. Drive Jew-women into the marshes.' Reporting on their attempt to carry this order out, the mounted division of the second SS cavalry regiment noted on 12 August in terms which left no doubt as to the purpose of driving the Jews into the marshes: 'Driving women and children into marshes did not have the success that it was meant to, since the marshes were not deep enough for them to sink in. In most cases one encountered firm ground (probably sand) below a depth of 1 meter, so that sinking-in was not possible.'19 It seems reasonable to suppose that Hitler was aware of these events by mid - to - late October.
2. Irving is also wrong in claiming that Hitler added: 'By the's not a bad thing that public rumour attributes to us a plan to exterminate the Jews'. As we can see, what Hitler really said was: 'It's good if the terror that we are exterminating Jewry goes before us'. Irving's version waters this down in several respects. The translation of 'Schrecken' as 'public rumour' is inadequate, as it fails to convey the element of terror and anxiety indelibly associated with the word 'Schrecken'. 'Public rumour attributes to us' implies that it is, as rumour so often are, untrue; in fact, of course Hitler said nothing about   attribution, but presented it as a fact. Finally, Irving completes his distortion and manipulation of this sentence by inserting the word 'plan', which is wholly absent from the original, in order to make it seem that the rumoured extermination of the Jews was not actually taking place but was still in the planning stage. In fact, of course, Hitler's actual recorded statement was unambiguous in its recognition of the fact that Jews were being exterminated behind the Eastern Front as the German army advanced, and crystal clear in its approval of the effect this had in terrorising the inhabitants of the areas which were still to be conquered.
3. Concerning the extermination of the Jews, Hitler, according to Irving, 'pointed out however that he had no intention of starting anything at present'. Irving here draws on his own account of the table talk in his book Hitler's War (1991), where he claimed that Hitler said that 'with the Jews too I have found myself remaining inactive'.20 However, the German original makes clear that Hitler saw himself no longer as being inactive towards the Jews. He clearly states that: 'I had to remain inactive for a long time against the Jews too'. This means that the time of inactivity was over. Hitler is talking in the present tense about the Jews, not in the future tense.
4. But Irving continues his falsifications and adds that Hitler said: 'There's no point in adding to one's difficulties at a time like this!'. Clearly, the translation presented by Irving here is, onece again, wrong. The German original means: 'There's no sense in artificially making extra difficulties for oneself; the more cleverly one operates, the better'. Thus, Hitler makes the general point that when attacking one's enemies, one has to wait for the right moment to strike. The meaning of this passage is that while Hitler thought that the time had come to deal with the Jews and with Marxism, and states that he had started to do so, he wanted to   postpone the conflict with the Catholic Church, personified by Bishop Galen, who had on 3 August 1941 in a sermon publicly attacked the Nazis 'euthanasia' programme (the killing of mentally and physically disabled adults and children).
5. In his Pleadings, Irving recognises that he is on weak ground because of his constant mistranslations in this case. He tries to rescue his position by arguing that he merely followed the official translation in English, first published in 1953 by Weidenfeld. However, this is merely a smokescreen, and just raises more questions about Irving's methods. The table talks in question, recorded by Heinrich Heim at Hitler's lunch and dinner table, were first published by Weidenfeld in an English translation. Until 1980, the German originals were not officially accessible to historians, who had to rely on the English translation, which is full of mistakes.21
6. For instance, it does indeed use the term 'park', it translates 'Schrecken' as 'public rumour' and has Hitler claim that 'Even with regard to the Jews, I've found myself remaining inactive'. Clearly, Irving has followed this translation.22 Yet, by the time he published his book Goebbels, he had been familiar with the German original text of the table talk for almost 20 years. In the Pleadings, Irving claims proudly that he 'was the only historian in the world to whom the original German texts were made available by their physical owner, namely in October 1977'.23 As Irving stated in 1983, the German original 'is   completely different from the published English translation'.24 Consequently, Irving then changed some aspects of his accounts of the table talk of 25 October 1941. Thus, in his first edition of Hitler's War in 1977, still relying on the Weidenfeld translation, he included a phrase attributed to Hitler ('Terror is a salutary thing'), which had no correspondence in the German original. It was an addition by the translator, and after reading the German original, Irving dropped it from his revised 1991 edition of Hitler's War.25
7. But while Irving cut out this phrase, which made Hitler appear in a bad light, he deliberately continued to use the other parts of the flawed Weidenfeld translation, if the original German text implicated Hitler in a way that the Weidenfeld translation did not. Thus, as we have seen, in 1996, in his book on Goebbels, he continues to claim that Hitler said that he planned nothing against the Jews at present (Weidenfeld translation), while the original, as we have seen, had Hitler stating that 'I had to remain inactive for a long time against the Jews too'.26 Irving uses both the German original, and the flawed translation, depending on which of the two documents serves his purpose of showing Hitler in a favourable light. Whether or not the Weidenfeld translation is accurate in any given case is of no interest at all to him; all that he is interested in is whether or not it supports his argument. Because he is familiar with the German original and must know that he is using a flawed translation, his version of the Hitler table talk in this instance   amounts to manipulation of the source-material even if the actual translation is not his own.


19. 'Sämtliche Juden müssen erschossen werden. Judenweiber in die Sümpfe treiben' - Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, Vol. XX, No. 570 (radio reports of SS cavalry regiment 2) and 'Weiber und Kinder in die Sümpfe zu treiben, hatte nicht den Erfolg, den es haben soilte, denn die Sümpfe waren nicht so tief, daß ein Einsinken erfolgen könnte. Nach einer Tiefe von 1 Meter kam man in den meisten Fällen auf festen Boden (wahrscheinlich Sand), so daß ein Versinken nicht möglich war.'- Unsere Ehre heißt die Treue, pp. 227-9.
20. Irving, Hitler's War (London, 1991), p. 427.
21. H. Trevor-Roper (ed.), Hitler's Table Talk, transl. N. Cameron, R.H. Stevens (London, 1953), 87-92.
22. The translation in the Weidenfeld edition records Hitler as saying: 'Let nobody tell me that all the same we can't park them in the marshy parts of Russia! Who's worrying about out troops? It's not a bad idea, by the way, that public rumour attributes to us a plan to exterminate the Jews. Terror is a salutary thing... Even with regard to the Jews, I've found myself remaining inactive. There's no sense in adding uselessly to the difficulties of the moment'; H. Trevor-Roper (ed.), Hitler's Table Talk, transl. N. Cameron, R.H. Stevens (London, 1953), 87-92.
23. Pleadings Bundle, IV, p. 23. In fact, as document 2040 in Irving's Discovery shows, he received copies of the original table talk in November 1977 (Genoud to Irving, 4 November 1977).
24. Speech at the 1983 International Revisionist Conference; reprinted in Irving, 'On Contemporary History', The Journal of Historical Review 5 (1984), pp. 251-283, here 281.
25. Pleadings Bundle, IV, p. 23; see also Irving, Hitler's War (London, 1991), p. 427.
26. For Irving's selective use of the sources and translations, see also Irving, Hitler's War (London, 1991), p. 427.
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