Irving v. Lipstadt
David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial: Electronic Edition, by Richard J. EvansTable of Contents
|(ii) Irving's suppressio... >||(vi) Conclusion. >>|
1. In his reply to the defence, Irving cites the following incident as part of his argument that Hitler opposed the killing of Jews, and refers in the course of his account to another of the key links in the documentary chain of evidence which he claims supports his argument:
On 6 October, 1943 at 1.30 p.m. Ribbentrop received a message from Consul Moellhausen in Rome, reporting that SS Obersturmbannführer Kappler had been instructed to arrest the eight thousand Jews living in Rome and take them to Upper Italy, 'where they are to be liquidated'; and that the commandant of Rome, Luftwaffe General Stahel, was objecting. Upon receiving this telegram, the foreign minister Ribbentrop visited Hitler at his headquarters The Wolf's Lair. He lunched with Hitler at two p.m. on October 6, and his liaison officer at the Wolf's Lair, Walther Hewel, had several meetings with Hitler on October 6, 8, and 9, 1943. Ribbentrop's aide Franz von Sonnleithner sent to the minister's office a telex stating that Ribbentrop asked that their ambassador in Italy, Rudolf Rahn, and consul in Rome, Moellhausen, should be informed 'that by a Führer Directive the 8,000 Jews living in Rome are to be taken to Mauthausen, Upper Danube, as hostages' (Nuremberg Document ng-5027) - i.e., kept alive.1
2. Irving has been using this document in this way for over two decades, for the same example appears, with variations, in the 1977 edition of his book Hitler's War. Here, Irving described the incident in the following terms which, unlike his account to the court, make it clear what actually happened to these Jews:
Early in October the remaining Jews were deported from Denmark. Himmler also considered the eight thousand Jews in Rome a potential threat to public order; Ribbentrop brought to Hitler an urgent telegram from his consul in Rome reporting that "the eight thousand Jews resident in Rome are to be rounded up and brought to Upper Italy, where they are to be liquidated." Again Hitler took a marginally more "moderate" line. On the ninth Ribbentrop informed Rome that the Führer had directed that the eight thousand Jews were to be transported to Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria instead, where they were to be held "as hostages" It was, Ribbentrop defined, purely a matter for the SS. (The SS liquidated them anyway, regardless of Hitler's order.)2
3. In the 1991 edition of Hitler's War, this passage appears once more, abridged and amended, as follows:
Himmler evidently also considered the eight thousand Jews in Rome a potential threat to public order; Ribbentrop brought Hitler an urgent telegram from his consul in Rome reporting that the SS had ordered that "the eight thousand Jews resident in Rome are to be rounded up and brought to Upper Italy, where they are to be liquidated." Again Hitler took a more "moderate" line. On the ninth Ribbentrop informed Rome that the Führer had directed that the Jews were to be transported to Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria instead, where they were to be held "as hostages". 3
4. In 1991 Irving goes on to describe Himmler's speeches to SS officers in October 1943 on the extermination of the Jews. He deletes all reference to the fact that the Jews of Rome were killed anyway, in keeping with his general removal of references to the extermination of Jews from the book following his conversion at the end of the 1980s to Holocaust denial, as described earlier in this report.
5. Before we come to examine the supporting documentation advanced by Irving for this claim, three background factors need to be borne in mind. First, the Reichssicherheitshauptamt [Reich Security Head Office - RSHA] had been formally entrusted with the 'final solution of the Jewish question'. To move against Jews in conquered and allied countries or indeed Jewish nationals of countries within German territory, however, required the assistance of the Foreign Office. By early 1943 Ribbentrop had perceived the political expediency of engaging in diplomacy on behalf of the Final Solution. The longer the war continued, the more the operational sphere of Ribbentrop's Foreign Office was reduced, and in turn the more Ribbentrop himself tried to compensate for lost jurisdiction by replacing it with war-related assignments, such as implementing the Final Solution, thereby maintaining his influence on Hitler.4
6. Secondly, Rome was plagued by the administrative confusion and overlapping authority which were such marked features of the 'Third Reich'. On 25 July 1943, Hitler's ally Mussolini had been overthrown and the new Italian government had thereupon surrendered to the Allies. Germany then invaded Italy, her erstwhile ally, and annexed the areas she had previously occupied with the intention of putting Mussolini back as the figurehead of a German-dominated administration. German civilian, military, and police agencies jostled with each other over disputed jurisdictions. Italy was in effect governed by the military, headed by Field Marshal Albert Kesselring in Southern Italy and Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in the North. Control of Rome was exercised by military Commandant General Rainer Stahel, but he did not command all the forces in the city, since some of the police were under the German police attaché in Rome, SS Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler. Kappler in turn was responsible to SS Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff, commander of the SS in Italy. An equally confusing mixture of powers characterised the diplomatic service in Italy. The German ambassador to Italy, Dr. Rudolf Rahn, was appointed plenipotentiary of the Greater German Reich in Italy, and he and his staff departed from Rome shortly after the occupation of the city to the projected seat of the new puppet Italian fascist government at Salò, leaving a few officials behind in Rome. Ernst Freiherr von Weiszäcker headed the German embassy to the Vatican, which since 1929 had been an independent sovereign state located within the city.5
7. Thirdly, the situation in all of the newly overrun territories was extremely unstable. This had serious implications for policy. Martin Bormann wrote to the Gauleiters of the border provinces of Venezia Guilia and Alto Adige on September 10, 1943 underlining the need to distinguish between 'ideal aims, which are not immediately achievable' [Ideal-Zielen, die sofort gar nicht zu verwirklichen sind] and the 'steps which lead to these ideal aims' [Stufen, die zu diesen Ideal-Zielen führen]. The lack of available police batallions circumscribed the achievable for it made the occupiers dependent on the native Italian police. Bormann went on:The presence of the Vatican made the situation in Rome particularly sensitive.
Accordingly all our steps must be dictated by political cleverness. Every rash step endangers our war potential. 4) The therefore decisive point is that we refrain from shrill, political imprudence which could provoke a country into revolt and resistance.6
8. All these factors constitute, therefore, a difficult and complex historical situation against which the meaning and significance of the Ribbentrop telegram have to be judged.
1. Reply to the Defence of the Second Defendant, p. 15, paragraph 17 (h).
2. Irving, Hitler's War (London, 1977), p 575.
3. Irving, Hitler's War, 1991, p. 590.
4. Hans-Jürgen Döscher, Das Auswärtige Amt im dritten Reich. Diplomatic im Schatten der 'Endlosung' (Munich, 1987), pp. 310-11; Christopher Browning, The Final Solution and the Foreign Office (New York, 1961), pp. 350-55.
5. See the Führer Order of 10 September 1943 appointing Rahn, Wolff, and Kesserling to their respective posts in Akten zur deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Serie E: 1941-45, vol. VI, 1 May - 30 September, 1943 (Göttingen, 1979), pp. 533-34.
6. Bormann at Hitler's headquarters to Friedrichs for Gauleiters Rainer, Hofer and Überreither, 10 September 1943 in Akten zur deutschen Auswärtigen Politik 1918-1945, vol. VI, p. 523-4: 'Demgemäß müssen all unsere Schritte von politischer Klugheit diktiert sein. Jeder unbesonnene Schritt schädigt unser Kriegspotential. 4) Es kommt also entscheidend darauf an, daß wir schrille, politische Unklugheiten, die ein Land zum Aufruhr und Widerstand bringen könnten, unterlassen.'.
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