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

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(B) The Minsk Shooting

1. In mid-August 1941 Wolff was part of the entourage which accompanied Himmler to Minsk, where he was met by the Head of the SS and Police [Höheren SS- und Polizeiführer] of Russia, von dem Bach-Zelewski and the leader of Einsatzgruppe B, SS Lieutenant-General [SS-   Brigadeführer] Arthur Nebe. Himmler and Wolff witnessed the execution of some 100 to 120 Jews and 'partisans'.271
2. Irving states in his pleadings that at Wolff's 1964 trial the SS General von dem Bach-Zelewski testified 'that in his view "Hitler knew nothing of the mass destruction of the Jews" and that "the entire thing began with Himmler." This is close to the views expressed by the plaintiff.'272 In fact von dem Bach-Zelewski was called before the court to prove that Wolff knew of the fate which awaited the Jews in early 1941. He testified that both he and Wolff were present at the Wewelsberg in March 1941 where Himmler talked about the impending war with Russia and the coming 'special assignments' ['Sonderaufgaben'] which the SS, SD and police units would perform:
About the meaning and aim of the campaign he said that it was a question of existence and therefore a struggle of the peoples [Volkstumskampf] of unparalleled bitterness would break out in the course of which, through acts of war and [illegible], 20 to 30 million Slavs and Jews would die. Himmler's comments remained fresh in his mind because of their importance and their consequences, and because of the dramatic way they were presented.273
3. Irving's citing of von dem Bach-Zelewski to prove that Hitler knew nothing of the 'Final Solution' is openly contradicted by another piece of evidence von dem Bach-Zelewski gave   during Wolff's trial. He was one of no fewer than eight witnesses who testified that during the shootings in Minsk, Himmler stated that he and Hitler alone bore responsibility for the extermination of the Jews:
Himmler declared after the shootings that the hard struggle that the German people [Volk] had to undertake made harsh measures such as this imperative. The Jews were the bearers of world Bolshevism and they must therefore be destroyed. He and Hitler had assumed responsibility for this before the court of history. The task was difficult, but it had to be carried out.
4. Von dem Bach-Zelewski's account of Himmler's words was corroborated by no fewer than seven other witnesses at the trial.
The witnesses Dr Otto Bradfisch, von dem Ba.[ch- Zelewski], Paul N., Kl., Klae., Me., Str. and T. concur in this. The court believes these statements.274
5. The head of Einsatzkommando unit 8, Dr. Otto Bradfisch put the question to Himmler:
As soon as Himmler arrived in Minsk, I turned to him and asked him who was taking responsibility for the mass extermination of the Jews. Himmler made this conversation the occasion for a speech, in which he told the members of Einsatzkommando 8, as well as those members of the Security Police who were present, not to worry - the orders had been personally given by Hitler. It was a question, then, of a Führer-order, which had the force of law, and he and Hitler alone bore the responsibility for these orders.275
 
6. Himmler's private reply to Bradfisch before the execution had been no different: 'Himmler answered me in a fairly sharp tone that these orders had come from Hitler as the supreme Führer of the German government, and that they had the force of law.'276

Notes

271. Published reference: Himmler diary entry for 15 August 1941; reprinted in Peter Witte et al. (eds.), Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42 (Hamburg, 1999), p. 195.
272. Reply, para. (24) on p. 20.
273. 'Bach-Zelewski's memory was inaccurate: the speech was held on 12 June 1941 (Peter Witte et al. (eds.), Der Dienstalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42 (Hamburg, 1999), p. 172 and n. 21.''über Sinn und Zweck des Feldzuges habe er gesagt: Es gehe um eine Existenzfrage, daher werde es zu einem Volkstumskampf vo unerbitterlicher Härte kommen, in dessen Verlaufe durch Kriegshandlung und die [unreadable] 20 bis 30 Millionen Slawen und Juden unkommen würde. Die Ausführung Himmlers seien ihm wegen ihrer Bedeutung undd Tragweite und wegen der dramatischen Art, in der sie vorgetragen würden, gegenwärtig geblieben.' (Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, vol. XX, p. 412).
274. 'Himmler hat im Anschluss an die Erschiessung erkäsrt, dass der schwere Kampf, den das deutsche Volk führen müsse, harte Massnahmen wie diese erforderlich mache. Die Juden seien die Träger des Weltbolschewismus, sie müssteen daher vernichtet werden. Er und Hitler hästten dafür vor der Geschichte die Verantwortung übernommen. Die Aufgabe sei schewer, dennoch müsse sie durchgeführt werden. Die Zeugen Dr. Otto Bradfisch, von dem Ba., Paul N., Kl., Klae., Me., Str., undd T. haben dies übereinstimmend bekundet. Das Schwurgericht hat diesen Aussagen Glauben geschenkt.' (Ibid., p. 436).
275. Dr. Otto Bradfisch on events in Minsk, 10 a Js 39/60 [Karl Wolff, Criminal Proceedings, 17 May 1963, Landgericht Munich], p. 135, quoted in Fleming, p. 51.
276. Ibid.
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