Irving v. Lipstadt


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

Table of Contents

The Defendants' case

5.92The Defendants advance numerous criticisms of the manner in which Irving has written about the deportation of the German Jews from Berlin and in particular the role of Hitler in the affair. The Defendants are also critical   of the account given by Irving of the circumstances surrounding the execution of the Berlin Jews on arrival in Riga (with which I shall deal later).
5.93The starting point for the Defendants' criticisms is the claim made by Irving that, unlike Goebbels, Hitler was not at this time driven by anti-semitism. In Goebbels Irving quotes from an article by Goebbels published in Das Reich to show that he was more violently anti-semitic than Hitler. But Evans observed that Irving omits to mention that Goebbels started his article by quoting Hitler's celebrated 1939 prediction of the annihilation of the Jews. In his report Evans quoted numerous utterances by Hitler at this time to show that Hitler was expressing similar views to those of Goebbels about the Jews. A comprehensive list of Hitler's statements about the Jews, covering the period 1919 to 1945 has been collated by the Defendants and is include at tab 5(i) of their written closing submissions. I shall revert to the list hereafter.
5.94Irving claimed in Goebbels that it was Goebbels's article in Das Reich which inspired the killing of thousands of the Berlin Jews in Riga in November 1941. This claim is based on the testimony of Wisliceny (one of Eichmann's top officials who was responsible for the Final Solution in Slovakia and elsewhere). At p379 of Goebbels, Irving wrote that Wisliceny described the Das Reich article as "the watershed". Wisliceny did indeed refer to that article but he also reported that "In this period of time, after the beginning of the war with the USA, I am convinced must fall the decision of Hitler which ordered the biological annihilation of European Jewry". The Defendants contend that, not only was Irving wrong to attribute to Wisliceny the view that the article in Das Reich was in truth the watershed, but that he also deliberately suppressed the crucial passage referring to Hitler's order for the biological annihilation of the Jews.
5.95At p377 of Goebbels Irving claims that Hitler was neither consulted nor informed about the deportation of Jews from Berlin in 1941. Evans contended that this claim is another manipulation of the historical record. Goebbels in his diary on 19 August 1941 states that the Fuhrer gave him his approval for the transports of the Jews out of Berlin. A corroborative entry is to be found in entries in Goebbels's diary for 19 and 24 September 1941. Greiser, who was stationed in the Warethegau and was answerable to Hitler, was similarly told by Himmler that the Fuhrer wanted the Old Reich and the   Protectorate to be cleared of Jews. The evidence of Hitler's involvement is clear, say the Defendants.
5.96Irving based his assertion of Hitler's non-involvement upon his Table Talk of 25 October 1941. (I interpolate that the Table Talk is a record in note form, compiled by adjutants of Bormann named Heim and Picker, of remarks made by Hitler at informal gatherings). But, said Evans, Irving misconstrues and mistranslates the record of what Hitler then said, which properly understood was that he was no longer remaining "inactive" against the Jews and had started to deal with them.
5.97The Defendants contend that the claim made by Irving that Hitler personally intervened in an attempt (unsuccessful as it turned out) to prevent the Berlin Jews being liquidated is wholly unwarranted by the evidence. In the 1977 edition of Hitler's War Irving wrote at p332 that Himmler was "summoned" to the Wolf's Lair (Hitler's Headquarters) and "obliged" to telephone an order to Heydrich that there was to be no liquidation of Jews. The reader is given to understand that Hitler procured an order which applied to all Jews. Moreover in the introduction to Hitler's War Irving describes that note as "incontrovertible evidence" that Hitler issued a general order prohibiting the liquidation of Jews generally. He attaches sufficient importance to the note to reproduce a photograph of it in the book.
5.98The Defendants assert that Irving's interpretation of Himmler's note (cited above in the Introduction to this section) is perverse and a clear falsification of the document. Evans alleged, firstly, that it is clear on the face of the note that it is referring to a single transport of Jews out of Berlin which departed on 27 November: the German word transport is in the singular, the plural would be transporte. Both the language and the context make it plain that what is being referred to is a single transport of Jews. What is more it is clear that the note is talking only of Berliner Jews because it includes the words aus Berlin. Moreover, say the Defendants, there is no evidence for the claim that any order was issued by Hitler or indeed that he was involved at all. True it is that the telephone call was made by Himmler from Hitler's bunker. But it was made at 1.30pm and Himmler's appointment diary suggests that Hitler and Himmler did not meet for lunch until later that afternoon.
5.99From about the mid-1980s Irving accepted that the note does indeed refer to the single transport out of Berlin and not to Jews generally.   Nevertheless the error was not corrected in the 1991 edition of Hitler's War. Irving explained this by saying that the 1991 edition went to press in the mid-80s. It is, however, right to note that in Goebbels Irving no longer claims that the order applied to Jews generally. However, he continued to assert that the order emanated from Hitler. Thus at p379 of Goebbels Irving writes that, even as the Jews were being shot in Riga, "Hitler...was instructing Himmler that these Berlin Jews were not to be liquidated". In May 1998 Irving accepted through his website that his theory that Hitler told Himmler to tell Heydrich to stop the shooting had been wrong. Despite this on 31 August 1998 Irving posted another document in which he asserted that Hitler had demonstrably originated the order not to kill the Jews in Riga. Evans apostrophised this behaviour on the part of Irving as egregious and disreputable. The Defendants cite this as an example of Irving continuing to twist the evidence in order to portray Hitler favourably even after the error of his ways had been pointed out to him.
5.100Nor, according to Evans, is there any basis for Irving's claim in the 1977 edition of Hitler's War that on 1 December 1941 Himmler telephoned Pohl, an SS General, to tell him that Jews were to "stay where they are" (that is, out of harm's way). Irving based this claim on Himmler's phone log, which contained this entry:
Verwaltungsfuhrer der SS (Administrative leaders of the SS)
haben zu bleiben (have to stay)
Irving now accepts that he misread "haben" as "Juden" and that the order was stating that administrative leaders of the SS had to stay where they were. The Defendants do not accept that the mistranscription was due to an innocent misreading of Himmler's manuscript. They point to other manuscript words in the same document which should have alerted Irving (and on the Defendants' case did alert him) to the fact that the word Himmler actually wrote was 'haben'. Irving ignored the fact that there is no full stop after SS and before haben. He also ignored the fact that haben zu bleiben is indented, suggesting that it is linked to the previous line. Irving agreed in cross-examination that to read that entry as "Administrative officers of the SS Jews to remain" would be meaningless because it would be saying nothing in relation to the administrative officers. Evans considered this to be deliberately a perverse misreading by Irving borne of his overwhelming desire to portray Hitler as a friend of the Jews.