Irving v. Lipstadt
Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Judgment: Electronic Edition, by Charles GrayTable of Contents
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The Defendants' case
5.124The case for the Defendants is that at every opportunity Irving portrays Hitler as adopting a non-confrontational posture towards the Jews and being kept in ignorance, at least until the autumn of 1943, of the wholesale liquidation which was under way. This picture is a wholly false one, say the Defendants. It will suffice if I give a selection of the statements made by Hitler on the subject of the Jews on which the defendants place reliance.
5.125The Defendants accuse Irving of perverse and selective quotation and deliberate mistranslation in a passage at p377 of Goebbels which purports to give an account of an occasion described in Hitler's Table Talk for 25 October 1941. Irving describes how Hitler soliloquised to Himmler and Heydrich in the following terms:Evans asserted that the claim that Hitler was neither consulted nor informed about the deportations is pure invention. He contended that a true translation of that extract from the Table Talk is as follows:
"Hitler was neither consulted nor informed [about the mass deportation of Jews from Berlin]. Ten days after the forced exodus began, he referred, soliloquising over supper to Himmler and Heydrich, to the way the Jews had started the war.' Let nobody tell me', Hitler added, 'that despite that we can't park them in the marshier parts of Russia! By the way', he added, 'its not a bad thing that public rumour attributes to us a plan to exterminate the Jews'. He pointed out, however, that he had no intention of starting anything at present. 'There's no point in adding to our difficulties at a time like this' ".
"Nobody can tell me: but we can't send them into the morass! For who bothers about our people? Its good if the terror (schrecken) that we are exterminating Jewry goes before us .. I'm forced to pile up an enormous amount of things myself; but that doesn't mean that what I take cognisance of without reacting to it immediately, just disappears. It goes into an account; one day the book is taken out. I had to remain inactive for a long time against the Jews too. There's no sense in artificially making extra difficulties for one self; the more cleverly one operates, the better ....".
5.126A series of cumulative criticisms are made of Irving's version of this extract from Hitler's Table Talk. The original text does not refer to "parking" nor to Russia. By rendering schrecken as "rumour" Irving waters down the original. Besides there is no reference in the original to "attributing": the extermination is presented as a fact. The German original makes clear that Hitler regarded the period of inaction vis-à-vis the Jews to be over. The moment has come to strike. The Defendants argue that the net result of Irving's version of Hitler's remarks is wholly to misrepresent the thrust of Hitler's remarks.
5.127In his diary Goebbels recorded a meeting with Hitler on 21 November 1941 in terms which included the following:Yet at p379 of Goebbels Irving writes that Goebbels displayed a far more uncompromising face than Hitler's towards the Jews. That is followed by a passage quoting the extract from Goebbels's diary just cited in the following terms:The Defendants claim that Irving distorts the sense of the diary entry by omitting the reference to Hitler wanting an energetic policy towards the Jews and by omitting the first sentence recording Hitler's agreement with his (Goebbels's) views about the Jewish question.
"The Fuhrer also completely agrees with my views with reference to the Jewish question. He wants an energetic policy against the Jews, which, however, does not cause us unnecessary difficulties".
" ...[Hitler] again instructed Goebbels to pursue a policy against the Jews that does not cause us endless difficulties ...".
5.128The Defendants rely also upon Irving's account of a speech made by Hitler to the Gauleiter on 12 December 1941, when, according to Goebbels's diary (in Longerich's translation):The Defendants' case is that, according to Goebbels's account, Hitler was expressly contemplating the extermination of Jews generally. The Defendants argue that his passage, which followed one day after the outbreak of war between Nazi Germany and the Unites States, echoes what Goebbels had earlier written in an article in Das Reich and that it demonstrates that Hitler was determined to act no less brutally towards the Jews than was Goebbels. It marks, say the Defendants, the reaction of Hitler to the outbreak of world war, which was that the Jews must be annihilated.
"As concerns the Jewish question, the Fuhrer is determined to make a clean sweep. He had prophesied to the Jews that if they once again brought about a world war they would experience their own extermination (vernichtung). This was not just an empty phrase. The World War is there, the extermination of Jewry (Judentum) must be the necessary consequence. This question must be seen without sentimentality. We are not here in order to have sympathy with the Jews, rather we sympathise with our own German people. If the German people have now once again sacrificed as many as 16,000 dead in the Eastern campaign, then the authors of this bloody conflict must pay with their lives".
5.129According to the Defendants, confirmation for this proposition is to be found in the account of General Governor Hans Frank (who Irving accepts was in Berlin when Hitler spoke to the Gauleiter), which states:Frank's diary contains the following further passage:The Defendants contend that Frank was there recording what had in effect been a direction to the General Government from Berlin to liquidate the Jews. The Defendants assert that the latter passage is "an evolutionary document", presaging the extermination of Jews by gassing.
"In Berlin we were told 'why all this trouble? We cannot use them in the Ostland or the Reichscommissariat either. Liquidate them yourselves! We must destroy the Jews wherever we encounter them and wherever it is possible in order to preserve the entire structure of the Third Reich".
"... we cannot shoot these 3.5 million Jews. We can't poison them. But we will, however, be able to undertake interventions which in some way lead to a successful annihilation, and indeed in connection with the large scale measures to be undertaken from the Reich and to be discussed. The General Government must become just as free of Jews as the Reich is. Where and how that happens is a matter for the institutions which we must put into action and create here and the effectiveness I will report on to you in good time".
Criticism was levelled at Irving for his claim at p428 of the 1991 edition of Hitler's War that Hitler was in East Prussia when the instruction to liquidate the Jews was issued. The probability is that Hitler was in Berlin at the material time, since he did not leave Berlin for the East until 16 December. This, according to the Defendants, is an instance of Irving manipulating the record and telling "a fib" in order to distance Hitler from the instruction to liquidate the Jews.
5.130Next the Defendants rely on a manuscript note made by Himmler of a conversation he had with Hitler on 16 December 1941 which includes the words:Longerich regarded this note as confirmation of Hitler's intention to continue and intensify the mass murders of Soviet Jews. It is consistent with the way in which the killing of 363,211 Jews was treated in report by the Einsatzgruppen of 26 December 1942 (to which I shall refer again later): in that report the number of Jews killed was included as a separate category under the heading of partisan accomplices. This report is endorsed in manuscript "laid before [vorgelegt] Hitler".
"Jewish question / to be extirpated (auszurotten) as partisans".
5.131The Defendants criticise the account given by Irving at p465 of Hitler's War (1991 edition) of Hitler's attitude towards the Jews in March 1942. The reader is given to understand that the concern of Hitler was to procure the deportation of Jews out of Europe. Irving refers to Hitler's wish, repeatedly stated, to postpone dealing with the Jewish problem until after the war is over. He claims that Goebbels never discussed with Hitler the realities of what was happening to the Jews in the General Government.
That account, say the Defendants, takes no account of the statements repeatedly made by Hitler from 1941 onwards that the Jews must be eliminated and that they were a "bacillus" which needed to be eliminated. Examples are to be found in the entries made by Goebbels in his diary on 15 February and 20 March 1942 and in Hitler's Table Talk on 22 February 1942).
Also omitted by Irving is the reference made by Goebbels to Hitler as a protagonist for and champion of the radical solution to the Jewish question necessitated by the "way things are". There is, according to the Defendants, no justification for Irving's claim that Goebbels discussed with Hitler "the realities" of the situation. What Irving is unwarrantably seeking to do, say the Defendants, is to distance Hitler from the policy of killing the Jews.
5.132Next the Defendants accuse Irving of suppressing several references made by Hitler in January and February 1942 to the extermination (ausrottung) of Jews, for example in his Table Talk on 25 January 1942. Hitler is there recorded as having said on that occasion:The latter sentence is omitted at p464 of Hitler's War (1991 edition) in order, so the Defendants say, to exculpate Hitler.
"The Jew has to get out of Europe ... If he collapses in the course of it, I can't help there. I can see only one thing: absolute extermination, if they don't go of their own accord ..".
5.133Similarly the Defendants point to the omission by Irving of any reference to Hitler's statements in the Table Talk for 22 February 1942: "We will get well when we eliminate the Jew", They rely also on the omission of a similar remark by Hitler to NSDAP party members on 24 February 1942 when Hitler again talked of extermination and removing parasites.
5.134Evans in his report criticises the omission from Irving's account of Goebbels's diary entry for 30 May 1942 but the Defendants no longer rely on this criticism. Similarly the Defendants no longer pursue Evans's criticism of Irving for not recognising that the reference in the Hitler Table Talk of July 1942 to Jews emigrating to Madagascar was euphemistic.
5.135However the Defendants rely further in this connection on the following: the reaction of Hitler to the shooting of the Jews I Riga in November 1941, as reported by the widow of Schultz-Dubois (referred to at (vii) above); Himmler's minute of 22 September 1942; Himmler's note of 10 December 1942; Hitler's meetings with Antonescu and Horthy in April 1943 and Ribbentrop's statements made at Nuremberg (all of which will be referred to later in this section).
5.136 The Defendants contend that, individually and collectively, the misinterpretations, partial quotations and omissions which I have summarised amount to a serious misrepresentation of Hitler's attitude towards the Jewish question. As further evidence of the uncompromisingly harsh and active role in the persecution of the Jews the Defendants rely also on his role in such events as the expulsion and shooting of the Berlin Jews in Riga (with which I have already dealt); his role in the deportation of European Jews to the East; his attitude towards the Jews in France; his determination to procure the extermination of the Hungarian Jews and Ribbentrop's assessment of Hitler's responsibility for the fate which befell the Jews (to all of which issues I will shortly come).
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