Irving v. Lipstadt


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

Table of Contents

Case for the Defendants

5.202In relation to Hitler's meeting with Antonescu, the Defendants reproach Irving for his omission to mention in either edition of Hitler's War the uncompromising and anti-semitic words used by Hitler on 13 April in reference to the Jews. The minutes record him as having said:  
"Therefore, in contrast to Marshal Antonescu, the Fuhrer took the view that one must proceed against the Jews, the more radically the better. He ... would rather burn all his bridges behind him because the Jewish hatred is so enormously great anyway. In Germany, as a consequence of the clearing up of the Jewish question, one had a united people without opposition at one's disposal ... however, once the way had been embarked on, there was no turning back".
This, say the Defendants, evidences Hitler placing pressure on Antonescu to effect a radical "removal" of Romania's Jews. Yet Irving ignores it altogether in his account of the meeting.
5.203As to the meeting which started three days later between Hitler and Horthy, the Defendants' contention is that the evidence indicates that at the first session, which took place on 16 April and which was attended by amongst others Hitler and Ribbentrop as well as Horthy, Hitler sought to persuade Horthy to agree to the expulsion of the Hungarian Jews. He reassured Horthy that there would be no need to kill them. But Horthy remained unpersuaded.
5.204Accordingly, say the Defendants, at the next session on 17 April Hitler and Ribbentrop expressed themselves more explicitly. The Defendants contend that the language used by Hitler on the second day points unequivocally to Hitler's knowledge of the extermination of Jews in Poland, as does the language used by Ribbentrop in Hitler's presence on that occasion. Minutes of the meeting on 17 April were taken by Dr Paul-Otto Schmidt. They record Ribbentrop saying in the presence of Hitler:
"On Horthy's retort, what should he do with the Jews then, after he had taken pretty well all means of living from them - he surely couldn't beat them to death - the Reich Foreign Minister replied that the Jews must either be annihilated or taken to concentration camps. There was no other way".
Shortly afterwards Hitler himself is recorded as having said:
"If the Jews [in Poland] didn't want to work, they were shot. If they couldn't work, they had to perish. They had to be treated like tuberculosis bacilli, from which a healthy body can be infected. That was not cruel; if one remembered that even innocent natural creatures   like hares and deer had to be killed so that no harm was caused. Why should one spare the beasts who wanted to bring us bolshevism? Nations who did not rid themselves of Jews perished".
The Defendants' case is that these passages are significant in that they afford powerful evidence that Hitler knew of and approved the extermination of Jews. The flavour of Hitler's remarks points towards an intention to exterminate the Hungarian Jews. It is difficult, say the Defendants, to visualise any other reason why the Nazis were so insistent to get their hands on the Hungarian Jews.
5.205The Defendants contend that Irving in Hitler's War uses a variety of discreditable devices to obscure the significance of the minutes and to twist their meaning. They allege that the passage at p509-10 of the 1977 edition of Hitler's War is a "shocking manipulation" of Schmidt's note of the meeting. In the first place, Irving gives as the pretext for the pressure being brought to bear on Horthy by Hitler and Ribbentrop the Warsaw ghetto uprising. But there is no mention of that uprising in the note of the meeting, which, say the Defendants, is unsurprising because it did not take place until three days later (19 April). Irving marginalises the significance of Ribbentrop's remarks in the presence of Hitler by tucking away what he said in a footnote (where Irving seeks to cast doubt on the accuracy of Schmidt's note by quoting Horthy's later draft letter to Hitler of May 7 which refers to the "stamping out" (Ausrottung) of Jewry). Further Irving depicts Hitler as having used the devastation wreaked by Allied bombing to justify a harsher policy towards the Jews, whereas the contemporaneous evidence shows that Hitler regarded the bombing as "irritating but wholly trivial".
5.206But the major criticism directed by the Defendants at Irving's account arises out of the transposition by Irving to the 17 April of a remark made by Hitler in the course of the meeting on 16 April. The Defendants allege that in a similar manner Irving minimises the significance of what Hitler said. After quoting the statement made by Hitler on 17 April which is set out above, Irving adds the following words:
"But they can hardly be murdered or otherwise eliminated", [Horthy] protested. Hitler reassured him: "There is no need for that".
Hitler had indeed used those words but not on 17 April. He spoke those words at the earlier session on 16 April. By the following day the Nazi   attitude had hardened. By transposing to 17 April remarks which Hitler had in fact made on 16 April, so the Defendants say, Irving diluted the uncompromising and brutal language Hitler used on 17 April when exhorting Horthy to kill all Hungary's Jews. Irving was, as he accepted, warned in 1977 that he had made an error about the date when Hitler made this remark. But took no action to correct the error in the 1991 edition.
5.207The Defendants are further critical of Irving for watering down what Hitler did say on 17 April when it came to the 1991 edition of Hitler's War. Irving omitted Hitler statement about having to kill hares and deer; he omitted the question why the "beasts" (ie the Jews) should be spared and he omitted his reference to nations who did not get rid of the Jews perishing. According to the Defendants Irving was guilty of atrocious manipulation of what Hitler said.