Irving v. Lipstadt


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

Table of Contents
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The events of Kristallnacht (paragraphs 5.37-72 above)

13.14 It was, I believe, common ground between the parties that Kristallnacht marked a vital stage in the evolution of the Nazis' attitude towards and treatment of the Jews. It was the first occasion on which there was mass destruction of Jewish property and wholesale violence directed at Jews across the whole of Germany. As an historian of the Nazi regime, it was therefore important for Irving to analyse with care the evidence how that violence came about and what role was played by Hitler.
13.15 Readers of the account in Goebbels of the events of 9 and 10 November 1938 were given by Irving to understand that Hitler bore no responsibility for the starting of the pogrom and that, once he learned of it, he reacted angrily and thereafter intervened to call a halt to the violence. I accept the evidence of Evans and Longerich that this picture seriously misrepresents the available contemporaneous evidence.
13.16 Irving's endeavour to cast sole blame for the pogrom onto Goebbels is at odds with the documentary evidence. Goebbels's diary entry for 9 November, the telegram sent by Muller at 23.55 that night and the message despatched by Bohmcker all suggest that Hitler knew and approved of the anti-Jewish demonstrations. Given the significance of the events of Kristallnacht, an objective historian would in my view dismiss the notion that Hitler was kept in ignorance until a relatively late stage. Yet Irving pays little attention to the evidence which implicates Hitler. He gives a misleading and partial account of Goebbels's diary entry. I cannot accept Irving's explanation for his omission to refer to Muller's telegram and Bohmcker's message, namely that they add little, for both lend support to the thesis that Hitler knew and approved of the violence. Irving also omits to refer to the statement contained in the report of the internal party enquiry into the events of Kristallnacht that Goebbels had claimed in his speech at the Old Town Hall that Hitler had been told of the burning of Jewish shops and synagogues and had decided that such spontaneous actions should continue.
13.17 Irving's account of Hitler's reaction upon hearing (for the first time, according to Irving) of the violence is heavily dependent on what Irving was told by Hitler's adjutants many years after the event. Whilst Irving is to be commended for his diligence in tracing and interviewing these witnesses, there is in my judgment force in the Defendants' contention that Irving is unduly uncritical in his use of their evidence especially when it runs counter to the evidence of contemporaneous documents. I do not suggest that Irving should have discounted altogether the evidence he obtained from Bruckner, Schaub, von Below, Hederich and Futkammer. But in my view he ought to have approached their accounts with considerable scepticism and rejected them where they conflict with the evidence of the contemporaneous documents both before and after 1am on 10 November. That documentary evidence is, as Irving should have appreciated, inconsistent with the notion that Hitler was angry when he first heard of the destruction of Jewish property which was in progress. To write, as Irving did, that Hitler was "totally unaware of what Goebbels had done" is in my view to pervert the evidence.
13.18 In my judgment the account given by Irving of the interventions by Nazi leaders during the night of 9/10 November distorts the evidence. Irving's interpretation at p276 of Goebbels and in his evidence in these proceedings of the telex sent by Heydrich at 1.20am on 10 November is   misconceived. The terms of the telex demonstrate, in my view, that Heydrich was not seeking to protect Jewish property but rather was authorising the continuation of the destruction save in certain narrowly defined circumstances. Similarly I accept the evidence of Evans that the telex sent by Hess at 2.56am on 10 November (which, it is agreed, emanated from Hitler) was not a general instruction to "halt the madness" but rather to stop acts of arson against Jewish shops and the like, so permitting other acts of destruction to continue and Jewish homes and synagogues to be set on fire. Furthermore Irving should at the very least have doubted the claim by Wiedemann that Goebbels spent much of the night making telephone calls to stop the most violent excesses. The claim that during that night Hitler did everything he could to prevent violence against the Jews and their property is in my judgment based upon misrepresentation, misconstruction and omission of the documentary evidence.
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