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

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(J) Misrepresentation of reliable sources: the reports to the British Foreign Office

1. Irving tries hard to twist the sources in such a way as to make it appear that Goebbels was virtually the only Nazi leader in favour of the pogrom. He manipulates the historical record to suggest that Himmler, Heydrich, Hitler, Lutze and others opposed the pogrom or even tried to stop it. As part of this strategy, He also suggests that Goebbels was completely isolated in the aftermath of the pogrom. Irving falsely suggests that Hitler distanced himself from Goebbels, and that Goebbels had been on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In another manipulation of the historical record, Irving also claims that 'Dr Goebbels found himself a pariah in official Berlin' and that 'Foreign diplomats reported that Goebbels now outranked both Ribbentrop and Himmler in unpopularity'.143
2. Irving's first claim is based, according to his footnotes, on a report by the British Ambassador in Berlin to the Foreign Office.144 But, in a lapse typical of Irving's historical standards, when we turn to this document, there is no reference in it to Goebbels being a 'pariah' in Berlin.145 In any case, we have already seen that Hitler visited the theatre with Goebbels on 15 November 1938 in Berlin. Three days previously, Goebbels had actively taken part in the conference chaired by Göring in Berlin, where many officials from various party and state offices were represented - hardly a sign of Goebbels 'pariah' status.
3. Irving's second claim is based, according to his footnotes, on the following documents in a file in the Public Record Office in Kew: 'Memos from W.W. Astor, Nov 9; British consulate in Vienna to Ogilvie-Forbes, Nov 25; memo by Capt. J. McLaren, Nov 29; minute by W. Ridsdale, Dec 6, 1938'.146 However, these documents again fail to support Irving's claims. In his memorandum, Astor only states that Goebbels 'equals von Ribbentrop in unpopularity' and, in any case, this document was written before 'Kristallnacht'.147 The British Consulate in Vienna makes no reference at all in its communication of 25 November 1938 to Goebbels's unpopularity.148 The memorandum by Captain McLaren similarly does not contain the content attributed to it   by Irving. Also, McLaren was not a diplomat, though Irving claims he was.149 And the Ridsdale minutes also fail to support Irving's assertions. They refer to information received by a British Foreign official in London from the French Embassy (presumably in London), which in turn drew on information received from the French Embassy in Berlin, reviewing the German political situation. According to this (third-hand) information, which Ridsdale received from a M. Maillaud, 'Ribbentrop, Goebbels and Himmler, in that order, would apparently be at the head of any public Hate Ballot in Germany at the moment'.150
4. These particular inaccuracies and misrepresentations might appear trivial. However, if seen in the context of the great number of similar lapses and misrepesentations of documents, they further undermine any claim by Irving to be take serious as a dilligent historian. All too often, Irving provides inaccurate references or no source references at all. And if the documents referred to by Irving can be traced, it is often revealed that he manipulated, misrepresented or misread them.


143. lrving, Goebbels, p. 281-2.
144. Irving, Goebbels, p. 614, note 65.
145. PR0, FO 371/21637, Telegram (en clair) and Cypher from G. Ogilvie Forbes, 14.11.1938, No. 688.
146. Irving, Goebbels, p. 614, note 83.
147. PR0 FO 371/21665, 89-92: W.W. Astor memorandum on the internal situation in Germany, 9.11.1938.
148. PR0 FO 371/21665, 235-240: British Consulate-General, Vienna, to Sir Ogilvie-Forbes, 25.11.1938.
149. PRO FO 371/21665, 246-256: Private Notes on a visit to Germany, November 1938. The memorandum was passed on to the Foreign Office by M. Kestenbaum, who warned that he was inclined to 'be sceptical as to whether the narrative has been too highly coloured'; ibid, Bl. 244: Kestenbaum to Ashton-Gwatkin, 29.11.1938.
150. PR0 FO 371/21665, 297: Ridsdale memorandum, 6.12.1938.
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accessed 12 March 2013