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Defense Documents

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

Table of Contents

(A) Omission of reliable sources: the Goebbels diary entry of 27 March 1942

1. Irving refers to the diary entry for 27 March 1942 and Goebbels's subsequent conversation with Hitler as evidence that Goebbels by this time knew of the details of the mass extermination camps operating in the East, and that Hitler did not. However, the full diary entry gives a very different impression from that conveyed by Irving:  
The Jews are now being pushed out of the General Government, beginning near Lublin, to the East. A pretty barbaric procedure is being applied here, and it is not to be described in any more detail, and not much is left of the Jews themselves. In general one may conclude that 60% of them must be liquidated, while only 40% can be put to work. The former Gauleiter of Vienna [Globocnik], who is carrying out this action, is doing it pretty prudently and with a procedure that doesn't work too conspicuously. The Jews are being punished barbarically, to be sure, but they have fully deserved it. The prophesy that the Führer issued to them on the way, for the eventuality that they started a new world war, is beginning to realise itself in the most terrible manner. One must not allow any sentimentalities to rule in these matters. If we did not defend ourselves against them, the Jews would annihilate us. It is a struggle for life and death between the Aryan race and the Jewish bacillus. No other government and no other regime could muster the strength for a general solution of the question. Here too, the Führer is the persistent pioneer and spokesman of a radical solution, which is demanded by the way things are and thus appears to be unavoidable. Thank God, during the war we now have a whole series of possibilities which were barred to us in peacetime. We must exploit them. The ghettos which are becoming available in the General Government are now being filled with the Jews who are being pushed out of the Reich, and after a certain time the process is then to renew itself here. Jewry has nothing to laugh about...16
2. Clearly, Irving is right to use this diary entry to show that Goebbels knew the operational details of the mass extermination in the East. However, Goebbels clearly did not refer to Auschwitz or Treblinka, as Irving claims. The reference to Globocnik, and to killings taking place in the east of Lublin, make clear that Goebbels is writing about Belzec. More importantly, aside from this elementary factual error, Irving does not tell his readers that Goebbels described Hitler as having pushed for this 'radical solution'. Irving simply omits the entire passage relating to Hitler, as he did in the 1991 edition of Hitler's War, because this statement by Goebbels discredits Irving's claim that Hitler knew nothing about the extermination camps in the East.17 If Hitler was ignorant, how could he be 'the persistent pioneer and spokesman of a radical solution'? Thus, Irving manipulates the diary entry to argue the exact opposite of what it actually shows.
3. Irving tries to justify himself in his reply to the defence by arguing that Goebbels's claim Hitler's complicity should be regarded simply as 'gratuitous references to the Führer' and discarded as untrue:
...when analysed, these references boiled down to (a) the empty rhetoric of a diarist dictating orally to a subordinate private secretary (Richard Otte), and (b) Goebbels's by now familiar alibi-ing technique, of ascribing some historic act - be it Hitler's decision to stand against   Hindenburg, or the 'Kristallnacht', or some other event - post facto to The Will of an omnipotent and omniscient Führer. The perceptive historian does not fall for such subterfuges, particularly given the Goebbels Diaries' troubled relationship with the truth. In short the passage quoted is evidence in law against Goebbels, but not against Hitler.18
4. Irving's manipulation and distortion of Hitler's and Goebbels's role in 'Kristallnacht', the anti-Jewish progrom of November 1938, has been discussed previously. Here, we will deal with Irving's other claims in this passage.
5. First, the question whether Goebbels's dictated this passage or not is irrelevant to the issue, particularly in view of the fact that his diary entries relating to the 'Kristallnacht' were not dictated. Far from using 'empty rhetoric', Goebbels in fact repeats several of Hitler's own thoughts. For the reasons given by Goebbels for the extermination of the Jews in his diary had also been expressed in similar form by Hitler in the previous year. In July 1941, Hitler stated: 'If even one state, on whatever grounds, tolerated a Jewish family in its midst, this would become the breeding-ground for bacilli for a new subversion.'19 On 12 December 1941, Hitler spoke about the Jews in front of the Gauleiters (noted down by Goebbels himself):
With reference to the Jewish question, the Führer is determined to clear the decks. He prophesied to the Jews that if they should once more bring about a world war, they would experience their own annihilation in doing so. That was no mere talk. The world war is there, the annihilation of Jewry must be the necessary consequence. The question is to be considered   without any sentimentality. We aren't there to have sympathy with the Jews, only sympathy with our German people.20
6. Far from keeping the knowledge of the mass extermination in the camps in the East from Hitler, as Irving claims, Goebbels not only describes Hitler as the originator of the most radical measures taken against the Jews, but even uses Hitler's line of argument to justify this murderous policy.
7. Secondly, Irving's selective use of the Goebbels diary is not based on neutral analysis, as he claims, but it is motivated by his attempt to absolve Hitler of responsibility for the extermination of the Jews. Irving accepts as accurate all those passages in the diary which confirm Goebbels's involvement, and dismisses all the passages implicating Hitler as 'alibis'. Irving is open about this biased use of the Goebbels diary. He claims that the diary 'is acceptable as evidence against Goebbels, but not necessarily against third parties. A distinction must be drawn therefore between what he admits putting to his Führer, and what he alleges the Führer to put to him.'21 But for which audience were these 'alibis' inserted by Goebbels? If Goebbels really did try in his diary to shift the blame for the extermination of the Jews onto Hitler, and away from himself, why did he include so many passages which showed that he himself favoured the mass extermination of the Jews? Why did he sometimes even show himself as suggesting   radical measures to Hitler rather than simply taking orders from him?22 As a means of absolving its author of blame, the diary is worse than useless. Surely Goebbels was cleverer than that. In any case, it is clear throughout that Goebbels never expected to be called to account for his actions by a hostile power or a disapproving posterity. He passionately believed in the prospect of the 'Thousand-Year-Reich' and he clearly wrote the diary to show the future inhabitants of that state how important his own role had been in its creation.
8. In Hitler's War (1977 edition) Irving relies on the Goebbels diary entries of 26 April 1942 and 29 May 1942 to show that Hitler did not know about the extermination of the Jews while Goebbels himself did. So why did Goebbels not insert an 'alibi' here? Why did Goebbels not pin the blame for the extermination of the Jews on Hitler in these passages too? Irving's use of the diary shows him not to be a 'perceptive historian', but an incorrigible manipulator of evidence. If the diary, in Irving's view, exonerates Hitler, he accepts it as genuine. But if the diary implicates Hitler, Irving dismisses it as an 'alibi'. This selective use of the diary leads Irving to conclude that 'nowhere in the entire Goebbels diaries - including the unpublished years - is there any reference to Hitler's alleged initiative in the extermination of the Jews.'23 This claim is completely false.


15. Irving, Hitler's War (London, 1977), p. 392.
16. 'Aus dem Generalgovernement werden jetzt, bei Lublin beginnend, die Juden nach dem Osten abgeschoben. Es wird hier ein ziemlich barbarisches und nicht näher zu beschreibendes Verfahren angewandt, und von den Juden selbst bleibt nicht mehr viel übrig. Im großen kann man wohl feststellen, daß 60 % davon liquidiert werden müssen, während nur noch 40 % in die Arbeit eingesetzt werden können. Der ehemalige Gauleiter von Wien, der diese Aktion durchführt, tut das mit ziemlicher Umsicht und auch mit einem Verfahren, das nicht allzu auffällig wirkt. An den Juden wird ein Strafgericht vollzogen, das zwar barbarisch ist, das sie aber vollauf verdient haben. Die Prophezeiung, die der Führer ihnen für die Herbeiführung eines neuen Weltkriegs mit auf den Weg gegeben hat, beginnt sich in der furchtbarsten Weise zu verwirklichen. Man darf in diesen Dingen keine Sentimentalitäten obwalten lassen. Die Juden würden, wenn wir uns ihrer nicht erwehren würden, uns vernichten. Es ist ein Kampf auf Leben und Tod zwischen arischer Rasse und dem jüdischen Bazillus. Keine andere Regierung und kein anderes Regime könnte die Kraft aufbringen, diese Frage generell zu lösen. Auch hier ist der Führer der unentwegte Vorkämpfer und Wortführer einer radikalen Lösung, die nach Lage der Dinge geboten ist und deshalb unausweichlich erscheint. Gott sei Dank haben wir jetzt während des Krieges eine ganze Reihe von Möglichkeiten, die uns im Frieden verwehrt wären. Die müssen wir ausnutzen. Die in den Städten des Generalgovernements freiwerdenden Ghettos werden jetzt mit den aus dem Reich abgeschobenen Juden gefüllt, und hier soll sich dann nach einer gewissen Zeit der Prozeß erneuern. Das Judentum hat nichts zu lachen...'; in E. Fröhlich (ed.), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil II, Vol. 3 (Munich, New Providence, London, Paris, 1994), p. 561. Goebbels's initial claim, that the Jews were being pushed out of the General Government to the East, was not in fact realised; not only did the majority regarded as unfit for work remain in the General Government, to be exterminated, but the rest stayed here too, and were also exterminated in increasing numbers in the course of 1942. (Note on the translation: 'Das Judentum' and 'die Juden' are used interchangeably).
17. Irving, Hitler's War (London, 1991), pp. 464-465
18. Irving: Reply to the Defence of the Second Defendant, p. 18.
19. Wenn auch nur ein Staat aus irgendwelchen Gründen eine jüdische Familie bei sich dulde, so würde diese der Baxillenherd für eine neue Zersetzung werden'; cited in A. Hillgruber, 'Die "Endlösung" und das deutsche Ostimperium als Kernstücke des rassenideologischen Programms des Nationalsozialismus', in Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte 20 (1972), pp. 133-153, here p. 142.
20. Bezüglich der Judenfrage ist der Führer entschlossen, reinen Tisch zu machen. Er hat den Juden prophezeit, daß, wenn sie noch einmal einen Weltkrieg herbeiführen würden, die dabei ihre Vermichtung erleben würden. Das ist keine Phrase gewesen. Der Weltkrieg is da, die Vernichtung des Judentums muß die notwendige Folge sein. Die Frage ist ohne jede Sentimentalität zu betrachten. Wir sind nicht dazu da, Mitleid mit den Juden, sondern nur Mitleid mit unserem deutshen Volk zu haben'; cited in E. Fröhlich (ed.), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil II, Vol. 2 (Munich, 1996), pp. 498, diary entry for 13.12.1941.
21. Irving, Goebbels, p. 387.
22. For example, see the Goebbels diary entry for 22 November 1941: 'With reference to Jewish mixed marriages, the Führer recommended to me a somewhat more reserved procedure, above all in artistic circles, becaue he is of the opinion that these marriages will in any case gradually die out, and one should not allow any grey hair to grow on one's head over it'; cited in E. Frölich (ed.), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil II, vol. 2 (Munich, 1996), p341.
23. Irving, Hitler's War (London, 1991), p. 814.
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