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Defense Documents

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

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(D) Irving's misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the sources: the Hitler table talk of 24 July 1942

1. The final document cited by Irving in support of his claim that Hitler was ignorant of the extermination of the Jews and was deceived by Goebbels and others about the true nature of the deportations to the East, is the Hitler table talk of 24 July 1942. Henry Picker recorded Hitler as saying that:
After the war was over he would rigorously take the standpoint that he would smash city after city to pieces if the Jews did not come out and emigrate to Madagascar or some other Jewish national state...When it was reported to him that Lithuania was also Jew-free today, that was therefore significant.62
2. There can be no doubt that this statement was designed by Hitler to deceive his aides and guests into believing that he had nothing to do with the extermination of Jews, which was already the subject of rumours. By the time of this statement, in late July 1942, the Madagascar plan had long been put aside - by none other than Hitler himself. At the notorious Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942, Reinhard Heydrich informed the other high-ranking Nazi officials present that in place of emigration from now on the evacuation of the Jews to the East has come into operation as a further possible solution, after a corresponding prior approval by the Führer.'63
3. By early 1942, it had thus been made official that Hitler was no longer aiming at driving Jews out of Europe to Africa. The Madagascar plan, which had already been postponed indefinitely in the Autumn of 1940, was now officially shelved.64 It is totally misleading to speculate, as Irving does, that Hitler in July 1942 'might still be dreaming of Madagascar'.65 On 10 February 1942 the Foreign Office official who had first proposed the plan for deporting the Jews to Madagascar in 1940, wrote that
...Gruppenführer Heydrich has been charged by the Führer with carrying out the solution of the Jewish question in Europe. In the meantime, the war against the Soviet Union has opened up the possibility of placing other territories at our disposal for the final solution. Accordingly the Führer has decided that the Jews should be pushed off not to Madagascar but to the East. Madagascar therefore does not need to be foreseen for the final solution any more.66
4. Thus, by the time Hitler referred to the possibility of deporting Jews to Madagascar in the summer of 1942, this plan had long been abandoned on his own orders. Irving is well aware of these facts.67
5. Hitler knew that, in order to realise the plan of shipping Jews to Madagascar, Germany needed control over the seas. But not only was the British fleet dominant; British troops had even landed on Madagascar itself between 5 and 7 May 1942.68 Hitler commented on 13 May 1942 that 'England does not think of surrendering Madagascar again'.69 The plan to deport Jews to Africa had become a complete fiction.
6. In fact, by this time the complete extermination of all European Jews in the Nazi sphere of influence was well under way. Transports with Jews from various countries had already gone to the death camps in the East. The extermination camps in Belzec, Sobibor and Auschwitz had been in operation for several months, and the death camp in Treblinka was just beginning to receive the first transports of Jews to be exterminated.70 The extermination of the Jews living in the General Government was also escalated. On 19 July 1942, Himmler ordered that the 'resettlement of the entire Jewish population of the General Government is to be carried out and   completed by 31 December 1942.'71 And on 28 July 1942, just two days after Hitler's table talk, Himmler wrote to the Head of the SS Head Office, Gottlob Berger, and explained that 'the occupied Eastern territories will be Jew-free. The Führer has laid the implementation of this very difficult order on my shoulders. In any case, no-one can take the responsibility from me. So I am denying myself any debate about it.'72
7. All these documents make clear that Hitler on 24 July 1942 was not serious about deporting Jews to Madagascar. So why did Hitler refer to Madagascar? Essentially, as one historian, Magnus Brechtken, author of the standard work on the Madagascar plan, has convincingly argued, this was no more than 'pure hypocrisy, at best a verbal smokescreen of Hitler's, born out of thought-games, a smokescreen with which he took up a known topic which had also once been the subject of concrete planning, in order not to call the measures which were actually going on against the Jews by their name.'73
8. This view has also been expressed by other historians, such as Peter Longerich, who argues that all of Hitler's statements from the Summer 1942 'about possible "resettlement projects" - are   diversions meant to deceive his listeners'.74 After the war, some of Hitler's listeners did indeed claim that they had been deceived by Hitler. Henry Picker, who took the notes at the table talk of 24 July 1942, claimed that Hitler, even in his private circle, had never
forgotten to keep silent about things for which there was no resonance among his table-companions, as amongst the broad mass of out people. Only take the persecution of the Jews, which he obscured before his table-companions with references to preparations for the establishment of a Jewish national state on the island of Madagascar or alternatively in central Africa.75


62. Nach Beendigung des Krieges werde er sich rigoros auf den Standpunkt stellen, daß er Stadt für Stadt zusammenschlage, wenn nicht die Juden rauskämen und nach Madagaskar oder einem sonstigen jüdischen Nationalstaat abwanderten...Wenn ihm berichtet werde, daß heute auch Litauen judenfrei sei, so sei das bezeichnend'; H. Picker, Hitlers Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquartier (Stuttgart, 1976), p 456.
63. 'Anstelle der Auswanderung ist nunmehr als weitere Lösungsmöglichkeit nach entsprechender vorheriger Genehmigung durch den Führer die Evakuierung der Juden nach dem Osten getreten'; cited in P. Longerich (ed.) Die Ermordung der europäischen Juden (Munich, Zurich, 1989), p. 85.
64. M. Brechtken, 'Madagaskar für die Juden' (Munich, 1997), p. 293
65. Irving, Hitler's War (London, 1991), 466.
66. '...Gruppenführer Heydrich vom Führer beauftragt worden ist, die Löung der Judenfrage in Europa durchzuführen. Der Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion hat inzwischen die Möglichkeit gegeben, andere Territorien für die Endlösung zu Verfügung zu stellen. Demgemäß hat der Führer entschieden, daß die Juden nicht mach Madagaskar, sondern nach dem Osten abgeschoben werden sollen. Madagaskar braucht mithin nicht mehr für die Endlösung vorgesehen zu werden'; Hausmitteilung Rademacher to Bielfeld, 10.2.1942; reprinted in M. Brechtken, 'Madagaskar für die Juden' (Munich, 1997), p. 279
67. Irving, Hitler's War (London, 1991), p423.
68. M. Brechtken, 'Madagaskar für die Juden', p. 283, footnote 277.
69. H. Picker, Hitlers Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquartier (Stuttgart, 1976), p. 293.
70. E. Kogon et al. (eds.), Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen durch Giftgas (Frankfurt am.M., 1983). pp. 329-30
71. 'Umsiedlung der gesamten jüdischen Bevölkerung des Generalgovernements bis 31. Dezember 1942 durchgeführt und beendet ist'. Befehl Himmlers an den HSSPF im Generalgovernement, Krüger, 19.7.1942; reprinted in P. Longerich (ed.), Die Ermordung der europäischen Juden (Munich, Zurich, 1989), pp. 201-202.
72. '.Die besetzten Ostgebiete werden judenfrei. Die Durchführung dieses sehr schweren Befehls hat der Führer auf meine Schultern gelegt. Die Verantwortung kann mir ohnedies niemand abnehmen. Also verbiete ich mir alles mitreden.'' Himmler to Berger, 28.7.1942; Third Supplemental Discovery List by Irving, folder 51 (b).
73. 'pure Heuchelei, allenfalls eine aus Gedankenspielereien geborene verbale Nebelkerze Hitlers, mit der er einen bekannten Topos, der zugleich einmal Gegenstand konkreter Planungen gewesen war, aufgriff, um die tatsächlich ablaufenden Maßnahmen gegen die Juden nicht beim Namen zu nennen'; M. Brechtken, 'Madagaskar für die Juden' (Munich, 1997), pp. 281-282.
74. Expert report by Dr. Longerich
75. 'die Verschwiegenheit vergessen bei Dingen, für die in seiner Tafelrunde ebenso wie in der breiten Masse unseres Volkes die Resonanz fehlte. Man nehme nur die Judenverfolgung, die er der Tafelfunde gegenüber durch Vorarbeiten für die Einrichtung eines jüdischen Nationalstaates auf der Insel Madagaskar beziehungsweise in Innerafrika vernebelte.' Picker, Hitlers Tischgespraäche im Führerhauptauartier (Berlin, 1997), p. 55; see also H. Picker, H. Hoffmann, The Hitler Phenomenon (London, 1974), p. 8.
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