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Defense Documents

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

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<< (iv) Irving's suppression...

(v) Irving's further arguments.

1. Irving tries to bolster his position with three arguments, all of them spurious. First, he argues that the 'special circumstances and imperatives of ... Ribbentrop, writing under duress in Allied captivity and facing the inevitable death sentence, had to be borne in mind'.17 Irving   nowhere explains exactly what these 'special circumstances and imperatives' are. Does he mean the imperative of a condemned man to tell the truth? Or does he mean the imperative to try and exonerate himself before history by arguing that he must have known nothing of the extermination of the Jews because Hitler knew nothing? If Ribbentrop wrote under 'duress' then why does Irving not dispense with the whole document, as he does for example with the memoirs of Rudolf Höss, rather than trying to maintain that this 'duress' was manifest only when Ribbentrop implicated Hitler but not when he did not?
2. Secondly, Irving suggests that Hitler's political testament 'does not explicitly specify a Hitler knowledge [sic] of the extermination.'18 This repeats the argument presented by Irving in his letter to Harold Evans of The Sunday Times, on 14 September 1977. Irving wrote that 'Hitler's Testament was written in April 1945, and Ms. Serenyi [sic] knows it; in any case, its wording is as ambiguous as every other document that has ever been produced purporting to prove Hitler's guilt.'19 Even if true the fact remains that Ribbentrop saw enough in the document to revise his opinion that Hitler knew nothing of the 'Final Solution'. However this is not true. Hitler's political testament, dictated during his last days in the bunker in Berlin, bristled with anti-Semitism. It was brutally clear:
I also made it quite plain that, if the nations of Europe are again to be regarded as mere shares to be bought and sold by those international conspirators in money and finance, then Jewry, the race which is the real criminal in this murderous struggle, will be saddled with the responsibility. I further left no one in doubt that this time millions of Europe's Aryan peoples would not die of hunger, millions of grown men would not suffer death, nor would hundreds of thousands of women and children be allowed to be   burnt and bombed to death in the towns, without the real criminal having to atone for his guilt, even if by more humane means.20
3.This passage is in no sense ambiguous. Hitler unmistakably informs posterity that he has made good his threat that 'this time' [i.e. in contrast to World War One] the deaths of millions of Aryans would not go unavenged. This can only refer to his speech before the Reichstag of 30 January 1939. This speech has already been mentioned a number of times above, and was constantly referred to by members of the Nazi leadership during the war when they referred to the extermination of the Jews. In it (it will be remembered) he said:
Today I will once more be a prophet. If the international Jewish financiers inside and outside Europe should once again succeed in plunging the nations into a world war, the result will not be the bolshevization of the world and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation [Vernichtung] of the Jewish race throughout Europe.21
 
4. With the radicalisation of Jewish policy during the course of the war his 'prophecy' took on a prominent place in Hitler's thinking. On 30 January 1941, for example, Hitler reminded his audience:
And I do not want the remark forgotten, which I once made in the German Reichstag on 1 September 1939. The remark namely, that if the other world is thrown into a general war by Jewry, then the whole of Jewry will be done for in Europe. 22
5. Hitler returned to his 'prophecy' yet again a year later in another speech making it absolutely clear that he now considered himself engaged in a war against the Jews in which either one side or the other would end by being exterminated:
We are certain that the war can only end in that either the Aryan peoples will be exterminated or that Jewry disappears from Europe. I already pronounced before the German Reichstag on 1 September 1939 - and I guard myself against hasty prophecies - that this war will not end as the Jews imagine it will, namely that the European-Aryan peoples will be exterminated, rather that the result of this war will be the annihilation of Jewry. For the first time this time the real ancient Jewish law will be applied, 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'23
 
6. This 'prophecy' also became common currency in higher Nazi circles, as we have already seen. Here too there was a clear understanding of what it actually meant. The propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary on 13 December 1941:
Concerning the Jewish question the Führer is determined to make a clean sweep. He predicted to the Jews that if they were to once again bring about a world war, that they would thereby experience their annihilation. That was no idle phrase. The world war is here, the annihilation of Jewry must be the necessary consequence. 24
7.Another leading Nazi, the Governor-General of occupied Poland, Hans Frank, spoke before his government on 16 December 1941 in similar terms which also made it clear what he understood by the phrase 'deportation to the east':
An end must be made with the Jews one way or another - I want to tell you that quite openly. The Führer once pronounced: if united Jewry should once again succeed in unleashing a world war, then the blood-sacrifice will not only be brought by those peoples incited into war, but the Jew in Europe will also meet his end. [...]
But what will happen to the Jews? Do you believe that they will be housed in village settlements in the Ostland? We were told in Berlin: why all the screaming; we can not do anything with them in the Ostland or the Reichskommisariat either, liquidate them yourselves!25
 
8. Hitler, of course, was considerably less brutal in the language used in his testimony, and used the term 'even if by more humane means'. All this should do, however, is alert the historian to the well-documented fact that murder by gassing was considered (without any justification, it must be added) to be more humane than shooting or starvation, and that Hitler included in his testament the propagandistic point that the killing of civilians by bombing raids, at least when the civilians in question were German, was inhumane.
9. These points can be illustrated by an infamous memorandum of July 1941 in which SS-Sturmbannführer Rolf-Heinz Höppner drew the attention of the Jewish expert of office IV B 4 of the RSHA, Adolf Eichmann, to considerations amongst SS men in the Warthegau regarding the 'solution of the Jewish question'. Point 4 read:
This winter there is a danger that not all of the Jews [of the Warthegau] can be fed anymore. One should weigh up honestly if the most humane solution might not be to finish off those Jews, as far as they are incapable of being put to work, by some quick-working means. At any rate, this would be more pleasant than letting them starve to death.26
10. Irving cited this selfsame document in trying to convince the historian Martin Broszat that there was no Hitler order for the 'Final Solution', rather that it was the result of a number of   ad hoc local initiatives.27 And yet the same tale-tell reference to starvation and more humane means of killing occurred both in this document and in Hitler's final testament.
11. Thirdly, Irving claims that he 'had a fund of collateral documentary evidence on which to base his decisions on how to paraphrase or edit over-long documents. This includes the transcript of a conversation, secretly recorded between Ribbentrop and a British officer at this time, relatiung [sic.] to what had happened in these concentration camps.'28 This fact, he further claims, has been overlooked.
12. The transcript referred to does not seem to have been included in Irving's First List of Documents, but presumably this refers to the interrogation of 11 August 1945 cited in Irving's Nuremberg: The Last Battle. Far from being collateral evidence of Hitler not having ordered the destruction of the Jews, it is as contradictory as the Ribbentrop notes detailed above. In Irving's book, Ribbentrop answers the question if Hitler knew of the fate of the Jews in the concentration camps thus:
I have so often thought about that. It would absolutely ruin my picture of Hitler if I thought this. I know one thing, that after the Russians [in September 1944] had taken over the concentration camp in Poland, Majdanek I think it was called, that was the first time I heard of these persecutions in concentration camps, misdeeds, atrocities. This was the first thing I heard when our representatives from abroad sent telegrams that Russian propaganda was making a tremendous row in neutral countries. I got these telegrams and placed them before the Führer. I said that if this were true in any respect it would be quite impossible to make foreign policy. So he took the matter in hand and said it was not my business to discuss this. That's the only thing I heard.29
 
13. This, therefore, is the first piece of 'collateral evidence' which Irving cites in order to justify his procedure in 'editing' Ribbentrop's testimony.
14. Ribbentrop is likewise quoted in Irving's book on Nuremberg as having said to the Nuremberg psychologist Gilbert: 'You know, I didn't know anything about the exterminations - until the Maidanek affair came out in '44.'30 Thus even by his own admission Ribbentrop did know about the concentration camps and had discussed them with Hitler at the latest in 1944, contradicting his own testimony whilst in the dock. Ribbentrop's account here is as unreliable and self-serving as it is on other aspects of this question.
15. These allegedly 'collateral' pieces of evidence thus in no way justify, as Irving claims they do, the suppression of important parts of Ribbentrop's public and private evidence at Nuremberg in Irving's account. He is not engaged in the neutral 'editing' of 'over-long' documents in order to convey their essential sense in a few words. He is, once more, engaged in the skewing of the evidence by editing out parts of it which run counter to his argument.

Notes

17. Reply to Defence of Second Defendant, paragraph 30.
18. Ibid.
19. Doc. 524, letter frm Irving to Harold Evans, The Sunday Times, 14 September 1977, p. 5.
20. The translation is that in Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham, Documents on Nazism, 1919 - 1945 (London, 1974), 678 - 80, p. 678, but minus a small mistake which translated 'Millionen von Europäern der arischen Völker' as millions of children of Europe's Aryan people'. The German original reads 'Ich habe aber auch keinen Zweifel darüber gelassen, dass, wenn die Völker Europas wieder nur als Aktienpakete dieser internationalen Geld- und Finanzverschwörer angesehen werden, dann auch jenes Volk mit zur Verantwortung gezogen werden wird, das eigentlich Schuldige and diesem mörderishcen Ringen ist: Das Judentum! Ich habe weiter keinen daräber im Unklaren gelassen, dass dieses Mal nicht nur Millionen von Europeäern der arischen Völker verhungern werden, nicht nur Millionen erwachsener Männer den Tod erleiden und nicht nur Hunderttausende an Frauen und Kindern in den Städten verbrannt und zu Tode bombadiert werden dürften, ohne dass der eigentlich Schuldige, wenn auch durch humanere Mittel, seine Schuld zu büssen hat.' Gert Sudholt (ed.), Adolf Hitler's Drei Testamente. Ein Zeitdokument (Leoni am Starnberger see, n.d.), p. 69, facsimile p. 3.
21. Noakes and Pridham, pp. 485 -6. The original reads 'Ich will heute wieder ein Prophet sein: Wenn es dem internationalen Finanzjudentum in und außerhalb Europas gelingen sollte, die Völker noch einmal in einem Weltkrieg zu stürzen dann wird das Ergebnis nicht die Bolschewisierung der Erde und damit der Sieg der Judentums sein sondern die Vernichtung der Jüdischen Rasse in Europa.' Max Domarus, Hitler Reden und Proklamaationen 1932 - 1945, vol. 2, Untergang (1939 - 1945) (Würzburg, 1963), p. 1058.
22. 'Und nicht vergessen möchte ich den Hinweis, den ich schon einmal, am 1. September 1939, im deutschen Reichstag gegeben habe. Den Hinweis darauf nämlich, daß, wenn die andere Welt von dem Judentum in einen allgemeinen Krieg gestürzt würde, das gesamte Judentum seine Rolle in Europa ausgespeilt haben wird!' Domarus, p. 1663. The reference to a speech of 1 September 1939 is wrong, that of 30 January 1939 being the only one to contain such a prediction.
23. 'Wir sind uns dabei im klaren darüber, daß der Krieg nur damit enden Kann, daß entweder die arischen Völker ausgerottet werden, oder daß das Judentum aus Europa verschwindet. Ich habe am 1. Septemeber 1939 im deutschen Reichstag es schon ausgesprochen - und ich hüte mich vor voreiligen Prophezeihungen - daß dieser Krieg nicht so ausgehen wird, wie es sich die Juden vorstellen, nämlich daß die europäisch - arishen Völker ausgerottet werden, sonder daß das Ergebnis dieses Krieges die Vernichtung des Judentums sein wird. Zum ersten mal wird diesmal das echt altjüdischen Gesetz angewendet: 'Aug; um 'Aug;, Zahn um Zahn.' Damorus, pp. 1829 - 30.
24. Bezüglich der Judenfrage ist der Führer entschlossen, reinen Tisch zu machen. Er hat den Juden prophezeit, daß, wenn sie noch einmal Weltkrieg herbeiführen würden, sie dabei ihre Vernichtung erleben würden. Das ist keine Phrase gewesen. Der Weltkrieg is da, die Vernichtung des Judentums muß die notwendige Folge sein.', Elke Fröhlich (ed.), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 2, Diktate 1941 - 1945, vol. 2, October to December 1941 (munich, 1996), p. 498.
25. 'Mit den Juden - das will ich Ihnen ganz offen sagen - muß so oder so Schluß gemacht werden. Der Führer sprach einmal das Wort aus: wenn es der vereinigten Judenschaft wieder gelingen wird, einen Weltkrieg zu entfessseln, dann werden die Blutopfer nich nur von den Krieg gehetzten Völkern gebracht werden, sondern dann wird der Jude in Europa sein Ende gefunden haben. [...] Aber was soll mit den Juden geschehen? Glauben Sie, man wird sie im Ostland im Siedlungsdörfen unterbringen? Man hat uns in Berlin gesagt: weshalb macht man diese Schreiereien; wir können im Ostland oder in Reichskommisariat auch nichts mit ihnen anfangen, liquidieren sie selber!', Werner Präg and Wolfgang Jacobmeyer, Das Diensttagebuch des deutschen Generalgouverneurs in Polen, 1939 - 1945 (stuttgart, 1975), p. 457.
26. 'Es besteht in diesem Winter die Gefahr, daß die Juden nicht mehr sämtlich ernährt werden können. Es ist ernshaft zu erwägen, ob es nicht die humanste Lösung ist, die Juden, soweit sie nicht arbeitseinsatzfähig sind, durch irgendein schnell wirkendes Mittel zu erledigen. Auf jeden Fall wäre dies angenehmer, als sie verhungern zu lassen.'. A less satisfactory translation using 'device' as 'Mittel' is in Raul Hilberg, Documents of Destruction. Germany and Jewry 1939 - 1945 (London, 1972), pp. 87-88.
27. Doc. 534, letter from Irving to Professor Martin Broszat, 3 October 1977.
28. Reply to Defence of Second Defendant, paragraph 30.
29. David Irving, Nurember:. The Last Battle (London, 1996), p. 78.
30. Gilbert, p. 170
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