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

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(iv) The 'Final Report' of 15 March 1945.153

1. As if Irving's new evidence were not already threadbare enough, the single most important document to date in helping historians decipher the true Dresden death-roll was discovered just as he set about publishing his own 'sensational' source. Following a lecture in Bad Schandau in East Germany in 1965, a Frau Jurk showed Walter Weidauer a document belonging to her father-in-law. It was the 'Final Report' issued by the Dresden police on 15 March 1945. Max Jurk had formerly been with the Dresden police. He had been a colleague of Wolfgang Thierig,   the police Colonel responsible for the report. The 'Final Report' bore Jurk's dictation initials and was signed by Thierig.154 This was the document that Irving had often claimed had not survived the war, and the very document on which TB 47 claimed to be based.155 The document contained exact details of all the material damage the city had sustained. The key passage read: 'Until early 10.3.1945 established: 18,375 fallen, 2,212 badly wounded, 13,718 slightly wounded, 350,000 homeless and long-term re-quartered.'156 Unlike the copies of TB 47 the 'Final Report' bore both an identifiable signature and was stamped 'secret.' It ended with the commentary, 'The above report was given [erstattet] after agreement on the documents with the district committee of the NSDAP.' Weidauer was the first to publish the document in 1966 in a second edition of his book Inferno Dresden.
2. The Dresden City archivist Dr Walter Lange kindly informed Irving of the existence of this crucial document on 5 April 1966. Irving replied: 'As you know I continue to believe in the authenticity of Tagesbefehl signed by Oberst Grosse' based on its stylistic similarity with other documents signed by Grosse.157 Lange then sent Irving a copy of the document on 27 May 1966 informing Irving that he would be interested to have his opinion on it.158 This should   have been the final piece of evidence any self-respecting historian would need to halt the printing of TB 47 as authentic.
3. Simultaneously, on 13 May, the West German archivist Dr. Boberach drew Irving's attention to the discovery of a document in the Federal Archive in West Germany that confirmed the authenticity of the 'Final Report'.159 Amongst the 'Situation Reports on Air Raids on Reich Territory' dated between 23 February and 10 April 1945, Situation Report No. 1404 of the Berlin Chief of Police, dated 22 March 1945 had appeared, a document dated the very same day as TB 47. In it the same data was recorded as in the 'Final Report', including the then current death roll of 18,375, a predicted death roll of 25,000, and a figure of 35,000 missing. As Boberach informed Irving: 'These figures are in complete contradiction to the Order of the Day [i.e. TB 47] of the BdO [Befehlshaber der Ordnungspolizei] Dresden, likewise dated 22.3. The number of dropped bombs and destroyed buildings mentioned deviate only slightly or not at all from the figures in the Order of the Day.'160 Boberach refrained from pushing the implications of this find further, but the inescapable conclusion was that 1) the 'Final Report' was authentic beyond doubt and 2) that someone had tampered with the death-roll in Irving's copies of TB 47.
4. A further passage in the document drew attention to a possible source of statistical confusion in Voigt's earlier statements to Irving of a minimum figure of 40,000.  
Exact establishment of the number killed first possible when police bureau of missing persons and registration office establish which people have left Dresden. At the moment some 35,000 missing persons entries have been submitted to the bureau of missing persons and the city authorities.161
5. Apparently Voigt's office had also collated information on those registered as missing, but who may well have fled Dresden following the attack. This would shed possible light on the deviation between Voigt's minimum of 40,000 and the East-German figure of 35,000.
6. The last document to strengthen this substantial chain of evidence was published by Bergander on 13 February 1975. The last wartime document to quote a figure for those who had died in Dresden was Situation Report No. 1414 of the Berlin Chief of Police, dated 3 April 1945. It read: 'BdO. [Befehlshaber der Ordnungspolizei] Dresden. Up to 31.3.45 the number of killed recovered numbers 22,096 persons.'162
7. With the appearance of the 'Final Report' it was conclusively proven that no weight could be given to TB 47 and that it was more likely than ever a forgery. Irving was forced to make a humiliating climb-down. In his pleadings in the case Irving has made great play of his probity and responsibility in this affair, and how he did not flinch from his 'dilemma'.163 On 16 May 1966 he informed Dr. Boberach that he fully realised the implications of the document of which Boberach had apprised him, and announced his intention to give the facts 'fullest prominence' [Zuerkennung] in both England and Germany to counter the 'false impression' given by TB 47. Unfortunately he would have to delay any announcement by 'about a month'   on 'diplomatic grounds' [sic] as the new edition of his book had appeared only fourteen days earlier.164 In fact Irving waited six weeks.
8. Irving has disclosed none of his correspondence with Corgi surrounding their new edition, and until the exact publication date has been established one is obliged to take Irving's excuse at face value. Whatever the exact publication date, Lange had informed Irving of the existence of the 'Final Report' on 5 April. Taking Irving's stated publication date of 2 May 1966 (i.e. fourteen days before his letter to Boberach) this still perhaps allowed Irving a chance to at least halt printing in early April while he gave himself time to peruse Lange's document and weigh up the supposed merits of TB 47.
9. A letter, first drafted and discussed on 29 and 30 June, duly appeared in The Times on 7 July 1966.165 Irving brought readers' attention to the new documents, finishing off that he had 'no interest in promoting or perpetuating false legends'.166 Likewise he wrote to the Sunday Telegraph asking them if they would help him 'to correct what might otherwise become a dangerous legend.'167 This was too little, too late. Irving had had no grounds to print TB 47 in the first place. As Mr L.A. Jackets, Chief Historian to the Air Ministry commented in a memorandum shortly after Irving's letter to The Times had appeared: 'It is practically   impossible to kill a myth of this kind once it has become widespread and perhaps reprinted in other books all over the world.'168
10. Although there is no evidence that Irving undertook a similar effort in Germany he wrote to Kimber and to his Italian publishers in August outlining the alterations which needed to be made in light of the 'Final Report'.169 Likewise Corgi wrote to Irving in September, presumably in reply to a similar request, to say that as no new edition of his book on Dresden was planned in the foreseeable future the changes could not be made. In reply to Corgi, Irving wrote that he hoped that Corgi did not think he was pushing them for a new edition, only that 'otherwise I would lay myself open to charges of having done nothing to bring this to the attention of my various publishers' attention.'170
11. So far so good. However even Irving's recantation was not as whole-hearted as it might at first glance seem. On the very day his letter appeared in The Times, Irving recorded his conversation with a journalist from the Sunday Telegraph as follows: 'I told him that I had lost faith in statistics now, but was still a little suspicious of the new Dresden figure as the man who wrote the report was responsible for civil defence in the city.'171 Likewise in answer to a reader's letter he wrote: 'You probably detected the note of reservation I introduced into my letter to The Times, because it is unlikely that the Germans could have counted accurately the large numbers of victims in such a short time, and in a catastrophe like that who was there left to   register relatives as "missing" anyway?'172 This begs an obvious question. If Irving in July 1966 doubted the police's ability to count 18,375 dead by 10 March, why had he never previously doubted their ability to count 202,040 dead by 20 March? In reply to another reader who expressed the opinion that the real figure was nevertheless still much higher Irving wrote: 'I share your disbelief regarding the authenticity of the number of losses given by the Dresden police officer...'173 Irving then turned down a request from his Italian publishers to print his letter to the Times. 'They [the alterations] are not too sweeping because despite what I wrote to the Times I do not think too much importance can be attached to the figures given in the new German documents. On the other hand, they cannot be ignored.'174
12. Reading the documentation presented to the court one might falsely gain the impression that Irving did his best to rectify the damage done by his frantic marketing of TB 47. But for reason best known to himself Irving recanted on his recantation. The new German edition appeared in October 1967, but TB 47 was still given the same prominence as in the Corgi edition of 1966. Neither had Irving seen himself as obliged to revise his 'most probable' figure of 135,000.175 Worse still the requested changes were not instituted in the Corgi edition of 1971, despite Irving's prior communication to this publisher of his book about the evidence of the 'Final   Report'.176 TB 47 was still printed in the 1971 Corgi edition as an appendix and the text was entirely unaltered, save for one change.
13. Irving has claimed in the pleadings that he had no control over or responsibility for the cover of the 1971 Corgi edition, but the text of the book had in fact been altered. Both his own preface and Sir Robert Saundby's foreword, written for the original Kimber edition, now contained the figure 100,000 dead as the authoritative death-roll as opposed to the figure of 135,000 given in the preface to the 1966 edition. Irving had written to Corgi in August 1966, enclosing all the changes he wanted made, and added 'The only point which might require checking is the alteration I have made in Saundby's Foreword; this might need his approval, although I hardly feel he will object.'177 No attempt was made to explain the contradiction between the continued inclusion of TB 47 as an authentic document and Irving's revised authoritative death roll, or indeed between the latter and Voigt's estimate. This begs the question why of all the changes he had initially requested this was the only one carried out? Irving has not disclosed his further correspondence with Corgi, so the question remains an open one as to whether the continued inclusion was due a change of heart by Irving or the vagaries of the publishing industry.

Notes

153. The full title of this document is Der Höhere SS- und Polizeiführer Elbe an den Gauen Halle-Merseburg, Sachsen und im Wehrkreis IV - Befehlshaber der Ordnungspolizei, Schlußmeldung über die vier Luftangriffe auf den LS-Ort Dresden am 13., 14. und 15. Februar 1945, signed [Police Colonel Wolfgang] Thierig, Eilenberg, March 15, 1945.
154. Weidauer, p. 127.
155. Kimber, p. 223.
156. Bergander, p. 265. A photocopy of the original is contained on Irving's research microfilm DJ 35.
157. DJ 35, Walter Lange to Irving, 5 April 1966; Irving to Walter Lange, 12 April 1966.
158. DJ 35, Walter Lange to Irving, 27 May 1966.
159. Focal Point edn., fns. 36 and 37, p. 299.
160. DJ 35, Boberach to Irving, 13 May 1966.
161. Bergander, p. 266.
162. Bergander, pp. 267 and 269.
163. Doc. 1063, 'further Dresden records'.
164. DJ 35, Irving to Boberach, 16 May 1966. Irving would seem to have been slightly suspicious as to why the document had been discovered so late. He described its late discovery as 'very tragic' and asked Boberach to explain the reasons why the document had first turned up then. For Boberach's explanation see DJ 35, Boberach to Irving, 6 June 1966.
165. DJ 35, 'The Dresden Air Raids - A Correction,' second draft, 29 June 1966; Record of telephone conversation or message, 30 June 1966.
166. Doc. 180, Irving to The Times, 7 July 1966.
167. DJ 35, Irving to the Sunday Telegraph, 7 July 1966.
168. Dresden Updated Materials, Melden E. Smith Jr., 'Dresden Revisited: New Perspectives on a Lingering Controversy,' presented to the 1978 Missouri Valley History Conference, p. 5.
169. Doc. 182, Irving to Amy Howlett, 28.8.66; doc. 183, list of alterations in the text of The Destruction of Dresden; doc 1870, Irving to Cin Calabi, Arnoldo Mondadori Editori, 28.8.66.
170. Doc. 185, Irving to Alan Earney, 14 September 1966; doc. 187, Irving to Alan Earney, 16 September 1966.
171. DJ 35, record of telephone conversation with John Moorehead of the Evening Standard, 10.10 a.m., 7 July 1966.
172. DJ 35, Irving to R.H. Haydon, 11 July 1966.
173. DJ 35, Irving to Rudolf Lusar, 11 August 1966.
174. Doc. 184, Cin Calabi to Irving, 9 September 1966 simply says that she can 'quite understand' Irving not wanting his letter to The Times to be reprinted.
175. Rowohlt, 1967, pp. 210-11 and 247-48.
176. No changes were made in either of the reprints of the original Kimber text (1974 and 1985), remembering of course that the 1963 edition had not included TB 47 and had merely based its 'most probable' figure on Voigt.
177. Doc. 182, Irving to Amy Howlett, 28 August 1966.
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