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Defense Documents

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

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(C) The correspondence b... >>

(A) Harald Turner's letter264

1. On 11 April 1941 SS Lieutenant-General [SS-Gruppenführer] Dr. Harald Turner wrote to Wolff about the use of a gas van at the Semlin concentration camp in Belgrade:
Already months ago I had all the Jews we could catch in this country shot, and concentrated all Jewish women and children in one camp. With the help of the SD we have obtained a "delousing-car" thanks to which we will clear this camp within 14 days to four weeks.265
 
2. Despite his misgivings, Irving concedes that the document 'may be genuine', but adds 'there is no indication that Karl Wolff himself did receive it. The hand-written initial on it is apparently that of [Werner] Gr[othmann], Himmler's adjutant, familiar on documents from Himmler's files; Grothmann will no doubt clarify this at the trial of this action.'266 This concurs with what Wolff himself argued at his trial; that he could not remember any such letter and that his own signature was missing from the letter.267
3. The Munich court, however, was convinced that Wolff had read the letter on two grounds. First, the letter was a personal letter from Turner to Wolff. The letter paper had a letterhead 'Staatsrat Dr. Turner'. The letter opened 'Dear comrade Wolff' [Lieber Kamerad Wolff] and closed 'I am, as always, your follower' [bin ich wie stets Ihr getreuer]. Secondly, the court heard the evidence of Wolff's adjutant SS Major [SS-Sturmbannführer] He.
4. He. declared that it was outside his remit to direct personal letters to Wolff on into official channels on his own authority. Personal letters were presented to Wolff, or at least their contents were orally made known to him. After this had occurred He. would stamp the letter with 'it has been brought to Chief P.'s attention' [Chef P. hat Kenntnis]268. Only then would the letter be passed on further, according to Wolff's instructions. The top right hand corner Turner's letter bore the inscription:  
  • 1. Obstub. Dr. Brandt (side 2)
  • 2. It has been brought to Chief P.'s attention
  • 3. To be filed

He.269

5. The court inferred that the witness He. had showed the letter to Wolff, hence the comment 'Chief P. knows'.
6. After Wolff had seen the letter he had instructed his adjutant to bring the letter to the attention of Himmler's personal aide SS Lieutenant-Colonel [SS-Obersturmbannführer] Dr. Rudolf Brandt, especially the second page in which the destruction of the Jews is spoken of. Wolff instructed his adjutant to treat the letter as official correspondence because of its contents. To this end it was filed as confidential amongst the papers of Himmler's personal staff under act number AR 21/B.270 This would explain Grothmann's initials on the document; a fact that in no way detracts from or contradicts the proof that Wolff had seen the letter. Irving is deliberately trying to fool the court.

Notes

264. Irving was sent a copy of Turner's letter in June 1977 by Lewis Chester, co-author with Gitta Sereny of the July 1977 Sunday Times article 'Mr Irving's Hitler - the $ 1,000 Question'. (Document 493, letter to Irving from Lewis Chester 28 June 1977, enclosing copy of letter SS-Gruppenführer Harald Turner to Karl Wolff, 11 April 1942).
265. 'Schon vor Monaten habe ich alles an Juden in hiesigen Lande greifbare erschießen und sämtliche Judenfrauen und - kinder in einem Lager konzentrieren lassen und zugleich mit Hilfe des SD einen "Entlausungswagen" angeschafft, der nun in etwa 14 Tagen bis 4 Wochen die Räumung des Lagers endgültig durchgeführt haben wird.' (document 493). There is a discussion as to whether Turner's claim to have ordered the gas van from Berlin was true or not, or an exaggeration to impress Himmler. (Christopher Browning 'The Semlin Gas Van and the Final Solution in Serbia' in Browning, Fateful Months. Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution (New York, 1985), p. 77; Walter Manoschek, "Serbien ist judenfrei". Militärische Besatzungspolitik und Judenvernichtung in Serbien 1941-1942 (Munich, 1993), pp. 169-171). This discussion is immaterial to the problem under discussion, because it nevertheless illustrates that the 'Final Solution' was an open secret between higher Nazi officials and that Wolff was seen by Turner as a suitable and reliable channel to bring Himmler's attention to his efforts, real or imagined.
266. Reply to Defence of Second Defendant, p. 19, paragraph 24 (ii).
267. Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, vol. XX, p. 453, § 31.
268. Wolff was at this time head of Himmlers Personal Staff Main Office [Chef des Hauptamtes persönlicher Stab]. The stamp 'Chef P.' presumably derived from his position.
269. '1. Ostub. Dr. Brandt (Seite 2) 2. Chef P. hat Kenntnis 3. Zum Akt. He.'(ibid., p. 454, § 31). The full document, including marganalia, is reproduced in Tuviah Friedmann, Die zwei intellektuellen SS-Generale die verantwortlich waren für die Ermördung der Jude in Jugoslavien und in Danzig 1941 - 1943. Eine dokumentarische Sammlung von SS-Dokumenten (Haifa, 1996), no pagination.
270. Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, vol. XX, p. 454, § 31.
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