Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Judgment: Electronic Edition, by Charles Gray

Table of Contents

The Defendants' case

5.74In relation to Irving's portrayal of the events immediately following Kristallnacht, Evans again made criticisms of the manner in which he manipulated, misquoted and discounted reliable evidence. Evans contended that, contrary to the impression conveyed by passages in Goebbels at pp277-8, the diary entries made by Goebbels, as well as statements made by him at the time, provide convincing proof that Hitler wholeheartedly approved the pogrom and himself afterwards proposed economic measures to be taken against Jews.
5.75Page 277 of Goebbels includes the following paraphrase of Goebbels's diary entry:
"As more ugly bulletins rained down on him the next morning, 10 November 1938, Goebbels went to see Hitler to discuss 'what to do next' ... there is surely an involuntary hint of apprehension in the phrase".
  The vice which the Defendants perceive is that Irving's account suggests that Goebbels knew he was to blame for the pogrom and was apprehensive that Hitler would be angry with him. The Defendants contend that Irving had no basis whatever for adding the gloss that Goebbels was apprehensive since there is no such indication to be found in the diary. Far from being apprehensive, Goebbels's diary entry for 11 November shows how delighted he was at the success of the pogrom. Irving claimed that this entry is mendacious.
5.76Goebbels's diary entry continues:
'I report to the Fuhrer in the Osteria. He agrees with everything. His views are totally radical and aggressive. The action itself has taken place without any problems. 17 dead. But no German property damaged. The Fuhrer approves my decree concerning the ending of the actions with small amendments. I announce it via the press and radio. The Fuhrer wants to take very sharp measures against the Jews. They must themselves put their businesses in order again. The insurance will not pay them a thing. Then the Fuhrer wants a gradual expropriation of Jewish businesses'.
The Defendants contend that this passage from Goebbels's diary makes crystal clear that, far from condemning Goebbels for what had occurred during Kristallnacht, Hitler in fact approved what had happened. The Defendants add that this is borne out by the fact that Goebbels that same afternoon told the local party chief that the Fuhrer had sanctioned the measures taken thus far and had declared that he did not disapprove of them.
5.77Yet at page 278 of Goebbels Irving described the meeting at the Osteria in the following terms:
"[Goebbels] made his report [on 'what to do next'] to Hitler in the Osteria ... and was careful to record this ... perhaps slanted ... note in his diary which stands alone, and in direct contradiction to the evidence of Hitler's entire immediate entourage. 'He is in agreement with everything. His views are quite aggressive and radical. The action itself went off without a hitch. 100 dead. But no German property damaged. Each of these five sentences was untrue as will be seen".
  The Defendants cite this as an instance of Irving perverting what Goebbels recorded in his diary and distorting what actually happened in order to exculpate Hitler.
5.78Evans deduced that the probable sequence of events was that during the morning of 10 November Hitler and Goebbels discussed what to do next. Hitler told Goebbels to draft an order calling a halt to the violence because, in effect, the objective had by that stage been achieved. They then met for lunch at the Osteria and Hitler approved the order Goebbels had drafted. The terms of the order were broadcast at some stage during the afternoon and the order was formally promulgated at 4pm. The significance of the timing, according to Evans, is that the violence was in effect permitted to continue for most of 10 November. (In Vienna the violence against the Jews did not begin until 10 o'clock that morning).
5.78At a meeting held on 12 November, attended by amongst others Goering and Goebbels, the decision was taken that the Jews should, irrespective of any insurance cover, bear the cost of the pogrom; that Jewish property should be "aryanised" and that Jews should be forbidden to run shops or businesses. Evans criticised Irving for omitting to mention, in his account of this meeting at p281 of Goebbels, that these decisions reflected the wishes expressed by Hitler on 10 November and, according to Goering, were taken in response to Hitler's express request. Nor does Irving mention that, according again to Goering and to an official of the Four Year Plan named Kehrl, Hitler had expressly endorsed the action taken against the Jews.
5.79At p281 of Goebbels, Irving writes:
"Hess ordered the Gestapo and the party's courts to delve into the origins of the night's violence and turn the culprits over to the public prosecutors".
The Defendants assert that, since the court in question was a party and not a criminal court, there was no warrant for Irving to write that the culprits were to be handed over to the public prosecutors. Further Evans pointed out that the document cited in support of this passage, an order of 19 December 1938, made clear that referrals to the prosecution service were to take place only in cases arising out of "personal and base motives". The Ministry of Justice had already ordained that no action was to be taken in those cases   where Jewish property was set on fire or blown up. None of this is mentioned by Irving. On the Defendants' case, the intent and effect of Hess's order is thus completely misrepresented by Irving, whose wording suggested to his readers that the Nazis determined to take firm disciplinary action against party members who had been guilty of unlawful violence during Kristallnacht and that anyone guilty of any misdemeanour would be handed over to be dealt with in the criminal courts.
5.80In the event, according to the Defendants, the proceedings of the Party Court were a farce. According to its report of 13 February 1939, it investigated only sixteen cases of alleged unlawful activity. In only two of those cases were the suspects handed over to the criminal courts. Those two cases involved sexual offences against Jewish women: the reason for their referral was that the offences involved 'racial defilement'. In the other fourteen cases (which included allegations that twenty-one Jews had been murdered), the punishments were trivial, apparently because the Party Court took the view that the culprits were carrying out Hitler's orders. Hitler was asked to quash the proceedings against those fourteen. The criticism of Irving is that he makes no reference to what the Defendants describe as a scandalous manipulation of the justice system. The disciplinary action instituted by the Nazi party was virtually non-existent.
5.81Irving suggested in Goebbels that following Kristallnacht Hitler distanced himself from Goebbels because he disapproved what he had done. But Evans contended that the record, including Goebbels's diary, suggests otherwise. For instance Goebbels reported in his diary that, when Hitler visited him on 15 November , Hitler "was in a good mood. Sharply against the Jews. Approves my and our policy totally". Evans asserted that there is no justification whatever for supposing that, as Irving implies at p282 of his book, that that was an invention on the part of Goebbels.
5.82Evans also disputed Irving's claim that the memoirs of Ribbentrop are further evidence that of Hitler's disapprobation of Goebbels. According to Evans, the documents cited by Irving do not upon examination support his claim that Goebbels was a pariah in Berlin and even less popular than Ribbentrop and Himmler. Evans noted Irving makes several references to an author named I Weckert, without giving the reader any indication that she is a well-known anti-semitic Nazi sympathiser, who in Evans's opinion is discredited as an historian.
5.83The final criticism made by Evans is that at p276 of Goebbels and elsewhere Irving seriously understates the suffering inflicted upon the Jews in the pogrom. The number of synagogues destroyed far exceeded Irving's figure of 191. The extent of the damage to Jewish shops is also downplayed by Irving. The number of Jews killed was many more than the thirty-six claimed by Irving, even if those who died en route to concentration camps are left out of account.

accessed 11 March 2013