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

Table of Contents

4.2 Exculpation

4.2.1Irving has always been particularly sensitive to the charge that Hitler was antisemitic and used his power to bring about anti-Jewish laws and finally to order the extermination of all the Jews in Europe. He has consistently tried to exculpate Hitler from the charge that it was he who drove the antisemitic and exterminatory policies of the 'Third Reich' forward. 'Hitler', Irving has claimed, 'used his antisemitism as a political platform from which to seize power in 1933, but that after that he lost interest in it except for occasional flights of public oratory; while Dr Goebbels and other lesser Nazis continued to ride that horse to the hounds, to the   mounting irritation of their Führer Adolf Hitler who no longer needed antisemitism.'27 Even before 1933, Irving argues, Hitler's antisemitism was only tactical, and in practice he was not personally ill-disposed towards the Jews. Referring to the notorious 1935 Nuremberg laws, which deprived German Jews of their citizenship and outlawed marriage and sexual relations with non-Jewish Germans, Irving asserted in 1996: 'To Goebbels's ill-concealed irritation, Hitler leaned toward leniency in applying these new laws'. He quoted Hitler saying there must be 'no excesses'.28
4.2.2 In the 1977 edition of Hitler's War, Irving conceded (p. 576) that Hitler must have known about the extermination of the Jews from 7 October 1943, when he met the Gauleiters who had recently listened to Himmler's notorious speech in Posen where he revealed to them that 'by the end of 1943 the last Jews in occupied Europe would have been physically exterminated.' However, Irving's Index entries even for the subsequent period contain items such as 'orders to work in factories in Hungary', 'favors transfer abroad', 'promises end to massacre', and 'says it's Himmler's affair.' Irving already argued in 1977 that it was significant that no written order had been found bearing Hitler's signature for the extermination of the Jews. There were for example comparable orders which he did sign, for instance the so-called Euthanasia Order, dated 1 September 1941, ordering the killing of the mentally and physically handicapped in German hospital institutions. He also claimed that no other high-ranking Nazi ever made any reference to a Hitler order for the liquidation of the Jews, and that there was no evidence that Hitler ever gave a verbal order to this effect either.29
4.2.3What was Irving's position when he came to revise the book for its second edition in 1991? In the Introduction to the 1991 edition of Hitler's War, Irving removed the reference to Hitler having known about the 'extermination' of the Jews from October 1943 because, as we have already seen, Irving now disputed the factuality of the extermination altogether. 'When confronted with the facts he took no action to rebuke the guilty', Irving wrote of Hitler in this edition of his book: but he did not go into detail as to when this happened or what 'the facts' actually were. The argument about the extermination having been set in motion by local SS commanders in the East was also removed altogether. Instead, he inserted a new section arguing that
Every document actually linking Hitler with the treatment of the Jews invariably takes the form of an embargo, from the 1923 beer-hall putsch (when he disciplined a Nazi squad for having looted a Jewish delicatessen) right through to 1943 and 1944. If he was an incorrigible anti-Semite, what are we to make of the urgent edict issued "to all Gau directorates for immediate action" by his deputy, Rudolf Hess, during the infamous Night of Broken Glass in November 1938, ordering an immediate stop to such outrage "on orders from the very highest level"? Every other historian has shut his eyes and hoped that this horrid, inconvenient document would somehow go away. But it has been joined by others, like the extraordinary note dictated by Staatssekretär Schlegelberger in the Reich Ministry of Justice in the Spring of 1942: "Reich Minister Lammers", this states, referring to Hitler's top civil servant, "informed me that the Führer has repeatedly pronounced that he wants the solution of the Jewish Question put off until after the war is over." Whatever way one looks at this document it is incompatible with the notion that Hitler had ordered an urgent liquidation program....And Hermann Göring himself is on record as stressing at a Berlin conference on July 6, 1942, how much the Führer and he deprecated the doctrinaire harassment of Jewish scientists...
4.2.4 At all times in the 1991 edition of Hitler's War, Irving exculpated Hitler from involvement or even knowledge of the few atrocities against Jews he is still prepared to admit actually happened. Thus for example when Irving described the shooting of 75,000 Jews in Kiev by the SS, he was careful to add that 'Hitler's responsibility - as distinct from Himmler's - was   limited to the decision to deport all European Jews to the east.' Himmler, Irving argued, concealed their fate from him. He claimed that Hitler's surviving staff all said after the war that 'never once was any extermination of either the Russian or European Jews mentioned - even confidentially - at Hitler's Headquarters.' (pp. 422-4). Hitler's intention was to merely to hold Jews hostage in the East (p. 425). Irving summed up his views on Hitler and the Jews when he told the International Revisionist Conference in 1983: that 'probably the biggest friend the Jews had in the 'Third Reich', certainly when the war broke out, was Adolf Hitler. He was the one who was doing everything he could to prevent things nasty happening to them.'30


27. Reply to Defence of Second Defendant, p. 29.
28. Irving, Goebbels, p. 207, also misdating the Nuremberg Laws to 1936.
29. Reply to the Defence of the Second Defendant, pp. 21-22.
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