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Defense Documents

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

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(G) Bending a reliable source to fit the argument: the Hess order

1. Continuing his distorted and falsified account of the night of 9-10 November on page 277 of his Goebbels book, Irving further claims: 'At 2.56 a.m. Rudolf Hess's staff also began cabling, telephoning, and radioing instructions to Gauleiters and police authorities around   the nation to halt the madness'. Elsewhere, Irving has described this document as 'ordering an immediate stop to such outrage [refering to 'the infamous Night of Broken Glass']'.80 In his Pleadings, Irving links this document to Hitler by using the words 'Rudolf Hess, the Deputy Führer, who was with Hitler, issued an order'.81 What did this order consist of? According to Irving, speaking in 1983,
It is a directive which goes out to all the party offices throughout Germany, to all the Gauleiters, for immediate communication. Directive No. 174/38. Repetition of telegram which had already gone out 10th November 1938. "On express orders issued at the very highest level, there are to be no kind of acts of arson or outrages against Jewish property or the like on any account and under any circumstances whatsoever"...Now if the Deputy Führer issues an order on express instructions from the very highest level, this can only mean that Adolf Hitler himself has ordered that all this outrage has got to stop forthwith.82
2. Hess's staff undoubtedly did send out a circular at 2.56 a.m.; it is mentioned in the party court report submitted to Göring on 13 February 1939, which is cited by Irving as his source. But according to the report, the circular only forbade any 'setting fire to Jewish shops', an order repeated in circular 174 on 10 November. This second circular was only sent to local party officials; it was not sent to the police, as Irving claims. The same is true for the original circular, a copy of which can be found in the Federal Archive in Berlin. Addressed to all Gauleitungen, it stated that 'on the express command of the   highest instance, fire-raising in Jewish shops or similar must in no case and under no circumstances take place'. It was not signed by Hess, but by Opdenhoff, presumably an official in Hess' office.83 Irving has clearly and deliberately mistranslated Geschäften as 'property', thus implying the inclusion of synagogues etc., instead of 'shops'.
3. What Hess's staff was doing was telling the local party officials who were organising the pogrom that they should not burn down Jewish shops. This fits in well with the instructions issued by Heydrich to the police that German property was not to be endangered; for many Jewish shops were in fact rented from German landlords, and in any case it would be difficult to stop fires spreading to neighbouring buildings once they had taken hold. This did not, of course, prevent the destruction of the contents of these shops, the smashing of their windows or the breaking of furniture and fittings.
4. As far as the extent of the destruction on the night of 9-10 November 1938 is concerned, it is hardly surprising that Nazi officials during the night tried to control the arson attacks to prevent serious damage to German property. In Vienna, for instance, the officials of the Security Service, the Sicherheitsdienst, noted on 10 November 1938 that all the firemen, including those on holiday, had been mobilised in order to control the fires: 'At various places there was a great threat to neighbouring houses, without the fire however actually spreading.'84 This was confirmed by the British consul in Vienna,   who reported that there was an 'orgy of destruction' and that all the 'fire brigades of Vienna were fully employed, for at one time there seemed to be a grave threat of a serious and widespread conflagration involving large sections of the city'.85 These concerns had already had an influence on the orders given in the evening of 9 November 1938. For instance, the leader of the SA-group Nordsee, in a telephone call from Munich, ordered that:
All Jewish shops are immediately to be destroyed by SA-men in uniform....Jewish synagogues are immediately to be set on fire...The fire brigade is not allowed to interfere. Only residential buildings of Aryan Germans are to be protected by the fire brigade. Adjacent Jewish residential buildings are also to be protected by the fire brigade; however the Jews in them must leave, since Aryans will move in there in the next few days...86
5. In his order to the German police on 10 November 1938 (1.20 am), Heydrich had also explicitly ordered that synagogues could only be burned down if this did not endanger   German property, and that during the destruction of Jewish shops care had to be taken to secure all non-Jewish shops against any damage.87
6. In any case, there was no mention in the circular sent by Hess's staff of not arresting Jews or beating them up, no mention of not attacking and wrecking Jewish houses, apartments and shops, no mention of not destroying or burning down synagogues and Jewish welfare and community centres. But if this was not the 'madness and 'outrages' to which Irving refers, then what was? Once more, Irving deliberately misconstrues an order to set limits to a small part of the pogrom as an order completely to stop the whole. Moreover, Irving provides no evidence for his claim that Hess was with Hitler when issuing this order.

Notes

80. Irving, Introduction to the revised edition Hitler's War (1991), http://www.fpp.co.uk/bookchapters/HWIntro.html.
81. Pleadings, IV, p. 33.
82. Irving, 'On Contemporary History', The Journal of Historical Review, Vol. 5 (1984), pp. 275-6; italics in original.
83. BA Berlin, BDC file 240/I, Fernschreiben an alle Gauleitungen, 10.11.1938, 2.56 Uhr: 'Auf ausdrücklichen Befehl allerhöchster Stelle dürfen Brandlegungen an jüdischen Geschäften oder dergleichen auf gar keinen Fall und unter gar keinen UmstÔnden erfolgen.'
84. 'An verschiedenen Stellen bestand grösste Gefährdung der Nachbarhäuser, ohne dass es jedoch zu einem Uebergreifen des Feuers gekommen wäre': IfZ, G 01/91: Der SD-Führer des SS-Oberabschnittes Donau an den Chef des Sicherheitshauptamtes, 21.11.1938; 112, G 01/71: SD-Unterabschnitt Wien an den SD-Führer des SS-Oberabschnittes Donau, 10.11.1938.
85. PR0, FO 371/21637, British Consulate in Vienna to British Embassy in Berlin, 11.1 1.1938.The consul also reported that: 'Last night Vienna presented an extraordinary spectacle, with fires raging all over the city and Jews being hustled along the streets, cursed at and assaulted by crowds of hooligans whose pride it is to belong to one of the greatest and most civilised nations in the world'.
86. Sämtliche jüdischen Gcschäfte sind sofort von SA-Männern in Uniform zu zerstören... Jüdische Synagogen sind sofort in Brand zu stecken... Die Feuerwehr darf nicht eingreifen. Es sind nur Wohnhäuser arischer Deutscher zu schützen von der Feuerwehr. Jüdische anliegende Wohnhäuser sind auch von der Feuerwehr zu schützen, allerdings müssen die Juden raus, da Arier in den nächsten Tagen dort einziehen werden... 'Telephonisch aus München erteilter Befehl des Führers der SA-Gruppe Nordsee vom 9. November 1938; reprinted in K. Pätzold, I. Runge, Kristallnacht'. Zum Pogrom 1938 (Cologne, 1988), pp. 112-3.
87. Heydrich an alle Staatspolizeileit- und Staatspolizeistellen, an alle SD-Oberabschnitte und SD-Unterabschnitte, 10.11.1938, 1 Uhr 20; in Der Prozess gegen die Hauptkriegsverbrecher vor dem Internationalen Militärgerichtshof,Vol. XXXI, ND 3051-PS.
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