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Defense Documents

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

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(iv) Other relevant documentation.

1. The Jews of Rome were finally rounded-up and deported on 16 October 1943. Moellhausen claimed in his post-war memoirs that he was reprimanded by Rahn on October 19 to the following effect:
Apropos the events of October 16th: You got Ribbentrop's senior men on your neck; you have placed Kesselring in an embarrassing position and have weakened your own, and thus my position, in order to gain little or nothing at all. You should have reported to me and I would have tried to arrange something with Wolff. You have created chaos and have ruined everything. Very bad! 29
2. On the face of it, there is no reason to disbelieve his account, since it fits in with the contemporary documentary record, though not, of course, as amended and manipulated by Irving.
3. A second relevant additional piece of documentary evidence is the following report, written by the German Foreign Office in the discussions that followed the initial attempts to round-up the Jews of Italy:
The RSHA has informed us that the actions ordered in Italy by the Reichsführer-SS [Himmler] to catch the Italian Jews have lead to no results worth mentioning because the necessary steps have been protracted by objections from various sides, so that the majority of the Jews have availed themselves of the opportunity to find hiding in small villages etc.30
4. This reference to 'objections from various sides' no doubt included Moellhausen's actions in the matter, described above.
5. But there were other objections too. Hitler's order rode roughshod over a number of considerations on the part of various authorities in both Rome and Germany about the impending deportation. Any one of these either in isolation or combination could have dictated a policy of compromise to the less determined and fanatical mind. The greatest fear was of a public Papal condemnation. On the day of the action a letter of protest was signed by Bishop Alois Hudal, Rector of the German Catholic Church in Rome addressed to Commander Stahel. It requested an immediate stop to the arrests:
I must speak to you of a matter of great urgency. A high Vatican dignitary in the immediate circle of the Holy Father has just informed me that this morning a series of arrests of Jews of Italian nationality has been initiated. In the interests of the good relations which have existed until now between the Vatican and the German High Command ... I earnestly request that you order the immediate suspension of these arrests both in Rome and its vicinity. Otherwise I fear that the Pope will take a public stand against this action which would undoubtedly be used by the anti-German propagandists as a weapon against us.31
6.The ambassador to the Holy See, Baron Ernst von Weizsäcker, wrote urgently to the Foreign Office:
With regard to Bishop Hudal's letter ... I can confirm that this represents the Vatican's reaction to the deportation of the Jews of Rome. The Curia is particularly upset because the action took place, in a   manner of speaking, under the Pope's own windows. The reaction could be muffled here somewhat if the Jews were to be used for labour service here.
The people hostile to us in Rome are using this affair as a means of forcing the Vatican from its reserve [...] Enemy propaganda abroad will certainly view this event in the same way [as events in France] in order to disturb the friendly relations between the Curia and ourselves.32
Weiszäcker subsequently wrote that the pressure had been unsuccessful.33
7. Others predicted civilian unrest in Rome as a result of the deportations and a consequent hampering of the German war effort. That security problems had been anticipated is clear from the Gestapo report of the round up sent to SS Obergrüppenführer Karl Wolff. This was signed by Kappler, but presumably written by Dannecker: 'The antisemitic part of the population was nowhere to be seen during the action, only a great mass of people who in some individual cases even tried to cut off the police from the Jews. In no case was it necessary to use firearms.' *
8. A report drawn up for Stahel's headquarters for his war diary was brief and inaccurate, but finished: 'What the consequences of the Aktion will have, remain to be seen.'34 Ten days after   the deportation Legation Secretary Gumpert wrote to defend the conduct of General Stahel who was under threat of with removal. On occupying the city he had quickly restored an 'atmosphere of trust' between the military authorities and the population. 'Even the measures against the Jews, which were thought strong here and all sorts of German evacuation measures could ... be enforced without any special outwardly noticeable shocks.'35
9. Irving argues that Hitler was in 'most circumstances a pragmatist' and that he would not 'willingly destroy manpower, for which his industry was crying out.'36 Why did he willingly destroy it, then, in a country which was in the thick of battle, as Italy was? Countermanding the plan that the Jews of Rome be pressed into fortification work deprived the army of sorely needed manpower. No single document illustrates this, but almost every second piece of German Foreign Office correspondence in this context is concerned with some aspect of work mobilisation, whether it be sending Italian workers to the Reich or trying to build battalions for defence work. It was clear that police forces were not sufficient to capture the Jews in Italy in one fell swoop. The diehards of the SS balked at what Hitler expected to be done with so little available manpower.
10. A meeting between von Thadden of the Foreign Office and Müller of the Gestapo on 16 October recorded:
He [Müller] does not agree with the opinion of the Foreign Office which believes that precisely here [i.e. in Italy] especially with regard to the position of the Catholic Church a surprise blow is called for. The available forces are not sufficient to do such a thing in the whole of Italy. One is therefore forced to begin with the unrolling of the Jewish question immediately behind the front line and drive the purge step-by-step further north. Gruppenführer Müller evidently had certain apprehensions at the time to do with the practical implementation of the Führerbefehl, concerning the arrest of 8,000 Jews in Rome.37
11.The only thing which separated Hitler from the SS and the RSHA was a difference in the tactics to be used in a complex situation where the Germans, in the view of some of their senior officials, lacked the strength to carry out the full measure of the 'Final Solution'.


29. Moellhausen, La carta perdente, p. 119, quoted in Katz, p. 258.
30. Wie das Reichssicherheitshauptamt mitgeteilt hat, haben die vom Reichsführer-SS in Italien befohlenen Aktionen zur Erfassung der Italienischen Juden bisher zu keinem nennenswerten Ergebnis geführt, da durch verschiedenen Seiten erfolgten Einsprüche die erforderlichen Schritte so lange hinausgezögert worden seien, bis die Mehrzahl der Juden Gelegenheit gefunden hatte, sich Verstecke in kleinen Dörfen etc. zu suchen.', NG-5026, report by Wagner for Ribbentrop, 4 December 1943.
31. NG-5027 as translated by Michaelis, p. 366. Stahel handed the latter to Legation Secretary Gerhard R. Gumpert, who was in charge of the Germany Embassy in the absence of Moellhausen. Gumpert in turn passed it on to Berlin.
32. 'Die von Bischof Hudal ... angegebene Reaktion des Vatikans auf den Abtransport der Juden aus Rom kann ich bestätigen. Die Kurie ist besonders betroffen, da sich der Vorgang sozusagen unter den Fenstern des Papstes abgespielt hat. Die Reaktion würde vielleicht gedämpft, wenn die Juden zur Arbeit in Italien selbst verwendet würden.[ .. .] Die Propaganda unserer Gegner im Ausland wird sich des jetzigen Vorgangs sicher Gleichfalls bemächtigen, um zwischen uns und der Kurie Unfrieden zu stiften.', NG-5027, Weizsäcker to the Foreign Minisry, 17 October 1943 in Akten zur deutschen Auswärtigen Politik 1918-1945, vol. VII, p. 85. (Michaelis's translation, pp. 366-7). Note the echo of Moellhausen's plan that the Jews of Rome be put to work. Von Thadden of Inland II passed on the cables to Ribbentrop, who replied he would consider them at a later date. He also sent a routine description of Hudal's and Weizsäcker's communications to Eichmann on October 23. He in turn sent it on to the head of the Gestapo [Section IV of the RHSA] SS Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller. There the trail goes cold. Michaelis, pp. 366-7; Eichmann's testimony of 3 July 1961, session 84, translated from the French by Katz, p. 279.
33. NG-5027, Weiszäcker to Foreign Office, 28 October 1943.
*. See Longrich, 'Ermordung, pp 330-331.
34. Both are quoted in Katz, p. 223. The German extracts for both are printed as documents 154 and 155 in Longerich (ed.) Die Ermordung der Europäishcen Juden, pp. 330-332.
35. 'Selbst die hier stark empfundenen Maßnahmen gegen Juden und deutsche Evakuierungsmassnahmen aller Art konnten [unter der rasch geschaffenen und nach vielen Seiten hin gestützten deutschen militäischen Autorität] ohne besondere äusserlich bemerkbare Erschütterungen durchgeführt werden.' Gumpert to the Foreign Ministry, 27 October 1943, PRO GFM 33/144/70904-5. That this fear was continually present is alo illustrated in Florence. The German consulate there wired Rahn on November 6, 1943 that his and the military's actions had greatly influenced the mood of the Florence population which had long been under the sway of skillful enemy propaganda. this 'threatens to shift abruptly as a result of the Judenaktion which began today.' [...droht infolge heute hier begonnener Judenaktion ins Gegenteil umzuschlagen.], PRO GFM 33/144/71042.
36. Hitler's War, (1977 ed.) p. 332.
37. Er verschließe sich den Argumenten des Auswärtigen Amtes nicht, die gerade hier insbesondere im Hinblick auf der Stellung der katholischen Kirche für eine schlagartige Aktion sprächen. Die vorhandenen Kräfte reichten jedoch nicht aus, im eine solche in ganz Italien durchzuführen. Man werde daher gezwungenermaßen mit der Aufrollung der Judenfrage unmittelbar hinter der Frontlinie beginnen und die Reinigungsaktion schrittweise nach Morden weitertreiben. Gruppenführer Müller hatte offensichtlich auch seinerseits wegen der praktischen Durchführungs des Führerbefehls, betreffend Festnahme von 8000 Juden in Rom, gewisse Sorge.' Presetation memorandum of the meeting between von Thadden and Müller on 16 October 1943 on the technical implementation of the Jewish question, record by Wagner for the foreign Minister, Berlin 22 October 1943 in Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik 1918-1945, Serie E: 1941-45, vol VII, pp. 102-3.
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