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Defense Documents

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

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(iii) Irving's use of an unreliable source.

1. Irving does not address the reliability of Ribbentrop himself as a source. In this context, it is important to note that at no point in the Nuremberg trials did Ribbentrop waver in his loyalty to Hitler, and at no point did he acknowledge the truth of the serious charges laid against him by the International Military Tribunal. After the war, Ribbentrop was questioned about his role in the deportation of the Jews of France and Denmark, and on his conversations with the Italian dictator Mussolini and with Admiral Horthy of Hungary to try to overcome their reluctance to deporting their own Jewish nationals.8 Ribbentrop admitted that he was a 'faithful follower' who 'adhered' to Hitler's orders to deport all Jews, but claimed that he had no idea of the fate awaiting those Jews after deportation.9 Yet this last-mentioned claim was an obvious untruth. It is undermined by Ribbentrop's knowledge of the 'Activity and Situation Reports of the task forces of the Security Police and the SD in the USSR'   [Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte der Einsatzgruppen der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD in der UdSSR].10
2. These reports detailed the activities of the mobile armed units operating in Russia behind the advancing German army. The most sensational part of these reports concerned the execution of large numbers of Jews. The first report we know Ribbentrop to have received was report number six, forwarded to him by Heydrich on 25 November 1941 andcovering activities in October. According to it all Jews over sixteen, excepting doctors and elders had been shot in the Reichskommisariat Ostland. In Kiev nearly 34,000 Jews had been shot on 29 and 30 September.
3. On 12 December 1941 Ribbentrop received a summary of the first six such reports. By January 1942 it was an open secret in higher circles of the Foreign Office that the Russian Jews were being systematically murdered. Ribbentrop likewise received the seventh, eighth, tenth and eleventh reports. Most important in respect of deportations to the east, the reports made clear that the Ostland was now 'free of Jews' [Judenfrei]. It was to Riga in the Ostland that trainloads of German Jews had been shipped it the end of 1941, obviously only to share the fate of native Jews.
4. Ribbentrop was unwavering in his refusal to criticise Hitler in any way in the dock at Nuremberg. His own defence witnesses, state secretary Steengrach, and his secretary, Margarethe Blank, both spoke of his total subservience to Hitler. The Nuremberg psychologist G. M. Gilbert recorded the following exchange with Ribbentrop on 4 - 5 May 1946:  
[Ribbentrop] "... But I was against this antisemitic policy. What he says about World Jewry starting the war is nonsense - sheer nonsense. - I fought him tooth and nail on it. - "
[Gilbert] "Why couldn't you say that at the trial?"
[Ribbentrop] "Oh I couldn't stand there and attack the Führer - it just couldn't be done. I am not like certain Germans - now I don't want to say anything against any other defendant, but I can't say I was against him. - Oh, I might still say I don't believe the Jews started the war, but I can't bring out how I opposed the Führer on that issue." 11
5.Before his execution on 16 October 1946 Ribbentrop had a final meeting with his son Rudolf. Ribbentrop had spent the previous months writing his memoirs.12 Rudolf expressed the hope to his father that in doing he had not been too uncritical of Hitler. This sentiment apparently shocked Ribbentrop senior.13 This contradiction between Ribbentrop's public denial of his own knowledge of the 'Final Solution' at Nuremberg and his obvious real complicity in it, coupled with his overwhelming need to exculpate Hitler, make him an unreliable witness to either his own or Hitler's innocence.


8. Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945 - 6 April 1946, vol. X, Proceedings 25 March 1946 - 6 April 1946 (Nuremberg, 1946), pp. 395-413 [henceforth IMT]
9. IMT, vol. X, p. 412.
10. The following is based on Döscher Das Auswärtige Amt, pp. 246-249 and Browning, The Final Solution, pp. 72-76.
11. G. M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Dairy (London, 1948), p. 196.
12. In his memoirs [The Ribbentrop Memoirs, introdiced by Alan Bullock (London, 1954), p. 179] Ribbentrop repeated his claim:'In 1944, Hitler spoke more and more of his conlict with Jewry and he became fanatically obstinate. But never, right down to 22 April, 1945, when I last saw him in the Reich Chancellery, did he ever mention the killing of the Jews. That is why to even today I cannot believe that the Führer ordered these killings; I believe that Himmler presented him with accomplished facts.'
13. Michael Bloch, Ribbentrop (London, 1992), p. 455, fn. 79 'David Irving's notes of interview with Rudolf von Ribbentrop on 20 July 1989.'
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