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

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(iii) Suppression of relevant information: the memoirs of Nicolaus von Below

1. In the documentation presented by Irving, von Below is quoted, in a note headed by Irving 'Destruction of the Jews: nothing known of it in the FHQu.', as having said:
The measures against the Jews that became known after the war were never the object of official discussions. Neither do I remember any private conversations about the subject. I did not even know the names of the persons named in the meantime in court cases as organisers of the destruction of the Jews, such as Eichmann, [Rudolf] Hoess etc. None of them were ever present in the Führerhauptquartier.151
2. This was an affidavit given in April 1948 in defence of a fellow member of Hitler's staff, press spokesman Otto Dietrich.
3. Yet in March of the same year von Below had been more open with his interrogators. The following exchange about the systematic murder of Russian Jews by the Einsatzgruppen is included in the same files as the above statement:
Question: I'm talking about the activities of the SD Einsatzgruppen, that is the people who carried out the shooting of Jews on the basis of the Führer order . You think that you first learnt about it immediately after the beginning of the war [with Russia]?
Answer: Approximately. Anyway I learnt that about these Einsatzgruppen that they existed. Where and what they individually did, that I also didn't learn of.
Question: Did you know about this Führer order?
Answer: No, that's a matter that was agreed between HITLER and HIMMLER.152
4. The question was repeated:
Question: When did you first learn that these Commandos had executed Jews?
Answer: I learnt that in Summer 1942.
Question: Can you still remember the occasion?
Answer: During some meeting or another as we were in the Winizza headquarters [Hitler's headquarters in the Ukraine].
Question: What was the reaction like?
Answer: We were surprised and we regarded it as unwarlike and inhuman. There was at the time a very strong opposition to this question, but nothing could be done against it.153
5. None of this is mentioned by Irving. In other words, Irving has filleted from the files the material that fitted his argument, but suppressed that which did not. Moreover it is hard to overlook that nowhere in the affidavit of April 1948 did von Below say that Hitler did not know about the 'Final Solution.'
6. In his memoirs von Below was again rather more circumspect, admitting that he should have realised what the fate of the European Jews was, if he had pondered more carefully. He described the 'many evening conversations by the fire' where Hitler 'spoke a lot of his ideas of the state which would one day rule Europe. His aim was to combat Jews and Bolsheviks and to destroy their influence on world events in every form.'154 Von Below found that Hitler's 'repeated antisemitic attacks made a particularly embarrassing impression on me.'155
Naturally after the war and from some conversations whilst imprisoned I gathered circumstantial evidence together which should have actually even then given me cause for thought, such as Hitler's ever increasing antisemitic outbursts towards the end of the war, or casual remarks by higher SS leaders.156
7. But, whilst disclaiming any actual knowledge of the 'Final Solution', von Below made clear who he thought was ultimately responsible:
Nevertheless I am completely convinced, even without written evidence, that the extermination of the Jews originated in an express instruction from Hitler, because it is inconceivable that Himmler and Göring would have undertaken such a thing without his knowledge. Certainly Himmler did not inform Hitler in every detail, but he acted in this matter with his approval and in complete accordance with him.157
8. Von Below also made clear that reports of atrocities did seep through to the Führerhauptquartier and to Hitler's staff.
During the residence in the camp in Winniza a terrible report reached me one day. A young lieutenant from the FHQ intelligence service told me that he had been witness to a mass execution near Winniza. Whilst laying connections he came across a troop of SS men in a large hollow, who were busying themselves with shooting a number of men and women. This action had made a horrifying impression on him and he had to report it. I spoke to the SS leader's representative, Gruppenführer [Karl] Wolff about the event and asked him to investigate it and report to me. After a few days he gave me an evasive answer to my question, referring to acts of sabotage in the rearward area. But he requested that I take no further steps. I was satisfied and did not follow the matter up. I never heard anything again of similar actions in the following months and years.158
9. It is important to note how the events described in 1948 have become dislocated in this account.
10. For what originally was an action that - in the 1948 affidavit - had come to von Below's attentions in a general form through official meetings in the Führerhauptquartier, now - in the later memoirs - becomes a divorced one-off atrocity reported at second hand. In the 1948 document the Einsatzgruppen killings had, according to von Below caused a general and   prolonged unease amongst a number of members of staff; in his later memoirs he is supposedly tricked by Himmler's adjutant into letting the matter rest. Thus von Below argues away the guilt implicit in his 1948 confession.
11. It should be remembered that von Below was also witness to Hitler's last political testament, composed hours before he killed himself. The document bristled with antisemitism and at least one point Hitler was brutally clear about the fate of the Jews of Europe:
I also made it quite plain that, if the nations of Europe are again to be regarded as mere shares to be brought and sold by those international conspirators in money and finance, then Jewry, the race which is the real criminal in this murderous struggle, will be saddled with the responsibility. I further left no one in doubt that this time millions of Europe's Aryan peoples would not die of hunger, millions of grown men would not suffer death, nor would hundreds of thousands of women and children be allowed to be burnt and bombed to death in the towns, without the real criminal having to atone for his guilt, even if by more humane means.159
12. Hitler left his audience, including von Below, in no doubt whatsoever about the fate of the Jews who had fallen into the hands of the Nazis during the war. Irving read von Below's then unpublished memoirs whilst researching Hitler's War, yet did not feel that it was incumbent upon himself to qualify his statement that nothing was known about the 'Final Solution' in the Führerhauptquartier.160


151. Document 1856, Staatsarchiv Nürnberg, KV Prozesse, Fall 11, Akte G15, Dietrich Dokument Nr. 281, Affidavit Nicolaus von Below, 10.4.1948. Rudolf Höss [1900-1047] was the commander of Auschwitz.
152. .Fr. 'Ich spreche von der Taetigkeit der Einsatgruppen des SD, also die Leute, die auf Grund des Feuhrerbefehls die Judenerschiessungen durchgefeurt haben. Sie denken, dass Sie in der 1. Zeit nach [Russland] Kriegsbeginn davon erfuhren?' A. 'Ungefaehr. durchgeführt Jedenfalls habe ich erfahren von diesen Einsatgruppen, dass solche existierten, wo und was sie im einselnen gemacht haben, das habe ich auch nicht erfahren.' Fr. 'Kannten Sie diesen Fuehrerbefehl?' A. 'Nein, das ist eine Angelegenheit gewesen, die zwischen HITLER und HIMMLER vereinbart wurde.' (Staatsarchiv Nürnberg, KV Anklage, Interrogations, Rep. 502 VI B51, Nicholaus von Below, Interrogation 2786a, of Nicholaus von Below, 24 March 1948, 26pp, p. 10.)
153. Fr. 'Wann erfahren Sie das 1 Mal, dass diese [SD Einsatgruppen] Kommandos Exekutionen der Juden durchgefuert haben?'' A. 'Das habe ich erfahren im Sommer 1942.' Fr. 'Wissen Sie noch der Anlass?' A. 'Bei irgendeiner Bessprechung kam das heraus, wie wir im Hauptquartier Winizza waren. Fr. 'Was waar die Reaktion dazu?' A. 'Wir waren ueberrascht und wir haben das als unkriegsmaessig und unmenschlich aufgefasst. Es war damals eine sehr starke Oppisition zu diesen Fragen, aber es war ja dagegen nichts zu machen.' (Ibid., pp. 10-11.
154. 'Den vielen abendlichen Gesprächen am Kamin ... Er sprach viel über seine Vorstellung von dem Staat, der Europa einmal regieren sollte. Sein Ziel war es, Juden und Bolschewisten zu bekämpfen und deren Einfluß auf das Weltgeschehen in jeder Beziehung zu zerstören.' (von Below, p. 370).
155. 'Besonders peinlich berühten mich die wiederholten antisemitischen Ausfälle.' (von Below, p. 416).
156. 'Natürlich habe ich nach den Krieg, auch bei manchen Gesprächen in der Gefangenschaft, Indizien aus den Kriegsjahren zusammengetragen, die mir eigentlich schon damals hätten zu denken geben müssen, etwa Hitlers sich zu Kriegsende immer noch steigernde antisemitische Ausbrüche oder beiläufige Bemerkungen hoher SS-Führer.' (von Below, p. 291).
157. 'Allerdings bin ich fest überzeugt davon, auch ohne schriftliche Beweise, daß die Vernichtung der Juden auf eine ausdrückliche Anweisung Hitlers zurückgeht, da es undenkbar ist, daß Himmler und Göring so etwas ohne sein Wissen unternommen hätten. Sicher hat Himmler Hitler nicht über jede Einzelheit unterrichtet, aber in dieser Angelegenheit mit seiner Billigung und in gänzlicher Übereinstimmung mit ihm gehandelt.' (ibid.).
158. 'Während des Aufenthaltes im Lager von Winniza erreichte mich eines Tages eine erschreckende Meldung. Ein junger Leutnant aus dem FHQ-Nachrichtenzug erzählte mir, daß er in der Nähe von Winniza Zeuge einer Massenexekution geworden sei. Beim Verlegen von Nachrichtenverbindungen sei er in einer größeren Bodenfalte auf einen Truppe SS-Leute gestoßen, der damit beschäftigt war, eine Anzahl Männer und Frauen zu erschießen. Er habe einen grauenhaften Eindruck von dieser Aktion erhalten und müsse darüber Meldung machen. Ich sprach mit dem Verbindungsmann zur SS-Führung Gruppenführer Wolff über diesen Vorgang, bat ihn, den Vorfall zu überprüfen und mir zu berichten. Nach einigen Tagen gab er mir eine sehr zweideutige Antwort auf meine Frage und verwies auf Sabotagehandlungen im rückwärtigen Gebiet. Aber er bat mich, keine weiteren Schritte zu unternehmen. Ich gab mich zufrieden und spürte dem Vorgang nicht weiter nach. Ich habe im Laufe der nächsten Monate und Jahre nie wieder von ähnlichen Aktionen gehört.' (von Below, p. 320).
159. Adolf Hitler's Drei Testamente, p. 69, facsimilie p. 3.
160. Hitler's War, p. 844.
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accessed 12 March 2013