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Judgement

Holocaust Denial on Trial, Trial Judgment: Electronic Edition, by Charles Gray

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The timing of the "final solution" to the Jewish question: the Schlegelberger note

13.32 In my opinion Irving's treatment of the Schlegelberger note and the importance which he attaches to it shed important light on the quality of his historiography.
13.33 It is to be borne in mind that the note is undated and unsigned. It is hearsay in the sense that its author is recording what Lammers claims to have been told by Hitler. It is an Abschrift (copy) rather than an original document. It has a number of unsatisfactory features, which might give rise to doubts about its authenticity. There is no clear evidence of the context in which the note came into existence. Yet Irving has seized upon the note and regards it, to quote his own words, as a "high-level diamond document". According to Irving, the note demonstrates that it was Hitler's wish that the entire Jewish question be postponed until the end of the war. It is therefore the linchpin of his argument that Hitler was the Jews' friend. The question is whether that is a conclusion towhich an objective historian might sensibly come, taking due account of the surrounding circumstances.
 
13.34 I shall not devote time to discussing the question whether the document dates from 1941 (in which case it would be a wholly unremarkable document since it was at that time Hitler's view that the Jews should in due course be deported) or from 1942, since Evans was disposed to accept, at least for the sake of argument, that the latter date may well be the correct one.
13.35 On the assumption that the note is a 1942 document, I consider that, in the light of all the surrounding circumstances and in the light of subsequent events, it is (to put it no higher) very doubtful if the Schlegelberger note is evidence of a wish on the part of Hitler to postpone the Jewish question until after the war, that is, to take no offensive action against them of any kind until after the cessation of hostilities. I do not believe that Irving was able to provide a satisfactory answer to the Defendants' question: why should Hitler have decided suddenly in March 1942 to call a halt to a process which had been going on with his authority on a massive scale for at least six months. I am persuaded that, for the reasons advanced by Evans, it is at least equally likely that the note is concerned with the complex problems thrown up by the question how to treat half-Jews (mischlinge). It is noteworthy that the evidence suggests that at the Wannsee conference in January 1942 (where Heydrich claimed to be speaking with the authority of Hitler) a programme for the extermination of Jews had been discussed and in broad terms agreed upon. The delegates were, however, unable to resolve the thorny question of the mischlinge. That issue caused concern within the Ministry of Justice (where both Lammers and Schlegelberger worked). A resumed session of the Wannsee conference was arranged for 6 March 1942, when the question of the mischlinge was again discussed. There is no support in the documentary evidence for Irving's contention that there was on this occasion general discussion of the Jewish question. No solution having been agreed, the balance of the evidence in my view suggests that it was decided to refer the issue of the mischlinge to Hitler for his decision. If that be right, the note simply records what Hitler decided on that limited question. If the Defendants' explanation of the note is correct (and I have held that it is at least as likely an explanation as that put forward by Irving), the note does not possess the significance which Irving attaches to it.
13.36 I do not regard the arguments advanced by Irving, which I have set out at paragraphs 5.165-7, as being without merit: they are worthy of consideration. But I do consider the Defendants' criticism to be well-   founded that Irving presents the Schlegelberger note as decisive and incontrovertible evidence (see Hitler's War at p464) when, as he should have appreciated, there are powerful reasons for doubting that it has the significance which he attaches to it. Irving's perception of the importance of the note appears to take no account of the mass murder of the Jews which took place soon afterwards.
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