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

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(B) Pressures on Hitler's entourage after the war

1. Although in the formal sense few of Hitler's staff who survived the war were guilty of crimes against humanity (save Hitler's doctor Karl Brandt, Karl Wolff, Otto Dietrich, and SS General Josef 'Sepp' Dietrich), the real or perceived danger of imprisonment hung over those who admitted too much about their actions. As members of Hitler's entourage, the people Irving encountered were considered prominent Nazis immediately after the capitulation. The Allies, like Irving, presumed that people who had spent so much time in Hitler's immediate surroundings could provide them with valuable insights into the workings of the 'Third Reich' and Hitler's mind. The unlucky ones fell into Soviet hands and faced up to a decade of hard labour. Those in the British and American zones were subject to 'automatic arrest', three or four years' internment, and even upon release were immediately subject to Spruchgerichtsverfahren, denazification and a catalogue of fines and confiscations.
2. For instance a BBC team went to film Grand Admiral Dönitz in 1973 after a string of revelations had come out about the navy and himself, particularly his preamble to Himmler's Posen speech of October 1943. Dönitz refused to be drawn on Hitler, in the words of the producer 'as if terrified he would be whipped back into Spandau.'60 Karl Wolff is another case in point. At the time Irving became aware of Wolff's existence Wolff was a free man, having escaped his 15-year prison sentence on grounds of ill health. Writing about a recent visit to Karl Wolff, Irving's research assistant Elke Fröhlich informed Irving: 'He is definitely of the opinion that Hitler had nothing to do with the Final Solution. Wolff is rather ill though, if not unfit to be imprisoned. His friends are meant to have forbidden him to blab anything more.'61
3. This fear of prosecution may have been real or imagined, but it certainly must be considered as a possible factor stopping Hitler's staff from telling all. Another factor was peer-group pressure. The 'inner circle' was a close-knit and secretive group after the war. Although rent by the intrigues and animosities forged in their days under Hitler, they were bound by a devotion to their dead 'boss'. Hitler's former secretary Johanna Wolf explained to James P. O'Donnell, the Berlin Newsweek correspondent, that 'I was taught long ago that the very first and last duty of a confidential secretary is to remain confidential.' Another of Hitler's secretaries, Gerda Christian, explained why none of them had remarried after the war: 'How could any of us have remarried, after having known a man like Adolf Hitler?'62
4. Individuals in the 'inner circle' often fell foul of group constraints and duress, by writing or expressing the wrong ideas. Albert Speer's name became anathema amongst former staff because of his supposed betrayal of Hitler. It is related that Hitler's secretary Christa Schroeder returned a copy of Speer's Inside the 'Third Reich' because she had been 'ordered to do so.'63 Speaking of the circle of the 'formers' [Ehemaligen] Christa Schroeder's editor Anton Joachimsthaler wrote: 'Everyone had some sort of notes, but few of them published them because thereby criticisms from the others immediately ensued.'64 Heinz Linge related that:
A story which irresponsible journalists made up was circulated as the 'Linge report' and did me a lot of damage. Former comrades from Hitler's surroundings turned their backs on me and accused me of making money with completely fictitious claims. [...] Now that I no longer have to fear being put back in prison and penal camp because I served in Hitler's immediate surroundings for ten years, I can hope to be able freely and openly to tell what I witnessed.65

5. Added to this certain prominent witnesses came under pressure from outside. SS Lieutenant Colonel [SS-Sturmbannführer] Wilhelm Höttl of Office VI of the RSHA testified for the prosecution at Nuremberg. Most importantly he stated that Adolf Eichmann had told him that some four million Jews had been murdered in the concentration camps and that a further two   million had met their deaths in various other ways.66 For his sins Höttl entered the black list of revisionists and neo-Nazis. Journalists who interviewed him in the late 1980s explained his camera-shyness. 'The reason is not the fear that he could be compromised by his role in the 'Third Reich'. No, the old SS man is scared. Scared of all people of German neo-Nazis, who consider him a traitor for his statement in the Nuremberg trials and have threatened him for years with obscene letters and postcards.'67
6. It is, moreover, noticeable that very few high Nazis were prone to moral self-examination after the war. Although not in the formal sense criminal, Hitler's staff must have been vaguely aware that what they had actively or tacitly supported was morally reprehensible. Many of them tried to mitigate their guilt or passivity by claiming the overwhelming influence on them of Hitler's charisma and aura.68 Hans Frank described Hitler as 'a sort of superman' in whom he had believed 'without reservation' and whom he saw as being right 'in all decisive matters'.69 Hitler's 'power' becomes a self-defence. Their complete submission to the Führer made them blind, trusting and naïve (i.e. they were somehow deceived or tricked by Hitler). This defence implies a recognition of the criminal endeavour which was under way, so that the safest and simplest reflex becomes to deny any knowledge whatsoever. Although this defence may ultimately be incredible, at least it is simple and immune to being prey to internal inconsistencies.
7. But a third variant is conceivable, one which combines strands of duty to Hitler and a desire to exculpate oneself. By claiming that Hitler himself knew nothing of the 'Final Solution' the logical conclusion is that neither did those in his service. This argument repeats aspects of the first, in that Hitler rather than the individual themselves becomes the misused idealist. It also has a pedigree in the myth, which grew up in the 1930s, 'if only the Führer knew!' This sentiment is common to any number of monarchical or dictatorial systems across the ages. It rests on the presumption that the 'good' ruler is somehow hood-winked by his advisers, otherwise his good nature would oblige him to rectify particular abuses. He has not addressed the abuses therefore logically he does not know of them.
8. Therefore all of Hitler's staff had any one of many possible vested interests in making exculpatory statements. And so it is. Thus although very few of Hitler's retinue are themselves holocaust deniers, they are all explicit or implicit apologists to varying degrees. This can take a variety of forms. At its most transparent it is the stated intention to rehabilitate Hitler; usually a crude furthering of stock National-Socialist myths, such as a naive reverence of Hitler, either as person, politician, or military leader.70 At its most benign it is the intention to depict Hitler, not as an historical figure, but as a person. This was a reaction to the tendency in the immediate post-war years to depict Hitler as mad, demonic, or depraved.71 Heinz Linge, for instance,   wrote his memoirs with the express wish to contradict the image of Hitler as a mad 'carpet eater' and a 'psychopath with permanently hysterical reactions'.72
9. This kind of memoir was often content to limit itself to the anecdotal; Hitler the dog lover, Hitler the wit, Hitler the children's friend, Hitler the vegetarian, and so on. It therefore requires the very least of critical acumen to realise that Hitler's staff might have a vested interest in exonerating him. Yet Irving does not waste even a single word to make this fact salient. With good reason, since such exoneration is extremely well suited to his purposes and arguments. That is why, in dealing with them, he chooses not to exercise the critical methods that he regards as so indispensable in other contexts.


60. Peter Padfield, Dönitz. The last Führer. Portrait of a Nazi War Leader (London, 1984), p. 486.
61. Document 303, Elke Fröhlich to Irving, 13 August 1971.
62. Robert Harris, Selling Hitler. The Story of the Hitler Diaries (London etc., 1991), pp. 70-71.
63. The reporter Gitta Sereny described their contempt for the 'disloyalty' of Albert Speer at Nuremberg and his writings and interviews since Spandau (Gitta Sereny, Albert Speer. His Battle with the Truth (New York, 1995), p. 5); Harris, p. 70.
64. Er war mein Chef, p. 10.
65. 'Eine Story, die verantwortungslose Journalisten sich aus den Fingern gezogen hatten, war im Umlauf, galt als "Linge-bericht" und - brachte mir großen Schaden. Ehemalige Kamaraden aus der Umgebung Hitlers kehrten mir den Rücken und ziehen mich der Geschäftemacherei mit frei erfundenen Behauptungen. [...] Jetzt, nachdem ich nicht mehr fürchten muß, noch einmal in Gefängnisse und Straflager gesteckt zu werden, weil ich zehn Jahre lang in Hitlers unmittlbarer Umgebung gedient habe, kann ich hoffen, frei und offen sagen zu dürfen, was ich miterlebte' (Heinz Linge, Bis zum Untergang. Als Chef des Persönlichen Dienstes bei Hitler, ed. by Werner Maser (Munich/Berlin, 1980), pp. 7-8. Henceforth Linge.
66. Document 301, in Jewish Historical Institute Warsaw (ed.), Fascismus, Getto, Massenmord. Dokumentation über Ausrottung und Widerstand der Juden in Polen während des zweiten Weltkrieges (Berlin, 1960), pp. 381-3.
67. Rena and Thomas Giefer, Die Rattenlinie. Fluchtwege der Nazis. Eine Dokumentation (Frankfurt a. M., 1991), p. 35.
68. See Ian Kershaw, The 'Hitler Myth'. Image and Reality in the 'Third Reich' (Oxford, 1987).
69. Hans Frank, Im Angesicht des Galgens (Munich, 1953), pp. 139 and 322.
70. For a description of the publishing milieu, see Thomas Aassheuer and Hans Sarkowicz, Rechtsradikale in Deutschland. Die alte und die neue Rechte (Munich, 1992), pp. 72-79. For an extreme example see the memoirs of Hilter's architect, Hermann Giesler, Ein anderer Hitler. Erlebnisse - Gespräche - Reflexionen (Leoni am Starnberger See, 1978). Irving uses Giesler in Hitler's War.
71. Rainer Zitelmann, 'Hitler Bild im Wandel', in Karl Diedrich Bracher/Manfred Funke/Hans-Adolf Jacobsen (eds.), Deutschland 1933-1945. Neue Studien zur nationalsozialistischen Herrschaft (Bonn, 1992), pp. 491-506.
72. Linge, p. 209
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accessed 12 March 2013