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

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(C) Irving's relations with Hitler's entourage

1. How did Irving obtain entry into this close-knit group of people after the war? He described his admission to the circle to Ron Rosenbaum:
In return for collecting documents for the archivist of the Munich Institute for Contemporary History, Dr. Anton Hoch, Hoch gave me a lot of help identifying to me the important people and all the addresses of Hitler's private staff, who at the time kept their heads very, very low. They kept down. They were a small circle of very frightened people who were putting up with grave indignities and who had a very tough time. Christa Schroeder, Hitler's secretary, had been held in prison by the Americans for three or four years, and that is a very unpleasant experience for a young girl.73

2. Schroeder was the key to the 'magic circle', but his real entry came when he translated the memoirs of Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel. He traced Keitel's son to ask him about ellipses and   omissions in the published version of his memoirs. Keitel's son, impressed by Irving and indignant at the German publishers, offered to introduce Irving to Otto Günsche in 1967.
3. Gaining access to Hitler's surviving staff and having ferreted out papers from them is an obvious source of pride to Irving: 'Hitler's closest staff (secretaries, adjutants - the "inner ring") spoke only with me and at great length; they refused to talk to [John] Toland, with one or two unimportant exceptions'.74 Talking of one particular adjutant, Irving said to the journalist Ron Rosenbaum: 'He [Günsche] was Hitler's most faithful bulldog. And he has never spoken to anyone except me. I got ten hours of recordings of Günsche, which he's never given to anyone except me.'75 This journalistic scoop approach meant that Irving seemingly considered Hitler's staff as exclusively his source. Journalist Gitta Sereny questioned some of those quoted in Hitler's War only to be rebuked by him: 'Irving was most upset by the fact that we had spoken with his sources, angrily accusing us of "pressuring his witnesses."'76
4. At first sight Hitler's War appears to have been based on an impressive collection of previously unused sources. Nevertheless it remains pertinent to weigh up the importance of the various sources marshalled and, more importantly, their effect on Irving's interpretation. Irving's most significant discovery was undoubtedly the diary of Walter Hewel, Hitlers confidant at the Führerhauptquartier. But, as Charles Sydnor commented:
For all his self-congratulation about digging and burrowing in the sources, Mr. Irving's mining efforts have yielded more lead than gold. The collective testimony of those at Hitler' court, his wartime intimates, minions and attendants, the records of their meetings with him and the records of those who   met with Hitler singly and infrequently - however laudable Mr. Irving's efforts to find them all and induce them to talk - are simply inadequate for such a full portrait of Hitler, much less a credible revisionist argument about what he did or did not know, order, do.77

5. One critic pointedly said that Irving's over-reliance on such sources meant that Hitler's War was nothing more than the 'valet perspective' on Hitler.78
6. Certainly an interpretation which concentrates on such material, inevitably blocks an historical understanding of Hitler and his epoch. It also gives the book its curiously unreal quality. While the readers learn the intimate details of life in the Führerhauptquartier they learn nothing of the sufferings of the millions of victims of the horrors of Hitler's war, despite the very title of the book. The book becomes a literary reproduction of the privileged milieu around Hitler, cushioned from the unsavoury and the distressing.
7. At its kindest therefore, it would be fair to say that Irving in demolishing the alleged myths and 'caricaturing process' surrounding Hitler merely replaces them with further myths and caricatures.79 But this would be to miss the central point. This is not the result of an unfortunate methodological flaw in Irving's work. In claiming to be merely writing about Hitler's 'inner mind', or describing the man as he was to those around him Irving is thinly disguising his real intention. It is a veiled excuse for his attempt to exonerate Hitler.80 Hitler's War and all the manipulations, bias, and suppressions it involved boil down to this point.
 
8. As the 'revisionist' purveyor of Holocaust denial literature, the Journal of Historical Review, put it, 'numerous survivors of the Second World War era who are often mistrustful (often with good reason) of establishment historians' are willing to talk to Irving or entrust him with private papers.81 Irving himself explained, 'I have interviewed scores of the principal German officers and personnel involved, including many of Hitler's close staff who have hitherto refused to talk to anybody, but who felt able to talk at length to me because of the nature of my previous books ("The Destruction of Dresden", etc.).'82 Irving gained access to the 'inner circle' where others had not, not because of his supposed objectivity, but precisely because of his sympathetic attitude to Hitler.
9. But given the continuing devotion of certain members of Hitler's staff to their Führer there is obviously a reverse side to this process: 'Once they'd won your confidence and they knew you weren't going to go and report them to the state prosecutor, they trusted you. And they thought, well, now at last they were doing their chief a service.'83
10. It therefore becomes hard to distinguish the more culpable party: Irving as Hitler's 'ambassador', or Hitler's staff who were 'at last doing their chief a service'?84 The symmetry between Irving's agenda and that of many of those he interviewed is perfect. The resulting history is inevitably tendentious. Seen in this light a piece of advice Irving offered to historians becomes paradigmatic for his revisionism, though presumably not in the way he meant it: 'You need to   talk to the people at great length, steep yourself in their way of thinking, and learn to see things through their eyes. The documents take on different meanings.'85
11. Even so, Christa Schroeder dedicated a whole appendix to her memoirs headed 'Even David Irving who is advertised as "serious" and "upright" is not charmed against [...] imprecisions or however one wants to call it.'86 Nicolaus von Below wrote in 1980 that he could not understand how Irving could make the assertion in 1975 in Hitler und seine Feldherren [Hitler and his Generals] that his diaries were 'probably in Moscow' as he and Puttkamer had destroyed them in 1945.87 Irving repeated his claim in 1991 that the diaries were 'probably' in Moscow without offering an explanation for his continued assertion in the face of von Below's claim to the contrary.88 Von Below added:
Another comment of I.[rving]'s amazed me. I am meant to have "made unpublished contemporary manuscripts and letters available" and made the effort to - amongst other things - "work through many pages" of "the resulting text". I well remember on a couple of visits from I.[rving] when I answered his   questions. But I must categorically deny his claims above and beyond this as not tallying with the truth.89

Notes

73. Rosenbaum, Explaining Hitler, p. 228. For another person's journey into the 'inner circle' see Ib Melchior and Frank Brandenburg, Quest. Searching for the Truth of Germany's Nazi Past (Novato, 1994).
74. Document 444, a list of selling points in Hitler's War, July 1976.
75. Explaining Hitler, p. 228.
76. Document 500, 'Mr Irving's Hitler - the $1,000 Question', The Sunday Times, 10 July 1977.
77. Syndor, p. 198.
78. Hitler heute, p. 90.
79. Hitler's War (1991), p. 6.
80. Hitler's War, p. xxi.
81. Daniel W. Michaels, 'Nuremberg: Woe to the Vanquished', Journal of Historical Review, vol. 17 (1 January- February 1998), pp. 38-46, p. 17.
82. Document 243, letter from Irving to Maximillian Becker, 7 October 1969.
83. Explaining Hitler, p. 229.
84. Document 753, Cindy Strafford to Irving, 3 January 1981; document 755, Irving to Cindy Strafford, 10 January 1981.
85. Document 882.
86. 'Selbst der als 'serious' und 'integer' annoncierte David Irving ist nicht gefeit gegen ... Ungenauigkeiten oder wie immer man es nennen mag.' (Er war mein Chef, pp. 262-266). For example Schroeder commented on Irving's 1980 book 'Wie krank war Hitler eigentlich?' Irving had related that Viktoria von Dirksen smuggled a 21 year-old relation of hers naked into Hitler's bed. This lady (Grafin Welczeck) was apparently insulted. Her friend Reinhard Spitzy demanded Irving apologise to her before she would be prepared to receive him for an interview. (ibid., pp. 69-70 and 264).
87. 'Die Aufzeichnung meiner Erinnerungen aus der Adjutantzeit stellte mich vor außergewöhnliche Schwierigkeiten. Meine Tagebücher sind bei Kriegsende vernichtet worden. Einen Teil verbrannt ich selbst, für die Verbrennng der auf dem Obersalzberg befindlichen Aufzeichnungen hat Puttkamer Sorge getragen. Es ist mir unerklärlich, wieso der englische Historiker David Irving zu der Behauptung kommen könnte - im Vorwort "Hitler und seine Feldherren" (1975) -, meine Tagebücher befänden sich "wahrscheinlich in Moskau." ' (Nicolaus von Below, Als Hitler's Adjutant 1937-1945 (Mainz, 1980), pp. 9-10.
88. Hitler's War (1991), p. 13.
89. 'Noch eine Bemerkung von I. hat mich in Erstaunen gesetzt. Ich soll ihm "unveröffentlichte zeitgenössische Manuskripte und Briefe zur Verfügung gestellt" haben und hätte mich der Mühe unterzogen - neben anderen - "viele Seiten" seines "sich daraus ergebenden Textes durchzuarbeiten". Ich erinnere mich zwar an einige Besuche von I., bei denen ich seine Fragen beantwortete. Aber seine weitergehenden Behauptungen muß ich als nicht der Wahrheit entsprechend entschieden zurückweisen.' (von Below, pp. 9-10).
90. Hitler's War, (1977 ed.) p. 529.
91. Leni Riefenstahl, The Sieve of Time (London, 1992), pp. 137, 152, and 211.
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