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

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Evidence of Hitler's knowledge of and/or complicity in the extermination of Jews in the gas chambers at the Reinhard camps (paragraphs 6.81-95and 6.114-144)

13.64 I turn to the issue regarding Hitler's knowledge of and complicity in the gassing programme at the Reinhard camps. In my view that issue has to be examined in the light of three propositions, each of which I understood to be accepted by Irving. The first is that, from about November 1941, the Nazis had been engaged in carrying out a programme, which Hitler knew about and authorised, of killing by shooting many hundreds of thousands of Jews and others, initially in Russia and later spreading to towns in the Warthegau (the area of Poland incorporated into the Reich), the General Government (the remainder of Poland) and Serbia. The second is that hundreds of thousands of Jews were killed in the death camps set up under Operation Reinhard. The third is that, as Irving explicitly accepted, Hitler cannot have remained in ignorance of the extermination programme after October 1943. In the light of those propositions it is legitimate to formulate the question in this way: does the evidence establish or suggest that, whilst he approved of the genocidal policy of shooting Jews in the East, Hitler did not approve or sanction the genocidal use of the gas chambers at the Reinhard camps over the months from December 1941 until October 1943, and was also kept in ignorance that gassing on that scale was taking place.
13.65 I have used the phrase "kept in ignorance" in the preceding paragraph because it is part of the positive case advanced by Irving that the genocidal use of the gas chambers at the Reinhard camps was planned and implemented by Heydrich and overseen by Himmler. Does the evidence support Irving's contention that Hitler was kept in ignorance of the manner in which Heydrich and Himmler were setting about solving the Jewish question?
13.66 At paragraphs 6.81 to 6.105 above I have examined some of the documents on which the Defendants rely as evidence of Hitler's   involvement in the extermination at the Reinhard camps, starting with the meeting between Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich on 25 October 1941 and culminating in the letter written in 1977 by Hitler's former personal secretary. Against those documents must be set Irving's comment, which I accept is accurate, that there is no reference to be found to a Hitler Befehl (Hitler order) authorising the extermination of Jews by gassing at the Reinhard Camps . But, given the secrecy which surrounded the operation of the gas chambers, I would not have expected to have found such a document. For the same reason I consider that Irving's argument as to Hitler's ignorance derives little assistance from the fact that he is able to point to a number of documents where Hitler can be found still talking of the Madagascar plan or deportation to some other destination. The need for secrecy required the use of camouflage language when the fate of Jews was under public discussion.
13.67 My conclusion on this issue is that the evidence discloses substantial, even if not wholly irrefutable, reasons for concluding not only that Hitler was aware of the gassing in the Reinhard Camps but also that he was consulted and approved the extermination. My reasons for arriving at this conclusion are, firstly, that if (as Irving accepts) Hitler knew and approved the programme of shooting Jews, it is reasonable to suppose that he would have been consulted about and approved a policy to exterminate them by another means, namely by the use of gas. I consider that there are a number of documents which suggest that Hitler knew and approved the implementation of the new policy: for example the protocol of the Wannsee conference, at which the extermination programme was discussed, records Heydrich in his opening remarks that he was speaking with the authority of Hitler. But the main reason for my conclusion is that it appears to me to be unreal to suppose that Himmler would not have obtained the authority of Hitler for the gassing programme (and even more unlikely that he would have concealed it from his Fuhrer). Himmler's Dienstkalendar provides clear evidence of the regularity of the meetings between Hitler and Himmler and of their having discussed the Jewish question at the time when Himmler was actively supervising the setting up and operation of the gas chambers in the Reinhard Camps. I therefore accept the evidence of Longerich and Browning which I have summarised at paragraph 6.105 above.
 
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