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Subject: Irving v. Penguin & Lipstadt: Judgment VI-06
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Keywords: David Irving libel action Deborah Lipstadt

Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/judgment-06.06
Last-Modified: 2000/04/11

Irving's response: Hitler's knowledge of the gassing at the Reinhard
Camps

6.114 In regard to Hitler's speech to the Gauleiter on 12 December 1941,
Irving denied that it constitutes evidence of Hitler's knowledge of a
policy of exterminating the Jews. He dismissed it as "the old familiar
Adolf Hitler gramophone record" harking back to his 1939 prophecy as to
the fate awaiting the Jews. Browning considered that its terms indicate
that a decision had been taken what to do about the Jews ("the Fuhrer
has decided ."). Irving was reluctant to accept that Goebbels was
accurately recording what Hitler had said and argued that he may have
been interpolating his own aspirations in regard to the Jews.

6.115 Irving is critical of Browning for the tendentious omission from
his account of Frank's speech of 16 December 1941 of Frank's statement:

     "We cannot shoot [the Germans in the General Government]. We cannot
     poison them".

According to Irving, those words make clear that Frank was ruling out
extermination as a solution, which makes nonsense of the Defendants'
argument that the speech is evidence of a policy of extermination.
Browning drew attention to the immediately following words, "We will
find a way to bring about a successful destruction", which he argued
demonstrate that what Frank was saying was that alternative means must
be found of getting rid of the Jews. Irving's riposte is that gassing is
no less objectionable than poisoning.

6.116 Irving argued that a similar inference that the policy continued
to be one of deportation further east could be drawn from Hitler's
statement on 27 January 1942, as recorded in his Table Talk. Irving
relied also on Hitler's reported reference on 30 January 1942 to the
Jews "disappearing from Europe" to be resettled in central Africa. But
Longerich countered that these remarks, made at the time of the Wannsee
conference, must be regarded as camouflage for public consumption. To
take these statements by Hitler at their face value would, according to
Longerich, be wholly irreconcilable with the mass exterminations which
were already under way at Chelmno and Belzec. Longerich asserted that
Hitler and Goebbels were constantly talking about the Jews; that Hitler
was well aware of the mass gassings but they were guarded in what they
said or wrote about them.

6.117 Irving refused to accept the claim of Longerich that there is
evidence that there was a systematic expulsion of the eastern Jews from
the ghettos in order to send them to the death camps so as to make way
for the German and European Jews who, having arrived in large numbers in
the east in trainloads from the rest of Europe, were kept for a while in
the ghettos before themselves being sent to the gas chambers. If this
occurred , argued Irving, orders and plans would surely have been found.
Irving maintained that the evidence for saying that there was a
systematic policy of extermination is inferential or secondary.
Longerich's explanation for the lack of documentation is that, for
reasons of secrecy, much of the planning was discussed verbally between
Hitler and Himmler; that the Nazis tried systematically to destroy
documents and files on this subject with the result that such documents
as have survived are spread round European archives and that the death
camps were systematically destroyed by the Nazis at the end of the war.

6.118 Irving pointed out, correctly, that the protocol issued following
the Wannsee conference on 20 January 1942 did not discuss methods of
killing but rather talked in terms of finding solutions. Irving argued
that the minute of the conference makes reference to "the evacuation of
the Jews" having stepped into the place of emigration as a solution to
the Jewish question. Why, asked Irving, should "evacuation" not be given
its natural meaning. Longerich answered this question by pointing to the
immediately following paragraph of the minute, which he regards as the
central passage, where Heydrich explains what is to be the Final
Solution. Heydrich talks of those Jews who survive the work gangs being
"dealt with accordingly" for, if released, they would form the seed of a
new Jewish regeneration. But Irving put a different construction on the
paragraph: he contended that Heydrich was speaking of what should happen
after the release (bei Freilassung) of the Jews. Heydrich was proposing
the Jews should upon their release be free to regenerate themselves
somewhere outside the Reich. Longerich countered by saying that
regeneration of the Jews was precisely what Heydrich was concernd to
ensure did not happen. If Heydrich had been contemplating what would
happen after the Jews were released, he would have used the term nach
Freilassung.

6.119 What is more, argued Irving, there are clear indications in the
minute of the conference that the Final Solution was not to be embarked
upon until after the war, when mass extermination of the Jews would have
been out of the question. Longerich doubted the impracticability of
carrying out the Nazi Final Solution if the Nazis had won the war. But
he added that Heydrich clearly intended the Jewish work gangs to be put
to work forthwith (nun). Longerich did, however, agree that the
implementation of the programme of killing all the Jews would not be
capable of being completed until after the war was over.

6.120 Next Irving relied, in support of his argument that the topic of
killing Jews was not discussed at Wannsee, on the statements to that
effect made after the war by most of the participants. Longerich and
Browning both answered that there is nothing surprising or convincing
about those denials: they were made during the Nuremberg trials and were
plainly self-exculpatory. Irving also relied on an extract from a speech
made by Heydrich a week or so later in Prague, which is quoted in part
in a book by the historian Gotz Aly. Himmler referred in that speech to
the option of deporting the Jews to the White Sea (in northern Russia),
which he describes as an ideal homeland for them. Irving suggested that
Himmler's words should be taken at face value. But Longerich disagreed:
he pointed out that Gotz Aly, the author of the book which quoted the
speech, is himself of the opinion that the policy of extermination was
decided upon in October 1941. Moreover, added Longerich, there is no
evidence that any Jew was in fact sent to the White Sea nor is there any
evidence that any camp was constructed for them there.

6.121 Irving further relied on a letter written in June 1942 by Walter
Furl, the officer stationed in Krokow who was responsible for
resettlement in the General Government, to his SS officers in which he
described how trainloads of Jews arrived at Krakow and were given first
aid and provisional accommodation, before being deported towards the
White Sea where many of them would assuredly not survive. This, said
Irving, is further evidence that the policy continued to be deportation
not extermination. What, according to Irving, is significant is that the
Jews in question were not sent to Auschwitz. Longerich dismissed this as
camouflage, as did Aly Gotz who first quoted the document and who
undertook considerable research in the area. There is no evidence that
any camps were constructed in the area or that trains ran from the
Polish towns to the White Sea or that roads leading in that direction
were ever built. The Defendants say that Furl was concerned to conceal
the fact that the Jews in question were going to be shot, probably in
Minsk. Irving replied that there was no reason why Furl would want to
pull the wool over the eyes of his comrades. If that had been Furl's
intention, why should have referred openly to many of the Jews assuredly
not surviving. Irving complained that, on every occasion when a document
appears which does not fit in with the Defendants' thesis, they dismiss
it as camouflage or euphemism.

6.122 Irving claimed to find support for his contention that the policy
towards European Jews was not genocidal in a letter from Himmler to the
Minister of Finance dated 17 August 1942. He argued that it proposed, on
grounds of cost, that the French Jews should be housed in a camp to be
built on the western boundary of France rather than have them
transported across the Reich to Auschwitz. Longerich replied that this
letter is pure deception.

6.123 Irving next relied on a report by Horst Ahnert of a meeting on 1
September 1942 at which Eichmann, who chaired the meeting, informed
participants that the current programme for the evacuation of Jews from
France was to be completed by the end of the year. The report referred
to the commandant of Auschwitz having requested that deportees should
take with them blankets, shoes and feeding utensils. Irving argued that
such a request would not have been made if the Jews were going to be
executed on arrival. Longerich responded that the request was no doubt
made because not all Jews were executed on arrival: those who were fit
enough were sent to the labour camp, where they would need food and
clothing. Irving relied on another section of the report of this meeting
which stated that the purchase of barracks, requested by the chief of
security policy in The Hague, for the construction of camp in Russia
should be put in hand. Irving deployed this part of the report as
further evidence that the Dutch Jews were not going to be deported to a
death camp. Longerich had no knowledge of any such camp having been
constructed in Russia. He did, however, concede that there are odd
references in documents which date from this period to the construction
of camps to house Jews. Longerich was not prepared to accept the
suggestion put to him by Irving that such documents evidenced a non-
genocidal intention towards the Jews. The evidence that Jews were at
this time being massacred in large numbers is, he contends,
overwhelming. His argument was that Eichmann and others were
camouflaging what was going on.

6.124 Irving relied on another letter written on 28 December 1942 by
Furl to Pohl about the measures to be undertaken by the doctors at
certain camps to ensure that the mortality rate was reduced. This
letter, suggested Irving, is inconsistent with the existence of a policy
of to exterminate all Jews. Longerich disagreed: Pohl was in charge of
the labour concentration camps and had no responsibility for the
Operation Reinhard death camps. It follows, say the Defendants, that the
letter does not touch upon the question what was happening in the death
camps

6.125 In relation to the Kinna report of 16 December 1942, Irving
accepted that it is an important document in that it does indeed
indicate that Jews at Auschwitz could be killed at will. But he pointed
out that the author of the report was a junior SS officer, who may have
been imprecise in his use of language.

6.126 Irving also placed reliance on the fact that no archaeological
evidence has been uncovered which confirms the existence of gas chambers
at any of these camps; indeed the only camp where excavation has been
carried out is Belzec and that has only just started.

6.127 Irving made clear that he regards eye witness evidence as deeply
suspect. As in the case of Auschwitz, to which I will turn shortly,
Irving is inclined to dismiss all such evidence on the ground that it is
either the product of duress or bribery or some other inducement or is
otherwise unreliable. When I come to deal with Auschwitz I shall recite
the various reasons advanced by Irving for dismissing or at least
treating with extreme scepticism the evidence of eye-witnesses. Irving
was critical of the reliance placed by the Defendants' experts on this
body of evidence in its entirety. But he selected, by way of example of
his general attack on their credibility, individual witnesses for
specific criticism.

6.128 He suggested that Eichmann said what he did out of a desire to
please or perhaps was subject to some psychological impulse to
incriminate himself. He suggested further that Eichmann may have been
suffering from sleep deprivation when he gave evidence at this trial. He
pointed out that Eichmann claimed wrongly that he was acting pursuant to
a Hitler order (having been told so by Heydrich). He suggested that
journalist may have invented Eichmann's confession to spice up the
report of the interview he had with him whilst he was still at liberty.

6.129 As to Gerstein, Irving doubted his claim to have been a covert
anti-Nazi. He suggested that it was most unlikely that he and
Pfannenstiel would have been permitted to observe events which were
treated as top secret. Irving suggested that it would have been "no skin
off [Pfannenstiel's] nose" to admit having watched the gassing when
asked about it. He drew attention to the many fantastic claims made by
Gerstein in his various accounts, for example his claim that Globocnik
told him that between 10,000 and 25,000 Jews were being killed per day
at each of the camps and his claim to have seen piles of shoes 25 metres
high. Browning conceded that Gerstein was prone to extraordinary
exaggerations but he would not accept that he has been wholly
discredited. Besides, said Browning, Gerstein is corroborated by others.

6.130 Despite the arguments which he advanced and which I have
summarised, Irving, after being repeatedly pressed, did finally concede
that one of the proposed methods of liquidation was by the use of carbon
monoxide in gas chambers. He further accepted that on the balance of
probabilities from the spring of 1942 (and earlier in the case of
Chelmno) hundreds of thousands of Jews were deliberately killed at those
camps. What he does not accept, however, is that any of these camps were
purpose-built death camps. To take Treblinka as an example, Irving
asserted that forensic tests and aerial photographs indicate that there
was no purpose-built extermination facility there.

6.131 As regards the scale of the exterminations at these camps, Irving
did accept that hundreds of thousands of Jews were intentionally killed,
by some means or another, at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. He agreed
that the contemporaneous evidence discloses daily trains transporting
Jews in large numbers (perhaps as many as 5000 per train) eastwards from
various departure points to Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec. Although he
queried at one point how the corpses had been disposed of, he did not
resile from his acceptance that Jews were killed in huge numbers in the
camps at these three villages.

6.132 In connection with the scale of the extermination whch took place
in the death camps, Irving relied two documents, one bearing the
initials of Himmler, which reported the amount of property taken from
Jews in the period to 30 April 1943, evidently in the execution of
Operation Reinhard, for distribution amongst Nazi units. The figure for
wrist and pocket watches, totalling about 120,000, indicates, according
to Irving, that a relatively small number of Jews were dispossessed and
a correspondingly lower figure deported and killed. Browning did not
accept that the list of property was a complete list of all property
removed. He did not consider that the documents assist in determining
the likely number of deportees.

Irving's response: Hitler's knowledge of and complicity in the gassing
programme

6.133 Turning to the issue of Hitler's knowledge of and complicity in
the gassing programme, Irving argued that there is no evidence that
Hitler was personally involved in the decision to transfer the gas vans
which had been used in connection with the euthanasia programme to the
East to assist in liquidating Jews there. Longerich replied that Hitler
was intimately involved with the euthanasia programme, so it is logical
to assume that he would have been similarly involved in the transfer of
the equipment and personnel to the eastern front once the euthanasia
programme was halted. The documents show that the Fuhrerkanzlerei was
involved in the transfer and the Chancellery reported to Hitler.

6.134 Irving argued that, at least until October 1943, it remained
Hitler's preferred solution to the Jewish problem that the Jews should
ultimately be deported but not until the war was over. Whilst he
accepted that, at least in general terms, Hitler was aware that Jews
were being shot in large numbers by the Einsatzgruppen, he contended
that the evidence does not establish Hitler's involvement in or his
knowledge of Operation Reinhard, that is, the operation involving the
killing of hundreds of thousands of Jews in gas chambers at the Reinhard
death camps. Irving's stance was that, whilst Hitler had no excuse for
not knowing about the extermination programme from October 1943 onwards,
the documents are unhelpful as to his state of knowledge over the
previous 18 months or so. In this context Irving again emphasised that
there is no "Hitler Befehl" (Hitler order). The eminent German historian
Hilfberg originally claimed that there had been but in later editions he
took out all references to there having been such an order. Irving
criticised Browning's claim that Hitler gave signals and set
expectations as "frightfully vague". But he did recognise that, if
Hitler had been informed of the killings prior to October 1943, he would
have raised no objection.

6.135 As to the Wannsee conference, said Irving, Hitler was not present
and there is no evidence that he was apprised of the discussions which
there took place. Heydrich's claim to have the authority of Hitler was
either pro forma or a false claim designed to provide reassurance to
those present.

6.136 Irving underlined the fact that from 1938 right through to 24 July
1942, as evidenced by his Table Talk for that day, Hitler continued to
talk of the Madagascar plan. Browning agreed that until about 1940 that
was a concrete plan on which the Nazis people were working which they
might have attempted to implement but he asserted that after 1940 it
became an anti-semitic fantasy. Irving maintained that Hitler's
preferred solution to the Jewish question was deportation and not
genocide.

6.137 Irving accepted that SS General Wolff, one of whose roles was to
act as a conduit between Himmler and Hitler, would have told Hitler
about the transports of Jews to the death camps. But he relied on the
post-war recollection of Wolff (dismissed by Longerich as self-serving)
that he was certain that Hitler did not know what was going on. Irving
produced an extract made in manuscript from a document contained in the
Munich archive in which Wolff is recorded as having said in 1952 that
only 70 odd people ranging from Himmler to Hess (whose association went
back to the 1920s) were involved in the extermination of the Jews. When
the complete document was obtained, it became apparent that Wolff had
said that "probably" (wohl) only those 70 had been involved. Wolff is
also recorded as having said that Bormann and Himmler were the real
culprits; they had taken the view that the Jewish problem had to be
dealt with without Hitler "getting his fingers dirty". Himmler is said
by Wolff to have taken the whole burden on his own shoulders for the
sake of the German people and their Fuhrer. Irving relied heavily on
this document, emanating from someone close to both Himmler and Hitler,
as convincing evidence that Hitler was not implicated in or even aware
of the killing in the death camps.

6.138 Dealing with the Wolff document, Longerich described it as
"interesting" in that it refers to millions of Jews having been killed
and to "the gassing idea" probably having emerged when an epidemic broke
out. He observed parenthetically that in his translation Irving
translated Ausrottung as "extermination". But Longerich was distinctly
unimpressed by the record of the interview as a whole: Wolff was plainly
concerned to distance himself from the events of the Holocaust. Unless
he placed on record his denial that Hitler had any knowledge of the
murders, it might be inferred, since he was the conduit between Himmler
and Hitler, that he was himself implicated. Moreoever Wolff was and
remained an admirer of Hitler anxious to portray him in the best light.
Longerich was unable to accept that Himmler was acting unilaterally, not
least because he had himself referred to the burden of carrying out this
very hard order placed on his shoulders by Hitler, when writing to
Berger on 28 July 1942. In any event Longerich considered that the
figure of seventy for those involved in the "ghastly secret" was too
low. Wolff in the interview himself described Himmler as subservient.
Longerich observed that this description ill accorded with the notion
that Himmler was acting on his own initiative. The interview of Wolff is
in his opinion worth little and should be discounted.

6.139 Irving rejected the criticism levelled at him that, in his use of
Wolff's recollections, he picked that part which fitted with his thesis
about Hitler's ignorance about the mass extermination policy and ignored
or suppressed the rest, in particular Wolff's references to gassing and
to millions of Jews having been murdered. Irving surmised that Wolff
referred to the gassing idea because he had read about it in the
newspapers since the war.

6.140 Irving argued that, whilst there may be documents which at least
arguably incriminate Himmler, they do not implicate Hitler. Moreover he
argued that, when Himmler stated on 28 July 1942 that Hitler had placed
on his shoulders the implementation of this very difficult order, what
he meant was that Hitler had left it entirely to Himmler to decide by
what means to empty the Ostland of Jews. In other words Hitler was not
involved. Similarly Irving relied on Himmler's remark of 4 October 1943
that "we do not talk about this between ourselves" as indicating that
the exterminations were kept from Hitler. Irving notes that in his
speech on 6 October 1942 Himmler claims that it was he, rather than
Hitler, who took the decision to extend the shooting to women and
children.

6.141 Irving rejected Longerich's claim that it is inconceivable that
Himmler did not discuss with Hitler the extermination of Jews by
gassing. He dismissed that claim as mere speculation based on little
more than the fact that they met and spoke regularly. At the time there
were many other more pressing matters to attend to. Longerich answered
that it is absurd to argue, as does Irving, that Himmler could have
carried out the vast, expensive and logistically complex enterprise
behind Hitler's back. Browning likewise argued that, from his
understanding of the relationship between the two of them, Himmler was
not a man to act without the authority of the Fuhrer. Both Browning and
Longerich contend that it was a Hitler order which initiated the
executions, which were carried out with the full knowledge and approval
of Hitler.

6.142 Irving pointed to the absence from Gauleiter Greiser's letter to
Himmler of 1 May 1942, concerning the "special treatment" of 100,0000
Jews in his area, of any reference to Hitler having authorised their
being killed. The letter talks entirely of authority having been given
by Himmler and Heydrich. Greiser, argued Iriving, would have wanted to
be sure that Hitler approved the "special action". Longerich agrees that
there is no reference to Hitler having given such authority but claims
that it is clear that Greiser was only too keen to conduct the operation
and did not feel any need for Hitler's go-ahead.

6.143 Irving referred to the evidence given at Nuremburg by Frank,
General Governor of the General Government, who recalled having asked
Hitler on 2 July 1944 about rumours of Jews being exterminated.
According to Frank, Hitler in reply acknowledged that executions were
going on but apart from that claimed to know nothing. When Frank
persisted, Hitler suggested Frank should ask Himmler.

6.144 In answer to the criticism made of him that he omitted to mention
that Frau Schroeder had written to the journalist Gita Sereny that
Hitler knew what was being done about the Jewish question by virtue of
his private conversations with Himmler, Irving testified in the course
of the present trial on 21 February 2000 that he had not done so because
Ms Sereny had produced no record or notes or anything of any such
interview, so he had concluded that she was making the whole thing up.
It was then put to him that in a parallel action he had written to
solicitors acting for Ms Sereny seeking specific disclosure of notes of
that and other interviews. In reply their dated 10 February 2000 Ms
Sereny's solicitors had informed Irving that there were no notes because
Frau Schroeder had imparted her information about Hitler by means of a
letter which had already been disclosed. The solicitors gave Irving the
disclosure number. Irving repudiated the suggestion put to him later
that his early answer on 21 February had to his knowledge been false. He
claimed that he had not had time to look out the letter to which Ms
Sereny's solicitors had referred him. He refused to withdraw the
allegation that Ms Sereny had made the whole thing up.


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