The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/judgment-05.05

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Irving v. Penguin & Lipstadt: Judgment V-05
Organization: The Nizkor Project
Keywords: David Irving libel action Deborah Lipstadt

Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/judgment-05.05
Last-Modified: 2000/04/11

(vi) Shooting of Jews in Riga


5.111 It is common ground between the Defendants and Irving that, from 
about the summer of 1941 onwards until the end of 1942, a large number 
of Jews in the area of the General Government (as a large part of
occupied Poland was called) were shot and killed by Nazi Einsatzgruppen.
There are issues between the parties as to the scale of the executions
which took place and as to whether Hitler approved or knew of the
executions. I shall revert to these issues when I come to deal later in
the judgment with the extent of Hitler's knowledge of and responsibility
for the mass extermination of the Jews.

5.112 The immediate issue relates to the manner in which Irving deals in
his published works with the circumstances under which the Berlin Jews
who, as I have just described, were deported to Riga came to be executed
by Jeckeln and his henchmen.

Case for the Defendants

5.113 The Defendants also cite Irving's treatment of the shooting of
these Jews as another instance of his misrepresentation of events and
his determination to exculpate Hitler from responsibility for their

In particular the Defendants criticise Irving for his omission to record
what Bruns had to say about the shooting of Berlin Jews. In 1941 Bruns
had been a colonel stationed in Riga. Later in 1945, when in captivity,
he spoke about the shooting to fellow prisoners. His words were
surreptitiously recorded so (say the Defendants) there is no reason to
suppose he was not telling the truth. The transcript records him as
saying that a junior officer named Altemeyer had told him that the
Berlin Jews were to be shot "in accordance with the Fuhrer's orders".
According to the same transcript, after Hitler had been informed of the
shooting Altemeyer showed Bruns another order and said:

     "Here is an order just issued, prohibiting mass-shootings on that
     scale from taking place in future. They are to be carried out more

The Defendants contend that Bruns's words represent important and
credible evidence from a reliable witness, firstly, that Hitler
personally ordered the Riga executions and, secondly, that once informed
of the shooting Hitler, far from prohibiting such conduct in the future,
ordered that shootings of this kind it should continue but on a more
discreet basis.

5.114 Despite the crucial importance of Bruns's evidence, of which
Irving was aware, there is no reference in any of Irving's books to his
claim as to the apparent role of Hitler in regard to the deaths of the
Berlin Jews in Riga. Reference is made to Bruns in the introduction to
the American edition of Hitler's War, where Irving refers to Hitler's
"renewed orders that such mass murders were to stop forthwith". The
Defendants contend that this reference wholly perverts the sense of
Bruns's account.

5.115 In the text of Goebbels at p645 Irving writes that 1000 Berlin
Jews and 4000 Riga Jews were shot on 30 November. According to Evans and
Browning, the true figure was found in later reports to be at least
twice that number and higher estimates of 13-15,000 were given in post-
war trials. The Defendants are critical of Irving for minimising the
number of those killed. They accept that he refers, albeit tucked away
in a footnote, to a claim that 27,800 Jews were murdered but he there
describes that claim as exaggerated. Evans testified that the figure of
27,800, which was reported by Einsatzgruppe A was probably justified.

5.116 In relation to Hitler's attitude towards the shooting of the
German Jews in Riga, the Defendants also criticise Irving for making no
mention whatever of the evidence of Schultz-Dubois. This young Nazi
officer was entrusted with the task of conveying to Admiral Canaris a
report prepared by another officer based in Riga protesting at the
shooting. The intention was that Canaris should raise the matter with
Hitler. According to a letter from the widow of Schultz-Dubois, which is
quoted in a book by Professor Gerald Fleming, Canaris did so but was met
with the response:

     "You want to show weakness, do you mein Herr! I have to do that,
     for after me there not be another one to do it".

This, say the Defendants, is clear evidence that Hitler approved the
shooting the Jews yet Irving suppressed it.

Case for Mr Irving

5.117 Irving in his evidence adopted an equivocal attitude towards the
covertly recorded words of General Bruns about events in Riga. He
accepted that in general Bruns is reliable and credible, partly because
he did not know his words were being recorded. Nevertheless, noting that
Bruns at his trial had denied even having been present at the Riga
shootings, there were parts of Bruns's recorded account which Irving
discounted. In relation to Bruns's account of Altemeyer having said to

     "Here's an order that's come, saying that mass shootings of this
     kind may no longer take place in future. That is to be done more
     cautiously now"

Irving claimed that the first part means that Hitler had ordered that
the mass killings had got to stop. But Irving dismissed the second part,
that is, the instruction that the shooting should be done more
cautiously in future as nothing more than a sneering aside by Altemeyer.

5.118 Irving's reason for discounting these words is that Altemeyer was
at the time a young officer in his early 20s and so likely to have
fobbed off criticism by a senior officer of what he was doing by
referring to "the Fuhrer's orders". It was, according to Irving "a
throwaway line". Irving argued that his interpretation of Altemeyer's
words is consistent with the intercepted message from Himmler to Jeckeln
of 1 December 1941 requiring him to comply with the guidelines for
dealing with deported German Jews.

5.119 In contrast to his initial assessment of Bruns's reliability,
Irving went so far in his cross-examination of Evans as to suggest that
his account was third hand and, having been provided four years after
the event, could not be treated as hard evidence.

5.120 As to the number of casualties in Riga on 30 November 1941, Irving
sought to justify the figure he gave in the text of Goebbels, namely
5,000, by a calculation of the number of corpses which could have been
fitted into the pits which General Bruns described in his account of the
shootings. If those pits measured 25metres long by 3 metres wide and 2
metres deep, Irving worked out that, assuming 10 bodies per cubic metre,
the pits would have accommodated in the region of 7,000 bodies. Evans
expressed the view that such a calculation was meaningless because it
contained so many assumptions, not least the assumption that the pits
were only 2 metres deep.

Irving added that he had not concealed the claim that there were over
28,000 deaths: the claim was in the footnote to which readers could

5.121 Irving rejected the Defendants' criticism of him for ignoring
altogether in his writing about the Riga shootings the evidence of the
widow of Schultz-Dubois, who had been responsible for transmitting a
report by a young army officer protesting about the shootings to Admiral
Canaris in order that the Admiral might bring it to the attention of
Hitler. I understood Irving to say that, although the letter of Mrs
Schultz-Dubois which contains this information is to be found on his
website, he had not at the material time read it. Irving testified that,
whilst he had in 1982 looked at parts of the book by Professor Fleming
in which the letter of Frau Schultz-Dubois is quoted, he had not read
that passage which at page 98 contains the quotation from her letter. It
was put to Irving in cross-examination that the markings in his copy of
Fleming's book indicate that he read as far as page 104 and so would
have read the contents of the letter at page 98. Irving denied that

5.122 Irving did, however, agree that Hitler's reaction as recounted in
the letter of Frau Schultz-Dubois is some evidence that Hitler
considered it to be his task to kill the Jews. That, Irving agreed, must
be what meant by Hitler's phrase "after me there will not be another one
to do it [carry out the shooings]". But Canaris was known to be anti-
Nazi and so, argued Irving, his report of Hitler's reaction to the
report has to be discounted.

(vii) Hitler's views on the Jewish question


5.123 This is another topic to which I shall need to revert at greater
length when I come to deal with the criticisms levelled by the
Defendants against Irving for his denial that Hitler was complicit in
the genocidal policy of deporting and subsequently killing by the use of
gas vast numbers of Jews from all over Europe. At this point I shall
confine myself to a summary of the criticisms advanced by the Defendants
of Irving's portrayal, in selected passages from his books, of Hitler's
stance on the Jewish question, together with Irving's answers to those

The Defendants' case

5.124 The case for the Defendants is that at every opportunity Irving
portrays Hitler as adopting a non-confrontational posture towards the
Jews and being kept in ignorance, at least until the autumn of 1943, of
the wholesale liquidation which was under way. This picture is a wholly
false one, say the Defendants. It will suffice if I give a selection of
the statements made by Hitler on the subject of the Jews on which the
defendants place reliance.

5.125 The Defendants accuse Irving of perverse and selective quotation
and deliberate mistranslation in a passage at p377 of Goebbels which
purports to give an account of an occasion described in Hitler's Table
Talk for 25 October 1941. Irving describes how Hitler soliloquised to
Himmler and Heydrich in the following terms:

     "Hitler was neither consulted nor informed [about the mass
     deportation of Jews from Berlin]. Ten days after the forced exodus
     began, he referred, soliloquising over supper to Himmler and
     Heydrich, to the way the Jews had started the war.' Let nobody tell
     me', Hitler added, 'that despite that we can't park them in the
     marshier parts of Russia! By the way', he added, 'its not a bad
     thing that public rumour attributes to us a plan to exterminate the
     Jews'. He pointed out, however, that he had no intention of
     starting anything at present. 'There's no point in adding to our
     difficulties at a time like this' ".

Evans asserted that the claim that Hitler was neither consulted nor
informed about the deportations is pure invention. He contended that a
true translation of that extract from the Table Talk is as follows:

     "Nobody can tell me: but we can't send them into the morass! For
     who bothers about our people? Its good if the terror (schrecken)
     that we are exterminating Jewry goes before us .. I'm forced to
     pile up an enormous amount of things myself; but that doesn't mean
     that what I take cognisance of without reacting to it immediately,
     just disappears. It goes into an account; one day the book is taken
     out. I had to remain inactive for a long time against the Jews too.
     There's no sense in artificially making extra difficulties for one
     self; the more cleverly one operates, the better ..".

5.126 A series of cumulative criticisms are made of Irving's version of
this extract from Hitler's Table Talk. The original text does not refer
to "parking" nor to Russia. By rendering schrecken as "rumour" Irving
waters down the original. Besides there is no reference in the original
to "attributing": the extermination is presented as a fact. The German
original makes clear that Hitler regarded the period of inaction vis--
vis the Jews to be over. The moment has come to strike. The Defendants
argue that the net result of Irving's version of Hitler's remarks is
wholly to misrepresent the thrust of Hitler's remarks.

5.127 In his diary Goebbels recorded a meeting with Hitler on 21
November 1941 in terms which included the following:

     "The Fuhrer also completely agrees with my views with reference to
     the Jewish question. He wants an energetic policy against the Jews,
     which, however, does not cause us unnecessary difficulties".

Yet at p379 of Goebbels Irving writes that Goebbels displayed a far more
uncompromising face than Hitler's towards the Jews. That is followed by
a passage quoting the extract from Goebbels's diary just cited in the
following terms:

     " .[Hitler] again instructed Goebbels to pursue a policy against
     the Jews that does not cause us endless difficulties .".

The Defendants claim that Irving distorts the sense of the diary entry
by omitting the reference to Hitler wanting an energetic policy towards
the Jews and by omitting the first sentence recording Hitler's agreement
with his (Goebbels's) views about the Jewish question.

5.128 The Defendants rely also upon Irving's account of a speech made by
Hitler to the Gauleiter on 12 December 1941, when, according to
Goebbels's diary (in Longerich's translation):

     "As concerns the Jewish question, the Fuhrer is determined to make
     a clean sweep. He had prophesied to the Jews that if they once
     again brought about a world war they would experience their own
     extermination (vernichtung). This was not just an empty phrase. The
     World War is there, the extermination of Jewry (Judentum) must be
     the necessary consequence. This question must be seen without
     sentimentality. We are not here in order to have sympathy with the
     Jews, rather we sympathise with our own German people. If the
     German people have now once again sacrificed as many as 16,000 dead
     in the Eastern campaign, then the authors of this bloody conflict
     must pay with their lives".

The Defendants' case is that, according to Goebbels's account, Hitler
was expressly contemplating the extermination of Jews generally. The
Defendants argue that his passage, which followed one day after the
outbreak of war between Nazi Germany and the United States, echoes what
Goebbels had earlier written in an article in Das Reich and that it
demonstrates that Hitler was determined to act no less brutally towards
the Jews than was Goebbels. It marks, say the Defendants, the reaction
of Hitler to the outbreak of world war, which was that the Jews must be

5.129 According to the Defendants, confirmation for this proposition is
to be found in the account of General Governor Hans Frank (who Irving
accepts was in Berlin when Hitler spoke to the Gauleiter), which states:

     "In Berlin we were told 'why all this trouble? We cannot use them
     in the Ostland or the Reichscommissariat either. Liquidate them
     yourselves! We must destroy the Jews wherever we encounter them and
     wherever it is possible in order to preserve the entire structure
     of the Third Reich".

Frank's diary contains the following further passage:

     ". we cannot shoot these 3.5 million Jews. We can't poison them.
     But we will, however, be able to undertake interventions which in
     some way lead to a successful annihilation, and indeed in
     connection with the large scale measures to be undertaken from the
     Reich and to be discussed. The General Government must become just
     as free of Jews as the Reich is. Where and how that happens is a
     matter for the institutions which we must put into action and
     create here and the effectiveness I will report on to you in good

The Defendants contend that Frank was there recording what had in effect
been a direction to the General Government from Berlin to liquidate the
Jews. The Defendants assert that the latter passage is "an evolutionary
document", presaging the extermination of Jews by gassing.

Criticism was levelled at Irving for his claim at p428 of the 1991
edition of Hitler's War that Hitler was in East Prussia when the
instruction to liquidate the Jews was issued. The probability is that
Hitler was in Berlin at the material time, since he did not leave Berlin
for the East until 16 December. This, according to the Defendants, is an
instance of Irving manipulating the record and telling "a fib" in order
to distance Hitler from the instruction to liquidate the Jews.

5.130 Next the Defendants rely on a manuscript note made by Himmler of a
conversation he had with Hitler on 16 December 1941 which includes the

     "Jewish question / to be extirpated (auszurotten) as partisans".

Longerich regarded this note as confirmation of Hitler's intention to
continue and intensify the mass murders of Soviet Jews. It is consistent
with the way in which the killing of 363,211 Jews was treated in report
by the Einsatzgruppen of 26 December 1942 (to which I shall refer again
later): in that report the number of Jews killed was included as a
separate category under the heading of partisan accomplices. This report
is endorsed in manuscript "laid before [vorgelegt] Hitler".

5.131 The Defendants criticise the account given by Irving at p465 of
Hitler's War (1991 edition) of Hitler's attitude towards the Jews in
March 1942. The reader is given to understand that the concern of Hitler
was to procure the deportation of Jews out of Europe. Irving refers to
Hitler's wish, repeatedly stated, to postpone dealing with the Jewish
problem until after the war is over. He claims that Goebbels never
discussed with Hitler the realities of what was happening to the Jews in
the General Government.

That account, say the Defendants, takes no account of the statements
repeatedly made by Hitler from 1941 onwards that the Jews must be
eliminated and that they were a "bacillus" which needed to be
eliminated. Examples are to be found in the entries made by Goebbels in
his diary on 15 February and 20 March 1942 and in Hitler's Table Talk on
22 February 1942).

Also omitted by Irving is the reference made by Goebbels to Hitler as a
protagonist for and champion of the radical solution to the Jewish
question necessitated by the "way things are". There is, according to
the Defendants, no justification for Irving's claim that Goebbels
discussed with Hitler "the realities" of the situation. What Irving is
unwarrantably seeking to do, say the Defendants, is to distance Hitler
from the policy of killing the Jews.

5.132 Next the Defendants accuse Irving of suppressing several
references made by Hitler in January and February 1942 to the
extermination (ausrottung) of Jews, for example in his Table Talk on 25
January 1942. Hitler is there recorded as having said on that occasion:

     "The Jew has to get out of Europe . If he collapses in the course
     of it, I can't help there. I can see only one thing: absolute
     extermination, if they don't go of their own accord ..".

The latter sentence is omitted at p464 of Hitler's War (1991 edition) in
order, so the Defendants say, to exculpate Hitler.

5.133 Similarly the Defendants point to the omission by Irving of any
reference to Hitler's statements in the Table Talk for 22 February 1942:
"We will get well when we eliminate the Jew", They rely also on the
omission of a similar remark by Hitler to NSDAP party members on 24
February 1942 when Hitler again talked of extermination and removing

5.134 Evans in his report criticises the omission from Irving's account
of Goebbels's diary entry for 30 May 1942 but the Defendants no longer
rely on this criticism. Similarly the Defendants no longer pursue
Evans's criticism of Irving for not recognising that the reference in
the Hitler Table Talk of July 1942 to Jews emigrating to Madagascar was

5.135 However the Defendants rely further in this connection on the
following: the reaction of Hitler to the shooting of the Jews I Riga in
November 1941, as reported by the widow of Schultz-Dubois (referred to
at (vii) above); Himmler's minute of 22 September 1942; Himmler's note
of 10 December 1942; Hitler's meetings with Antonescu and Horthy in
April 1943 and Ribbentrop's statements made at Nuremberg (all of which
will be referred to later in this section).

5.136 The Defendants contend that, individually and collectively, the
misinterpretations, partial quotations and omissions which I have
summarised amount to a serious misrepresentation of Hitler's attitude
towards the Jewish question. As further evidence of the uncompromisingly
harsh and active role in the persecution of the Jews the Defendants rely
also on his role in such events as the expulsion and shooting of the
Berlin Jews in Riga (with which I have already dealt); his role in the
deportation of European Jews to the East; his attitude towards the Jews
in France; his determination to procure the extermination of the
Hungarian Jews and Ribbentrop's assessment of Hitler's responsibility
for the fate which befell the Jews (to all of which issues I will
shortly come).

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.