Newsgroups: alt.revisionism Reply-to: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Irving v. Penguin & Lipstadt: Judgment VI-06 Organization: The Nizkor Project 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.
Site Map ·
What's New? ·
© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012
Home · Site Map · What's New? · Search Nizkor