The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Subject: Proving the Holocaust: Did Hitler Order the Holocaust? (9 of 15)
Summary: Dr. Michael Shermer's article on Holocaust revisionism,
         "Proving the Holocaust: The Refutation of Revisionism & the 
         Restoration of History," _Skeptic_, Vol. 2, No. 4, Altadena, 
         California, June, 1994. Published by the Skeptics Society, 
         2761 N. Marengo Ave., Altadena, CA 91001, (818) 794-3119.
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Part 9: Did Hitler Order the Holocaust?  [1 of 2]

Did Hitler orchestrate the Final Solution to the "Jewish Question?" Did
Hitler merely approve of measures actually developed and organized by
Henrich Himmler? Historians debate the "intentionality" issue, with some
arguing that Hitler intended the extermination of the Jews from the
beginning while others claim it was more of a function of historical
contingencies. Raul Hilberg (1994), however, feels that this is an
artificial distinction:

      In reality it is more complicated than either of these
      interpretations.  I believe Hitler gave a plenary order, but
      that order was itself the end product of a process.  He said
      many things along the way which encouraged the bureaucracy to
      think along certain lines and to take initiatives.  But on the
      whole I would say that any kind of systematic shooting,
      particularly of young children or very old people, and any kind
      of gassing, required Hitler's order.

   This makes sense from a psychological perspective. Hitler was the
supreme commander and as such his orders were usually obeyed. Thus, he
is responsible for his own actions as well as those of his underlings.
As he said in 1933: "Every bullet that is now fired from the barrel of a
police pistol is my bullet. If that is called murder, then I have
committed murder, for I have ordered it all; I take the responsibility
for it" (Fest, 1974, p. 392). But Hitler's charges are no less guilty
since they not only chose to join the Nazi regime in the first place,
they freely carried out the order (it is a myth that death threats were
made against those Germans who refused to participate). Thus, all
participants become perpetrators.

   In Hitler's War, David Irving  argued that Hitler did not know about
the Holocaust. He has since become a revisionist and now believes there
was no Holocaust for Hitler to know about. Irving (1994) believes that
the number of Jews killed "is wrong by an order of magnitude. In other
words, 500,000 to 600,000 instead of five to six million." Hitler, in
fact, was the Jews' best friend: "Without Hitler the State of Israel
probably would not exist today so to that extent he was probably the
Jews' greatest friend." (To this I inquired: "So would you say slavery
was good for the blacks because it gave them the opportunity to come to
America where they would eventually be free?" He responded: "Oh this is
like an examination question. I would have to sit down and work out the

   The Snapshot Fallacy. Irving claims that there is not one document
showing that Hitler ordered the extermination of the Jews. As a classic
example of a fallacy of reasoning we might call the snapshot fallacy,
Irving reproduces, on page 505 of Hitler's War, Himmler's telephone
notes of November 30, 1941, when the SS chief telephoned Heydrich "from
Hitler's bunker at the Wolf's Lair, ordering that there was to be 'no
liquidation' of Jews." Irving took a "snapshot" out of historical
context and concluded "the Fuehrer had ordered that the Jews were not to
be liquidated" (p. 504). But we must see the snapshot in the context of
the frames around it. As Hilberg points out, what the log really says is
"Jewish transport from Berlin. No Liquidation." It was in reference to
one particular transport, not all Jews. And, ironically, says Hilberg,
"that transport was liquidated! That order was either ignored or it was
too late. The transport had already arrived in Riga and they didn't know
what to do with these thousand people so they shot them that very same
evening" (1994). In addition, for Hitler to veto an order for
liquidation implies that liquidation was something that was ongoing.

   The "Ausrotten" Debate--the Meaning of "Extermination." Irving also
plays a fascinating game of semantics with the word, meaning "to
extirpate or exterminate" (Langenscheidt's 1952 German-English
dictionary). The word is often used in reference to the Jews by Hitler
and many of the top Nazis in their speeches and written documents.
Irving claims that it really means "stamping out" or "rooting out." For
example, Irving (1977) translates a conversation between Hitler and
Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi Reich Minister for the Eastern Occupied
Territories. In the Rosenberg's discussion of handling the Jews, Irving
infers "stamping out" for the word ausrotten, and then concludes that
Rosenberg meant transporting Jews out of the Reich (p.  356n). I
explained to the British-born Irving, that my Occidental College
colleague Juergen Pelzer, a German-born professor who teaches German,
said ausrotten means "exterminate." Irving responded (1994): "The word
ausrotten means one thing now in 1994, but it meant something very
different in the time Adolf Hitler uses it." Pelzer checked his
historical dictionaries. Ausrotten has always meant "exterminate."
Irving's rejoinder was another example of post hoc rationalization:

Different words mean different things when uttered by different people.
What matters is what that word meant when uttered by Hitler. I would
first draw attention to the famous memorandum on the four-years plan of
August, 1936. In that Adolf Hitler says, "we are going to have to get
our armed forces in a fighting state within four years so that we can go
to war with the Soviet Union. If the Soviet Union should ever succeed in
overrunning Germany it will lead to the ausrotten of the German people."
There's that word. There is no way that Hitler can mean the physical
liquidation of 80 million Germans. What he means is that it will lead to
the emasculation of the German people as a power factor.

   How do we know he did not mean actual liquidation? "Because no one is
going to say that if Russians take over Germany they are going to
liquidate 80 million people."

   Irving is a formidable scholar and clever logician, but it was
amusing to observe him trying to extricate himself from his own
inconsistencies. Such reasoning becomes ludicrous after a while. The
continual denial of such testimonial evidence demonstrates that
Holocaust revisionists are really not historians obeying the normal
rules of historiographical reasoning. For example, in a December, 1944,
conference regarding the Ardennes attack against the Americans, Hitler
ordered his generals "to ausrotten them division by division" (Irving,
1977, p. 741). Was Hitler giving the order to transport the Americans
out of the Ardennes division by division?! "No," Irving admitted (1994):

But compare that with a speech he made in August, 1939, in which he
says, with regard to Poland, "we are going to destroy the living forces
of the Polish Army." This is the job of any commander--you have to
destroy the forces facing you. How you destroy them, how you "take them
out" is probably a better phrase, is immaterial. If you take those pawns
off the chess board they are gone. If you put the American forces in
captivity they are equally neutralized whether they are in captivity or
dead. And that's what the word ausrotten means there.

   In a memo (reproduced below) SS Sturmbannfuehrer Rudolf Brandt tells
SS Reichsdoctor Dr. Grawitz in Berlin, about "the eradication of TB
[Ausrottung der Tuberkulose] as a disease affecting the nation." What
possible meaning can ausrotten have other than "to kill?" And in
connection with this, Irving (1977) translates a report written in
March, 1943 by this same Rudolf Brandt, to Ernst Kaltenbrunner,
Heydrich's successor as Chief of the RSHA, as "I am transmitting
herewith to you a press dispatch on the accelerated extermination
[ausrotten] of the Jews in Occupied Europe" (p. 867). The same man is
using the same word to discuss the same process of extermination for
both TB and Jews.

   How many more examples do we need to demonstrate that Hitler and the
Nazis not only hated Jews, they wanted them dead? Here are just a few
out of thousands:

   --Hans Frank, Governor General of occupied Poland, October 7, 1940,
in a speech to a Nazi assembly summing up his first year of effort
(Nuremberg Doc. 3363-PS, p. 891):

      My dear Comrades!  .  .  .  I could not eliminate [ausrotten]
      all lice and Jews in only one year.  But in the course of time,
      and if you help me, this end will be attained.

Does Frank mean to transport the lice out of Poland on miniature trains?  

   --On December 13, 1941, Hans Frank told a cabinet session at Cracow,
his HQ (N.D. 3363-PS, p. 892):

      As far as the Jews are concerned, I want to tell you quite
      frankly that they must be done away with in one way or another .
      .  .  Gentlemen, I must ask you to rid yourself of all feeling
      of pity.  We must annihilate the Jews.

   Why must the Nazis rid themselves of pity if all they are doing is
transporting Jews to a new homeland?

   --December 16, 1941, Hans Frank addressed a government session in the
office of the Governor of Cracow, in conjunction with the upcoming
Wannsee Conference (see previous page for original document):

      Currently there are in the Government Generalship approximately
      2 1/2 million, and together with those who are kith and kin and
      connected in all kinds of ways, we now have 3 1/2 million Jews.
      We cannot shoot these 3 1/2 million Jews, nor can we poison
      them, yet we will have to take measures which will somehow lead
      to the goal of annihilation, and that will be done in connection
      with the great measures which are to be discussed together with
      the Reich.  The territory of the General Government must be made
      free of Jews, as is the case in the Reich.  Where and how this
      will happen is a matter of the means which must be used and
      created, and about whose effectiveness I will inform you in due

   If the Final Solution meant deportation out of the Reich, why is
Frank making references to the extermination of Jews through means other
than shooting or poisoning them?

   --Goebbels' diary entries are so revealing that they need no further
commentary (Broszat, p. 143):

      August 8, 1941, concerning the spread of spotted typhus in the
      Warsaw ghetto:

      The Jews have always been the carriers of infectious diseases.
      They should either be concentrated in a ghetto and left to
      themselves or be liquidated, for otherwise they will infect the
      populations of the civilized nations.

      August 19, 1941, after a visit to Hitler's headquarters:

      The Fuehrer is convinced his prophecy in the Reichstag is
      becoming a fact: that should Jewry succeed in again provoking a
      new war, this would end with their annihilation.  It is coming
      true in these weeks and months with a certainty that appears
      almost sinister.  In the East the Jews are paying the price, in
      Germany they have already paid in part and they will have to pay
      more in the future.

      February 24, 1942, after a visit with Hitler in Berlin:

      The Fuehrer again voices his determination to remorselessly
      cleanse Europe of its Jews.  There can be no sentimental
      feelings here.  The Jews have deserved the catastrophe that they
      are now experiencing.  They shall experience their own
      annihilation together with the destruction of our enemies.  We
      must accelerate this process with cold brutality; by doing so we
      are doing an inestimable service to humanity .  .  .  .

      In a speech of September 23, 1942, to 60 German newspaper
      editors in the Throne Room of the Propaganda Ministry in Berlin,
      Goebbels made it clear that the press must keep silent about
      what they all knew was the outcome for the remaining Berlin

      There are still 48,000 in Berlin.  They know with deadly
      certainty that as the war progresses they will be packed off to
      the East and delivered up to a murderous fate.  They already
      feel the inevitable harshness of physical extermination and
      therefore they harm the Reich whenever possible whilst they yet

[Continued in Part 10]

                          Work Cited

   Shermer, Michael. "Proving the Holocaust: The Refutation of
      Revisionism & the Restoration of History," _Skeptic_, Vol. 2,
      No. 4, Altadena, California, June, 1994. Published by the
      Skeptics Society, 2761 N. Marengo Ave., Altadena, CA 91001,
      (818) 794-3119.

_Skeptic_ magazine:

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