The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

David Irving's Hitler
A Faulty History Dissected
Two Essays by Eberhard Jäckel
Translation & Comments by H. David Kirk

© Copyright 1993, H. David Kirk

Enter Irving

Neo-Nazi demand for "revised" history has given rise to a "revisionism" industry. Its "craftsmen" surface at international meetings and trials as "expert witnesses." An example: Robert Faurisson, a former professor of French literature at the University of Lyons, whom the defense brought from France to testify at the 1985 trial in Toronto of Ernst Zundel. Publisher and distributor of Holocaust- denial and other antisemitic material, Zundel was charged with willfully publishing false information likely to cause racial or religious intolerance.

One of his publications, by Verrall, and entitled "Did Six Million Really Die?" represented one of the counts against him. Faurisson testified that on the basis of his extensive study since 1960 he had concluded there had been no genocide; "It is an accusation against the German people, which is not proved at all," he said. He also asserted that the "Six Million" pamphlet is substantially correct in its denial that European Jews were exterminated.

Propaganda emanating from such sources is disseminated at neo Nazi meetings and sent through the mails anonymously. It appeals mainly to people already blinded by anti-democratic and anti-Jewish phobias. But there are also more subtle and sophisticated "revisionist historians" and among them is the focus of this booklet: David Irving.

In Hitler's War, as in some of his previous books, Irving produced a remarkable mix of truth and fantasy, gripping and misleading. If these "popular histories" were meant as entertainment and not as instruction about "what really happened," they would not warrant serious rejoinders. But many of Irving's books, Hitler's War in particular, have clear cut and not at all hidden agendas. They set out to paint the Allies with the same brush of brutality as the Nazi side and this "even-handed" juggling act is bound to raise in uninitiated minds the question whether the Second World War, with its terrible sacrifices, was necessary.

Because Irving manages to insinuate that the Jews of Europe posed real dangers to the Nazi war machine, there is in his work an undercurrent of justification for the Holocaust, the facts of which he does not totally deny. No wonder that Jäckel refers to Irving's revisionism as "more subtle and cunning than a revisionism that denies everything." By equally distributing the brutality of Nazis and anti-Nazis, blameworthiness becomes diluted until it disappears.

In Hitler's War, Irving builds an even more insidiously untrue scaffold to hold up the rotten hull of the Nazi ship of state: Hitler's innocence in the mass murder of Europe's Jewish people. Thereby the guilt for the greatest crime of the century is neatly unloaded on secondary Nazi chieftains: notably Goebbels, Himmler, and powerful underlings like Heydrich who oversaw the mass-killing operations. Though Jäckel's essays show that Irving manufactured much of his "Hitler cleansing" evidence, some additional facts may be helpful.

The beginning of the Holocaust is reckoned as of November 9, 1938. On that date Nazi state machinery unleashed a nation wide pogrom euphemistically known as "Kristallnacht," "the night of broken glass," i.e., broken windows. Over a hundred synagogues were burned and their sacred scrolls trodden in the dirt. Thousands of Jewish men were whipped, spat on, and sent to concentration camps. Families were terrorized. It was indeed the beginning of the end for Germany's and Europe's Jews.

Who in Germany could have ordered so uniform an onslaught on a defenseless, already cowed and systematically pauperized people? In his biography of Goering,[9] Irving lays the blame for this pogrom on Goebbels, thereby clearing Hitler. But other voices point directly at Hitler. Among these is that of his former press chief, Otto Dietrich. In his memoirs,' written after Germany's surrender and while he was a prisoner of British military authorities, he writes:

Early in November 1938 there took place ... the burning of synagogues and the smashing of Jewish shops These demonstrations were supposed to have been spontaneous; as I learned the following day, they were staged. The inspiration for them was attributed to Goebbels. In reality they had been instigated by Hitler himself. Hitler ordered Goebbels to carry out the action, and Go passed the instructions on to the SA (Brownshirts) ....

That Hitler was in fact the mastermind of the master pogrom would not have been much of a revelation to his contemporaries, but it is revealing how Irving deals with it. In 1992 he announced his latest "discovery" in Moscow archives of previously unknown pages of Goebbels' diary, and that he had exclusive use of them. The Sunday Times of London is said to have agreed to pay Irving $170,000 to "read, authenticate and transcribe" them." Irving triumphantly announced that the author of the 1938 pogrom had been Hitler. But he failed to say that three years earlier the same Irving had laid the blame for it just as firmly on Goebbels.


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