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

© Essays Copyright Eberhard Jäkel
© Translation Copyright H. David Kirk

Refutation of the absurd thesis that
"Hitler Is innocent in the murder of Europe's Jews"[21]

Preliminaries [22]

In those [Nazi] times one could frequently hear people say: "Just you wait till the Führer gets wind of it!" by which they meant that if Hitler knew, he would certainly rectify not only certain unpleasant aspects of daily life but also the immense horrors of the regime. It helped people cope both with such minor annoyances as train delays, bad weather, or a Nazi boss's drunken antics, and with real injustices and crimes. When used as a joke it was not, like many other ones, directed against the regime: even then it had a deeper meaning. It removed the person of the Fuehrer, who after all couldn't be expected to concern himself with everything, from the shortcomings and arbitrary acts of his subordinates.

From the start, this formula was applied to the murder of the Jews. Even if Himmler and his sinister SS and Gestapo executioners were thought capable of it, the Führer was not. Had he known of it, he would surely have interfered. Such was the rumor during the war and the open talk afterwards. This kind of drivel has been and continues to be written by neo- Nazis who should really be called "stone-age" Nazis.

In their attempted cleanup of the Führer's person such people are helped by the fact that in the case of the mass murder of the Jews there exists no written, personally signed, order of Hitler's. For years historians searched for such an order and when none was found they turned to other issues. Nevertheless, no serious scholar has concluded that this century's most horrible crime could have been undertaken without Hitler's will or knowledge.

Now someone has come along, an Englishman yet, who in an otherwise well-regarded book serves up the same absurd thesis. His book has the earmarks of scholarship: it cites sources and has annotations, and its author is so certain of himself that he has offered to donate $1,000 (US) to some charitable fund if anyone can identify a wartime document that shows Hitler, prior to October 1943, ordering or even knowing of the biological liquidation of the Jews of Western Europe.

Quite a wager, wouldn't you say? But don't be misled: the clever bettor was not entirely foolhardy; he made sure not to give the power of verification to some neutral body like a university or a scientific organization. He insists that he, entirely on his own, will be the judge of whether a document is genuine, and whether his thesis has in fast been contradicted. Now that can hardly be called "fair play"; it is nothing less than a sleight of hand trick.

This smart-alecky young man is David Irving and his book is Hitler's War. It raised a furor in the media. Its reviews were consistently negative. Oxford University's Hugh Trevor Roper,[23] one of the greatest authorities in this field, called Irving's methodology defective.

Publication History of Hitler's War

The book has a strange prehistory story. It first appeared in 1975 in German under the title Hitler and his Generals.[24] Though its reception was critical, its source material was praised. This version of the book did not provoke anger or indignation, and for a good reason: it did not contain the disturbing thesis of Hitler's innocence. That part had been carefully eliminated. Irving has now distanced himself from this version of his book and has forbidden any further edition of it. He claims that it had been substantially abbreviated and altered without his doing.

The director of the Ullstein Publishing House, Wolf Jobst Siedler, has some interesting contrary information. On May 7, 1974, a year prior to the book's publication, he had written to Irving concerning Irving's discussion of the "liquidation of the Jews." He had emphasized that "in a publishing house under my direction no book shall appear for which I cannot take political and historical responsibility." He added: "Should you be of a different opinion, we would have to go our different ways." Irving had not left; he had stayed.

Since Irving's British and American publishers had fewer scruples than Siedler, the offending thesis did, after all, make its appearance there, and likewise in Germany where it was eagerly received in quite well-known and "interested" [neo-Nazi] circles. It is common knowledge that the defense attorneys in the Duesseldorf lawsuit of Majdanek death camp operatives have made use of Irving's assertion. Now it is time to take issue with it.

Irving has repeatedly complained that he is being maligned when his thesis about the murder of the Jews is given so much prominence, seeing that his book devotes only a small section of its 926 pages to it. Nor is that wrong. His book covers much else, and not all of it is shocking; in fact some of it is worth reading and even enlightening. But only his thesis [of Hitler's innocence in the murder of the Jews] attracts attention; Irving himself has given it prominence by emphasizing it in the very first pages.

The Anatomy of Irving Thesis

Thus he writes that the most persistent of many Hitler extermination of the Jews." His own inquiry has, he says, led him to two firm conclusions: (1) that in war dictators are basically weak and not able to check on all activities of administering organizations, and (2) that guilt for the bloody and mindless massacre of the Jews must be laid to a large number of Germans and not just Hitler. True, with his antisemitic speeches Hitler stoked the fires of Jew-hatred. True, he and Himmler had created the SS and set up the concentration camps. But Irving also claims there is incontrovertible evidence that Hitler, on the 30th of November 1941, ordered that there be "no liquidation" of Jews.

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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