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Introduction fleming

From the introduction to Gerald Fleming’s “Hitler and the
Final Solution.”

It may be tempting to state that each approach has its
merits and to seek a synthesis between the two positions. In
fact functionalism, which stresses the dynamics of a system
instead of the central role of a leader, fits better in many
ways within the mainstream of modern historiography. The
image it offers of Nazism is more “normal,” easier to
explain: any group can stumble haphazardly, from step to
step, into the most extreme criminal behavior.
Responsibility remains, obviously; but it is more diluted,
more nebulous, because of the very automatism of the
process, its outcome unforeseeable, and because of the
absence of real premeditation as well. Intentionalism, on
the other hand, asserts that the course of action was in
some way planned. This latter view gives Hitler a
predominant role, but it also implies much greater awareness
at various levels; whereas functionalism, pushed to its
logical conclusion, gets very close to denying that Hitler
had accurate knowledge of the Final Solution. It leaves most
of the operation to subordinate agencies — in a nutshell,
to police terror.

These considerations are not to be dismissed lightly. But
for the historian the only valid test is that of documentary
evidence. It appears, in my opinion, that in scanning
available evidence — and Fleming’s study has been of major
importance in bringing a great deal of it together —
historians may tend to be more convinced by the traditional,
intentionalist position, at least insofar as anti-Jewish
policies and the Final Solution are concerned. Let me state
my own point of view: In the matters with which Hitler was
obsessed, those forming the core of his system — conquest
of the Lebensraum, as well as the all-embracing fight
against the Jews — his intervention is clearly seen at
crucial stages. In other fields, the functionalist position
could easily be proven. The problem of interference between
the other fields and the major elements of Hitler’s system
remains open.

Let us now concentrate entirely on key issues relating to
the Final Solution itself. The main problem is to verify
Hitler’s orders for and personal involvement in the
extermination process versus the thesis of a more or less
haphazard development — one initiated at a local level and
systematized only later, chiefly within the SS and without
any overall extermination order ever having been given, at
least by Hitler. The latter argument is made possible by the
fact that no written Hitler-order about the Final Solution
has ever been found; but one may assume that it would never
have been given in writing. Since, in one way or another,
the extermination process reached its full-scale form in the
second half of 1941 and the first weeks of 1942, we shall
systematically review the various interpretations relating
to that period.

In his study of the genesis of the Final Solution, Martin
Broszat points out that none of Hitler’s main aides, when
interrogated after the war, had any recollection of an oral
order for the overall extermination of the Jews; moreover,
Broszat shows that entries from Goebbels’s unpublished
diaries, when referring to the Jewish problem during the
summer and fall of 1941, often allude to evacuation to camps
on Russian territory but do not mention any extermination
order. Finally, still in terms of documentary evidence,
Broszat quotes the controversy between Himmler and SS-
Brigadefuehrer Dr. Friedrich sbelh”r, who was in charge of
the Lodz Ghetto. sbelh”r strongly objected, at the beginning
of October 1941, to deportations from the Reich to Lodz,
because the ghetto was already overcrowded; this controversy
would be meaningless if extermination had been decided upon.
[For these various arguments, see Broszat, “Hitler und die
Genesis der’Endl”sung,”‘ 746ff.]

American historian Christopher R. Browning pointedly
answered that Himmler and Heydrich, the main architects of
the Final Solution, were dead when the interrogation started
and that Goering, the principal defendant at Nuremberg, was
fighting for his life and would certainly not have admitted
that he had forwarded a global extermination order. And the
Goebbels diaries were a poor source at best, as Goebbels
since November 1938 was notoriously kept out of Jewish
affairs by Goering, Himmler, and Heydrich. On the other hand,
Browning points to a whole series of references to the
preparation of the Final Solution during the summer and fall
of 1941 that gives an unmistakable sense of mass
annihilation. He also points to the fact, strangely omitted
by Broszat, that after the war Auschwitz commandant Rudolf
Hoess and Adolf Eichmann both referred to the planning during
that period for overall extermination. Finally, Browning
indicates that what Broszat describes as “vague” Nazi plans
for dealing with the Jews in the summer and fall of 1941
(forced labor whereby many would die; then possibly
“helping” the others to die) in fact represents an
extermination program. [Browning, “Zur Genesis der
Endloesung,” 98ff.]

But let us turn now to the sequence of events. Until the
fall of 1941, Soviet Jews are the only ones systematically
exterminated; Uwe Adam and Martin Broszat do not find a
necessary link between those exterminations and an overall
Final Solution through mass killing. In the fall of 1941,
however, deportations from the Reich start, mostly to Lodz,
Kovno, Minsk, and Riga. Some of the deportees sent to Riga
and Lodz are exterminated on the spot, along with local
Jews, near Riga and in the Chelmno (Kulmhof) extermination
camp near Lodz. It would seem that we are now confronted
with stages of an overall plan, as the extermination process
includes Jews transported from Germany to the killing sites.
But in Broszat’s view these killings are still initiated to
solve local problems (the deportations from the Reich add to
the overcrowding of the ghettos and the Jews cannot be sent
further east, as the Wehrmacht’s advance in Russia is
slowing down). In fact, according to Broszat, the very
chaotic aspect of the deportations from the Reich, owing to
Hitler’s sudden wish to see the Reich cleared of Jews as
soon as possible, seems to preclude any systematic planning
of an extermination process.

Gerald Fleming brings important evidence to show that the
Riga exterminations are not a local improvisation: the
Reichskommissar Ostland, Hinrich Lohse, is advised by
Himmler through SS-General Friedrich Jeckeln that the
exterminations are on order from Himmler and in accordance
with a “wish” of the Fuehrer (see p. 75 below: “Tell Lohse it
is my order, which is also the Fuehrer’s wish”). Clearly
then, this is no local initiative but, for all purposes, a

For the genesis of the Chelmno exterminations the evidence
is more complex. Martin Broszat reminds us that the idea of
exterminating some of the Lodz ghetto Jews in order to solve
the problems of overcrowding was already discussed among
local SS officers and with the Reich Main Security Office as
early as July 1941, when no general plan for the Final
Solution could yet have existed. [Broszat “Hitler and die
Genesis der ‘Endloesung,”‘ 749n. Dr. Friedrich Uebelhoer’s
protests against sending deportees from the Reich to Lodz
ties in with this reasoning] Would not the extermination in
the fall be the result of the same type of consideration,
developed at a lower echelon?

Here again, Fleming brings us new evidence. In March 1944,
Wartheland Gauleiter Arthur Greiser (in whose domain Lodz
and Chelmno were included) proudly reports to his Fuehrer
that practically all of the Wartheland Jews have been
exterminated (mostly in Chelmno). On 21 November 1942,
Greiser informed Himmler that when he had met with Hitler he
was told, as far as the Jews were concerned, to act
according to his own judgment. Greiser had had two meetings
with Hitler, 1 October and 11 November 1942. (See p. 22

Greiser’s report to Hitler in 1944 clearly means that
Hitler’s words of October or November 1942 had been
understood. Yet Greiser had started the exterminations in
Chelmno a year before those meetings. If Greiser had
received the same kind of order as that given to Lohse in
the fall of 1941, Hitler’s directive, a year later, would
not make sense. Therefore, information about the overall
planning could not have been passed on automatically to
those responsible for various killing operations. Although
for the Chelmno exterminations “Sonderkommando Lange” (a
special task force that used gassing vans, as it had for the
euthanasia killings) was sent from Berlin, Greiser was
possibly unaware that this was part of an overall action —
until he got the hint from Hitler a year later.

If one moves from the single operations to the general
context, the whole picture becomes much clearer. In the fall
of 1941, the Einsatzgruppen had exterminated nearly one
million Jews in the Soviet Union, and Jews from the Reich
were being killed in Riga and Chelmno; all emigration of
Jews from occupied Europe was forbidden (order of 23 October
1941); construction of the Belzec extermination camp in the
Generalgouvernement had begun; and the first killing
experiments with Zyklon-B gas had taken place in Auschwitz.
The groping phase that characterized the summer and early
fall — and that gave the impression of the haphazardness
Broszat uses as a key argument — was coming to an end: the
various projects were falling into place within the general
framework of the Final Solution.

In this context the meaning of the Wannsee Conference of 20
January 1942 — at which Heydrich presented the outline for
the Final Solution to the assembled representatives of
various ministries and SS agencies — seems unmistakable.
Nonetheless, Hans Mommsen states:

The forthcoming “Wannsee Conference” is generally
identified with the immediate starting of the overall
European Genocide, although the “Initiatives”
(Aktionen) mentioned by Heydrich in relation to the
“evacuation of the Jews to the East” were presented as
alternatives (Ausweichmoeglchkeiten), aimed at gathering
practical experience “in view of the coming final
solution of the Jewish Question.” The liquidation of
those Jews who were unable to work was mentioned
implicitly and the later extermination of the
“remainder” was mentioned explicitly. The fiction of
compulsory labour (Arbeitseinsatz) created the
psychological link between the emigration, then the
reservation solution, and the holocaust itself; at the
same time, the chimera of a territorial “final
solution,” which was now to be located beyond the
Urals, was still held forth (schimmerte noch durch).20
Mommsen, “Die Realisierung,” p. 412]

If the inclusion of the Jews in a compulsory labor program
was fictitious — as indeed it was — then Heydrich’s whole
scheme was the overall plan for destruction of the European
Jews. The setting up of the extermination camps in the
Generalgouvernement during the following months dispels any
doubt or vagueness about what was meant at Wannsee.

Moreover, what logic indicates, direct evidence confirms. At
his trial in Jerusalem Adolf Eichmann — who was the
technical organizer of the Wannsee Conference and who
attended its meetings — when asked by the President of the
Tribunal what the general sense of the discussion was,
answered: “The discussion covered killing, elimination, and
annihilation” (p. 92 below).

If we admit that the meaning of the Wannsee Conference is
unmistakable, if we remember that Heydrich in his opening
remarks refers not only to the order given him by G”ring but
also to Hitler’s agreement to start evacuating the Jews to
the East, it can mean only one thing: Hitler’s agreement to
the extermination plan. One can hardly imagine that Heydrich
would present an extermination plan to a whole array of high-
ranking civil servants if Hitler had meant a bona fide
evacuation plan.

Since the conference was first set for 9 December 1941 (and
finally postponed to 20 January 1942) and, moreover, since
the preparation of the scheme presented by Heydrich must
have taken several months, it is probable that Hitler’s
“agreement” was expressed sometime in the summer of 1941, at
the latest. And Hitler’s “agreement,” like Hitler’s “wish,”
means in fact Hitler’s ‘1order,” without the necessity of a
formal decree.

Moreover, references have been made to Hitler’s explicit
instructions regarding the exterminations. When Otto
Bradfisch, head of the Einsatzkommando 8 operating in the
Minsk region, asks Himmler in August 1941 who bears the
responsibility for the executions, Himmler answers that
“these orders . . . come from Hitler as the supreme Fuehrer
of the German government, and . . . they [have] the force of
law” (p. 51 below). A year later, SS-General Gottlob Berger
suggests, in the name of the Ministry for the Occupied
Eastem Territories, devising a more precise definition of
the term “Jew.” Himmler rejects the very idea of further
definition, which would entail only limitations, and adds:
“The occupied East will be freed of Jews ( judenfrei). The
Fuehrer has laid upon my shoulders the execution of this very
difficult order. Moreover, no one can relieve me of this
responsibility. I have therefore forbidden any further
meddling in the matter.”[P. 112 below. See also Krausnick
et al., SS State, 69.]

During the first half of 1944 Himmler refers to the very
hard Fuehrer-order concerning the Final Solution in no less
than four different speeches, three of which were delivered
before large audiences of senior Wehrmacht officers (26
January, 5 and 24 May, and 21 June 1944).[ See pp. 52-54
below. As was already mentioned in the case of Heydrich at
the Wannsee Conference, one cannot imagine that Himrnler
would have referred to a nonexistent Fuehrer-order,
especially before such audiences.] And there are still other
available references to Hitler’s orders, which Fleming does
not cite. For instance, according to the testimony of
SSJudge Konrad Morgen, when Christian Wirth’s special
sections were dispatched to the Generalgouvemement to help
Globocnik in the extermination process, “Himmler is supposed
to have asked of each of them to swear an oath of silence
and to have told them: ‘I have to expect of you superhuman
acts of inhumanity. But, it is the Fuehrer’s
will.”‘[Krausnick et al. SS State, 97.]

Adviser on Jewish Affairs at the Ministry of the Interior,
tells State Secretary Wilhelm Stuckart, that because of the
exterminations of the Jews in the Riga region, news of which
had reached him, he cannot remain in his position. Stuckart
answers: “Don’t you realize that all of this is being done
on orders from the highest level?” [Bernhard L”sener, “Als
Rassereferent im Reichsministerium des Innern ”
Vierteljahrshette fur Zeitgeschichte, 9 (1961): 311. See
also below, pp. 106- 7.] And in May 1942, the Head of the
Reich Main Security Of fice and newly appointed Protector of
Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich, and several
intelligence officers meet in Prague. In the course of a
very heated discussion of the exterminations, Heydrich
declares that the Reich Main Security Office was not
responsible for the killings; they are being executed on
personal order from the Fuehrer (see p. 60 below).

Fleming shows that not only are there many references to
Hitler’s orders, there is also much evidence concerning the
Fuehrer’s interest in the process of extermination. On 1
August 1941, Gestapo Chief Heinrich Mueller sends the
following order to the heads of the four Einsatzgruppen:
“The Fuehrer is to be kept informed continually from here
about the work of the Einsatzgruppen in the East” (p. 45
below). In December 1942, report number 51 is sent by
Himmler to Hitler. It deals with the Einsatzgruppen-actions
in Soviet territory for the period August through November
1942, and it mentions “363,211 Jews executed” (according to
a note by Hitler’s adjutant Pfeiffer, the report was
submitted to Hitler on 31 December) (see below, p. 129).
During the same month, Himmler notes down, after a meeting
with Hitler: “3. Jews . . . to get rid of: Jews in France
600- 700,000, to get rid of” (p. 8 n. 24 below). In fact, as
far as statistics are concerned, Himmler will be better
informed at the end of December, when the SS Inspector for
Statistics, Richard Korherr, will have prepared for him a
complete and precise report on the course of the Final
Solution. In April 1943 the report, updated to 31 March of
the same year and condensed to 6 1/2 pages, is ready for the
Fuehrer. The report, typed on the special “Fuehrer-
typewriter” (a typewriter with extra-large letters), is
submitted to Hitler a few days before 19 April 1943.[ For
the text of both Korherr reports and the related
correspondence, see The Holocaust and the Neo-Nazi
Mythotnania, ed. Serge Klarsfeld (New York, 1978).]
According to Eichmann’s testimony, when the report was sent
back to the Reich Main Security Office, it bore the mention:
“The Fuehrer has taken note: destroy. — H. H.” (i.e.,
Heinrich Himmler; see p. 138 below).

Here we must turn to the strange contradictions of Nazi
camouflage of the Final Solution. Richard Korherr is asked
to eliminate the word Sonderbehandlung (special treatment),
which appeared on his report; Rudolf Brandt, Himmler’s
personal assistant, writes to Korherr:

He [Himmler] has requested that “special treatment of
the Jews” be mentioned nowhere in the document. Page 9,
point 4, should read as follows: “Transport of Jews
from the eastern provinces to the Russian East: passed
through camps in the Generalgouvernement, . . . through
the camps in the Warthegau….” No other wording may be
used. I am returning the copy of the report, with the
Reichsfuehrer SS’s initials, and with the request that
page 9 be altered accordingly and then resubmitted.
[Below, p. 137- and ibid.]

One wonders about the inconsistency of the camouflage
measures; on the one hand, even the code word
Sonderbehandlung is eliminated from the report sent to
Hitler; [It may well be that the explanation, in this case,
is supplied by an instruction issued somewhat later, on 11
July 1943, by the head of the Party Chancellery, Martin
Bormann, whereby, in agreement with the Fuehrer, the “Final
Solution” was in no way to be mentioned in any documents
relating to the Jewish question; mention was only to be made
of Jews being sent to work. See Joseph Walk, ed., Das
Sonderrecht fuer die Juden itn NS-Staat (Heidelberg, 1981),
400.] on the other hand, Himmler refers several times to
Hitler’s orders when he speaks of the total elimination of
the Jews. Or, to sharpen the paradox: in a document sent to
Hitler himself, no reference to the Final Solution is
allowed; but in speeches held before wide audiences (and not
only to SS of Introdu but to regular of ficers of the
Wehrmacht), openly refers to Hitler’s order.

This paradox is reflected in Fleming’s book. The author puts
great emphasis on showing how carefully Hitler avoided
having his name directly linked to the Final Solution, but
clearly Fleming is successful in uncovering many references
to Hitler’s interventions in the extermination process. The
formula “the Fuehrer’s wish” was understood by everybody
concerned to mean a Fuehrer-order. (Saul Friedlander, in
Fleming, xviii-xxvi)

Work Cited

Fleming, Gerald. Hitler and the Final Solution. Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1984.