As is well known, no order or any other of kind directive from Hitler or Himmler exists that call for the extermination or gassing of the Jews. On the other hand, allied propaganda alleges that there exists an order from Himmler to stop the gassings. If such an order indeed existed, it would provide strong evidence that gassings actually took place. The allegation is question is based upon a written statement made by SS-Standartenführer Kurt Becher before the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal:
"Between the middle of September and October 1944 I caused the Reichsführer SS Himmler to issue the following order, which I received in two originals, one each for SS Generals Kaltenbrunner and Pohl, and a carbon copy for myself: 'Effective immediately I forbid any liquidation of Jews and order that, on the contrary, hospital care should be given to weak and sick persons. I hold you (and here Kaltenbrunner and Pohl were meant) personally responsible even if this order should not be strictly adhered to by lower echelons.' I personally took Pohl's copy to him at his office in Berlin and left the copy for Kaltenbrunner at his office in Berlin."
No such order was ever recovered, and no-one could prove that it had existed. This caused Raul Hilberg to write:
"In November 1944, Himmler decided that for practical purposes the Jewish question had been solved. On the twenty-fifth of that month he ordered the dismantling of the killing installations."
In a footnote he states as his source:
"Witness statement by Kurt Becher on March 8, 1946, PS-3762."
The witness statement however does not say anything like this. Other Holocaust writers have thereafter copied Hilberg, using his book as their source. A demonstrative example may be found in the work of Berenbaum and Gutman. There we read once again of the alleged November 25 Himmler order to "demolish the gas chambers and crematoria in Auschwitz". In the note to this passage however, we find the following:
"According to the testimony of the leader of the Hungarian Zionists, Reszo Kastner, the Himmler co-worker Kurt Becher had shown him the copy of an order to destroy the gas chambers and the crematoria. This order was dated to November 25, 1944."
This date is also found in the notes of an anynomous author, a prisoner and a member of the Sonderkommando, who wrote, that the dismantling of Krematorium II had begun on November 25.
To me as an officer, it seems very peculiar that the formidable SS colonel Kurt Becher went around showing top secret Himmler orders to Jewish leaders. The order was so secret that only three copies were made and no record of it was preserved – yet Jewish representatives were allowed to read it!
Already back in 1972 I had made the acquantaince of an older German cavalry officer, who was married to a very famous dressage rider. During the years that followed I met Mr. Becher on a number of occassions in connection with riding events in Germany, but it was not until relatively late, probably in 1993, that I realized that he was the same person as the famous SS colonel. I know asked him for a meeting, and on October 26, 1994, he received me at his home in Bremen, where he – visibly amused by my curiosity – told me in detail of his time as an officer in the Waffen-SS, and of his service during the war in the 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer.
Between summer and autumn of 1944 Becher was in Hungary to buy horses for his own division as well the German army. In connection with this he came into contact with leading Hungarian Jews, among them the aforementioned Kastner. Through Himmler Becher managed to see to that 1,000 of the wealthiest Budapest Jews, among them the arms industry tycoon Weiss, later a resident of New York City, in the autumn of 1944 were given the opportunity to travel to enemy-controlled territory via Bergen-Belsen. There next followed the notorious negotiations between Kastner and Becher about letting another 100,000 Budapest Jews travel to Palestine in exchange for 10,000 US made trucks.
During this conversation the leading Jews expressed their concern for what would happen to their co-religionists once the front of the war reached the German concentration camps such as Auschwitz in the east and Natzweiler and Neuengamme in the west. Surely the guards would not start killing off the Jews when this happened? Remarkably, none of them showed any greater concern for what would happen to the Jews in the camps before the war reached those places.
Becher calmed the Hungarian Jews by assuring them, that he would soon see Himmler and that he would then tell him of their concerns. Becher met with Himmler at the end of September or in early October, most likely on September 25, thus giving rise to the date recurring in literature. Himmler immediately issued an order stating that:
"as enemy troups reaches the concentration camps, these are to be surrendered without fighting. Necessary measures are to be taken in order that this may take place in good order and without the loss of prisoner lives."
To my question why he had made a diametrically opposite statement at Nuremberg, Becher merely replied ambiguously, that I did not understand what the situation had been like during the Nuremberg trial. Kurt Becher later made a large fortune through business with the Israeli State. As our conversations were broken off by the death of Becher in August 1995, I unfortunately never received any clarifications regarding this matter.
The cheerful laughter of Becher's that I got as an answer to my question concerning the alleged November 25 order to demolish the Auschwitz gas chambers would clearly indicate that this claim is to be ascribed to the usual falsifiers of history.
The order which Kurt Becher in fact received from Himmler was, according to Becher, issued in three copies: one for the head of Gestapo, Kaltenbrunner, one for the head of the SS Department of Economical Administration (WVHA), SS-General Oswald Pohl, and one which was kept by Becher, but never shown to anyone. Becher personally delivered the orders to the mentioned other two. Why the order was only issued in three copies and kept so secret that it had to be handed over in person by a colonel, is easily explained: what Himmler had written in it constituted a clear admission, that the war was lost and that enemy forces would advance and reach the inner parts of Germany. It thus was a clearly defeatist piece of writing, for which the author could expect the death penalty, should it fall into the wrong hands. The mere idea that such a secret paper would be shown to an enemy person such as Kastner is laughable, the claim bearing the traits of an Oriental rather than European way of thinking.
As Kurt Becher showed himself to be enjoying our conversation and made the impression of being honest, I finally asked him:
"What then is the truth about the gassing of European Jews, and what do you know about it? After all you spent much time together with the best informed and leading Hungarian Jews."
To this, Becher replied:
"I heard about these things for the first time when I was brought to Nuremberg as a prisoner. What the truth really is, I don't know, but the allegations are in any case enormously exaggerated, as we all know."
This means that at the end of September/beginning of October 1944, Kurt Becher received an order that the concentration camps should be peacefully surrendered to the approaching enemy in order to save human lives. Out of this, the falsifiers of history at Nuremberg made up the allegation, that on November 25, 1944 Himmler had issued Kurt Becher an order to cease the gassings and destroy the Auschwitz gas chambers.
Translated by Thomas Kues
- The author of this article for many years served as an officer in the Royal Swedish Navy. Translator's note.
- IMT Document PS-3762; IMT Volume XXXII, p. 68. [The original German text reads: Etwa zwischen Mitte September und Mitte Oktober 1944 erwirkte ich beim Reichsminister SS Himmler folgenden Befehl, den ich in zwei Originalen, je eins für die SS-Obergruppenführer Kaltenbrunner und Pohl und einer Copie für mich erhielt: "Ich verbiete mit sofortiger Wirkung jegliche Vernichtung von Juden und befehle im Gegenteil die Pflege von schwachen und kranken Personen. Ich halte Sie (damit waren Kaltenbrunner und Pohl gemeint) persönlich dafür verantwortlich, auch wenn dieser Befehl von untergeordneten Dienststellen nicht strikt befolgt wird!" Ich überbrachte Pohl das für ihn bestimmte Exemplar persönlich in Berlin in seiner Dienststelle und gab das Exemplar für Kaltenbrunner in seinem Sekretariat in Berlin ab. Note of the translator.]
- Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Quadrangle Books, Chicago 1961, p. 631.
- That is, it does not mention the dismantling of any gas chambers or other kinds of killing installations. Translator's note.
- Israel Gutman, Michael Berenbaum (eds.), Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Indiana University Press, Bloomington/Indianapolis 1994, p. 174 and 181, note 74.
- Cf. Germar Rudolf (Ed.), Dissecting the Holocaust, Second edition, Theses & Dissertations Press, Chicago 2003, pp. 85-132.
- This article was originally published in German in Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung, No. 1(4) (1997), p. 258ff.
Additional information about this document
|Title:||The Himmler order to stop the gassing of the Jews|
|Sources:||"Himmlers Befehl, die Vergasung der Juden zu stoppen," in: Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung, No. 1(4) (1997), p. 258ff.|
|First posted on CODOH:||Aug. 30, 1997, 7 p.m.|
|Comments:||Originally published in German in Vierteljahreshefte für freie Geschichtsforschung, No. 1(4) (1997), p. 258ff.|