Introduction to Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich

Published: 1995-01-01

CODOH is pleased to present a world-wide exclusive preview of Mr. Irving's new work. Scheduled for U.S. publication in March, 1996 by St. Martins Press, protests by the ADL and other Jewish organizations and individuals caused the publisher to withdraw from their agreement as the book was going to print. Now available in the UK from Focal Point.

Joseph Goebbels

Of Joseph Goebbels, Time Magazine wrote six months before World War Two:

"Having spent forty-two years of his life in bitter combat with the normal and healthy world, 'Jupkin' Goebbels, lecherous, shrewd, suave, ambitious, vindictive, stands today at the head of Germany's smoothest-functioning organization and is largely responsible for the nadir to which German prestige has sunk in the rest of the world."

Perhaps his veins were tinged with Malay blood from a distant Dutch forebear; his features were not unlike those of an Italian or, his enemies mocked, a Jew. Height only five-foot-four; a figure of Ghandi-like emaciation barely tipping the scales at one hundred pounds; a head too large for his body; a clubfoot for which he was taunted as both man and boy-all the cards seemed stacked against him. He blamed the world at large; he hated the human race, and he boasted of this hatred in his secret diaries.

British historian David Irving is the frst to make use of the entire 75,000 pages of the Goebbels Diaries-diaries which lay unrecognized for fifty years in the Red Army's "trophy" archives in Moscow. From this extraordinary trove, to which Irving has added six years' research in the archives of the western world, he narrates the frst authentic biography of Adolf Hitler's confidant and evil genius, Dr Joseph Goebbels.

The narrative accompanies Goebbels as an impoverished student to Heidelberg, where he wins the university's most beautiful female student; belying the legends that he later nurtures, he remains sexually immature until his early thirties, as he throws himself into winning Berlin and then all of Germany for Hitler's rising Nazi movement.

In the late Thirties a Czech actress beguiles him, bringing him to the brink of suicide. In a frenzy bordering on delirium he takes revenge on Germany's Jews, igniting the Night of Broken Glass in November 1938; later, he hounds them out of Berlin and goads Hitler on toward the Final Solution.

Here for the first time are Goebbels' secret, unpublished writings on the Reichstag Fire, the Night of the Long Knives, the Dollfuss murder, the Saar plebiscite, the invasion of Prague, Pearl Harbor and scores of other turning points in modern history. Dr Goebbels faithfully records Hitler's innermost councils, documenting the hidden methods and strategies of the Nazi leadership.

As his country is finally consumed by a rain of fire and slaughter from the air, it is Goebbels whose voice exhorts the people to hold out to the end. When that end comes in May 1945, he takes his wife and six children with him to the Nazi Valhalla with a callousness now revealed in full by the former Soviet archives.

At every turn of this gripping story, David Irving has built up his narrative solidly on the archival record, dispelling many legends about the Third Reich that have endured in the history books until today.

David Irving's last work was his biography of Hermann Göring:

"There are many who believe that Irving builds some new shock to public belief into each book he writes. The other side of Irving makes him a most formidable opponent. He is the most assiduous and persistent of researchers into the mountains of documents. He has uncovered enormous quantities of private diaries and papers hidden from Allied investigators. And he has shown a combination of generosity and commercial acumen in their disposal."—Professor Donald Cameron Watt in the Sunday Times.

"Irving has an extraordinary talent for digging up otherwise obscure Nazi sources. He does have a real knack of penetrating the 'mind' of Nazism."—Professor Norman Stone in New Statesman.

"Irving's research effort is awesome."—Professor Larry Thompson, in the Chicago Tribune.

"David Irving, a remarkable researcher, a brilliant discoverer of documents, and a skillful writer, tells the story well."—Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper (Lord Dacre), in the Sunday Telegraph.

"Irving," wrote George Christian in his review for the Houston Chronicle, is "a writer whose contempt for professional historians is well known."


Writing this biography, I have lived in the evil shadow of Dr Joseph Goebbels for over seven years.

Four years into the ordeal, I had the immense good fortune to become the first – and so far only – person to open the complete microfiche record, made by the Nazis in 1944-45, of Goebbels' entire private diaries and papers from 1923 to 1945; the Red Army had placed these in the Soviet secret state archives in Moscow. There they languished until the ninety or so original Agfa boxes containing the 1,600 glass plates, on which Goebbels had had the diaries filmed for safety, were discovered by the Goebbels Diaries expert Dr Elke Fröhlich in March 1992. (On behalf of all historians of the period I place on record here our gratitude for the work she has done on the diaries.) I was able to use them myself in June and July of the same year, probably the first person to have untied the string on those boxes since 1945. With the support of Dr V. P. Tarasov, chief of the Russian federation's archives, and Dr V. N. Bondarev, chief of the former Soviet secret state archives, I was able to retrieve or copy some five hundred pages of the most important missing passages of the diary, including Goebbels' first diary, begun in 1923, the 1933 Reichstag fire, the 1934 Röhm putsch, the 1938 Kristallnacht, the months before the outbreak of war in 1939 and many other historically significant episodes. The conditions in these archives in Moscow's Viborg Street were, it must be said, challenging: Soviet archives were designed for keeping things secret, and the very notion of a public research room was alien to them. Thus one had no microfilm or microfiche reader. After struggling to read the 1,600 fragile glass microfiches (some 75,000 pages) with a thumbnail-sized 12x magnifier on my first visit, I was able, through the generosity of the London Sunday Times, to donate a sophisticated film and fiche reader to the Russians on my second; the bulky machine arrived back in London, without explanation, one day after I did in July 1992.

Goebbels Diaries

What followed was a less enlightened episode. I provided extracts from these diaries to Times Newspapers Ltd. in Britain. The Sunday Times published them along with Der Spiegel in Germany and other major newspapers around the world. I also donated complete sets to the German federal archives in Koblenz and to the archives of Goebbels' native city Mönchen-Gladbach. Nevertheless, while the international press celebrated the retrieval of the long-lost diaries, many rival historians registered something approaching a cry of pain.

Their injured professional amour propre proved infectious. While spending half a million pounds promoting its serialization of the diaries' scoop, the Sunday Times mentioned the name of the person who acquired them in the smallest type-size known to man; Der Spiegel printed the series for five weeks without mentioning him at all. A Berlin university historian, whose team has been laboring for years on the other volumes of the diaries, reported at length on the 'new find' to a symposium in the United States, again without reference to either Dr Fröhlich, the discoverer – to whom all real credit is due – or to myself.[1] The directors of Piper Verlag, Munich, who a few weeks later published an abridged popular edition of the other Goebbels Diaries,[2] deplored in a German television news bulletin that "Mr. Irving of all people" should have exclusively obtained these sensational missing diaries – and failed to mention either then or in their publication that without reward he had at the last minute made one hundred pages available with which they had filled aching gaps in their publication.

Even more lamentable have been the actions of the German government's federal archives, the Bundesarchiv, to which I also donated many Goebbels documents, including a set of all the diaries I retrieved in Moscow. On the instructions of the minister of the interior, on July 1, 1993 the archive banished me forever from its halls, without notice, two hours before the conclusion of my seven years of research on this subject. It had earlier provided a hundred photos at my expense – but on the minister's instructions it now refused to supply caption information for them. When I requested the Transit-Film Corporation, which inherited the copyrights of Third Reich film productions, to provide still photographs of the leading actors and actresses who play a part in the Goebbels story, the firm cautiously inquired of Professor Friedrich Kahlenberg, head of the Bundesarchiv, whether "special considerations" might apply against helping me! (A copy of this letter fortuitously came into my hands, but not the pictures I had requested.) The background can only be surmised. Professor Kahlenberg had hurried to Moscow in July 1992 – too late to prevent the Russians from granting me access to the coveted microfiches of the Goebbels Diaries. (There was no reason why the Russians should have denied me access: Several of my books, including those on Arctic naval operations and on Nazi nuclear research, have been published by Soviet printing houses.) The Bundesarchiv has justified its banishment, which is without parallel in any other archives, on the ground that my research might harm the interests of the Federal Republic of Germany. The ban has prevented me from verifying my colleagues' questionable transcriptions of certain key words in the handwritten diaries. I had a list of twenty such words which I wished to double-check against the original negatives; pleading superior orders, the Bundesarchiv's deputy director, Dr Siegfried Büttner, refused to allow even this brief concluding labour. As one consequence, evidently unforeseen by the German government, the Bundesarchiv has had to return to England its "Irving Collection," half a ton of records which I had deposited in its vaults for researchers over the last thirty years. These include originals of Adolf Eichmann's papers, copies of two missing years of Heinrich Himmler's diary, the diaries of Erwin Rommel, Alfred Jodl, Wilhelm Canaris, and Walther Hewel, and a host of other papers not available elsewhere.

I hasten to add that with this one exception every international archive has accorded to me the kindness and unrestricted access to which I have become accustomed in thirty years of historical research. I would particularly mention the efforts of Dr David G. Marwell, director of the American-controlled Berlin Document Center (B.D.C.), in supplying to me 1,446 pages of biographical documents relating to Goebbels' staff. However, these now, like the collections formerly archived in Moscow and in the D.D.R., also come under the arbitrary aegis of the Bundesarchiv. Marwell's predecessor, the late Richard Bauer, provided me with the B.D.C.'s file on Goebbels (my film DI-81).[3] In the German socialist parties' Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Bonn, deputy archivist Dr Ulrich Cartarius generously granted to me privileged access to the original handwritten diary of Viktor Lutze, chief of staff of the S.A. (1934-43), on which he was currently working. Karl Höffkes of Essen kindly let me use the Julius Streicher diary and papers in his private archives.

The Yivo Institute for Jewish Research in New York also allowed me to exploit their Record Group 215, which houses a magnificent collection of original files of propaganda ministry documents, including Goebbels' own bound volumes of press clippings. I must also mention my Italian publishers, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, and their senior editor Dr Andrea Cane, who made available to me for transcription Goebbels' entire handwritten 1938 diary – it was a two-year task, but without that "head start" in reading Goebbels' formidable script I should have been unable to make the sense of the Moscow cache that I did. This is also the proper place to thank my friend and rival Dr Ralf Georg Reuth, author of an earlier Goebbels biography, for unselfishly transferring to me a copy of Horst Wessel's diary and substantial parts of the 1944 Goebbels diary, to which I added from Moscow and other sources. The attitude of the other German official archives was very different from that of the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz. Dr Hölder, president of the German federal statistics agency (Statistisches Bundesamt) in Wiesbaden, provided essential data on Jewish population movements with reference to Berlin. Two staff members (Lamers and Kunert) of the Mönchen-Gladbach archives provided several of the early school photos and snapshots of girlfriends reproduced in this work. André Mieles of the Deutsches Institut für Filmkunde (German Institute of Cinematography) provided many of the original movie stills and other fine photographs of filmstars. I owe thanks to Tadeusz Duda and the Jagiellonski Library of University of Krakow, Poland, for the photographs reproduced from Horst Wessel's diary in their custody. Dr Werner Johe of the Forschungsstelle für die Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus (Research Office for the History of National Socialism) in Hamburg volunteered data from the diary of Gauleiter Albert Krebs. Karl Heinz Roth of the Hamburg Stiftung für Sozialgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts (Foundation for the Social History of the Twentieth Century) assisted me in dating certain episodes in 1934. The state archives of Lower Saxony (Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv) in Wolfenbüttel let me read Leopold Gutterer's papers and I am glad to have been able to interview Dr Gutterer, now over ninety, on several occasions for this book. I was fortunate to obtain access to the papers of Eugen Hadamowsky as well as those of Joseph and Magda Goebbels and of the propaganda ministry itself at the Zentrales Staatsarchiv in Potsdam while it was still in the communist zone of Germany; most of the e.g. vol. 765, Goebbels' letters to his colleagues at the front – had remained untouched since last being used by Dr Helmut Heiber in 1958. In those last dramatic days before November 1989, archivist Dr Kessler gave me unlimited access despite cramped circumstances; those files too have now passed under the less liberal control of the Bundesarchiv.

Although any biographer of Goebbels owes a debt to Dr Helmut Heiber, who first trod the paths to the papers in Potsdam, he will forgive me for not using his otherwise excellent published volumes of Goebbels' speeches; often important phrases – faithfully reported by local British and other diplomats in the audiences – were omitted from the published texts on which Heiber relies; these diplomatic records, as well as other important documents, I have extracted from the holdings of the Public Record Office in London, capably helped by Susanna Scott-Gall as a research assistant. Shortly before its completion Manfred Müller, an expert of the early years of the Goebbels family, generously commented on my manuscript and let me read his own biography of Hans Goebbels, the brother of the Reichsminister.

The Institut für Zeitgeschichte (I.f.Z.) in Munich gave me the run of its library and archives and made available to me its files of press clippings on Nazi personalities. But here too a possessiveness, an unseemly territorialism came into play as the I.f.Z. contrived to protect its virtual monopoly in unpublished fragments of the Goebbels diaries. Before coming across the Moscow cache, I had asked the I.f.Z., while researching there in 1992, for access to its Goebbels diaries holdings for the two years 1939 and 1944; on May 13 the director of the I.f.Z. refused in writing, stating that it was the institute's strict and invariable practice not to make available "to outsiders" collections that it was still processing. This was why – since I could not conceive of completing the biography properly without those volumes – I travelled to Moscow, where I had learned that the original Nazi microfiches were housed; here I accessed, to the Munich institute's chagrin, not only the volumes for 1939 and 1944 but the entire diaries from 1923 to 1945 – though not before the institute, in an attempt to secure my eviction, had urgently faxed to Moscow on July 3, 1992 the allegation, which it many weeks later honourably withdrew[4], that I was stealing from the Soviet archives. Foul play indeed -methods of which Dr Goebbels himself would probably have been proud. That was not all. A few days later, hearing that the Sunday Times intended to publish the diaries which I had found in Moscow, the same institute, with a haste that would have been commendable under other circumstances, furnished to journalists on the Daily Mail, a tabloid English newspaper, the diary material which it had denied to me two months earlier: as of course they were entitled to. There was one pleasing denouement. The tabloid newspaper – which had paid out £20,000 in anticipation of its scoop – found that neither it nor its hired historians could read the minister's notoriously indecipherable handwriting. It abandoned its serialization in impotent fury two days later\.

* * *

Of course this biography is not based on Dr Goebbels' writings alone. In no particular sequence, I must make mention of Andrzej Suchcitz of the Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum in London who provided to me important assistance on the provenance of Goebbels' revealing secret speech about the Final Solution of September 1942; the George Arents library at the university of Syracuse, N.Y., who allowed me to research in the Dorothy Thompson papers; and to Geoffrey Wexler, Reference Archivist of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, who gave access to Louis P. Lochner's papers, copies of some of which are also housed in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, N.Y. I also owe thanks to the latter library for the use of other collections including William B. Donovan's papers and the "presidential safe". I used more of Donovan's papers at the U.S. Army Military History Institute at Carlisle, Pa.

Dr G. Arlettaz of the Swiss federal archives in Berne, Dr Sven Welander of the League of Nations archives at the United Nations in Geneva, and Didier Grange of the Geneva city archives provided valuable information and photographs on Goebbels' "diplomatic" visit to Geneva in 1933. In Germany I was greatly helped by the officials of the Nuremberg state archive, which houses reports on the postwar interrogations of leading propaganda ministry and other officials (some of which I also read at the National Archives in Washington D.C., where my friends John Taylor and Robert Wolfe provided the same kindly and expert guidance as they have shown for several decades).

Dr. Howard B. Gotlieb, director of the Mugar Memorial Library at Boston university, drew my attention to their collection of the papers of the former Berlin journalist Bella Fromm. Archivist Margaret Petersen and assistant archivist Marilyn B. Kann at the Hoover Library at Stanford university, California, allowed me to see their precious trove of original Goebbels diaries as well as the political-warfare papers of Daniel Lerner and Fritz Theodor Epstein. The Seeley Mudd Library of Princeton university let me see their precious Adolf Hitler collection, although they were not, alas, permitted to open to me their Allen Dulles papers, which contain several fi les on Goebbels and the July 1944 bomb plot. Bernard R. Crystal of the Butler Library of Columbia university, N.Y., found several Goebbels items tucked away in the H. R. Knickerbocker collection. Dr Jay W. Baird, of Miami university, Ohio, volunteered access to his confidential manuscripts on Werner Naumann, whom he had interviewed at length on tape in 1969 and 1970; the manuscripts are currently held at the I.f.Z., which failed to make them available despite authorization from Baird. The late Marianne Freifrau von Weizsäcker, mother of the later President Richard von Weizsäcker, provided to me access to her husband's then unpublished diaries and letters (later published by Leonidas Hill). The late Freda Rössler, née Freiin von Fircks, talked to me at length about her murdered husband Karl Hanke, Goebbels' closest colleague and rival in love, and later gauleiter of Breslau, and supplied copies of his letters and other materials.

Major Charles E. Snyder, U.S.A.F. (retired), gave me a set of the precious original proofs of the moving Goebbels family photos reproduced in this work; as in my work Hitler's War(London, 1991) some colour photographs are from the unique collection of unpublished portraits taken by Walter Frentz, Hitler's HQ film cameraman, to whom go my thanks for entrusting the original transparencies to me. Other photographs were supplied by the U.S. National Archives – I scanned around 40,000 prints from its magnificent collection of glass plates taken by Heinrich Hoffmann's cameramen – and by Leif Rosas, Annette Castendyk (daughter of Goebbels' first great love, Anka Stalherm), and Irene Pranger, who also entrusted to me Goebbels' early correspondence with Anka. Among those whom I was fortunate to interview were Hitler's secretary Christa Schroeder, his adjutants Nicolaus von Below, Gerhard Engel, Karl-Jesco von Puttkamer, his press staff officials Helmut Sündermann and Heinz Lorenz, his minister of munitions Albert Speer, and Goebbels' senior aide Immanuel Schäffer, all of whom have since died, as well as Traudl Junge, Otto Günsche, both of Hitler's staff, Gunter d'Alquén, the leading S.S. journalist attached to the propaganda ministry, film director Leni Riefenstahl – who privately showed me her productions of the era – and filmstar Lida Baarova (now Lida Lundwall). I am grateful to Thomas Harlan for talking to me about his mother the late filmstar Hilde Körber, and to Ribbentrop's secretary Reinhard Spitzy and Admiral Raeder's adjutant the late Captain Herbert Friedrichs for anecdotes about Joseph and Magda Goebbels. Gerta von Radinger (widow of Hitler's personal adjutant Alwin Broder Albrecht) reminisced with me and provided copies of Albrecht's letters to her, and of her correspondence with Magda. Richard Tedor provided to me copies of rare volumes of Goebbels' articles and speeches. Dr. K. Frank Korf gave me supplemental information about his own papers in Hoover Library. Fritz Tobias supplied important papers from his archives about the Reichstag fire and trial, and notes on his interviews with witnesses who have since died. Israeli researcher Doron Arazi gave me several useful leads on material in German archives. Ulrich Schlie pointed out to me to key Goebbels papers on foreign policy buried in the German foreign ministry archives. Dr. Helge Knudsen corresponded with me in 1975 about the authenticity (or otherwise) of Rudolf Semler's "diary," the publication of which he prepared in 1947. I corresponded inter alia with Willi Krämer, Goebbels' deputy in the Reichspropagandaleitung; Günter Kaufmann, chief of the Reichspropagandaamt (RPA, Reich Propaganda Agency) in Vienna; and Wilhelm Ohlenbusch, who directed propaganda in occupied Poland. Wolf Rüdiger Hess and his mother Ilse Hess gave me exclusive access to the private papers of his late father, Rudolf Hess, in Hindelang including correspondence with Goebbels. The late Dr Hans-Otto Meissner discussed with me Ello Quandt and other members of Goebbels' entourage, whom he interviewed for his 1950s biography of Magda Goebbels. Peter Hoffmann, William Kingsford professor of history at McGill University in Montreal, reviewed my chapter on Valkyrie, as did Lady Diana Mosley those pages relating to her own meetings with Goebbels in the Thirties; Robin Denniston, to whom I owe so much over twenty years, read through the whole manuscript, offered suggestions, and advised me to temper criticism with charity more often than I had.

David Irving, London 1995


This introduction to Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich has been published with the author's permission. Goebbels will be available for purchase after March 1, 1996 from:

  • Europe: Focal Point Publications, 81 Duke Street, London W1M 5DJ
  • U.S.: The Institute for Historical Review, P.O. Box 2739, Newport Beach, CA 92659
  • Australia: Veritas Publishing Company Pty. Ltd., PO Box 42, Cranbrook, WA 6321
Dr Jürgen Michael Schulz, of the Berlin Free university, "Zur Edition der Goebbels Tagebücher," a paper presented to the German Studies Association conference, 1992. See its Newsletter, xvii, No. 2, winter 1992, 34ff.
Dr Ralf Georg Reuth (ed.), Joseph Goebbels Tagebücher, (Munich, Zürich, 1992).
I have referred where relevant to my microfilm collection in the source notes to this work. Most can be ordered from Microform Academic Publishers Ltd., Main Street, East Ardsley, Wakefield, West Yorkshire WF3 2AT, England (tel. +44 1924 825 700; fax 829 212).
Süddeutsche Zeitung, July 22, 1992

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Author(s): David Irving
Title: Introduction to Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich
Published: 1995-01-01
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 1995, 7 p.m.
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