The 1977 publication of David Irving's fine military history Hitler's War provoked an uproar over what should have been a marginal point but which, with ironic collaboration between Irving and his critics, has become the central point of the book.
Irving claimed that Hitler knew nothing of physical extermination of the Jews until late in the war, and had even acted to thwart any such development. As evidence of the latter, Irving produced Heinrich Himmler's personally handwritten and very brief notes on a telephone conversation Himmler had on Nov. 30, 1941 with Reinhard Heydrich, who was in Prague at the time. In his left column Himmler noted that the conversation was with Heydrich at 1:30 PM. On the right there are four lines that read as follows:
Verhaftung Dr. Jekelius
Angebl[icher] Sohn Molotow.
Judentransport aus Berlin.
Incarceration Dr. Jekelius
Alleged son Molotov.
Jewish transport from Berlin.
A transport of Jews left Berlin on Nov. 27, and arrived in Riga during the night of Nov. 29-30. Irving interpreted this brief note as evidence that Hitler had ordered that the Jews on the transport in question must not be killed, and that Himmler was therefore transmitting a Hitler order. Originally, Irving believed that the telephone conversation took place after Himmler had lunch with Hitler, but in fact the lunch with Hitler was after that conversation. Irving's interpretation of this note is also the generally accepted interpretation: it was in some sense an order that the Jews on this transport should not be killed.
Irving's critics immediately saw the logical flaw. If Hitler had to specifically order that Jews on a single transport not be killed, then is it plausible that Hitler would not have suspected that Jews' lives might be in danger, from his subordinates, in other circumstances? This is the objection that caused me to refer earlier to Irving's interpretation of Himmler's note as "illogical". For revisionists, the interpretation raises additional problems because it suggests that large-scale killings of Jews were in some sense the norm.
Revisionists are not the only people who, while accepting this interpretation, have problems with it.
Irving recently made a speaking tour of the USA, and I went to his July 1 dinner meeting in Chicago. Based on what I heard, Irving is still, 31 years later, highlighting his original interpretation of the "Keine Liquidierung" note, and the related "Bruns document". They were the central elements of the little lecture he gave. As I recall, Irving's oral account added a verb or two to Himmler's note but there are no verbs, infinitives, or imperatives there. Indeed there is no reason to assume that, in relation to the "Judentransport", Himmler had received or was transmitting an order by Hitler or anybody else, though that may have been the case. Examination of Himmler's notes for the days preceding and following the conversation with Heydrich does not yield any clarification of the matter.
I said nothing during Irving's talk, as I considered the venue unsuited to such debate. However I have long had an alternative interpretation of "Keine Liquidierung" that I ran past Germar Rudolf in 2005. He asked me to write it up for his journal but his deportation aborted that little project. Here I shall present my interpretation and then show that it fits the context.
Both German and English are ambiguous on what the "liquidation" in Himmler's note applies to. Irving and, it seems, all his critics, assume the liquidation applies potentially to the Jews on the transport. I think it applies to the transport itself, so that the liquidation is to be understood in the sense of "cancellation" or "disbandment" of the transport.
I confirmed with Germar that the German word has the same flexibility in this respect as our "liquidation".
Himmler was either reporting to Heydrich that the transport had not been canceled, or in some sense discussed the fact with him. Why should they take time to note such a fact?
There are both a general reason and a specific reason. A 1995 paper by Witte related how deportations of Jews to such eastern territories as the Germans then controlled had been suspended in March 1941. After the attack on the Soviet Union in June, vast new eastern territories opened up so the question of resuming deportations of the Jews arose again. Apart from the general ideological imperative to remove the Jews, there was an argument that they were a security risk in German cities subjected to British air raids. A more convincing consideration was that apartments were needed for Germans who had been bombed out by the air raids. However there were powerful arguments against deportations, above all the military needs which were straining the German rail system. I add that there were always Germans who opposed the deportations for moral or personal reasons.
Witte says Heydrich stressed that the military needs must have priority over deportations of Jews. In any case the controversy went back and forth. A mid-October decision by Hitler in favor of deportations caused them to resume.
Thus any transport of Jews in late 1941 was potentially a matter of controversy. This is a general explanation of why Himmler and Heydrich may have discussed the Nov. 27 transport on the phone, noting that it had not been canceled.
There is a more specific explanation. In the deportations of 1941/42, Riga in Latvia was selected as the destination of the Jews from the Reich and Bohemian Protectorate. However in the Fall of 1941, as the deportations started, Riga was not prepared to receive the transports so they were diverted to Kovno (Kaunas) in Lithuania. The first five transports destined for Riga departed the Reich Nov. 15-23 and were diverted to Kovno.
Thus in late November there must have been controversy over the wisdom of these transports, and calls for their suspension or cancellation. The transport of Nov. 27 from Berlin was the first destined for Riga that actually went there, and that is why "no liquidation" of this transport could have been worth specific discussion between Himmler and Heydrich.
I believe that this interpretation is in logical accord with the facts and creates no fundamental mysteries.
The remaining part of this subject is what happened to the Jews when they reached their eastern destinations, which Irving's remarks about Walter Bruns related to. I limit myself here, however, to interpreting "Keine Liquidierung". Those interested in the Bruns matter can consult Irving's posted remarks and Robert Faurisson's comments.
© Sept. 5, 2008
- David Irving, Hitler's War, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1977, pp. 332,505. http://www.fpp.co.uk/Himmler/ Note301141b.html.
- See also Peter Witte et. al., eds., Der Dienstkalendar Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42, Hans Christian Verlag, Hamburg, 1999, p. 278.
- Christopher R. Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution, Univ. of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, and Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 2004, p. 396.
- http://www.fpp.co.uk/Himmler/Note301141.html and Witte, 1999, op. cit..
- Smith's Report, no. 135, Jan./Feb. 2007, p. 6. http://www.codoh.com/review/revjailing.html
- cf Browning, op. cit., pp. 396f.
- Irving held another meeting in Chicago on Sept. 5, billed as perhaps his last event ever in the USA. As the tab was $20 at the door and $140 for dinner, I didn't go.
- Irving said that the Dr. Jekelius referred to in Himmler's note was somebody who was stalking Hitler's sister.
- Witte, 1999, op. cit. .
- Peter Witte, "Two Decisions Concerning the 'Final Solution to the Jewish Question': Deportations to Lodz and Mass Murder in Chelmno", Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol. 9, no. 3, Winter 1995, pp. 318-345.
- Witte, 1995, p. 320.
- Browning, op. cit., p 395. Also Wolfgang Scheffler at http:// www .volksbund.de/schon_gelesen/spektrum/riga_english/deportation.asp
- http://www.fpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/docs/Bruns/index.html . See also the 1992 exchange between Robert Faurisson and Irving: J. Hist. Rev., vol. 13, no. 2, March/April 1993, p. 25; http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v13/v13n2p14_Irving.html.
Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||Arthur R. Butz|
|First posted on CODOH:||Sept. 3, 2008, 7 p.m.|