The Final Solution: A Response to Christopher Browning

A Review
Published: 2009-01-01

The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939–March 1942, by Christopher R. Browning, with contributions by Jürgen Matthäus, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska. Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 2004, 616 pages.


Christopher R. Browning is Frank Porter Graham Professor of History at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. The author of numerous books and papers on Nazism and the Jewish experience during World War II, he is widely considered to be a foremost expert on the alleged Nazi policy to exterminate the Jews of Europe.

His tome that we are about to examine received stellar reviews from the mainstream media. Publishers Weekly claimed the “book is sure to become the standard work on the emergence of the Holocaust.” Likewise with Booklist, as their reviewer maintained this lengthy work is “the most detailed examination of this aspect of the Holocaust yet published.” And finally, the New York Times Book Review offered this lavish praise: “This magisterial work does offer us something new—an unrivaled account of how the Nazi leadership ended up with a policy of industrialized mass murder of Jews.”

For sure, The Origins of the Final Solution is one of the most important books ever written from an orthodox point of view on National Socialist policy in regard to the Jews.

Browning’s View of the Final Solution

In the first chapter’s opening statement Browning puts forth the traditional definition of the Final Solution and the thesis of the entire book: “In a brief two years between the autumn of 1939 and the autumn of 1941, Nazi Jewish policy escalated rapidly from the prewar policy of forced emigration to the Final Solution as it is now understood—the systematic attempt to murder every last Jew within the German grasp. [p. 1].”

In a court document prepared for the famous David Irving vs. Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt trial in London in 2000, Browning admitted there is no documentary proof for his view of the Final Solution. Allegedly, the documents only “indicate” that there was some type of mass murder program. In his own words: “No ‘comprehensive draft’ for a Final Solution is among the surviving German documents found after the war. But other documents have survived that indicate a series of changes in Nazi Jewish policy in the fall of 1941 that, taken together, constituted a program for the systematic mass murder of European Jewry.”[1]

Browning’s “Evidence” for the Alleged Nazi Extermination Policy

Browning rightly believes that from 1939 to 1941, the Nazis wanted to force Jews to leave Germany. Even his opponents, the Revisionists, accept this as historical fact.

Here, however, is where the argument begins. Browning believes that sometime in mid-1941, Hitler ordered the total extermination of the Jews. We quote Browning verbatim: “Just as the Nazi regime was making the transition from selective to total mass murder of Soviet Jewry in mid-summer 1941, Hitler apparently gave the signal (this is admittedly speculative) that some kind of mass murder program should also be prepared for European Jewry for implementation after the Russian campaign [p. 353].”

Browning has no documentation whatsoever to prove that Hitler ordered the extermination of the Jews. The reader should take careful note of his words—“this is admittedly speculative.” At least he is honest enough to admit that he is engaging in conjecture.

In support of his hypothesis Browning cites the testimony of Adolf Eichmann, an SS Lieutenant-Colonel and Head of the Jewish Office of the Gestapo who is alleged to have a played a seminal role in the Final Solution.

According to Eichmann, sometime in the fall of 1941 he was told by Head of the Security Police Reinhardt Heydrich that Hitler had ordered the physical extermination of the Jews. Browning offers a direct quote from Eichmann’s testimony: “The Führer has ordered the physical destruction of the Jews. [SS Lieutenant General Odilo] Globocnik has received his relevant instructions from [Chief of German Police and Minister of Interior Heinrich Himmler] [p. 362].” Browning gently adds this cautionary caveat about the value of Eichmann’s testimony: “As with any detailed eyewitness testimonies after so many years, Eichmann’s various accounts differ from one another and are not free of puzzling contradictions with other evidence [p. 363].”

Some pages later, Browning adds: “I think that it was most probably in late September [1941] that Heydrich informed Eichmann of Hitler’s decision for the ‘physical destruction’ of the European Jews…[p. 371].”

Readers who are unaware of what Browning previously wrote elsewhere are left with the false impression that Eichmann’s testimony is a problematic, but nonetheless credible piece of evidence for the orthodox view that Hitler ordered the extermination of the Jews.

“Even more than most memoirs,” our Holocaust historian pointed out in an obscure 2003 essay, “the Eichmann testimonies, both before and after capture, are consciously calculated attempts at self-representation, self-justification, and legal defense. It must be said as emphatically as possible that, at the core of these testimonies, there are three monstrous falsehoods that are central to his whole enterprise.”[2]

Even Browning’s colleagues, the mainstream historians of the Final Solution, are very skeptical of Eichmann’s testimonials, for he admitted: "When I [Browning] have suggested to my colleagues that we must take seriously Eichmann's repeated testimony to the effect that he learned from Heydrich in the fall of 1941 of Hitler's order for the physical destruction of the Jews, I have met with either embarrassed silence or open skepticism. How can I be so gullible? Don't I know that Eichmann's testimony is a useless conglomeration of faulty memories on the one hand and calculated lies for legal defense and self-justification on the other? From it we can learn nothing of value about what actually happened during the war, only about Eichmann's state of mind after the war. These are documents that reveal how Eichmann wished to be remembered, not what he did."[3]

In this eye-opening essay, Browning concluded: “Clearly, anyone who wants to dismiss Eichmann’s testimonies on the grounds of their demonstrated unreliability and shameless self-serving lies can easily do so, and many of my colleagues have done precisely this.”[4]

If mainstream historians of the Final Solution are very skeptical of Eichmann’s claim that he learned of Hitler’s order for the physical destruction of the Jews in the fall of 1941, then why shouldn’t the average reader of The Origins of the Final Solution also be skeptical?

Another of Browning’s key witnesses for his case is the former commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, Rudolf Höss. For example, he employs Höss to “prove” that “experimental mass gassings” took place at Auschwitz (pp. 356-357). Buried in a footnote the reader is told that another Holocaust historian demonstrated Höss’s “confusion in matters of dating and chronology.” Browning then adds: “Because [Höss] telescoped events of 1941 and 1942, his claim that Himmler told him of a Hitler order for the destruction of the European Jews in the summer of 1941 in particular is not credible [p. 526 n207].”

The reader should understand the importance of Professor Browning’s concessions. Here we have two crucially important pieces of “evidence” for the orthodox view of the Final Solution, the testimonies of Adolf Eichmann and Rudolf Höss—and Browning admits they are both unreliable. To Browning’s credit, he emphatically stated that “the testimonies of especially Höss and to some extent Eichmann are confused, contradictory, self-serving, and not credible [p. 544 n169].”

In order to build his case, Browning makes other “speculative leaps” with no credible war time documentation to back them up with. Here is another key statement that reveals such historical methodology: “[H]eydrich had procured [Reichmarschall Hermann] Göring’s authorization on July 31 [1941] to draft and submit a plan for a ‘total solution’ to the European Jewish question. Given that Heydrich had been in charge of Jewish emigration and expulsion since January 1939 and that he had already submitted to Göring a plan for the total ‘resettlement’ of European Jewry into the Soviet Union in March 1941, a new authorization for yet another kind of plan would indicate that something new and different was now expected. What Heydrich had procured from Göring was, in effect, authorization to prepare a ‘feasibility study’ for perpetrating mass murder on an unprecedented scale [p. 353].”

Browning has no documentary proof whatsoever that Göring was secretly authorizing a “feasibility study” for committing mass murder. He is simply injecting this highly dubious interpretation into Göring’s orders. As he did with the alleged Hitler order for the extermination of the Jews, he is again engaging in speculation. I too can play this “speculation game.” Contrary to what Browning says, perhaps Göring was not satisfied with the old Jewish resettlement plan, so he wanted to see a new one.

In order to “prove” that Hitler was the driving force behind the Final Solution, Browning relies upon the highly dubious post-war testimony of German military officers and National Socialist officials who were facing trial for war crimes, real or imaginary. In so doing, he reveals the serious problem with all testimony of this nature.

Browning writes: “On November 10 or 11, 1941, Heinrich Himmler personally briefed [Higher SS and Police Leader, Northern Army Group], Friedrich Jeckeln. According to Jeckeln, Himmler said ‘that all Jews in the Ostland had to be destroyed to the last man.’…This had already been accomplished elsewhere in the Ostland, but the Riga ghetto still had to be liquidated. Jeckeln’s predecessor, Hans-Adolf Prütz-mann, had indicated to Himmler that Lohse, the Reichskommissar Ostland, was against this liquidation, but Jeckeln was to carry it out anyhow. ‘You tell Lohse, that is my [Himmler’s] order, which is also the Führer’s wish!’…Lohse in fact had no objections, and Jeckeln gave the order for the liquidation of the Riga ghetto [pp. 395-396].”

Buried in a footnote Browning offers evidence that this briefing between Himmler and Jackeln may have never occurred, for he writes: “For the complete Jackeln interrogation, see YVA, O-53/144/395-402. This alleged Himmler-Jackeln meeting is not recorded in the Himmler Dienstkalendar [Heinrich Himmler’s Service Log, 1941/42].” See p. 538 n76.

The “YVA” signifies “Yad Vashem Archives.” The post-war interrogation of Jackeln is in Israel’s Yad Vashem Archives, and Browning labels the Himmler-Jackeln briefing as “alleged.” That is to say, it may not have ever occurred, as it is not in Himmler’s service log.

This would not be the first time that a German military officer in a post-war interrogation falsely claimed that there was a Nazi policy to exterminate Jews in order to create a defense at his upcoming trial. Browning’s colleague, Final Solution Historian Ian Kershaw, pointed this out in his latest book.

Kershaw concedes that some post-war court testimony of German military officers about the existence of an order from Hitler to exterminate the Jews is bogus: "The early post-war testimony of Einsatzkommando leaders about the prior existence of a Führer order has been shown to be demonstrably false, concocted to provide a unified defense of the leader of Einsatzgruppe D, Otto Ohlendorf, at his trial in 1947."[5]

Indeed, this is one of the main reasons that Browning’s colleagues, the orthodox historians of the Final Solution, reject Eichmann’s testimonials—they are plagued with “calculated lies for legal defense.”[6] The tribunals that these German military men and National Socialist officials faced were committed, a priori, to the dictum that there was a Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews, and Adolf Hitler personally ordered this. It was not possible for them to contest this in court, so they simply built their defense strategies accordingly. By so doing, they placed the responsibility on Hitler and his National Socialist government in order to support their courtroom defense that they were only obeying the Führer’s commands–thus falsifying the historical record along the way.

It is no longer a secret. The orthodox version of the Holocaust and Final Solution that Christopher Browning is trying to defend is based upon the flimsiest of evidence. Mainstream historian Ian Kershaw has just about openly acknowledged this in his widely acclaimed, 2008 book. The recently retired University of Sheffield professor admits that a written statement from Hitler that orders the extermination of the Jews has never been found.[7] He also discusses the theories of various mainstream historians of the Final Solution. He points out that these scholars have inferred different interpretations from the same evidence, indicating that the very evidence upon which their interpretations are based is circumstantial. He is just one step away from admitting that the evidence is very weak, or even non-existent.

We give you Kershaw in his own words: "As these varied interpretations of leading experts demonstrate, the evidence for the precise nature of a decision to implement the 'Final Solution,' for its timing, and even for the very existence of such a decision is circumstantial. Though second-rank SS leaders repeatedly referred in post-war trials to a 'Führer Order' or 'Commission,' no direct witness of such an order survived the war. And for all the brutality of his own statements, there is no record of Hitler speaking categorically even in his close circle of a decision he had taken to the kill the Jews..."[8]

Browning provides evidence that contradicts his extermination theory

In The Origins of the Final Solution, Browning never states outright how weak and flimsy the evidence for his view of the Final Solution really is. Nevertheless, in an attempt to “explain away” the undeniable fact that credible, war time documentation is virtually non-existent for his version of the Final Solution, Browning claims the Germans developed top secret methods of exterminating the Jews in death camps, and they hid this by the use of camouflage language and euphemisms in their official correspondence.

According to his line of thinking, mass shootings were far too visible and became very well known, and this in turn demoralized the troops and had serious repercussions among the German populace (pp. 353-354). Browning insists that “clearly different methods—more efficient, detached, and secret—were needed to extend the killing process to the rest of Europe in what was still envisaged as the postwar period [pp. 354-355].”

By October 1941, “evil German” conspirators visualized a solution—the extermination camp. “The concentration camp setting—in existence since 1933 and expanding rapidly since the outbreak of the war—provided secrecy,” our Final Solution authority writes, “especially in eastern Europe far from prewar German boundaries [p. 354].”

Because of this need for the utmost secrecy, the plans of these Nazi innovators in August and September 1941 are difficult to trace: these “murderous conspirators” did not leave an adequate paper trail (p. 354). In different parts of the book, Browning alleges the Nazis employed camouflaged language and euphemisms to hide this top secret program of mass murder. Let me give some specific examples.

When German leaders stated they wanted to deport Jews over the Bug River in Poland, this was supposed to be a “euphemism for killing” (p. 361). A Party Chancellery circular of October 19, 1942, which spoke of Jews being sent to camps for labor and still further to Eastern Europe, is again, according to Browning, a “camouflage explanation” to hide the alleged mass murder of Jews (p. 391).

This theory has been undermined by the finding of Revisionist historian, Carlo Mattogno. On August 6, 1942, German General Katzman made the guidelines for the Jewish policy known for the entire General Government, a large area in Poland. The memo read: “Brigadier General Katzmann announced that within a half a year there will no longer be any Jews at large in the General Gouvernment [sic]. The people are in part being evacuated, in part are taken to camps. Isolated Jews living in the country are killed by Einsatzkommandos. Jews concentrated in the cities are in large part liquidated in large operations, partly evacuated, partly collected in labor camps.”[9]

Historian Mattogno rightly adds: “These orders make a clear distinction between ‘evacuated,’ ‘taken to camps,’ and ‘killed’ in the one case as well as ‘liquidated,’ ‘evacuated,’ and ‘collected into camps’ in the other case. In no instance would ‘evacuated’ allow anyone to understand it as synonymous for ‘killed’ or ‘liquidated’; the expression is therefore to be taken quite literally.”[10]

Despite all this alleged need for secrecy in the “extermination camps,” one chapter later Browning makes this astounding revelation about the Semlin “extermination” camp in Croatian territory: “One of the most remarkable features of the Semlin camp and gassing was its public nature. The camp itself was in full view from the heights of Belgrade across the river. In late 1943, when the Germans had begun to worry, the new German ambassador proposed (in vain) moving the Semlin camp because its continuing existence ‘before the eyes of the people of Belgrade was politically intolerable for reasons of public feelings.’ And the [mobile homicidal gassing] van itself drove through the middle of Belgrade as the gassing took place. Certainly the German officials involved were not reluctant to draw attention to their accomplishment [p. 423].”

Does the reader see how Browning undermines his own theory? Our Final Solution expert says the Germans needed a top secret method of exterminating the Jews, so they “invented” the extermination camp and secret mobile gas chamber. In order to maintain this secrecy, they did not commit anything to paper, so as not to leave behind any incriminating evidence. And then, at the Semlin extermination camp, Browning claims the Germans violated these strict security rules by publicly gassing Jews! They even drove the “mobile gas chamber” through the middle of Belgrade as the mass gassings were taking place!

There is even more to this bizarre scenario. Consider Browning’s description of Chelmno, an alleged “Nazi extermination camp” in Poland. He writes: “Chelmno was a small town of about 250 people. Volhynian Germans had been resettled there on the larger farms, but most of the population was still Polish. The Sonderkommando proceeded to create an extermination camp in the middle of the town, centered around the Schloss or villa and its surrounding park, which dominated the little community. The operation of the camp was in no way concealed from the inhabitants of the town. Initially the villa grounds were surrounded merely by wire. Only after killing operations had been underway for at least a month was a broad fence put up to block the view [pp. 417-418].”

Once again, according to Browning, the Germans needed a top secret method of exterminating the Jews, so they “invented” the secret death camp. In order to maintain this secrecy, they did not commit anything to paper, so as not to leave behind any incriminating evidence. And then, the ultra-cautious German conspirators build an extermination camp in the middle of a town, where the entire populace gets a birds-eye view of the extermination process!

Consider this observation of Browning’s colleague, Holocaust historian Robert Jan van Pelt. It is alleged that, initially, the corpses of the gassed Jews at Auschwitz concentration camp were burned in “open-air cremations.” We let Professor van Pelt pick up the story here: “The open-air cremations attracted attention to the killings, and therefore [Auschwitz commandant Rudolf] Höss did everything to get the four new crematoria completed.”[11]

The reader must again see how this “Holocaust evidence” discredits Browning’s theory. According to Browning, the Germans needed a top secret method of liquidating Jews, so they “invented” the “secret” Auschwitz death camp. These “German murderers,” who are ever so secret, as they use camouflage language and euphemisms to hide this mass murder, then turn around and perform “open-air” incinerations of the murder victims for the entire world to find out about!

These scenarios also undermine another claim of Browning. Namely, that the Germans used euphemisms such as “deportation” to signify “mass murder” in order to hide their crimes. On the one hand, why would the Germans use euphemisms to hide the “homicidal gas chambers” in their private correspondence, and then on the other hand quite openly and publicly mass gas Jews in Belgrade for the entire world to see and find out about it? Why would the “ultra-secretive German murderers” use camouflage language and euphemisms in their private correspondence to hide this policy of mass murder, and then turn around and build an extermination camp in the middle of Chelmno for the entire population to see? Why attempt to hide the extermination policy in private correspondence, when very public, open-air incinerations of the “murdered Jews” are being carried out in public at Auschwitz?

If the Germans carried out mass murders very publicly and openly, it would not make any sense for them to use camouflage language and euphemisms in their private correspondence to hide this plan of mass murder! Why attempt to hide a policy of mass murder that is being done very openly and publicly? Bizarre contradictions like this are exactly what one should expect from a false theory.

Browning’s claim that the Nazis used camouflage language and euphemisms to hide the alleged policy to exterminate the Jews is a tactic invented by mainstream Holocaust historians to “explain away” any document that undermines or contradicts their theories. If the document does not fit, explain it away by claiming the Nazis were using euphemisms or camouflage language. If the document states that Germans planned to deport the Jews, Browning and his colleagues will claim that “deport” is a euphemism for extermination. In this way, any document that contradicts the mainstream Holocaust theory can be, by a simple rhetorical tactic, made to “fit in” with the orthodox view of the Final Solution. Browning’s view of the Final Solution is thus non-falsifiable and self-perpetuating—exactly what the proponents of the Holocaust religion want to achieve.

The Luther Memorandum Undermines Browning’s Theory

In volume 13 of the Nuremberg Military Tribunal (NMT) publications, there is a discussion of National Socialist Jewish policy. One part, NG-2586-J, a memo written by German Foreign Office official Martin Luther, dated August 21, 1942, is a summary of this policy. This is an important war time German document that both the orthodox and revisionist historians of the Holocaust accept as authentic.[12]

Let us list Browning’s most important claim and then compare it to what the Luther memo says.

He wrote: “I think that it was most probably in late September [1941] that Heydrich informed Eichmann of Hitler’s decision for the ‘physical destruction’ of the European Jews…[p. 371].” On this issue, Browning adds: “By the end of October 1941 the conception of the Final Solution had taken shape. The Jews of Europe were to be deported to secret camps designed to perpetrate mass murder by poison gas, though other possible methods of killing were not excluded [p. 374].” Both of these allegations are refuted by information in the Luther memo.

The Luther memo states: "Hence, the basic instruction of the Reich Foreign Minister, to promote the evacuation of the Jews in closest cooperation with the agencies of the Reichsfuhrer-SS, is still in force and will therefore be observed..."[13]

Browning claims that the extermination of the Jews was "official government policy" by late October of 1941. Yet, the Luther memo states that the policy of deporting the Jews was still in force in August of 1942.

Under point number 8, the Luther document contains this most telling statement: "On the occasion of a reception by the Reich Foreign Minister on 26 November 1941 the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Popoff touched on the problem of according like treatment to the Jews of European nationalities and pointed out the difficulties that the Bulgarians had in the application of their Jewish laws to Jews of foreign nationality."

The document continues: "The Reich Foreign Minister answered that he thought this question brought by Mr. Popoff not uninteresting. Even now he could say one thing to him, that at the end of the war all Jews would have to leave Europe. This was the unalterable decision of the Führer [Hitler] and also the only way to master this problem, as only a global and comprehensive solution could be applied and individual measures would not help very much."[14]

This clearly contradicts Browning’s contention that by late October 1941 the extermination of the Jews was now part of official policy.  The Luther memo, a clear, August 1942 statement of National Socialist policy, declares this was the policy: At the end of the war the Jews would still be around, but they would have to leave Europe.

Browning then adds a new twist to the orthodox Holocaust story. The Nazis wanted to exterminate the Jews during the war and even after the war ended. Browning writes: “The vision was there [for the physical destruction of the Jews], the decision had been taken, planning was underway, and implementation was scheduled for a time period characterized as both ‘the next spring’ and ‘after the war.’[p. 373]”

Three days after the Wannsee Conference, January 23, 1942, Hitler told his associates: “The Jew must clear out of Europe. Otherwise no understanding will be possible between Europeans…I restrict myself to telling them they must go away. If they break their pipes on the journey, I can't do anything about it. But if they refuse to go voluntarily, I see no other solution but extermination.”

Hitler added: "A good three or four hundred years will go by before the Jews set foot again in Europe. They'll return first of all as commercial travelers, then gradually they'll become emboldened to settle here — the better to exploit us…"[15]

These statements discredit Browning’s very definition of the Final Solution—“the systematic attempt to murder every last Jew within the German grasp [p. 1].” They show Hitler had no plans to exterminate all the Jews, as he realized they would still be around three or four hundred years from now.

It is evidence like this that Browning either ignores or is unaware of.

The Final Solution—A Policy of Ethnic Cleansing

The Final Solution was not a policy of mass extermination as orthodox historians like Browning claim. Rather, it was brutal policy of mass deportation and ethnic cleansing. In his Hoax of the Twentieth Century, Professor Arthur Butz defined the Revisionist point of view: "The ‘final solution’ meant the expulsion of all Jews from the German sphere of influence in Europe. After the invasion of Russia its specific meaning was the resettlement of these Jews in the East.”[16]

On February 10, 1942, Foreign Office official Franz Redemacher sent to another Third Reich official a memo, which is supportive of the Revisionist point of view: “The war against the Soviet Union has in the meantime created the opportunity to use other territories for the Final Solution. Accordingly, the Führer has decided that the Jews will not be shoved to Madagascar but rather to the east. Madagascar no longer needs to be earmarked for the Final Solution [p. 415].”

In his March 7, 1942 diary entry, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels further explained the meaning of the “Final Solution,” which appears to differ somewhat from Rademacher’s memo: “I read a detailed report from the SD and police regarding the Final Solution to the Jewish question. A vast number of new significant points emerge from it. The Jewish question must now be solved within a pan-European framework. There are more than 11 million Jews still in Europe. They will have to be concentrated later, to begin with, in the east; possibly an island, such as Madagascar can be assigned them after the war [p. 415].”

That is to say, the Jews will still be around after the war is ended, as Madagascar may be their destination when the fighting ceases. This passage is inconsistent with the thesis of an urgent liquidation program. (Browning and his coterie of mainstream historians of the Final Solution would attempt to “explain this passage away” by claiming that deporting Jews to an island after the war is a euphemism for mass murder. We have already dealt with arguments like this in a previous section.)

On March 27, 1942, Goebbels wrote a passage in his diary that is an accurate description of the brutal and evil side of the Final Solution. Here is Browning’s translation: “The Jews in the General Government, beginning in Lublin, are now being evacuated to the east This is a pretty barbaric procedure, not to be described here more precisely, and of the Jews themselves not much will remain…A judgment is being carried out against the Jews that, indeed barbaric, is fully deserved. The prophecy that the Führer made about them for causing a new world war is beginning to come true in a most terrible manner…No other government and no other regime would have the strength to solve this question comprehensively. Here too, the Führer is the unflinching champion and spokesman of a radical solution [p. 428]."

(Professor Browning owes a debt of gratitude to his opponent, British historian David Irving, for it is he who uncovered the evidence that shows this passage is authentic and not a forgery. Irving stated: "When I visited the Hoover Institution library in Stanford, California, to see the portion of the original Goebbels diary that they have there, this was the first page I asked to see. And when I was in the Moscow archives to examine the glass plate copy of the diary, this was also the first plate I searched for. I knew that if the diary had actually been copied by the Nazis in Berlin, and the glass plate version in Moscow matches the text in the Hoover library, there’s no way anyone could have faked it. And there it is on the glass plate in Moscow, identical. As a final clincher, this portion was also microfilmed in 1947 in New York from the text that is held by the Hoover library. So there are three different indications that this is a genuine quotation from a genuine Goebbels document."[17])

In this Goebbels diary entry, there is no specific mention of the alleged mass murder of Jews in homicidal gas chambers. The diary entry simply states that Germany’s forced deportation and ethnic cleansing policy would result in the death of many Jews. Starvation, disease, shock, crowded conditions, lack of medicine, brutal weather conditions, and some mass shootings by German forces would be the causes of death. To be sure, this was a very barbaric and evil policy of ethnic cleansing, but it is not the same as a specific policy to murder all Jews en masse in homicidal gas chambers.

Thus, to make a long story short, Goebbels does not refer to any attempt to exterminate every last Jew within the German grasp. He speaks only of a repeated process of expulsion, and the clearing and refilling of ghettos, which inevitably resulted in the brutal deaths of many Jews.

Browning and the Mass Executions of Jews on the Eastern Front

As far back as the 1970s, Arthur Butz made the important revisionist point that anti-guerilla warfare units of the German army, the Einsatzgruppen, exterminated some Russian Jews by mass shootings. The war on the Eastern Front was not fought on the basis of the “traditional rules of warfare,” as it involved much partisan activity and guerilla warfare. Measures were taken by the German army to counter this partisan activity, and one of them was to have the Einsatzgruppen units search out and execute partisans and people collaborating with partisans. Undoubtedly the Einsatzgruppen must have shot many Jews, although we are unsure as to how many lost their lives due this cause. Naturally, many non-Jews were also executed.[18]

In his 2001 book, Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the The David Irving Trial, Oxford history Professor Richard Evans castigated David Irving in two places for arguing that Einsatzgruppen commanders deliberately inflated the number of Jews executed by mass shooting. Evans accused Irving with attempting to rationalize away evidence that does not fit his theories.[19]

In The Origins of the Final Solution, Browning cites an example where a German official did over-estimate the number of Jews shot on the Eastern Front by German forces.  The over-estimation is contained in the "Hahn summary report" of December 10, 1941.  Five Einsatzgruppen reports were summarized by Franz Rademacher's assistant, Fritz Gebhard von Hahn. At this point we let Browning continue with his story: "He [Hahn] extrapolated, however, from the examples of EK 2 and 3 in the Baltic, and wrongly, concluded that each individual Sonderkommado had on average liquidated 70,000 -80,000 Jews. The result was an over- rather than underestimate of the number of Jews murdered, but clearly Hahn had not failed to grasp the significance of the reports concerning the intended fate of Soviet Jewry [p. 402]."

So there you have it. Here is an example that supports Irving’s theory–at least one of those Einsatzgruppen reports contained exaggerated statistics in regard to the number of Jews shot. Could other such reports also contain similar exaggerations? Clearly, historians will have to do more unbiased research to see if this indeed the case.

Browning and the Belzec Concentration Camp

Belzec was a WWII German concentration camp located in eastern Poland. According to the traditional Holocaust story, Belzec had two phases. Wooden “gassing barracks” were built around November 1941 for the March-June 1942 phase, and then, “improved” gassing barracks on a concrete base were built in June 1942 for the second phase. It is alleged that up to 800,000 Jews were murdered here.[20]

Browning describes Belzec in these terms: “In technology and personnel it was the most direct heir of the euthanasia institutes, employing stationary gas chambers and carbon monoxide. However, as at Chelmo [another alleged extermination camp in Poland], the carbon monoxide was produced in engine exhaust and not delivered in chemically pure form from steel bottles as at the euthanasia institutes. Belzec thus represents another variant in gassing technology and extermination camp design [p. 419].”

One of Browning’s key pieces of evidence for mass exterminations at Belzec is the post- war testimony of former SS Sergeant Josef Oberhauser. Buried in a footnote Browning provides us with a reason to be skeptical of Oberhauser’s testimony. He accuses Oberhauser of falsifying the dates of events in order to create an adequate defense at the “Belzec trial” in Germany in the 1960s. Specifically, he writes that Oberhauser is guilty of “clearly falsifying chronology to give the impression that until August 1942—i.e., for the period for which he was on trial—only a small number of test gassings were being carried out in a single gas chamber capable of holding 100 people [p. 543 n163].”

Again buried in a footnote we learn that another Holocaust historian provided a different and even contradictory version of events at Belzec. According to Michael Tregenza, “there were two tests of the gas chambers in February 1942, the first with Zyklon B [hydrogen cyanide gas] and the second with bottled carbon monoxide. Among the victims of the second test were German-Jewish psychiatric patients deported from Germany and local Jews from Piaski and Izbica. Only then was a Soviet tank motor installed to produce carbon monoxide from exhaust gas [p543 n162].”

So, according to Browning bottled carbon monoxide was not used at Belzec; the deadly gas was produced from engine exhaust. But according to historian Tregenza, bottled carbon monoxide was originally employed at Belzec, in addition to Zyklon B/hydrogen cyanide. This is no minor discrepancy. In any murder investigation the nature of the murder weapon is an important issue.

Browning committed a serious “sin of omission.” He failed to inform the readers of The Origins of the Final Solution that archeological investigations of Belzec concentration camp in the late 1990s found no trace of the alleged homicidal gas chambers. Historian Robin O’Neal, a firm believer in the traditional Holocaust narrative and one of those who took part in the archeological investigations of Belzec, admitted: “We found no trace of the gassing barracks dating from either the first or second phase of the camp’s construction.”[21]

For the David Irving vs. Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt trial, Browning relied upon the testimony of “Holocaust survivor” Rudolf Reder to help “prove” that the Belzec gas chambers existed.[22] Once again, Browning never informed his readers that archaeological investigators of Belzec found at least some of his testimony to be unreliable. Chief archaeologist Andrzej Kola: “The witness [Rudolf Reder] informs that in the second stage of the camp functioning the gas chamber was located directly close to the graves. According to him, however, the chamber was made of concrete. The excavations carried out in that area did not prove any traces of brick or concrete buildings, which makes that report unreliable.”[23]

In a court document prepared for the Irving-Penguin Books/Lipstadt trial in London, Browning put forth his argument as to why human testimony “proves” that the mass extermination of Jews took place at Belzec and other camps. He admitted that “eyewitness” reports of mass exterminations at Belzec are contradictory and somewhat unreliable, but nevertheless, we should believe them anyway. He wrote: “Once again, human testimony is imperfect. The testimonies of both survivors and other witnesses to the events in Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka are no more immune to forgetfulness, error, exaggeration, distortion, and repression than eyewitness accounts of other events in the past. They differ, for instance, on how long each gassing operation took, on the dimensions and capacity of the gas chambers, on the number of undressing barracks, and on the roles of particular individuals. Gerstein, citing Globocnik, claimed the camps used diesel motors, but witnesses who actually serviced the engines in Belzec and Sobibor (Reder and Fuchs) spoke of gasoline engines. Once again, however, without exception all concur on the vital issues at dispute, namely that Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka were death camps whose primary purpose it was to kill in gas chambers through carbon monoxide from engine exhaust, and that the hundreds of thousands of corpses of Jews killed there were first buried and then later cremated.”[24]

Browning is wrong! His claim that–without exception all witnesses concur on the vital issue that Jews were murdered in gas chambers using carbon monoxide from engine exhaust—is demonstrably false. There are “eyewitnesses” who claimed that Jews were murdered en masse in “electrocution chambers” at Belzec, and not with the use of “gas chambers.” Browning failed to inform his readers of the serious problems such false eyewitness testimony raises.

As Browning’s colleague Robert Jan van Pelt pointed out, the Polish Fortnightly Review, an English-language newspaper published by the Polish government in exile during WWII, put forth a July 10, 1942 description of the phony “electrocution devices” whereby Jews “were murdered en masse at Belzec.” It stated “the men go to a barracks on the right, the women to a barracks situated on the left, where they strip, ostensibly in readiness for a bath. After they have undressed both groups go to a third barracks where there is an electrified plate, where the executions are carried out.” Professor van Pelt implicitly admitted that the “electrocution chambers” of Belzec never existed.[25]

In December of 1942, the United Nations Information Office released a statement in regard to the alleged fate of Jews in German-held Europe. It concluded: “The means employed in deporting from the ghetto all those who survive murders and shooting in the street exceeds all imagination. In particular, children, old people and those too weak for work are murdered. Actual data concerning the fate of the deportees is not at hand, but the news is available—irrefutable news—that places of execution have been organized at Chelmo and Belzec, where those who survive shootings are murdered en masse by means of electrocution and gas.”[26]

Here, the pro-Allied United Nations Information Office claimed they had “irrefutable news” that Jews were murdered en masse by electrocution at Belzec. We now know that this is false, as the “mass-electrocution-of-Jews” story has been quietly abandoned.

In February 1944, the New York Times published a false eyewitness report of “electrocution chambers” at Belzec. Here is what is stated: “A young Polish Jew who escaped from a mass execution in Poland with the aid of false identification papers repeated today a story that the Germans operated an ‘execution factory’ in old Russian fortifications in eastern Poland. The Jews were forced naked onto a metal platform operated as a hydraulic elevator which lowered them into a huge vat filled with water up the victims’ necks, he said. They were electrocuted by current through the water. The elevator then lifted the bodies to a crematorium above, the youth said.”

The article concludes: “The youth said he personally had seen trainloads of Jews leave Rawna Luska in eastern Poland in the morning for the crematorium at near-by Beljec [sic] and return empty in the evening. He was told the rest of the story, he said, by individuals who escaped after actually being taken inside the factory. The fortifications, he added, were built by the Russians after they occupied eastern Poland.”[27]

The “authoritative Holocaust classic,” The Black Book, published a very detailed description of the operation of these phony “Belzec electrocution chambers” in 1946.[28]

The reader should ask himself why Browning ignored mentioning these “electrocution chamber” reports in his books and essays. If the “evidence” that "proves" that Jews were electrocuted en masse is bogus, isn’t it also possible that the "evidence" that "proves" that Jews were murdered in "gas chambers" is also bogus, or at least very suspect?

Indeed, it could be argued that the false “eyewitnesses” to the “electrocution chambers” are more “credible” than Browning’s “eyewitnesses” to the “carbon monoxide chambers.” Browning himself wrote: “Historians almost invariably prefer contemporary documents to after-the-fact testimony.”[29]

After all, the “eyewitnesses” to the “electrocution chambers” were contemporary “observers” of the bogus “electrocution chambers.” They were not prisoners in a 1960s, years- after-the-fact trial who—for legal/tactical reasons–were coerced into giving testimony claiming they witnessed gas chambers. By way of contrast, in The Origins of the Final Solution Browning builds his case for the “Belzec gas chambers” on the post-war testimony of a former German soldier (Josef Oberhauser) who was on trial, and thus, from a legal standpoint had no choice but to give credence to the “gas chamber” legend (pp. 419-420). The post WWII government of Germany is based upon the “Nazi gas chamber” ideology and to dispute it in a German court is impossible.

Mainstream historians have admitted there is no archeological evidence to support the claim of homicidal gas chambers at Belzec. The eyewitnesses are mutually contradictory in regard to the alleged murder weapon, as some claim there were “electrocution chambers,” others claim there were “gas chambers” that utilized diesel engine engine exhaust, while still others claim it was gasoline engine exhaust. Finally, Holocaust historian Ian Kershaw has pointed out in his recently published tome that rumors of “gas chambers” were spread by Allied radio sources.[30]

These three lines of evidence support the Revisionist theory that the mass murder of Jews at Belzec with “gas chambers” is a propaganda myth, deliberately spread by the enemies of Germany for political ends.

Here is my most important point. I deliberately avoided using any Holocaust Revisionist material (such as Carlo Mattogno’s thorough study of Belzec) to bolster my case.[31] I limited myself to just mainstream Holocaust sources. If a hardcore believer in the orthodox Holocaust story simply consults “academically acceptable” sources, even he will find enough evidence to be very skeptical of the “homicidal gas chambers” of Belzec.

Closing statement

This critique is not meant to be comprehensive, for it is not possible to expose all of the falsehoods and weaknesses of this 616 page tome in this short essay. I only focused upon what I believe to be the core of Browning’s case.

After closely examining this massive study, this reviewer now fully comprehends why the traditional view of the Holocaust needs special laws and prison sentences throughout Europe to protect it from rational criticism. It is a very weak and flimsy doctrine that cannot be defended with the time honored methods of the history discipline. As time marches on, this is becoming more and more apparent.


Copyright 2009

Christopher R. Browning, “Evidence for the Implementation of the Final Solution: Electronic Edition. A. Documentary Evidence for the emergence of a program to kill the Jews of Europe:” Online:
Christopher R. Browning, Collected Memories: Holocaust History and Postwar Testimony (The University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), pp. 8-9.
Ibid, pp. 4-5.
Ibid, p. 11.
Ian Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution (Yale University Press, 2008), p. 258.
Browning, Collected Memories, pp. 4-5.
Kershaw, p. 96.
Ibid, pp. 256-257.
Carlo Mattogno and Jürgen Graf, Treblinka: Extermination Camp or Transit Camp? (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2005), p. 266. Online:
Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002), p. 255.
Reproduced in full in Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2003), pp. 251-257. Online:
Ibid, p. 252. Online:
Ibid, p. 256. Online:
Adolf Hitler, Hitler’s Table Talk 1941-1944: His Private Conversations. Trans. N. Cameron and R.H. Stevens (Enigma Books, 2000), pp. 235-236.
Butz, p. 258.
David Irving, "Revelations from Goebbels’ Diary," Journal of Historical Review, Vol. 15, no. 1, January/February 1995; IHR Videotape No. V112, "David Irving." Speech given by David Irving to Twelfth International Revisionist Conference, 3-5 September 1994, Institute for Historical Review (IHR). Contact IHR at
Butz, pp. 241-242. Online:
Richard J. Evans, Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial (Basic Books, 2001), pp. 115, 210-211.
Robin O’Neil, “Belzec—the ‘Forgotten’ Death Camp,” East European Jewish Affairs, Winter 1998, pp. 49-62.
Ibid, p. 55.
Online: See “Eyewitness Testimony concerning Gassing at Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka: Fifth Category.”
Andrzej Kola, Belzec: The Nazi Camp for Jews in the Light of Archaelogical Sources: Excavations 1997-1999 (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2000), p. 61n28.
Online: See “Eyewitness Testimony concerning Gassing at Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka: Fifth Category.”
Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002), p. 145.
The New York Times, December 20, 1942, p. 23.
The New York Times, February 12, 1944, p. 6.
The Black Book: The Nazi Crimes Against the Jewish People (Nexus Press, 1974), p. 313. This edition is a reprint of the 1946 edition.
Christopher Browning, Postwar Testimony and Holocaust History (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003), p. 4.
Kershaw, p. 203.
Carlo Mattogno, Bełżec in Propaganda, Testimonies, Archeological Research, and History (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2004). Online:

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Paul Grubach
Title: The Final Solution: A Response to Christopher Browning, A Review
Published: 2009-01-01
First posted on CODOH: June 29, 2009, 7 p.m.
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Comments: Review of: "The Origins of the Final Solution," by Christopher Browning
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