The Hitler of History

A Review
Published: 1997-01-12

The Hitler of History, by John Lukacs. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1997. xiv + 282 pages. $26.00.

Lukacs emigrated from Hungary to the United States in 1946 and has taught at various universities. He now lives in Pennsylvania.

Lukacs discusses and evaluates many biographical works on Hitler and suggests that there might be a hundred of them in all. Included in his discussions and evaluations are the biographies of Hitler written by German authors, such as those by Joachim Fest (1973 and 1995), Hans-Bernd Gisevius (1963), Herman Giesler (1977), Percy Shramm (1971) and Rainer Zitelman (1989). When reading these discussions I had to ask myself to what extent such discussions are futile in view of the present repressive atmosphere in Germany, where deviation from official versions of history is punished by prison sentences completely disdainful of principles of intellectual freedom, such as the one recently imposed on Udo Walendy, who published a series of revisionist historical monographs under the title, Historische Tatsachen. Even more grotesque are the imprisonments of Gerhard Lauck and Hans Schmidt, both American citizens who were caught in the web of German courts for sending from the United States to persons in Germany printed matter with which the Bonn government does not agree. By the way, Prof. Percy Schramm's name means much to me, since I translated a paper by him on the extent of German civilian deaths from Allied bombing when I was a War Department employee in 1947. Schramm's estimate, as I recall, was about 800,000 of such deaths, over twice the estimate of Allied authorities.

Lukacs repeatedly attacks David Irving, author of Hitler's War (1977) and a number of other important works on National Socialist Germany. Irving now threatens libel proceedings against agents who would distribute Hitler of History in the United Kingdom, as he states in his Action Report of 1 December, 1997, page 10. On page 26 Lukacs characterizes Irving as an "unrepentant admirer of Hitler." On page 27 Lukacs, while conceding that Irving's contributions to the study of Hitler cannot be ignored, states that almost all of Irving's references "must be considered with caution." On page 132 Lukacs speaks of Irving's "aim of rehabilitating Hitler." On page 179 Lukacs dismisses Irving's contention that Hitler intended to postpone the solution of the Jewish problem until after the war. On page 227, Irving (along with [John] Toland) is characterized as an amateur historian, a statement that is obviously untrue, since Irving earns his living by his historical writings and lectures. I think that Irving has a good right to threaten libel action.

Lukacs discusses at some length (pages 32 ff.) the Historikerstreit (Historians Quarrel), a bitter debate amongst German historians about Hitler, National Socialism and the Second World War which commenced in 1986, over four decades after the "end" of war. The Second World War, by the way, had some rather striking similarities to the American Civil War (1861- 1865), which is still the subject of often bitter debates, because the results of that war are still very much with us Americans. (See my essay in the Liberty Bell of December, 1990.)

Lukacs pays too little attention to the effects of the Versailles Treaty and the resultant loss of large parts of Germany which had been inhabited by Germans for many centuries. These effects had a strong influence on Hitler and the German people as a whole. "Hitler, born Versailles," as one author put it.

Lukacs shows a good measure of fairness in his analysis of support of Germans for National Socialism in the chapter, "The Germans: Chapter or Episode?" (pages 197-222), in which he examines the question whether or not National Socialism were a continuation of developments in Germany or an abrupt departure away from them. (One might pose corresponding questions about the Roosevelt administration and its radical measures of 1933 ff. which bitterly divided the American people and set class against class.) On pages 95-96 Lukacs quite justly enumerates Hitler's remarkable successes up to 1938 in reducing unemployment and in bringing Germans in Austria and Bohemia into the Reich, about which they were generally enthusiastic. Such considerations remind me of the questions with which I had to deal in 1945 to April, 1946 when I was part of an intelligence team that administered an internment facility for high-ranking former members of the National Socialist Party who had been subject to automatic arrest. This facility was located in Kornwestheim north of Stuttgart.

Lukacs pays little or no attention to the important factor of rivalry for export markets as a reason for the declarations of war against Germany by England and France on 3 September, 1939 after German forces had invaded parts of Germany which had been annexed by the newly formed Polish republic after the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Two weeks after the declarations of war against Germany the USSR invaded Poland from the east, but there was no declaration of war against the USSR, which did not have the kind of industry that would have been effective in competing for export markets. The USSR subsequently annexed parts of Finland and Romania and all of the three Baltic republics, again with no declaration of war against it.

Lukacs, of course, makes no mention of the book by Theodore Kaufman, Germany Must Perish, publishes as early as 1941, which advocated the total genocide of the German population by means of sterilization and which was applauded by all too many American publishers. This book was well-known to propaganda agencies of the German government, which pointed out this grim threat to the German nation. Then there were the mass bombings of German civilians, the Morgenthau Plan and other threats of genocide. It is futile to try to understand Hitler's conduct of the war without bearing the effects of such threats in mind. The grim Morgenthau Plan, which was partly carried out during the postwar years by dismantling of German factories, is not mentioned by Lukacs.

Lukacs also makes no mention of the publications on the Jewish question in the Dearborn Independent (1920-1922) supported by Henry Ford. These were soon translated into German and seem to have inspired the corpus work on the Jewish question, Forschungen zur Judenfrage (Hamburg, 1937-1943 in nine volumes). National Socialism was not an isolated development. There is no doubt that Hitler was influenced by Ford. There were other American influences on Hitler which I intend to survey in a future article. Lukacs mentions Hitler's "Americanism" on page 99.

Lukacs discusses at some length (pages 149 ff. and 225) Hitler's decision to invade Russia. One notable motive examined was the need to deprive England of any hope of exploiting the USSR as an ally, since England showed no signs of willingness to compromise, even after Rudolf Hess' significant flight to Scotland on 10 May, 1941, to which Lukacs gives only a passing mention on page 170. There is also a striking absence of any mention of the book by Viktor Suvorov, Icebreaker (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1990). Suvorov demonstrates the preparations for a Soviet attack against Germany on the basis of unit histories and features weaponry of the Red Army.

On pages 153-154 Lukacs discusses with general accuracy Hitler's reactions to Roosevelt's diabolical efforts to drag the United States into a war against Germany while cynically disregarding the wishes for nonintervention of the vast majority of Americans. When Hitler finally declared war against the United States on 11 December, 1941 he was simply recognizing a virtual state of war which had already existed. Hitler thus gave a free hand to his naval forces to defend themselves.

Lukacs' sixth chapter, "The Jews: Tragedy and Mystery" (pages 176 to 196), gives little space to the actual aspects of the deportation of and alleged attempt to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Lukacs does a fancy dance around the fact that no written order by Hitler has ever been found for the extermination of the Jews among the mountains of documents which the Allies captured, many of which I held in my own hands when I worked in the document center in Fechenheim near Frankfurt in the autumn of 1945. Lukacs accepts the usual "Holocaust" material at almost complete face value without going into any of the many reasons for doubts about it which are presented in such books as those by Arthur Butz of Northwestern University, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, Wilhelm Stäglich, Der Auschwitz Mythos, and me, The "Holocaust:" 120 Questions and Answers. He mentions none of these authors by name, however there is evidence that he knows Butz' book or at least has heard of it in his use of the word 'hoax' on page 180. Lukacs accepts the "Holocaust" material with such blind faith that he writes of the "mass murder of at least 4.5 million Jews due to his [Hitler's] orders, or at least in accordance with his wishes." Since Hitler never controlled more than about 3.8 million Jews, as should seem a plausible by pre and postwar statistics on Jewish populations, such a figure is absurd. Even more damaging to Lukac's credibility is his statement on page 188 that the "Final Solution (meaning the collection and extermination of most Jews throughout Europe) was being planned and drafted and finally set down on paper by some of Hitler's minions at the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942." Lukacs must be referring to the minutes of the conference, of which only one copy is known. (Stäglich reproduces it on pages 39 to 53 of his Der Auschwitz Mythos.) Lukacs has presumably never read this alleged record of the conference, which makes no mention of a plan for the extermination of "most Jews throughout Europe." Instead, the document, which is stamped Geheime Reichssache! (top secret) and at least parts of which might be genuine, mentions the economic employment of the Jews in such tasks as road building (strassenbauend) and envisages the ultimate release (bei Freilassung) of the Jews. Strangely, the purported document has none of the usual signatures and other peripheral materials of a secret document and is numbered 16 of 30 copies, of which none other is known.

Every so often one comes across indications even from Jewish sources that if the German government intended to exterminate most of the Jews of Europe, it was pretty dilatory about getting on with the task. Recently I came across the announcement of a book in the New York Review of Books (15 May, 1997, page 7). This book by Martin Gilbert is the "story of 732 young concentration camp survivors" who drifted into Prague in May, 1945.

Another example of Lukacs' dealing with the "Holocaust" material is the dismissing of Fred Leuchter's significant investigation of the allegedly homicidal gas chambers in Auschwitz without any details of Leuchter's impressive evidence (page 233, not 223, as listed in the index). On the question of the origin of Kristallnacht (the anti-Jewish riots of November, 1938) and Hitler's role in it, Lukacs makes no mention of the important book by Ingrid Weckert, Feuerzeichen. Miss Weckert documents convincingly that Hitler swiftly put out an order for the cessation of riots against Jewish property. By the way, it is worthy of note that a considerable part of the retail trade in Germany was still in Jewish hands nearly six years after Hitler came to power.

The alleged anti-Jewish brutalities in Germany evoked less support among the German people than among some eastern European peoples (page 220). The reasons for this were the proximity to the USSR and the brutal Soviet occupations during 1940-1941 in which Jews played a prominent role, as they also did after 1945. The nature of these Soviet occupations should have served as an admonishment to other Europeans as well as to Americans. Indeed, the admonishment was not lost on the hundreds of thousands of Scandinavians, Belgians, Dutchmen and French men who served in the German armed forces as volunteers. A number of prominent intellectuals were favorably impressed by Hitler, such as Robert Brasillach, Knut Hamsun and the American poet Ezra Pound (pages 242 and 247).

I must ask if Lukacs has ever seen such books as those by Suvorov, Leuchter, Weckert, Butz, Stäglich and me or if he just did not dare to mention them lest his book would have been rejected by all major "establishment" publishers. It seems that Lukacs has a good knowledge of the German language so that he has access to writings in German.

On a future evaluation of Hitler, Lukacs writes on page 243: "Yet readers who have followed my book until now will know that a pro-Hitler literature by 'apologists and admirers' does exist, and will continue to exist, and not only among 'a later generation of Germans'." I could not read this sentence without pondering the possible future evaluation of Hitler in the United States, where the position of the Aryan component on the American population is likely to become ever more desperate in the coming decades. Will Hitler then appear to future generations of Aryans as a hero who once defended their welfare at the cost of his life?

In all fairness to Lukacs it must be recognized that Hitler in History is a far cry from the biographies of Hitler and works on National Socialism which have been written by uncompromising haters of Germany (e.g. Shirer and Goldhagen) who disregarded and deemphasized the larger historical contexts and who thus provided Americans with comforting rationalizations about their role in damaging so much of Europe and in setting the scene for nearly a half century of the dangerous and costly Cold War.

Originally published by the Committee For the Reexamination of the History of the Second World War, Bulletin 76, December 1997.

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Mark Weber
Title: The Hitler of History, A Review
Sources: CRHSWW Bulletin #76
Published: 1997-01-12
First posted on CODOH: Dec. 30, 1997, 6 p.m.
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Comments: Review
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