David Irving and the Klessheim Conference

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
michael mills
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Post by michael mills » 28 Feb 2003 05:57

David Thompson wrote:

Okay -- I'll take a response from tonyh and then let's put an end to this "is not/ is too" exchange. I think we've all got the picture on the issue.


David,

I agree that it is fruitless to pursue an "is not/is too" discussion, as you put it.

But I think it could be very productive to have a look at some of the 19 instances which Evans adduced as proving dishonesty or distortion on Irving's part, and analyse them.

For example, in each case, Judge Grey has obviously accepted Evans' version of what the truth was, and hence found that Irving distorted the truth. But was Evans right in each case? Did Evans do a little selective interpretation of his own? Those are all reasonable questions.

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Post by David Thompson » 28 Feb 2003 06:35

Michael -- Okay. Propose the reasonable questions and we'll see where the discussion goes. I don't want to close off a thread if it has the possibility of being productive.

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Post by Maple 01 » 28 Feb 2003 09:03

Michael -- Okay. Propose the reasonable questions and we'll see where the discussion goes. I don't want to close off a thread if it has the possibility of being productive.


I'm hip, but shouldn't Dan and co read the book first? The thread wasn't about Convoys, Einsatzgruppen or anything else, it concerned a book that was written by Richard Evans, which told the story of how Irving was branded a racist, an anti-Semite, a holocaust denier and a falsifier of history. So far I haven't heard anything that makes me think the High Court judge was wrong and Irving's web site is a source of (probably unintended) amusement on the subject.
Regards

-Nick

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Post by walterkaschner » 01 Mar 2003 04:20

Michael Mills wrote:

But I think it could be very productive to have a look at some of the 19 instances which Evans adduced as proving dishonesty or distortion on Irving's part, and analyse them.

For example, in each case, Judge Grey has obviously accepted Evans' version of what the truth was, and hence found that Irving distorted the truth. But was Evans right in each case? Did Evans do a little selective interpretation of his own? Those are all reasonable questions.


I heartily agree with Mr. Mills and believe this would be a very usefull and informative exercise. My problem is that I can no longer find on the Internet the full text of Evans' report. It was formerly on a site entitled "Holocaust Denial on Trial" which I am now no longer able to link up with. I have and have just finished reading a copy of Evan's book, entitled "Lying About Hitler" in the U.S. edition, but it does not contain all of the points made in his Report submitted to the Trial Court. Does anyone know where the complete text of that Report may now be found on the Internet?

Regards, Kaschner

P.S. for Dan: I think Sir John Keegan is the best living military historian that I'm familiar with. I have and have enjoyed reading what I believe are all of his books, and have the highest regard for him as a historian. But I don't believe I would categorize him as one of the best historians of the Third Reich as such, as that is really not his field of speciality - his qualities are both broader and more limited.

Best regards, and I hope your bees are still buzzing. Kaschner

michael mills
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Post by michael mills » 01 Mar 2003 04:41

Michael -- Okay. Propose the reasonable questions and we'll see where the discussion goes. I don't want to close off a thread if it has the possibility of being productive.


David,

I would propose discussion of Evans' treatment in his Expert Opinion of the passage in Irving's "Hitler's War" dealing with the Hitler-Horthy meeting of April 1943 at Klessheim.

Evans criticises Irving for treating the talks as a single conversation, obscuring the fact that they occurred over two days, and thus distorting the development of ideas to a certain extent. In my opinion, of all the examples found by Evans of alleged "sharp practice" by Irving, this was the worst, the one in which Irving's treatment of the subject most failed to meet proper historiographical standards.

However, as in all the cases, Evans takes his critique too far, in his allegations that Irving was exculpating Hitler. The most important element in the Hitler-Horthy conversation was Hitler's description of what had happened to the Jews of Poland, implying it as a model for what should be doen in Hungary also. The fact is that Irving does not conceal or obscure Hitler's words in any way, and it seems to me that his interpretation of them is more correct than that of Evans.

That would be an interesting topic to discuss, but I am not going to bust my guts over it. If everybody else wants to discuss the Dresden issue, so be it; I will just drop out, as I do not know much about that topic.

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Post by David Thompson » 01 Mar 2003 05:07

Michael -- How about this approach:

(1) Post David Irving's account of the meeting;

(2) Post Evans' critique of Irving's account; and

(3) Post the available primary sources recounting the meeting. As I recall from an earlier thread, these are the Schmidt, v. Ribbentrop and Horthy versions, though there may be more.

michael mills
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Post by michael mills » 01 Mar 2003 06:22

Here is an excerpt from the Judgement dealing with the Hitler-Horthy meeting. I too was unable to find the original Expert Opinion by Evans.

5.203 As to the meeting which started three days later between Hitler and Horthy, the Defendants’ contention is that the evidence indicates that at the first session, which took place on 16 April and which was attended by amongst others Hitler and Ribbentrop as well as Horthy, Hitler sought to persuade Horthy to agree to the expulsion of the Hungarian Jews. He reassured Horthy that there would be no need to kill them. But Horthy remained unpersuaded.

5.204 Accordingly, say the Defendants, at the next session on 17 April Hitler and Ribbentrop expressed themselves more explicitly. The Defendants contend that the language used by Hitler on the second day points unequivocally to Hitler’s knowledge of the extermination of Jews in Poland, as does the language used by Ribbentrop in Hitler’s presence on that occasion. Minutes of the meeting on 17 April were taken by Dr Paul-Otto Schmidt. They record Ribbentrop saying in the presence of Hitler:

“On Horthy’s retort, what should he do with the Jews then, after he had taken pretty well all means of living from them – he surely couldn’t beat them to death – the Reich Foreign Minister replied that the Jews must either be annihilated or taken to concentration camps. There was no other way”.

Shortly afterwards Hitler himself is recorded as having said:

“If the Jews [in Poland] didn’t want to work, they were shot. If they couldn’t work, they had to perish. They had to be treated like tuberculosis bacilli, from which a healthy body can be infected. That was not cruel; if one remembered that even innocent natural creatures like hares and deer had to be killed so that no harm was caused. Why should one spare the beasts who wanted to bring us bolshevism? Nations who did not rid themselves of Jews perished”.

The Defendants’ case is that these passages are significant in that they afford powerful evidence that Hitler knew of and approved the extermination of Jews. The flavour of Hitler’s remarks points towards an intention to exterminate the Hungarian Jews. It is difficult, say the Defendants, to visualise any other reason why the Nazis were so insistent to get their hands on the Hungarian Jews.

5.205 The Defendants contend that Irving in Hitler’s War uses a variety of discreditable devices to obscure the significance of the minutes and to twist their meaning. They allege that the passage at p509-10 of the 1977 edition of Hitler’s War is a “shocking manipulation” of Schmidt’s note of the meeting. In the first place, Irving gives as the pretext for the pressure being brought to bear on Horthy by Hitler and Ribbentrop the Warsaw ghetto uprising. But there is no mention of that uprising in the note of the meeting, which, say the Defendants, is unsurprising because it did not take place until three days later (19 April). Irving marginalises the significance of Ribbentrop’s remarks in the presence of Hitler by tucking away what he said in a footnote (where Irving seeks to cast doubt on the accuracy of Schmidt’s note by quoting Horthy’s later draft letter to Hitler of May 7 which refers to the “stamping out” (Ausrottung) of Jewry). Further Irving depicts Hitler as having used the devastation wreaked by Allied bombing to justify a harsher policy towards the Jews, whereas the contemporaneous evidence shows that Hitler regarded the bombing as “irritating but wholly trivial”.

5.206 But the major criticism directed by the Defendants at Irving’s account arises out of the transposition by Irving to the 17 April of a remark made by Hitler in the course of the meeting on 16 April. The Defendants allege that in a similar manner Irving minimises the significance of what Hitler said. After quoting the statement made by Hitler on 17 April which is set out above, Irving adds the following words:

“But they can hardly be murdered or otherwise eliminated”, [Horthy] protested. Hitler reassured him: “There is no need for that”.

Hitler had indeed used those words but not on 17 April. He spoke those words at the earlier session on 16 April. By the following day the Nazi attitude had hardened. By transposing to 17 April remarks which Hitler had in fact made on 16 April, so the Defendants say, Irving diluted the uncompromising and brutal language Hitler used on 17 April when exhorting Horthy to kill all Hungary’s Jews. Irving was, as he accepted, warned in 1977 that he had made an error about the date when Hitler made this remark. But took no action to correct the error in the 1991 edition.

5.207 The Defendants are further critical of Irving for watering down what Hitler did say on 17 April when it came to the 1991 edition of Hitler’s War. Irving omitted Hitler statement about having to kill hares and deer; he omitted the question why the “beasts” (ie the Jews) should be spared and he omitted his reference to nations who did not get rid of the Jews perishing. According to the Defendants Irving was guilty of atrocious manipulation of what Hitler said.

Irving’s reponse
5.208 Irving agreed that in his account in Hitler’s War of the meeting which took place between Hitler and Antonescu, he omitted to refer to Hitler’s anti-semitic outburst which included the remark that “one must proceed against the Jews, the more radically the better”. Irving justified the omission by saying that it adds not one iota to what is already known.

5.209 In this connection Irving, in order to rebut the claim that Hitler displayed a vindictive attitude towards the Jews on this (or any other) occasion, drew attention to the willingness of Hitler on occasion to approve some merciful disposal for individual Jews or groups of Jews. Irving instanced the permission given by Hitler for 70,000 Jewish children to leave Romania and travel to Palestine. Longerich agreed that there were times when Hitler exempted certain Jews from deportation or extermination.

5.210 In regard to the meeting between Hitler and Horthy, Irving in his response laid stress on what Hitler said at the first session on 16 April, namely that the Jews would not need to be killed. He argued that it was throughout Hitler’s position that there was no need to murder the Hungarian Jews, since they could be accommodated in concentration camps as had happened in the case of the Slovakian Jews. Irving argued that, when Hitler is recorded in the minutes of the meeting taken by Hilgruber as having referred to Jews having “vanished” to the East, he was referring to their deportation. Evans’s answer to this was that on 16 April Hitler was setting up a smoke-screen and seeking to conceal from Horthy what his true intentions were. Longerich concurred, adding that Hitler’s reference to the Slovakian Jews is significant because (as Hitler must by this time have known) they had been put to death in extermination camps.

5.211 Irving did not in his evidence dispute the accuracy of the record made by Schmidt of the meeting on 17 April. Irving argued that the reason why Ribbentrop said what he did is that the Hungarian Jews were posing a security threat: what Ribbentrop was proposing was that, on that account, they should be sent to concentration camps; if they refused (but not otherwise) they would be shot. Evans replied that Irving is perverting and distorting the clear sense of what Ribbentrop said. Irving persisted in his claim that the use of the term “Ausrottung” in Horthy’s draft letter to Hitler of 7 May is significant because it contemplates the Jews being forcibly deported rather than killed.

5.212 Irving agreed that he wrongly reported Hitler as saying on 17 April what he had in fact said on 16 April. He also agreed that his error had been pointed out to him as long ago as 1977 by the historian Martin Broszat. But he contended that his error as to the date is a matter of no consequence. That, he claimed, is why he did not correct the reference in the 1991 edition of Hitler’s War. There was no deliberate misrepresentation or deliberate suppression. Irving asserted that he included in the 1977 edition the substance of what Hitler said about the Jews on 17 April. His explanation for the removal in the 1991 edition of part of what Hitler said is that it was an abridged edition. In any case he considered that the omitted words do not add much.

5.213 As regards Hitler’s language, Irving drew attention to the fact that the internal record of the meeting kept by the Hungarians (as opposed to the official Nazi minute) made no mention of the deported Hungarian Jews being killed. There would have been no reason for the Hungarians to conceal the fact that they were to be killed, if that had indeed been stated at the meeting to be the intention. If Hitler had said that the Nazis were proposing to kill the Hungarian Jews, one would expect, suggested Irving, the Hungarians’ internal record to include a protest at such barbarism.

5.214 Irving explained that Hitler was distressed and angry about recent the Allied bombing raids of cities in Germany. That was the reason for Hitler’s outburst to Horthy. Evans pointed out that in the 1977 edition of Hitler’s War Irving gave a different explanation for Hitler’s menacing words, namely the Warsaw uprising. Another explanation offered by Irving for the words used by Hitler is that he was full of resentment about the massacre at Katyn. All these explanations and excuses are bogus, according to Evans.



Perhaps someone else has a link to the relevant section in the Evans Opinion.

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Post by michael mills » 01 Mar 2003 07:02

Here is the relevant section in the Evans Expert Opinion, as previously posted by Roberto:

Richard Evans wrote:
[…]ii) The meeting between Hitler and Horthy on 16 and 17 April 1943.
1. The meeting between Hitler and Horthy on 16 and 17 April 1943 has generally been regarded by historians as one of the few occasions on which Hitler openly admitted the extermination of the Jews in Poland. The minutes of the meeting were taken by Dr. Paul Otto Schmidt, who confirmed them and added his own recollections at the Nuremberg trials. There is no doubt about their authenticity. The minutes for the meeting on 17 April 1943 record a statement by Ribbentrop, in Hitler's presence, to a point made by Horthy:
On Horthy's retort, what should he do with the Jews then, after he had pretty well taken all means of living from them - he surely couldn't beat them to death - The Reich Foreign Minister replied that the Jews must either be annihilated or taken to concentration camps. There was no other way.
2. This blunt statement by Ribbentrop contributed to the conclusion of the judges at the Nuremberg trials in October 1946, that Ribbentrop had played an important part in the 'final solution' and was guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
3. On 17 April 1943, Hitler almost immediately confirmed Ribbentrop's explicitly murderous statement at some length:
Where the Jews were left to themselves, as for example in Poland, gruesome poverty and degeneracy had ruled. They were just pure parasites. One had fundamentally cleared up this state of affairs in Poland. If the Jews there didn't want to work, they were shot. If they couldn't work, they had to perish. They had to be treated like tuberculosis bacilli, from which a healthy body could be infected. That was not cruel, if one remembered that even innocent natural creatures like hares and deer had to be killed so that no harm was caused. Why should one spare the beasts who wanted to bring us Bolshevism more? Nations who did not rid themselves of Jews perished.
4. Despite this open language, Horthy was clearly not convinced about the need to murder large numbers of Jews, much to Hitler's annoyance.
[…]
(iii) Irving's account of the meeting between Hitler and Horthy: Bending reliable sources to fit preconceived ideas, invention and fabrication
(A) Hiding key statements in footnotes
1. In the 1977 edition of Hitler's War, Irving starts off by hiding away in a footnote Ribbentrop's statement that all Jews had to be either 'annihilated or taken to concentration camps'. Irving resorts to the same tactic in his 1991 edition of Hitler's War. One might think, of course, that putting this statement in a footnote is no great crime against honest scholarship in itself - after all, it is still there in the book for everyone to read. But everyone, of course, does not read footnotes, and placing it there allows Irving to marginalise it almost out of existence.
(B) Citing other documents to discredit the minutes of the meeting.
[…]
(C) Invention, fabrication and falsification: placing Hitler's remarks at the meeting with Horthy on 17 April 1943 into a false context, in order to bend a reliable source.
1. As has been described above, Ribbentrop's comments to Horthy at the meeting on 17 April 1943 were almost immediately followed by a murderously antisemitic outburst on the part of Hitler. However, by removing Ribbentrop's preceding remark to a footnote, Irving places Hitler's subsequent statement addressed to Horthy on 17 April 1943 in an entirely different context:
Events in Poland were pointed to as providing an ugly precedent: there were reports of Jews roaming the country, committing acts of murder and sabotage... In Warsaw, the fifty thousand Jews surviving in the ghetto were on the point of staging an armed uprising - with weapons and ammunition evidently sold to them by Hitler's fleeing allies as they passed westward through the city. Himmler ordered the ghetto destroyed and its ruins combed out for Jews. "This is just the kind of incident that shows how dangerous these Jews are".
Poland should have been an object lesson to Horthy, Hitler argued. He related how Jews who refused to work there were shot; those who could not work just wasted away. Jews must be treated like tuberculosis bacilli, he said, using his favourite analogy. Was that so cruel when one considered that even innocent creatures like hares and deer had to be put down to prevent their doing damage? Why preserve a bestial species whose ambition was to inflict bolshevism on us all? Horthy apologetically noted that he had done all he decently could against the Jews: "But they can hardly be murdered or otherwise eliminated", he protested. Hitler reassured him: "There is no need for that."
2. Thus, Irving implies, Jews were violent and disruptive in Eastern Europe and posed a threat. They had to be dealt with and 'combed out' like lice. But despite all this, Hitler did not want them killed.
3. This is pure invention on Irving's part. Whoever said "This is just the kind of incident that shows how dangerous these Jews are", Adolf Hitler certainly did not say it to Admiral Horthy at their meeting on 16-17 April 1943. Hitler did not mention the Warsaw ghetto uprising at all, which is not surprising, since it did not even begin until two days later. Nor did the uprising involve 50,000 armed Jews, as Irving implies, but at most a few thousand of them. Nor did Hitler mention Jewish partisan activity or Jewish violence, but simply poverty and degeneracy, something quite different. Irving also waters down the expression used by Hitler to describe the fate of those Polish Jews who could not work - verkommen - by translating it as 'wasted away', as if they had no assistance towards this fate by Nazi authorities who deliberately starved them of food.
4. Most seriously of all, however, the exchange reported at the end of Irving's account, beginning 'Horthy apologetically noted', did not occur on 17 April, as Irving clearly portrays by placing it immediately after his summary of Hitler's speech, but on the previous day, and in another context, namely during the first of the two men's meetings. On 16 April, namely, Horthy stated: 'He had done everything which one could decently undertake against the Jews, but one could surely not murder them or kill them in some other way. The Führer replied that this was also not necessary. Hungary could accommodate the Jews in concentration camps just like Slovakia did.' At this point in the meeting, Hitler and Ribbentrop were not being as open as they became on 17th. It was because he was not satisfied with Hitler's response, and was aware that he had still not satisfied the Nazi leaders with his, that Horthy repeated his question on 17th ('he surely couldn't beat them to death'), eliciting this time far more explicit statements of what they expected him to do, both from Ribbentrop and from Hitler, namely that they were to be put in camps if they could work, and killed if they could not.
5. One might add here that the majority of the Slovakian Jews were by no means 'only' put into concentration camps, as Hitler claimed on 16 April 1943. In fact, they were killed. According to SS statistics, 57,545 Slovakian Jews had been transported to Nazi-occupied Polish territory between 26 March 1942 and 31 March 1943 (only about 25,000 Jews were still left behind in Slovakia). The transports went to Auschwitz, Sobibor and Lublin. At the end of the war, only 284 survivors of these transports could be registered. The rest were dead.
6. What Irving does, therefore, is to bend this reliable source to suit his argument, misprepresenting the historical data and skewing the documents on which he relies, by placing quotations in a false context, removing part of the record to a footnote, and mixing up two different conversations in the text so that it looks as if Hitler is telling Horthy that the Jews should not be killed, only interned in camps. Irving increases the force of Hitler's statement by putting it into direct speech instead of the indirect, reported speech in which it appears in the original minutes.
7. In fact, the real sequence of statements on 17 April is perfectly clear: Horthy, unclear as to why the Nazi leaders were still putting pressure on him after all the measures he had already taken against the Hungarian Jews, repeated his question to Hitler and Ribbentrop: surely you can't want me to kill them? Ribbentrop replied yes, that is exactly what they wanted, kill them or put them in camps, and Hitler immediately followed by saying he should do as had been done in Poland, namely shoot those who refused to work in the camps, and ensure that those who were unable to work perished. Just to make it absolutely clear, Hitler used the analogy of a healthy human body ridding itself of tuberculosis bacilli. His meaning could hardly have been clearer.[…]


Source of quote:

http://www.holocaustdenialontrial.com/e ... ans004.asp



The link to Roberto's source is still not working.

Charles Bunch
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Post by Charles Bunch » 01 Mar 2003 16:48

walterkaschner wrote:Michael Mills wrote:

If everybody else wants to discuss the Dresden issue, so be it; I will just drop out, as I do not know much about that topic.


I would hate to see Mr. Mills drop out of this discussion. I often disagree with him, but often learn a great deal from him. My interest has been focused on Irving's Dresden book, not that I know anything more about it, but because my dear late wife's grandmother and great-aunt, who were fleeing from the Russians, were last known to be in Dresden at about the time of the raids and have never been heard from since. But I am sure that there are other areas in Irving's works which, as Mr. Mills suggests, bear looking into although having no particular or highly personal interest to me.

One thing I'm not at all sure of. I seem to recall that Evans concentrated on only two of Irving's books to show the latter's faults as an historian. I do not recall his claiming to have reviewed the factual basis of ALL of Irving's writings for that purpose, but rather used the two as prime examples and indicative of his failings. But perhaps I'm wrong on this - as I say, I can no longer access the site with the verbatim transcript of Evan's report.

Regards, Kaschner


Mr. Kaschner:

Since it is unclear how long Emory University's site on the Irving trial will be down, here is the complete description of method offered by Evans at the beginning of his report.

1.5 Methods used to draw up this Report
1.5.1 I have never met, spoken to, or corresponded with David Irving. I have not previously
concerned myself with his work in any way. The only references to him in any
of my books come on pages 38 and 76 of In Hitler’s Shadow: West German Historians
and the Attempt to Escape from the Nazi Past (New York, 1989), in the context, not of
a detailed examination of Irving’s work itself, but of a discussion of the work of other
historians, namely Ernst Nolte and Hans Mommsen. Irving is mentioned on these
two pages briefly, and in passing.
1.5.2 I had leafed through the 1977 edition of Hitler’s War and because of its style and
content considered it a work of journalism rather than of professional history. Like
the overwhelming majority of professional historians, I rejected its argument that
Hitler did not order the extermination of the Jews. However, I was also aware of the
widespread assumption amongst professional historians that Irving’s work (like that
of a number of other journalists who have written historical work) reached generally
acceptable standards of historical scholarship. I also knew of Irving’s reputation as
someone who had a good knowledge of the archival and other sources for the history
of the ‘Third Reich’ and had discovered previously unknown material on this subject.
1.5.3 I had never met, corresponded or had any dealings with Deborah Lipstadt, but I had
read Lipstadt’s Denying the Holocaust and quoted it on pages 239-41 of my book In
Defence of History in the context of a discussion of the implications of postmodernist
theories of knowledge for historical scholarship, especially on the history of the Nazi
extermination of the Jews. Lipstadt’s treatment of Irving in the book was a matter of
completely marginal interest to me. In general, my view of the book was that it was a
solidly researched and strongly but rationally argued work of scholarship. However,
Denying the Holocaust does not deal in any detail with Irving’s historical arguments,
so that on being asked to write this Report, I had no difficulty in approaching Lipstadt’s
account of Irving’s writings in an open and critical spirit, the same spirit, in fact, as
that in which I approach Irving’s work, the vast majority of which was completely
unfamiliar to me.
1.5.4 The material on which this Report is based consists in the first place of Irving’s
published books. These have gone through numerous editions, and many of them
are available both in English and in German in different versions. They are available
in libraries in Britain and Germany, though some are rather hard to track down, and
I was startled to find that the 1991 edition of Hitler’s War can only be read at the desk
in the Rare Books Room of the British Library that is reserved for literature deemed
by the Library to be pornographic. Secondly, Irving has published a number of articles,
mainly in The Journal of Historical Review, which are also available for public
inspection in institutions such as the Wiener Library. Thirdly, Irving maintains a very
extensive website on the Internet (http://fpp.co.uk) on which the text of various
speeches by Irving is posted, together with a large quantity of other material revealing
of his views on the history of the ‘Third Reich’.1
1.5.5Fourthly, the legal process of Discovery has provided a large amount of further material
of relevance to the issues at the centre of the case. As Irving remarked in 1991,
The first thing that happens in a libel action is this: only a few weeks after
you’ve served a writ on a gentleman there comes a very expensive stage for
both parties known as Discovery. The word ‘Discovery’ written with a capital
‘D’, just like the word ‘Holocaust’ written with a capital ‘H’. Only this time
the word is on my side. Because Discovery is an ugly phase, for plaintiff and defendant, when you face each other across a lawyer’s table, at the choosing
of the Plaintiff, and you say, “I want to see your documents and you can see
mine”. And at that stage usually all the defendants crack up and cop out.2
1.5.6 In the present case, however, no-one has wanted to ‘cop out’, and Irving has been
obliged to disclose an enormous mass of material in addition to the list of documents
he initially agreed to supply. I have had access to many videotapes and audiocassettes
of Irving’s speeches, tens of thousands of pages of documents, his complete private
diaries, thousands of letters and a great deal of other material, much of it from the
huge private archive in which he records his various activities and in which he stores
the materials for his historical work
1.5.7 It soon became apparent that the amount of material available was too vast for me to
master in the relatively short space of time I had to compile this Report, especially
given my other commitments such as my regular academic work. I was fortunate
therefore to obtain the research assistance of two of my PhD students, Nikolaus
Wachsmann, who is now Junior Research Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge,
and Thomas Skelton-Robinson, who is now researching for a PhD at Churchill College,
Cambridge. Both had first-class honours degrees in History (from the London
School of Economics and from Glasgow University respectively), both had a firstrate
knowledge of German (Wachsmann is a native speaker, Skelton-Robinson lived
in Germany for five years after graduating), and both had a good knowledge of twentieth-
century German history.

1.5.8 The two researchers compiled transcripts of the salient parts of the audiocassettes
and videotapes and went through the material supplied by Irving during the process
of Discovery, taking extensive notes. It was of course impossible to cover the whole
of Irving’s oeuvre with complete thoroughness, and some principle of selectivity had
to be applied. We decided that I would cover Irving’s general reputation as a historian,
Irving’s attitude to Hitler, and the central issue of whether or not Irving was a
Holocaust denier. On the equally important matter of whether or not Irving distorted
and falsified history, we decided to concentrate on the ‘chain of documents’
which Irving on various occasions had claimed proved Hitler’s ignorance and disapproval
of the Nazi persecution and extermination of the Jews. Each document was
assigned to one or other of the research assistants for preliminary analysis. In this
way we covered the entire documentary basis for Irving’s controversial claim.

1.5.9 In addition, we decided to sample a number of other important issues on which
Lipstadt’s allegations of manipulation and falsification could be tested. These were
the bombing of Dresden by the Allies early in 1945, a subject on which Irving had
written the book which established his reputation; Irving’s use of the evidence of
Hitler’s adjutants; and the explanations offered by Irving for such antisemitic actions
by the Nazis as he was prepared to concede were actually carried out. Here again
preliminary analysis was carried out by my research assistants. During the period
January 1998 to April 1999, we met frequently, exchanged drafts, and carried out
numerous revisions to what we had written. In addition, my research assistants undertook
research in German archives and libraries. The compilation, structure and
writing of this Report as a whole was undertaken by myself, and I alone bear the final
responsibility for what it contains. I am satisfied that the amount of material we have
examined, and the number of issues in Irving’s writings which we have addressed,
constitute a thoroughly representative sample of his work, and that any further investigation
on our part would simply have replicated the conclusions we reached on the
basis of the sample we looked at.

1.5.10 On all the issues concerned, this Report examines carefully and in detail Irving’s
writings and speeches over the whole of his career, from the 1960s to the present. Its
method has been to identify what Irving wrote or said, and to note whether he changed
his views over time, and if so, how and in what respects. The Report is written from
the point of view, and with the expertise, of a professional historian. That is, it is not
concerned with the issue of whether or not ‘Holocaust denial’ is morally wrong, or
whether what Irving has written and said is politically or morally objectionable.
Throughout, it bears in mind the pleaded issues in the case, but its method is not to
subject them to any kind of forensic criteria or legal scrutiny, but rather to treat them
as matters of historical and historiographical investigation.
1.5.11 Thus in examining each of the key ‘chain of documents’ which Irving claims prove
Hitler neither knew or nor approved the antisemitic policies of the ‘Third Reich’, this
Report is not concerned to demonstrate conclusively that Hitler did know or did
approve of these policies: that is not the issue at hand. The issue is whether or not
Irving distorts and manipulates the historical record in trying to prove that Hitler did
not know and approve of these policies. In dealing with this issue, the Report takes
each document in turn, examines Irving’s translation of it (all the documents in
question were originally written in German), scrutinises his interpretation of it, and
brings as many other relevant documents to bear on this interpretation as it has been
possible to research in the time available, in accordance with the standard method of
historical research, in which every original document used has to be set in a wider
documentary context in order to elucidate its historical significance.

1.5.12 Many of these documents are well known to historians, some less so; many of them
would appear at first sight to support the view that Hitler did know about antisemitic
policies and actions in the ‘Third Reich’, and it has been necessary in the course of
this Report to point this out. Historians who are advancing a particular argument
have to take all relevant documentary evidence into account, and where documents
appear to go against their argument, they have to explain them; failing to mention
them at all constitutes suppression of relevant evidence and is not acceptable in a
reputable historian. Citing these documents, as is done extensively in this Report,
should not be seen as an attempt to prove conclusively that Hitler knew about the
extermination of the Jews and other antisemitic actions during the ‘Third Reich’,
only as evidence which has to be taken into account by anyone who, such as Irving,
wishes to prove the contrary.

1.5.13 Very few historians have actually gone to the trouble of subjecting any of Irving’s
work to a detailed analysis by taking his historical statements and claims and tracing
them back to the original and other sources on which Irving says they rest. This is
because doing so is an extremely time-consuming exercise, and most historians have
better things to do with their time than undertaking a minute analysis of other people’s
historical writings. It is also because historians generally assume that the work
of fellow-historians, or those who purport to be fellow-historians, is generally reliable
in its footnoting, in its translations and summaries of documents, and in its
treatment of the evidence at a basic level. That is, historians may make mistakes and
errors of fact, but they do not generally deliberately manipulate and distort documents,
suppress evidence that runs counter to their interpretations, wilfully mistranslate
documents in a foreign language, consciously use unreliable or discredited
testimony when it suits their purpose, falsify historical statistics, or apply one standard
of criticism to sources which undermine their views and another to those which
support them.

1.6 Argument and structure of the Report

1.6.1 Very soon after we had begun our examination of Irving’s work along the lines sketched
out above, it became clear that Irving did all of these things. Penetrating beneath the
confident surface of his prose quickly revealed a mass of distortion and manipulation
in every issue we tackled that was so tangled that detailing it sometimes took up
many more words than had been devoted to it in Irving’s original account. Unpicking
the eleven-page narrative of the anti-Jewish pogrom of the so-called
Reichskristallnacht in Irving’s book Goebbels: Mastermind of the ‘Third Reich’ and tracing
back every part of it to the documentation on which it purports to rest takes up
over seventy pages of the present Report. A similar knotted web of distortions,
suppressions and manipulations became evident in every single instance which we
examined. We have not suppressed any occasion on which Irving has used accepted
and legitimate methods of historical research, exposition and interpretation: there
were none.

1.6.2 The discovery of the extent of Irving’s disregard for the proper methods of historical
scholarship was not only surprising but also deeply shocking. As this Report will
show, it goes well beyond what Lipstadt alleges. I was not prepared for the sheer
depths of duplicity which I encountered in Irving’s treatment of the historical sources,
nor for the way in which this dishonesty permeated his entire written and spoken
output. It is as all-pervasive in his early work as it is in his later publications. In this
respect the change of view which, as this Report will note, he underwent in 1988
with respect to the Nazi extermination of the Jews, has done no more than emphasise
an already existing pattern. It is clear from all the investigations which I and my
research assistants have undertaken that Irving’s claim to have a very good and thorough
knowledge of the evidence on the basis of which the history of Nazi Germany
has to be written is completely justified. His numerous mistakes and egregious errors
are not, therefore, due to mere ignorance or sloppiness; on the contrary, it is
obvious that they are calculated and deliberate. That is precisely why they are so
shocking. Irving has relied in the past, and continues to rely in the present, on the
fact that his readers and listeners, reviewers and interviewers lack either the time, or
the expertise, to probe deeply enough into the sources he uses for his work to uncover
the distortions, suppressions and manipulations to which he has subjected
them. The late Martin Broszat and the American historian Charles W. Sydnor, Jr.,
whose work is referred to below, are virtually the only previous historians to have
gone some way down this road; this Report, however, is the first full-length investigation
of Irving’s work on a large scale.

1.6.3 Because of the scope of what we have uncovered, this Report cannot confine itself
simply to the allegations made by Lipstadt, though it does deal fully with each one.
The detailed analyses in this Report are all illustrative of the points made at the
beginning of this Introduction, but inevitably in some cases they also go beyond
them. It should be noted that this Report deals both with Irving’s writings and speeches
before the publication of Lipstadt’s book in Britain in 1994, and in the years since
then, up to 1998. As will become apparent, Irving’s methods have not changed substantially
since Lipstadt completed her book; indeed, however much his views have
changed over the years, his methods have remained substantially the same. It is these
methods which form the main object of scrutiny in this Report. The fundamental
question to which Irving’s historical writings and speeches will be subjected is this:
do they conform to generally accepted standards of historical scholarship?
1.6.4 That is, in other words, does Irving give a reasonably accurate account of the documents
he uses; does he translate them in a reasonably accurate and unbiased manner;
does he take into account as many other relevant documents as any professional
historian could reasonably be expected to read and cite when he is using one particular source to substantiate an argument; does he apply consistent criteria of sourcecriticism
to all the original material he uses, examining it for its internal consistency,
its consistency with other documents, its provenance, the motives of those who were
responsible for it, and the audience for which it was intended; are his arguments, his
statistics and his accounts of historical events consistent across time and based on
reliable historical evidence; does he take account of the arguments and interpretations
of other historians who have examined the same documents; does he, in other
words, advance his arguments and interpretations in a reasonably objective and unbiased
manner?

1.6.5 Historians, of course, notoriously disagree on many aspects of the interpretation of
the past. It is seldom, if ever, the case that one particular interpretation of a past
event or a process is irrefutably right and all the others wrong. The records left to us
by the past are fragmentary and incomplete and susceptible of a variety of interpretations.
Historians have to take all kinds of evidence into account: immediate sources
written at the time, eyewitness accounts written down shortly after the event in question,
interviews and testimony from long afterwards – all these have their problems,
and although historians generally give a greater weight to a source the nearer it is to
the event with which it deals, this means neither that such proximate sources are
entirely unproblematical, nor that more distant sources are to be dismissed out of
hand. That is why gathering as many sources as possible relating to an event, whatever
their nature, and comparing them with one another, is the basis of the historian’s
reconstruction of the past.

1.6.6 Historians may disagree with one another for a variety of reasons, and such disagreements
are the stock-in-trade of historical controversy. However, such differences of
opinion are generally confined within the limits set by the evidence: the number of
possible interpretations of an event is not limitless, and historical controversy usually
reveals some to fit more closely with the historical evidence than others. Thus for
example there has long been a considerable difference of opinion amongst historians
as to when the Nazis reached a decision to undertake a systematic extermination of
all the Jews in Europe; some, though not many, have put the decision early in 1941;
rather more have argued for a date in late July or early August 1941; some have
favoured October 1941; more recently one younger German scholar has argued for
December 1941 and another for late March or early April 1942. All these estimations
have their merits and demerits, and the argument continues, based on a detailed
examination and comparison of the documentary record. However, the position
can broadly be summed up by saying that there is a general consensus that a
decision was taken at the highest level some time between the beginning of 1941 and
the Spring of 1942, and most probably between June 1941 and April 1942. The
limits set by the available evidence do not allow of a date, say, in January 1933, or
January 1943. The view that, for example, no decision was ever taken, or that the
Nazis did not undertake the systematic extermination of the Jews at all, or that very
few Jews were in fact killed, lies wholly outside the limits of what it is reasonable for
a professional historian to argue in the light of the available evidence.3 Scholarly
disagreements often involve accusations of misreading or neglecting sources, or stretching
interpretations beyond what the evidence seems to allow; but although there is
sometimes room for a certain amount of disagreement at the margins, reasonable
historians do not find it difficult to distinguish between interpretation and fantasy,
argument and tendentiousness, imaginative readings of the sources and outright manipulations of them, minor errors of fact and deliberate distortions of the documents,
or the accidental omission of relevant material and the deliberate suppression
of inconvenient evidence. In this Report, these differences will be spelled out repeatedly
and in very considerable detail in the course of subjecting Irving’s historical work to critical scrutiny.

1.6.7 This task is, in a sense, made easier by Irving’s repeated insistence that he is not
putting forward an argument for debate, but simply telling the truth. His philosophy
of history, such as it is, was revealed in a press conference held in Brisbane, Australia,
on 20 March 1986:
Journalist: It could be argued, couldn’t it, that history is always subjective, and
your view of history too.
Irving: Oh yes. Look at the life of Rommel here, the life of Rommel, The Trail of
the Fox. In writing that, I used two thousand letters that he wrote to his wife
over his entire life….Well, two thousand letters, that manuscript was probably
six hundred pages long when it was finally (completed), you’re doing a lot of
condensing, you’re condensing an entire man’s life into six hundred pages of
typescript, and that process of condensing it is the nice way of saying, “but of
course you’re selecting, you’re selecting how to present this man.” And that is
undoubtedly a subjective operation. And this is why I hope that the readers
look at the overall image presented of David Irving by the media and they think
to themselves: “Well, on balance we can probably trust him better than we can
trust Professor Hillgruber, or Professor Jacobsen, or any of the other historians
who write on the same kind of period.”4
Journalist: Surely the same argument that you’re putting up against the bulk of
historians could be levelled at you.
Irving: Ah, but then, you see, but this is the difference: they can’t prove their
points, they can’t prove their points. I can prove all my points because I’ve got
all the documents and the evidence on my side, but they can’t find even one
page of evidence to attack me, and that is why they’re beginning to rant and
rave instead.5

1.6.8 In other words, Irving admits a degree of aesthetic subjectivity in condensing and
organizing his material, but concedes none at all in formulating his arguments (or, as
he would put it, proving his points). This Report takes him at his word and asks
whether there is indeed any evidence available to disprove his points, or in other
words, to demonstrate that his arguments are specious and arrived at not through an
accumulation of documents and evidence but by manipulation, falsification, suppression,
distortion, mistranslation, misinterpretation and other wilful violations of
the basic methods of the professional historian in dealing with the sources on which
historical reconstruction and interpretation are based.
1.6.9 The first part of the Report following this Introduction examines Irving’s output as
a historian, his reputation amongst professional historians, and his relations with the
historical profession in general. In the course of the discussion, this section deals on
a general level with Irving’s use of historical evidence and the criteria to which he
subjects it. The second part of the Report then turns to the question of whether
Irving is, or is not, a Holocaust denier. This requires an outline of what is the generally
accepted definition of the Holocaust and what Irving’s attitude is to that definition.
This part of the Report goes on via a survey of the literature on Holocaust
denial to establish four criteria by which, it is argued, it is reasonable to judge whether
or not someone denies the Holocaust, and then applies each of these criteria to
Irving’s work as a whole.

1.6.10 A third and longest part of the Report takes the ‘chain of documents’ on the basis of
which Irving has sought to dissociate Hitler from the antisemitic policies of the ‘Third
Reich’, and subjects each of them to an extremely detailed and rigorous examination
in terms of Irving’s treatment of the document or documents in question and in the
light of the other documentation which is relevant to the issue under discussion. The
purpose of this third part is to demonstrate at length, and as exhaustively as possible,
Irving’s admiration for Hitler and his determination to manipulate the available historical
evidence in the service of this admiration. In case it might be thought that
Irving’s manipulations of the historical record in this respect are an exceptional aspect
of an otherwise reliable historical oeuvre, the product of a peculiar bee in the
bonnet of a generally honest and competent professional historian, the fourth part of
the book turns to three other aspects of Irving’s work and uncovers a similar story of
lies and deceptions in Irving’s presentation of past history. It begins by comparing all
the available versions of Irving’s account of the Allied bombing of Dresden early in
1945 with the evidence on which they rest and the researches carried out by competent
and reasonably objective British and German historians of this event. It moves
on to illustrate Irving’s method by studying a sample of the members of Hitler’s
entourage on whose testimony, often elicited in personal interviews with Irving himself,
he so frequently relies. And it concludes by taking some examples of Irving’s
explanation of those aspects of Nazi antisemitism which he is prepared to admit
actually existed.

1.6.11 Once again, it should be emphasised that these topics, numerous though they are,
were not chosen as particularly egregious examples of Irving’s disregard of proper
historical method. On the contrary, his account of the bombing of Dresden was
selected for scrutiny because his book on the subject has been reprinted many times
and did much to establish his reputation. His use of the evidence of Hitler’s adjutants
was chosen for examination because his access to their private papers, and his
use of exclusive interview material generated in his meetings with them, have been
presented as strengths of Irving’s research not just by himself but by others as well.
And finally, his analysis of the reasons for Nazi antisemitism was singled out for
investigation because it seemed on the face of it that this might cast light on, or in
some way modify or relativise, his insistence that Hitler was not involved in it. In
every case, however, as this Report will demonstrate, Irving has fallen so far short of
the standards of scholarship customary amongst historians that he does not deserve
to be called a historian at all.

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 01 Mar 2003 17:03

Here is the Horthy version of the Klessheim conference, taken from the Memoirs of Admiral Miklos Horthy, pp. 247-49, available on-line at:

http://historicaltextarchive.com/sectio ... &artid=489
or in pdf format at:
http://www.hungary.com/corvinus/lib/horthy/horthy.pdf

In July, Kállay had been received by Hitler for military discussions at his headquarters. Our Premier raised the special problems of Hungarian-Rumanian relations. Hitler seems to have regarded this as an evasive measure, judging by a comment that appeared in his 'table talks'. (Henry Picker: Hitlers Tishgespräche in Fuehrerhauptquartier 1941-42, Bonn, 1951.) Nor could Hitler approve of our preoccupation with a reform of our Upper House and with other problems of a domestic nature during the emergencies of war. When our Premier, in a speech made in the Upper House on December 17th, 1942, stressed the "emphatic demands of Hungarian national sovereignty and independence", what he meant was clear enough. This statement went far to increase the mistrust Hitler had felt for Kállay from the outset.

Hitler's exalted mood was very obvious to me during a visit I paid him at Klessheim from the 16th to the 18th of April, 1943. Immediately before my arrival, Mussolini, together with Bastianini(5), Ciano's successor, and the Rumanian Marshal Antonescu(6), had called on him and told him bluntly that he should sue for peace. Mussolini, who, as soon as the loss of the whole of North Africa was certain, was becoming apprehensive about the approaching invasion of Sicily. He had again insisted that the Axis should come to terms with Stalin. Antonescu, on the other hand, thought that all forces should be marshalled to stem the tide from the East and was in favour of coming to terms with the Western powers. Hitler's hysterical excitement had mounted in face of their 'defeatism', to use a favourite Nazi expression of the time. After his efforts to instil some confidence into them, his excitement had by no means ebbed away by the time I arrived. No doubt it had its effect on the way he received me. Even Goebbels, who had always been ill-disposed towards me and Hungary, wrote in his diary: "The Fuehrer minced no words and especially pointed out to Horthy how wrong his policies were.... The Fuhrer was very outspoken." Well, Goebbels was not present at that conversation, which was entirely private, and it is unlikely that he was told that I vigorously countered Hitler's accusations and demands.

Hitler declared that the Hungarian troops had fought badly during the previous winter offensive, to which I replied that the best of troops cannot put up a good show against an enemy superior in number and arms; that the Germans had promised us armoured vehicles and guns but had not supplied them; and that the heavy losses of our troops were the best testimony to the strength of their morale. Then Hitler went on to lecture me on the Jewish question, shouting that "the Jews must either be exterminated or put in concentration camps". I saw no reason why we should capitulate to Hitler and change our views on this subject, especially as in October of the previous year we had introduced a special levy on Jewish capital as a 'war contribution' and had also restricted the Jewish tenure of land. Although these were measures that had been taken by the Kállay Government, Hitler proceeded to vilify Kállay, declaring that he was preparing a Hungarian defection. He demanded that Kállay be dismissed from the Premiership. I refused categorically to yield on that point and asked Hitler to refrain from interfering with my official functions. A Prime Minister, and above all a Chief of State, must be at liberty to gain information of the position and views of his opponents by all the means at his disposal.

In our afternoon discussion, Hitler was in slightly better control of his emotions. We talked, among other things, of the German element in Hungary. I told him plainly that during recent years the friendly relations between Germans and Magyars had been ruined by the interference of German official bodies in Hungarian affairs. Hitler reverted to the subject of Kállay, who, he said, should be dismissed "in the interests of German-Hungarian friendship". I again rejoined, "I see no reason whatever for his dismissal." Hitler apparently was under the illusion that his Lebensraum doctrine entitled him to decide who should be appointed Prime Minister of an allied sovereign state.

We parted with no trace of friendliness. Subsequently no joint communiqué was issued. The versions that were published in Berlin and in Budapest were utterly at variance. As to Hitler's real thoughts, we must again turn to Goebbels as the most reliable witness, for, after a statement concerning my "humanitarian attitude" in the matter of the Jewish question, he wrote in his diary, "From all this, the Fuehrer deduced that all the rubbish of small nations still existing in Europe must be liquidated as fast as possible." And that was to be done by the Germans, who could consider themselves fortunate that "in the future organization of Europe" they would have to fear "no serious competitors" in the Italians. No one was ever so explicit to my face, nor to any other Hungarian. Nor was it necessary, what Hitler meant was clear enough.

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Post by David Thompson » 01 Mar 2003 17:09

Here is the von Ribbentrop version of the Klessheim conference, from the Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal, vol. 10, pp. 407-11, available on-line at:

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/04-02-46.htm

M. FAURE: Germany deported all the Jews from German territory and territories occupied by her to Eastern reservations. That is true, is it not?

VON RIBBENTROP: I do not know the contents of the document in detail. I do not know what I myself said in detail. But at any rate I knew that the Fuehrer had ordered that the Jews of the occupied territories in Europe were to be transported to reservations in the East and resettled there. That I did know. The carrying out of these measures, however, was not my task as Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Foreign Office, but I did know that it was the Fuehrer's wish. In this connection, I remember that I received an order from him to discuss the matter with the Italian Government so that they too would introduce corresponding measures regarding the Jewish problem. That applied to other countries as well, where we had to send telegrams quite frequently, so that these countries should solve the Jewish question.

THE PRESIDENT: M. Faure, did you read to the witness the second paragraph beginning: "Further, the Reich Foreign Minister dealt with the Jewish question... "?

M. FAURE: Yes, Mr. President, the second paragraph. That is the paragraph which I have just been reading.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you read the third one, but I did not know you read the second one too. You read the second one too, did you? Very well.

M. FAURE: Yes, I read it as well, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: The document is a new document, is it not?

M. FAURE: Yes, Mr. President, it is a document which I would like to submit under the Exhibit Number RF-1501. It belongs to the "D" series; it is D-734 of the British document books.

THE PRESIDENT: Has the defendant said whether he admit, that it is a substantially accurate account of the conversation?

VON RIBBENTROP: I can no longer say for certain, Mr. President; what I did say at the time, I know only, and gather, from this document, from these words, that the Jews were spreading news from British and American sources. I can remember that at that time a large espionage and sabotage organization was in existence, and that this organization was causing a great deal of trouble in France, and that the Fuehrer ordered me to discuss the matter with Mussolini since the Italians were opposing certain measures we had introduced in France. I spoke to Mussolini and told him that the Fuehrer was of the opinion that, where this question was concerned, we should have to come to a definite understanding.
408
2 April 46

THE PRESIDENT: I think, Defendant, you have already told us that. The question that I asked was whether you agreed that it was a substantially accurate account of the conversation.

VON RIBBENTROP: I consider that in certain points the report is incorrect, but fundamentally the position was as I have just explained it.

M. FAURE: Now, you also spoke about this question with Horthy, did you not?

VON RIBBENTROP: Yes. I had to confer several times with the Hungarian Government so as to persuade them to do something about the Jewish problem. The Fuehrer was extremely insistent on this point. I therefore discussed the question repeatedly with the Hungarian Ambassador and the question was primarily to centralize the Jews somehow or other in some part of Budapest, I think it was slightly outside Budapest or in -- as a matter of fact, I do not know Budapest very well -- in any case, it was somewhere in Budapest itself. That was the first point. And the second point dealt with the removal of the Jews from influential Government posts, since it had been proved that Jewish influence in these departments was sufficiently authoritative to bring Hungary to a separate peace.

M. FAURE: The document relating to your conversation or one of the conversations which you had with Horthy has already been produced. It was that of 17 April 1943. It is Document D-736, which was submitted as GB-283.

During the interrogation of your witness, Schmidt, the British prosecutor asked this witness if he admitted having compiled this account, and this was confirmed by Schmidt. This note bears the following remark at the bottom of the first paragraph: "The Foreign Minister declared that the Jews were either to be exterminated or sent to concentration camps. There was no other solution."

You did say that, did you not?

VON RIBBENTROP: I definitely did not say it in those words. But I would like to reply as follows:

It was apparently an account prepared by "Minister" Schmidt, as was his habit, some days after a long discussion between the Fuehrer and Horthy. I have already said that the Fuehrer had repeatedly charged me to talk to Horthy, to the Hungarian Government, to the Ambassador, in order to reach a solution of the Jewish question. At the time when Horthy visited the Fuehrer the Fuehrer emphasized the question to him in a very irritable manner, and I remember perfectly that subsequent to this discussion I talked the matter over with "Minister" Schmidt, saying that I, strictly speaking, had not quite understood the Fuehrer.

409
2 April 46

The remark mentioned was definitely not made in this way. M. Horthy had apparently said that he could not, after all, beat the Jews to death. It is possible, since there would have been no question of that in any case, that in this connection I did endeavor to persuade Horthy to do something or other at once about the Jewish question in Budapest, namely, that he should undertake now the centralization which the Fuehrer had already wished to carry out for a long time. My objection or my interpolation may have referred to this question.

I must add that the situation, at that time, was as follows: We had been receiving repeated indications from Himmler, to the effect that Himmler wished to handle the Jewish situation in Hungary himself. I did not want this, since, one way or another, it would probably have created political difficulties abroad.

Consequently, acting on the wish of the Fuehrer, who was extremely obstinate on this subject, I, as is known, repeatedly attempted to smooth matters over and, at the same time, pin the Hungarians down to do something about it in any case. Therefore, if, from a long conversation, some remark has been extracted and summarized in brief, and contains some such statement, it certainly does not mean that I wished the Jews to be beaten to death. It was 100 percent contrary to my personal convictions.

M. FAURE: I do not understand whether you answered my question or not. I will have to ask you again. Is the report correct, or is it not correct?

VON RIBBENTROP: No, in this form it cannot be correct. These are notes. I personally have never seen these notes before; otherwise I should have said at once that this is nonsense and liable to misconstruction. I did not see these notes before; I saw them for the first time in Nuremberg.

I can say only one thing which may possibly have occurred. I might have said ... well yes, "the Jews cannot be exterminated or beaten to death, so, please do something in order that the Fuehrer will be satisfied at long last, and centralize the Jews."

That was our aim, at that time at any rate. We did not want to render the situation more acute, but we were trying to do something in Hungary so that no other department could take the matter in hand, thereby creating political difficulties abroad for the Foreign Office.

M. FAURE: You knew at that time that many Jews had been deported. That may be gathered from your explanations.

THE PRESIDENT: Just one moment, please. Are you passing from this document?

M. FAURE: I was continuing to speak of it in more general terms.

410
2 April 46

THE PRESIDENT: You are passing from it, did you say?

M. FAURE: Yes. ]

THE PRESIDENT: Well, Defendant, the Tribunal would like to know whether you did, say to the Regent Horthy that Jews ought to be taken to concentration camps.

VON RIBBENTROP: I consider it possible that such may have been the case, for we had, at that time, received an order that a concentration camp was to be installed near Budapest or else that the Jews should be centralized there, and the Fuehrer had instructed me a long time before to discuss with the Hungarians a possible solution of the Jewish question. This solution should consist of two points. One was the removal of the Jews from important government positions and two, since there were so many Jews in Budapest, to centralize the Jews in certain quarters of Budapest.

THE PRESIDENT: I understand your suggestion to be that this document is inaccurate.

VON RIBBENTROP: Yes, it is not accurate. The way I should like to put it, Mr. President, is that when reading the document, it would appear from this document that I considered it possible or desirable to beat the Jews to death. That is perfectly untrue but what I did say here and what I emphasized later on could be understood to mean only that I wished something to be done in Hungary to solve the Jewish problem, so that other departments should not interfere in the matter. For the Fuehrer often spoke to me about it, very seriously indeed, saying that the Jewish problem in Hungary must be solved now ...

THE PRESIDENT: You have told us that, I think, already. What I wanted to ask you was this: Are you suggesting that Schmidt, who drew up this memorandum, invented the last few sentences, beginning with the words:

"If the Jews there did not want to work they would be shot. If they could not work they would have to perish. They had to be treated like tuberculosis bacilli with which a healthy body may become infected. This was not cruel if one remembered that innocent creatures of nature, such as hares or deer, have to be killed so that no harm is caused by them. Why should the beasts who wanted to bring us Bolshevism be shown more leniency? Nations which did not rid themselves of Jews perished. One of the most famous examples of this was the downfall of a people who once were so proud, the Persians, who now lead a pitiful existence as Armenians."

Are you suggesting that Schmidt invented those sentences or imagined them?

411
2 April 46

VON RIBBENTROP: Mr., President, I should like to add that I myself was very grieved by these words of the Fuehrer, and I did not quite understand them. But perhaps this attitude can be understood only if we remember that the Fuehrer believed that the Jews had caused this war, and that he had gradually developed a very fanatical hatred for them.
I remember too that later on, after this conference, I discussed with the interpreter Sdimidt and the two gentlemen the fact that this was the first time the Fuehrer had used expressions in connection with the Jewish problem which I could no longer understand. These words were certainly not invented by Schmidt. The Fuehrer did express himself in some such way at that time. That is true.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, M. Faure.

M. FAURE: It appears from his document that you thought there were concentration camps in Hungary and yet you said yesterday that you did not know there were any in Germany. Is that not so?

VON RIBBENTROP: I did not know that there were any concentration camps in Hungary, but I did say that the Fuehrer had instructed me to ask Horthy to ask the Hungarian Government to concentrate the Jews in Budapest, in certain parts of the city of Budapest. As to concentration camps in Germany, I already spoke yesterday about my knowledge of that subject.

M. FAURE: You admitted that you knew Hitler's policy to deport all Jews and you admitted that insofar as you were competent as Minister for Foreign Affairs, you assisted this policy, did you not? That is right, is it not?

VON RIBBENTROP: As his faithful follower I adhered to the Fuehrer's orders even in this field, but I always did my utmost to alleviate the situation as far as possible. This can be stated and proved by many witnesses. Even in 1943 I submitted a comprehensive memorandum to the Fuehrer in which I urged him to alter the Jewish policy completely. I could also quote many other examples.

M. FAURE: If I understand your testimony rightly, you were morally opposed to this persecution of Jews, but you did help to carry them out, is that not so?

VON RIBBENTROP: I repeatedly said at the very beginning of my examination, that in that sense I have never been anti-Semitic. But I was a faithful follower of Adolf Hitler.

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Post by Dan » 01 Mar 2003 17:24

David, this is a great idea to take one issue and discuss it. I wonder if it would make the thread less cumbersom to take the last 10 or so posts and create a new thread.

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Post by David Thompson » 01 Mar 2003 17:26

Here is the Schmidt version of the Klessheim conference, from Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal, vol. 10, pp. 202-03 and 214-15, available on-line at:

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/proc/03-28-46.htm

DR. HORN: Witness, in 1944, you were present at a conference between Horthy and Hitler at Klessheim, in which Von Ribbentrop also took part and during which the solution of the Jewish question in Hungary was discussed. What did Von Ribbentrop, say to you about this question?

SCHMIDT: During this conference there had been a certain difficulty, when Hitler insisted that Horthy should proceed more energetically in the Jewish question, and Horthy answered with

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some heat, "But what am I supposed to do? Shall I perhaps beat the Jews to death?" -- Whereupon there was rather a lull, and the Foreign Minister then turned to Horthy and said, "Yes, there are only two possibilities -- either that, or to intern the Jews." Afterwards he said to me -- and this was rather exceptional -- that Hitler's demands in this connection might have gone a bit too far.

* * * * *

SIR DAVID MAXWELL-FYFE: Doctor, I will not pursue that further at the moment. I want you just to tell me this: You have

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given us your account of the interview between Hitler and the Defendant Ribbentrop, and Horthy when the question of the Jews was discussed, on the 17th of April 1943. I just wanted on record that your account is based on the fact that you actually made the minutes; the minutes are signed by you.

SCHMIDT: Yes.

and here is the partial translation of Schmidt's Protocol of the conference, from Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, vol. 7, pp. 190-191:
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David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 01 Mar 2003 17:27

Dan -- I agree. Let me see if I can figure out how to do it.

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 02 Mar 2003 07:57

Here is David Irving's version of the Klessheim conference, from "Hitler's War" (2001 edition) pp. 579-80, available on-line at:

http://www.fpp.co.uk/books/Hitler/text/index.html
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