The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day016.05

Archive/File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day016.05
Last-Modified: 2000/07/20

   Q.   Yes.  We were going to come later on to the Aktion or
        Operation Reinhard.  Am I correct in saying that there has
        been one school of thought, the thought that the Operation
        Reinhardt had been named after the late lamented or
        unlamented chief of the security police, Reinhard Heydrich?
   A.   That is one suggestion made because the files on personnel
        in Berlin spell it with just a D which is the way he spelt
        his name, so that was one suggestion that has been made
        which I do not endorse.
   Q.   While we are on the matter, because we are going to have a
        joint journey of discovery and exploration over the next
        day or two, I think, have documents come to your attention
        that have the initials AR in them instead of a security
   A.   I only saw reference to that from the transcript here.
   Q.   Yes?
   A.   But I had not noticed that myself.
   Q.   It is an interesting discovery, would you agree?
   A.   I would like to look at the documents to see how it was

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        written, but I had not noticed that before.
   Q.   Yes.  You are familiar with the correspondence between
        Wolff and Gunsen Muller?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   In July 1942?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   Where Wolff -- can you remember what Wolff wrote to Gunsen
   A.   Yes, he wanted trains and Gunsen Muller replied that, yes,
        he had trains and told him how many would be going each
   Q.   It is correct that Wolff replied that he was glad to hear
        that 5,000 of a chosen race were going to be sent to ----
   A.   That is my memory of the document, yes.
   Q.   And is there any significance you would attach to the fact
        that that had the initials AR on it?
   A.   It could indicate that a copy of this was to be filed in
        some file called Aktion Reinhardt.
   Q.   So we are constantly discovering new things, is this correct?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   So that the last chapter on the Holocaust really still has
        to be written?
   A.   We are still discovering things about the Roman Empire.
        There is no last chapter in history.
   Q.   It is quite an adventure, though, is it not, as fresh

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        archives around the world open up, would you agree?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   Have you worked in -- I suppose you have worked in the
        German archives, have you not?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   Have you worked in the archives in Munich?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   Have you had the opportunity to work in the Moscow
        archives yet?
   A.   No, I have not.
   Q.   What other major holdings are there of records on the
        Holocaust -- for example, in the United States?
   A.   There would be the National Archives collection of
        captured German documents and the microfilms at the United
        States Holocaust Museum from various East European
        archives and the Berlin Document Centre of Microfilms now
        also in the National Archives.
   Q.   Have those microfilms also been placed in the German
        Federal Archives now?
   A.   The German Federal Archives took over the originals of the
        Berlin Document Centre, so I presume they have both the
        microfilm and the originals in their possession.
   Q.   Shooting off on one brief side excursion, have you found
        German archives sometimes rather secretive about recently
        acquired collections?
   A.   The area where I have had difficulty is getting court

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        access to see pretrial interrogations because of the
        increased emphasis on privacy law in Germany.  That is,
        I would say, the greatest difficulty that I have encountered.
   Q.   I am surprised by this.  In other words, what you are
        saying is the pretrial interrogations of suspected war
        criminals or of witnesses conducted in the 1940s and 1950s?
   A.   Mostly 1960s and '70s.
   Q.   Have now been closed again, have they?
   A.   Not closed, but there simply is more paper work to get
        them.  In the 1970s I could ask to see them and I would be
        granted immediate access by the local person.  Now it has
        to go to somebody higher up to approve it.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Does it make any difference if they are dead?
   A.   No, generally it applies to whether you can see the
        records of this particular case, and they make no
        distinction as to whether people there are living or dead
        because the family members, children, would still be
        living too.  I believe that there was concern, or at least
        that is what is cited, the family is still sensitive to
        the issues.
   MR IRVING:  Would it be right to say that if an historian went
        to Moscow and came back with the Goebbels diaries and gave
        them to German archives, they would then vanish for
        several years?

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   A.   It is a possibility that they would say, "We need to
        classify these" and do whatever else and it would
        temporarily not be available.
   Q.   Are you familiar with the Goebbels diaries in any respect?
   A.   Only in the publications of the various -- the Frohich
        publication from Munich and previous publications.  I have
        not worked in an original Goebbels.
   Q.   Have you any sense of how long the period elapses between
        the arrival of the original diaries in the hands of those,
        shall we say, processors and the publication in generally
        accessible form?  Is it a matter of months or weeks or years?
   A.   I do not know.
   Q.   Professor Browning, do you have any particular problems as
        a non-Jewish historian writing about the Holocaust?
   A.   Could you tell me a little more -- can you give me a
        little more direction as to what you are looking at?  In
        terms of do I have a psychological problem or personal
        problem?  Have I encountered ----
   Q.   Professional problems?
   A.   --- professional problems?  Occasionally, one might say
        that it has been -- I can say in one or two cases I think
        it affected the opinions of some people concerning my
   Q.   I do not want to explore this in any great depth, but
        would I be right in suggesting that the Jewish historians

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        regard the Holocaust as their patch?
   A.   No, I would not.  I think, in fact, many of them were very
        accepting of my coming into the field because it, in fact,
        indicated that this was not their patch, if I can use
        your phrase, but something that was not just important to
        Jewish history but important to world history, and that
        the fact that a non-Jewish historian would look at this
        would be seen as a validation of the universal importance
        of the topic, not just that it was a parochial ethnic
        history of a particular people and that no one else, this
        was not important to anyone else.
                  So I would say I have had for more
        re-affirmation of supports from Jewish historians than the
        very few cases in which I felt my work would have been
        seen in a negative way because I was not Jewish.
   Q.   So you have not been disadvantaged in any way by being a
        non-Jewish historian?
   A.   There are one or two instances where that may have been
        the case, but far more prominent -- far more often that
        has not been the case.
   Q.   You used to be Professor of History at Pacific State
        Luther University?
   A.   Pacific Luther University.
   Q.   In Tacoma in Washington State?
   A.   Tacoma, Washington.
   Q.   You are now currently a Professor of History at?

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   A.   University of North California at Chapel Hill.
   Q.   At Chapel Hill.  One of the most prestigious universities
        to have held tenure at would have been Harvard, would it not?
   A.   Harvard would be a very prestigious university.
   Q.   So if a chair in Holocaust studies had been appointed in
        Harvard, it is a position you would have applied for or
        hoped to obtain?
   A.   I was considered for a position there.
   Q.   What militated against you, do you think?
   A.   No one received the position, Jewish or non-Jewish
        historians.  At least one person on the Search Committee
        made a statement to the press that they felt that only
        someone deeply grounded in Jewish culture should be eligible.
   Q.   What did he mean by that, do you think?
   A.   Well, in fact it was a she and the statement was applied
        to me and the other candidates because they were mainly
        working in German history, not in Jewish history, and
        I think this was meant that she did not like any of the candidates.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  No.  So no one was appointed, is that what
        you say?
   A.   No one was appointed.
   MR IRVING:  In fact, the man who had put up money for this new
        chair then starting raising obstacles, is this not right?

.          P-37

   A.   I believe when they did try to make an appointment for a
        semester per year, rather than a full-time, he refused to
        release his money to support the appointment on that
   Q.   Yes.  Is it right that the New York Times in July 1997
        quoted you as saying that you felt that you had been ruled
        out because, and I am quoting, "I am not Jewish.  I come
        from a small college"?
   A.   That was a quote that was taken entirely out of context.
        In the letter to the editor published the following
        Friday, I explain what the full quote had been, and that
        is she had asked me why I had not, why did I think I had
        not been appointed, and I had said, "Well, I do not know.
        I am not on the committee, but I can read in the press
        what several people have said themselves", one of which is
        the one I gave you earlier, and having quoted this person
        on the Search Committee to the effect that someone only
        deeply grounded in the Jewish culture should get it,
        I then commented, "That would make me doubly ineligible
        because I do not work in Jewish history and I am not
        Jewish".  She quoted the last four words and left out all
        of the context and totally distorted the meaning of the
        statement that I gave and that was explained in a letter
        to the editor at the end of the week.
   Q.   Are you as deeply shocked as I am to hear that the press
        takes things out of context?

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   A.   Not a surprise, no.  It does happen.

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