The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/i/irving.david/libel.suit/transcripts/day016.07

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Last-Modified: 2000/07/20

   Q.   Yes.  To recapitulate, for the first 20 years after World
        War II there was no real investigation into the decision
        making process by which this appalling crime had been set
        in motion?
   A.   There were not studies focused on that, but they focused
        on a great deal about the Holocaust.  One could not say
        the Holocaust had not been subjected to careful study.
        The decision making process in the 1930s was subjected to
        very careful study by Karl Schleunes and Adam and Adam
        also did venture into the field up to 1941 and came up
        with a very late date by those times.  He said Hitler did
        not decide until the fall of 41, which to historians at
        that point seemed to be shockingly late.  It is now a
        figure that many of us would agree with but at that point
        it was quite a revolutionary proposal.
   Q.   To cut straight to the bottom line, nobody has ever found
        a single document indicating a Hitler decision or a Hitler
        will in this direction.  We have had to do a lot of
        extrapolating and reading between the lines.  Is that

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   A.   A lot of it comes from a collection of documents from
        which one draws inferences, from which one looks at
        circumstantial evidence and how one construes the Nazi
        system of work.  But we do not have what we would call the
        smoking pistol document; your thousand pounds is still
        safe in your bank account in that regard.  We do not have
        a signed order by Adolf Hitler or a document that
        explicitly refers to him taking the decision in that kind of way.
   Q.   Are you surprised at that?
   A.   No, because we have -- one area in which we have a record
        of how a decision was made was when Himmler goes to Hitler
        in late May of 1940, when he wants to revalidate the
        ethnic programme that Frank and Goering had more or less
        slowed down in the spring 1940 on the grounds of priority
        of military concerns, and then, when it seemed clear that
        victory in France as very near, Himmler goes back,
        presents his memorandum to Hitler.
   Q.   May 25 1940, is that right?
   A.   Yes.  What Himmler then records is that Hitler read the
        memorandum, found it very good and correct, and said to
        Himmler, "You may show this to the others and tell them it
        is in my line of thinking".
   Q.   How do we know that?
   A.   That is because we have a second memorandum by Himmler

.          P-47

        recording the conversation.
   Q.   Yes, but he does not actually quote those words, does he?
        You have rather embroidered them.
   A.   This is how Himmler records the conversation.  He does not
        have a quote, Hitler said, quotation mark.
   Q.   Do you remember one particular phrase in that Himmler
        memorandum of May 1940 in which Himmler says something
        like, "There can of course be no question of the wholesale
        extermination of the Jews"?
   A.   At that point he considers what he calls a Bolshevic
        solution as unGerman and impossible.  Yes, I have quoted
        that many times.
   Q.   How would you interpret that particular phrase?
   A.   I would interpret that, that Himmler is not the one who
        would propose such things, that if he eventually did that
        it could have to have come from someone with greater
        authority than him.
   Q.   Let us take it in stages.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Mr Irving, do you mind me interrupting you?
        Are we now on the general perspective?  Are you going to
        come back to these individual documents?
   MR IRVING:  You will notice that when I start referring to page
        numbers of his report, my Lord.  If I could take that
        piece by piece, if Himmler wrote in his May 25th 1940
        memorandum that sentence saying "There can be no question
        of a Bolshevic solution of the Jewish problem", in other

.          P-48

        words, just liquidating them ----
   A.   Liquidating a whole people.
   Q.   There is no indication of course, either on that document
        which Himmler actually marked in his own handwriting, or
        in the subsequent memorandum that he wrote, that Hitler
        had overruled him and said, "Oh, on the contrary", is there?
   A.   What Himmler wanted to get from Hitler was backing for his
        renewed ethnic cleansing, and that Himmler comes away with
        the affirmation that he can cite Hitler's backing if Frank
        and Goring and others try to block him again.
   Q.   Of course, you would agree that there had been a lot of
        killing of the Jews in the Polish campaign and afterwards
        had there not? .
   A.   The greater focus I believe, was on killing of Polish
        intelligentsia but certainly, given the Jews are about 10
        per cent of the population I think that the percentage of
        fatalities percentage wise is greater among the Jewish
        population than the Polish.
   Q.   In the conferences conducted by Heydrich in the autumn
        1939 and over that winter, of which we have the records,
        the Jews are also mentioned as being a category to be
        exterminated, are they not?
   A.   There is a series of different quotes.  I do not think
        there is a global reference to killing all Jews.  There is
        one to killing Polish intelligentsia.

.          P-49

   Q.   The Jews, the clergy?
   A.   They list this as a category of people.  It is not a
        global killing of all Jews but Jews are among the groups
        that can be killed.  No one is going to get into trouble
        killing Jews.
   Q.   Were they to be killed because they were potential
        leadership material, or potential trouble makers, or
        what?  Was there a reason giving for the killing given on
        that occasion?
   A.   No.
   Q.   Or was it purely ideological?
   A.   I do not remember the exact document in its entirety so
        I would hesitate to say something.
   Q.   There is a string of documents September and October 1939.
   A.   There is a collection of references.  Sometimes these
        references refer to different categories.  They are not
        the same categories each time.  Sometimes Jews appear
        among that category.  I do not recall that they give a
        detailed justification of why each of those categories is
        mentioned at this time.
   Q.   I do not know if you familiar with my book Hitler's War at all?
   A.   Not very familiar.
   Q.   Will you accept that -- and I can be proved wrong by
        Mr Rampton -- I refer in great deal to these particular

.          P-50

        September and October 1939 conferences at which the Jews
        were to be killed and the orders were given?
   A.   I cannot answer that because I have not read that section.
   Q.   Very well.  Have not the Jewish people throughout this
        century, in fact long before World War II and since World
        War I, constantly proclaimed that they were in danger of
        being exterminated, or indeed that they were already being
   A.   I could not say yes to that.
   Q.   It has been a kind of an ongoing story, has it not?
   A.   No.  When you say "the Jews have said", I am afraid that
        is the kind of formulation that it is impossible to
        answer.  You may find one Jew or another, but that does
        not mean "the Jews" have constantly said that.
   Q.   Can I hand you this book to have a look at? Can you read
        the title on the jacket of that book?
   A.   "The Yellow Spot, the Extermination of the Jews in Germany".
   Q.   Can you see who has published it?
   A.   With an introduction by the Bishop of Durham.
   Q.   If you look on the back of the spine, you will see the
        initials VG, Victor Gollantz.
   A.   I see the Gollantz written at the bottom.
   Q.   So the book has been published by a reputable English
        publisher.  Can you rapidly flutter inside and see what

.          P-51

        year that book called "The Extermination of the Jews" was published?
   A.   In 1936.
   Q.   Three years before World War II we are already hearing
        books on this subject.
   A.   If one looks right below the title page, it says "The
        Yellow Spot, the outlawing of half a million human
        beings".  It does not say the murder of them, but it does
        say "the outlawing".
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  Is it confined to 33 to 36?
   A.   It is published in 36.
   Q.   I wonder what the events are it describes.  It may be it
        is only the last three years?
   MR IRVING:  It is a very good history, actually, of the Nazi
        persecution of the Jews up to that time.
   MR JUSTICE GRAY:  You mentioned the first world war.  It does
        not go that far back?
   MR IRVING:  I could have gone back to similar publications back
        at the First World War but it is a rather arcane
        exercise.  It is an odd thing that the word
        "extermination" at that time can be taken to mean
        something which means something totally different to the
        way we understand it now, is it not?
   A.   It seems a fairly hyperbolic title.
   Q.   Do we have the same problems with word in German?  Words
        like umsiedlung and ausrotung?

.          P-52

   A.   The conventional use is turned into a specialised use.
        Language changes that way all the time.  Before 1971
        "destabilization" meant one thing.  After Kissinger uses
        it, it takes on a second meaning because of historical context.
   Q.   Of course, "pot" and "grass" and things like that change
        their meaning, do they not?  Is there any indication that
        words used even at the same time in the Third Reich can
        have totally different meanings depending who is using
        them, who they are speaking to?  For example, an
        apparently innocent word like umsiedlung, which means
        resettlement, can take on a totally different sinister
        meaning when uttered by Heinreich Himmler?
   A.   Yes.  If you are referring to ethnic Germans, it generally
        means that you are removing them from one place to
        another.  In documents referring to Jews after 1942 it
        usually means sending them to a camp.
   Q.   Without wishing to pre-empt the logical flow of this
        examination in a way, can I direct your attention to one
        document in the bundle which is probably next to you,
        H3(i)?  Footnote 54 is the one I am after.
   A.   Where do I turn?
   MR IRVING:  If you look at the bottom there is FN 54 in black felt pen.
   A.   Which tab?  FN 54.
   Q.   You will remember the episode because it is the umsiedlung

.          P-53

        of 20,000 Jews at ----
   A.   Yes, and then two pages later it becomes a different word.
   Q.   You have got it.  You are absolutely right.  Two pages
        later they are quite plain that they were shot?
   A.   Yes.
   Q.   So in this document umsiedlung refers to killing?
   A.   Correct.

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