Against David Irving’s View of Hitler

Eric Zuesse, as posted originally at The Unz Review

In response to Ron Unz’s “The Remarkable Historiography of David Irving”, this note will pick up on and elucidate the reader-comment to that from James N. Kennett, which stated: “It seemed to me that the problem with his work was not the possible inaccuracy of the details that he included – but the things he had left out. Anyone can tell a good story by leaving out the evidence that does not fit. Irving also coined the phrase ‘the Auschwitz Survivors, Survivors of the Holocaust, and Other Liars—A.S.S.H.O.L.E.S.’ You don’t have to be a supporter of the Holocaust Industry to realise that this is crass insensitivity, and an ahistorical insult to those who did survive. Far from indicating a historian of unique genius, it is the product of a perverted mind.” (I have added the link there in Kennett’s comment — it wasn’t provided by him — a link to an apt comment that had been posted at “Good Reads” about David Irving’s statement there against those survivors.)

My 2000 book WHY the Holocaust Happened (the publisher subsequently went out of business, and so it’s no longer available) discusses both the history and the historiography of the Holocaust; and, while the writings of David Irving are not mentioned there (but more ‘respectable’ proponents of his ‘weak dictator’ interpretation of Hitler were), it presented, regarding Mr. Irving, lots of (as Kennett has put it), “the things he had left out,” and that I think invalidate Irving’s works, because the motivation behind those omissions is clear and is not considered acceptable by most historians. Here are some of those omissions — things left out altogether, or else unjustifiably denigrated, by Irving — (with page-references to where the given excerpts appear in my book):

Pages 229-230:

Despite the transparent frauds of the Holocaust-deniers inside and outside academia, there is no serious question that the Holocaust existed and that it constituted a crime of unimaginably vast scope. Equally without doubt — again notwithstanding hoaxers both inside and outside the universities — is the fact that Adolf Hitler held the motive for the crime, and that the Nazi Party and the other perpetrators “on the ground” were his instruments in carrying it out. According to Adolf Eichmann, Chief of the Bureau for Jewish Affairs at the Reich Security Headquarters, in his 1983 Eichmann Interrogated (p. 75), it was in August or September 1941 that his boss “Heydrich sent for me. I reported. … He began with a little speech, then said, ‘The Führer has ordered physical extermination.’ These were his words. … The Führer had ordered the physical extermination of the Jews.” And (xxii, 92) Eichmann also acknowledged that by no later than 21 September 1939, Heydrich had made known to him the “basic conception” of “the physical extermination of the Jews” as “the ultimate aim” that was “promulgated by Hitler.” Eichmann’s recollection was exact to the day: Heydrich’s official order, referring to “the final goal (which will require a lengthy period),” was dated 21 September 1939. On 31 July 1941 Göring instructed Heydrich to draw up detailed plans for “the desired final solution of the Jewish question” (document 710-PS in Trial of the Major War Criminals). Hitler’s signature even appears on the document (630-PS) dated 1 September 1939 authorizing the “euthanasia” of the disabled and other “incurables.” The physicians had wanted that in writing, and got it. And in his Secret Conversations (Table Talk) of 21 October 1941, Hitler concluded his long tirade against Jews: “By exterminating this pest, we shall do humanity a service of which our soldiers can have no idea.” Himmler publicly stated in a speech on 24 February 1943 that this was necessary in order to have “exterminated a bacterium because we do not want in the end to be infected by the bacterium and die of it.” Hitler’s guilt in the Holocaust is beyond any reasonable doubt, regardless of what neo-Nazis say.

page 218:

By January 1939, Hitler’s official policy was for the expulsion of all Jews. By June 1940, it was for their expulsion specifically to Madagascar — a goal even less practicable than expulsion itself, since the “Madagascar Plan” required as prerequisites the defeat of both France and England, and could thus realistically not even be considered as a short-term measure which is what it was presented as being. Hitler knew better. And along the way, he skillfully set up numerous highly visible public displays of the unwillingness of foreign nations to accept the flood of dispossessed Jews that he was offering as refugees. (As Rudolph Binion noted in his 1976 Hitler Among the Germans, pp. 29-30, Hitler had even fired Reichsbank chief Hjalmar Schacht early in 1939 because Schacht had been too effective in promoting the expulsion of Jews; and both Binion, and Richard Breitman’s 1991 The Architect of Genocide, pp. 50-1, documented that even Hitler had acknowledged that expulsion of Jews was really intended as nothing more than “exporting anti-Semitism.”) Hitler gleefully observed the embarrassment of other countries that proclaimed their opposition to anti-Semitism but that turned a cold shoulder to these desperate refugees. Hitler was trying expulsion; other nations just refused to receive what he was offering them. The United States, for example, not only did not increase its immigration-quota for Jews; it failed even to admit as many Jews as the official quota permitted. David S. Wyman’s 1984 The Abandonment of the Jews documents (pp. 100, 365, 410) the repeated refusal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to meet with Jewish leaders to deal with the problem, and also establishes the President’s own personal knowledge of the Nazis’ anti-Semitic exterminations. For Hitler, such international response was itself part of the “sleepwalking” toward genocide. By the time of the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942 to coordinate the actions of all state agencies involved with the “final solution,” all participants were reading their respective roles from a playbook written by none other than the Führer himself. And by that time, they were all prepared for those roles — knew them by heart, actually. When three days later, on 23 January, Hitler in his Secret Conversations (Table-Talk) addressed Himmler sarcastically about the matter, Himmler understood very well what he meant by saying of his policy toward the Jews, “I’m extraordinarily humane. … But if they refuse to leave voluntarily, I see no other solution than extermination.”

Page 15:

Obviously, the Holocaust occurred within the context of a World War; yet it actually drained the attention of Hitler and of his fighting forces away from the war-effort, needlessly hardened the worldwide opposition to Germany, and transformed into outright enemies talented people who might otherwise have been neutral or even supportive as “patriotic Germans.” Judged purely as a military tactic, the Holocaust was at best dubious, and at worst counter-productive. Horst von Maltitz perceptively observed in this regard in his 1973 The Evolution of Hitler’s Germany (p. 171), that “railroad transport trains carrying Jews from the West to extermination camps in Poland were given priority over trains for urgently needed troops and war supplies. Moreover, skilled Jewish laborers, desperately needed in the munitions plants in occupied Poland, were carted off to extermination centers, in spite of strong objections by plant managers.” And according to the Polish Ambassador, Jan Ciechanowski, in his 1947 Defeat in Victory (p. 179), he had personally handed U.S. President Roosevelt in the White House on 28 July 1943 a memo that, “The unprecedented destruction of the entire Jewish population is not motivated by Germany’s military requirements. Hitler and his subordinates aim at the total destruction of the Jews before the war ends and regardless of its outcome.” The basic question thus is posed: what was the relationship between Germany’s war effort and the Holocaust? Which served which; what was Hitler’s ultimate objective?

The Führer’s words right before his suicide — his final, supreme, statement of his war-aims — urged his people to continue the war, until victory, against what he held to be the sole real enemy: “the poisoner of all nations, international Jewry.” The enemy for him was Jews in all nations; this also sheds light on why over 96% of the Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust did not come from Germany. We shall indeed show that, for Hitler, defeat of the enemy entailed nothing less than the extermination of all Jews.

In other words, for Hitler, the Holocaust — the “final solution” — was not a military device, it was a military goal; in fact, it was the central military goal, which took precedence over even the expansion of Lebensraum. In order to understand why the Holocaust happened, it therefore is necessary to understand why Hitler hated Jews so fanatically and so obsessively that nothing less than their total extermination would satisfy him.


Those are the key excerpts regarding the viewpoint that David Irving presents.

Irving states that Hitler didn’t know about whatever extermination of the world’s Jews was intended, if any was intended. However, Irving doesn’t deny that local exterminations were carried out. Irving alleges that Hitler’s subordinates knew about and wanted these local atrocities, but that Hitler wanted only that Jews be expelled from everywhere to be sent to Madagascar. However, such expulsion was actually the intention and expectation of Hitler’s finance-chief, Hjalmar Schacht, and Hitler finally demoted him, perhaps for that very reason. Hitler certainly didn’t want Schacht to know what his plans for the Jews actually were. Hitler just wanted some rich Jews to buy their ways out, since he tried to postpone for as long as possible anyone’s knowledge of what his intended “Final Solution to the Jewish problem” actually was. Furthermore, as my book noted, Hitler wanted to make things as difficult for FDR and for Churchill as he could. He did everything possible to avoid leaks regarding what his intentions were, and especially regarding why he held those intentions. Also, Irving noted, in a footnote, that Eichmann had testified to having been informed by Heydrich that “The Führer has ordered physical extermination,” but Irving simply dismissed that by saying: “There is no primary or secondary documentary support for such a statement. This kind of evidence, of course, would not suffice in an English magistrate’s court to convict a vagabond of bicycle stealing.” He dismisses everything that doesn’t fit with his image of Hitler — “probably the weakest leader Germany has known this century,” as Irving said in the Introduction to the 1977 edition of Hitler’s War. The 1991 edition changed this to “Hitler was a far less omnipotent Führer than had been believed, and his grip on his subordinates had weakened with each passing year.” Of course, that’s saying the closer that events got to the actual perpetration of the Holocaust, the less responsible for whatever it was, Hitler was, in Irving’s view. To Irving, Germans were tragic victims, but many of them overreacted to the abuses that they had received from Britain, Jews, communists, and some others.

While my book doesn’t mention Irving, it does deal extensively with (among others) a writer about the Holocaust who seems to hate Germans as much as Irving seems to hate Jews: Daniel Goldhagen. The problem with both writers is that they are tribal (one a “Jew” and the other an “Aryan” — i.e., pureblooded Christian, or, at least, not “Jew”), though writing from the opposite tribal standpoints. To be a historian, instead of merely some kind of propagandist, requires abandonment of any tribalism at all. Unfortunately, Goldhagen’s tribalism is considered acceptable, whereas Irving’s isn’t. Today’s Palestinians — and many others — are victims of Goldhagen’s particular form of tribalism. But perhaps as the Holocaust recedes from view, with the passage of the decades, tribalism itself is becoming fashionable again, too. In fact, tribalism seems to be coming into vogue again throughout the world. Look, for example, at what the U.S. Government and its Saudi and UAE partners are doing to the Houthis, a Shiite tribe, in Yemen. Even genocide is becoming ‘acceptable’ again (certainly to America’s Government and its allies). The restoration of Irving to ‘acceptability’ is just a part of that broader trend.

PS: In the many reader-comments to this article at The Unz Review, there are few that address the evidence this article presents that Irving’s view of Hitler and of Hitler’s connection to the Holocaust was false. Some of the reader-comments are ad-hominem (and false) against me. But none of them focus on the evidence that’s presented here; and especially I want to repeat here, as I did in responding to one of those reader-comments, these two quotations, as being crucially important evidence:

Having read the reader-comments up to this point (comment #46), I notice that none even so much as mentions the key quotation that I present in this article, which is “in his Secret Conversations (Table Talk) of 21 October 1941, Hitler concluded his long tirade against Jews: ‘By exterminating this pest, we shall do humanity a service …’,” which should settle the matter as to whether Hitler was proud of his “extermination” of Jews, which people he held to be a “pest,” and which “infection” in his other writings he called a “bacterium,” just as did Himmler. So, all these reader-comments evade that admission by Hitler. Furthermore, all till now have been evading: “The Führer’s words right before his suicide — his final, supreme, statement of his war-aims — urged his people to continue the war, until victory, against what he held to be the sole real enemy: ‘the poisoner of all nations, international Jewry.’” I frankly don’t understand how anyone, after seeing those two statements from Hitler himself, at and near his end, can leave any reasonable doubt as to whether David Irving is a liar. This is not the Hitler that he portrays.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.