Chapter Twelve: Raul Hilberg: His Doctrine and His Methods
Between the Commentaries on the Holy Scriptures of Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and The Destruction of the European Jews, (Chicago, Quadrangle, 1961) an exhaustive commentary on the Nuremberg documents by Mr. Raul Hilberg, there is plainly no common measure. Indeed, one can feel assured that in seven centuries the latter will not be spoken of at all, or, if it is still mentioned, it will only be mentioned in reference to something unworthy of notice except as an example of the most scandalous aberrations of our times. Now, after seven centuries, when Saint Thomas Aquinas is spoken of it is to point him out as having been the originator of a philosophy also aberrant, which from the 17th century on was called ancilla theologiae, by the Humanists and the Free-thinkers. Nevertheless, this philosophy was that of centuries of faith. It was substantial; it opened windows onto a world which was the dream of the epoch; and, thus, it deserved to become that Thomism to which reference must be made today, if the broad currents of contemporary philosophy are to be correctly explained. To construct his system, the man had, of course, to mutilate Aristotle; but in the 13th century printing had not yet been discovered, manuscripts were scarce, and the means of research at the disposal of intellectuals were so rudimentary that he was the only one who knew it. Then, three centuries later, having discovered the trickery, the Humanists and the Free-thinkers spoke of ancilla theologiae. But there was no scandal. The fraud was attributed to an imperfect acquaintance with the writings of Aristotle. Today, more light has been shed on the matter, and Thomism has a place. But, there will never be any Hilbergism. And if the 790 large size pages, based on almost 1,400 documentary references, of The Destruction of the European Jews, some day are found to be the ancilla of something, it will only be of a not very nobly inspired purpose. Therein lies the difference, and it is not a small one.
Having admitted that neither in their persons nor in the value and influence of their respective works are the two men comparable, if thought of, Saint Thomas Aquinas nevertheless came to mind after having read Mr. Raul Hilberg, there were good reasons. The most important reason of all is this one, which is the central theme of this chapter: the Nuremberg documents that Mr. Raul Hilberg used to prove to us that 5,100,000 (p. 767) or 5, 407,500 (p. 670) Jews were exterminated by the Germans during the Second World War — 1,000,000 in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, 950,000 in five other camps much less well equipped, 1,400,000 (if I have understood correctly his complicated and often contradictory calculations) by Einsatzgruppen, and the rest, either 1,750,000 on page 767, or 2,069,500 on page 670, in camps and in ways which could be called pottering compared to the others — are of the same kind and the same worth as those in which Saint Thomas Aquinas, like all the Church Fathers before him, found the proof that the first act in the creation of the world, the separation of light from darkness, took place exactly 4,001 years before the birth of Christ, that Joshua had stopped the sun in its course, that Jonas sojourned in the belly of a whale, etc.
And, then there is the problem of misuse. Mr. Raul Hilberg in making the documents say what they do not say, except after having been removed from their context and rewritten, is an example on a small scale of what Saint Thomas Aquinas did on a large scale in giving to the writings of Aristotle that interpretation which oriented the entire intellectual work of the Middle Ages in Europe to the celebrated formula, Aristoteles dixit, when Aristotle had, in fact, not said it. In this respect, they both, each at about the same distance in time, illustrate that moral which was quite well defined by Saint Ignatius Loyola, according to which, since the end justifies the means, all means are good to justify the end. But here again, to permit a fair appreciation of both, the coordinates of the point which they have in common must be given. Saint Thomas Aquinas found himself in the presence of the writings of Aristotle, which at that time were spread about Europe with so much success by Jewish rabbis and Arab clerks that they were threatening to unsettle Christian thought, and for him it was a purely philosophic problem. But, in the case of Mr. Raul Hilberg, it is a question of justifying by a proportional number of cadavers the enormous subsidies which Germany has paid annually since the end of the war, and which she continues to pay, to the State of Israel as reparations for a wrong which she did not do to Israel, either morally or legally, since at the time these wrongs for which she is charged were taking place, the State of Israel did not exist. In short, it is only, purely and very basely, a material problem.
Here I would like to point out — in order to underline the extent of this swindle, which has no other name in any language — that the State of Israel was not founded until May 1948 and that the Jewish victims of the Nazis were the nationals of various states but not of Israel. Nevertheless, Germany pays to Israel sums calculated on the basis of about 6,000,000 dead. In addition, since at least four-fifths of these 6,000,000 were very much alive at the end of the war and countable, she pays to those still living in the other countries of the world, aside from Israel, and to the beneficiaries of those who have since died, substantial reparations as victims of Nazism. This means that for the enormous majority, she is paying twice.
All of these indemnities that are so generously granted to the Jews seem, moreover, to have made the gypsies desire to cash in on this “bonanza” in a manner similar to that of the State of Israel and Zionism. If Le Monde of December 29, 1961, is to be believed, the gypsies have now given themselves a king with the name of H. M. Vaida Voievod III, who claims to be the “Supreme and spiritual head of the gypsy people” and who expects to obtain from the United Nations a corner in the world, where the great wandering of their caravans will come to an end, just as, theoretically, the State of Israel was to end the Diaspora. When he is asked what corner of the world he lays claim to and where it is, he answers that it is Romanestan, and he places it, now on a Pacific Island, now in a country near Israel. Furthermore, he specified that the number of his subjects strolling along all the roads of Europe add up to 12 million, and that the reason there are not more is that between 1939 and 1945 the Nazis exterminated three and a half million. Unfortunately, for him, in this case, there are statistics to put the number of gypsy victims of Nazism between 300 and 350,000 only, which is, of course, quite atrocious enough. Things have not come to a point where one can be accused of anti-Romanestanism as easily as one can be accused of anti-Semitism, every time the fantastic statistics of the Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation are mentioned, and one does not run the risk of being accused of the same low intent if one speaks of the 3,500,000 Nazi victims of H. M. Vaida Voievod III in a humorous tone. If, then, the U. N., let us say, should grant the gypsies the right to regroup in this Romanestan, which only needs to have its geographical location determined, Germany will have no choice but to subsidize them. Having granted the State of Israel an appreciable and substantial indemnity for the victims of Nazism among the Jewish people, it would be difficult to refuse the same to Romanestan, whose claims the U. N. could not fail to support as they did those of the State of Israel. Then the 3,500,000 gypsies exterminated by the Nazis would dispute the 6,000,000 Jews for the limelight in the world press. But, the Reverend Father Fleury, Chaplain of the gypsies of France, already warns that H.M. Vaida Voievod III is only an impostor, and many agree with him. It must be acknowledged that the number of people is much smaller who have the same opinion of the leaders of the State of Israel and their supporters, whose policy, while in every point similar, and just as poorly grounded, has nevertheless succeeded. To the extent that it has shown post-war Zionism to be very closely related to what can be called Romanestanism, the burlesque story of the hero of this adventure deserved to be cited here, if only to give the reader as exact an idea as possible of the worth of the work to which Mr. Raul Hilberg has devoted himself.
But I would like to return to the problem of misuse, and on this subject to be well understood. Having spent an appreciable number of months in the horrible physical and moral conditions of a concentration camp, I know what I am talking about. What I am discussing is only the degree of the horror, since the truth — without further exaggeration — is quite enough. The fact that some poor uneducated devil of a fellow like the cure and the other witness to whom I have referred elsewhere tell us that they have seen, the one, thousands enter the gas chambers in the camp where we were interned together and where there were none, and the other, the heads of human beings buried up to their necks, crushed by the wheels of barrows pushed by the prisoners on order of the SS, is understandable. They are victims who are fired by a resentment in proportion to what they suffered, and the guilty one is the judge who believed them. That a general of an Einsatzgruppe, testifying under threat of death, tells what he thinks will be most likely to save his life, and that Höss, a former commandant of Auschwitz, does the same, like many others, is easily understood and calls for no explanation. The fact that in order to get into the good graces of his captors, some poor SS private, attached to an Einsatzgruppe, reports that his unit exterminated “thousands” or “tens of thousands of Jews,” as is seen in the documents cited by Mr. Raul Hilberg, is not at all astonishing. Nor, is it strange that a Martin-Chauffier, guilty of many things, tries to have them forgiven by howling with the wolves and that a David Rousset, whose main concern in the camp was to obtain the protection of the communists, and a Eugen Kogon, who had no other concern than to establish as comfortable a balance as possible between the SS and the communists, have recounted what they did. The background and motivation of the witness is an important factor when considering the amount of weight that should be given to his testimony. And, it is the business of the judge and of the specialists in the human sciences to establish this credibility as a step toward distinguishing whether the testimony is likely to be true or false. If I am struck by the fact that the judges at Nuremberg did not pay much attention to the credibility of the prosecution witnesses — especially since they had already decided upon a verdict prior to the trials and only required the testimony to support it — I am much less impressed when a journalist believes all of these people right from the start. It is well known that journalists are generally supposed to be more skeptical and questioning than most people.
I shall go even further. A man like Dr. Francois Bayle, the author of Croix Gammee contre Caducee, to whom I have referred, when faced with the documents and testimonies of Nuremberg, is only half responsible for the conclusions he drew from them.
Dr. Francois Bayle is a doctor in the Navy and is, therefore, a military man. On reading his work one perceives that he has a passionate interest in psycho-somatology and psychoanalysis. The defendants at Nuremberg strike him, above all, as being sick men, or at least, tainted, which amounts to the same thing. How he would have liked to have had the chance to write up their cases! He is a brilliant fellow, and circumstances assisted him. On October 19, 1946, he was appointed to the scientific commission on war crimes, and soon he was at work with the original documents and transcripts of the Nuremberg Trial, at which he was present, and where he had free behind-the-scenes access. As a military man, he did not question the authenticity of the documents that were made accessible to him by the authorities on whom he depended. In the military more than anywhere else the fundamental principle on which the system of hierarchy rests is that “every subordinate owes complete obedience to his superior and submission at all time,” and he himself relies on the postulate that a superior may not misuse his subordinate. In this state of mind, Dr. Francois Bayle could not ask questions. And if any questions had occurred to him, not having been prepared for the work in which he was left to orient himself, he would not have been able to answer them correctly. Anyway, he can, therefore, be excused. Those who cannot be excused are his superiors, the ones who allowed him and encouraged him to direct his efforts along the line that is mentioned above. In the main, everything happened as it does in the Figaro of Beaumarchais, where the role of mathematician was assigned to a dancer. A historian was needed for the job, and it was given to a medical doctor. Was a doctor also needed because it was a matter of medical analysis? Perhaps, but what I maintain is that the doctor, if he had not been present during the medical experiments and if he was not at the same time a historian, absolutely could not study the documents correctly unless assisted by a historian who would have, previously, verified all of the testimonies and documents which attested to the facts and which described, not the scientific environment — since for this a historian would not have been qualified — but the social environment, the historic moment in which they had been performed, particularly, in times as emotional as those in question, and the criminal nature — if any — which could be imputed fairly to such conduct. Who was responsible for all this? No one, unless it is whoever is responsible for the distribution of knowledge and the forming of the elites of our times and whoever — while pushing specialization greatly to the detriment of culture in general on the pretext that an industrial civilization needs more than anything good technicians in well defined and narrowly limited fields — lets it be believed and, when necessary, sees to it that it is believed that any specialist at all is qualified to speak excathedra on all specialties.
Mr. Raul Hilberg’s case is quite different from that of all these people. He was not deported, he was not a victim of Nazism, and he has no apparent reasons for having a guilty conscience such as Martin-Chauffier, David Rousset, and Eugen Kogon. In addition, he is neither uncultivated, as was that poor cure mentioned above — who invented gas chambers at Buchenwald and Dora, nor a stumbler of hit or miss education like adventurers in the search for subsistence, rather ill-defined before the war, as were David Rousset and Eugen Kogon, who, besides their need to clear their conscience, probably recounted all that they did in order to assure themselves of the best and most lasting post-war livelihood, a goal which they both achieved remarkably well. He is not even like Dr. Francois Bayle, a medical doctor led astray in the study of historical documents. He is a “political scientist,” who is properly sheep-skinned, as his biographical note says, who specialized in international relations, and who worked in the “War Documentation Project” of the American government. It is unfortunate that his education in the field of “public law and government,” which prepared him to work in a profession in which the science of statistics plays such an important part, did not better equip him for the study of documents and testimonies on which his profession is based and for the study of history in which the social phenomena, which are the subject matter of statistics, have their roots. If, therefore, Mr. Raul Hilberg acts as though he had no idea as to whether a witness and his testimony can be regarded as creditable, or under what conditions a document should be admitted as evidence, he has only one excuse, and that excuse is dishonesty. I say “excuse” because, as I continue to read his biographical note, I find that he is a collaborator in the Jewish Encyclopedia Handbooks and, in my judgment, that fact explains everything. And, this particular interest, of course, applies not only to Mr. Raul Hilberg, but to many others. It applies to Mme. Hannah Arendt, for example, who has the same intellectual outlook, who often refers to Mr. Hilberg in her reports of the Eichmann Trial which the New Yorker published in five issues (February-March 1963), who was — or still is — Forschungsleiterin (Research directress) of the Conference on Jewish Relations, Verwaltungsleiterin (Directress of administration) of the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Stipendiatin (Fellow) of the Guggenheim Foundation, and who coolly informs us (New Yorker, February 23, 1963) that “3 million Polish Jews were massacred during the first day of the war,” the one explaining the other. Mme. Hanna Arendt would do well, in my opinion, to ask Mr. Raul Hilberg where he found the “about 2,000,000 Polish Jews, who were transported to their deaths in 1942 and 1943” of whom he speaks on Page 311 of his book. (Emphasis added.) It would be a good thing to come to an understanding: were there in Poland 3 to 3.3 million Jews before the war, as all statisticians unanimously claim, including those who are Jewish, or were there 5,700,000 as Mme. Hannah Arendt is obliged to claim, since here are 5,000,000 exterminated, and, since Mr. Shalom Baron, brandishing his title of Professor of Jewish History at Columbia University, claimed on April 4, 1961, before the Jerusalem Tribunal, that 700,000 of them were still living in 1945 when the country was liberated by Russian troops? Really, one would like to invite all of these people — these three and the multitude of others in the same boat — to please get together and agree on their figures, before undertaking to explain us to ourselves. But, Particularly to Mr. Raul Hilberg, one could advise him to agree with himself. On page 670 of his book, he in fact points out to us that of the 9,190,000 Jews, who he says were living in territories occupied by German armies during the war, only 3,782,500 survived, which makes 5,407,500 dead; but on page 767, by some mathematical mystery, these 5,407,500 dead become 5,100,00; It must also be pointed out that for Poland, which together with Russia and the Danubian countries is the Crux of the problem, he finds only 50,000 survivors, where his colleague Mr. Shalom Baron found 700,000. However, a journal, in French, published in Switzerland (Europe Reelle, Lausanne, No. 44, December 196 1) claims that the Israeli periodical Jedoth Hazem, issued in Tel Aviv (No. 143 of 1961) states, without turning a hair, that “the number of Polish Jews at present living outside of Poland approaches 2 million.” By way of compensation, for that part of Russia occupied by German troops, the Paris and Tel Aviv Centers of Jewish Documentation both agree in placing the number of Jews exterminated at 1,500,000 (Figaro Litteraire, June 4, 1960), while the Institute of Jewish Affairs and the World Jewish Congress (Eichmann’s Confederates and the Third Reich Hierarchy, already cited) give the figure of 1,000,000; Mr. Raul Hilberg finds only 420,000. This inconsistency is all a little irresponsible, and it is embarrassing that the supporting documents, which are the same for all, speak so different a language to each of these specialists.
Having said this, let us render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. As far as I know, of all of this kind of writing, (which has been published until now) in which the Nuremberg documents and the appended testimonies have been endlessly hashed and rehashed and in which they have been perverted more and more in order to support the contention that about 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated by the Germans in the Second World War, The Destruction of the European Jews is without any doubt the most precise and the most complete in the number of references it contains. For that very reason, without being more convincing than all that has been published in this line, it is the more vulnerable. Moreover, an analysis of Mr. Hilberg’s book has one advantage: in displaying all of its weaknesses, those of all the others show up, too. I have, therefore, decided to take The Destruction of the European Jews as the point of reference for much of the following discussion. It will, of course, be understood that I will not examine each of the 790 pages one by one, although there is hardly a page that could not be used for illustration. To put each one to the test in detail would require as many pages as Mr. Raul Hilberg needed to present his thesis, and it would be tedious. I have already said that Mr. Raul Hilberg has succeeded in making his documents reveal what he wants them to reveal simply because he accepted them just as they were — that is, rewritten, picked over, and taken out of their context. It is this context that I shall try to reconstruct by comparing the documents with others and by dwelling only incidentally on the grossest manipulations.
To make myself clearly understood I must make a brief digression, the theme of which is the following: History is a sequence of historical moments. Self-evident? In form, yes. But in implications, quite something else. Some historians think that each moment in history posits to man only those problems which allow a single solution, a Hobson’s choice. It then follows that since the beginning of time, all the moments of history, each an exact prolongation of the other, are arranged in a sort of straight line, which is the meaning of history, and that by correctly analyzing each one of them, one arrives at historical determinism. Pursuant to the concept of historical determination, the only question man can possibly ask is, not where he wants to go nor what he should do to get there, but simply, where he is going. For an answer to that question he has only to look behind him and to project the historical line, and then turning forward he sees before him Socialism. At the most, he might hesitate (as before the picture of the turn which Socialism has taken in Russia, for example) and slow his step. In no case can he stop or change directions. The ground burns under his feet, and on each side of his road are deadly precipices. And, so he goes toward Socialism, but not very fast. Such historians are Marxists, and they were in favor in the nineteenth century. But, by reducing to nothing or almost nothing the role of the individual in history, this theory was so over simplified that it has lost favor in the twentieth century: consequently, Marxian historiography is disappearing today.
On the whole, most historians believe, in fact, that each moment of history presents man with an infinity of problems; that for man each moment holds an infinity of solutions — even though, without any doubt, only one is rational and good: and that between the good solution and the more or less bad ones, man’s choice depends upon a more or less correct conscientious appraisal of the aspects of the problem. Modern historians also think that in this infinity of problems there are some that man can skirt all his life without even suspecting their existence; that among those which he perceives there are some that are more or less important, more or less momentous, and more or less urgent; that, not being able to resolve them all at once, man is obliged to take them one by one in fixed order; and that the very determination of this order already presupposes a correct and conscientious appraisal of the choices among the possible solutions. Depending on the quality of his appraisals — and, here, we must note that it is a question of collective problems and that the mental age of the group is in inverse proportion to the number of individuals who compose it — the man in each historic moment sees a more or less large number of problems presented to him. Those that he does not see, however, are not necessarily the most negligible ones.
Returning to Mr. Raul Hilberg, he begins his study several historical moments behind and announces Luther dixit, in 1963 no less! I am inventing nothing. In the introduction to The Destruction of the European Jews, he seriously explains to us, in substance, that National Socialism descends in a straight line from the anti-Semitism of the Germans in the Middle Ages, from their Catholicism, and from Martin Luther. This assertion calls for a few remarks:
1. Luther was not anti-Semitic, but was anti-Jewish, which is quite a different thing. Historians are of the opinion that there have been eight Semitic peoples (Assyrians, Chaldeans, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Samaritans, Syrians, Arabs, and Ethiopians) of which three are in existence today (Arabs, Hebrews or Jews, and Ethiopians). Catholicism in the Middle Ages and Luther were only against the Jews.
2. This anti-Judaism was of a religious nature only. Equally universalist, both the Roman church of the time and Luther thought that all of the people of the earth except the Jews were pervious to the seductions of their system of propagating the Faith. It went no further.
3. During the Middle Ages all of Europe was religiously anti-Jewish, and to the same degree everywhere. In countries like Holland, where Lutheranism has remained the same as it was in Luther’s time, and in other countries like Spain and Hungary, where the Roman church has remained what it was in the Middle Ages, anti-Jewish feeling has been considerably attenuated during the past six centuries. Nevertheless, neither Holland, Spain, nor Hungary was the theater of a phenomenon similar to that of National Socialism. Indeed, in our days it is in Germany that the Church, Lutheran as well as Roman, is the most open to the problems of science!
4. National Socialism itself was anti-Semitic, but only because it was racist. It maintained, for example, the best relations with the Arabs. It would also have maintained good relations with the Jews if they had not, claimed to be a distinct people — chosen besides! — in Germany itself. (Its relations with the Arabs would not have been much better had they made the same claim.) The attitude of the Nazis on this point was clearly defined, doctrinally, on the one hand, through its conception of the idea of a people (in one specific area, one race protected against crossbreeding), and, on the other hand, through the international Zionist movement, to which National Socialism attributed a determinant role in the unleashing of the First World War (to get Palestine, it claimed) and in the formulation of the Versailles Treaty (which would permit, it claimed again, the Jewish people, after having gotten Palestine, to take over the Middle East with the help of Bolshevism).
Thus, it was from its very beginning that National Socialism held the Jews responsible for all of Germany’s troubles after the Treaty of Versailles. Once in power, the Nazis unceasingly accused them of wanting to provoke a Second World War, in permanent collusion with Bolshevism, in the hope of destroying Germany and, at the same time, of gaining the help of Bolshevism in the Middle East.
These were the two main, fundamental reasons for the policy of National Socialism with regard to the Jews. Anti-Semitism? That is saying both too much and too little; racism is the right word. These reasons, in any case, bear no relation, either by association or affiliation, to the anti-Judaism of the Roman Church in the Middle Ages or to that of Martin Luther, and it is a little embarrassing to have to recall this, if not to teach this, to an American professor of political science, with his university degrees and his apparently solid credentials. But, since 1933 (when Mr. Raul Hilberg was a youngster) and, especially, since 1945 (when he was just leaving adolescence) so many papers and journals have explained, for the benefit of public opinion, that National Socialism traced its roots to Roman Catholicism in the Middle Ages and to Martin Luther, and that, therefore, anti-Semitism and racism were a fundamentally German tradition, that Mr. Raul Hilberg, preeminently a man of preconceived ideas and dogmas, accepted the idea without feeling the need to verify it. In Hilberg’s case, it is not even Luther dixit, but rather Vox populi dixit. To have been correctly informed on this issue, it would have sufficed for him to have read Das Weltbild des Judentums: Grundlagen des Antisemitismus by the Austrian Bruno Amman (Vienna, 1939) or Warum-Woher-Aber Wohin by the German Hans Grimm (Lippoldsberg, 1954). Although the first was written by a partisan of National Socialism and the second by an independent, they are two of the most serious studies on the origins of National Socialist racism and the answer it expected to find for the Jewish problem because they are the best documented. But, Mr. Raul Hilberg does not seem to find it necessary to read anything more than what comes from the prophets and the political friends.
Once having been caught in this mesh, the only thing that has to be done is to prove that the prophets and the political friends are right. However, since the position of these prophets and political friends is grounded upon various historical inaccuracies, an attempt to justify it historically results in error upon error, because everything is linked together. For example, having a false idea of the origins of National Socialist racism, Mr. Raul Hilberg could not possibly have a correct idea of its historical form. Thus, he states theoretically that Hitler had decided to exterminate the Jews; Chaim Weizmann and Ben Gurion dixit. To support this contention he cites (p. 257) a passage from a famous speech that Hitler made before the Reichstag on January 30, 1939:
Today I want to be a prophet once more: if international finance Jewry inside and outside of Europe should succeed once more in plunging nations into another world war, the consequence will not be the Bolshevisation of the earth and thereby the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewry race in Europe.
I have already had occasion to remark (with regard to the Hossbach document) that threatening observations of this kind abound in the writings of statesmen the whole world over. Historians usually consider them as representing the kind of defiance that was hurled by the ancient heroes and, as a consequence, attribute little significance to them. Between the two wars Russian statesmen addressed such threats in profusion toward capitalism, and, at the United Nations General Assembly of 1960, Mr. Khrushchev once more bellowed, word for word, the same threat to the Americans while hitting his desk with his shoe. At Nuremberg only once was this passage from the speech cited (T. III, p. 527), but without attaching importance to it. It does not figure in the prosecutor’s charge. Mr. Raul Hilberg, doubtless, thinks that was by mistake and heavily insists on citing (p. 266), by way of confirmation of the decision for extermination, another passage from another speech, given in the Sport Palace on September 30, 1942:
At one time, the Jews of Germany laughed about my prophecies. I do not know whether they are still laughing or whether they have already lost all desire to laugh. But right now I can only repeat: they will stop laughing everywhere, and I shall be right also in that prophecy.
But, not only was this passage not sustained at Nuremberg, it was not even cited: in short, it was not serious evidence. On January 30, 1939, the concentration of Jews in camps had not yet begun (according to the Jewish historian Til Jarman, there were only six concentration camps in Germany at the beginning of the Second World War, and they contained, all together, 21,300 internees, of which 3,000 were Jews; The Rise and Fall of Nazi Germany, New York, 1956), and, on September 30, 1942, the concentration of Jews which until then had taken place only in Poland (1940-41) was just beginning (March 1942), on a scale similar to that of Poland in other parts of Europe that were occupied by German troops.
Without doubt, Mr. Raul Hilberg had foreseen this objection, since, in nearly 700 pages, he sets before us a methodical plan in four stages: Definition of the jew; Expropriation; Concentration; and, finally, Extermination. Mr. Raul Hilberg could then reply that to carry out an enterprise of such a scope took time, and that in 1942 they could not have gotten very far with the work, but that that does not mean it was not planned. What the basis for that conviction is we do not know. Mr. Raul Hilberg does not offer a single document corroborating this plan, which allows us to presume, in any case, that during peacetime much more time was necessary (1933-1939) to define and expropriate the nearly 600,000 Jews (the total for Germany in 1933. Austria from 1938 on, and Czechoslovakia in 1939) on hand in Germany during that period, than to transport and exterminate 6,000,000 during total wartime conditions (1941-1944). Not less surprising is this contradiction: after having told us (p. 177) that the intentions of National Socialism were to exterminate the Jews along this methodical plan, Mr. Raul Hilberg then tells us (pp. 257-258) that “Hitler hesitated in his policy of extermination, until he was convinced that there was no other alternative. From 1938 to 1940 he made the most extraordinary efforts to work out a vast plan of emigration.” In another place in his book (p. 256) he wants to prove to us that 1.4 million Jews were exterminated by the Einsatzgruppen, but after having used all means to prove it (reports of unit leaders, testimonies of victims who survived, etc.) he is still lacking 500,000 bodies, to come up to his total, so, coolly he adds, on his own authority, 250,000 for “omissions” and 250,000 more for “gaps in our sources.” I do not think a better example of this kind of harebrained thinking could be found.
Moreover, light has today been shed on these extermination orders which were allegedly given by Hitler, which show up every fifty or hundred pages in The Destruction of the European Jews and which bear all sorts of dates. As I have already stated, in La Terre Retrouvee (Paris) of December 15, 1960, Dr. Kubovy, Director of the World Center of Contemporary Jewish Documentation at Tel Aviv, has agreed that no extermination order by Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, Göring, or any other member of the ruling circle of the Third Reich, exists.
If we were to go into further detail, we would find that there is no end to the factual distortions of which Mr. Raul Hilberg is guilty. The following list is a sample of some of them: his presentation of the so-called “Crystal Night” (November 9 and 10, 1938) as having been planned by the high authorities of the Third Reich through the citation of telegrams (all dated November 10, 1938) from minor officials within the ranks of the police and the N.S.D.A.P. (pp. 19 and 655); the Einsatzgruppen which he shows as having been in action in Poland in 1939 when such units were not created until May 1941 (see, the testimony of Ohlendorf, N.M.T. IV, p. 322); his interpretation of the German expression “Judenfrei” to mean to be “free of Jews” by means of “extermination” when, in reality, the term was applied to a given territory to mean that it was to be “free of Jews” by their transfer into concentration camps or other areas; his distortions of such documents as the “Wannsee Protocol” in which he translates the expression “weitere Losungsmoglichkeit” (meaning, “new solution possibility") as further solution possibility (p. 264); his statistical errors where he has some Jews die twice, like the ones at Simferopol, where the city was “freed of the 10,000 Jews who were living there in December 1941, so that the army could have a quiet Christmas” (p.192) and who then were “exterminated in February 1942” (p. 245); his failure to deduct from the total of the exterminated all of those Jews of whom he says (p. 192) that “on the road from Smolensk to Moscow [and] … in many towns, the Soviets had evacuated the entire Jewish population” (to behind the Urals from which on their own they proceeded on their way to HongKong, or southward to Turkey and the Middle East); the 10,000 Jews of Chemigov who numbered only 300 when the Germans arrived (ibid.), the 100,000 of Dniepropetrovsk who were only 30,000 (ibid.), those of Mariupol and Taganrog who were evacuated to a man by the Soviets (ibid.); there appear to be 1,500,000 Jews in all (p. 190) who seem not to have been deducted from the general statistics of total Jewish losses, because otherwise it would not be possible to arrive at a total of 5,407,500 (P. 670) or even of 5,100,000 (P. 767); his crude errors in figuring such as: 3,350,000 Jews given as living in Poland in 1939 (p. 670), 3,000,000 dead in 1945 (p. 767) but only 50,000 survivors (p. 670), etc.
Of what use is it to continue? I think that I have given a good enough idea of the doctrine and of the method of Mr. Raul Hilberg to convince the reader that he cannot regard The Destruction of the European Jews to be an objective piece of scholarship. Now, the time has come to examine Mr. Hilberg’s source materials: his witnesses, his testimonies, and his documents.