The Holocaust Historiography Project

A Grave Error by Robert Fisk on the Subject of Victor Klemperer's Diary

6 April 2006

Robert Fisk is the journalist of The Independent (London) who has made rather a name for himself with his many reports on the current situation of the Palestinians, whom he bravely describes as victims of their country's invasion and occupation by the Jewish Army. His courage has earned him enemies. Is it in order to disarm those enemies that, from time to time, he stridently takes up the cause of the religion of the "Jewish Holocaust" and heads off to war against the revisionists?

Just recently, on April 1, he wrote an article entitled "A lesson from the Holocaust for us all. This account fills one with rage that anyone could deny the reality of the Jewish genocide" (Independent, p. 35).

The "account" in question is the book compiled from the testimony of the German Jew Victor Klemperer on the period from 1933 to 1945. V. Klemperer (1881-1960) was the cousin of orchestral conductor Otto Klemperer. He lived in Dresden until the atrocious bombing raids of February 1945, and then in Western Germany. After the war, he went back to Dresden where he resumed his teaching of Romance languages and enrolled in the Communist Party, perhaps out of opportunism or necessity. As far as political convictions were concerned, he, like many Jews of his time, rejected Zionism and held Hitler to be a promoter of that Jewish ideology. What has been published of his 5,000 pages of diary, with, unhappily, many cuts, is gripping. Actually, his testimony is a black mark on those who assiduously tend the "Holocaust" myth.

Robert Fisk portrays V. Klemperer as an "infinitely heroic" man up, against the cruelty of the Dresden Gestapo. However, V. Klemperer never showed any heroism. If, in 1941, he spent 192 hours in a cell at Dresden police headquarters, it was merely for failure to respect the blackout ordered by the civil defense authorities! Besides, according to his own words, the personnel there showed themselves on the whole to be kind, polite and good-humored and, when the prisoner complained of being bored, he was supplied with pencil and paper as requested. On returning to his rooms at the "Jews House" of Dresden, he was, he wrote, "feted a little as a kind of martyr". Till the end the National Socialist State kept on disbursing his university professor's pension. Fisk evokes his hero's "compassion," in a certain set of circumstances, for three German soldiers lost in a forest towards the very end of the war. However, if there are aspects of his diary that the reader will find striking, these are, on the contrary, V. Klemperer's egocentrism, Judeocentrism, callousness at times, his desire for vengeance against the Jews' enemies and his disgust at seeing the German people decidedly set to go on fighting to the end, even after the bombing of Dresden. Nonetheless he is indeed obliged to admit that, on the whole, the German population showed a capacity for consideration towards the wearer of the yellow star, on many occasions with the most touching thoughtfulness. To such a degree that his memoirs, published in German in 1995, English in 1998 and French in 2000, bluntly refute the argument maintained by American author Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in his Hitler's Willing Executioners. Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996), which aims to confirm the German people's intrinsically perverse and anti-Jewish character. Even Martin Chalmers, who prefaced the Klemperer book's English edition, took it upon himself to make that remark. Klemperer wrote: "There is no doubt that the people feel the persecution of the Jews to be a sin" ("Fraglos empfindet das Volk die Judenverfolgung als Sünde," note of October 4, 1941). He related an abundance of anecdotes or "real little facts" along the same lines, all in the everyday life of a Jew in the midst of Hitler's Germany.

As regards the "Jewish genocide," Fisk offers us the "Six Million murdered Jews" as an established truth. On the subject of Auschwitz, he specifies that Klemperer had heard about it "as early as March 1942, although he did not realize the scale of the mass murders there until the closing months of the war". In reality, Klemperer, like many others, had taken note of rumors about Auschwitz at various times during the war but it was only after the end of the conflict and under the Soviet occupation that a certain "Doctor Kussy" was to tell him "appalling things about Auschwitz" and, notably, the gassing of "all those without strength" and of "all wearers of eyeglasses" (note of September 24, 1945; the English version goes no further than June 1945). Concerning "gassings," Klemperer had, during the war, noted only the following remark: "People have long been saying that many of the evacuees don't even arrive in Poland alive. They were being gassed in cattle trucks during the journey, and the truck then stopped on the line by an already-dug mass grave" (note of February 27, 1943), a piece of "information" that was only one amidst so many other inventions of the war propaganda coming from anti-German quarters.

No revisionist disputes the fact that many hardships were inflicted on the Jews by National Socialist Germany and her allies. Those hardships grew heavier as the conflict itself grew heavier. But since "to judge is to compare," it is important to compare the measures taken against the Jews with those that the Allies, during and after the war, inflicted on their opponents, their prisoners, on the defeated populations, on the minorities that they deemed hostile or dangerous. From this point of view, the assessment remains to be drawn. In any case, the V. Klemperer's lot was enviable when seen against what tens of millions of civilians and soldiers of both sides had to endure, at least from 1939 to 1950.

Robert Fisk has wanted to show us his faith in "the Holocaust" and, for that purpose, has chosen to invoke the testimony of Victor Klemperer. In doing so, he has committed a grave historical error, for the diary kept by the German Jew V. Klemperer throughout the entire Nazi period proves most plainly that the Third Reich never followed a policy of extermination of the Jews. The National Socialists treated the Jews first as an undesirable minority, then as a hostile and dangerous group in wartime. They planned a "territorial final solution of the Jewish question." They never stopped offering to hand over all of their own Jews to the Allies. With the coming of war, they took a great number of police, surveillance, prohibition or confiscation measures. They put many Jews to forced labour. They deported others and interned them in concentration camps. Still other Jews were, in a way, treated like prisoners on probation. Such was the case of V. Klemperer, who was free to move about, in and around Dresden, amidst the German population, but only within the strict conditions decreed by the regulations in force.

In Los Angeles in 2002, at a conference of the Institute for Historical Review, I had the occasion to give a talk on the proceedings and punishment carried out by the authorities of the Third Reich, particularly the military ones, in the cases of crimes committed against Jews. During that talk, I brought up, in passing, V. Klemperer's diary. Upon getting wind of the matter, R. Fisk strongly protested against what seemed to him an invention on my part and I recall having had to substantiate what I had said. Today, I note that he wants to show us that he has read V. Klemperer's diary. I am afraid he may have gone over it hastily and suggest therefore that he reread closely the whole of the work, either in its German version in eight little volumes (Berlin, Aufbau Taschenbuch, 1999), or in its English version in two big volumes and 1,120 pages (London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson Paperback, 1998). He will thus learn much about the myth of the "Holocaust" and be better informed about the revisionists, including President Ahmadinejad, whom he sharply — and altogether wrongly — attacks in his article.

Just for the period from September 12, 1931 to July 17, 1945, the typed manuscript of notes taken by Victor Klemperer amounts to 5,000 pages, according to the Sächsischer Landtag Bibliothek (Library of the Land Parliament of Saxony) in Dresden.

German edition: Tagebücher, herausgegeben von Walter Nowojski unter Mitarbeit von Hadwig Klemperer, Berlin, Aufbau-Verlag, 1995. Edition consulted: that published in 8 paperback volumes (1,800 pages) by ATV, 1999, covering the period from June 14, 1933 to June 10, 1945.

English edition: A Diary of the Nazi Years, translated by Martin Chalmers, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London & Random House, New York, 1998. Edition consulted: that published in 2 volumes (1,120 pages in small print), by The Modern Library, New York, 1999, covering the same period as the German edition.

French edition: Journal, translated by Ghislain Riccardi, Paris, Seuil, 2000. In two volumes (1,851 pages) covering the same period as the aforementioned editions as well as that from June 17 to December 31, 1945, and containing, in an appendix, a letter dated January 6, 1947. Translated by Michèle Küntz-Tailleur and Jean Tailleur, this supplement is interesting for the light that it throws both on the period in question and on the author.