The Holocaust Historiography Project

Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski and the ‘Holocaust’

by Mark Weber

During the Second World War, Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski was an SS Obergruppenführer, Higher SS and Police Chief for the center section of the Eastern front, and Chief of the Anti-Partisan Units.

He testified for the prosecution at the postwar Nuremberg Tribunal as part of a deal struck with the Allied authorities. Probably the most devastating part of his testimony dealt with the activities of the Einsatzgruppen.

In 1951 he was sentenced to ten years' arrest by a Munich denazification court. In 1952 he publicly denounced himself as a mass murderer. In February 1961 he was sentenced by a Nuremberg court to four and a half years' imprisonment for a 1934 murder. At that 1961 trial he declared: “I am still an absolute Hitler man.” (New York Times, 21 March 1972, p. 44.) In August 1962 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1933 murders of some communists. (New York Times, 4 August 1962, p. 4.)

On 24 July 1964, Bach-Zelewski reportedly testified at the trial of SS Obergruppenführer Karl Wolff that “Hitler knew nothing of the mass destruction of the Jews” and that “the entire thing began with Himmler.” (David Irving, Hitler’s War, p. 946, note for pp. 428-429, Viking two-volume ed.)

Bach-Zelewski died in a suburban Munich hospital on 8 March 1972, but his death was not publicly announced until 20 March. Newspaper reports of his passing appeared in the editions of 21 March. Die Welt, the Frankfurter Allgemeine, and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung each carried the same, short Associated Press dispatch. The Times of London report was also very short. The New York Times published a much more complete obituary. (21 March 1972, pp. 44, col. 1.) The Washington Post and the Washington Star reported nothing.

In the book The Myth of the Six Million, the author (David L. Hoggan, as “Anonymous") states on page 80 that: “Bach-Zelewski in April, 1959, publicly repudiated his Nuremberg testimony before a West German court, and he admitted with great courage that his earlier statements, which had no foundation in fact, had been made for reasons of expediency and survival.”

Despite extensive searching in numerous daily newspapers and periodicals, I have not been able to find any confirmation of Hoggan’s statement that Bach-Zelewski repudiated his Nuremberg testimony. It would be very useful to find confirmation in a reputable publication of this alleged repudiation.