On Contemporary History and Historiography
- Remarks Delivered at the 1983 International Revisionist Conference.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is my first public speaking engagement in America except, I think, for an after-luncheon speech in Kansas to a Kansas City ladies guild of some kind. This, I think, is because of language problems. I am a master of many languages but the American tongue is one that eludes me. I realized that this was going to be a problem many years ago when my elder brother came to the United States long before the rest of our family. He came here as a stoker, what you would call an engineer, in the Queen Mary, which is that battleship parked some way down the coast here, which was still afloat; he came over as a stoker and he came back to London and regaled our family with the stories of how he immigrated into the United States. It was still Ellis Island in those days, and the man in front of him in the immigration line was asked by the immigration officer what his profession was, and this Englishman answered and said “I'm a clock” and the immigration officer said “You're a what?” and he said “I' m a clock” and the immigration officer said “You're a what?” and this Englishman repeated “I'm a clock” and the immigration officer said “What do you mean, you're a clock, you go tick, tock, tick, tock?” The Englishman, of course, was a clerk.
Let me go one stage further and explain the kind of problems we have with words, not just with pronunciation. In the National Archives in Washington, which is my second home, I do a great deal of work and have many friends there one of the department heads is a Dr. Wolfe, and I had lunch with him one day and he brought out his wallet and showed me a photograph of his wife and children. Now, I said to him: “Is that Mrs. Wolfe?” and he said “Yes” and I said “She looks very homely.” He said “She looks what?” and I said “She looks very homely indeed, your wife,” and he said, “Did you say homely?” and I said, “Yes, she looks extremely homely, your wife, I mean, one of the most homely women I've seen all week,” and I went through various progressions from one of the most homely women to an exceptionally homely woman to a woman who is so homely that…until gradually the penny dropped and I realized that in America “homely” means something different. It is not a compliment.
Now this has a bearing on the books I write. I end up writing books that are presented in a kind of Mid-Atlantic English. For example, in my book Hitler’s War, there’s one dramatic episode after the attack on Hitler’s life where he sits on the edge of his bed, after the bomb attempt on his life, and feels his pulse. He’s very proud of it, because his pulse is still only ticking away at 72. I describe this about Adolf Hitler sitting on the edge of his bed, in his shirt sleeves and braces,…and you've got it. The editor, Stan Hockman, a very distinguished American Jewish editor who said he had nightmares editing my book afterwards, cut out Hitler sitting on the edge of the bed in his shirt sleeves and braces and made it “Hitler sitting on the edge of his bed in his shirt sleeves and suspenders.” But in England suspenders are what women hold up their stockings with, you see, so the idea of Hitler sitting on the edge of his bed wearing a garter belt (I think that is what you call it) is, well…Once again this book fell to the dictatorship of the editor’s knife!
Again, with Ribbentrop: Ribbentrop, I said, had a skeleton in the cupboard. The editor changed it to: Ribbentrop had a skeleton in the closet. Now in England a closet is what you call a john or a bathroom, and the idea of a skeleton in the john, well, that also went out. So, bit by bit, the book was emaciated. The problems of writing in the English language.
I'm sometimes questioned as to why it is that my books always seem to arouse controversy. Private Eye, which is a rather scurrilous but deeply revered magazine in England, a lithograph magazine with a circulation of about a quarter of a million (though still managing to maintain a kind of schoolboy look), ran a big expose of me a couple of years ago in which they suggested that my books are 95% true with 5% consisting of such abominable lies that no one can disprove them.
Now, that is not the secret. But to explain the secret of my success, and I am still successful, let me tell a parable. I had dinner a few weeks ago with a member of the English aristocracy Lady Stutterheim, we'll call her. We had dinner and after a while the door opened and a pig came trotting in or rather limping in, as it had a wooden leg. A pig with a wooden leg. I looked at this pig with a wooden leg and I said “It’s got a wooden leg,” and she said, “Oh, you mean Fido,” and I said, “Never mind the name, it’s a pig with a wooden leg, how do you explain that?” She said, “Well, if you've got a minute, what happened was this. A couple of years ago my husband and I went out for a drive and we went out in the Land Rover and hit this icy patch and the car skidded, the Land Rover landed on its roof, the doors were buckled in, we couldn’t get out, and this pig came trotting 'round with its nose and pressed the button, opened the door and we were able to get out. Saved our lives, the pig has. “What about the wooden leg?” I repeated. She said, “Wait a minute, Mr. Irving, wait a minute. A year later, in this very house, a room caught fire. I was absolutely petrified, the room caught fire, I couldn’t get out, all the windows jammed, door locked, then the pig came 'round to the outside and with his snout, lifted the window, and I was able to get out through the window. Saved my life, first my husband’s life, then my life.”
So I said, “Lady Stutterheim, you haven’t explained to me the wooden leg.” And she said, “Mr. Irving, I thought I had made it perfectly plain: if you have a pig as valuable as that you don’t eat it all at once!” Now, there may be some people to whom the idea of eating pork is offensive. If so, I deeply apologize. The moral of this story is that I have at home, rather like the case of that pig, a filing cabinet full of documents which I don’t issue all at once. I keep them; I issue them a bit at a time. When I think my name hasn’t been in the newspapers for several weeks, well, then I ring them up and I phone them and I say: “What about this one, then?” And that poor old pig has to go limping on two legs. So this is the secret of my success. They aren’t lies, what I publish: they are true, at any rate the truth as I perceive it. And thereby hangs a tale, of course, because what is the truth? Even the most erudite and hard-working historian is never going to obtain one hundred percent truth; he is only going to approximate it, and what militates against that approximation is your desire for the truth, your financial circumstances and above all, whether you've got a publisher who’s prepared to publish the truth once you've found it out. Now, I spend a great deal of time and a great deal of money doing research all 'round the world, particularly over here in the United States. I tend to pick subjects which give me a chance to come to California, go up to Stanford, work in the archives of the United States as often as I can. I rather like this country and I think it’s a great shame, a great scandal, that we lost it.
In the course of my researches, and because I spread my net very widely with the material that the other historians don’t get, I do sometimes come up with material that’s a fake, and I'm unhappy about it. Sometimes I get the suspicion that people are deliberately putting fakes in front of me in the hope eventually of tripping me up. There is one gentleman here in California who fed to me three years ago a document which I think is without doubt a fake. A document with which, I think, he hoped I was going to rush into print. It was a document from Himmler to the chief of the concentration camps, Oswald Pohl, dated the 23rd of October, 1943, which tended to suggest that my theory was correct. Himmler ostensibly writing to Pohl saying: We mustn’t let Martin Bormann come near our concentration camp at Oranienburg because as you know the Degausser operation is running there that’s the German gold and silver company and as you know, Martin Bormann is very close to the Führer and the Führer has no idea of the way we're interpreting the Final Solution.
My immediate instinct when I first heard of this document was: Eureka! My secondary instinct was still Eureka!, I've got to admit. The tertiary instinct was then to say: this is too good to be true, let’s have a look at it. I eventually persuaded the gentleman to let me have a copy of the document which he said was very difficult because the Himmler signature on it was in green crayon. You've got to realize that Ribbentrop, Himmler, and a number of other senior Nazi officials did write their signatures in green crayon, they had various typical characteristics, and so, in fact, this suggested to me that it might be a genuine document. But then when I saw the document I knew it had to be fake. There were too many typing errors in it, spelling errors in German and, above all, the crucial clincher was the date on it. On all the Himmler documents which I had meanwhile assembled in the interim, from the archives of the same week or two of October 1943, you could actually do a typewriter comparison, and on all the Himmler documents the date was always written like this the year and the month were typed in, and the date, the 23rd in this case, would be written in, in ink by Himmler himself. On the document the gentleman gave me, the whole thing was typed in; it was also the wrong size paper, and the heading was wrong, and so on.
So for some reason that document was a fake, and was fed to me by this man in California. I suspect that possibly he’s not a million miles away from our friends at the ADL, the Anti-Defamation League, the people who go around defaming the Antis, which include people like me. I may be wrong, but after a time you realize that you've nearly come a cropper. My instinct initially was immediately to publish the document as gloating, triumph ant proof that I was right. Fortunately I didn’t; the odd thing is that the background information the man gave me about how the document came into his possession was all true: I checked it out. He said the document had been de-accessioned by a crooked archivist at West Point; it was one of a batch of documents that had been removed from the files at Nuremberg, he said, because it didn’t fit in with the Allied case and instead of destroying this batch of documents the archivists at Nuremberg had then shipped the stuff back to America, and it had ended up at West Point in New York State, the military academy. And an archivist there, a crook, had de-accessioned it (in the language of the document collectors and autograph hunters), and taken it to the autograph-hunting fraternity here in the United States. So I checked up with General Goodpaster, who at the time was commandant of West Point, and he said: Yes, it was true, as your man says, there was an archivist here at West Point who, as your man said, did commit suicide when he was caught stealing documents from the archives. So that part of the story is all true.
I've got in my filing cabinet at home not only collections of genuine documents but a large number of fake documents. Some of you may have seen me in April or May of this year, the time of the Hitler diaries scandal, when these Hitler diaries were first offered to the market by a large number of gullible newspapers: in England, the Sunday Times; Germany’s Der Stern; and some in the United States as well, all these rich and powerful publishing houses. Now I, because of my researching back in October of last year, managed to get hold of about 800 pages of various of those Hitler documents from the same source, I was convinced, as had provided the Hitler diaries to Der Stern. I brought along a few pages with me today to show you, that you may see how clumsy the forgeries are. This is a page of the apparent diary of Adolf Hitler, in his handwriting, signed at the bottom and dated 3rd of June 1935. Of course this made my mouth water when I first saw it, because your initial instinct is to believe it must be genuine, you want it to be genuine, because you've got it I mean, believe me, ladies and gentlemen, all human greed is there when you get documents like this in your hands and you want it to be genuine and all your instincts cry out for it not to be a fake. But then when you start reading the documents a third or fourth time, as I did, well … I first rushed them back to England, of course,and I contacted my publisher, Macmillan's, a very famous publishing house, and I said: I've got these Hitler documents and we're going to do a deal this morning; I'll come 'round at 11:00 and we'll sign a contract. And from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. I sat at my equipment going through these documents, working out a catalog of them because I wanted to have a catalog or a general overview of the Hitler documents that I thought I'd bought, and by 11:00 a.m. I was beginning to have an uneasy feeling. I telephoned the editor at Macmillan's, and I said: Listen Alan, it’s five to eleven now, le t’s cancel today’s meeting this morning; I'll come 'round at 4:00 instead. He asked what the problem was, and I said: I won’t explain now, I'll tell you when I see you at 4:00.
I still wanted them to be genuine, wanted to find explanations. You couldn’t at this moment put your finger on the reason why these documents were probably a fake; it was just a bit too pretty. Any of you historians, ladies and gentlemen, who've worked in an archive, will know that you spend a lot of your time wading through garbage: you wade through tons and ton s of molding, crumbling, yellowing paper which is completely and totally irrelevant to any subject that you're researching, and you wonder why it’s ended up in the archives. But every now and then you come across a nugget. Perhaps one or two nuggets a day, of varying sizes. This Adolf Hitler collection which I found in Munich was all nugget. It was all big names, and having dealt with the American autograph-hunting fraternity I know that they are always interested in big names. It isn’t the historical content of a document that they like so much as the fact that it’s got to be signed by Hermann Göring, addressed to Adolf Hitler, and possibly mention Rudolf Hess in the middle somewhere. So everyone rings up a few more numbers on the till in an autograph. It was this kind of collection. That’s what didn’t quite ring true. I mean, there was a letter, for example, from Hitler to Martin Bormann mentioning not Rudolf Hess but Rudolf Höss who later on became the commandant of Auschwitz. But this was a letter dated back in 1922, ostensibly. Well, I thought: that was a strange turn-up for the book, that’s a bit of coincidence, a bit of good fortune for the autograph hunters. But by 4 o'clock that afternoon it was quite plain that the whole collection was fake. I turned up several pages, for example; the most graphic, I think the real clincher, being this one, after the bomb attempt on Hitler’s life: Hermann Göring sent out an order to all the German Armed Forces that they had in future to replace the military salute with the German salute, the “Heil Hitler!” with the raised right arm. This is a famous order which everyone knows about, from the 23rd of July 1944. Here is the actual document, signed ostensibly by Hermann Göring, by Dönitz and by Keitel. And at the heading: “Der Reichsmarshall Oberkommando der Luftwaffe. Except that the guy who printed this headed notepaper for Hermann Göring spelled his title wrong. Der Reichsmarshall if you look at it closely, you'll see that he’s left out the “ch” in the middle, in the printed heading of Hermann Göring; it should be “Reichsmarschall.” Now, I don’t know much about Hermann Göring, but I don’t think he would put up with that kind of carelessness in his headed notepaper. Of course, once you've got one spurious document in a collection, then the whole thing begins to stink of rotten fish. And you begin to go back through the collection and there, on the day of the bomb attempt on Hitler’s life, he sends a pathetic letter to Eva Braun apparently telling her that he’s OK and that he’s torn his trouser leg a bit and he’s just waiting for Martin Bormann. Here’s the letter, and I think the letter heading was probably done by a printer on Sunset Boulevard, by the look of the print style. You'll see the letterhead in there, “Adolf Hitler"; I think, yes, a Sunset Boulevard printer for one of the young ladies on the street who would have turned out a promising starlet. I think the Führer, the head of the great German Reich, would have chosen something more gothic by way of a type style.
So you get these fakes thrust at you from every side. But part of the joy of being a writer, and being an independent historian, is that you've got an open mind. Only yesterday I had the very great pleasure of listening to Dr. James J. Martin talking about Francis Neilsen, about Neilsen’s writings. The name rang a bell and I went through my papers back in the hotel, and I see that one of the things I've instructed myself to look for in the Library of Congress is a book, mentioned in a letter from Charles Douglas Home who wrote to me, oh, four years ago (that’s how long it takes to follow these things up) saying that as far as Churchill goes I'm writing a book about Winston Churchill now, that'll please you, but rather scandalize his family to hear I have just been reading some interesting comments on him in Allen Brook’s diaries which no doubt you have seen, and I imagine you have also read Neilsen’s book which a friend of mine told me about the other day. Now, Charles Douglas Home is a very respected English historian and it shows that even though that book by Neilsen on Churchill was printed by himself at his own expense and published I think in 500 or 1,000 copies, according to what Dr. Martin told us yesterday, it nevertheless begins to seep through. It’s had its impact. A friend has told this man about a book by a chap called Neilsen which apparently gives all the lowdown on Churchill; he says this friend also interested in Churchill says there’s some unexplained material about the large loans Churchill received from various financiers.
Well, that’s a particular aspect I'm following up on the life of Winston Churchill. I'm very interested to know how he financed himself in the ten years that he was in the wilderness. We're beginning to get some clues; we know that his clique was very heavily in the pay of the Czechoslovakian president, Dr. Benes. I know this because the telephone conversations concerning this ran across German territory and the Germans the Nazis, as we know, were very wicked people weren’t above listening to other people' s telephone conversations, and Adolf Hitler was so shocked to find out what Benes was doing that he had a complete set of transcripts made of the telephone conversations between Benes in Prague and Jan Masaryk, the ambassador in London. In fact, Hitler at the time of the Munich crisis made a present of all these transcripts to the British Ambassador in Berlin! And if you look in the British Public Records Office, you can actually find these transcripts there, printed on the familiar brown paper of the Forschungsamt, which was Göring’s telephone wire tapping agency. You see the brown paper and you see the initials “FA” occasionally scattered through the transcripts; you know who did it, you know what it is, you know what these are transcripts of, all the evidence is in there. You have great fun finding documents like this, you never know when first finding the documents what you've turned up. About four years ago, when I was half-way through writing the Winston Churchill project, I paid five thousand pounds, which was a large sum of money in those days (about seven, eight thousand dollars), for a set of appointment cards which Churchill kept on his desk, thinking: you never know when it will come in handy. Admittedly, I didn’t buy them from the person who offered them to me; he wanted to sell them to me but I said: They're hot aren’t they?, because obviously there’s no way these would be outside the Churchill family archives, they're Churchill’s diaries, his desk diary throughout the entire war period. And I happened to know that this young man’s father had been Churchill’s security chief and the father had obviously lifted them off Churchill’s desk or had actually stolen them at the end of the war and had taken them home. A long legal battle was fought, in fact, between the Churchill family and this young man, but the Churchill family couldn’t establish that they had title to these appointment cards. But he couldn’t sell them, they were in a kind of limbo and I wasn’t going to buy them and face them being confiscated by the Churchill family and so on. So I rented them from him; I did a renting deal — went to him rather like Avis or Hertz or Budget, and said: I'll pay you five thousand pounds to rent these cards for the duration of writing my book. I did it, and I've got beautiful photographic copies of them at home now. You never know when they're going to come in handy.
In fact, they have come in handy already once. I'm half-way through writing the Churchill manuscript now and if you will bear with me, I will tell you one episode showing how you can use a tool like this, which is absolutely dynamite, in order to illuminate the character of somebody who was as genial, jovial, friendly, upright, forthright, courageous, decent as Winston Churchill was.
The day concerned is November 14, 1940. Let us first look at the version of this day given by Martin Gilbert, the official Churchill family-appointed biographer of Winston Churchill. It is the day, namely, when Coventry is bombed, the first massive air raid of the war, conducted by the Germans against Coventry resulting in the killing of 554 Coventry civilians. Some of you may remember that about three or four years ago there was a controversy over that air raid: did Churchill know about it in advance? The answer is: yes, he did, but I will say straightaway that he didn’t know about it long enough in advance so as to be able to undertake really worthwhile countermeasures and steps. He knew about it long enough in advance to enable him to take certain personal steps, but not in order to do anything that would save the town of Coventry as such. He thought that the air raid was going to be on London that night, and hearing this, according to Martin Gilbert’s version, he hurried back to London telling his staff: It isn’t right that I should leave London, leave the metropolis, and leave the citizens of my metropolis to suffer this appalling air raid while I go to the safety of some shelter out in the countryside. Thus this brave man hurried back to London to take the medicine or so we read in the Mar tin Gilbert biography.
What is the truth? Here we turn up the appointment cards. Let us first of all go two days further back, to November 12, 1940. In the official files we find that the British Intelligence Service decoded certain Luftwaffe messages which indicate that Hermann Göring is planning the biggest air raid of the war. The entire German air force on the Western Front, two air fleets, Luftflotten II and III, are going to be thrown against a target, and in the intercepts, the decoded messages, the target is identified as Central London. One thousand eight hundred bombers, that means, are going to be thrown against Central London on a night in the very near future. They always come by full moon and, in fact, this is confirmed by the fact that this particular operation is given the code name, in the intercepts, “Moonlight Sonata.” Winston Churchill has ordered that these intercepts are to be shown to him exclusively and to very few other people. For example, he finds out that the American military attaché is getting copies of digests of these intercepts, and he is very indignant indeed and says that on no account are the Americans to be shown these intercepts. Limited to a very, very small handful of people around him, these ULTRA messages. And so Winston Churchill knows, therefore, on November 12 that in a few days' time, Göring is going to attack London, Central London, with 1,800 bombers. Full moon. Operation Moonlight Sonata. Churchill takes his appointment card, the appointment card that I've mentioned, looks at the next full moon date and sees that it is November 15. He takes his pencil and he draws a bracket beginning on the evening of November 14, the day before, all the way down to November 17, and rubs out all the appointments. He doesn’t want to be in London during those three days. So, the intercepts have done some good already. In other words, they've insured that Winston Churchill won’t be in London on those days when the 1,800 bombers come an d get him. However, the bracket starts on the evening of the 14th of November, which is the day before full moon. On that day, looking at the appointment card, we see that at 12:45 he is going to be in Westminster Abbey for the funeral of Neville Chamberlain, we see that he has a defense committee meeting, we see that at 2:45 he has an appointment with Lord Halifax, the foreign secretary, and at 3:00 he has an appointment with Clement Atlee, the leader of the British Opposition. (Atlee was a small rabbit-like figure of complete impotence, whom Winston Churchill himself categorized on one occasion as a sheep in sheep’s clothing, and on another occasion said that he was a man of immense modesty with everything to be modest about.) Atlee had this appointment with Churchill at 3:00. Now, Churchill had no reason on this morning to believe that the air raid was coming that night; he thought the air raid was going to come the following night and by that time he would be safe out in the country, in a country house of a friend of his out in Ditchely, Oxfordshire. So he goes through the morning’s appointments with relative phlegm and equanimity until at 1:00 the Air Ministry contacts him and says it looks like the air raid is going to be tonight, Prime Minister, because the Germans have already sent out the reconnaissance plane they always send out in advance of an air raid to check the weather conditions over the target. And we've monitored the radio traffic of that plane, so the air raid’s being laid on today. However, the Air Ministry follows in a message. They say: we believe the attack is going to be on Central London tonight therefore. However, a prisoner taken a few days ago has been overheard by a hidden microphone in his cell, talking of Coventry or Birmingham instead. But we think, says the Air Ministry, that the air raid is going to be on Central London tonight. We will know for certain by 3 o'clock this afternoon when the Germans switch on their blind bombing radio beams. The town at which these beams intersect is going to be the target. We will find that out at 3 o'clock this afternoon. We will tell you immediately.
Churchill goes to the funeral ceremony for Neville Chamberlain, comes back to Downing Street, has the appointments with Lord Halifax and Atlee at 2 :45 and at 3:00, and he gets into his car in a hurry at 4:00 because it’s beginning to get dark and he doesn’t want to be there when the bombers come. As he’s at the garden gate just stepping into his big Humber sedan, a secretary, John Martin (now Sir John Martin), comes running down the path and says: “Prime Minister, a message has just come.” It’s now 4 o'clock and a message from the Air Ministry in a sealed envelope is handed to Winston Churchill. He gets in the car and drives off. Martin says that as he and Churchill drove off the Prime Minister read the message. By the time he reached Hyde Park he knocked on the glass partition and told the driver to stop, turn around, go back to Downing Street. As he gets out at No. 10 Downing Street he turns to his rather curious secretary (none of his secretaries were in on the ULTRA secret, and none knew anything about the decrypting) and says: “We have had a message, the beams are on London tonight and it would not be right for me to leave my capital and the citizens of this metropolis to suffer the raid alone.” In fact, the message that he had received told him that the raid was on Coventry and so it was safe to come back to London. And the giveaway is the appointment card, of course. Martin Gilbert, the official Churchill biographer, has concealed the fact that there are two afternoon appointments in that appointment card which kept Churchill there until the second message came, namely, the Coventry message. Gilbert has tried to pretend that the one that Churchill got in the car was the first message, saying that we still think the raid is going to be on London tonight but we'll know at 3 o'clock, when they switch on the beams. Gilbert might say to me, “Mr. Irving, the fact that there are two appointments written down on the appointment card, the 2:45 an d 3:00, doesn’t mean to say that Churchill actually attended those appointments.” But even there I've got him because I've got the private diary of Hugh Dalton, who was Minister of Economic Warfare and who on that afternoon had a long conversation with Lord Halifax which begins with Halifax saying “I've just had a very tedious hour long session with the Prime Minister.” So that’s the absolute giveaway, and Martin Gilbert, who is of a certain persuasion, Martin Gilbert, who is funded by the Jaffa Foundation to write the Churchill biography, now has to explain to us, the radical cranky historians, why it is that he gives the alternative version and why he deliberately suppresses the fact that Churchill had two afternoon appointments. Because it makes the difference between an act of great heroism by Winston Churchill in deliberately returning to the city which he knows is going to be attacked by 1,800 bombers that night, or an act of supreme hypocrisy, of simulated heroism in the eyes of his junior staff when he says it wouldn’t be right for me to leave. In fact, Churchill goes even further that night. His private secretary John Colville writes that that evening he went up on to the roof of the Air Ministry to wait for the oncoming bombers: he wanted to see the raid begin. What a hypocrite. This is no surprise for us, ladies and gentlemen, but it’s a surprise for the world at large, I think.
You never know what you are going to find out, that’s the lesson; you never know what you're going to find out when you buy such important documents as a table top desk calendar of Winston Churchill. I've been writing a Winston Churchill biography now for several years, but I'm not going to deal with that any more in this part of the talk. I just wanted to give a hint of the goodies that are to come when that book is finally published. I still have very worthwhile publishers in the world to publish that book, but I ought to emphasize the fact that I am beginning to come under fire; the fact that the ADL has now seen fit to put out this defamatory leaflet attacking me (and who knows whom it’s going to) means that the boycott is beginning to start on my person. But the Winston Churchill book is going to be published in this country by Doubleday, and in England by Macmillan, and will be published all round the world by very, very notable publishers. In each case you have to cross your fingers and hope that you've got an editor who still has the courage to publish what you have satisfied him is true.
You see, even on the Adolf Hitler biography I took a very independent line, a line which had my agent Max Becker very alarmed when I published that book. He said: You realize you are going to lose a lot of money by claiming that Adolf Hitler didn’t know what was going on, in short, that Adolf Hitler didn’t know about Auschwitz and so on. He said, well, the first thing is that you're going to lose the Book-of-the-Month Club, the Readers Digest, the Sunday Times in England is going to cancel, you'll lose the Military History Club, and so on. And he was right: all the way down the line, we lost every single one of those contracts, every single one of those publishers canceled the deal. So when people come to me and say: “David Irving, you write controversial books in order to make money,” they are talking from sheer ignorance. They don’t realize that in fact by writing a book like that, in taking a dedicated line which you yourself believe in and which in fact has not been disproved in all the years since that book was published, you are losing not just tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands of dollars. It hurt me a great deal and it hurt my agent, Max Becker, one-tenth as much.
You see, I took this controversial line that Adolf Hitler was a man of a certain amount of intellectual honesty. I remember arguing this point at a debate in Dublin University a few years ago and when the students rather howled me down and said: How can you call that man honest?, I read to them this passage out of the private diary of one of his staff, Walther Hewel. Hewel was the diplomatic liaison officer attached to Hitler’s staff b y Ribbentrop, which meant that he traveled around with Hitler. He had known Hitler as a student and, in fact, he committed suicide with Hitler on the same day and in the same fashion. There was that kind of bond between the two men. (I got this diary of Hewel from Hewel’s widow, in fact. I had to break it to the widow that she was a widow; she had at that time no final confirmation that her husband was dead, and I had to tell her that I knew the whole story.) Right at the end, on the 2nd of June, 1941, Walther Hewel writes down (I'll translate it here): “The Führer says this evening: As a private man I would never break my word, as a politician for Germany, if necessary, I'd do it a thousand times.” Honesty. Hitler tells his staff that he’s prepared to break his word if it’s necessary for Germany’s sake. All politicians do that, all statesmen do that, all statesmen lie when they have to for the sake of their country, right or wrong, their country. Hitler had the intellectual honesty to admit it quite frankly to his staff, and it was this kind of line in my book Hitler’s War which I think upset a lot of critics. Before I get on to the subject of the general outline of the Hitler biography which I wrote and which is a major part of my life (it took 15 years to write), I ought to explain that I'm always running into problems with my critics of a certain persuasion. It’s not a battle of my choosing. I am not anti-Jewish, I am not anti-Semitic. I have employed Jewish staff: my lawyer, my attorney in London for the last 26 years has been the firm of Michael Rubinstein; they've lost every case they've fought for me but I've still stood loyal to them. I should add straight away and I ought to tell the ADL that in this country, of course, your laws of libel are very lax and people can say what they like about other people. That may or may not be right; I'm not sure. In England and in Germany the laws of libel are much stricter: you can’t go 'round defaming people, and get away with it, just because they happen to be on the public stage. In Germany we have several libel actions running now against people who've said precisely the same things as the ADL has said in its report about me; one case is against a Communist who’s been handing out leaflets attacking me in Germany. (That’s now gone to the Court of Appeal and he’s going to lose because the Court of Appeal Judge already indicated which way he’s going to find.) It’s just unfortunate that in this country you cannot proceed against well-funded, well-organized smear campaigns of the kind that we've seen there, particularly when they are concealed smear campaigns. I don’t know who that ADL report has gone to. I can only suspect. I can suspect from the facts above all in the case of my book on the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Uprising,which was to be published in many countries around the world. It was published in England by Hodder and Stoughton, a very respectable and old company, was going to be published in the United States by Putnam's, was published in Germany and in Italy and France and many other countries. In the United States two weeks before publication date, Putnam’s canceled the contract. They gave no explanation, they just quite simply swallowed the losses that they had sustained, and Peter Israel, the managing director of Putnam's, telephoned me to say that the deal was off: they weren’t going to publish. Now we don’t know what kind of pressure, if any, was put on Putnam's. It is something very close to a boycott, and I think that any organization that starts a boycott has to watch its onions. Because the knife can very rapidly turn. A boycott is the cruelest and most dishonest weapon to use. The Nazis used it against the Jews in the 1930s and if the Jews now start themselves, through the ADL or Anti-Defamation League, to try to use the same weapon against historians like myself who are only interested in establishing the truth, I think they will long live to regret it. This book, on Hungary, is an attempt to fill a gap, as I perceived it. I considered when I was writing it, ten years ago, that there had been no proper investigation of the anti-Communist uprising of 1956 in Soviet-occupied Hungary. There had been a number of lurid newspaper articles; it was probably the first historical event that I myself remember living through (I was at the university at the time) and it was immediately masked of course by the fact that we British in connivance and conspiracy with the Israelis and the French attacked Egypt and the Suez Canal. This indeed masked the tragedy of Hungary effectively from the world’s view.
In writing this book, I was able to obtain a lot of assistance and a lot of access to not only British and American records but also records behind the Iron Curtain. I think if the ADL wants to suggest that I'm kind of a Nazi or Fascist sympathizer, they had better reflect on this: Is it likely that the KGB would have allowed me into Moscow and is it likely that the successors of the Hungarian Secret Police would have allowed me into Budapest as often as they did when I was researching this book, if they thought that the names attached to me by the ADL in its report were even remotely true? Because we have seen, haven’t we, the way the Soviets now operate against people they regard as inimical to their cause. I flew into Moscow when I was researching this book; the chairman of the John Birch Society had only to fly 100 miles away from the Soviet shores and they shot down his plane. And, by the way, I'm convinced myself that that is the reason why that particular plane was shot down. I dare go further: I suggest that there’s a very close link between that operation and the operation when the Korean airliner was shot down near Leningrad in 1978. (In fact, it was two days after I flew into Moscow myself.) I think that the Russians have found some way of manipulating the beams of radio navigation devices so that they can lure planes over their air space. We did exactly the same with the German bombers in 1940. The German bombers had their blind bombing beams I was just talking about the Coventry episode and in order to prevent cities like Coventry being attacked in future, we found ways of bending the German beams so that the Germans thought they were bombing Birmingham but in fact they were dropping their bombs in the open sea. And I am convinced that the Russians have found precisely the same mean s of doing things with the navigation systems employed by the airline systems. I think they shot down that plane on purpose and I think it was probably because they knew MacDonald was on the plane. We don’t have to foster illusions among ourselves, ladies and gentlemen; we are on the right side of the fence, we know what kind of people we are dealing with over there, and I was investigating that in my book Uprising, on which I spent so much of my time.
I questioned many hundreds of Hungarians, I got access to the interrogation records of the Hungarians who escaped, interrogations conducted by the CIA, and by psychiatrists operating for the CIA, and by the Oral History Project of Columbia University, in New York. Altogether, I suppose I have read through the contemporary questionings of perhaps 2,000 Hungarians, conducted by people who are far more expert at questioning than I. And it was the conclusion of these questioners that upset my critics. Because the conclusion of these questioners was that the uprising of 1956 in Hungary was primarily an anti-Jewish uprising. The Hungarians are anti-Jewish, they are a race in which anti-Semitism goes back almost as far as the nation of Hungary itself, 1,000 years. You go to Hungary now and you talk to the Hungarians and within half an hour they are telling you anti-Jewish jokes, although they have very few Jews left there to be anti-Jewish about. They are an anti-Jewish race compared with whom the Nazis are as pure as the driven snow.
At the end of the Second World War, when the Red Army marched back into Hungary, all the Jewish émigrés who had sought refuge in Moscow were brought back on the Russian tanks, so to speak, and installed in positions of power some of them with and some of them without the party card. I mention here four names, the names of Revai, who is the Dr. Goebbels of the post war Hungarian era (he was the propaganda minister I suppose that is the best way you could describe him, a very clever man, very brilliant, vicious); Farkas (his name means “wolf"; he subsequently became Minister of Defense, and was a very cruel man on whose hands lie the blood of many innocent Hungarians); Rakosi the dictator (a man with a head like a bald potato, a man hideously ugly who had married a Mongolian ballet dancer from Central Siberia, I think), and finally Gero, a man who died only a year and a half ago, I think, in Hungary, and who by that time had fallen into such disgrace that he was afforded only three lines of an obituary, although at one time he had been the most powerful man in Hungary, the first secretary of the party. This Jewish camarilla, this four-headed monster which descended on the Hungarian people, bore down on them from Moscow, had been in Moscow throughout the war years and was imposed upon them as the post war government, obtaining power by quite illegal and undemocratic means, and exercising that power with brutality and ruthlessness. Its primary executive arm was the secret police, initially called the Allamvedelmi Osztaly (AVO), the State Security Office, and subsequently the ABH. Now it is necessary to know that the officer corps of that secret police was almost entirely Jewish and from the Russian point of view you can understand this. They needed people on whom they could rely 100% to be their officer corps, their secret police.
I'm trying to explain to you why this book is anathema to the critics. In England it was greeted with great respect and reverence and a certain amount of shock. The things I brought out in the book were not my opinions; I had no idea that this was going to emerge from the research. These were the opinions of the interrogators appointed by the CIA, and of the psychiatrists appointed by Rutgers University, some of whom are still operating at Rutgers, and of the Oral History Project at Columbia University. When they came to write their summaries, they concluded that nearly all the refugees they had questioned were motivated by a hideous anti-Jewish malice and spite. They made anti-Jewish remarks throughout the interrogations. The Government that they had been trying to topple was perceived by the Hungarian people as being Jewish, before it was perceived as being Bolshevik. What happened in 1956 had the closest possible analogy to a pogrom. And I had to spell this out in fact, because at the beginning of the book, at the request of the English publishers, I included a listing of all the personalities of any importance to follow in the pages of the book and, at the request of the publishers, I also identified which ones were Jewish and which ones were Calvinist and which ones were Catholic, and so on. Because this is an important factor, not in my eyes, the eyes of David Irving the writer, but in the eyes of the rebellious mass of ten million Hungarians. The population regarded their own regime in that light.
So the revolution took place. The secret police, the AVO and the ABH, who were perceived by the people as being largely Jewish officers (although the other ranks of the secret police were nearly all recruits from the regular forces in Hungary), were regarded and alleged to be using the most incredible torture machinery. On the one hand, some of these allegations were true: they were using concentration camps with great brutality. I need only mention the stone quarry at Recsk as an example; there’s a whole chapter about it in this book. On the other hand, some of the allegations which were attached to these secret police were almost certainly without any kind of foundation allegations, for example, that in the secret police headquarters in the center of Budapest on the banks of the River Danube there was a dungeon with a large meat-mincing machine into which the bodies were placed and minced and then the garbage thrown into the river. I only mention this because that particular meat-mincing machine of the secret police is referred to in about five or ten interrogation reports. It does show the extent to which even the most absurd stories can rapidly gain credence among an oppressed population. They were prepared to believe even the most absurd stories. So that is one lesson that one could draw from that particular story.
It wasn’t an economic revolution, I found out. People wanted to believe that the Hungarians were seeking freedom. They weren’t seeking freedom. People wanted to believe that the Hungarians were seeking a better economic existence in the way that one imagines they wanted also to have a refrigerator and a color television set and a better standard of living. It wasn’t that either. What the Hungarians were rebelling against in 1956 was the fact that they knew that they were in a blind alley, nearly all of them; if they didn’t have the right background they had no future. They were making an uprising in order to find a future for themselves. Let me explain to you that if you were a Hungarian and your father happened to have been an officer in any Army or any Armed Services, or happened to have been a landowner either small or large, then you were given a carda, which is a kind of party personality dossier, with an “x” on it; that “x” meant that you could never hold any kind of worthwhile job for the rest of your life. You were doomed. Doomed to be a lorry driver or truck driver, or whatever, for the rest of your life. You couldn’t have a university education, you couldn’t move into one of the higher professions; those jobs were reserved for the party officials, for the funktionarios, the flunkies of the Communist party, one million strong, and for their progeny and offspring and friends. And this kind of oppression is what engendered the revolution of 1956. The hopelessness of the average Hungarian’s situation, living 16 to a room in the middle of Budapest because of the absurdness of the socialist system which made it impossible for the profit motive to operate. If you look at the actual statistics of 1956, one quarter of the entire Hungarian population had at some time in its life been in prison, put there by the Communist party officials, usually on trumped-up charges. One of the current jokes in Hungary is that there are only three categories of Hungarians: those who have been in prison, those who are in prison, and those who are going to prison. Take as an example a builder who’s got a little building construction company which is taken over by the State; he takes two bags of cement back to himself because in future he may want to build a garden wall or something. He’s found out, and accused of stealing from the State. A complete reversion of the truth, a perversion of the truth. The State has stolen his company from him, he has retained two bags of cement which were his property, and he’s accused of stealing from the State and can think himself lucky he didn’t go before the firing squad for it. There are heroes in this story, quite unusual heroes. The hero of whom I'm particularly fond is a man who had, in fact, been part of the Armistice delegation that was sent by Admiral Horthy to Moscow in 1944. A man called Joseph Dudas. He was subsequently hanged after the uprising and his name has almost vanished into oblivion. If you go to Budapest now and you speak to the citizens and ask them what they know of Joseph Dudas, they know absolutely nothing about him. And yet he is a man who emerged from nowhere in the middle of the uprising. (I suspect that he was possibly CIA-backed, because some stories are beginning to emerge from people who knew him, which do indicate that there were connections between him and the American Embassy. I would like to think so.) Dudas emerged from nowhere when the uprising began, organized a street army, a rabble of people, marched on the Communist newspaper headquarters, the Free People building in downtown Budapest, took over the party newspaper building which is still there, evicted nearly all the staff, and used it as his revolutionary headquarters for an army which he very rapidly built. He found to his delight that the Communists' secret telephone system, the kisbugo or red K-line system, was still operating, and he thus used the Communists' own telephone network in order to obtain intelligence from all over the country about the Soviet troop movements. He built up such a vast following, and so fast, from his own newspaper which he published called Magyar Fugetlenseg (Hungarian Independence) that in no time at all his name had become a byword in Soviet-occupied Hungary. When the Russian tanks moved back in at the beginning of November 1956, he went underground but Janos Kadar, the present prime minister and first secretary of Hungary, realizing that he couldn’t get ahead without negotiating with Joseph Dudas, sent for Dudas to come and see him in the Parliament building. Like a fool, Dudas went. Kidnapped, arrested, deported, hanged. That was the future of many, many scores of the people who were involved in the Hungarian uprising.
I suppose another hero is a man who is still in Budapest now, Nicholas Vasarhelyi, who had been the press officer of Imri Nagy at the time of Imri Nagy’s first prime ministership in 1953, and then was called in by Nagy again when the uprising began. Nagy the revolutionary prime minister, this great big fat potbellied man whom the people demanded should become the new prime minister after the uprising began. I asked Nicholas Vasarhelyi, who still lives in Budapest: What had been the turning point for you in the months prior to the uprising, the point that made you decide to start becoming a revolutionary? And he said: Somebody in France sent me a copy of George Orwell’s book Animal Farm, and I began reading that and I realized I had been on the wrong side all my life.
It’s the power of the pen. George Orwell, I suppose, would also be defamed now by the ADL as being revisionist or a dissident. These are titles we don’t need to be ashamed of, I think, when we realize that a man like George Orwell wrote a book called Animal Farm and that this book inspired one man, Nicholas Vasarhelyiin Budapest, a young man with a wife and three children, to become a revolutionary and risk his life in a fight in which many of his comrades were subsequently hanged (including Imri Nagy, the prime minister himself). You realize that the power of the pen is a power that cannot be scorned.
As a small closing humorous note on perceptions in the Soviet bloc, I would mention the fact that I sent to Vasarhelyi several chapters of my book on the Hungarian uprising, and he took umbrage at my description of Imri Nagy. Now, Imri Nagy was the prime minister of Hungary who was installed by the revolutionaries into his second prime ministership. He bumbled, waffled his way around, missed the opportunity, missed the bus, went into hiding in the Yugoslavian Embassy, was tricked out of that, kidnapped by Janos Kadar, sent to exile, brought back and hanged two years later. Rather a tragic life; but it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy so you realize when you read some of his earlier speeches. He was a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist, like the rest of them, and he deserved the fate he subsequently got. And I did describe him in my book rather unpleasantly. I want readers to know that I don’t like him, that he was a rather porky figure, wearing dark three-button suits and silk shirts of a quality not often seen on representatives of the proletariat, and with a face rather like a bunch of hemorrhoids wearing a Joseph Stalin mustache.
Now, I sent that chapter of the book to Nicholas Vasarhelyi to read, with out realizing that I had not omitted those rather unpleasant words. And when I saw him in Budapest, driving up in my Rolls and parking outside his door, he said: “Mr. Irving, this description of Uncle Imri is not very nice, is it?” So I said: “What do you mean?” He says: “Here you describe him as this — 'three button silk shirts,' and here, this line here, 'a face like a bunch of hemorrhoids wearing a Joseph Stalin mustache.' It wasn’t a Stalin mustache, we would say a walrus mustache.”
And this is indicative for the present Hungarians. In particular, the Communists are completely wrapped up in their own Communist history. I think that a passage of my book which I like most is the passage where I describe how the revolution began how the people, the students, meet, pour out onto the banks of the river, across the bridges towards Parliament Square, not really knowing quite what’s going to happen. October 23rd: it was the students who started it and then the workers joined in. The intellectuals, of course, subsequently claimed that they were right out there in front, but the intellectuals, we know who they all were, are the ones who had been the editors, people of a certain persuasion, for the last four or five years of all the party newspapers and all the literary journals and so on, throughout Hungary. They were the ones who had kept the lid firmly screwed down on all the popular unrest that was swelling up over this lack of freedom, lack of a future, in their country. But now, of course, they realized that the lid was about to blow off and none of them wanted to be the actual ones to unscrew it; they wanted to be out there in the front of the revolution, so they could claim later on as in fact they subsequently did that they were in the very vanguard. We've all heard the Hungarian intellectuals claiming that they were the ones who touched off the revolution. They weren’t. It was the workers, the Hungarian workers and the Hungarian students. The workers poured out of the factories and they got the guns, handed to them by the soldiers. They grabbed the guns off the secret policemen and by 9:00 that evening, in fact, the revolutionaries had got arms and that’s the difference between what happened in Hungary then and what’s happening in Poland now. (These Poles can march and countermarch and hold their strikes and demonstrations but unless they get guns in their hands the government always has the last laugh.)
And these were the hours leading up to that moment when the rioting outside the radio building in Budapest ended up with the rioters getting demonstrations together. It was a mob, we can be quite frank about it, it was a mob that began to roam the streets in Hungary; as they came across the bridges, the people realized that they were talking to each other for the first time. The Hungarians had previously been frightened to talk rather as, yesterday, your deputy of the Institute for Historical Review mentioned how interesting it is for us all to meet here and be able to talk freely with people of the same views. These people were finding that they were meeting people in the demonstration, standing next to them and for the first time they could talk freely: nobody says it, but nobody doubts it, it’s been a 12-year nightmare but now it’s coming to an end. This regime and all that it stood for the screams, the whines from the next-door torture cells, the boulders falling from the rock face of the Recsk stone quarry, the Fraznapoch (that means the “nightmare of deportation"), the drug injections, the hallucinations of General Bielkin’s whirring lion’s tale, the Russians working at that time with hallucinogenic drug injections in prisoners, the forced Russian language lessons, the work norms, the Communist doctors too lazy to come to a child birth, the fathers teaching their children how to lie at school, the gypsy transfer gang centers, bailiffs into the peasant’s homes, the workers galloping like rats on a speeding treadmill, the raped woman treating herself with disinfectant, the body grinder (that legend), the endless queues for rotten quality [goods], the interminable drone of Marxist jargon, the class war, the Korean war, the war against the Gulags, and all the voices echoing down from the past, marking this regime and its twisted brand of Socialist legality.
And so the revolution then takes place, the uprising: they pour onto Parliament Square, October 23. Nobody knows what size of mob actually becomes a fissile mass, how big a mob has to be before it explodes; ten people standing in a square aren’t enough it’s got to be ten thousand, perhaps. This fissile, ungovernable, seething crowd is beginning to radiate a power of its own: twenty, fifty, seventy thousand, still. Still the critical mass hasn’t been reached, the dazzling explosion hasn’t occurred, nobody knows just where that point will lie. They are still waiting on Parliament Square for Imri Nagy to appear, rather like Batman who swoops down from the building to liberate them. We've no real plans, we've no definite leadership, is how one marcher describes this moment. In every little group, the leader of the movement seems to be the man with the loudest voice. We are moving, and we know one thing we can’t go home, something must happen here ; we don’t know what but we can’t go home any more.
That’s the kind of feeling that happens in the middle of an uprising. Very difficult to try and put your finger on it, but if you read enough of the interrogation reports, you get to the bottom of what causes a mass movement like that, against the Soviet occupation forces in a country like Hungary. When I came out with the truth this book was published two years ago in England it provoked a howl of outrage in England. Arthur Koestler, who’s now gone to his maker (he was one of the Hungarian émigrés to whom the Sunday Times gave this book to review), produced a half-page attack on it; other reviewers called it obsessively anti-Semitic. This is the kind of problem you have if you try to get to the root of a problem. T he root of this problem turns out to have been a nation’s own anti-Semitism, and so you are accused of being an anti-Semite for drawing attention to this fact.
Well, Arthur Koestler’s now gone to his maker. We know in fact that Arthur Koestler the Hungarian was a Communist agent for most of his life, directly controlled by Moscow. In the 1930s and 1940s he was operating in Paris under Willi Muenzenberg, the famous Communist propagandist, and I think it’s a fitting epitaph on his life that now that he’s died, it turns out in his published will that he’s left his very considerable fortune of a couple of million dollars to a University to found a chair of psychical research, research into extra-sensory phenomena. And it turns out that, in fact, in the basement of his home there was a bed fitted with all sorts of acute, precise devices for measuring the weight of the bed, and on this bed were conducted levitational experiments of some kind and the chair which he has endowed with the two million dollars is going to be a chair for carrying out investigations into thought-induced fluctuations in body weight. Arthur Koestler, so I suggested in my little magazine Focal Point, should in fact, in view of his Communist past and his association with known Communist terrorist regimes, have donated the money for investigations of rope-induced fluctuations of body weight. Perhaps that’s being a little bit too cruel.
My most recently published book was The Secret Diaries of Hitler’s Doctor. Nobody knew they existed, though I won’t say it took any great feat of research investigation to obtain them; they happened to flop under my nose one day when I was in the archives in Washington. They had just turned up from Bethesda, the National Institute of Health, where they had been misfiled, and I spent a year and a half of my life transcribing the handwritten diaries of a doctor (you can imagine how unpleasant they are to transcribe), and they turned out to be very largely concerned with Adolf Hitler’s gastrointestinal tract. I published them, that is, Macmillan published them in this country simultaneously with the appearance in Europe of those fake Hitler diaries. Of interest in our context is only the fact that an American magazine I think it was Newsday or People or Us telephoned me in London and said: “Mr. Irving, is it true that you're publishing the diaries of Hitler’s doctor?” So I said: “Yes,” and they said: “Are the Jews going to like this book?” So I said: “I don’t think so, no.” So he said: “What’s the reason for that?” and I said: “Well, they're not mentioned in it.”
It is very difficult; we cannot please them. I do my hardest to please them, ladies and gentlemen, believe me, I try very hard to please them. If you do mention them in a book they are mortally offended, if you don’t mention them in a book they are equally offended.
The biggest problem, of course and with this I come to the final part of my lecture this evening is the problem caused by the so-called Holocaust. I say so-called because it’s a phrase that they themselves started using several years ago, whereas previously “Holocaust” seemed to be more aptly applied to something like Hiroshima, or Dresden because to my mind, as a classicist, the word “Holocaust” implies somebody perishing by flames or fire. God knows, there was enough of that in the Second World War. When I wrote my now-famous book Hitler’s War, I tried to write it from behind that man’s desk. I spent a very great deal of time assembling documentation which I was certain had passed through his hands: intelligence reports, orders, documents, and so forth. At a secondary level, I had also tried to obtain the private diaries of people who had dealt with him his private secretaries, colonels, the adjutants, the people who had been on his staff, even people like Governor Hans Frank, Goebbels, Himmler, anybody like that. I spent a very great deal of time doing the research for the book. And the result was that I came up with a lot of documents that a lot of these so-called experts, on whom the ADL and other worthy establishments rely, had not found. We need only mention Lucy Dawidowicz, who has written a book on the plight of European Jewry. We see that it is quite evident from her own background work that she did for the Anti-Defamation League’s defamatory report on myself, that until my book was published, neither she nor any of her colleagues had had the slightest idea that in the archives, reposing all these years, has been a big folder containing all Heinrich Himmler’s handwritten notes of his telephone conversations.
Perhaps the key word there is handwritten. You all know how lazy historians are, and I'm as lazy as the rest of them. A lot of us, when we see something in handwriting, well, we hurriedly flip to another folder where it' s all neatly typed out. And even better, we hurriedly flip to a book where it’s neatly printed with an index at the back. In other words, we do tend to steer clear of handwritten documents. But I've trained myself to take the line of most resistance and I go for the handwriting. And I spent, I suppose, four months transcribing every single line of those Himmler handwritten documents, his notes on his telephone conversations. I've got a page of them here which I can show you, so you can see what we're talking about. He would have on the desk in front of him just a pad of paper at the top of which he would write it would either be typed or handwritten “telephone conversations.” There we are. I won’t plague you to read the handwriting but if you see the handwriting, that may give you an idea why people like Ms. Dawidowicz can’t read it — it’s Gothic handwriting. German, old German handwriting. I can read it; my secretary can’t, and she was born in Germany. At the top it says “Telefon” telephone conversation, 30 November 1941. The first line after that says “Aus” that is, from the train : Himmler’s making some telephone conversation from his train. In the left hand column, he writes the name and the time of the person he’s calling and in the right hand column he jots down a few words about the subjects that he’s talked about. General is the first one. Then in the next one d own, he’s telephoned Berlin and then here, where my finger is, the next line is “from the bunker” he’s telephoned from the Führerhauptquartier, which is Hitler’s headquarters; he’s now making a phone call from Hitler’s bunker.
13.30: Telephoned Obergruppenführer Heydrich in Prague. These four lines here on the right are the four points that he discusses with Heydrich. The first one is: “Arrest of Doktor Jakelius.” The next one is, apparently : “Son of Molotov.” The next one is: “Jewish [Juden] transport Berlin.” (Transport of Jews from Berlin.) Full stop. The final line is: “Keine liquidierung” no liquidation.
Now this, of course as some of you may know had been reproduced in my book as a photograph, creating a great furor among the other historians who had never before seen these lines. They tried to make out that this is the only evidence I have for my suggestion that if there was any kind of liquidation program going on, then Adolf Hitler didn’t know about it. Well, this is typical of the kind of methods that these people use: they set up a line of argument and then they knock it down and say: There you are, he ’s got no case.
There is a whole chain of evidence from 1938 right through to October 1943, possibly even later, indicating that Hitler was completely in the dark about anything that may have been going on. And I use these words very closely. I am sure you realize that I take a slightly different line from several people here. I would specify as follows: I would say I am satisfied in my own mind that in various locations Nazi criminals, acting probably without direct orders from above, did carry out liquidations of groups of people including Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, mentally incurable people and the rest. I am quite plain about that in my own mind. I can’t prove it, I haven’t gone into that, I haven’t investigated that particular aspect of history but from the documents I have seen, I've got the kind of gut feeling which suggests to me that that is probably accurate.
But when I was writing about Adolf Hitler, I had to look specifically about what he knew or didn’t know; that’s why documents like those phone conversations became important.
I spoke of an unbroken chain of evidence. Let’s start looking at it.
The first one is in November 1938. This evidence all goes to support my theory that probably the biggest friend the Jews had in the Third Reich, certainly when the war broke out, was Adolf Hitler. He was the one who was doing everything he could to prevent things nasty happening to them.
But he'd let the genie out of the bottle; he'd uncorked the bottle and the demon was there and he couldn’t get the genie to go back in.
The first time we see that happening is in November 1938. The Night of Broken Glass. The German diplomat Vom Rath has been assassinated by a deranged Jew in Paris; the Nazis took their revenge on the night of November 9 -10, the Night of Broken Glass. On that night Hitler is in Munich, with h is adjutants and staff. He is in his private home in Prinzregentenstrasse. One of the adjutants, his air force adjutant Von Below (who’s just died), told me: “Mr. Irving, the first thing that Hitler knew about the night of broken glass throughout the pogrom that evening was when the phone rang at 2:00 in the morning in our adjutants' apartment, which was one floor lower down beneath his apartment at Prinzregentenstrasse. The Four Seasons Hotel telephoned us adjutants and asked if we would please come to the hotel and pick up our baggage, because there was a synagogue on fire next door and they couldn’t be certain the hotel wasn’t going to get caught in the flames as well.” And, Von Below says: “I thought there was something funny going on, and I telephoned the Führer and I told him this. And he said I had to spend the rest of the night with the Führer, making the necessary telephone calls to try and stop this.”
Hitler in his apartment sent for Goebbels, the chief of the propaganda ministry who in my view is the one who touched off this particular outrage. He also sent for Himmler and through the telephone lines of the propaganda ministry network, and the Gestapo network, and the party organization, were sent out telephone calls, telegrams and telexes the whole night long trying to stop what had already started. And one example of that is this rather bad photocopy of a document I got from the American-controlled Berlin Document Center in Berlin. (It’s run by the American Embassy in Berlin some of you may have heard of it a top secret document center, which controls the records of about 15 million Nazis and is classified as top secret; historians can’t get access to it now but at the time I got it; the chief of the document center was a personal friend of mine and he used to let me go and do research there among the files.)
And this document is dated the 10th of November, 1938. It’s a directive issued on the headed notepaper of Rudolf Hess’s office, the office of the Deputy Führer. It is a directive which goes out to all the party offices throughout Germany, to all the Gauleiters, for immediate communication. Directive No. 174/38. Repetition of telegram which had already gone out 10t h of November 1938. “On express orders issued at the very highest level, there are to be no kind of acts of arson or outrages against Jewish property or the like on any account and under any circumstances whatsoever.” It ’s rather bad German, rather bad grammar in the German, but I've done a literal translation of those three lines.
Now, if the Deputy Führer issues an order on express instructions from the very highest level, this can only mean that Adolf Hitler himself has ordered that all this outrage has got to stop forthwith. I remember speaking to a mass audience of students in the University of Bonn two years ago, and they'd been a bit unruly to start with, 800 students. It was a Saturday evening that in itself is quite interesting, to see that you can pack 800 students into a university hall to come and hear you at 8:00 on a Saturday evening. On the top three ranks were all young Socialists, all waiting for a moment to start causing trouble, when I said to them: I don’t want applause but I will expect, some time in the next hour and a half that I am talking, that occasionally you will all be hushed to silence by something I tell you. And when I read this one out, that hush began. And I said: You see, I told you you would hush. And the reason you are hushing is this. You are asking why it is that I, an Englishman, come and read out a document to you forty years afterwards, about something that is deeply scarred into the German national conscience, which gives a completely different interpretation on what you've been told, and yet your own history professors haven’t told you this. There are only two explanations, I say. Either they didn’t know about this document, in which case they're not fit to be your professors of history. Or, what is far more likely, they do know about this document but they choose not to mention it. In which case they are also not fit to be your professors of history. And all the professors, of course, are lined up in the front rows right in front of me.
People then begin saying: What about Hitler when he makes his speeches? That he’s going to “ausrottung” the Jews from Europe. The trouble our dilemma, is that we have to translate. Even modern Germans don’t understand what these words meant then. And I have tried to din it into the heads of the German historians now that the word “ausrottung” did not mean then what it means now because of what the historians have been writing for the last 20 years. And they cannot get it into their heads. So I said, let me explain to you: when Hitler says in a speech, for example on the 30th of January 1939, that if international finance Jewry succeeds once again in starting a world war, then it will end with the “ausrottung” of the Jews from Europe (which I think are the words he uses), then this doesn’t mean to say that he’s saying they are going to be liquidated; it means rather that it will be the end of the Jewish influence as a closed entity. And people boo and jeer and start sniggering when I say this. And I say: All right, well, let’s take an example where we do know that Hitler used the word and we can look at the context.
I made a card index of every instance where he used that word in the 1930 s. About 15 documented instances. Look at his memorandum on the Four Year Plan of August 1936. He sits down and he dictates to his secretary, Christa Schroeder (who’s still alive, a dear old lady in Munich), a long memorandum on the Four Year Plan. Roughly saying: I want the German economy to be ready inside four years to fight a war. I mean, he takes a lot of pages saying that. And in that document is the following phrase: The Wehrmacht has got to be ready in four years to fight the Soviet Union (which is significant, because he’s only ever looking eastwards) because if the Soviet Union should ever succeed in invading and conquering Germany it will end with the “ausrottung” of the German people, of the German Volk. And I say to the historians: Is Hitler really saying here that if the Soviet Union succeeds in invading all Germany and conquering them, it’s going to end up with the liquidation, the murder, of 80 million Germans? Or course he’s not: he’s just saying it means the end of Germany. The end of Germany as a power, the power factor. And it’s the same when Czech President Hacha comes to see him in March 1939 and has to sign on the dotted line, handing over Czechoslovakia to Hitler. Hitler says afterwards: It’s a good thing you signed because otherwise it would have led to the “ausrottung” of the Czech people. The same word “ausrottung.” Hitler is not saying it’s a good thing you signed because otherwise I would have had to put ten million of you through the gas chambers; he’s just saying that it would have been the end of Czechoslovakia as a national entity, as a power factor.
So we begin to get a different picture. When Hitler talks about the “ausrottung” of the Jews and I go into this in some detail, because this is the only kind of evidence the historians use against me they say that Hitler himself spoke about what he was going to do. The answer is that he’s not saying that at all, he’s saying something quite different: he’s saying that there’s going to be the end of the Jewish influence in future. (An influence which, I hasten to add, even Winston Churchill got alarmed about in an article in the 1920s. So it’s not just this rather cranky David Irving saying this.)
Thus it’s important that we know precisely the terms that Adolf Hitler is using in his speeches. If we now accept, however, that these atrocities did occur, on whatever scale, then how did they start? I can summarize my own feelings, having read all the documentation, quite simply by saying that whatever happened gained its own momentum deriving from atrocities which the Nazis did commit. For example, the euthanasia program an operation which interestingly enough is documented in every detail including even the order given by Hitler with his own handwritten signature on it. So people can’t say that an operation like this would be kept so secret that of course no paper would be generated. The euthanasia program, the killing of the mentally incurable who occupied the hospital beds that wartime Germany needed this was an operation that was carried out on Hitler’s written instructions. And this generated a certain amount of expertise in killing, there’s no question about it.
And there’s no question in my mind that some of the personnel who were operating on that program, the T-4 operation, the Tiergartenstrasse (the office from which it was conducted), were then automatically injected into the killing operations that a number of local police officials in my view on the Eastern front in Germany carried out against Jews and other people who just got in their way.
I use the phrase “got in their way” because coming out of the Polish archives is a document which may or may not be genuine let’s be quite frank, we've all seen quite a lot of fakes in our time and this is a document from a man called Rolf Heinz Hupner, written to a man called Adolf Eichmann. July 16, 1941. Eichmann at that time was very busily involved at SS head quarters with retraining the Jews. Eichmann was involved with all sorts of agricultural schemes to retrain the Jews for when they were transported overseas to Madagascar or whatever other territory Adolf Hitler allocated to them. Eichmann found himself involved in all sorts of strange agricultural schemes. And out of the blue he gets sent to him this letter from a man called Hupner, reading: Dear Comrade Eichmann: Attached I am sending you a memorandum which is summarizing a number of conversations which have taken place here in the Nazi Reichstathauterei, which is the kind of Nazi headquarters out here in Poznan. (Poznan was the area where several of the major concentration camps which were involved were located.) I won 't read it all to you. What he does say in the 16 July 1941 document, in paragraph four, is that in this winter there’s great danger that the Jews won’t, we can’t continue to nourish them. (You see, all the Jews who are being displaced from Western Europe to the East are landing up in this kind of region. And they're causing a major health, food and accommodation problem for the local Party officials in Poland.) And he says: There’s going to be a big risk in this winter that we can’t continue to nourish all these Jews who are coming here. We seriously ought to consider whether it is not, whether it would not be the most humane solution, to finish off the Jews, insofar as we can’t make use of them as labor, by some kind of fast-working method, means which implies some kind of chemical. In any case, it would be far more pleasant than to allow them just to starve to death.
Now, this fits in with the image that I have built in my own mind that such atrocities that did occur, in these territories, occurred at the initiative of the people on the spot. They found themselves put on the spot by Berlin. Berlin didn’t really bother about what happened to the trainloads of Jews and others who were sent out there. Berlin just left it to them to make up their own mind. In fact, there is at the end of this year 1941 a verbatim record of a conference, in the records of Hans Frank, where one of the local police chiefs says: What does Berlin imagine we are doing with these people? They are sending out trainloads of the people to us; does Berlin imagine that we are housing them in neat housing estates along the Baltic somewhere? We can’t do that. We're just bumping them off as and when they arrive.
We have of course to accept the possibilities that that document, too, may be fake. But it’s sufficient to make me suspect that there was some kind of major crime going on at the initiative of the local criminals on the spot. This I think is the line that dissident historians should take.
We should investigate how it is that in a dictatorship actions can be taken by criminals at the local level without the supreme authority’s knowing about it. Rather like Sabra and Chattila, I suppose; it’s a direct comparison we have to make there. It isn’t right for Tel Aviv to claim now that David Irving is talking nonsense and of course Adolf Hitler must have known about what was going on in Auschwitz and Treblinka, and then in the same breath to claim that, of course, our beloved Mr. Begin didn’t know what was going on in Sabra and Chattila. You can’t have one without the other; rather like a horse and carriage.
But about the documents which exist in the files of the SS. (I'm one of these incurable people who attaches a great deal of importance to the documents.) You don’t have to read between the lines if you get enough paper actually in your hands. The documents which exist show quite clearly that Adolf Hitler ordained a massive transportation program, sweeping all the Jews out of Western Europe into Eastern Europe. This was a program that began after the attack on the Soviet Union. In fact, later on, in February 1942, you find him actually saying that now that we've got the territories in Eastern Europe, we don’t have to consider the Madagascar program any more because these Eastern Europe territories have given us a completely different possibility of solving it. (I can’t actually find it in this sheaf of documents but it is there, believe me.)
Every reference and every remark that Hitler makes, even in the most intimate circles, even at lunch time conversations where just Martin Bormann and Heinrich Himmler are present, or Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler says precisely the same thing: It’s a good thing that I am sweeping the Jews back out of Europe to where they belong. It’s a good thing that I'm making them do good, sound, healthy work in the East. He’s not just saying this to a mass audience, he’s not saying this in the Sportpalast, he’s not writing an article in the Volkischer Beobachter no, he’s saying this rather to the people who are actually doing the dirty deed. Or who certainly know it’s going on.
So this in my mind strongly suggests that he doesn’t know what’s going on. On October 6, for example, he says at a luncheon in his headquarters, and I found these records in the private possession of a man, he says all the Jews have got to be shipped out of the protectorate, out of Czechoslovakia, and not into the General gouvernment [of Poland] not into Poland first of all, let’s just send them immediately further East. He says the problem is he can’t quite do this at present, immediately, because we've got a severe shortage of transport for military reasons.
This in itself gives cause for doubt. We know that in the Winter of 1941 there was a massive transport shortage caused by the crisis on the Eastern Front. If you've got a transport crisis, you are not going to start soaking up transport space which is scarce on the railways by shipping tens of thousands of Jews eastwards, if all you're going to do at the other end is liquidate them. These are the big questions which the Lucy Dawidowicz' s of this world haven’t bothered to ask or answer. This transport movement only fits in with my thesis that the transportation program was ordered by Hitler, that whatever happened at the other end, if anything happened at the other end, was carried out on the initiative of the local officials to whom the transport crisis was a matter of supreme academic disinterest.
There is more than enough evidence of that.
10th of October, 1941. There’s a letter from Himmler to Ohlendorf, in which Himmler reacts to complaints made by Ohlendorf about the fact that Jews have been dumped in his territory by the tens of thousands. And Himmler writes: Well, of course, it’s not very nice if all these Jews have been dumped on you, but may I please beg you from the bottom of my heart to find the necessary understanding, as your Gauleiter has also done. It’s in accordance with the will of the Führer that the Jews are shipped from West to East, stage by stage. Full stop, period.
The will of the Führer that the Jews are shipped stage by stage from West to East: again and again and again even in his table talk. You've all heard of Hitler’s table talk or Tischgesprache, written down by Heinrich Heim, Martin Bormann’s secretary; long before anybody got these things, I got the actual transcripts from the Swiss lawyer who controls these documents. Here you see the actual wording used by Hitler in German, which is completely different from the published English translation. In fact, in the English translation, sentences have been interposed which don’t exist in the original German at all. In that original, you see Hitler saying things like: It’s a good thing that this legend is being spread about that the Jews are perishing, it’s a good thing that this terror story is being spread about us. He regards it altogether as being a legend. And then later, he says what a scandal it is that we should be accused of maltreating the Jews. These statements are in the private. Here is one from 25th January 1942. Wolf’s Lair, mid-day, luncheon guests: Dr. Lammers, the Reichsführer-SS Himmler, and Colonel Seisler. The Chief (that is, Hitler), spoke as follows, in the following sense: If I take the Jews now out of our so city then our bourgeoisie is very unhappy. But what are we doing with them? Did the same people show the slightest sympathy with our people, with the Germans, when they had to emigrate? We've got to do it quickly and isn’t it better if I take out…[further down, he says:]…at the time of the Papal hegemony in Rome, the Jews were being mistreated. Until 1838, Jews every year were driven through the town of Rome on asses, and I only say that they have to leave us.
So that shows in his mind what he thought was happening to the Jews. Some thing rather mild indeed was happening to them. He says again, two days later on the 27th January: The Jews have got to leave Europe. The best thing is to go to Russia. I've got no sympathy at all with the Jews. They will always be an element that winds up one nation against another. They do it in national politics just as much as they do it in their own private existence.
Finally, I think the most cardinal piece of proof in this entire story of what Hitler knew about what was going on is a document that mysteriously vanished from the Nuremberg files in 1945. It is clear that it was in the files in August 1945, when they were sighted by the Americans in Berlin and cataloged, because it appears as Item Four of a five-item list. It then vanished from the files by the time they reached Nuremberg for the Nuremberg trials and so it couldn’t be produced there as evidence and then reappeared now in the files of the Federal Archives in Coblenz. That is the file that it’s in: Reich Minister of Justice. The heading is: The Treatment of the Jews, and it’s a document, a memo on a telephone conversation inside the Ministry of Justice. From its placing in the file we know that this conversation is about March 1942, two months after the notorious Wannsee conference when all is supposed to have been put in train by Adolf Hitler. The Reich Minister, Hans Lammers, was the chief of the German Civil Service; he would be rather like the Prime Minister in a normal society. The memo says: “Reich Minister Lammers informs me that the Führer has repeatedly told him that he wants the solution of the Jewish problem postponed until after the war is over.” And it goes on about the fact that for this reason, all this talk, all this jaw that’s going on at present is completely superfluous.
Hitler has repeatedly said he wants the solution to the Jewish problem postponed until after the war is over.
Again, this is a document which is of extreme embarrassment for the rival school of history. They can’t talk their way around it, they can’t talk their way out of it, they close their eyes and when they open them it is still there. It refuses to go away. Believe me: from this moment on, right through to 1943, there are further documents showing Hitler interceding, acting, trying to stop, preventing. There’s another telephone conversation from Himmler to Heydrich on 20th April, 1942, again from Hitler’s headquarters. Himmler telephoned Heydrich, the chief of the SD, or Sicherheitsdienst of the SS: No destruction of the gypsies, the gypsies aren’t to be liquidated either. But it was still done. Himmler telephoned Ribbentrop from Hitler’s headquarters in October 1943, saying that he has discussed a certain matter with Hitler, namely whether the Jews from Rome are to be rounded up and sent to Northern Italy and liquidated as the SS has ordered, or, as Hitler has ordered quite to the contrary, that the Jews in Rome had got to be sent instead to Mauthausen and kept alive there which didn’t prevent them from being rounded up and shipped off to Auschwitz, according to what we read in history books.
So all this builds up in my mind, as a Hitler biographer, a picture of a rather weak boss, who was so busy being a general, being a soldier and I think I've adequately established that he was a very good soldier indeed, who repeatedly outwitted Winston Churchill, which isn’t too difficult, even in that famous man’s sober moments he was so busy being a soldier that he didn’t really pay too much attention to what crimes may or may not have been going on in various far-flung parts of the Reich.
I'm not going to go into the controversy here about the actual goings-on inside Auschwitz, or the other extermination camps or concentration camps. We do know in the meantime that Dachau is a legend, that everything that people found in Dachau was in fact installed there by the Americans after the war rather like Disneyland for their local people to go and be impressed by German Schrecklichkeit.
I must say that I have been deeply impressed by Mr. Friedrich Berg’s lecture earlier this afternoon; I have found a great deal in his lecture which I found greatly impressive.
It’s not going to be an easy path for us dissident historians to follow. We are going to be boycotted, we are going to find life getting very nasty. It’s not quite as difficult yet here in America as it is in Europe, where frequently when I arrive to address a meeting in Germany, or in England, I find sticky situations. In Germany, for example, when I last arrived at Stuttgart to speak and there were 300 mounted police with water cannon and riot shields to protect the building I was going to speak in, and the audience sitting in front there with blood-stained shirts and their noses broken and their shirt. well. It’s not quite as bad as that here; I suppose in Germany the stakes are higher. In Germany the Left is on the march, the Left is rampant, the strings to Moscow are that much shorter. We can talk here at greater peace, but I have to be quite plain about one thing: I am an independent historian. I have no academic chair which finances me, I have no family fortune to rely on; I depend entirely on my own readership. Above all, I depend on publishers to keep on publishing me. Every time I make an open statement that I make in front of people like yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, it’s one step closer to a total boycott by Madison Avenue. Which is a risk that I have to contemplate with great earnestness. So I am right out near the end of that gang plank, I am right out in the front line. The artillery fire is beginning and the shot and shell are falling all 'round me. I have built various rear lines on which I can fall back if necessary, but so far I haven’t been disproved. This is what makes me believe that in my ambition to write total truth, I am succeeding.