The Holocaust Historiography Project

Fact File 2 - The 'Hitler Order'

  • Note: The fact file series is intended to present facts of history, free from the polemics and misinformation so often presented in this medium. Hopefully the facts contained herein will serve the cause of truth in history.

The essence of Fact File no. 2 is that no order for the extermination of the Jews written or authorized by Adolf Hitler has ever been discovered. The result of this situation is that many historians presume that the order was transmitted orally. For this, there is also no proof. The syllogism utilized is:

Major premise:
The extermination of the Jews occured.
Minor premise:
Within the Nazi form of government, the extermination of the Jews could not have occurred without Hitler's authorization.
Hitler ordered the extermination of the Jews. Since Historians and researchers have yet to unearth such an order the 'oral order'; has become a necessary part of the story. It should be unnecessary to stress that the conclusion of this logical form is invalid if either the major or minor premise is untrue.

"The Führer Order on the Final Solution apparently was never committed to paper — at least no copy of it has yet been unearthed in the captured Nazi documents."

William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (New York: Fawcett Crest, 1960), p.1256.

"For the want of hard evidence — and in 1977 I offered, around the world, a thousand pounds to any person who could produce even one wartime document showing explicitly that Hitler knew, for example, of Auschwitz. My critics resorted to arguments ranging from the subtle to the sledgehammer (in one instance, literally). They postulated the existence of Fuehrer orders without the slightest written evidence of their existence ... Of explicit, written, wartime evidence, the kind of evidence that could hang a man, they have produced not one line."

David Irving, Hitler's War (London: Focal Point, 1991), pp.19-20.

"To the present day a written order by Hitler regarding the destruction of the European Jewish community has not been found, and, in all probability, this order was never given."

Walter Laqueur, Was niemand wissen wollte: Die Unterdruckung der Nachrichten uber Hitlers Endlösung (What Nobody Wanted to Know: The Suppression of News About Hitler's "Final Solution"), (Berlin-Vienna, 1981), p.190.

"For in the table talk, the speeches, the documents or the recollections of participants from all those years not a single concrete reference of [Hitler's] to the practice of annihilation has come down to us. When we consider that he ordinarily transformed everything that preoccupied him into rampant speechmaking, that he never concealed his radicalism, his vulgarity, his readiness to go to extremes, this silence about the central concern of his life- involving, as it did in his mind, the salvation of the world - seems all the stranger."

Joachim C. Fest, Hitler (New York: Vintage Books, 1975), p.681.

"There does not exist then, anything like a written order signed by [Hitler] for the extermination of the Jews in Europe."

Colin Cross, Adolf Hitler, (Milan, 1977), p.313.

"... The New York Times' ... editorial (December 2, 1942) claimed that 'Of Germany's 200,000 Jews in 1939 all but 40,000 have been deported or have perished,' while going on to assert that 'according to evidence in the hands of the [U.S.] State Department, an order of Adolf Hitler demanding the extermination of all Jews in all territories controlled by Germany' was known to exist. Researchers nearly 40 years later were still searching for that order, or information leading to anyone who might have ever seen it at any time."

James J. Martin, The Man who invented 'Genocide': The Public Career and Consequences of Raphael Lemkin (Torrance: Institute for Historical Review, 1984), p.40.

"No written document containing or reporting an explicit command to exterminate the Jews has come to light thus far."

Arno J. Mayer, Why did the Heavens not Darken?: The 'Final Solution' in History (New York: Pantheon Books, 1990), p.235.

"There is a question of how we understand the word 'order' and this is a case where I think we have deepened our understanding, that we have tried to deal with the concept, what does it mean for there to be a Hitler order, a so-called Führer Befehl?... I have, myself, proposed that we have to look at it in terms of a series of signals or incitements, that these are not necessarily explicit, exact, precise orders, but a conveying to subordinates of his hope that they will now move on to a newer stage or to do something more radical, that we are talking about in terms of a Hitler order, a rather amorphous process."

Christopher Browning, quoted in Barbara Kulaszka, ed., Did Six Million Really Die?: Report of the Evidence in the Canadian 'False News' Trial of Ernst Zuendel - 1988, (Toronto: Samisdat Publishers, 1992), p.104.

"No written order by Hitler for the extermination of the Jews has been discovered and the evidence of an oral order is only indirect. The chronology of the development of the extermination programme is also confused."

J. Noakes and G. Pridham, eds., Nazism: A History in Documents and Eyewitness accounts 1919-1945 - Vol. 2, (New York: Schocken Books, 1988), p.1136.