Wilhelm Höttl and the Elusive 'Six Million'Mark Weber
So ingrained has the Six Million figure become in the popular consciousness that while the average American may be quite sure that six million Jews were slaughtered by the Germans in the Second World War -- that is, in what is now called "the Holocaust" -- he has no idea of how many British, Poles, Russians, or even Americans died during that global conflict, or, for that matter, of how many of his fellow countrymen lost their lives in the American Civil War.
This is hardly surprising, considering how relentlessly the Six Million figure is hammered into the public consciousness, not only in newspapers, magazines, motion pictures, and television, but also routinely in our schools, and even by a special taxpayer-funded U.S. federal government agency, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, which runs the imposing U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
The familiar World Book Encyclopedia tells readers, for example: "By the end of 1945, the Nazis had slaughtered more than 6 million Jewish men, women and children -- over two-thirds of the Jews in Europe." [See note] German president Richard von Weizsäcker, in his much cited commemorative speech of May 8, 1985, spoke of "the six million Jews who were murdered in German concentration camps." Anglo-Jewish historian Martin Gilbert, a prolific writer who is also the "official" biographer of Winston Churchill, has referred to "the systematic murder of six million Jews." [See note] The Encyclopaedia Judaica states flatly: "There can be no doubt as to the estimated figure of some six million victims." [See note] An information sheet issued by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council describes the grand Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, as a "living memorial to the six million Jews and millions of other victims of Nazi fanaticism who perished in the Holocaust."
Just what is the basis for this familiar figure?
Even before the end of the Second World War in Europe, that is, before any careful or detailed investigation was possible, the Six Million figure was already in wide circulation. For example, in essays published in late 1944 and early 1945, the prominent Soviet-Jewish writer Ilya Ehrenburg repeatedly told his many readers that "the Germans" had killed six million Jews. In an article published in March 1945, for instance, in the English-language London weekly, Soviet War News, he wrote: "The world now knows that Germany has killed six million Jews." [See note]
Some weeks later, as David Irving has related, this figure was affirmed in New York by representatives of major Jewish organizations: [See note]
By remarkable coincidence, some twenty-five years earlier the American Jewish community had been warning of a "holocaust" of six million Jews in Europe. In an address published in 1919 in a leading Jewish American paper, the American Hebrew of New York City, under the headline "The Crucifixion of Jews Must Stop!," the former governor of New York state, Martin Glynn, spoke repeatedly of "six million" European Jews who were "dying" and "being whirled toward the grave" in a "threatened holocaust of human life." [See note]
Given all this, it is hardly surprising that someone was found to provide "proof" for the Six Million figure at the most extravagant judicial undertaking in history, the 1945-46 trial in Nuremberg of Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess, and other high-ranking Third Reich personalities. The legendary figure was fixed in history at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, where it was cited by chief British prosecutor Sir Hartley Shawcross in his closing address, and by the Allied judges in their final judgment. [See note]
This figure was not the result of any careful investigation, research, or calculation. The only specific evidence presented for it to the Nuremberg Tribunal was the hearsay testimony of former SS officer Wilhelm Höttl (sometimes spelled Hoettl), who said that he recalled it from a remark by Adolf Eichmann, the wartime head of the Jewish affairs section of Himmler's Reich Security Main Office (RSHA). Höttl, who also served with the RSHA during the war, stated in an affidavit dated November 26, 1945, and provided to the U.S. prosecution at Nuremberg, that Eichmann confided to him in August 1944 that some four million Jews had been killed in the "various extermination camps," and another two million had been killed in other ways, mostly in shootings by Einsatzgruppen forces in the course of the military campaign in Russia. [See note]
Eichmann himself, it should be noted, later called the Höttl story "nonsense," vigorously denied ever having made the alleged remark, and speculated that Höttl may have picked up the figure from a radio or newspaper report. [See note]
If it were not for Wilhelm Höttl's role in branding into the world's consciousness the trademark Six Million figure, his place in history would likely be little more than a footnote.
Who was this man, and how reliable is his historic affidavit?
He was born in Vienna in March 1915. In 1938, at the remarkably young age of twenty-three, he received a doctorate in history from the University of Vienna. While still a student there, he joined the National Socialist party and the SS. From 1939 until the end of the war in Europe, Höttl was employed almost without interruption by Germany's central intelligence agency, the RSHA. He was first stationed in Vienna with the "foreign bureau" (Amt Ausland, later Amt VI), and then, from early 1943, in Berlin in the "Southeastern Europe" branch E of Amt VI, with the SS rank of major (Sturmbannführer).
In March 1944 Höttl was assigned to Budapest, where he served as second in command to Himmler's SS representative in Hungary, and as political advisor to Hitler's ambassador there, Edmund Veesenmayer, who reported to Berlin, for example, on the large-scale deportations in 1944 of Jews from Hungary. On May 8, 1945, as German forces were unconditionally surrendering to the Allies, American troops arrested Höttl in Austria, and for several years after that he worked as an intelligence agent for the United States. He died in 1999, not long after the publication of his self-serving memoirs.
In April 2001 the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency made public thousands of pages of long-suppressed documents from its files of major German wartime figures, including the bulging Höttl file. Along with the release of these documents, two U.S. government employees wrote and issued a detailed report about Höttl based on those recently declassified CIA files, which sheds revealing light on his wartime and postwar career. This report, entitled "Analysis of the Name File of Wilhelm Hoettl," was written by two "historical researchers" of the U.S. government's "Interagency Working Group" (IWG), Miriam Kleiman and Robert Skwirot. [See note]
These documents establish that Höttl was a completely unreliable informant who routinely fabricated information to please those who were willing to pay him. In their report, the two U.S. government researchers write:
Hoettl's name file is approximately 600 pages, one of the largest of those released to the public so far. The size of the file owes to Hoettl's postwar career as a peddler of intelligence, good and bad, to anyone who would pay him. Reports link Hoettl to twelve different intelligence services, including the U.S., Yugoslav, Austrian, Israeli, Romanian, Vatican, Swiss, French, West German, Russian, Hungarian and British.
Soon after his arrest by the Americans in May 1945, Höttl began working for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency, and then for the U.S. Army's Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC). As the two U.S. government researchers put it: "Upon his arrest, Hoettl played to the interests of his captors ..." It was during this period, while he was secretly working for American intelligence, that Höttl provided his historic and damning "six million" affidavit for submission by the American prosecution at the Allied-run tribunal at Nuremberg.
Höttl benefited from his readiness to tell those who paid him what they wanted to hear, but this eventually proved his undoing. All the same, it took several years for U.S. intelligence to firmly conclude that it was being had.
In June 1949 one U.S. intelligence official cautioned against using Höttl for any reason, calling him "a man of such low character and poor political record that his use for intelligence activities, regardless of how profitable they may be, is a short-sighted policy by the U.S." In August 1950, CIA messages referred to Höttl as a "notorious fabricator [of] intelligence." A U.S. Army CIC report in early 1952 deemed his information useless, noting that Höttl "is involved in extensive intelligence activities for almost anyone who is willing to purchase his findings." In April 1952 his reports were called "worthless and possibly inflated or fabricated."
Interestingly, numerous U.S. intelligence reports identify connections between Höttl and Simon Wiesenthal, the well-known "Nazi hunter." One U.S. Army CIC document described Wiesenthal as the "Chief Austrian Agent of the Israeli Intelligence Bureau." A U.S. Army CIC report in January 1950 noted that for the last three or four months Wiesenthal had "recruited the services of Wilhelm Höttl," and had hired him to gather information for reports by the "Nazi hunter."
In July 1952, when U.S. Army intelligence finally broke completely with Höttl, a letter on U.S. Army stationery warned:
In their report on his postwar career, U.S. government historical researchers Kleiman and Skwirot conclude:
The voluminous materials in Wilhelm Höttl's personality file ... trace the activities of a notorious intelligence peddler and fabricator, who successfully convinced one intelligence service after another of his value, and then proceeded to lose such support.
Indeed, and as already noted, Höttl "successfully convinced" the American and British prosecutors, and the judges, of the inter-Allied tribunal in Nuremberg, and many others around the world ever since, that German authorities killed six million Jews during the Second World War. And even though U.S. intelligence services and U.S. government researchers have, finally, as it were, discredited him, Höttl's most historically important claim remains widely, and even officially accepted.
The recently released U.S. intelligence documents on Höttl, and the U.S. government report about his postwar career, confirm what some revisionist scholars have contended for years. In his pathbreaking book The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, first published in 1976, Dr. Arthur Butz cited sources that were publicly available even in the 1950s to show that, during the war, Höttl had gotten into trouble more than once with SS authorities. His involvement in a shady Polish land deal led in 1942 to an SS investigation of his activities. An internal SS report characterized him as "dishonest, scheming, fawning,... a real hoaxer," and concluded that he was not fit even for SS membership, let alone a sensitive intelligence service position. [See note] Höttl was, accordingly, demoted. But his luck improved after his friend and fellow Austrian, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, was appointed in 1943 to head the RSHA. It seems that Kaltenbrunner protected him from a second disciplinary action, this one for misappropriation of security service funds.
Regardless of the unreliability of Höttl's infamous affidavit, the more important question remains: How valid is the six million figure?
The most common technique used by Holocaust historians to calculate figures of between five and six million Jewish extermination victims is to compare prewar and postwar estimated Jewish population figures for various European countries and areas, and then assume that the differences between the figures were all killed. This was the method used, for example, by Jacob Lestchinsky to produce a figure of 5,957,000 Jewish Holocaust deaths, in his important 1946 World Jewish Congress report. [See note] It is also the technique used by the late Lucy Dawidowicz, another prominent Jewish Holocaust historian, who estimated a total of 5.9 million Jewish victims. [See note]
However, this method fails to take into account substantial numbers of Jews who emigrated or fled to Allied or neutral countries during the war years. It also ignores the fact that many Jews, particularly in Eastern Europe, did not return to their original homelands at the end of the war, but instead emigrated to Palestine, the United States, and other countries beyond Europe.
It further assumes that all Jewish deaths (or "losses") were due to German or Axis policy. Thus, all Jews in areas under German or Axis control who died during the war years are routinely and misleadingly counted as "victims of the Holocaust," regardless of the cause of death. This includes Jews who died of natural causes, perished in Allied bombings of cities and concentration camps, who died as Allied soldiers, particularly in the Soviet military, or who -- like hundreds of thousands of German civilians -- succumbed to exhaustion, disease, and exposure in the particularly catastrophic final months of the war. Raul Hilberg, probably the most prominent Holocaust historian, acknowledges that a distinction should be made between "Jewish losses" and "Holocaust victims." He notes, for example, that the average age of Jews in Germany at the outbreak of the war was abnormally high anyway. [See note]
It is unlikely that there were ever six million Jews under German control during the war.
The wartime representative of the World Jewish Congress in Switzerland, Gerhard Riegner, confidentially reported to London and Washington in August 1942 that the total number of Jews in the countries occupied or controlled by Germany was three and a half to four million. [See note] This figure presumably referred to Jews in the "Greater" German Reich (including Poland), as well as in France, Holland, Belgium, Slovakia, and the occupied Soviet territories. If one adds the approximately 1.2 million Jews estimated to be living in Hungary and Romania, the total number of Jews that came under direct or indirect German control during the war years could not have been more than 5.2 million.
The unreliable character of the legendary Six Million calculation is also shown in the manipulation of Holocaust statistics in the cases of specific countries. In this regard, it is much more fruitful to examine Jewish losses in western European countries, where much more reliable statistics and other data are available, than to attempt to estimate Jewish losses in such eastern territories as Poland, where reliable data is not available. (In the case of Poland, even the country's borders changed drastically during and just after the war.) An important feature of these manipulations is that even though figures of alleged Jewish wartime losses in individual countries may be inflated and deflated over the years, there is an obvious effort to juggle figures so that the overall total is kept as high as possible.
The Case of Denmark
Consider, for example, the case of Denmark. In 1946 the "Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry" announced in its widely quoted report that, out of a total of 5.7 million European Jews who perished during the war years, 1,500 were Danish Jews. [See note] Raul Hilberg, in his highly regarded, three-volume 1985 study, gave a similar figure of 1,000 Danish Jews "lost" during the war years. [See note]
In fact, fewer than 500 Jews were ever even deported from Denmark. (Most Danish Jews fled to Sweden in 1943.) All of these deportees from Denmark were sent to the ghetto-camp of Theresienstadt (or Terezin) where precisely 51 Danish Jews (mostly elderly) died, all of natural causes. [See note] Thus, even if these 51 are counted as "Holocaust victims," Jewish "losses" for Denmark were exaggerated approximately 30 times by the supposedly authoritative "Anglo-American Committee," and 19 times the true figure by Hilberg.
The Korherr Report
At the beginning of 1943 SS chief Heinrich Himmler ordered his "Inspector for Statistics," Richard Korherr, to prepare a report on the "Final Solution of the European Jewish Question." Relying for the most part on information and figures supplied by the Reich Security Main Office, Korherr wrote a sixteen-page statistical survey that he submitted to Himmler on March 23, 1943. A few weeks later he produced a shorter supplemental version with the same title. [See note]
Even though, as Hilberg has pointed out, much about these reports, including their origin and purpose, "remains obscure," they are nevertheless the most authoritative wartime statistical records available on the fate of Europe's Jews. [See note] These top level, secret German documents contain no mention of an extermination program or mass killings of Jews, a fact that seems hardly possible if such a program had existed. Furthermore, as Jewish historian Gerald Reitlinger noted, they suggest that nothing like six million Jews could have been killed, even assuming the most sinister interpretations of the data. [See note] Korherr, a staunch Catholic, declared after the war that he had not been aware that his reports had any sinister or murderous significance. [See note]
Jewish Restitution Claims
Another important indication that the Six Million figure is not accurate is the large number of Jewish "Holocaust survivors" who have received restitution payments (Wiedergutmachung) from the German government in Bonn and, more recently, in Berlin. Individuals who were "persecuted for political, racial, religious or ideological reasons" by the wartime German regime have been eligible for money from the Bonn and Berlin government under the terms of the Federal Compensation Law (BEG) of 1953 and 1956. This includes Jews who were interned in camps or ghettos, were obliged to wear the star badge, or who lived in hiding. [See note]
As of January 1984, there were 4.39 million successful individual BEG restitution claims. The great majority of these were from Jews. Raul Hilberg has said that "about two thirds" of the allowed claims have been from Jews. [See note] This is a realistic but possibly conservative estimate. Approximately 40 percent of those receiving payments were living in Israel, 20 percent in West Germany, and 40 percent in the United States and other countries. [See note]
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution newspaper reported in 1985 that an estimated 50 percent of Jewish "survivors throughout the world are on West German pensions." [See note] But this estimate is very probably too high. For example, Jews in Poland, the Soviet Union, Hungary, Romania, and Czechoslovakia were not eligible for restitution, at least not at that time. [See note] In the United States, only about 66 percent of the Jewish "Holocaust survivors" in the Atlanta (Georgia) area in 1985 had received German restitution money. [See note]
If one conservatively estimates that two thirds of the 4.39 million individual claims for German restitution have come from Jews, that would mean some 2.9 million Jewish claims. And if half of the Jewish "Holocaust survivors" around the world have not received any restitution (which is probably a low figure), and granted that the number of claimants may be somewhat larger than the number of claims, it would appear that some six million European Jews "survived" the Second World War. (Of course, some European Jews who lived through the war years died before the German BEG restitution law was enacted in 1953.) And given that there were no more than some eight million European Jews under German wartime control, [See note] the number of Jews who died in Europe during the Second World War must be fewer than three million. As we shall see, the actual figure of Jewish wartime dead is substantially lower.
Finally, estimates of "Holocaust survivors" provided in recent years by authoritative Jewish sources cannot be reconciled with the generally accepted "Holocaust" story or the Six Million figure.
Before going further, it is a remarkable fact that, in recent years, the number of "Holocaust survivors" has actually been increasing. This is because -- as Norman Finkelstein stresses in his important book, The Holocaust Industry -- Israel, the World Jewish Congress, and other major Jewish organizations, all of which demand and collect billions in the name of "Holocaust survivors," have an interest in inflating figures both of wartime victims and of postwar survivors.
A report issued in July 1997 -- that is, fifty-three years after the end of the war -- by a committee organized by the Israeli prime minister's office estimated the number of "Holocaust survivors" (admittedly defined rather broadly) at between 834,000 and 960,000. A similarly authoritative report issued in June 2000, that is, fifty-five years after the end of the war in Europe, estimated the number of Jewish "Holocaust" survivors at between 832,000 and 935,000. [See note]These figures, Robert Faurisson has written, suggest that there were slightly more than three million Jewish "survivors" in Europe at the end of the 1939-1945 war. [See note]
Norman Finkelstein, a professor of political science at Hunter College in New York, and author of The Holocaust Industry, has commented that, on the basis of these Israeli or Jewish figures, there would have been eight million Jewish "Holocaust survivors" in Europe at the end of the war in May 1945. Remarking on this, Finkelstein has said: [See note]
There were fewer than eight million Jews in all of Nazi-occupied Europe. In other words, if these numbers are correct, the Holocaust didn't happen. As my mother used to say, if everyone who claims to be a Holocaust survivor actually is one, who did Hitler kill?
How many Jews did die during the Second World War? A year after the end of the war, an apparently impartial Swiss analysis entitled "How high is the number of Jewish victims?" concluded that no more than 1.5 million European Jews could have perished (of all causes) under German rule during the war. It appeared in June 1946 in the respected daily Baseler Nachrichten of neutral Switzerland. [See note] The widely-cited figures of between five and six million Jewish dead, the analysis noted, were not based on official sources, but merely private and semi-official estimates that greatly exaggerated the number of Jews that ever came under German control.
Stephen F. Pinter, a U.S. War Department attorney who was stationed in Germany after the war, published a statement in 1959 in which he condemned what he called "the old propaganda myth that millions of Jews were killed by the National Socialists." He went on to write: [See note]
Some revisionist historians have reached similar conclusions. Arthur Butz and Robert Faurisson have written that as many as one million European Jews may have died of all causes during the war years (not counting those serving in military forces). [See note] Walter Sanning, a European-American scholar and university lecturer, concluded in his detailed 1983 study that total Jewish losses during the Second World War were "in the neighborhood" of 1.25 million, many of whom died as Red Army soldiers or in Soviet camps and forced evacuations. [See note]
A common rejoinder to expressions of skepticism about the Six Million is rhetorically to ask: "What difference does it make how many were killed? It would be terrible if just one million, or even one thousand, Jews were murdered." To many people, efforts to establish the true numbers seem like insensitive and perhaps irrelevant quibbling. But the skeptics are not the ones who incessantly and insistently go on about Six Million murdered Jews. It is not the revisionists who have made a totem of this legendary figure, or who invoke it as quasi-sacrosanct ritual symbol. In any case, striving for historical exactitude, even about the iconic Six Million, is precisely what historians are supposed to do.
Mark Weber is director of the Institute for Historical Review. This essay is adapted from his address at David Irving's "Real History" conference in Cincinnati, August 31, 2001.