Bringing to Light Secrets of Hitler's Propaganda Minister By
At the last IHR Conference, in October 1992, I
spoke about my visit to the secret Soviet state archives in Moscow, where I
found the private diary of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister,
microfilmed on eighteen hundred glass plates. [See: D. Irving, "The Suppressed
Eichmann and Goebbels Papers," March-April 1993 Journal, pp. 14-25.]
I can't tell you just who tipped me off about
this, as it would breach confidentiality, but there are certain German
historians who are friendly to me, and one of them tipped me that the material
was just waiting to be found by someone. I went to Moscow and got this material
-- to the unbounded rage of rival historians around the world, who couldn't
believe that I, the "incorrigible," "neo-Nazi," "Fascist-scum" historian, had
got the stuff for which they had been looking for 50 years.
If you're a historian dealing with the Third
Reich, you know that Goebbels' diary must contain all the dirt from that era.
And yet, all the vital episodes of Third Reich history, the events we're really
curious about -- such as the June 1934 "Night of the Long Knives," when Hitler
ditched SA Brown Shirt leader Ernst Röhm, or the "Crystal Night" in November
1938, or the Reichstag fire mystery, or the inside story of the rise of the Nazi
Party -- are missing from the published Goebbels diary, the portion that has
been in the public domain for the last 40 years or so.
One way and another, portions have trickled
out. First of all there was the original typed Goebbels diary for parts of the
years 1942 and 1943, which is now in the Hoover Institution library in Stanford,
California. [Edited by Louis Lochner, it was published in 1948.] The National
Archives in Washington acquired a sheaf of diary pages from August 1941. The
French somehow got April 1943, and the Hoover library obtained six diary pages
from July 1944.
Most importantly, the Institute for
Contemporary History in Munich managed to get hold of further portions of the
diary through negotiations with the East German Communist authorities. [See, for
example, Final Entries 1945: The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels. New York: 1978.]
But vital passages were missing even from
these, among them the year 1944 -- the year of D-Day, the Stauffenberg bomb
plot, and the Battle of the Bulge. And there were years for which only a couple
of notebooks have hitherto been available. One begins to suspect that somebody
knew they were sitting on a real treasure, and they weren't going to release it.
By holding back the good stuff, they were acting in an almost capitalistic
In the end, I didn't pay one bent nickel for
this material. Visiting Moscow in June 1992, I simply reminded the head of the
Soviet state archives that over the years three or four of my books had been
published in the former Soviet Union, and he just let me have the material,
assuming, I suppose, that I was therefore kosher.
It was a different situation when I returned
for the second time in July 1992 to complete the work. As the week progressed, I
found it getting stickier and stickier. They suddenly weren't able to find the
boxes and files I'd seen the time before. I had to fight and plead and holler,
and they still weren't turning up the stuff I really wanted. On the last day,
the secretary of the director came out to me and said: "Mr. Irving, I've got a
very embarrassing question to ask of you. Have you been stealing any material
from our archives?"
Now, this is something that a historian just
doesn't do. When you work in the archives, you're working on trust. You've an
obligation to posterity. You do not permanently remove stuff. I did, however,
have an arrangement with the director, who permitted me to remove certain glass
plates from the archives for copying because they didn't have the requisite
facilities there. They didn't even have a microfiche reader. He allowed me to
remove these glass plates on my honor, and bring them back after having made the
necessary photographic prints.
In an effort to stop me from gaining access, it
turned out that somebody had told the archives that I was stealing material. To
resolve the situation I signed a declaration stating that everything I had seen
in the archives was still there, and that nothing was missing. That was, in
fact, the truth.
The archives director was very pleased to have
this declaration, and the secretary added the pregnant words: "The information
came from Munich." Once again my traditional enemies around the world were
trying to trip me up. It didn't work because by that time I'd obtained 99
percent of the material I had on my "shopping list": diary portions dealing with
the Kristallnacht, the "Night of the Long Knives," the Reichstag fire, Pearl
Harbor, all of 1944, the whole of the months leading up to the outbreak of World
War Two -- everything. I'd gotten the lot.
It was difficult, because, as I said, the
Russians didn't have a microfiche reader. I suspected in advance that I might
need one, because in preparation for my trip to Moscow in the 1970s I had
brought with me toilet paper and a bath plug because I knew I wouldn't find them
in my Moscow hotel. On this occasion I had thought to myself, "Suppose -- it's
incredible, I mean this is a state archives -- but just suppose they don't have
a microfiche reader. I'd better take something with me." So I went to
Selfridge's and asked for the most powerful magnifying glass they had. What I
didn't know was that the more powerful the magnification, the smaller the lens
is. I wound up buying a 12x magnifier that was about as big as my little
fingernail. So during the first week I was there, I had to hold it up like this
to read those glass plates. But if you don't mind straining your eyesight, it
It's quite an unusual feeling looking at the
original Nazi microfiche glass plates in the original Agfa boxes -- there are
eighteen hundred plates, each with 25 or 40 images on them -- a total of 70 or
80 thousand pages of paper. And you know you are the first person to read them
since Goebbels, in 1944 and 1945, ordered the stuff to be preserved in case of
damage to the originals. No one knows now where his original notebooks are, or
what happened to them. They're probably gone forever. But fortunately they were
preserved on glass plates, and I was the first person to study them.
The Reichstag Fire For example, I read for the first time
Goebbels' hand-written entry about the Reichstag fire. As he described it, he
was at his home with Hitler on that evening of February 27, 1933, when the phone
rang at nine o'clock. It was the prankster "Putzi" Hanfstaengl, saying: "The
Reichstag's on fire." Goebbels remembered that he'd been had twice by
Hanfstaengl already that week, and he thought this was another prank, so he just
put the phone down. Hanfstaengl phoned again and said, "You'd better listen to
what I'm saying, The Reichstag's on fire." Goebbels realized this could be
serious after all, so he made a phone call to the police station at the
Brandenburg Gate, which confirmed that the Reichstag was on fire. Thereupon he
and Hitler jumped into a car and drove straight to the Reichstag where they
found their worst fears confirmed. This is in the hand-written diary, it is
obviously genuine, and it confirms what we know from other sources.
Early Entries Goebbels' diary didn't start in 1933 when the
Nazis come to power; it started when he was a student at Heidelberg University,
and carries on all the way until a few days before he commits suicide in 1945
with his family in Hitler's bunker. Never has there been such a contiguous
source of information for historians to use, but never has there been a source
more fraught with danger. Nobody's diary is genuine, because everybody lies to
his diary. Okay, "lie" is a bit sharp. Everyone is a hero in his own diary. So
what do you believe? That's the way it is with diaries. You've got to know how
to evaluate them. What Goebbels writes in his diary about Goebbels, you treat
with suspicion. What Goebbels writes in his diary about a fight between
Rosenberg and Koch is probably more accurate, although he's got his sympathies
there, too. You have to learn to be very careful.
I'm saying this for a reason, because when we
come to look at what the diary says about the Crystal Night, it's not what you
expect it to say, and you can only really straighten things out when you accept
that Goebbels has his reasons for writing things in a certain way. I'm something
of an expert with diaries, because I've been looking at people's diaries as an
historian for the last 30 or 40 years, and I know the things to look for.
It always amuses me the way people write in
their diaries certain euphemisms for relations with the opposite sex. I won't
describe to you which words I use in my diary, but -- okay, I will. I might
write, "Lucy came 'round, and was amiable." It seems pretty harmless, but it's
code. This becomes obvious if you slip up and write, "Lucy came round and was
I had the private diary of Luftwaffe Field
Marshal Erhard Milch, who had the habit of putting a little X on the line
between two days in his diary. Some days, however, there were two Xs, and on one
occasion, during the battle of Stalingrad when he was in Berlin, there were
three Xs followed by the initials "E.H.," all done into a kind of monogram or
logo: "XXX E.H." I happened to know that "E.H." was Edith Hesselbarth, his
private secretary. When I tracked her down at her home on Lake Constance, she
was most indignant about this imputation, until I told her that Milch had
written it in his diary, whereupon she confessed.
In the case of Dr. Goebbels, everybody knows
that he has gone into history as the arch-Casanova of the Third Reich. He was
the one with the string of amours, and no film starlet could make headway in the
German film industry, so legend has it, without using the Minister's casting
couch. And yet, it turns out, unless I'm grievously wrong, he was age 33 when he
first had a sexual experience with a woman. If you read his diary you could be
misled. Very early on in his diary, he's talking about how Else came 'round, and
she was all his: "She was all over me." It's an imprecise phrase, but you're
willing to believe, given his reputation, that this could only mean one thing.
In another passage, Anka Stalherm, the great
heroine of his life, comes to see him and there's an episode on the meadow in
Freiburg: "the first kiss." It's only when you start reading through the diary,
and the letters that pass between her and Goebbels over the next ten years, that
you realize that that first kiss was, in fact, a kiss on the cheek. That's as
far as he got with her.
I subsequently found Anka Stalherm's daughter.
Because I thought it would be a bit embarrassing to ask her how far her mother
had gone with the Nazi Propaganda Minister, I planned on making this my last
question before I beat a retreat. As I walked in through the door, though, she
said: "Mr. Irving, before you even begin this interview, I want you to know what
my mother told me about Goebbels, which is that she never, ever, did it with
him. She found him intellectually fascinating, a man of enormous presence, but
physically repulsive." Goebbels was 5'4", just over 100 pounds, a club foot with
one leg two inches shorter than the other -- a bit of a freak, in other words.
He never got anywhere with Anka Stalherm, although if you read his diary you
would imagine that she was the great love of his life.
How do we know he was 33 when it first
happened? The answer is that he started going out with Olga, the girlfriend of
Mr. Arnolt Bronner. (He had a predilection for dating other men's girlfriends; a
dangerous habit if you're only 5'4".) He went out with this woman, and she comes
'round, so to speak. Obviously something happened because that night he writes
in his diary all the words of euphoria followed with the figures in parenthesis:
"(1, 2)." This might, by itself, mean nothing at all, were it not for an entry a
few days later, with Olga coming 'round again, and new figures in brackets: "(3,
4, 5)." Well this is rather like being "twice amiable," isn't it? It's a bit of
a give-away, and given what we know about the kiss on the cheek, which was all
he'd gotten in previous years, you can be pretty certain what this denotes. This
happened in December 1930, and he was born in October 1897.
She is only one step ahead, so to speak, of
Magda Quandt, who later became Magda Goebbels -- the divorced, blonde,
well-to-do wife of a German industrialist, who fell for him. In mid-February
1931 -- after many, many weeks of working for him in the archives and so on --
she comes 'round to his apartment, and you get the same brackets treatment. It's
"(1)", and then "(2)", "(3)", and then, on March 1931, "(4)" and "(5)". Five
episodes spread over six weeks. There again, you've got a certain amount of
support for the belief that he wasn't as active as he made out in later years.
If there was anything he was good at, it was propaganda. So we're demolishing a
bit of a propaganda legend in connection with Dr. Goebbels here. Amusing as this
is, it helps to teach us to be very cautious when dealing with someone's diary
as a source of information.
Growing Anti-Semitism I've gone through the diary with a special
interest in the Jewish issue, and particularly the "final solution." There's no
question that whatever tragedy befell the Jews in Germany during the Third
Reich, Dr. Goebbels himself was the prime moving force behind it. He wasn't just
the person who created the atmosphere of hatred, he was also the one who pulled
the levers and started the trains in motion. What happened at the other end is
still a matter of debate, and this issue is one of the moving causes of
revisionism at this moment.
Goebbels didn't start out anti-Semitic. His
very early diary pages, back in 1923, contain no references to the Jews, or any
anti-Semitism at all, in fact. We do know that in his home town of Rheydt, a
close neighbor with whom his parents maintained very close relations was Dr.
Josef Joseph, a Jewish lawyer. There was a long-standing friendship between him
and Goebbels' parents, who often sent their son 'round to spend the day with Dr.
Joseph. (Goebbels' father, Fritz Goebbels, was bookkeeper at a local textile
factory.) I'm inclined to believe that the fact that Dr. Joseph was such a close
friend of Mr. and Mrs. Goebbels, and not just the boy's Catholic upbringing and
the fact that his godfather was also called Joseph, may have been the reason for
Goebbels' second name: Paul Joseph Goebbels.
Goebbels met Anka Stalherm at Heidelberg
University, where she was one of the few women students. She was fabulously
rich, had shoulder-length blonde hair, and was a typically care-free, affluent
female student. Goebbels could hardly believe his luck when, of all the young
men at the university, she picked him. There was undoubtedly a very close
friendship between them, and all their letters have survived. (I was able to
read them in the German archives until the German government, in an act of
incredible spitefulness, on July 1, 1993, ordered me banned from the archives,
"to protect the interests of the German people".)
In one letter to him, Anka made a mildly
anti-Semitic remark, typical of those that were common in the social circles in
which she moved. Indignantly he wrote back to his new girlfriend, putting her in
her place. In this letter, dated February 17, 1919, Goebbels responded: "As you
know, I can't stand this exaggerated anti-Semitism. My view is you don't get rid
of them by huffing and puffing, let alone by pogroms, and even if you could do
so, that would be both highly ignoble and unworthy."
Furthermore, Goebbels' favorite professor at
Heidelberg was Friedrich Gundolf, who was Jewish. This didn't matter to Goebbels
at all. When Gundolf said that he wouldn't have time to work with Goebbels on
his doctoral dissertation, he passed him on to another professor of literature,
Max von Waldberg, who was also Jewish. To the end of his life, Goebbels spoke
very highly of these two professors. It was typical of Goebbels that he was able
to put Jews into two categories, regarding individual Jews with respect and
admiration, while at the same time holding the Jewish people in contempt.
Just a few years later, though, on October 30,
1922, he delivered a lecture in Rheydt in which he commented approvingly on
Oswald Spengler's criticism of the Jewish people. So you can see that a certain
trend had begun to set in. I often wonder: Was this due to something innate or
was it his surroundings? We are not able to pin down just what caused Goebbels
to become anti-Semitic around 1922. Certainly by the time he arrived in Berlin,
in 1926, as Gauleiter (district party leader), his anti-Semitism was in full
flood, and, as we shall see, what he saw there completed the picture for him.
His formative experiences came in the aftermath
of World War One, I think. Because of his club foot, the army had refused to
accept him as a soldier, which was humiliating. In 1923 he worked in a bank in
Cologne, where he was shocked by Jewish banking methods. He saw Jews ruining
ordinary Germans, he saw speculation, and he saw inflation wiping out people's
savings. His colleagues at the bank undoubtedly drew his attention to the Jewish
role in all of it, as the private banks in Germany were almost entirely in
Another factor played a role. When he left the
university Goebbels was an aspiring writer of poetry, plays and newspaper
articles. He wanted to write for the great national newspapers and magazines,
which were largely controlled by the Ullstein and Mosse families, both of which
were Jewish. His approaches to these two publishing companies, with articles
submitted for publication, and subsequently seeking employment, were rudely
rebuffed. The Berliner Tageblatt alone returned to him nearly 50 articles he had
No surprise, if you look at the private papers
of Theodor Wolff, chief editor of the Berliner Tageblatt, which was published by
the Mosse company. In these papers, which are filed in the German Federal
archives, you can see that Wolff was corresponding almost entirely only with
It's what today we would call networking; if
you're outside the loop, you can't break in. One knows this when one is mature,
but when you are a young student fresh out of university, full of great idealism
and belief in your own superior talents, the first realization that you can't
break into the loop -- that the network is there to keep people like you out --
makes a great impression, as it probably did on the young Dr. Goebbels. And this
undoubtedly had an effect on his anti-Semitism, even though he still wasn't
hostile toward individual Jews.
After Anka Stalherm left and married another
young man, Goebbels started a long affair with a young woman named Else Janke.
One day, while he's commenting to her on his physical debilities, telling her he
realizes he must be quite unattractive because of his club foot and all the rest
of it, she says, "You think you've got problems? I'm half Jewish." This was a
great shock to Goebbels at that time. Her half-Jewishness, which he described as
her mixed blood, grew more and more important in the relationship until it
finally led to their break-up. He was actually happy when he was named Gauleiter
of Berlin, where the Nazi Party was in disarray, because this gave him a chance
to leave Else Janke gracefully. In Berlin he had his eyes on another girl by the
name of Josephine von Behr.
At this time he also makes friends with Julius
Streicher, Gauleiter of Nuremberg and publisher of the notorious anti-Semitic
weekly, Der Stürmer. His views on Streicher vary widely throughout his diary.
Sometimes he's full of praise for him, rather the way we grudgingly admire a
person who is a bit bullheaded and plows ahead regardless of the damage he does.
He liked Streicher as a human being, he liked him for his courage. But then
again, he strongly deprecated his brand of anti-Semitism, regarding it as
needlessly vulgar. This comes out again and again in the diary. It's a dichotomy
that is never satisfactorily resolved until we come to one of the last items in
the archives: a February 1945 letter from Goebbels to Streicher, congratulating
him on his birthday and sending him a valuable oil painting. Goebbels stayed in
touch with Streicher even after he fell out of favor with Hitler.
'Isidor' Weiss When Goebbels arrived in Berlin as Gauleiter in
1926, he was confronted by a city with 179,000 Jews, one third of all Jews in
Germany, and he made use of this fact. The Berlin population already was
seething because of the presence of these Jews. In the coming years, Goebbels
repeatedly explained to foreign diplomats that the problem there was the usual
one, in which the Jewish population disproportionately controlled all the
lucrative professions. This rankled with Berlin's non-Jewish population, of
course, and Goebbels, whether deliberately or by instinct, zeroed in on this as
a wound that he could work on to promote the Nazi cause.
He was aided in this endeavor by the fact that
his chief opponent there, Berlin's Deputy Police Chief (who acted as though he
was Police Chief; even the real Police Chief referred to him as being the Chief)
was Dr. Bernhard Weiss, a Jew. Weiss looked so much like a Jewish caricature
that his photographs didn't need to be re-touched by the Nazis. He was
stereotypically Semitic in feature: short, with rounded ears and hook nose, and
In London I located Weiss' daughter, Hilda
Baban-Weiss, and I pleaded with her for a more attractive photograph of her
father, pointing out that the ones I have are not very flattering. I got total
silence from the daughter, so I abandoned my quest. Unfortunately, when my
biography of Dr. Goebbels comes out we're going to have to use these rather
Dr. Goebbels promptly dubbed Weiss "Isidor," to
such a degree of success that within two or three years there was hardly a
Berliner who didn't believe that "Isidor" was his real first name.
The fight between Dr. Bernhard Weiss and Dr.
Joseph Goebbels, is, I think, one of the most hilarious, improbable stories to
come out of this era. Twenty-eight times Weiss sued Goebbels for calling him a
Jew. Twenty-eight times the judges pointed out to Weiss that he was in fact
Jewish, and therefore it was no libel. On one occasion, Dr. Goebbels' newspaper
Der Angriff published a cartoon showing a donkey with the head of Dr. Weiss,
with all of its legs splayed on an ice pond, and a caption reading: "Isidor on
thin ice." Isidor Weiss (you see, even I'm calling him Isidor now), immediately
sued for libel. Goebbels pointed out it was just a cartoon, but the judge said
it was quite obvious that the donkey had the face of Dr. Weiss. Whereupon a
headline in the next issue of Der Angriff declared: "Judge Confirms Donkey Has
Face of Dr. Weiss."
A German scholar recently published a 600-page
book purely devoted to the fight between Dr. Goebbels and Dr. Weiss. It would be
worth having this book in English, except that the problems between the two men
are almost untranslatable.
As Goebbels orchestrated the rise of the Nazi
party in Berlin, part of the problem for the democrats there was that much of
what he said was true. The Jewish community not only dominated the legal and
medical professions in Berlin, they also dominated the crime scene. In my
biography I've quoted Interpol figures of the percentage of Jews among those
arrested for drug dealing and narcotics. Moreover, three-quarters of the
pickpockets in Berlin were Jewish. It was quite easy for Goebbels to draw
attention to such facts, and to embellish them in a propaganda campaign. This
came to him as second nature. In every new scandal in Berlin, it seemed, Jews
were at the base of it -- ripping off the banks, ripping off the taxpayers, and
ripping off the government. And again and again, they seemed to be getting off
At Syracuse University I found the private
papers of Heinrich Brüning, who was Hitler's predecessor as Chancellor
(1930-1932). In this collection is a manuscript in which he describes his
problems as Chancellor. Brüning recounts that at one time, he ordered an
investigation of Jewish banks in Berlin and their methods, and in his manuscript
he writes: "The results were so horrifying that I ordered this document to be
kept secret, because if it had been allowed to become public knowledge, it would
have resulted in anti-Jewish riots." Of course, even though much of what
Goebbels said was true, this just doesn't justify what he did later on. We must,
in all fairness, keep emphasizing this point.
During the 1920s Goebbels wrote a play called
Michael, and it's interesting to compare the various drafts of it, which are
available. When he first wrote it back in 1923 or 1924, it was a straightforward
kind of morality play. But Goebbels would change things. After Anka Stalherm
annoyed him, he changed the leading female character. And as he became more and
more annoyed with the Jews, he wrote more anti-Semitism into the play. In the
drafts you can see him becoming progressively more anti-Jewish.
After seeing his first Hollywood movie, he
wrote in his diary (on Dec. 3, 1928): "Sheer hell. Jewish kitsch. Virtually all
you saw were Hebrews." A few months later, on February 15, 1929, he wrote: "The
Jewish question is the questions of all questions."
There is a curious passage in his private diary
that shows how increasingly obsessed he had become. It was after three years in
Berlin as Gauleiter, fighting this increasingly desperate battle, almost with
one hand tied behind his back, being repeatedly banned on orders of Dr. Weiss,
having repeatedly nearly been sent to prison himself. One night he has a dream,
which he then records in his diary (December 17, 1929). In this dream he's back
at school, running madly through the corridors with pillars flashing past him,
and he's being chased by Jews screaming at him, "Hate, hate, hate." He's always
able to keep a few limping strides ahead of his pursuers, occasionally turning
round and flinging back at them the same taunt: "Hate, hate, hate!" What an odd
thing for a man to write in his own diary. One doesn't often write down one's
own dreams in a diary. The mere fact that he had dreams like that shows that he
was becoming obsessed with these Jews, the enemy.
More and more episodes occurred to give him
reasons to dislike Jews. After Horst Wessel, a young Nazi stormtrooper who
composed the hymn that subsequently became the second national anthem of Nazi
Germany, was murdered in early 1930 by a communist in Berlin, it was a Jew who
gave refuge to the murderers when they fled. This kind of thing will have
undoubtedly had an effect of Goebbels. He would have chalked it up on his list
Even worse, after he began going out with Magda
Quandt (whose stepfather, Friedländer, he knew had been Jewish), it happened
that for days at a time she didn't come to see him. After a while, she doesn't
answer the phone or keep dates, and eventually Goebbels finds out he has a
rival: a Jew named Victor Arlosoroff, who is also enraged to find out that she's
two-timing him with the Nazi Gauleiter of Berlin. Arlosoroff is so enraged, in
fact, that during one meeting he pulls out a revolver, and in a jealous,
dramatic scene, fires at her, deliberately missing. The bullet buries itself in
the wall near her. She gets him out of her life, although he keeps returning and
pleading to be taken back.
This man is none other than Victor Chaim
Arlosoroff, who subsequently became an important Zionist figure. After Hitler
came to power, he was the Zionist representative in the negotiations with the
new Nazi government that resulted in the Ha'avara ("Transfer") agreement,
whereby German Jews could emigrate to Palestine with their property. In June
1933 Arlosoroff was murdered in Tel Aviv, Palestine, by members of the
Jabotinsky faction of the Zionist movement. The fact that the love of his life
was two-timing him with an ardent Zionist may also have contributed to Goebbels'
growing dislike of Jews.
Goebbels was besotted with Magda, there's no
question, and once again he couldn't believe his own luck. They were married in
December 1931. In fact, though, she was rather ambivalent about him, and it
appears that the only reason she started dating him was, as they say, to be near
the fascinating Mr. Hitler. There was even a rumor that her son, Helmut, was
fathered by Hitler. When you look at photographs of little Helmut, though, you
can be pretty certain that this is not true, because he looks just like Dr.
Boycotts A month after the Nazis came to power in
January 1933, Goebbels was really able to flex his muscles. He wasn't appointed
Propaganda Minister immediately because Hitler needed Goebbels to direct his
party's propaganda campaign in one final election battle, and, as Hitler pointed
out to him, it wouldn't be right for the Reich Propaganda Minister, a government
official, simultaneously to direct the Nazi party's propaganda election
We must not overlook the fact that the world's
Jewish community lost no time in striking at Nazi Germany. We all too readily
talk about the book-burning and about the Nazi boycott against the Jews as if
those things happened in vacuum. They didn't. The Nazi boycott against the Jews
on April 1, 1933, was a foolish reprisal by the Nazis in retaliation for the
Jewish boycott against Germany.
As soon as the Nazis came to power the world
Jewish community announced an international boycott campaign against Germany.
Jews would not buy any German products. They would not accept any more German
films, for example, and would see that others would not accept them. Jewish
restaurateurs in England announced they would no longer serve German customers.
If you read the newspapers of the day, such as the London Daily Express, you'll
find all the details of this anti-German Jewish boycott, which is now all too
readily forgotten. Today all we hear about is the Nazi boycott against the Jews,
which lasted for a single day -- Saturday, April 1, 1933. Brown shirt SA men
stood outside Jewish businesses and shops, and admonished customers against
As a warning to Jews abroad to go easy on Nazi
Germany, the boycott failed, of course. It just enraged the international Jewish
community even more. At the time, and ever since, the Nazis were effectively
rapped on the knuckles for that boycott. It was Goebbels who organized that
boycott, even though, if you read his diary, you can get the impression that
Hitler authorized it, sanctioned it, and possibly even suggested it. But there's
no doubt at all in my mind that this is another case of Goebbels having an idea,
of putting it into effect, and then playing a trick by writing in his diary that
he'd gotten Hitler's approval in advance. He had already done something like
this in 1932, when he railroaded Hitler into an unsuccessful election campaign
for Reich President against Paul von Hindenburg. In his diary he rather implies
that Hitler asked him to go ahead with it and sanctioned it in advance. We see
exactly the same phenomenon in November 1938: the "Night of Broken Glass."
Yet even in 1932-1933, he was still somewhat
ambivalent in his feelings about the Jews. He could still split his sides with
laughter, as he writes in his diary on May 16, 1933, at a nightclub listening to
Jewish comedian Otto Wallburg. This same Otto Wallburg later died in Auschwitz.
So there you have the whole of the tragedy of Jews and the Third Reich
encapsulated in one man's fate. (You notice I used the word "died." I didn't say
he was gassed or was killed or murdered at Auschwitz. He died. We don't know how
he died -- it's tragic enough that he did.)
The Nazi campaign against the Jews included
Goebbels' systematic campaign to remove them from the theater, art and music. He
argued that the Jews tried to dominate, and that this was not for the general
good of the community. There was an outcry from the artists themselves, of
course. For example, the internationally renowned conductor of the Berlin
Philharmonic, Wilhelm Furtwängler, bravely defended fellow conductor Otto
Klemperer and other Jewish artists. In a letter to Furtwängler (which was
published in The New York Times, April 16, 1933), Goebbels wrote: "Those of
Jewish blood who have real ability should be free to exercise their art, but
they must not rule."
Jews began a campaign of assassination against
Nazis in February 1936, when David Frankfurter shot Wilhelm Gustloff, leader of
the Nazi party in Switzerland. Then, in November 1938, another Jew, Herschel
Grynszpan, assassinated Ernst vom Rath, a young diplomat at the German embassy
in Paris. These incidents further contributed to Goebbels' perception of the
international Jewish community, namely, that Jews would stop at nothing to get
back at the Nazis. All his previous Jewish enemies, such as Dr. Weiss, expecting
short shrift from the Nazis, had emigrated from Germany. Some went to Prague,
some to Paris, some to London, and others to the United States -- from where
they campaigned against Nazi Germany.
Hitler's 'Final Solution' On April 11, 1938, the diary records a very
interesting conversation in which Hitler reveals to him for the first time that
his "Final Solution" of the Jewish problem is to deport the world's Jews,
particularly those in Germany and in Europe, to some faraway country, possibly
Madagascar. Hitler swore by the Madagascar solution. Even in July 1942, two
months after the island country had been occupied by the British, Hitler is
still saying that Madagascar is the ideal solution.
In June 1938, two months later, Goebbels begins
an anti-Jewish campaign of his own. Six months before "Crystal Night," Goebbels
and Berlin's police chief, Count von Helldorff, decided between them to start a
campaign of systematic harassment of the city's Jews. Even after the Nazis came
to power, the number of Jews continued to increase in Berlin, which didn't
please Goebbels at all. Berlin was his city, and yet the Jews still had
considerable presence and economic clout. The only way to reverse the trend, he
told the police chief, is to start hounding and harassing them.
In the University of Princeton library there's
a file called the Adolf Hitler papers, which consists of documents relieved in
1945 by an American soldier from Hitler's apartment in Munich. It contains a
June 1938 letter from Goebbels to Hitler, reporting on this campaign of
harassment. All the Jews in Berlin had their motor cars called in for
inspection: most of them were found to be unroadworthy, and they were ordered
off the roads. They also had their telephones cut off. Berlin's Jews were
subjected to all sorts of petty police harassment such as this. It's very
similar to what is happening now in Germany to revisionists -- harassing people
within the law, rather the way your [United States] government suddenly inflicts
a tax audit on someone who is politically incorrect.
'Crystal Night' The key event in this whole story was, of
course, the "Crystal Night" ("Kristallnacht"), or "Night of Broken Glass" in
1938. Here the Goebbels diary must be treated with the utmost caution. It began
on November 7, 1938, with the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris by a
Polish Jew, Herschel Grynszpan. News of the shooting triggered a number of small
scale anti-Jewish outbreaks all over Germany, which Goebbels noted in his diary
without at first paying any special attention to them. However, when news
reached him of the young diplomat's death, two days later, it truly outraged
him. It came while he was with Hitler at a meeting in Munich, commemorating the
annual Nazi party anniversary of the failed "Beer Hall Putsch" of November 9,
After Hitler had left the meeting, Goebbels
came to the podium to announce the death of the German diplomat. He also
reported to the assembled Gauleiters on the anti-Jewish incidents that had
already broken out, describing them as manifestations of a "spontaneous" public
outrage. Goebbels said, in effect: "A Jew has fired a shot. A German has died.
Obviously our people will be outraged about this. This is not the time to rein
in that outrage." We have two or three independent sources for what he said that
evening, including the report by the British consul in Munich, who very quickly
learned of the speech and reported it to London. This report is now in the
Describing the evening's events, Goebbels
writes in his diary that, after his brief speech: "Everyone makes a beeline for
the telephones." He adds: "Now the public will take action." An interesting turn
of phrase, he creates an image of men in brown uniforms and swastika arm bands
reaching out to telephones to relay orders all over Germany.
The orders were that the Aktion (operation) was
to be carried out by SA men in plain clothes, and the police were not to
intervene. There was to be no bloodshed and no harm done to anyone unless, of
course, Jews offered armed resistance, in which case they should expect short
shrift. "There is to be no looting," stormtroopers in Kiel were told. "Nobody is
to be roughed up. Foreign Jews are not to be touched. Meet any resistance with
firearms. The Aktion is to be carried out in plain clothes and must be finished
by five a.m."
The result was the Night of Broken Glass, one
of Germany's darkest nights. Hundreds if not thousands of Jewish shops were
destroyed. About 150 synagogues were burned to the ground, including six or
seven in Berlin. The following morning the news was that 38 Jews had been
murdered. On Hitler's orders, 20,000 Jews were rounded up and temporarily held
in concentration camps.
After the overnight reports had come in,
Goebbels sums up the object of the exercise in a heartless, unrepentant diary
entry: "As was to be expected, the entire nation is in uproar. This is one dead
man who is costing the Jews dear. Our darling Jews will think twice in future
before simply gunning down German diplomats."
In the archives I found a document dated the
next day, November 10, which shows quite clearly that some kind of order had
actually been issued. That morning Goebbels sent the following message to all 42
Nazi party propaganda officials (Gaupropagandaleiter) at the provincial level:
"The anti-Jewish Aktionen [operations] must now be called off with the same
rapidity with which they were launched. They have served their desired and
anticipated purpose." These are the key lines in this document, I think, because
they do imply that an order had been issued the day before. We don't have that
earlier document, but references to it were made during the postwar
interrogation of one or two of the Gauleiters, and there's also a hint in his
diary that he had given certain orders the previous day.
Goebbels had to issue this second order calling
off the Aktionen because, as we now know (a member of Hitler's private staff
confirmed it to me), Hitler was furious when he heard, during the night, about
the anti-Jewish outbreaks. Throughout the night, telephone calls came in
reporting synagogues blazing across Germany. Hitler sent for Himmler and asked:
"What the hell is going on here, Reichsführer?" Himmler replied: "Send for
Goebbels, he knows." Hitler summoned Goebbels and raked him over the coals. The
following morning Goebbels wrote in his diary: "I went to see the Führer at 11
o'clock, and we discussed what to do next." You can just imagine what kind of
conversation took place between Hitler and Goebbels. Of course, Goebbels isn't
going to write in his diary "the Führer called me a bloody idiot for having
started what I did last night" -- that's not the kind of diary he kept. Instead,
he wrote a one-line entry to remind himself that he did have to go to see the
Führer. What he did next was to issue the November 10 order calling for an
immediate stop to all the anti-Jewish Aktionen.
Here, I'm afraid, I have to disagree with our
colleague Ingrid Weckert; but if a revisionist can't revise another revisionist,
I don't know what a revisionist is. Weckert rather exonerates Dr. Goebbels from
any blame for the "Crystal Night." [See Weckert's book, Flashpoint, published by
the IHR, and her article, "'Crystal Night' 1938," in the Summer 1985 Journal.]
However, there is no doubt in my mind that on
that night, having gotten the news that the German diplomat died, Goebbels --
incautiously, imprudently, and out of a sheer sense of mischief -- ordered the
Gauleiters to go out and start raising hell against the Jews. And, of course, it
got out of hand.
Even then, Goebbels didn't realize the extent
to which the world's press would seize on this incident. Few of the top Nazis
had ever travelled outside of Germany. They didn't realize what the foreign
press was like. They didn't realize that outside Germany, then as now, there are
societies that look on German actions with a certain degree of wonderment and
bafflement. The foreign press seized on this extraordinary incident, which in
the over-heated political climate of 1938 Germany might have seemed little more
than an extension of a street fight. But in peaceful democracies this kind of
thing just didn't go on. From Berlin, reporters sent back horrific accounts to
England, to the United States and to the other free countries.
Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister, was
one of those most scandalized by what Goebbels had done. Himmler was furious.
Göring went to Hitler and demanded that Goebbels be dismissed for this outrage.
Goebbels had an appalling time trying to repair the damage that he had done. It
is baffling why Hitler tolerated what Goebbels had done. Hitler told Ribbentrop,
"I need this man because I have other things in mind, and I am going to need a
propaganda minister of the caliber of Dr. Goebbels." This can be the only
explanation why he turned a blind eye to Goebbels' blooper, and it doesn't speak
very highly of Hitler.
Years later, in July 1944, when he was pleading
to be put in charge of Germany's "total war" mobilization effort, Goebbels wrote
this mea culpa to Hitler: "I know that I've caused you many a private worry in
the 20 years I've been with you, particularly in 1938 and 1939." Although Hitler
does appoint him commissioner of total war, this is a very important admission.
Obviously between Hitler and Goebbels at that time there was colossal personal
strain. It wasn't just because of his affair in 1936-1938 with Lida Baarova, the
Czech actress. (She is now 80 years old, still a lady of great beauty, and
living in Salzburg. I went to interview her a few months ago.) Rather, it was
undoubtedly the grief that Goebbels had caused Hitler by Kristallnacht.
Changes After the Outbreak of War When war broke out in 1939, Jewish leader Chaim
Weizmann, president of both the World Zionist Organization and the "Jewish
Agency," made the tactical mistake of declaring war on Germany in the name of
the entire Jewish people around the world. This was a crucial error because --
as Professor Ernst Nolte and some other historians have argued -- it somewhat
justified what the Nazis then did to the Jews: the Jews declared war on Germany
and Germany declared war on the Jews. [The text of Weizmann's declaration, along
with an interview with Prof. Nolte, and a review of his recent book, are in the
Jan.-Feb. 1994 Journal, pp. 15-22, 37-41.]
During a visit to Poland in June 1934, Goebbels
had visited the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw. He recorded his impression in his
diary: "Stinking and filthy. The Ostjuden. There they are." Five years later,
after the defeat of Poland in 1939, he visited another Jewish ghetto in that
country, this time the one in Lodz. He was just as shocked by what he saw,
writing in his diary: "Our task isn't a humanitarian one, but a surgical one.
Otherwise one day Europe will succumb to the Jewish pestilence."
After once again setting eyes on these Jewish
"specimens," the idea came to him to begin making anti-Jewish films. The result
was the three infamous anti-Jewish films made by the Nazis. Interesting, isn't
it? Of the approximately one thousand motion pictures made by the Nazis during
their entire twelve years in power, just three were anti-Jewish: "The
Rothschilds," "The Eternal Jew" and "Jud Süss" ("The Jew Suess"). These three
films -- the last two going down in propaganda history -- were very much part of
Goebbels' broad-front attack on the Jews. And yet, how many anti-German films
has Hollywood made in revenge? It doesn't bear counting.
"Jud Süss," which starred some of the Third
Reich's best movie actors, told the story of Joseph Süss-Oppenheimer, an 18th
century "Court Jew" financier who was able to rob the Duchy of Württemberg on a
Robert Maxwellian scale, and who ends up being publicly hanged -- to the general
plaudits of the citizens.
To my mind, "The Eternal Jew" is the most
insidious of the three because, as a documentary, it purported to show Jews as
they were. On Goebbels' orders Jews were filmed in the ghettos of Poland, at
their most profane and their most contemptible. He wanted yards and yards of
footage showing Jews as caricatures. With this he mingled footage of rats
invading bags of wheat and grain. Concluding the film, in one of its two
versions, was an appalling, stomach-churning scene, filmed in close-up, of
Jewish ritual slaughter of cattle. This was appended to the end of the film in
what I think was a rather crude and vulgar tactic. So two versions of "The
Eternal Jew" were made -- one, with the ritual slaughter scene, for adults, and
a second, cleaned up version, for children and others with weaker stomachs. But
even the knowledge that there was a stronger version had a propaganda effect on
Germany Must Perish In March 1941, Goebbels visited the
"Warthegau," a portion of Poland that was incorporated into the German Reich.
After a meeting there with the local Gauleiter, Arthur Greiser, Goebbels
recorded in his diary: "There has been all manner of liquidating going on here,
particularly of the Jewish garbage. That's got to be."
A crucial episode in the "Final Solution," as
far as Goebbels is concerned -- and this has been very little highlighted --
came in 1941 with the publication in the United States of a strange little book,
Germany Must Perish, by an American named Theodore N. Kaufman. In it, Kaufman --
who was, presumably, a Jew -- recommends the castration of the entire German
people, so that the Germans would literally perish within one generation.
"Germany must perish forever!," wrote Kaufman. "In fact -- not in fancy."
Published at a time when the United States was still officially not at war
against Germany, this book was given respectful, even laudatory attention by
Time magazine, The Washington Post, and other periodicals.
Goebbels seized with delight on this nasty
propaganda diatribe against the German people, with all its Freudian undertones.
"This Jew [Kaufman] has done a disservice to the enemy," Goebbels commented. "If
he had composed the book at my behest he couldn't have done a better job."
Goebbels looked into the feasibility of having
a million copies of a German translation printed up and distributed to German
soldiers. He shelved the project because his lawyers pointed out that the
project would violate US copyrights. You may laugh but, as he wrote in his
diary, the reasoning was that if Germany violated American copyrights, America
might feel justified in violating Germany's very valuable copyrights. He had to
wait another few months until certain historical events in Hawaii resulted in
American copyrights not being so valuable after all.
Kaufman's book figures in Goebbels' diary as
being the turning point that justified, in his mind, adopting a much more
radical solution to the Jewish problem.
In August 1941, he went to show Hitler Germany
Must Perish in translation, and persuaded him to agree to a plan by which every
German Jew would be fitted out with a yellow Star of David badge with the word
Jude. Goebbels argued that the Jews had to be tagged, and Hitler agreed. It's
interesting to note -- and this can't be emphasized enough -- that again and
again it's Goebbels who goes to Hitler with radical plans, and Hitler agrees.
It's never Hitler initiating these plans. This is true even when the diary
appears to indicate otherwise, as in the case of Kristallnacht and other
episodes when, for reasons of politics and posterity, Goebbels felt it necessary
to write: "The Führer fully endorsed what I had done."
I have to point out that we are reading the
diary of a Propaganda Minister, a master dissembler whose diary has frequently
been found to be untrustworthy on earlier occasions. And when dealing with what
he writes about a man such as Hitler, who is dead and can't defend himself, you
have to be extra careful. It may stick in the craw of other historians when I
say this, but it doesn't matter if the man is Hitler or Roosevelt or Stalin: If
he's not here to defend himself you have to be ten times more careful when
trying to write the truth. That's why I've been additionally careful in
evaluating the diary of Dr. Goebbels.
During a visit to the Eastern front in November
1941, Goebbels toured the German-occupied Baltic states -- Lithuania, Latvia and
Estonia. On this occasion as well, he viewed the ghettos. In Lithuania he spent
a whole afternoon touring the Jewish ghetto in Kaunas (Kovno), and wrote
disapproving passages in his diary about what he found there. As he records,
Goebbels was also told that the Jews in the Baltic states had been massacred on
a colossal scale, not by the Germans but by the Lithuanians and Latvians
themselves, even as the German troops arrived, in revenge for what the Jews had
done to them during the year of Bolshevik terror following the Soviet Russian
takeover in June 1940.
When German troops arrived in the Baltic
states, they found that the local Jews had largely fled or been evacuated. The
Germans then decided to evacuate the German Jews to these Baltic territories. I
don't know why they hit on this mad solution, because if the Baltic peoples
themselves didn't like their own Jews, these territories certainly weren't going
to be very safe for foreign Jews. But the Germans didn't really care.
Goebbels and Speer It may surprise you to learn that the prime
mover behind the evacuation of Berlin's Jews was less Dr. Goebbels than that
great hero of the postwar media, Albert Speer. If you read Speer's genuine
diary, not the sanitized one he gave to the German Federal Archives, but his
genuine diary, you'll find that from early 1941, when he was chief of
construction for Berlin, he makes repeated references to the "Main Resettlement
Department" ("Hauptabteilung Umsiedlung"), which he controlled.
You see, Speer -- who was a close friend of
Goebbels and his wife -- had been given the task of rebuilding Berlin -- a fine
and appropriate task for an ambitious young architect with great vision, and, it
has to be said, also great ability. In order to rebuild Berlin, though, he had
first to clear slums, and this required that he house the slum-dwellers
elsewhere. So, wanting to clear the Jewish areas of west Berlin, he persuaded
Goebbels to start a campaign to drive the Jews out of the city, and thus empty
their apartments. Speer had his eye on something like 24,000 Jewish houses and
apartments in Berlin.
In early 1941, Speer and Goebbels, each for
reasons of his own, together started this campaign to drive the Jews from the
city. Goebbels, who was Gauleiter of Berlin, wanted to have his city "free of
Jews," and Speer wanted to clear out those 24,000 apartments so that he could
So, trainload by trainload, Jews were shipped
out of Berlin to anywhere -- nobody really cared. The chiefs of police, Kurt
Daluege and Helldorff joined in because they were pals of Goebbels. Only
occasionally did Goebbels have to get approval from Hitler, in broad general
terms, for yet another operation against the Jews. We know how many Jews were in
those trains -- there were about 130 trainloads altogether -- because in almost
every case we know exactly how many Jews were loaded onto each train.
We know the exact route and destination of
those trains because, by some quirk of historical fate, the actual rail records
have survived. They show that there were around a thousand Jews per trainload --
sometimes as few as about 650 passengers, sometimes as many as 1030. The first
of these trainloads left Berlin on October 18, 1941 -- to the plaudits of Speer
and Goebbels. These rail deportations were irregular because this was a low
priority program. At a time when German troops were fighting a desperate battle
outside Moscow, rail rolling stock and rail networks were needed, above all, for
munitions, supplies, troop reinforcements, wounded soldiers, hospital trains,
and all the rest. But whenever they could, Goebbels and Speer would deport
another trainload of Jews.
Single Jews with no families were the first to
be rounded up and deported. If the family had a "privileged" member -- for
example, a Jew who had married a non-Jew, or a Jewish man who was working in a
munitions factory -- that one member saved the entire family. Jews who weren't
privileged in some way were liable to be picked up without warning, allowed only
40 kilograms of baggage, put on a train and shipped out.
In one particular case, we know that a
trainload of 1030 Jews left Berlin on November 27, 1941, destined for Riga,
Latvia. It's recorded in the Speer diary and in the Goebbels diary. It arrived
at a place called Skiatowa, eight kilometers outside Riga, on the morning of
November 30, 1941, in the midst of a mass extermination. So these newly-arrived
Jews were taken along with local Riga Jews, lined up along pits, and shot.
That very day, Heinrich Himmler went to see
Hitler at his headquarters. In my book Hitler's War [in the 1991 Focal Point
edition, between pages 506-507], you'll find a facsimile of Himmler's own
handwritten notes of his telephone conversations on that day, when he made a
couple of phone calls from Hitler's headquarters. One note records a call at
1:30 p.m., Nov. 30, 1941, to Gestapo chief Reinhard Heydrich. It reads: "Jew
transport from Berlin. No liquidation."
Until I found these bundles of telephone notes,
not one historian in the world had bothered to read them or quote them. They
were written in old-fashioned handwriting, you see, and the German historians
rather like to have the documents they consult printed, especially in the
Nuremberg bound volumes, and even better, with illustrations. They don't like
reading old German handwriting.
What's the explanation for Himmler's words
here? My theory is that he may have said to Hitler: "Mein Führer, I've got a bit
of a problem housing these Jews we're shipping out of Berlin. Why don't we just
bump them off?," and Hitler probably answered: "Out of the question." So Himmler
sends a frantic message to Heydrich, saying they're not to be liquidated. But
it's too late, they're already dead -- the whole trainload. We know this because
we have the timetable of what happened that day.
On March 5, 1942, Goebbels received a report
from Heydrich about guerilla warfare in the occupied east. Blaming the Jews for
this as well, he comments:
It is therefore understandable that many of them must pay with
their lives for this. Anyway, in my view the more Jews who are liquidated the
more consolidated the situation in Europe will be after the war. Let there be
no phony sentimentalism about it. The Jews are Europe's misfortune. They must
somehow be eliminated otherwise we are in danger of being eliminated by them.
Here I want to mention something that I'm always very adamant
about. Although we revisionists say that gas chambers didn't exist, and that the
"factories of death" didn't exist, there is no doubt in my mind that on the
Eastern front large numbers of Jews were massacred, by criminals with guns -- SS
men, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, whatever -- to get rid of them. They were made to
line up next to pits or ditches, and then shot. The eyewitness accounts I've
seen of this are genuine and reliable.
Wannsee Conference In late 1941 Heydrich sent a message to all the
relevant ministers and state secretaries calling them to a high-level conference
on the Jewish question. This is the famous Wannsee Conference, which took place
on January 20, 1942, at a villa in suburban Berlin. There the officials
discussed how to deal with all the administrative problems of large-scale
transportations of Jews. There's no reference to killing Jews, not even an
indication, anywhere in the Conference record.
Goebbels was not present at that meeting
because the invitation that was sent to the Propaganda Ministry was addressed to
Leopold Gutterer, the Ministry State Secretary and Goebbels' number two man.
Gutterer is still alive, age 92. I went to interview him two or three times
before I was banned from Germany (on November 9, 1993). He told me he never got
the Wannsee meeting invitation, that it was probably intercepted by Werner
Naumann, who was his rival on Goebbels staff.
Although Goebbels did not hear in advance of
the meeting, you'll find in Goebbels' diary -- in his entry of March 7, 1942 --
that a copy of the well-known Wannsee Conference protocol was sent to him.
Nobody else has spotted this.
There were still eleven million Jews in Europe,
Goebbels dictated on that day, accurately summarizing the document. "For the
time being they are to be concentrated in the east [until] later; possibly an
island like Madagascar can be assigned to them after the war." It all raised a
host of "delicate questions," he added. "Undoubtedly there will be a multitude
of personal tragedies," he wrote airily, "But this is unavoidable. The situation
now is ripe for a final settlement of the Jewish question."
More chilling is another diary entry a few
weeks later. On March 27, 1942, Goebbels dictates a lengthy passage about
another SS document that had been submitted to him, and which appears to have
been much uglier in its content. "Beginning with Lublin," he states, "the Jews
are now being deported eastward from the General Government [occupied Poland].
The procedure is pretty barbaric and one that beggars description, and there's
not much left of the Jews. Broadly speaking one can probably say that 60 percent
of them will have to be liquidated, while only 40 percent can be put to work."
It's a very ugly passage, and it's easy to link
this diary passage with everything we've seen in the movies and on television
since then. He's describing "Schindler's List" here -- or is he? I don't know.
All he's actually saying here is that the Jews are having a pretty rigorous
time. They're being deported, it's happening in a systematic way, and not many
of them are going to survive it.
When I visited the Hoover Institution library
in Stanford, California, to see the portion of the original Goebbels diary that
they have there, this was the first page I asked to see. And when I was in the
Moscow archives to examine the glass plate copy of the diary, this was also the
first plate I searched for. I knew that if the diary had actually been copied by
the Nazis in Berlin, and the glass plate version in Moscow matches the text in
the Hoover library, there's no way anyone could have faked it. And there it is
on the glass plate in Moscow, identical. As a final clincher, this portion was
also microfilmed in 1947 in New York from the text that is held by the Hoover
library. So there are three different indications that this is a genuine
quotation from a genuine Goebbels document.
The conclusion I draw therefore is that,
between them, Speer and Goebbels started a ruthless campaign in 1941 to drive
out and deport the Jews from Berlin -- Goebbels for political reasons, and out
of sheer visceral hatred of the Jews, and Speer for the more mundane reasons of
real estate and ambition. They didn't really care what happened to the Jews.
Even so, we must put all this in the context of
the brutal war being fought on the Eastern front at the time, in which neither
side was giving the other any quarter. By this time (March 1942) we British had
just begun bombing German towns on a ruthless scale. The devastating aerial
bombardment of Lübeck, for example, came just two days after this diary entry.
It's not difficult to imagine Dr. Goebbels' attitude: "So what if Jews are being
machine-gunned into pits? They had it coming to them. They declared war on us,
and this is no time for sympathy and sentiment." That's the way he may well have
looked at it.
By this time, ugly rumors were already
circulating abroad, fuelled by British propaganda. The London Daily Telegraph
quoted Polish claims that seven thousand of Warsaw's Jews were being killed each
day, often in what it called "gas chambers." One of Goebbels' worried civil
servants responded by telexing a request for information to Hans Frank's press
office in Krakow and to the propaganda field office in Warsaw. The reassuring
reply spoke of the Jews being used to construct defences and roads. Be that as
it may, in Goebbels' files the original press report, which had merely
summarized the British newspaper item, was rubber-stamped Geheime Reichssache,
"Secret Reich Matter."
How much did Goebbels know? Among his surviving
files are papers suggesting a broad general knowledge of atrocities. One is from
a large collection of original Goebbels' papers on file at the Jewish Yivo
institute in New York.
Reporting to Goebbels on November 11, 1942, his
legal expert, Dr Hans Schmidt-Leonhardt, whom he had sent to inspect conditions
in Hans Frank's Polish dominions, noted that the Warsaw police had deemed it too
dangerous to visit the ghetto there; in the Krakow ghetto he had found all the
Jews put to work; in Lublin the ghetto had already been cleared away, and there
were now bloody disturbances. "As a Geheime Reichssache," reported the legal
specialist, "Frank related to us the following characteristic recent instance:
..." But whatever this was we cannot know, because a shocked member of Goebbels'
staff cut off the rest of the page.
This is something that you have to look for,
this "top secret" endorsement. By contrast, the Auschwitz documents found in the
Moscow archives by French researcher Jean-Claude Pressac have no "secret"
classification whatsoever. But this document, with its missing half page, tells
me that Goebbels knew damn well that something ugly was probably happening on
the Eastern front, and that he didn't want members of his staff asking awkward
questions, so he had part of the page torn off and locked away in his safe.
I sometimes wonder what his stenographer,
Richard Otte, must have thought about the man whose words he transcribed day by
day for this diary.
So there are the facts about Dr. Goebbels and
the "final solution." If we're looking for a culprit, if we're looking for a
criminal behind the "final solution" or the "Holocaust," whatever it was, for
the man who started it in motion, then it was undoubtedly Dr. Goebbels first and
foremost. Not Julius Streicher, not Adolf Hitler, nor any of the other Nazis.
Goebbels was the moving force, and the brain behind it in every sense of the
word. We still don't know if he knew what exactly happened at the other end, but
then this isn't surprising, because we ourselves don't know either.
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Institute For Historical Review
Office Box 2739
Newport Beach, California 92659
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CODOH can be reached at:
San Diego, CA, USA 92143
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Revelations from Joseph Goebbels' Diary
Installed: 5/16/98, 6: 00 PM, PST