Action Report

Himmler's shorthand

Picture by Walter Frentz 

David Irving asks: Who can read Gabelsberger, the shorthand script that Heinrich Himmler used?

I AM researching a biography of Heinrich Himmler. Those who have trodden this path before me will recognize one problem that we have all faced -- Himmler, like many Bavarians, had learned Gabelsberger shorthand at school, and occasionally wrote in his diaries and letters a few words or comments in stenography.

This is where The Edge is, for the kind of biographies I write. Others do not bother to decipher these cryptic lines. I do. For instance, there is a well-known September 1942 letter in his files about British newspaper allegations of the mass killing of Jews by the SS. He dismisses it in his reply, but writes several words on the foot of the letter in Gabelsberger script.

In his letters to his parents as a boy student in Munich -- we face the same challenge. Lines, entire paragraphs, in stenography.

It is the same problem that I faced when I found the shorthand diaries of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, dictated each day to a stenographer, Corporal Böttcher. I located the corporal's family, but he had taken his own life many years before. Eventually, my own secretary for twenty years, a German girl from Düsseldorf, found she could read the shorthand (Stolze Schrei or Deutsche Einheitskurzschrift, I forget which).

The diary of Himmler's persönlicher Referent, Rudolf Brandt (hanged by the Americans in 1947), was also written in shorthand. I arranged with the Bundesarchiv in 1978 to commission a transcription of the text by Dr Gerhard Herrgesell, one of Hitler's surviving Reichstag stenographers.

shorthand notes

But what about Himmler's own shorthand jottings, written in the Gabelsberger script? (See above for several lines). Who is still alive and can work with me from time to time, deciphering the shorthand and providing the necessary insight into the Heinrich Himmler that he did not want us to read?

This scrap comes from a three page letter, from the files of his mistress Hedwig Potthast, dated Dec 2, 1941, written entirely in the cryptic script. A crucially important day in the development of the Holocaust. If you think you can read his script and would like to help, please contact me -- click »» here ««