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David Skog writes from Sweden, Sunday, January 25, 2004, to ask for Mr Irving's motives in writing about Hitler
Why deny that Hitler was to blame for it?
THIS is an earnest question regarding your personal motivation in pursuing the path you have on your internet site, and in your published works.
It is a very important one, if I am to regard you as a serious historical writer. What, in fact, is your political motivation in regard to your fierce denial of Hitler's knowledge of the Holocaust?
In my opinion, it doesn't matter, because no-one will know all the details. The important thing is that he created a movement which made it possible, and it doesn't really matter if he knew of every single detail. A general often does not know every thing that goes on in the army he commands, but he is nevertheless responsible for its actions.
I can only assume that you are no more than a provocateur who wants to upset. If your business is denying the Holocaust, I can only pity you and yours. If your business is something else, I would very much like to hear what it is.
Don't give me any stuff about "I want the truth", because truth is relative, and can be considered to be almost anything, depending on the sources you choose to regard or disregard.
I am in no doubt that Hitler was responsible in his position as dictator, and I would like to know your views on this point (in addition to the answer to my question). The interest I express is my own and no-one elses.
I find that the opportunity of communicating with you directly is a very fortunate one, since I do not have to relay my message via any other agency. I want to know for personal reasons.
It might be important to point out that I am not a Jew or a member of any Jewish organization.
Student (Teacher), Lund, Sweden
[The above letter has been edited for length]
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David Irving replies:
I HAVE shortened your letter by about half, but I hope I have left its main points. The answer is relatively simple. As I believe I have written in all three editions of my biography Hitler's War, as head of state Adolf Hitler undoubtedly bore the responsibility for whatever happened during his term of rule. Ignorance of the event, like ignorance of the law, haud excusat -- is no excuse for a dictator.
Just as I will argue that it will not impress me for George W Bush to plead eventually, as well he may, that he was ignorant that he was being fed wrong or faked Intelligence about Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction", or for a mugger to claim that he did not know that the gun he was carrying was loaded, Hitler could not plausibly argue before a Court of Law that he did not know what the SS generals were up to in the East, or what was going to happen in the camps like Auschwitz, Dachau, Buchenwald, and Bergen Belsen in the closing months of the war.
If I am William Shirer, writing in general terms, with a broad brush, about The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, in the 1950s, it is quite proper and adequate to say that "Hitler carries the blame for the Holocaust" -- whatever that was.
But for David Irving, writing an objective war biography of Hitler in the 1960s and 1970s, it would be wholly improper to apply the same standards and criteria. It becomes not only right but imperative to investigate whether Hitler issued an orders for the killing all Europe's Jews (he manifestly did not); and whether in fact he was aware of everything that was going on -- equally, I find that he did not.
To take just one item: Look at the Lagebesprechung, Hitler's war conference, of January 19, 1945 (I think that is the date: my only copy of the unabridged volume has been lost). Generaloberst Heinz Guderian, Chief of the General Staff, reports to him, "Yesterday the Red Army overran Auschwitz." Hitler responds, I believe, with one terse word: "Jawohl." -- Yes.
The shorthand reporters don't record him adding, "I hope that we managed to bury and conceal all the evidence of what we were up to there first" -- whatever it was. He just says, "Yes." The name means nothing to him.
Incidentally, I personally interviewed all the surviving shorthand reporters (former Reichstag stenographers), as did the Americans when the war ended, and asked them what had been discussed about the killing of Jews at Hitler's conferences: All (and they were all non-political civil servants with very high standards of probity) said there was not a word talked about it.