Posted Thursday, February 14, 2002

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 I stuck to my guns. Hitler chuckled it. Two months after the book's publication, The New Yorker ran that box.





Thursday, February 14, 2002
London (England)

I WORK until 2:30 a.m. as usual, pausing at two a.m. to pray quietly for the souls of the hundred thousand innocents we British burned alive at this moment in Dresden, 57 years ago tonight.

February 25, 1945: Altmarkt, DresdenIn the morning the mail brings a letter from the Dresden city archives, expressing gratitude for my gift of the unique colour photographs taken by Walter Hahn of the mass public cremations of the thousands of dead after the air raids. I ask them to give any royalties that accrue to the Frauenkirche rebuilding fund. If Hahn had not given me those negatives in 1961, the book [The Destruction of Dresden] would never have had the impact that it did.

The morning papers carry the obituaries of Adolf Hitler's last private secretary Traudl Junge. It's not often a lowly private secretary gets a mention in dispatches, but then, as Dr Joseph Goebbels wrote in January 1945, "Hitler is the man of the Millennium".

A friend sends me a message from Canada:

"Concerning the article on your website about the death of Traudl Junge, it is interesting to contrast with this article posted on CNN's online web page. You just knew they had to throw in the Holocaust somewhere... This is a quote from the end of the article:

It was during Junge's years serving Hitler that most of the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust died, although she said she never heard Jews discussed. She said it was only after the war, when she learned what many already knew about the Holocaust, that she felt wracked with guilt for having liked the "greatest criminal who ever lived." The Simon Wiesenthal Center has criticised the screening of the film, calling Junge's recollections "sheer fantasy" and "revisionism" and saying that everyone who was close to Hitler heard him "rant and rave about the Jews."

The Wiesenthal Center is lying, and they must know it (they're those tasteful folk who faked smoke on the photos of Auschwitz crematoria chimneys). Every one of Hitler's private staff was closely interrogated on precisely this issue by Americans and British after the war, and all of them stated independently of each other that at Hitler's headquarters, in his secret circle, there was never even the slightest hint or mention of anything untoward happening to the Jews in the east or in the concentration camps. I have the interrogation reports.

On June 9, 1977, I planted Hitler's personal adjutant Richard Schulze-Kossens (you can see him in the background at the Kremlin signing of the Ribbentrop-Stalin pact in August 1939) in the London audience of the live David Frost Programme, and invited this former S.S. colonel, when I was challenged on this point, to stand and tell the multi-million television audience just that: that from 1942-1944 he had been charged by Hitler to attend every single conference, even the most secret ones alone with Heinrich Himmler, and that not once had any extermination of the Jews been discussed or even mentioned in these conclaves.

Frost was not pleased to have this mystery witness sprung on him: but there he had it, straight from the horse's mouth, and next day's national press grudgingly admitted that I had carried the day.


TRAUDL Junge served as Hitler's secretary from 1942 to the end in 1945. I interviewed her in the sixties, after the "secret circle" introduced my name to her and gave her the okay -- that I was "the Englishman who had written about Dresden", and I could be trusted not to abuse confidences.

Her colleague Christa Schroeder was my other best source. She had been with the Führer since 1933 -- before her death in 1983, I interviewed her on a dozen occasions, a fragile piece of memory being delicately trampled out of her each time; I once invited her to lunch with Elke Fröhlich and Rolf Hochhuth at the Vier Jahreszeiten, or the Bayerischer Hof, I forget which, curious to see what the leftwing liberal playwright and Adolf Hitler's private secretary would make of each other. It was a memorable meal. I have a 16mm film of us walking cheefully down the pavement afterwards, filmed by Elke using my Paillard-Bolex.

Hochhuth was astonished to hear that Christa Schroeder had been imprisoned by the Americans for two years after the war, resulting in her haughty refusal to talk with any American writers after that.

"What on earth were you imprisoned for, ma'am?" he exclaimed.

"I typed for the Führer!" laughed Christa.

Hochhuth slapped down his knife and fork, and burst out so loudly that heads turned all round the elegant restaurant: "Millions carried guns for the Führer!"

Just inside the front door of the little studio flat she occupied in Munich's Belgrade Street, there was a curtain which she opened only for a few privileged friends: behind it hung her little gallery of photos.

A few years after that, while I was still researching Hitler's War, Christa came clean and admitted that she had a box of letters she had written to a lady friend in neutral Switzerland during the war, on Hitler's headed notepaper, describing events at the Führer Headquarters; after a falling-out, the lady friend had returned them all to her, wrapped in ribbon; and, yes, a few pages of a shorthand diary she had written in 1945.

She turned the precious bundle over to me, after first excising, literally, with scissors, a number of more delicate passages from the letters to her friend. "When I was ill in hospital in 1938," she said once to me, with a wan smile, "A.H. came to visit me with flowers." (She called him A.H., in our long conversations, or The Chief). A smile of half-remembered pleasures flickered across her face, and she added with a wistful chuckle: "He said, 'People are going to think I am visiting a secret lover!'" And that is about as close as they ever came to a relationship: it remained a crush, at room's length, no more.

Toward the end of her life, she produced a stack of twenty or thirty yellowing postcards from behind that curtain: Hitler, she recalled, desiring to save the lives of his four brave young secretaries, ordered them to leave the bunker around April 22, 1945, as the last plane was about to fly out of Berlin. The two youngest, Traudl Junge and Gerda Christian, refused and stayed on. Christa Schroeder and the elderly Johanna Wolf were formally ordered to fly to Munich, and he told Christa to go through his private papers there and destroy everything.

She had salvaged these postcards, sketches by A.H., as mementos: there was Charlie Chaplin as The Tramp, sketched by Adolf Hitler, and a Wandering Jew; the Elbe bridge at Hamburg, a vast suspension bridge he was planning to build after the war; pieces of furniture, victory arches, and a deft pencil self-portrait, on the back of which he had sketched two heads of a girl, Geli Raubal probably, before her suicide in 1931.

"I want you to have one, Mr Irving," she said. "Take whichever you want."

self protraitOf course there could be no doubt which one, and she offered, "Shall I sign it to authenticate who drew it?"

I replied that she knew who drew it, and so did I, and that was good enough for me. Along with the birdie-spoon, given me by Henrietta von Schirach, it is one of the harmless mementoes I have retained from that research era.

Later Christa must have regretted her kindness, and I was told she had remarked that she could have sold it to pay for an expensive operation that she needed. I gave the person who conveyed this message to me -- she was Otto Strasser's widow, working at the Institut für Zeitgeschichte -- an envelope with cash for Christa (in those days, before the enemy onslaught on Real History began, I was comfortably able to make such donations).


I FOUND Traudl Junge a very different character, businesslike and brisk, her memory as sharp as a pin. Her husband Hans -- whose diary entries for 1943 I had located in the Hoover Library archives, registering hour by hour all the visitors to Hitler -- was killed in the fighting in Normandy in June 1944. Hitler himself broke the news to her -- it was one of the deaths that affected him most, because it was a young man he personally knew.

Traudl handed me a heap of typescript on which she had worked in the first year or two after the war, her uncensored memoirs, and I used them extensively in Hitler's War, as my readers will know. With her consent I donated a set to the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich, and they are in the Irving Collection there along with my interview notes, where they have been found and tilled by diligent researchers like "Hitler expert" Ian Kershaw in more recent years.

My favourite Hitler's War passage, based on the typescript Traudl Junge memoirs, is this:

Hitler's WarHitler was still [January 12, 1945] on the western front. Two of his secretaries -- the young but widowed Frau Junge and the elderly Frau Wolf -- had just returned from leave and lunched with him at two. Frau Junge had hitched a truck ride through Munich the morning after British bombers had blasted the city with two thousand tons of bombs, and her emotional description made his blood boil. "In a very few weeks this nightmare will suddenly stop," he pronounced. "Our new jet aircraft are now in mass production. Soon the Allies will think twice about flying over Reich territory."
   One anecdote remained in Frau Junge's memory of that day, and it illustrates Hitler's bantering manner with his immediate entourage. His dog Blondi urgently needed to go out, and sprang delightedly through the bunker door with the manservant summoned for the purpose. "Amazing what little things can please a dog," Frau Junge remarked, at which Hitler laughed, adding: "Not to mention us human beings too! I was once on the road for hours on end with my men, and I had to go on to Magdeburg to open the first stretch of autobahn there. But when my convoy of cars was spotted, more and more cars would fall in behind. It was often quite impossible to make an urgently necessary stop in some wood or other and be alone. And when we reached this autobahn there was almost a calamity. Hour after hour we drove on, dying for a break, but everywhere they were lining the autobahn -- Hitler Youth, League of German Girls, Brownshirts, SS, the lot -- I had no idea the Party had so many formations. I felt at that moment it was too many. Brückner and Schaub sat petrified with masklike faces next to me. I had to keep standing, too, with a fixed grin. Then Brückner suddenly reminded us: 'Mein Führer, I had your special train sent to Magdeburg station!' How glad we were to see that train."
   Julius Schaub cupped his hand over one ear and grunted in appreciation of the story. "Mein Führer, do you remember The Elephant at Weimar!" "Ja," Hitler laughed. "That was an old-fashioned hotel prewar, but well managed. My regular rooms had running water but no bathroom or W.C., so I had to walk down this long corridor and vanish into the little room at the end. It was sheer purgatory every time, because when I left my room word spread around the hotel like wildfire, and when I emerged from the awkward closet they were all waiting to cheer me and I had to give the Hitler salute and a rather embarrassed smile all the way back to my room. Later on I had that hotel rebuilt."
   As Frau Junge afterward wrote, it was as though there was no war and Hitler had no cares. "But those who, like us, knew him well, recognized that he had recourse to such small talk as a kind of anesthetic to distract him from the losses of territory, equipment, and human life of which every hour brought fresh report."


MY LONG suffering editor at The Viking Press in New York, Stan Hochman, was uncomfortable with this passage. "You're just trying to make him look human, aren't you," he said restlessly. He got his revenge. In one line of the book I had Hitler "chuckling" something about Benito Mussolini. "David," said Stan, "American publishers do not allow you to use chuckle as a transitive verb." (Yes, those were the days). "You say something with a chuckle," he defined.

"Otherwise," he continued, "let me tell you what will happen. The New Yorker will quote it in a little box, with a heading like THINGS WE NEVER CHUCKLED, and they will crucify you for this wrong usage."

I stuck to my guns. Hitler chuckled it. Two months after the book's publication, The New Yorker ran that box.

[Previous Radical's Diary]

Relevant items on this website:

HITLER'S WAR Millennium edition, free download
Death of Traudl Junge | Just published memoirs
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