said, The job of the historian is to find
out what happened and why. Why do the
Marxists like Richard Evans have a problem
19, 2007 (Saturday)
- Mrogowo (Poland)
UP at 6:50 a.m. and I complete a claim to Ars
Polona, with the attached covering note: "I regret
yesterday's events, as I am sure you do too."
3 pm yesterday, having evidently invited
television companies and reporters to witness
what you were doing, you forcibly halted the
display of our books at Stand A50 at the Book
Fair, despite our valid agreement; and you
prohibited the talk I intended to give at 5 pm,
for which we had validly leased a hall and for
which many visitors had announced their coming.
(Fortunately we were able to post on the
Internet a warning that the event was cancelled,
to spare your Show inconvenience).
are quoted in the press as making a number of
defamatory statements, which were quite untrue.
The Associated Press last night reports that you
stated: "'I told [Mr Irving] his message
was in violation of Polish law and that I would
not allow him to deliver it at the book fair
premises, and I asked him to leave,' Guzowski
quoted statement is quite untrue. You did not
know my "message" (there is none). You admitted
that you had read none of my books. My thirty
books are international best-sellers published
by the world's leading companies. Eight of my
books have been published by companies in
Poland, including Bellona. None of them breaks
Polish law, nor do any statements that I may
make. I invite you, in a friendly manner, to
reconsider before making such statements in
After setting out the amounts claimed in
compensation, I conclude on an amiable note.
Scotsman reports the episode, and solemnly
adds: "Irving plans to remain in the country for a
few more days to visit Auschwitz
. . . "
I do hope our change of plan does not
inconvenience the security authorites at Auschwitz.
With Alan at the wheel, we drive all day northwards
across Poland, in the opposite direction, and into
what used to be East Prussia. We have an eight
hundred kilometer trip ahead of us. The highway is
little more than a country lane.
The differences in the architecture of these
former German towns are measurable. There are
busloads of German visitors, and German signs,
everywhere. What a relief: Polish is all consonants
and accents, worse even than Hungarian.
At 6:15 pm we check into a hotel at Mrogowo, on
a Masurian lake. My friend in Hungary has written:
"It's strange but not too surprising that you had
to leave the exhibition two days earlier than
planned. They are the same all the world over and
all of them afraid of men like you." I reply in
similar vein, and add: "I am in northern Poland and
East Prussia with Alan, we are visiting Hitler's
old headquarters tomorrow. Very exciting for
Irving visits Hitler's bunker at The Wolf's Lair,
formerly East Prussia
20, 2007 (Sunday)
- Rastenburg - Warsaw (Poland)
A DAUGHTER has emailed from Madrid. I report: "I
was evicted from the Book Fair . . . What
nonsense; they will pay me compensation though. I
am in northern Poland visiting Hitler's old
headquarters today. A historic site, half a million
people a year now come to see it."
We set out from Mrogowa at 10:30 a.m. for
Rastenburg (Polish: Ke,trzyn) and arrive there
after a twenty-mile drive around eleven a.m.
parking area is already crowded with campers and
cars from all over northern Europe. The signs in
hotels and stores are in German. It is like
Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, though less busy. (As we
leave, I count seventy-two people standing around
the parking lot at that instant, which suggests a
visitor-total of perhaps 2,000 today, or several
hundred thousands every year.)
Polish daily Dziennik frontpages the
expulsion from the Book Fair and has four pages of
Hitler has lost none of his magnetism, it seems.
I don't think many Germans would pay much to see
where Richard von Weizsäcker ran his
lackluster, lickspittle presidency.
Like a giant's hors d'oeuvre before the
feast, we already find clumps of concrete, some ten
feet tall, littering the parking lot, from where
they fell during the demolitions of 1945. The
Russians overran the Wolf's Lair on January 27 of
There are several memorials in the forest,
including the inevitable one to the assassin
Claus von Stauffenberg next to the barrack
ruins (above) where he killed four of Hitler's
staff with his bomb, including the chief of air
staff, a stenographer, a colonel, and Hitler's
chief adjutant (their deaths are now seldom
I tell Alan of Hitler's stenographer,
Berger, whose legs were blown off; his widow
came to visit me in East Berlin, clutching the
original telegram reporting his death, and sobbed
all over again.
There is also a fitting memorial to four Polish
sappers who died post-war while clearing the
thousands of mines from the surrounding forest.
is hard to guess how dense the forestation here was
at the time Hitler was present, 1941-1944. It is
now very dense, and the monster bunkers that are
hidden around the compound are overgrown with moss
and grass, and have flora growing out of the
cracks. In some places trees have taken root in the
The surrounding trees are everywhere taller than
the tallest bunkers, but these are twenty and even
thirty feet tall. My friend Professor Peter
Hoffmann of McGill University, Montreal, is
credited with identifying them on the site map.
Alan has been here before; he says the site maps
used to credit my book Hitler's War too, but
so far as I can see today those credits have now
vanished into the Memory Hole.
As we approach the biggest of these
constructions, the grim and forbidding building 13
-- the Hitler bunker itself -- Alan says quite
rightly that they remind him of the pre-Columbian
Mayan temples in the South American jungle.
I HAVE been re-reading
Hitler's War in preparation for this
visit. Arriving here for the last time on July
14, 1944, Hitler saw the work his engineers had
done to reinforce the headquarters against the big
new British ten-ton bombs.
got back to the Wolf's Lair yesterday," wrote
Martin Bormann on July 15, 1944. "With
its twenty-two-foot-thick bunkers it is now
really a fortress of the most modern
Hitler's Condor touched down at Rastenburg
airfield, fifteen minutes' drive away, thousands
of Todt Organization laborers were still working
on the strengthening of the Führer's
headquarters. The old site used for "Barbarossa"
was now barely recognizable: the mammoth
concrete bunkers rearing up out of the trees had
been expertly camouflaged against enemy
reconnaissance; there was grass on the flat
roofs, and both natural and artificial trees. It
was an idyllic setting.
beautiful it is out here," one of Hitler's
stenographers [Karl Thöt]
noted in his diary. "The whole site is
resplendent with luscious greenery. The woods
breathe a magnificent tranquillity. The wooden
hutments, including ours, have meantime been
heavily bricked-in to afford protection against
bomb-splinters. We all feel well at ease here.
It's become a second home to us."
Hitler's bunker proper was still incomplete, he
moved into the former guest bunker in the heart
of a top security zone compound which had been
wired-off in the southwest corner of Zone I
since September 1943. The noon war conferences
were accordingly transferred to one of the
gray-painted wood and brick hutments some forty
yards west of this temporary home; at one end of
the but a forty-foot-long conference room had
been created by simply knocking down two
partition walls. The room thus had windows on
three sides -- it was light and airy and filled
with the fragrances of the surrounding
The over-riding colour here is bright emerald
green, where the sunlight comes dappling through
the tall, close-packed trees. There are several
brick buildings scattered around the swampy
terrain, for example the secretaries' hut.
Squadrons of half-inch mosquitoes follow us
everywhere, and I can hear only a solitary cuckoo
in the distance.
Everything is on a far bigger scale than I had
expected. The ground, which I had imagined to be
level and open, is undulating, crisscrossed with
ditches, and now overgrown with trees and
undergrowth. Nothing has been really destroyed. In
some buildings the demolition explosives have
achieved just gaping fissures in the concrete.
Warning signs plaster most of the ruins:
DO NOT ENTER. Building 13,
Hitler's bunker (above), is really immense -- it
begins to tower over us as we approach; two tiny
doors give entrance to the building (one is closed
off by a wire-gate). We walk round its perimeter,
following the approved path, and come across the
rear side of this same Building 13, blown wide
open; its interior had a depth of perhaps twenty
Hitler's staff hated this sinister compound! The
forest was deathly silent; there was no life, no
entertainment, no relaxation. The mosquitoes which
infest the Masurian lakes all round must have made
life hell for them.
It cannot have been pleasant to live here, for
Hitler and his staff, and I wonder briefly whether
building such bunkers was really the only defence
against air raids: a good air-raid warning system,
constantly changing abodes, and good camouflage
would all seem to have been equally effective.
I have read more from Hitler's War:
and clammy bunkers," wrote one civil servant,
"in which we freeze to death at night, can't
sleep for the constant rattle of the electric
ventilation system and its frightful draught,
and wake up every morning with a headache." The
whole compound was invisible from the air,
concealed by camouflage netting suspended from
doubt some government department found the land
was cheapest here," sighed Hitler.
staff diarist complained in a private letter
dated June 27: "We are being plagued by the most
awful mosquitoes. It would be hard to pick on a
more senseless site than this -- deciduous
forest with marshy pools, sandy ground, and
stagnant lakes, ideal for these loathsome
of Hitler's two private secretaries wrote on
June 28, 1941: "As the air-conditioning noise
bothered us and the draft went right past our
heads . . . we have it switched off at night
with the result that . . . we walk around with
leaden limbs all next day."
I pause for a moment as I hear a Polish guide
addressing one crowd in German: "In his
Memoirs, which he wrote in Spandau prison,
Albert Speer describes. . ." I
hear, and I walk on: two untruths in one sentence.
The published Memoirs were not written by
Speer, as he himself admitted to me, and not in
Spandau; but by Joachim Fest, Wolf-Jobst
Siedler, and Annette Etienne, in the
Ullstein Publishing House in Berlin. Speer merely
answered their questions.
Hermann Göring's bunker is located on one
corner of the forest compound, a hundred yards or
more away. "No doubt some government department
found the land was cheapest here," scoffed Hitler,
trying to understand why Rudolf Schmundt and
Fritz Todt had settled for this unpleasant
site in August 1940 for his
Perhaps they had private reasons for coming
here: history can hinge on such little things --
because here, in this unhealthy location in August
1941, Hitler contracted dysentery; because of this
illness he lost the Battle of Moscow that winter,
one might speculate; and hence the war.
AT MY suggestion we drive on the extra forty miles
to the north-east to look for Heinrich
Himmler's 1941 Feldkommandostelle (field
headquarters), code-named Hochwald --
In his time the road was a winding, cobbled
highway, lined with heavy trees; a perfect shooting
gallery for a would-be assassin, I remark. It
climbs past the little villages of East Prussia,
and forks at Peredzre, with the forest site only
half a mile further on. Himmler built his
headquarters about two hundred feet higher up than
Hitler's, and the difference is at once plain: here
there are no swamps, and no mosquitoes, the air is
clear, the pine forest alive with birdsong.
We walk into the forest for about an hour and
find nothing. It seems that the map displayed at
the entrance to the forest has been deliberately
wrongly drawn. Guided by a local, we retrace our
steps and find the first of the monster bunkers
hidden only 500 yards from a little empty parking
This Himmler headquarters site (above) is far
more eerie than the first. I half expect to find a
weird mythical animal carved in stone as a
There are no visitors here, and we are totally
alone as the aftermoon sun begins to sink. No signs
along the paths or inside the forest mark the
location. No signs warn us not to enter the
bunkers, but we have no torch, and the camera-flash
only briefly penetrates into the cavernous insides.
The word speleology flickers in my mind.
bunkers here are slightly smaller than Hitler's --
there appear to have been five, all now in varying
stages of demolition and decay. The first (above)
is the biggest, as tall as a three-storey house.
Eventually three small Polish boys come, and one
clambers right up the fissures onto the top,
perhaps thirty feet above the ground.
Weekly magazine Czas frontpages the
expulsion from the Book Fair
ONE thing does puzzle me, the very poor quality of
the concrete actually poured to form these bunkers
sixty-five years ago. Buildings far older than this
survive with their concrete intact; the concrete of
these constructions is brittle, friable, cracking,
and decaying into weather-rounded shapeless blocks
of cement and lime, like giant slabs of
The half-inch steel reinforcing rods appear to
have been spaced at ten- or twelve-inch intervals
throughout the slabs, which are ten to twenty feet
thick in parts; to me this spacing seems
ridiculously weak. The bars were not hooked at
their ends, so the demolition explosives have
simply torn walls away from corners and roofs.
The rainwater here and at Hitler's headquarters
has soaked through the porous concrete and formed
white calceous stalactites beneath the roofs. Here
at Himmler's Feldkommandostelle Hochwald, I
photograph one slab -- it seems to be a roof that
has been lifted off as though by some giant hand
and tossed upside down some distance away from its
building -- and we can see where the water
has seeped through the concrete and leached out the
lime, dripping onto a white stalagmite forming
beneath it. Properly mixed concrete would not wash
out like that.
On the way back to Warsaw we buy a Gazeta
Polska. It reports that I am visiting Auschwitz
today, and it confirms that it was coincidentally
the Auschwitz director who called for my expulsion
from the Book Show. I expect
he is not too pleased by the dubious findings on
his own display that I published here after I
visited his site in March.
Back to Warsaw, and I write until around two
a.m. It was a long day again.
19, 2007 (Saturday)
UP at seven. I email to an Australian graduate
student who wants my comments on the post-modernism
trend in historiography: "Sorry I did not answer
yet, and I am not really in a hurry to, as I do not
want to dignify this word, post-modern, with any
kind of comment. It
is a phoney argument. It is baloney. Churchill
said, The job of the historian is to find out what
happened and why. Why do the Marxists like
Evans have a problem with this?"