Reviews of David Irving's Books

Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich
[Published in Britain on April 6, 1996]

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DAVID IRVING's biography Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich has attracted both fawning praise and poisonous attacks.



In the Shadow of Goebbels, by Tina Rosenberg
(The New York Times Book Review, June 2, 1996; pp.26-27):

"... BUT UNDER its polished surface the book is in fact a sophisticated blood libel. A look at just one sentence is enough to show why. In a description of the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in 1933, Mr. Irving writes, 'The upshot of the Jewish campaign overseas was that Goebbels secured from Hitler - or so he claimed - approval to threaten a short, sharp counterboycott of the Jews.' A 'counterboycott' provoked by a 'Jewish campaign overseas' - in other words, the Jews had it coming. These are not Goebbels words, they are Mr. Irving's, and the book is strung with such gems. Consistent with his theory that the gas chambers did not exist, Mr. Irving calls Auschwitz 'the most brutal of all Himmler's slave-labor camps and the one with the highest mortality rate.' By my count, the word 'holocaust' appears once in the book; it refers to the British bombing of Hamburg.

"More subtly, the boycott sentence illustrates a larger problem. In a recent speech to the Institute for Historical Review - the center of the United States Holocaust denial movement and the American distributor of many of Mr. Irving's books - Mr. Irving said of the 1933 boycott: 'Goebbels organized the boycott, though if you read his diary you can get the impression that Hitler authorized it, sanctioned it and possibly suggested it.' Readers of Mr. Irving's Web site[1] can find this statement, but nowhere is it in the book, whose only reference linking Hitler to the boycott is the sentence quoted above. Mr Irving has played down Hitler's involvement.

"He was born to exonerate Hitler. "That's his mission in life," says Michael H. Kater, the Distinguished Research Professor of History at York Univeristy in Toronto and an expert on the Third Reich. Mr. Irving has offered £1,000 to anyone who can produce a wartime document showing that Hitler knew about the extermination of the Jews before October 1943. He expounds the thesis that Hitler was ignorant of the Holocaust in his 1977 book 'Hitler's War' (in which the bad guys were Himmler and Heydrich), and he has extended it in other books. Gitta Sereny, the Author of "Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth," writes in the British newspaper The Observer that Goebbels's diaries indicate he learned of the extermination camps only when Hitler told him - months after they had begun operation. But such passages do not appear in Irving's book. 'He's the premier practitioner of selective evidence,' says Warren F. Kimball, a professor of diplomatic history at Rutgers University.

"'Every major history' of the deeds of the Nazis 'is built on a mass of material, largely the Nuremberg documents,' says Francis L. Loewenheim, a professor of history at Rice University and one of the few people besides Mr. Irving to have have read both the Irving book on Goebbels and the diaries themselves. 'We can see exactly what Hitler and the Nazis planned to do. Mr. Irving has not simply broken with this material; he either ignores it or dismisses it as forgeries.' By treating the Nazi leaders' actions as if they were reactions to outside events and not part of a planned extermination program, Mr. Lowenheim says, Mr. Irving diminishes the horribleness of the Holocaust.[2]

"Even the most cursory research turns up evidence of Mr. Irving's duplicity. On the first page of the book he writes that he gave the German Federal Archives in Coblenz a complete copy of the Goebbels diaries; archive officials say this is fiction. Over and over he crows that he was the first to use the complete diaries, and he claimed to be their discoverer when he sold portions to the Sunday Times of London in 1992. Yet as he has been forced to acknowledge in the book, the microfiched diaries were first found by Elke Fröhlich, a researcher at the Munich-based Institute for Contemporary History and the world's pre-eminent Goebbels expert.[3] The institute has so far published 15 volumes of the diaries and will complete the series soon, Ms. Fröhlich reports. And for what Mr. Irving has that others don't, Ms. Fröhlich and other historians say it amounts to only 10 or 13 glass microfiche plates. 'We all know what his character is,' she says. 'He tells lie after lie and then it is left to others to show that he is lying.'

"...David not just wrong, he appears to be engaging in deliberate distortion. Worse, he is a sneak; the uncautioned reader will absorb a version of history exonerating Hitler and minimizing the evil of the Holocaust without knowing it...."

1: Mr Irving's Website first went into service in March 1998, nine months after the article was published.
2: Now see what Professor Loewenheim actually wrote, reviewing the book for The Miami Herald and other newspapers.
3: The allegation that Mr Irving cheated his friend and colleague Dr Fröhlich of the credit for the discovery of the Goebbels Diaries forms part of the basis of his libel claim against Gitta Sereny.

This Website is happy to quote here the (unpublished) Reader's Letter which Albert Doyle sent on June 3, 1996 to The New York Times in response to the Rosenberg article:

"I LOOK FORWARD to David Irving's response to Tina Rosenberg's 'essay' attacking him personally for challenging certain dogmas about The Holocaust. I give you credit for not calling her screed a 'book review' because it doesn't deal with Irving's book, Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich at all. I wonder indeed if Ms. Rosenberg even read the book.

"No need I suppose. It is sufficient for her to be assured that Irving is engaged in a 'blood libel' (a super form of libel, I suppose); that he is guilty of 'duplicity'; is a 'liar'; is engaging in 'detailed distortion'; is a 'sneak' (my personal favorite), and is 'duplicitous', just to select a few of Ms. Rosenberg's ad hominem attacks on Mr. Irving.

"Of course, to give her credit where due, she cites other 'authorities' concerning Mr. Irving including such gems of scholarship as the following: that Irving was 'born to exonerate Hitler' (which he does not do);

that 'I hated it!' (the book); that Irving is a 'premier practitioner of selective evidence'; that 'we all know what his character is' (need I explain? bad), and other such.Well, who can argue with these learned comments?

"Tina Rosenberg's subjective defense of the publisher's cowardly retreat from Irving's book will not be lost on your readers. Nor will they fail to notice that her essay contains not a single example of errors in the book.

"In fact, it would seem that Ms. Rosenberg's idea of Irving's ultimate sin is that 'he diminishes the horribleness of the Holocaust' and this is her rationale for defending the burning of the book and for cutting off any discussion of the possibility that some claims of the Holocaust lobby might be wrong or exaggerated - which is after all the only claim of the revisionists. There is no intellectual reason why our knowledge of this subject should be frozen in 1947."



Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper, Sunday Telegraph, April 14, 1996:

HE DESERVES every credit. In his preface to this book he describes his research, and is surprised at some of the obstruction he has met in the course of it. I now read that he is meeting more from his craven American publishers. This surprises me less: I have had the same experience and can sympathise. . . . We know that [Goebbels] was a rabid anti-Semite and (as Mr Irving readily concedes) a very nasty man. His vendettas with colleagues and sexual harassment of film-stars are notorious.. . . By [1945] there was nothing left to destroy except himself: nothing but the myth of the Führer which, to the end, he had propagated, with which he had bewitched the German people, including himself, and which now still bewitches the able author of this weighty book."

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

Professor Professor Norman Stone, The Sunday Times, April 14, 1996.

"FROM DAVID IRVING'S biography [of Goebbels] I learn a new dimension of petty nastiness. Here is a Goebbels quite capable of having a journalist imprisoned in a camp for three months for beating him at cards and demanding his winnings up-front. There is, in this whole book, not one decent gesture that I recall. . . . What Irving has done is to go through Goebbels' own diaries. These exist in Moscow, in a special archive, and Irving has a special skill, of reading them. The diaries are not just in the old-fashioned, partly Greek-based, German or Gothic hand-writing, which any historian of the 19th century has to know. They are in a shorthand version of it, and there are only two people (to my knowledge) who can read this. . . . On one subject, Goebbels did not practice self-censorship [in his diaries]. - Jews. He was strongly anti-Semitic, anxious to remove the remaining Jews from Berlin - even though they were often married to non-Jews and were forcedly contributing to the war economy. In 1942, they were mainly deported to their deaths in eastern extermination camps. Irving argues (not very directly) that Hitler did not then wish to go ahead as far or as fast as Goebbels, but this is a documented point that has been made before, and he does not deny that Jews were horribly butchered or just kept in such conditions as to die in their millions. Nevertheless, the book has received execration in some American pre-publication reviews for its alleged denials of the Holocaust and exculpations of Hitler. . . . There is no truth in these accusations."

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

John Keegan, The Daily Telegraph, April 20, 1996:

"DAVID IRVING knows more than anyone alive about the German side of the Second World War. He discovers archives unknown to official historians and turns their contents into densely footnoted narratives that consistently provoke controversy... His greatest achievement is Hitler's War, which has been described as the 'autobiography the Führer did not write' and is indispensable to anyone seeking to understand the war in the round. Now he has turned his attention to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, and the 75,000 pages of his diary held in formerly closed archive in Moscow. The result is a characteristic Irving book: 530 pages of text and 160 pages of relentless references. . . . Irving is particularly good on the events of July 20 [the 1944 Bomb Plot against Hitler]. . . . Irving as usual, knows more than anyone of the details [of the death of the Goebbels family in 1945]. He does not spare us. This final propaganda of the deed is, in a gruesome way, the most interesting event in Goebbels' life.'"

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

Editorial, "Free to Write and Publish," Scotland on Sunday, Edinburgh, May 12, 1996:

"DAVID IRVING is an historian about whose work it is difficult to remain objective. On the one hand he is acknowledged to be an important revisionist historian of the Second World War who has shed new light on the Nazi leadership; his recent biography of Goebbels, based on the subject's long-lost diaries, is a case in point. On the other hand, he excites considerable disquiet for his attempts to deny documentary evidence about the events of the Holocaust. . . The fact remains that he was at liberty to publish his Goebbels biography under his own imprint. To date it has attracted largely admiring reviews so that those who want to buy it know that it exists. (How many aspiring writers wish that they enjoyed the same attention?)"

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

Gitta Sereny, The Observer, April 21, 1996:

"IRVING, NOTHING if not professional, has always succeeded in making himself heard and read . . . And this is, basically, because he is a man of talent, both as a researcher and a writer. As a researcher he is good enough to make it difficult for anyone to fault him who doesn't know the material he uses as well as he does - and let us face it, few do. As a writer, he simply writes well; for the unwarned reader, his stuff - and here is the danger - can be fun. . . . All this said, for those curious about Goebbels' life and loves, Irving's book serves nicely.

"Mr Douglas--Stahl has Müller recite here all the stories Peter Stahl told me over the years -- Casement, Churchill, Roosevelt, the bombing of Dresden (with David Irving's 10-times inflated figure of 250,000 dead) [...] and then, folded into it all, more falsehoods about the Final Solution itself, that one crime that none of these obsessed people can leave alone."


"But while Goldhagen's emotion-based -- obsessive -- thesis is simplistic, narrow, and misleading, his book is not a deliberate falsehood. The master of this particular craft, now presenting a new Goebbels biography -- is the British revisionist writer David Irving [...]".


"As reputable publishers will no longer touch him, he published and is distributing his Goebbels, Mastermind of the Third Reich himself -- as he did with his expanded edition of Hitler's War in 1991 -- from his London home in Duke Street, under the imprint 'Focal Point.'[...]".

"[...] It is precisely the clever mixture of truth and untruth that makes Irving dangerous: [...]".


"But although Goebbels was a radical anti-Semite even before Hitler emerged, Irving is yet again trying to manipulate history when he suggests that Goebbels was the originator or even the driving force in the Final Solution. He tries to prove this with selected quotes from Goebbels's diaries, while carefully avoiding passages which show clearly that Goebbels was only informed -- by Hitler himself -- of the annihilation of the Jews many months after it had begun."


"The German historian Elke Fröhlich, the greatest living expert on Goebbels, had discovered in Russian secret archives in March 1992 the entire collection of glass plates on to which Goebbels had his diary entries from 1924 to 1945 photographically copied before the war ended.[...] In his book, Irving has to admit that it was she -- rather than he, as he had originally told the Sunday Times when he offered them the story for £75,000 in 1992 -- who had found the microfiches in Moscow. Nonetheless, he cannot resist stating that he had 'the immense good fortune to become the first, and so far only, person to open the complete microfiche records'. What nonsense. The fact is that when he learnt of Dr Fröhlich's discovery he talked his way into the Moscow archives, and 'borrowed' a dozen of the glass plates to show to Andrew Neil, then the Sunday Times editor, while he was on a visit to Moscow. [...] There is no question of his having 'exclusive' access to '80,000 pages' of the diary as he boasts. First of all there are not 80,000 pages (Dr Fröhlich estimates that there will be 50,000). The dozen plates he borrowed contained some 700 diary pages, and these were the only 'exclusive' source he had -- for a few days, until he was discovered. {] Not surprisingly, however, he makes good use of what he has for his purpose of whitewashing 'our Führer' -- as I have heard him refer to Hitler -- this time using Goebbels as his tool."

"It is here -- as an example only, for there are many obsessions with people, ideas, or even things -- that the four books I cite have a common denominator. All of them, whether founded on love or hate, and whether expressing the obsession by means of invention, omission or distortion share the fatal weakness: the absence of detachment, rationality, and judgement which must inform any historical approach to the Third Reich."

Anyone, however, who wants to learn about the political acts of one of this century's most able and most dangerous men, should remember that what they are reading is one brilliant propagandist - one man who hates and loves obsessively - writing about another."

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

Bruce Anderson, The Spectator, April 27, 1996:

"SO A BIOGRAPHY of one crucial adjutant of evil, Joseph Goebbels, is to be welcomed. David Irving is a scholar of distinction, who can claim the credit for making Goebbels's diaries generally available. He has produced a workmanlike trawl through the archives, which will prove an invaluable quarry for subsequent historians who wish to cut deeper.....That ban disfigures the intellectual life of the United States; it is also a posthumous victory for Nazi-ism. Goebbels did not only employ monsters: he also used inadequates. Some of their spiritual descendants now work for American publishing houses."

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

Professor Donald Cameron Watt, The Independent, May 4, 1996:

"MR IRVING has, instead given us a Goebbels-eye view of his subject. His material consists of the major part of the full version of Goebbels diaries, films of which fell into Soviet hands in 1945. These diaries, kept from Goebbels adolescence onwards until shortly before his suicide, have been supplemented from the mass of contemporary materials, private as well as public, surviving from the Nazi period, and from the interviews of survivors who worked with Goebbels."

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

Lesley Williams, The South Wales Argus, April 27, 1996:

"A compelling, remarkably-researched story of monumental evil."

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

George Birrell, The Glasgow Herald, May 12, 1996:

"Mr Irving's books are critically praised and he is universally regarded as an impeccable researcher and brilliant discoverer of documents. . . Few challenge his facts. It is his interpretations and conclusions which are contentious."

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

Andrew Baldwin, Huddersfield Daily Mail, May 4, 1996:

"There will be no argument about the photographs unearthed for this book. They are stunning, some in full colour..."

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

Francis L. Loewenheim, writing "Comment" in The Miami Herald, Sunday, May 12, 1996:

Did publisher do the right thing in turning down Goebbels book?

SHOULD a major U.S. publisher cancel publication of a biography of Joseph Goebbels, the last Nazi propagandist and virulent anti-Semitic, because the book has been described by some advance reviewers as "repellent" and "scurrilously misleading," and because word of its forthcoming appearance aroused considerable political opposition?
That is the dilemma St. Martin's Press faced with David Irving's Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich, recently published in London.
St. Martin's finally decided not to publish the book, which Chairman Thomas J. McCormack described as "inescapably anti-Semitic"; its "subtext was . . . that the Jews brought it on themselves."
It is no secret that Irving has long specialized in denouncing Allied actions and policies during World War II, while at the same time attempting to defend or minimize those of Hitler and his monstrous regime. Nor is it any secret that Irving has a record of discovering a variety of important historical sources. However distasteful to most of us, the work must not be dismissed out of hand.
In Goebbels, Irving deliberately focuses so closely on his subject that Hitler simply disappears from center stage for extended periods. In other words, this subtitle is grossly misleading. Goebbels knew perfectly well that he was No. 2 after his beloved Fuehrer - "he is like a father to me" - but he was jealously concerned to maintain that position until Hitler made Goebbels chancellor just before their suicide.
Some critics, including Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University, have accused Irving of "trying to destroy the memory of those who . . . perished at the hands of tyrants." Even a cursory inspection of this new, 700-page plus account does not support that assertion.
For example, there are numerous passages about Goebbels' vicious anti-Semitism, the Nazis' mounting anti-Jewish harassment and brutalities, the Kristallnacht burning of synagogues, the deportation of untold numbers of Jews to the East and the mass killings there, although - in line with Irving's repeatedly stated views - Auschwitz is downgraded to Heinrich Himmler's "most brutal . . . slave labor camp and the one with the highest mortality rate," an outrageous prettification that will fool no one.
Since the 1980s, Munich's renowned Institute for Contemporary History has been publishing a 15-volume edition of Goebbels' surviving diaries, on which the Irving books are largely based. The last volume to be published appeared earlier this year and reached me as these lines were bring written.
In his introduction, Horst Moeller, the institute's internationally respected director, asks pointedly if such poisonous materials of lies and barbarisms should be published and he answers with an unequivocal yes.
So is Irving's new opus, with all its evident distortions, omissions and misrepresentations, a possible threat to our historical health? The claim is preposterous.
Irving's work is no more or less dangerous say, than the seemingly endless parade of books and articles attempting to minimize, downplay, the unspeakable crimes of the communist leaders from Lenin to Stalin, to Mao and Castro, and their assorted murderous accomplices.

Francis L. Loewenheim is professor of history at Rice University. With Gordon A. Craig of Stanford University he edited The Diplomats, 1939-1979 (Princeton, 1994).
Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

Anonymous, Publishers Weekly, April 4, 1996:

THIS IS a repellent book, and not only because of its subject. Irving (Göring) has been increasingly under fire for exploiting seemingly indefatigable research to distort history. In the book in hand, he uses enough pejoratives to sustain the illusion of objectivity regarding Hitler's propaganda chief, yet suggests that the admittedly bad man had a cause not entirely bad in itself. Nazi brutality is almost always retaliation for the plots of international Jewry and the criminality of domestic Jews. Even the books notoriously burned are "decadent and anti-German.' The term Redakteur (editor) 'to Goebbels' sensitive ear had a Jewish ring.' Protesters in Saarbrücken are 'a clamoring ragbag of communists, Jews, freemasons, and disgruntled émigrés.'

There is always, in Irving's own words, a 'Jewish problem' that Goebbels struggles to solve. Much of the book, heavily indebted to the self-serving Goebbels diaries, is in such a vein. . . . "The real insidiousness of the biography is that its formidable documentation will gain it acceptance as history."

-- Anonymous, The Publishers Weekly, New York

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

Professor Gordon C Craig of Stanford University, New York Review of Books (special Fall supplement), September 16, 1996.

"SILENCING Mr Irving would be a high price to pay for freedom from the annoyance that he causes us. The fact is that he knows more about National Socialism than most professional scholars in his field, and students of the years 1933 1945 owe more than they are always willing to admit to his energy as a researcher and to the scope and vigor of his publications."
". . . It is always difficult for the non-historian to remember that there is nothing absolute about historical truth. What we consider as such is only an estimation, based upon what the best available evidence tells us. It must constantly be tested against new information and new interpretations that appear, however implausible they may be, or it will lose its vitality and degenerate into dogma or shibboleth. Such people as David Irving, then, have an indispensable part in the historical enterprise, and we dare not disregard their views."

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

IRVING attracts credibility and attention by his indefatigable energy, intelligence and resourcefulness. Compared with most British historians, often a dull, lazy breed, Irving has spent a lifetime ceaselessly criss-crossing the globe to gather eyewitness evidence about World War II."

-- Tom Bower, The Daily Mail, London

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.

HE IS the first to use Goebbels' full diary, 75,000 pages, recently found in Moscow. . . . Irving's trademark research into original manuscripts is uniquely impressive."

- George Stern, The Literary Review, London

Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.


Index of Reviews of Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich.
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