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PROFESSOR RAUL HILBERG, the leading expert, answers David Irving's question on Hitler's role in The Holocaust

The Question . . .


TELEPHONE 01 499 9409

5th December 1975

Dear Sir,

I am an English historian and have completed a lengthy biography on Adolf Hitler based entirely on primary documentary sources. In connection with the final solution of the Jewish question I have run up a monumental difficulty, however, and I wonder if you with your expert knowledge can provide me with the evidence that I am seeking: is there any acceptable evidence linking Hitler himself with the order to exterminate European Jews? (There is such evidence linking him with the killing of Russian Jews and with the deportation of the European Jews to the East.)

The extraordinary thing is that after ten years reading the entire German records available I have found no such evidence, but only evidence to the contrary.

As my book is to be published by Viking Press and other publishers in a year's time, I would be grateful if - since shortly the book goes to press - you could provide me with any assistance on this matter.

Yours faithfully,


(David Irving)

. . . The Answer

Prof. Raul Hilberg

December 12, 1975

Mr. David Irving
81 Duke Street
London W.1

Dear Mr. Irving:

The question you raise has troubled me for a number of years, more so recently than before. About fifteen years ago, in a passage dealing with the famous Göring letter to Heydrich of July 31, 1941, I indicated that the order, while signed by Göring, was given by Hitler. Now I wish I had not put things in such definite terms. Even then I really meant to say "must have been given" by Hitler, but I had no direct evidence at that time nor do I have such proof at this late date to permit the flat assertion that Hitler originated the "final solution" through this letter.

You have probably studied the work of Uwe Dietrich Adam, Judenpolitik im Dritten Reich. Clearly he feels that the Göring letter was not an instruction to inaugurate the "final solution" as we now understand the term. To Adam the "final solution" was an expandable concept. If we accept that notion for a minute, we can even suppose that no single order for the total annihilation of European Jewry was ever given by anyone, including Adolf Hitler himself. Personally, I can no longer dismiss this thought completely.

My reasoning years ago was that Hitler, totally preoccupied with the Eastern front in the summer of 1941, would not in any case have written a directive (such as in the case of the euthanasia program), but that he probably told Göring to take care of the matter with the result that the aforementioned letter was written. I did not think (and still do not) that Hitler would have given a written letter to Göring and I therefore do not believe that such a paper will ever be found.

Adam, of course, raises the more profound question of whether there was ever a Hitler order, oral or written. It is true that in Jewish matters Hitler decisions turn up as often in vetoes (the Jewish star, the race pollution case against Katzenberger and Seiler and perhaps the proposed transport of Jews from Germany in August, 1941) as they do in positive instructions for action. Possibly, the destruction of the Jews was so drastic that it could only have occurred in an organic, evolutionary process, from vagueness to specificity, and in a very real administrative sense, from the bottom up.

I realize that this answer to your question is very frustrating but inasmuch as I do not have decisive documents, I thought that I should at least give you my indecisive thoughts.

I will be looking forward to your book.


Raul Hilberg


More on Hilberg: What he said about Daniel Goldhagen's thesis in 1998
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