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Posted Thursday, July 29, 2004


 Thursday, July 29, 2004

My dealings with Walter Frentz


THE death on July 6, 2004 of Walter Frentz, one of the last surviving members of Hitler's private staff, has prompted me to rake through my surviving diaries and papers for details of my visits to him. I interviewed him on several occasions, and my notes on those interviews are now in the Sammlung Irving at the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich. At some time around 1972 he revealed to me his well-preserved secret collection of colour photographs of the Third Reich, taken while he was Hitler's film cameraman.

Frentz expressed concern about releasing them in case they were widely pirated, and in this respect he was not wrong. Eventually I purchased the right to use fifty of them in Hitler's War and other books.

I supplied them to Ullstein Verlag for the German edition; the first disappointment was when Ullstein used them in connection with the Joachim Fest's rival Hitler biography in 1975, and not in mine! The Frentz photos were used in the Stern serialization of the Fest book: when I pointed out to Ullstein that I had done the footwork to obtain the photos, and that Fest had not even known of Frentz's existence, the publisher was unapologetic.

I finally used them for the first time in the 1991 edition of Hitler's War, and was so pleased with the result -- though we used less than fifty -- that I doubled the payment made to Frentz as a bonus.

I visited him once with an American television team -- we were filming Hitler's staff members for the Hard Copy series -- but Frentz was not willing to be filmed at that time. Later he did consent, and recounted to the cameras what he had told me in the 1970s, about his reluctant witnessing of a massacre of civilians outside Minsk in August 1941. "If you know what is good for you, Herr Frentz," said Hitler's chief Wehrmacht adjutant Generalmajor Rudolf Schmundt to him on his return to Hitler's headquarters, "you will destroy those photographs!" (Frentz had shown him colour transparencies of the massacre, and asked if Hitler was aware of what was going on).

Later it emerged that Frentz had far more photos than he had shown me; he had probably lost count of them himself. The photos have now begun to appear in other books, primarily those published by Arndt Verlag.

With his consent, I approached friends in the American publishing world with a view to issuing a picture book based on the Frentz collection.

Frentz's son Hanns-Peter, who took over the collection from his aging father, proved a difficult negotiating partner. He has left-wing views, and these views subsequently clouded his judgment and distorted his knowledge of my negotiations with his late father. Sadly, after he had removed the collection to his premises in Berlin, there was a break-in which resulted in the theft of some of the most important colour prints.

July 12th, 1984 (Thursday)

Saw Alan Samson [editor in chief] at Macmillan's Ltd at 3:30 p.m. He very friendly. I gave him the Frentz transparencies to study and a brief outline of the project, reading as follows:

'IN BRIEF 'Sometime before the war a German airforce lieutenant, Walter Frentz, was attached to Hitler's staff as his personal film photographer.

[... see summary below, June 29, 1985]

Alan Samson likes the project, recalls that we discussed it at the time of The War Path in 1976(?), but fears his Board may ask 'Where is Göring?' and 'Where is Roosevelt?' [Two book projects].

I suggest he put it up as a Frentz project rather than an Irving one. He will do so, next week. (Nothing came of all this: Sidgwick's thought the photos lacked variety, Macmillan's could not get the price right. Aug.1984)


June 29th, 1985

Dear Jerry Bauer,

We talked briefly about my idea to exploit the extraordinary collection of thousands of colour photographs taken by Hitler's film photographer, Walter Frentz. Of course the original transparencies would be available for reproduction purposes. These include transparencies of Göring, Goebbels, Speer, Hitler, Rohland, the battleship Bismarck, a sailor, and even 'Hitler's HQ Cook,' in full cook's array, including Hitler-type moustache!

This is the story: Some time before the war a German airforce lieutenant, Walter Frentz, was attached to Hitler's staff as his personal film photographer. But Frentz also took still photographs, usurping the role of Heinrich Hoffmann. He is still alive, is politically unimpeachable, was until recently an independent international television film producer. He wants little personal publicity as he is now a respected citizen of his community on Lake Constance.

I have been aware for twelve years or more of his extraordinary private collection of black and white and colour photographs taken to record the Third Reich and its personalities.

In February 1942 Albert Speer's predecessor Fritz Todt was killed in a plane crash. Frentz showed Hitler the colour portrait he had just taken of Todt. Hitler:

'Herr Frentz, you must take color photographs for the record of everybody who's anybody in the Third Reich.'

Result: 6,000 or more color transparencies on 35mm stock of the bigwigs of the Reich: Canaris, Göring at his desk, Heydrich (blue eyes, blond), Himmler with his steel rimmed spectacles (right): all posing for Frentz's lens, sometimes half a dozen different poses.

Impressed, Hitler ordered Frentz to go out and photograph other Third Reich objects too things he had no time to visit in detail: V2 rockets being launched at Peenemünde, the Bismarck, the West Wall ('Siegfried Line'), the Atlantic Wall, Ukrainian peasants, the U- boats, inspections of tank trials all in colour. (Frentz told me also of how Himmler tricked him into witnessing a mass extermination at Kiev [Minsk], and ordered him to film it: he claims those prints were destroyed at the time.)

Frentz still has the colour transparencies: their quality is as good as though taken yesterday. They have not been published. Of many of them he also has big one-off A3 size prints made by a special four-colour process [Luxachrome] during the war: they are absolutely permanent. It is uncanny to see those famous faces, in full colour. He is reluctant to let the originals out of his hands in the absence of a written agreement yet (as the German copyright law allows piracy of photographs after 25 years) but I persuaded him to lend me ten duplicates of some of the transparencies: obviously the originals are even better in quality.

Several possible exploitations suggest themselves: one I like is a kind of gossipy Who's Who, (Hitler's People) illustrated with prints ranging from stamp-album size to full page, and with large or small biographical sketches written in biting, sardonic form by me. I would like to suggest an Introduction by Hugh Trevor Roper (Lord Dacre) as he is the acknowledged authority on the era, despite coming a cropper briefly over the Diaries. I know he would do that for me.

Rights: Frentz agrees to share the proceeds with me (I suggested fifty-fifty). I think we should find one publisher to handle world rights, as this would simplify the economies-of-scale on the color reproduction. I would give you the usual commission on the gross royalty for setting up the deal.

As a separate matter, I also mentioned to you that Gerd Heidemann, currently awaiting sentencing over the Hitler Diaries fraud, bought up some years ago the entire photographic archives of Hitler's official photographer Heinrich Hoffmann. These are largely on glass plates, and are housed in many filing cabinets, a pictorial history of the Third Reich from its very beginnings, at the very highest level, by the only accredited photographer. His wife Gina has approached me privately asking me to find a purchaser for the Hoffmann Collection. She would accept about £25,000.

Yours sincerely,

[David Irving]

Diary, July 11, 1989 (Wednesday)

In the morning we all drove out to see Walter Frentz, Hitler's film photographer, at Überlingen. A four hour drive, interrupted by lunch. Frentz was most kind, showed us his film apparatus, excerpts from his film of Mayday 1933(?), etc., but stolidly refused to be interviewed on film by Michael, who was not pleased.

Bit by bit we got Michael, his camera and his lighting equipment into the Frentz house -- to film two of Frentz's colour pictures of Hitler, for DM1,000! -- but nothing would persuade Frentz himself to stand in front of them. I was quietly embarrassed, although Michael professed himself very pleased with the colour photos. I also selected fifty of the best colour transparencies for filming for McWhinnie's video project. Michael warns it will cost $100 each to have them scanned. I find this hard to believe. Took some 16mm film of Frentz in the garden, which might be usable. Parted from Michael, had a bite with S. in Überlingen, then drove four hours back to Munich, arriving after midnight. Not a successful day for them, but I was pleased for myself.

Diary, August 12, 1991 (Monday)

Worked until midnight. Letter had come from Frentz, agreeing my offer for the colour photographs.

Diary, July 6, 1993 (Tuesday)
Munich - Meersburg - Überlingen - Stuttgart - London

3 p.m. to see Walter Frentz, who let me pick out ten more transparencies for Goebbels.


Diary, January 10, 1996 (Wednesday)
Key West

. . . I can send cash to Frentz for the colour photos. I decide to give him DM2,000 instead of DM1,000 as agreed, to persuade him to let us have more for Nuremberg.


Letter to Walter Frentz, January 6, 1996

Dear Walter,

Sie sind mir sicherlich böse, daß ich nichts von mir so lange habe hören lassen. Aber jetzt ist das Goebbels-Buch (beinahe) da, und wir erwarten die ersten Druckfahnen (Umbruch) des Bildteils in 7 Tagen. Es ist wirklich besonders gut geworden, vor allem Ihre Farbfotos haben großes Erstaunen hervorgerufen; wir haben nochmals drei Fotos aus dem Hitlerbuch (JG, Speer, Himmler) ebenfalls verwendet. Ich schicke Ihnen den Umbruch sobald es vorliegt (ca 10 Tage), das Buch ebenfalls (Anfang März). Wir sind sehr stolz, da es ja Eigenverlag ist -- und trotzdem besser, als die "richtigen" Verlage es machen!

Wir hatten vereinbart DM1000 als Bildhonorar. Ich lasse aber sofort DM2,000 (zweitausend) überweisen (muß mir allerdings von London morgen Ihre Konto-Nr. geben lassen), da wir uns jetzt sofort an ein neues Vorhaben begeben werden, ein Buch das ebenfalls von mir in diesem Jahr veröffentlicht wird: Nürnberger Prozeß: Die Letzte Schlacht. Hierfür werde ich Ihnen nochmals DM2000 bei Veröffentlichung zahlen für, sagen wir, 15 Originaldias (leihweise) der Hauptangeklagten; ich lasse Ihnen die Namensliste zukommen mit der Bestätigung der Überweisung des Betrags für Goebbels. Wie gesagt, wir sind besonders glücklich über den Erfolg der Goebbelsreproduktionen. Nochmals -- vielen Dank!

Yours sincerely,

David Irving

Letter to publisher Wolf Jobst Siedler, 1997

Dear Herr Siedler,

Ich höre, Sie haben einen großen Erfolg mit dem Goldhagen-Buch. Unter uns -- Sie werden staunen: -- Goldhagen hat weitgehend recht. Ich habe die sehr ausführliche Kritik der Cambridge Journal of History gelesen, und nicht in allen Pünkten gebilligt. Zu sehr special pleading für Freund Christopher Browning. Ich denke immer an den uns beiden bekannten FHQu.&endash;Fotografen Walter Frentz, von Himmler im August 1941 freundlicherweise aufgefordert, ob er 'mal tags drauf eine Massenerschiessung (bei Minsk) wohl beiwohnen möchte. Frentz, wie er es mir erzählte: "Gerne, Herr Reichsführer!" (Reichsbühnenbildner Benno von Arent war auch dabei). Ein Engländer hätte wohl geantwortet, "Nun morgen, Herr Reichsführer &endash; das ist ein ausgesprochen schlechter Tag für mich. Jeder andere Tag wäre möglich gewesen, aber morgen &endash;"

Will you be at BookExpo America in Chicago at the end of May? If so, do come and see me on my stand; otherwise you might like to pass this card on to whomsoever your publishing house will be sending there.

Ich schicke Ihnen übrigens mit gleicher Post ein Exemplar der englischen Ausgabe meines neuesten Werks, Nürnberg, die letzte Schlacht. Dabei sind einige Wehrmacht-Greuel-Fotos, wobei sogar Herr Reemtsma sich die Finger hätte lecken können. Was das zwischen uns beiden wohl noch ausstehenden Streit-Thema angeht (auch den Namen zu nennen ist wohl in der BRD inzwischen Straftatbestand geworden!), lesen Sie einmal das sehr gute Werk Auschwitz from 1270 to the present day (Yale Univ. Press), von Professor Robert Van der Pelt, kanadisch-jüdischer Baukunsthistoriker. Erstaunlich gut, und bestätigt mich in (fast) allen Punkten.

Yours sincerely,

David Irving

Siedler Verlag
• Herrn Wolf Jobst Siedler •
Kaiserin Augusta Allee 5
10553 Berlin

Letter to Walter Frentz, 1997

Vielen Dank für den Brief Ihres Sohns. Er hat Recht, wir haben noch einige wenige Dias (6 - 8 Stück) aus Ihrer Sammlung, die Ihnen sicherlich in den nächsten Wochen zurückgehen werden, sobald wir mit den verschiedenen Editionen des Nürnbergwerkes fertig sind.

Sie wissen aus meinem Schreiben vom 6. Mai letzten Jahres, wie auch aus meinem Schreiben vom 10. Januar (Anlage), daß ich Ihnen weit mehr als zwischen uns vereinbart für die Verwendung bezahlte, ich war von dem Ergebnis so begeistert. Leider hat die Firma Lamancha von den Dias schließlich in ihren Fernsehproduktionen von den Dias keinen Gebrauch gemacht, somit eine Bezahlung dafür ausÞel.

Darf ich fragen, welche Verwendungen Ihre Familie jetzt für die Dia-Sammlung plant? Es müßte schließlich damit etwas breitangelegtes geschehen. Mit der modernen Computertechnologie läßt sich beim Druck so viel aus den alten Farben herausholen. &endash; Darf ich bei dieser Gelegenheit mir ebenfalls erlauben, zu fragen, wie es Trude gesundheitlich geht?

Yours sincerely,

David Irving

Letter to Walter Frentz, October 19, 1997

Dear Walter

In der Anlage erhalten Sie zu unserer Entlastung und mit vielem Dank die restlichen Farbdias zurück, die Sie u.a. für mein Werk über den Nürnberger Prozeß s. Zt zur Verfügung gestellt haben. Diese großartigen Fotos haben sicherlich zum Erfolg dieser Werke erheblich beigetragen.

2. Ich habe Ihren Beitrag zum englischen FernsehÞlm über die NS-Zeit durch Zufall gesehen, und auch bewundert. Gut gemacht. Falls "das" zwischen uns ab und zu erörtete Minsker Foto (Erschiessungen) einmal doch ans Tageslicht kommen sollte, bitte ich um vertrauliche Unterrichtung!

Yours sincerely,

David Irving


Letter to Hanns-Peter Frentz, Januar 2, 1998

Dear Herr Frentz

Erst jetzt komme ich dazu, Ihr Schreiben vom 6. November teilweise zu beantworten, nachdem ich für mehrere Wochen in den USA von diesem Schreibtisch weg war.

2. Wir haben in unserem Besitz m.W. keine Farbdias mehr aus dem Bestand Walter Frentz. Die beiden Farbportraits des Herrn von Papen fügen wir mit tausendfacher Entschuldigung als An-lage anbei (hatten wir ja gedacht, sie wären für uns bestimmt!).

3. Himmler und Speer haben wir nicht wieder als Dia von Ihrem Vater übernommen; ich mußte schließlich die Produktionsfilme der Fotos (sog. Separations) aus dem englischen Hitlerband sozusagen "herausschrauben" und im Band Nuremberg, the Last Battle wiederverwenden.

4. Wie ich feststellen konnte, waren im Bestand Ihres Vaters jeweils mehrere Kopien der Farbdias vorhanden; m.W. hat er auch keinem anderen Autor erlaubt, Gebrauch von den Fotos zu machen. Erst nachdem diese bei mir erschienen ist er großzügiger geworden.

5. Goebbels ist bei uns erschienen, bzw. beim Arndt Verlag als Nachdruck, wofür ich die Rechte inklusiv bezahlt habe. Nürn-berg nur bei uns bzw. bei Grabert, bei letzterem bedauer-licher-weise ohne die Farbdias Ihres Vaters. Mit der Veröffent-lichung Führer und Reichskanzler bei Druffel (nicht bei Arndt) hatte ich, wie ich betonen muß, nicht das geringste zu tun, ich versuchte diese sogar durch e.V. zu verhindern. In dem Werk sind ohnehin keine Fotos abgedruckt.

Yours sincerely,

David Irving


Herrn Hanns-Peter Frentz
Böhmische Straße 28
12055 Berlin

Letter to Prof Ian Kershaw, October 21, 1998
[extract][complete letter]

... I glimpsed the last part of Sunday night's TV broadcast on the Final Solution on the eastern front, and was impressed with the use made of Walter Frentz ...

Letter from Hanns-Peter Frentz, August 30, 2001

From: [email protected] (M.Brenken & H-P.Frentz) To: <[email protected]>
Subject: Photos of Walter Frentz Archive on fpp website

Sehr geehrter Herr Irving,

mit großem Erstaumen habe ich festgestellt, daß Sie 6 Fotos (Himmler und Hitler), die wir exklusiv der Sunday-Times zur Verfügung gestellt haben, unauthorisiert und widerrechtlich auf Ihrer Website zeigen (www.fpp.co.uk/himmler/Frentzarchive.html).

Als alleiniger Rechte-Inhaber des Walter-Frentz-Archivs fordere ich Sie hiermit auf, die unauthorisierte Nutzung dieser Fotos unverzüglich zu beenden und die Fotos von Ihrer Website zu entfernen.

Da Sie selbst als Textautor häufig über die Verletzung Ihrer Rechte durch Verlage klagen, sollte es für Sie eine Selbstverständlichkeit sein, die Rechte von Bildautoren und ihren Rechtsnachfolgern in korrekter Form zu wahren.

Bereits vor einiger Zeit hatte ich Ihnen mitgeteilt, daß die Nutzung einer Reihe von Portraits aus dem Walter-Frentz-Archiv auf Ihrer Website ebenfalls ohne Genehmigung des Rechteinhabers erfolgte und umgehend zu unterlassen ist. Sie hatten diese Fotos vor vielen Jahren ausschließlich leihweise zum Erwerb von Nutzungsrechten für konkrete Buchprojekte erhalten. Die Nutzung im Internet stellt eine neue Nutzung dar, für die Sie die Rechte zu keinem Zeitpunkt erworben haben. Die Nutzung ist somit illegal.

Ich fordere Sie als Rechte-Inhaber des Walter-Frentz-Archivs hiermit auf, alle Fotos von Walter Frentz unverzüglich von Ihrer Website zu entfernen.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen
Hanns-Peter Frentz

Fax: 0049-30-680 88502
e-mail: [email protected]

Diary, February 19, 2002:

. . . An impertinent letter from Munier Verlag, justifying stealing my colour prints of the Nuremberg trial and offering me DM10,000 for Churchill vol. iii! I reply:

. . . Sie haben ganz falsch meine Beziehungen zur Familie Frentz dargestellt. Für sämtliche bisher verwendete Frentzaufnahmen hatte ich Herrn Walter F. mehr als das zwischen uns vereinbarte Honorar gezahlt, obwohl zwischen uns die allerbesten Beziehungen bestanden. Die Briefe, die das bestätigen, sind in meinem Besitz. Nachdem der Sohn sich ebenfalls bei mir gemeldet hat, schrieb ich ihm am 10. Dezember wie folgt: "I want to settle my differences with you in a reasonable spirit of co-operation, since I was and am such a good friend of your father. Please make a reasonable suggestion for payment of fees for the future use of the photographs which your father already supplied to me, and for the few thumbnail size reproductions on my website. "
    Ich warte noch auf seine Antwort bzw. finanzielle Vorschläge.


February 23, 2002 (Saturday)

A long hostile letter from Hanns-Peter Frentz about the use of his father's photos. Gold-digger. I reply patiently and courteously:

Thank you for your long letter of February 20, and I must compliment you on your facility with the English language. It is difficult to know where to begin, as you seem to be a deeply angry person, angry not with me but with your predicament as the son of Walter Frentz and as a German.

How very different is the tone of your dialogue with me, with the long private conversations I used to have with your father and mother, and it saddens me to think of the sorrow that your political attitudes may have caused them.

Yes, I have often referred to what your father told me about his August 1941 visit to Minsk. I was very shocked to hear it (and so was your mother, as the first time she heard of the episode was when Walter described it to me, very late at night). The attitude of the Germans on this trip was very different from the attitude of the British, I believe.

I took detailed notes on the conversation, and these are in my Sammlung in Munich; in later years your father's memory clarified, and it became evident that he had retained a photo album of the trip (which you no doubt now have: he sent me pages from it); and a Taschenkalender which fixed it permanently (I have a photocopy of the pages). His memory was fragile on the episode -- no surprise after so many years; for example, he told me (in a letter) that Himmler made the invitation to him on the evening of Sepp Dietrich's birthday, but this is impossible as the birthday of Dietrich does not coincide with the visit to Minsk.

Yes, people's memories get confused as the years pass, and it is the job of the conscientious writer, as far as records allow, to write what he finds, and without regard for political nuances. That is the difficulty for every modern German writer: he fears the law, he fears his colleagues, he fears public opinion.

I know of very few German historians who have the courage to write what they really find and think; but they tell me in private, and leave me in no doubt about it (Peter Witte is one brave example). I am at a loss to see what financial solution you are proposing for the future usage of your father's photos. The past usage has been paid for, and that was before your time, about ten to fifteen years ago. From my own papers it is quite clear that I twice paid your father for the usage of the photos in connection with the Hitler's War biography, of which a new edition is now coming out, and in connection with the Goebbels biography; this of course includes the use of illustrations for publicising the books.

I was deeply insulted when I learned from third parties that you had been telling people that I used your father's pictures in the books without payment, and I showed these people copies of our correspondence and the payments made. (Arndt Verlag, on the other hand, have recently published pirated copies of my original colour photographs of Rudolf Hess, without payment, and brazenly state in a letter to me, last week, that all such photographs are now 'out of copyright').

I was on sufficiently good terms with your father, as he knows, that I paid him a surprise bonus, making up more than the previously agreed amount, for the use of the Hitler photos, although he had supplied to us only 30 instead of the 50 that we had agreed, including several duplicates, which irritated my colleagues a lot! Our publishing imprint produced two posters for the book based on the Frentz photos, and as people sometimes asked if they could have the poster we make them available at cost.

You are mistaken if you think this is a huge trade: I do not have the numbers at my finger tips, but we ordered 50 cardboard packaging-tubes (Versandröhre) for the posters, and we still have 30; i.e. about twenty posters have been sold! We will happily give you some.

We are more concerned with the high quality reproduction of your father's excellent photographs, and I believed I already remarked to you upon the poor quality of the reproductions so far made by other publishers, e.g. Arndt Verlag: there, the transparencies have been scanned by very low-grade equipment, when they deserve the very best (like the equipment our printers used: each drum scanner costs over £100,000!).


All of this is true, but we are dealing with a Modern German, and reason doesn't kick in.


Letter to Hanns-Peter Frentz, September 12, 2002
Key West

Dear Mr Frentz

I have today received your letter of July 28, which has been forwarded to me. I do not accept your statements about applicable German copyright law, nor do I accept that an agreement which you state you have reached with your father in January 2001 can replace, let alone override, the contractual agreements which I reached with your father, and paid for, thirty years earlier about the use of his photographs in publishing and promoting my books. May I state that I have also learned of remarks about myself which have been attributed to you by the German newspapers, and -- quite apart from your leftwing politics which I find detestable -- it is therefore unlikely that I will correspond with you amicably further about these matters.

I was distressed to learn that thanks to your negligence these official wartime photographs which your father had properly looked after for half a century had allegedly been stolen within a very short while of coming under your control, and I am sure that your father, whom I deeply respect, will not have been very pleased about their loss either.

Yours sincerely,

David Irving


Frentz also took the photos of Hitler and Ribbentrop, and of Hitler with his generals 
Frentz's colour photographs of Hitler, Himmler, Puttkamer, Bormann, Below
Death of Walter Frentz
Walter Frentz: Eye-witness of the 1941 Minsk Massacre

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