David Irving


“ White ”

Late on the evening of September 3, 1939, Hitler exchanged the elegant marbled halls of the Chancellery for the special train, Amerika, parked in a dusty Pomeranian railroad station surrounded by parched and scented pine trees and wooden barrack huts baked dry by the central European sun.

Never before had Germany’s railroads conveyed a train like this—a cumbersome assemblage of twelve or fifteen coaches hauled by two locomotives immediately followed by armored wagons bristling with 20-millimeter antiaircraft guns ;  a similar flak wagon brought up the rear.  Hitler’s personal coach came first :  a drawing room about the size of three regular compartments, a sleeping berth, and a bathroom.  In the drawing room, there was an oblong table with eight chairs grouped around it.  The four remaining compartments in Hitler’s coach were occupied by his adjutants and manservants.  Other coaches housed dining accommodations and quarters for his military escort, private detectives, medical staff, press section, and visiting guests.  Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hans Lammers, and Heinrich Himmler followed in a second train code-named Heinrich.  G–ring’s private—and considerably more comfortably furnished—train, Asia, remained with him at Luftwaffe headquarters near Potsdam.

The nerve center of Hitler’s train was the “command coach” attached to his own quarters.  One half was taken up by a long conference room dominated by a map table, and the other half by Hitler’s communications center, which was in constant touch by teleprinter and radio-telephone with the OKW and other ministries in Berlin, as well as with military headquarters on the front.  Hitler was to spend most of his waking hours in this hot, confined space for the next two weeks, while Colonel Rudolf Schmundt, Hitler’s chief adjutant, valiantly kept the stream of importunate visitors to a minimum.  Here General Wilhelm Keitel introduced to the F¸hrer for the first time his chief of operations, Major General Alfred Jodl, a placid, bald-headed Bavarian mountain-warfare officer a year younger than Hitler, whose principal strategic adviser he was to be until the last days of the war.  (Jodl was to be called upon by the Americans in the postwar period for his advice on the defense of western Europe, then hanged as a war criminal at Nuremberg.)  Jodl took one of the chairs in the middle of the long map-table, while Keitel regularly sat at one end and Colonel Nikolaus von Vormann, the army’s liaison officer, sat next to the three telephones at the other.

In the train, as at the Chancellery, the brown Nazi party uniform dominated the scene.  Generally speaking, Hitler’s adjutants were the only others who found room there.  Even Rommel, the new commandant of the F¸hrer’s headquarters, could not live in this train.  Hitler hardly intervened in the conduct of the Polish campaign anyway.  He would appear in the command coach at 9 A.M. to hear Jodl’s personal report on the morning situation and to inspect the maps that had been flown in from Berlin.  His first inquiry of Colonel von Vormann was always about the dangerous western front situation, for of 30 German divisions left to hold the three-hundred-mile line, only 12 were up to scratch ;  and against them France might at any time unleash her army of 110 divisions.  But contrary to every prediction voiced by Hitler’s critics, the western front was curiously quiet.  On September 4, an awed Colonel von Vormann wrote :  “Meanwhile, a propaganda war has broken out in the west.  Will the F¸hrer prove right after all ?  They say that the French have hung out a banner at Saarbr¸cken reading We won’t fire the first shot.  As we’ve strictly forbidden our troops to open hostilities, I can’t wait to see what happens now.”

It was indeed a mystery.  While Poland reeled toward defeat, her allies made ominous noises but remained inactive as their precious opportunities dwindled with each passing day.

Poland was overrun in three weeks.  Neither the bravery of her soldiers nor the promises of her allies prevented this overwhelming defeat ;  it startled Stalin, astonished the democracies, and confirmed Hitler’s belief in the invincibility of his armies.  They had fallen upon Poland from Pomerania and East Prussia, from Silesia and from the protected territories of Slovakia as well ;  at no stage were the Poles able to establish a stable front.  The gasoline engine, the tank, and the dive-bomber should not have taken the Poles by surprise, but they did.  Hitler’s armored and mechanized units swept through the brittle Polish defenses in the west and encircled the enemy armies while they were still massed to the west of the Vistula, where they were deployed partly in defense of their country and partly in preparation for the drive to Berlin—the thrust which would bring about an anti-Nazi revolution in Germany, as the Polish government had so naÔvely been led to believe.  German expectations came off somewhat better.  What had been planned on the maps of the German General Staff throughout the summer now took precise shape in the marshlands and fields of Poland in September 1939.

Hitler left General Walther von Brauchitsch in unfettered control of the army’s operations.  He listened unobtrusively to all that went on about him in the command coach, soaking up the debates and discussions and no doubt comparing the course of the campaign with the events his self-taught knowledge had led him to expect.  His being there did not distract his staff, as one member wrote, except that they were forbidden to smoke in his presence—a prohibition that fell heavily on his chain cigar-smoking naval adjutant, Captain Karl-Jesko von Puttkamer.  Hitler’s only strategic influence had been on the “grand pincer” plan, with its powerful southward thrust with mechanized forces from East Prussia behind the Vistula.  He had attempted to veto the appointments of Generals Johannes Blaskowitz to command the Eighth Army and G¸nther von Kluge the Fourth Army—the latter because of G–ring’s personal antipathy, and the former because he recalled that in manuevers three years before, the general had not committed his tanks as he himself would have considered best ;  but on these appointments Hitler allowed himself to be overruled, although he did later find fault with the conduct of the Eighth Army’s operations.  This produced the only real crisis of the campaign ;  but the crisis occurred precisely where Hitler had expected, and he had ordered countermeasures in anticipation.  The few days in which Kluge commanded his Fourth Army before an aircraft accident put him temporarily hors de combat convinced Hitler that here was a general to whom he should always entrust the most demanding operational commands ;  the resulting affection probably spared Kluge from the gallows, though not from death, five years later.

The Poles had committed the basic strategic error of concentrating their forces forward in the Posen (Poznan) salient, instead of establishing a main line of defense that could be more readily held, for example on the Vistula River.  As it was, these forces were encircled and destroyed in the first phases of the campaign.  The western border fortifications were weak and obsolete—those near Warsaw dated back to the Great War ;  the capital’s fortifications were incorporated into its suburbs, and this inevitably resulted in heavy fighting there.  But by that time the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

At eight o’clock on the morning of September 4, after his train’s arrival at the front, General Fedor von Bock, the commander of Army Group North, joined Rommel in reporting to Hitler, and the three men set out on an extended tour of the battle areas.  Accompanied by his adjutants and a manservant, Hitler rode in a heavy six-wheeled Mercedes, and the rest of his staff and escort followed in six identical vehicles.  The little convoy, headed by two armored scout cars, with two more bringing up the rear, drove off to visit Fourth Army headquarters ;  seventy or more cars packed with Party and ministerial personages jostled for position behind the F¸hrer’s convoy, completely ignoring the vehicle-sequence orders the frantic Schmundt had drawn up.  A choking cloud of Pomeranian dust was flung up from the unpaved country roads.  At each brief halt the same undignified scenes were repeated as Hitler’s generals and Party leaders elbowed their way into the foreground of the photographs being taken and then galloped back to their cars to urge their chauffeurs into even closer proximity to the F¸hrer’s Mercedes.  Once when Martin Bormann angrily rebuked Rommel for these scenes of disorder the general coolly snapped back :  “I’m not a kindergarten teacher.  You sort them out, if you want !”  Hitler affected not to notice all this—no doubt seeing it as further proof of his own popularity.  During the first days of the campaign, no way could be found to shake off this horde of idle camp followers, but eventually Schmundt did manage to elude most of them by beginning each visit to the front with a short flight in the three available Junkers 52s to an airfield where a little motor convoy was waiting.

The Wehrmacht was already steamrolling northward toward Thorn, and General Heinz Guderian’s armor was entering his birthplace, Chelmno (Culm).  These were fields long steeped in German blood ;  ancient German land was coming under German rule again.  Everywhere Hitler was surrounded by jubilant soldiers who sensed that this was an historic hour and that the injustices of Versailles were at last being wiped out.  On the sixth he toured the battlefield of Tucheler Heide, where a powerful Polish Corps had been encircled and now desperately struggled to break out.  (Apparently convinced that the German tanks were only tinplate dummies, the Polish cavalry attacked with lances couched.)  Here the roads were hideous with the carnage of unequal battle.  A radio message told Hitler that Cracow was now in German hands.  As he had hoped, the greater part of the Polish army had been trapped west of the Vistula, while the strong force assembled at Posen for the attack on Berlin was now aimless and isolated—far from the main scene of events.

At 10 P.M. that evening, September 6, Hitler returned to his command coach.  Colonel von Vormann briefed him on the western front.  “The phony war continues,” he wrote later that day.  “So far not a shot has been fired on the western front.  On both sides there are just huge loudspeakers barking at each other, with each side trying to make it clear to the other how impossible their behavior is and how stupid their governments are.  Tomorrow Brauchitsch and Raeder are due here....  Poland’s situation is worse than desperate.”  Vormann already talked of the dissolution of the Polish army :  “All that remains now is a rabbit hunt.  Militarily, the war is over.”  Hitler stared at him incredulously ;  then, beaming with pleasure, he took the colonel’s hand in both of his and pumped it up and down before leaving the command coach without a further word.

The situation in the west had a comic-opera quality.  From both sides of the Rhine, loudspeakers assured the enemy they would not open fire first.  At some places the troops were bathing in the river.  There were secret exchanges of food and drink between the French and German lines.  French deserters disclosed that their frontline sentries were not permitted to load live ammunition in their rifles.  German commanders had the strictest possible instructions not to fire into French territory or permit flights over the frontier.  In addition, Hitler went out of his way to avoid provoking British public opinion :  when G–ring begged for permission to bomb the British fleet riding peacefully at anchor at Scapa Flow, Hitler rejected the Luftwaffe commander’s request as overeager.  He was furious when Britain announced on September 4 that one of her transatlantic liners, the Athenia, had that morning been torpedoed off the Hebrides by a German submarine, with some loss of life among the eleven hundred British and American passengers.  Admiral Erich Raeder checked with his submarine commander, Karl D–nitz, and assured Hitler that none of their handful of U-boats could have been near the alleged incident and that in any case they were under orders not to attack British passenger vessels.  Hitler suspected that Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, had himself ordered the liner sunk to provoke American public opinion, and he instructed the propaganda ministry to expose this “lord of the liars” forthwith.  Shortly afterward, however, Raeder advised him confidentially that a U-boat commander had now admitted the sinking.  The liner, he contended, had been blacked-out and zigzagging, and he had mistaken it for a cruiser and sunk it.  The damage had been done.  Raeder and Hitler agreed to keep the truth to themselves, and it is doubtful that even Goebbels learned it.  Submarines were henceforth forbidden to attack passenger vessels even if in convoy with naval forces.

Hitler’s territorial plans for Poland were still indeterminate.  He had expected to be forced to accept Italian mediation and an eventual armistice, and to improve his position at the bargaining table he had seized as much Polish territory as possible in the first days.  But the armistice offer never came.  As his armies surged on, his appetite grew.  In a secret speech to his generals on August 22 he had set as his goal “the annihilation of the Polish forces”—an orthodox Clausewitzian objective—rather than any particular line on the map.  A week later he still talked only of fighting his “first Silesian war” and wrote off eastern Poland to the Russian claim.  But on September 7, when Stalin had not yet moved his armies, Hitler also mentioned to his army Commander in Chief, General von Brauchitsch, the possibility of founding an independent Ukraine.

Hitler’s hazy notion was to mark the ultimate frontier between Asia and the West by gathering together the racial German remnants scattered about the Balkans, Russia, and the Baltic states to populate an eastern frontier strip along either the Bug or the Vistula river.  The troops in their garrisons would be like the Teutonic knights in their castles or like the northwest frontier of India in more modern times.  To the west of the 1914 Polish-German frontier, the Poles and Jews would be uprooted and displaced eastward ;  the land would be resettled by the skill and industry of the Germans—those whom Himmler was already extracting from the South Tyrol would populate the northern slopes of the Beskid Mountains, for example.  Warsaw would become a center of German culture ;  or alternatively it would be razed and replaced by green fields on either side of the Vistula.  Between the Reich and the “Asian” frontier, some form of Polish national state would exist, to house the ethnic Pole—a lesser species of some ten million in all.  To stifle the growth of new chauvinistic centers, the Polish intelligentsia would be “extracted and accommodated elsewhere.”

With this independent rump Poland, Hitler planned to negotiate a peace settlement that had some semblance of legality and thereby spike the guns of Britain and France.  If, however, this rump Poland fell apart, the Vilna area could be offered to Lithuania, and the Galician and Polish Ukraine could be granted independence—in which case, as Abwehr Chief Wilhelm Canaris noted, Keitel’s instructions were that his Abwehr-controlled Ukrainians “are to provoke an uprising in the Galician Ukraine with the destruction of the Polish and Jewish element as its aim.”  On no account was this Ukrainian nationalist ferment to spill over into the Soviet Ukraine, Keitel warned.  Moscow’s attitude toward Poland was still uncertain, however ;  the Russians were eager to amputate a slice of territory but reluctant to wield the knife in public.

Hitler’s army fell upon the hated Poles with well-documented relish.  Colonel Eduard Wagner, as Quartermaster General initially responsible for occupation policy, wrote privately on September 4 :  “Brutal guerrilla war has broken out everywhere, and we are ruthlessly stamping it out.  We won’t be reasoned with.  We have already sent out emergency courts, and they are in continual session.  The harder we strike, the quicker there will be peace again.”  And a week later :  “We are now issuing fierce orders which I have drafted today myself.  Nothing like the death sentence !  There’s no other way in occupied territories.”(1)

Hitler’s own anti-Polish feelings were comparatively new ;  born of his frustrated plan in the fall of 1938 for an alliance with Poland against Stalin, they were now reinforced by events in this campaign.  There is no trace of his crueler plans for Poland among the documents predating the outbreak of the war.  In Poland, however, Hitler and his generals were confronted by what they saw as still warm evidence that Asia did indeed begin just beyond the old Reich frontier in the east.  In the western Polish town of Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) the local Polish commander had ordered the massacre of several thousand German residents on the charge that some of them had taken part in the hostilities.  G–ring’s paratroopers were being shot on the spot when captured by the Poles.  It was also charged that the Poles had used poisonous blister-gases in manufacturing booby traps.  Hitler was particularly angered by a report that a Polish prisoner who had jabbed out the eyes of a wounded German soldier had been routinely sent to the rear through regular army channels.  (Hitler said he should have been tried and executed on the spot by a drumhead court-martial.)

On the evening of the eighth, moreover, Warsaw radio imprudently appealed to civilians to join in the fight to defend their invaded homeland, and this was deplored as an open incitement to franc-tireur warfare.  The population was instructed, for example, to pour gasoline over disabled German tanks and set them on fire.  “Against Germany the Polish people fight side by side with the Polish soldiers, building barricades and combating the German operations and positions by every means they can.”

There was no acceptable explanation for Stalin’s inactivity.  While Hitler could easily finish off Poland alone, he was particularly eager for Russia’s strategic involvement because then Britain and France would have to think twice about implementing their guarantee.  As Reinhard Heydrich explained to his department heads :  “Then Britain would be obliged to declare war on Russia too.”(2)  Above all Hitler wanted to get the Polish campaign over before the U.S. Congress reassembled on the twenty-first.

His heavy special train, Amerika, had left for Upper Silesia on the ninth.  It finally halted in a railway siding at Illnau.  The pleasing draft in the corridors ceased, and the temperature within the camouflage-gray walls and roofs rose.  The air outside was thick with the hot dust-particles of mid-September.  His secretary Christa Schroeder wrote plaintively :

We have been living in this train for ten days now.  Its location is constantly being changed, but since we never get out the monotony is dreadful.  The heat here is unbearable, quite terrible.  All day long the sun beats down on the compartments, and we just wilt in the tropical heat.  I am soaked to the skin, absolutely awful.  To top it all, there is hardly anything worthwhile to do.  The Chief drives off in the morning leaving us condemned to wait for his return.  We never stay long enough in one place.  Recently we were parked one night near a field hospital through which a big shipment of casualties was just passing.... Those who tour Poland with the Chief see a lot, but it’s not easy for them because the enemy are such cowards—shooting in the back and ambushing—and because it is difficult to protect the Chief, who has taken to driving around as though he were in Germany, standing up in his open car even in the most hazardous areas.  I think he is being reckless, but nobody can persuade him not to do it.  On the very first day he drove through a copse still swarming with Polacks just half an hour earlier they had wiped out an unarmed German medical unit.  One of the medics escaped and gave him an eyewitness account....  Once again, the F¸hrer was standing in full view of everybody on a hummock, with soldiers streaming toward him from all sides.  In a hollow there was this Polish artillery ;  obviously they saw the sudden flurry of activity and—since it’s no secret that the F. is touring the front—they guessed who it was.  Half an hour later the bombs came raining down.  Obviously it gives the soldiers’ morale a colossal boost to see the F. in the thick of the danger with them, but I still think it’s too risky.  We can only trust in God to protect him.

“ The F¸hrer is in the best of moods ;  I often get into conversation with him,” wrote General Rommel.  “He says that in eight or ten days it’ll all be over in the east and then our entire battle-hardened Wehrmacht will move west.  But I think the French are giving up the struggle.  Their soldiers are bathing in the Rhine, unmolested by us.  This time,” he concluded, “we are definitely going to win through !”

That day, September 12, Hitler summoned G–ring, Brauchitsch, and Keitel to his train at the Ilnau railway siding and flatly forbade them to provoke the French in any way.  Late that afternoon he received Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, Keitel’s chief of Intelligence, for a rare audience.  Canaris was white-haired, weary, and elderly, a frail stooping figure with a soft lisping voice, a studied sloppiness of dress, and an apparent naÔvetÈ of manner that were designed to disarm his critics.  The admiral was known widely as “that slimy Greek”—a soubriquet he sought to disprove by circulating a family tree which supported his claim to Italian ancestry.

Hitler walked into the command coach just as Canaris was outlining to Keitel the unfavorable effect a German bombardment of Warsaw would have on foreign opinion.  When asked for news from the western front, Canaris craftily replied that the French were systematically marshaling troops and artillery opposite Saarbr¸cken for a major offensive.(3)  Hitler remained politely incredulous.  “I can hardly believe that the French will attack at Saarbr¸cken, the very point at which our fortifications are strongest.”  They would also then run into second and third lines of even stronger defenses.  They might, Hitler conceded, invade across the Rhine or even—though less probably—through Belgium and Holland in violation of their neutrality.  Keitel agreed, and Jodl added that the artillery preparation for a major offensive would take at least three weeks, so the French offensive could not begin before October.  “Yes,” responded Hitler, “and in October it is already quite chilly, and our men will be sitting in their protective bunkers while the French have to wait in the open air to attack.  And even if the French should manage to penetrate one of the weaker points of the West Wall, we will in the meantime have brought our divisions across from the east and given them a thrashing they’ll never forget.”

Before Canaris left, Keitel forbade him to brief Mussolini on the German military situation.  Hitler no longer trusted the Italians, as he had found out that they were in contact with the French.

Hitler’s tours of these battlefields were his first real contact with “the East.”  They reinforced his unhealthy fantasies about the “subhumans” and the Jews.

On September 10 he had visited the Tenth Army, busy finishing off the Polish forces encircled at Radom.  The Polish countryside struck him as tangled and unkempt, as though from prehistoric times.  Was this still Europe ?  Indiscriminately scattered about the untended acres were wretched wooden hutlike dwellings with thatched roofs ;  between them were miles of endless swamps with occasional farmsteads and rare, magnificent castles gleaming on the horizon.  The laborers’ buildings were caked with filth, the barns and sheds were dilapidated, the roads were treeless and rutted by centuries of wheels.  At the roadsides, knots of submissive Polish civilians stood in the swirling dust of Hitler’s motorcade.  Among them he glimpsed Jews in high-crowned hats and caftans ;  their hair in ritual ringlets ;  they looked for all the world like figures out of medieval anti-Semitic drawings.  Time had stood still here for centuries.

The Jews were the enemy.  He had given them clear warning in a bellicose speech to the Reichstag eight months before.  How often in his life had his prophecies been laughed at by them !  How the Jews had mocked his earnest prediction that one day he, a humble street agitator, would lead the German people to true greatness !  Their peals of laughter had died to a croak in their Jewish throats, Hitler had jeered in January 1939.  “Today I am going to be a prophet again.  If the international finance-Jewry inside and outside Europe manages just once more to precipitate the world into war, the outcome will be, not the bolshevization of the earth and the consequent triumph of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.”  The Berlin newspapers had headlined the Reichstag speech as one of Adolf Hitler’s greatest :  PROPHETIC WARNING TO THE JEWS.

Now, in September 1939, Hitler was upon the verge of world war.  And Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the president of the Jewish Agency, had written to Neville Chamberlain promising explicitly that all Jews everywhere stood by him and would fight on the side of the democracies against Nazi Germany.  The Times published Weizmann’s letter on September 6, and Hitler no doubt considered it an unorthodox Jewish declaration of war.  He often referred to it in later years—by which time his grim prophecy was being cruelly fulfilled.  “For the first time we are now implementing genuine ancient Jewish law,” he boasted on January 30, 1942.  “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”  And on November 8 he reminded his Party faithfuls of that unique 1939 “prophecy,” adding with ominous ambiguity :  “As a prophet they always laughed at me.  But of those who laughed loudest then, countless laugh no longer today.  Nor are those who are still laughing even now likely to laugh when the time comes . . .”

While Hitler’s overall anti-Jewish policy was clearly and repeatedly enunciated, it is harder to establish a documentary link between him and the murderous activities of the SS “task forces” (Einsatzgruppen) and their extermination camps in the east.

For the pogroms that now began, Himmler and Heydrich provided the initiative and drive themselves, using arguments of Reich security.  Hitler’s only order to the Reichsf¸hrer SS, Himmler, in this context was one for the general consolidation of the German racial position ;  there is no evidence that Hitler gave him more specific instruction than this, nor did Himmler ever claim so.  When army generals became restless about deeds being enacted by the SS in Poland, Himmler reassured them in a secret speech at Koblenz in March 1940, of which his handwritten notes survive—though they are infuriatingly cryptic in parts.  He explained that now for the first time, under Adolf Hitler, the solution of the thousand-year-old historical problem of Poland was possible :  only the infusion into Poland of Germanic blood during the years of Germany’s weakness had made some Poles great and dangerous ;  now that Germany was strong she must see to the “final annexation of the area, its purification and Germanization”;  a simple merging of the peoples was impossible for racial reasons.  But a “Bolshevik method”—which Himmler defined in a memorandum two months later as downright extermination of the minority races—was “equally impossible.”  He conceded that the “leading brains of the resistance” were being executed but this was not, stressed Himmler in this piËce justificative, “a wild excess by subordinate commanders—still less by me.”  Here Himmler’s jottings show a German phrase (Weiss sehr genau, was vorgeht) which might be translated either as “(I) know precisely what is happening” or “(He) knows precisely what is happening.”(4)  Two weeks later Himmler spoke in a Ruhr city.  Here his notes read :  “The F¸hrer’s mission to the Reichsf¸hrer SS :  the quality of the German species.  Blood our most supreme value.  New territories not a political, but an ethnological problem.”

This ethnological mission had been assigned to Heydrich.  As in Austria and Czechoslovakia, the advancing tide of German army units had been followed by his police net.  In the present Polish campaign his task forces were subordinated directly to the generals.  Each army had its Einsatzgruppe, and each corps an Einsatzkommando of a hundred officials in Waffen SS uniform with SD (Sicherheitsdienst, security service) emblems on their sleeves.  Their primary role was Intelligence—seizing enemy documents—and counterinsurgency operations, or what the army orders more formally described as “combating any anti-Reich or anti-German elements in rear areas.”  According to Heydrich, writing ten months later, the special order directing the task forces to conduct “security operations of a political and ideological nature in these new territories” was issued by Hitler himself.  But the order’s practical interpretation—embodying what Heydrich calmly referred to as the liquidation of Polish leaders “running into several thousands”—evidently sprang from him.  On September 7 he briefed his staff (without any mention of a F¸hrer Order) as follows :  “The Polish ruling class is to be put out of harm’s way as far as possible.  The lower classes that will remain will not get special schools, but be kept down in one way or another.”  To Heydrich, the prophylactic mission of his task forces was the essential one—hunting down the thousands of leading Poles already listed in black books and liquidating them before they could unite in opposition.

Parallel to the SS task forces attached to the armies, there was an independent “special duties” task force which rampaged through Poland under the command of the arrogant and brutal SS General Udo von Woyrsch.  Most of the early savagery against the Poles and Jews was Woyrsch’s work.  When he was eventually kicked out of Poland on German army orders, he loudly protested that he had received direct instructions from the F¸hrer via Himmler to spread “fear and terror” in what would seem an illogical attempt to dissuade the Poles from committing acts of violence.  (Himmler’s orders to Woyrsch survive, dated September 3 :  he was charged with the “radical suppression of the incipient Polish insurrection in the newly occupied parts of Upper Silesia”;  Hitler is not mentioned.  Heydrich was nettled by Woyrsch’s ouster and later ascribed the army’s interference to its ignorance of the “political mission” entrusted to the task forces by Himmler, who was acting, Heydrich claimed, on the directives of the F¸hrer and G–ring ;  it was wrong for the army to see the task force operations as “arbitrary acts of brutality,” he complained.

There is no surviving record of when—or if—Heydrich conferred with Hitler during the Polish campaign.  But the German army’s records of briefings by Hitler are voluminous, and they offer a curious and distasteful picture.  In short, many of Hitler’s generals learned from him that he planned to eliminate the Polish intelligentsia one way or another ;  either they welcomed it, or they joined a conspiracy of silence.

Not until October 1939 did the major “mopping up” of “potential dissidents” begin in Poland.  It was evidently delayed at the request of the army, even though Heydrich was eager to get on with the job.  Hitler’s blood was already boiling at the ponderous court-martial procedures being implemented against Polish guerrillas—he wanted their swift and summary execution ;  but Heydrich had his eye on bigger game.  He was quoted as saying, “We will let the small fry off ;  but the nobility, the papists, and the Jews must all be killed.”  He proposed discussing with the army ways and means of eliminating these enemies after the Germans entered Warsaw.  On September 7 Hitler met with Brauchitsch in his private coach and for two hours discussed the political future of Poland.  He instructed the army to abstain from interfering in the SS operations.

The next day Hitler issued a set of guidelines in which the emphasis was on the appointment of Party functionaries as civil commissars—to do the dirty work—whose task it was to parallel the army’s military government in Poland.  Little is known in detail of what Hitler told Brauchitsch.  After talking to General Franz Halder on the ninth, Eduard Wagner noted in his diary :  “It is the F¸hrer’s and G–ring’s intention to destroy and exterminate the Polish nation.  More than that,” Colonel Wagner noted in his diary, “cannot even be hinted at in writing.”  The same day a member of Hitler’s staff—Colonel von Vormann—wrote :  “The war in Poland is over.... The F¸hrer keeps discussing plans for the future of Poland—interesting but scarcely suited for committing to the written word.”  Yet another colonel on Halder’s staff joined this dumb chorus a few days later.  “A lot is happening and the questions looming ahead give rise to much food for thought, above all the proposals over Poland’s fate.... Too hush-hush to write even one word about them.”  Only General Walther Heitz, the new military governor of West Prussia, lifted a corner of this veil of secrecy in writing up a conference with Brauchitsch on September 10 :  “Other business :  I am to rule the area with the mailed fist.  Combat troops are overinclined toward a false sense of chivalry.”

That the nature of the SS task force operations had been explained to Brauchitsch was established two days later when Admiral Canaris reminded Keitel of the damage the planned “widespread executions” of Polish clergy and nobility would inflict on the Wehrmacht’s reputation.  Keitel retorted that this had long been decided on by the F¸hrer, who had made it plain to Brauchitsch—who had visited Hitler with G–ring that morning—“that if the Wehrmacht wants nothing to do with it, they will merely have to put up with the SS and Gestapo appearing side by side with them.”  Hence the creation of parallel civil authorities in Poland.  On them would fall the job of “demographic extermination,” as Canaris recorded Keitel’s phrase.  In fact Heydrich, recognizing that time was on his side, readily heeded the army’s urgent appeal to postpone the really bloody business until it was out of Poland.  Thus, when Heydrich informed a member of Halder’s staff—Colonel Wagner—that the planned “mopping up” of Poland would embrace “the Jewry, intelligentsia, clergy, and nobility,” the army officer asked only that the army not be compromised—in other words, that the murderous orders flow directly from Heydrich to his task forces in the field.  Preferably, even this would not happen until full control of the occupied areas had been transferred to the Party and its civil commissars.

But Heydrich had not in fact secured Hitler’s approval for liquidating the Jews.  On September 14 he reported to his staff on his tour of the task forces.  The discreet conference record states :  “The Chief [Heydrich] enlarged on the Jewish problem in Poland and set out his views on this.  The Reichsf¸hrer [Himmler] will put certain suggestions to the F¸hrer, on which only the F¸hrer can decide, as they will also have considerable repercussions abroad.”  Hitler, however, favored only a deportation of the Jews, as became clear to both Brauchitsch and Himmler when they conferred separately with Hitler at Zoppot on September 20.  To Brauchitsch he talked only of a ghetto plan for the Jews (causing Halder to warn that nothing must happen to give foreign countries a peg for “atrocity propaganda”).  Hitler’s somewhat more moderate instructions to Himmler were presumably those echoed by Heydrich to his task force commanders in Berlin next day :  the formerly German provinces of Poland would be reannexed to the Reich, an adjacent Gau, or district, made up of a Polish-speaking population, would have Cracow as its capital and probably be governed by the Austrian Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart.  This Gau—the later Generalgouvernement—would be a “kind of no-man’s-land” outside the planned East Wall :  it would accommodate the Polish Jews.  Hitler also authorized Heydrich to unload as many Jews as possible into the Russian zone.  To facilitate this expulsion the Jews were to be concentrated in the big Polish cities.  They would be joined by the Jews and the remaining thirty thousand gypsies from Germany.  About 3 percent of the former Polish ruling class remained, said Heydrich ;  they would be put in concentration camps.  The educated class of teachers, clergymen, aristocrats, and demobilized officers would be rounded up and dumped in the rump Polish Gau.  The working class would provide a reservoir of migratory labor for the Reich.  Hitler asked Himmler to act as overlord of this resettlement operation.

For his part, General von Brauchitsch circularized his field commanders thus :  “The police task-forces have been commanded and directed by the F¸hrer to perform certain ethnographical (volkspolitische) tasks in the occupied territory.”  The commanders were not to interfere, nor would they be held responsible.  The only stipulation Brauchitsch made when he met Heydrich on September 22 was that the expulsion operations must not interfere with the army’s movements or Germany’s economic needs.  Heydrich readily agreed.

Hitler’s positive enjoyment of the battle scenes was undeniable.  He visited the front whenever he could, heedless of the risk to himself and his escort.  It irritated him when his convoy took a wide detour around the city of Lodz en route to Eighth Army headquarters, and he ordered that on the way back the convoy was to drive right through the heart of the city (an order the unhappy army authorities fulfilled by cordoning off the entire route, clearing away the Polish population in neighboring streets and conducting Hitler’s convoy at an uninterrupted fifty miles an hour, two vehicles abreast, from one end of the city to the other).  He enjoyed meeting his troops and, for all we know, was exhilarated by the smell of cordite and sight of blood.  At a divisional headquarters set up in a school within range of the Polish artillery, he made the acquaintance of General von Briesen, who towered head and shoulders above him.  Briesen had just lost an arm leading his division into an action which warded off a desperate Polish counterattack by four divisions and cavalry on the flank of Blaskowitz’s Eighth Army ;  he had lost eighty officers and fifteen hundred men in the fight, and now he was reporting to his F¸hrer not far from the spot where his father, a Prussian infantry general, had been killed in the Great War.  Hitler could only stare entranced as this monumental officer reported the battle situation to him.  Afterward he exclaimed to his staff, “That is just what I always imagined Prussian generals looked like when I was a child !”  He repeated these words a dozen times to different listeners that evening and insisted that Briesen immediately be awarded a Knight’s Cross.  “That is the commander I have been looking for for years for my SS”—a less than realistic appraisal of so blue-blooded an officer.  On the fifteenth we find Hitler at Jaroslav, watching his soldiers bridging the river San.

By September 16, 1939, the greatest strategic triumph of the campaign was complete :  the Polish army optimistically assembled at Posen for the attack on Berlin had been encircled, and Kutno had been captured by the Fourth and Eighth armies.  In a model operation that the legendary Field Marshal von Schlieffen himself could not have improved on, a former corporal had destroyed the last vestiges of Polish military strength west of the Vistula.  The bold pincer operation starting from bases nearly two hundred miles apart could have been blunted by a successful Polish stand, but now it was only a matter of days before Warsaw itself fell.

Hitler had begun to debate the fate of that city with Jodl on the fifteenth.  As has been noted he was particularly eager to have the capital in his hands by the time the U.S. Congress reconvened.  Since he wanted to avoid the high casualties inherent in house-to-house fighting, he hoped that the mere threat of concerted ground and air attack would bluff the city’s commandant into capitulating.  On the thirteenth he had repeatedly plagued General Blaskowitz for estimates on how long it would take to starve the city into submission, and a few days later he worried at his own liaison officer with the same question.  The General Staff, erroneously believing that the armies parked outside Warsaw would not be immediately needed for other purposes, favored a bloodless siege of the Polish capital ;  but this would take weeks and Hitler could not spare the time.

Early on the sixteenth a German officer carried to the Polish lines a written ultimatum giving the commandant six hours in which to surrender unconditionally.  If he failed to do so, the Germans would regard the city as a defended fortress, with all that that implied.

Hitler’s bid for an easy and bloodless victory was rejected.  The Polish commandant refused even to receive the ultimatum.  He had spent every waking hour since September 9 preparing the capital for the German assault.  The civilian population had been urged to join with the military in defending the city against the invaders ;  all fortifications and defenses had been strengthened ;  every suburban building had been reinforced by sandbags, concrete, and barbed wire, its basement linked by a honeycomb of tunnels to a network of resistance strongpoints ;  deep antitank trenches cut across Warsaw’s main thoroughfares, and there were barricades formed of heaped-up streetcars, cobblestones, and rubble ;  the parks and squares bristled with heavy artillery.  Surrender was unthinkable.

As Blaskowitz was later to report :  “What shocked even the most hardened soldier was how at the instigation of their military leaders a misguided population, completely ignorant of the effect of modern weapons, could contribute to the destruction of their own capital.”

Until then, Hitler had limited the bombardment of the capital to dive-bomber and artillery attacks on strategic targets.  But whatever inhibitions he may have felt about the presence of a million civilians and nearly two hundred foreign diplomats were apparently about to break down under the demands of his timetable.  At three o’clock on the afternoon of the sixteenth, Luftwaffe aircraft released over Warsaw several tons of leaflets giving the civilian population twelve hours to leave by two specified roads, and Hitler ordered a saturation bombardment for the next day.

The people of Warsaw were never able to take advantage of the leaflet offer because by some incredible oversight nobody had informed the local German army commanders of it.  As a result, they of course had kept the two egress roads under heavy artillery fire.  Shortly before midnight, Hitler called off the scheduled bombardment.

At midday on the seventeenth, the Germans monitored a Warsaw Radio message asking them to accept a Polish officer who would come toward their lines under a flag of truce.  His mission would be to negotiate the release of the civilian population and the foreign diplomatic corps.

Hitler immediately began to suspect that the Polish commandant was playing for time—that he planned to wage a bitter house-to-house resistance and that under those circumstances civilians were likely to be encumbrances and useless mouths to feed.  Better, therefore, that Warsaw’s civilians should remain bottled up in the city.

At 6 P.M. the Deutschland Sender broadcast an invitation to the Polish forces to send officers to the German lines for negotiations to begin at 10 P.M.  Meanwhile, Keitel telegraphed Brauchitsch that since the civilian population had failed to leave the city by the earlier deadline, that offer was now void.

Any Polish officers who turned up for negotiations were to be instructed to hand to their commandant an ultimatum calling for the unconditional surrender of the capital by 8 A.M. the next day.  Arrangements for the evacuation of the diplomatic corps would be made on request, but the civilian population had to stay put.  Leaflets to this effect were dropped.

When by 11:45 A.M. on the eighteenth no Polish officer had appeared at the German lines, Hitler ordered Brauchitsch and G–ring to prepare at once to attack Warsaw from the eastern suburb of Praga.  His attempts to obtain the city’s bloodless capitulation were apparently sufficient to give him a clear conscience in ordering death to rain down on its one million inhabitants.

The Polish government and military command had already escaped to neutral Romania, thus the Russians could now claim that the Poland with whom they had concluded their nonaggression pact no longer existed.  “To protect the interests of the Ukrainian and White Russian minorities,” two Soviet army groups invaded eastern Poland in the small hours of September 17.  The news reached Hitler’s train soon after.  He canceled his planned flight to Cracow and at about 4 A.M. entered the command coach of his train, where he found Schmundt waiting with Keitel and Jodl.  All of them were grouped around the maps of Poland, guessing at the Soviet army’s movements until the arrival of Ribbentrop, who on Hitler’s instructions now revealed to the astonished generals the details of secret arrangements made with Moscow for Poland.  “We decided with Stalin on a demarcation line between the two spheres of interest running along the four rivers—Pissa, Narev, Vistula, and San,” the foreign minister explained as he somewhat crudely drew the line on the map.  The generals frostily pointed out that Russian aircraft were evidently even now taking off without any notion of where the leading German units were, and that the Wehrmacht had suffered considerable casualties in capturing territory which was apparently a hundred miles and more beyond the demarcation line secretly agreed upon.  Now joint staff talks with the Russians had to begin at once—Ribbentrop somewhat tactlessly suggested Brest-Litovsk, the scene of Russia’s World War I humiliation, as a venue—and the most advanced German units had to disengage from the fighting immediately and withdraw to the proposed line.

By September 19, when Hitler and his staff drove into Danzig, the Polish campaign was all but over ;  it had lasted only eighteen days, a breathtaking victory that confounded all his opponents.  How he now privately mocked the foreign ministry Cassandras who had predicted military disaster !(5)  Only the garrisons of Warsaw, Modlin, and Hela were still holding out.  It was a soldier’s world.  He had spent two hours last evening talking with Rommel about the problems of war.  “He is exceptionally friendly to me,” wrote Rommel.

As the victorious F¸hrer drove through the streets of Danzig for the first time, flowers rained down from the windows, swastika flags draped the streets, and the crowds of German Danzigers were wild with emotion.  When the convoy of cars stopped outside the ancient Artus Hof, Schmundt was heard to comment to a newer staff member who was overwhelmed by this reception, “It was like this everywhere—in the Rhineland, in Vienna, in the Sudeten territories, and in Memel.  Do you still doubt the mission of the F¸hrer ?”  Here, in a long, columned fourteenth-century hall built in the heyday of the Germanic knightly orders, Hitler delivered a lengthy speech on which he had been working for many days.  He pathetically compared the humanity with which he was fighting this war and the treatment the Poles had meted out to the German minorities after Pilsudski’s death.  “Tens of thousands were deported, maltreated, killed in the most bestial fashion.  These sadistic beasts let their perverse instincts run riot and—this pious democratic world looks on without batting one eyelash.”  In his peroration he spoke not of the blessing of Providence, but of “Almighty God, who has now given our arms his blessing.”

Afterward his staff cleared a path for him through the heaving Danzig population packed into the Long Market outside.  A bath was provided for the sweatsoaked F¸hrer in one of the patrician houses, and he worked over the text of his speech for release to the press.  Then he took up quarters for the next week in the roomy seafront Kasino Hotel at Zoppot, near Danzig, where Ribbentrop, Lammers, and Himmler also found rooms for themselves and their staffs.  Hitler received most of his official visitors in his suite of rooms—numbers 251, 252, and 253 on the second floor—while the war conferences were conducted in Jodl’s suite, rooms 202 and 203.  His mood was irrepressible.  At midnight two days after his arrival, followed by one of his manservants with a silver tray of champagne glasses, he burst into Jodl’s room, where a number of generals were celebrating Keitel’s birthday.  Despite the thick fog of cigar smoke, he stayed there an hour or more drinking and talking.  His Polish victory had convinced him that the Wehrmacht he had created was equal to any task he set before it.

Here at Zoppot Hitler began weighing a course of action as hideous as any that Reinhard Heydrich was tackling in Poland :  “mercy killing,” or euthanasia.  The ostensible occasion for this formal decision was related to war needs.  About a quarter of a million hospital beds were required for Germany’s mental institutions ;  of Germany’s disproportionately large insane population (a result of centuries of lax and indiscriminate marriage laws) of some seven or eight hundred thousand people all told, about 10 percent were permanently institutionalized.  Others were in and out of hospitals.  They occupied bed space and the attention of skilled medical personnel which Hitler now urgently needed for the treatment of the casualties of his coming campaigns.  Above all they were a glaring genetic impurity marring the blood of the German race.  According to Dr. Karl Brandt, his personal surgeon, Hitler wanted between 40 and 60 percent of the permanently hospitalized insane to be quietly put away.

To his suite at the Kasino Hotel the F¸hrer now summoned his constitutional and medical advisers, and in particular Hans Lammers, chief of the Reich Chancellery, and Dr. Leonardo Conti, chief medical officer of the Reich, together with the ubiquitous Martin Bormann ;  Reichsleiter Philipp Bouhler, chief of the “F¸hrer’s Chancellery” (an essentially Party authority) was also present for a reason that will shortly become plain.  Hitler instructed Dr. Conti that in view of the war, a program for the painless killing of the incurably insane should be initiated ;  this would release badly needed hospital beds and nursing facilities for patients with a greater national priority.  Dr. Conti appears to have suggested restricting this program to only the most hopeless cases, and he questioned whether there was any scientific basis for assuming it would produce eugenic advantages.  He believed the authorities would be justified only in aiding, for example, a terminal case of paralysis through the most painful stages to a rapid end.  During the conference the word “euthanasia” was actually used, but Hitler made it plain that under no circumstances was the real cause of death to be divulged to the next of kin.  There was some discussion of the actual mechanics of the program.  Dr. Conti proposed the use of narcotics to induce in the patients a sleep from which they would not awaken ;  but in separate discussions with Dr. Brandt Hitler learned that barbiturates would be too slow to be “humane” and that most physicians considered carbon monoxide gas the fastest and most peaceful lethal dose, if somewhat unmedical in character.  Hitler asked Brandt shortly to investigate which was the fastest way consequent with the least amount of pain.

After this Zoppot discussion, some time passed without any results.  In fact Dr. Conti had become involved in lengthy discussions with Lammers, with the ministry of justice, and with psychiatric and legal experts, in which the legal and ethical bases of Hitler’s proposals were explored.  Lammers favored the enactment of a secret law which would protect the doctors and nurses involved in the program against potential criminal charges.  The consequence of this delay was that Hitler bypassed both Lammers and Conti, and peremptorily dictated onto a sheet of his private stationery, which bore a gold-embossed eagle and “Adolf Hitler,” an order that was both simple and unorthodox, and that considerably enlarged the scope of the euthanasia project :

Reichsleiter Bouhler and Dr. Brandt, M.D., are herewith given full responsibility to enlarge the powers of certain specified doctors so that they can grant those who are by all human standards incurably ill a merciful death, after the most critical assessment possible of their medical condition.

(signed)  Adolf Hitler.

It was a curious confirmation of the fact that Hitler regarded the war as Germany’s struggle to the end that this F¸hrer Order was symbolically backdated to September 1, the start of what he had envisaged as his “first Silesian war.”  Now it was no longer a local campaign but a bloody crusade in the course of which the German people were to become ennobled by conflict and purged of the impure elements in their blood and seed.

An extensive camouflage organization was set up by Bouhler’s Chancellery ;  census forms, ostensibly for statistical survey purposes, were circulated to doctors and hospitals as from October 9, 1939 ;  on these forms there were separate listings of the senile debilitated, the criminally insane, and patients of non-German blood.  Panels of three assessors then decided the life or death of each patient on the basis of these forms alone.  As Hitler had told Bouhler, he wanted a process untrammeled by red tape.  He resisted every effort Lammers made to codify the procedure in a Reich law, for this would have led to too many ministries and officials learning what was afoot.

Hitler had been an enthusiastic advocate of the racial rejuvenation of the German people ever since the Twenties, supporting his beliefs with an inadequate grasp of the Mendelian laws of genetics.  (In fact, the processes of “negative eugenics” are extraordinarily slow :  if all living epileptics were sterilized, for example, it would still take three centuries for the incidence of epilepsy in a population to be reduced by one quarter!)  In 1929, however, Hitler had brutally summed up his views as follows :  “If Germany were to have a birthrate of a million children a year, and to put away seven or eight hundred thousand of the weakest, then the end result might even be a net increment in strength.”  On the pretext that—according to some authorities—20 percent of the German population had hereditary biological defects, the National Socialists had instituted a program of racial hygiene immediately after they came to power ;  Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick was a fervent advocate.  In July 1933 the Cabinet had passed the first related law ;  it was henceforth obligatory for doctors to report on patients with hereditary diseases so that they could be sterilized.  From sterilization and abortion it was an easy step to the “destruction of human beings unworthy of life,” the program initiated by Hitler in 1939.  An elderly Darwinian (Alfred Ploetz) whom the Reich had made a professor after 1933 was to point out in 1935 that “the contraselective effects of war must be offset by an increase in the extermination quotas.”  In other words, so much fine blood is lost in battle that equal quantities of impure blood must be let if the race is not to be polluted—a pseudoscientific justification which emerged openly and unmistakably in arguments adduced by Hitler in private in 1943.

Frick had drafted the necessary laws concerting the operations of the local health offices in 1934, parallel to which functioned the racial-politics agencies of the Party in each Party district.  In that same year, the Bavarian provincial commissioner of health affairs urged that sterilization alone was not enough.  Psychopaths, imbeciles, and other subnormals must be sorted out and exterminated.  “This is a policy,” he added, “which has in part already begun in our concentration camps.”  Over the next ten years tens of thousands of senior medical officials were to pass through special courses in racial hygiene, and perhaps significantly these were attended after 1938 by senior officers and staff of all the Wehrmacht services as well.  Subtle appeals were made to their latent racial psychoses, the economic burden represented by these unworthy specimens was explained, and particularly repulsive samples were fed and housed at the institutions as walking laboratory exhibits.  In June 1935 a Reich law allowed abortions for genetic reasons.  In the same year Hitler openly told Dr. Conti’s predecessor that should war come he would “tackle the euthanasia problem,” since a wartime psychology would reduce the risk of opposition from the church.

But it was not until the end of 1938 that Hitler was directly involved in any euthanasia decisions, and then it was in “mercy killing,” rather than the infinitely more controversial blanket program to eliminate the insane.  Bouhler’s Chancellery had repeatedly submitted to him appeals from patients in intolerable pain, or from their doctors, asking Hitler to exercise the Head of State’s prerogative of mercy and permit the doctor to terminate the patient’s life without fear of criminal proceedings.  When Hitler received such an appeal from the parents of a malformed, blind, and imbecile boy born in Leipzig, he sent Dr. Brandt early in 1939 to examine the child, and on hearing the doctor’s horrifying description of the pathetic case, he authorized the doctors to put him to sleep ;  at the same time he orally authorized Bouhler and Brandt to act accordingly in any similar cases in the future.  A ministerial decree was eventually passed in August 1939 requiring all midwives and nurses to report to the local health office the details of such deformed newborn babies ;  a panel of three assessors judged each case, and if all three agreed, the infant was procured from the parents either by deception or by compulsion and quietly put away with as little pain to the child and sorrowing parents as possible.  From a theological expert(6)  Hitler had in 1939 secured formal assurances that the church need not be expected to raise basic objections to euthanasia.  Perhaps as many as five thousand children were eventually disposed of in this way.

The “mercy killing” of the few was followed by the programmed elimination of the burdensome tens of thousands of insane ;  and all this was but a platform for far wider campaigns of extermination on which the Reich was to embark now that it was at war.

1 From unpublished letters of Wagner, in my possession.  When the tide turned against Hitler, Wagner joined the opposition ;  he committed suicide in July 1944.  By the whims of modern historiography, he was transformed into a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance.

2 Britain was not in fact obliged to declare war on Russia when she invaded Poland on September 17, 1939, as by a secret clause in her August treaty with Poland she had providently specified that the only “European Power” to which the treaty referred was Germany.

3 Canaris, a confirmed anti-Nazi, had deliberately exaggerated reports of a planned minor French attack—in regimental strength—in the hope of disrupting Hitler’s Polish campaign strategy, according to Colonel Lahousen, who accompanied him.

4 General Ulex, who was present, recalled this after the war as “I am doing nothing of which the F¸hrer does not know.”  (Cf.  Professor Helmut Krausnick, “Hitler and the Murders in Poland,”  VJZ, 1963, 196ff.)  However, nobody else recalled this.  And General von Leeb, whose diary has been available to me, would certainly have mentioned such a candid statement in it, given his pronounced Christian convictions.  Ulex had been humiliated by Hitler late in 1938.  No other authors have bothered to transcribe Himmler’s speech notes.  Colonel Eduard Wagner wrote his wife on the following day :  “It was highly interesting yesterday.  In the evening Himmler spoke to the Commander in Chiefs at Koblenz.  More about that verbally . . .”

5 Cf. Hewel’s unpublished diary, October 10, 1941 :  “ Triumphant conversation [with the F¸hrer] about the foreign ministry.  Who in 1939 believed in victory ?  The state secretary at the foreign ministry [Weizs”cker] ?”

6 The rector of the theological high school at Paderborn, a Professor Maier.


p. 4   Colonel Eduard Wagner echoed Vormann’s awe in a letter of September 4.  “Even so not a shot has been fired in the west yet, a funny war so far.  It’s official that France hesitated to the last moment and was only pulled in by Britain.  Once again you can only say Gott strafe England !

Apart from reference to the published sources, I based my account of the Polish campaign on the diaries of Jodl, Bock, Halder, Helmuth Groscurth, Milch, Vormann, the naval staff Wagner, Lahousen, Rosenberg, and the commandant of Hitler’s HQ ;  and on interrogations of Hans von Greiffenberg, Blaskowitz, G–ring, D–nitz, Scheidt, Warlimont, Keitel, and others.

pp. 8-9   Hitler’s policies are well defined in Professor Martin Broszat’s Nationalsozialistische Polenpolitik 1939-1945 (Stuttgart, 1961).  On the Bromberg massacre see the war diary of Rear Army Command 580 (General Braemer) in BA files (page 824), and of the Military Commander of West Prussia (RH 53-20/v. 16).  A sample of lower Party officials was Kreisleiter Werner Kampe, appointed lord mayor of Bromberg with the job of “extracting compensation for ethnic Germans who suffered Polish atrocities”;  Kampe swindled the victims out of millions of marks to benefit befriended Party and civic officials.  The Reich ministry of justice indicted him, but Gauleiter Albert Forster secured his release (BA file R 22/4087).  About seven thousand Germans were massacred by the Poles in Bromberg.

p. 10   Three copies of Canaris’s memorandum on his conference in Hitler’s train on September 12, 1939, exist :  one in the “Canaris-Lahousen fragments”—a hitherto neglected file of key documents and extracts from the Canaris diary obtained by the Cabinet Office (AL/1933);  one in Groscurth’s papers (N 104/3);  and an abbreviated copy in Lahousen’s IMT file (3047-PS);  cf Lahousen’s pretrial interrogation of September 19, 1945, and Vormann’s diary, September 12, 1939 :  “G–ring and Brauchitsch here at Ilnau.  Canaris on account of Polish population.”

p. 13   Read in sequence, Heydrich’s R.S.H.A. (Reich Main Security Office) conferences (on NA film T175/239) during September and October 1939 show a gradual shift in emphasis and urgency.  Professor H. Krausnick also published Heydrich’s related memorandum of May 1941 in VfZ, 1963, page 197 ;  and see Heydrich’s frank memorandum of July 1940, in Kurt Daluege’s papers (BA, R 19), on the role of his task forces.

p. 14   The purge in Poland :  I used W. Huppenkothen’s 1945 essays, in BDC files ;  a CSDIC interrogation of Udo von Woyrsch ;  Dr. Rudolf Lehmann’s testimony ;  Halder’s diary ;  Heydrich’s conferences ;  and army documents.