The document itself is very harmless. It justtalks about giving - giving Heydrich, extending his powers for theoverall solution of the Jewish problem to the newlyoccupied-territories. It made no impression on him at all He agreedwith Pearson that Goering therefore had about three minutes perdocument.
How long do you think it takes to read? He wasn't really interested inthe minutiae of the bureaucratic life. He wasn't really interested inReinhard Heydrich, he wasn't really interested in the Jewishquestion. He can't understand why all this persecution ofthe Jews is going on He couldn't understand how they had come into being. They clutch at straws. The head of the four year plan had very, very substantialeconomic influence in Germany, responsibilities also which had beenassigned to him under the overall umbrella of the four year planoffice.
One of those responsibilities which Hitler had given toGoering at the time of the Reichskristallnacht, the night of brokenglass in November , was to oversee the final solution of theJewish problem. Hermann Goering in January put Reinhard Heydrichin charge of the geographical resettlement of all Germany's Jews andAustria's Jews and Reinhard Heydrich set up at that time a centraloffice for the relocation of the Jews and so it became Heydrich'spenchant, drawing on Hermann Goering's authorities which is why hethen had to go back to Hermann Goering in July to say, 'LookHermann, we've now taken over all these territories in the east and Ineed you to expand that authority to me so I can carry on the job inthe eastern territories', and that's what Hermann understood was themeat of the document he was signing.
In other words, a piece ofbureaucratic bumph, drawing the line a little bit further to theeast. Bureaucratic bumph? You are the one, said Pearson, who told us that this was asignificant four year plan and the mandate of the senior official isbeing extended by the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany? Said Irving: "The four year plan was very important until March and it virtually vanished Heydrich took it as a usefulconvenience that he could put on his headed notepaper the fact thathe was acting on behalf of the head of the four year plan[in] carrying out these jobs.
It was a For example, whenHeydrich called the Wannsee Conference, he referred specifically toHermann Goering's July document which says that theReichsmarschall and head of the four year plan has instructed me tocarry out an investigation of how we're going to carry out the finalsolution. I am therefore calling a meeting, which was the famousWannsee Conference.
Heydrich would point to the Goering document and[say] 'This is my authority, so don't start smart-talkingme. Pearson pointed out that Irving had neverthelessdescribed it as 'bureaucratic bumph'. Said Irving: "Yes.
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We have seventy volumes of verbatim records ofHermann Goering's wartime conferences so we're pretty well informedabout the way his mind was working. If people take the trouble toread them. But they are in that strange language and people don'ttake the time. Irving testified that he did not: "Ihave read the entire file There are two orthree records of the same meeting in various files. He was under considerable physical and mentalcoercion.
Some of the things he said would have been true; others ofthe things that he said would have been false; and I am not in aposition to determine which was which. I am saying that given the wealth of other documentationthat we have, we should be able to dispense with looking at twentyyear old trials to try and find still further clues as to whathappened.
This is true," said Irving. Wilhelm Stuckart, who attended the Wannsee Conference,were interrogated in great detail as to what they recollected. I would consider that to be moreacceptable than what Eichmann would be saying twenty years after thewar. If a man, despite coercion,is saying things in a certain way, then it's more likely to be truethan if a man because of coercion twenty years later is saying thingsin a certain way. Irving pointed out that this wasPearson's interpretation of the meeting.
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He continued: "I think thatyou have to realize the Wannsee Conference is one of very manyinterministerial conferences that were held during the war years onall sorts of different topics, stocks, shipping, barges, economy, thefat supply, nitrogen, this kind of conference. And to single out oneconference and expect a man years later to recollect what went onthere when it's a matter which was as boring to most of them as thesolution of the Jewish problem - who is a Jew, who is a half-Jew,what is a quarter-Jew, what do we do with people who have one Jewishgrandparent - this kind of thing, a lot of them will have had theirminds elsewhere.
A lot of them did have their minds elsewhere. We cannot take documents out ofcontext In my opinion, it has been inflated to that importance byirresponsible historians who probably haven't read the document,"said Irving. Pearson pointed out there was also the testimony of Eichmann. I think we talked this morning a bit aboutEichmann's powers of recollection and the fact he himself gotconfused about what he really recalled and what he had in themeantime been told. And this is a human failing which unfortunatelyafflicts all of us, that our memories get bad as we get older.
Is it your opinion that the WannseeConference itself was not a conference to discuss the exterminationof Jews? I'm not prepared to take your word for what Eichmannsaid. I think I have to know his precise words. I don't mean thatoffensively at all. Even in paraphrasing we may oversimplify whatsomebody I've read a few snatches of it like I mentionedthis morning. Irving disagreed: "No. I think that whenone has a given life span, one can decide how one spends that life.
You can spend your life in a library reading all the books[on] Adolf Eichmann If you dothat, you don't have to read and why should you bother with the trialrecords because where you are sitting is right where the truth is, inthe archives, and you haven't got the Israeli Ministry of Justiceputting itself between you and Adolf Eichmann. It is twenty years after the war,which is five years after the Wannsee Conference, four years afterthe Wannsee Conference, and it would have polluted my knowledgerather than improved it.
It would be really like watching amade-for-TV movie about Auschwitz. That would not advance myknowledge," said Irving. Pearson suggested again that Irving relied on the testimony of theother participants at the conference when they were on trial and hada clear interest in denying that it had anything to do withextermination. I accept your inference too, that they had areason to simulate, they had a reason to deceive I read it withinterest. That doesn't mean to say I rely on it. You take note ofit. HadAdolf Eichmann been questioned in at very great length byAmerican or British interrogators, that would have been ofsubstantially greater evidentiary value for a historian than giventhe circumstances where he is being interrogated under the certainknowledge that he's about to be executed.
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Hitler's War was firstpublished in Germany in Said Irving: "The German publishers,without so informing me, willfully excluded and changed parts of thetext. I then obliged them to withdraw the book from publicationovernight on publication day. They did not honour their promise to let me see the proofs. They did not supply me with an advance copy of the book.
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I had to buya copy of the book myself in a book shop in Munich and I immediatelysent a telegram forbidding them to print any further editions or tosell any more copies. He wasthe regius professor of Oxford in history He is an academichistorian who started initially as a non-academic historian inBritish intelligence. Said Irving: "This is why I singledhim out for special commendation. Said Irving:"Indeed, oh, yes.
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I corresponded with Professor Hilberg who Iunderstand has given evidence in a previous hearing. But otherwise I agree with your statement. Irving gave qualified agreement thathis book on Sikorski claimed that Churchill was responsible for hisassassination. In fact, itwas left more open than that but the reader was invited to draw thatconclusion," said Irving. Did the law courts consider the proposition that Sikorski wasassassinated by Churchill? The lower courts, on the basis of a playwritten by a completely different person, considered a libel actionbrought by the sole survivor of the plane, a Czechoslovakiannational.
The libel action was rather uniquely fought in as much asthe defendant was a German living in Switzerland who made no attemptto appear and on the basis of that kind of court case, the courtfound, of course, for the plaintiff The pilot, the Czech, Prchal,issued a libel writ against me as the author of the book, Accident:The Death of General Sikorski, and he chose not to, which implies inmy view, he accepted that what I had written was not open tochallenge in the English lower courts.
We would certainly havedefended it had he issued a writ. Irving, some years ago, convincedhimself that General Sikorski, who died in an air-crash at Gibraltar,had been "assassinated" by Winston Churchill, to whom in fact hisdeath was a political calamity. Not a shred of evidence orprobability has ever been produced for this theory, and when it wastested in the courts, Mr. Irving's only "evidence" which was veryindirect at best was shown to be a clumsy misreading of a manuscriptdiary.
I have myself seen the diary and feel justified in using theword "clumsy". And yet here is this stale and exploded libel trottedout again, as if it were an accepted truth, in order to support aquestionable generalisation. Did Hugh Trevor-Roper say that in his article, sir?
The newspaper then refused to publish a letter from me inreply. I pointed out he was entitled to his opinions and he could putthem to music and have them played by the Mainstream Guards, but Ideal in facts. It's a very recent statementby the head of the Central Department of the Foreign Office in He made that statement in the s, forty years later to WinstonChurchill's authorized biographer and we can each of us attachwhatever weight we choose to that statement. My analysis of this controversialissue serves to highlight two broad conclusions: that in wartime,dictatorships are fundamentally weak - the dictator himself, howeveralert, is unable to oversee all the functions of his executivesacting within the confines of his far-flung empire; and that in thisparticular case, the burden of guilt for the bloody and mindlessmassacre of the Jews rests on a large number of Germans, many of themalive today, and not just on one "mad dictator," whose order had tobe obeyed without question.