NEW: Rudolf Hess. His remains were cremated and dispersed. To what extent was he complicit in the planning of the war and the Holocaust?
The Woman Without a Number by Iby Knill is published by Scratching Shed Publishing
III. HITLER’S ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DECISION TO EXTERMINATE ALL EUROPEAN JEWS
Himmler and Hitler met on the afternoon of December 18, 1941. In regard to the first topic discussed, Himmler recorded, “Jewish question I to be exterminated as partisans.” There can be no doubt that what Himmler wrote down after the vertical line represented the results of the conversation. But what did the brief notation mean? Linguistically, the statement is an order. The term “partisans” may at first glance seem to suggest the situation in the Soviet Union, but the execution of Soviet Jews had been decided some time ago and was already under way. Further, at that point there was not yet a significant number of Jewish partisans in the occupied Soviet territories. These considerations suggest that Himmler’s notation meant something else—that it referred to potential partisans and to the supposed “Jewish threat.” It is significant that Himmler’s note lists the topic of conversation not as “Jews in the east” or as “Soviet Jews” but rather as the all-encompassing “Jewish question.” By itself, Himmler’s notation is difficult to interpret unambiguously, but there is some justification for interpreting Hitler’s statement in a global sense.
Himmler’s notation may be read in connection with other documents that help shed some light on its meaning. One of these documents is a letter to Himmler written on June 23, 1942, by Viktor Brack, the person responsible for the Euthanasia Program. In the letter, he explained that he had again placed some of his staff at the disposal of Odilo Globocnik101 for his use at extermination camps connected with “Operation Reinhard”—the code name for the program to liquidate Jews from the General Government in the camps at Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Majdanek: “Brigade Leader Globocnik took the opportunity to express his opinion that this action against the Jews should be carried out as quickly as possible, so that it not be left unfinished should any difficulties make it necessary to suspend the operation. At one time, you yourself, Reichsfiihrer, indicated to me [in person] that for reasons of secrecy we ought to complete the work as quickly as possible.”
Evidence in this same letter suggests that Brack was referring to the decision to execute Jews from throughout Europe, for he remarks that out of “approximately ten million European Jews” it would be better to “preserve” than to liquidate “two or three million of them,” in order to use them as a labor supply for the German war economy. The excerpt cited above occurs in the same context. Furthermore, in my opinion, the wording of the last sentence in that excerpt suggests that Brack can only be referring to a personal conversation with Himmler that had taken place some time ago (“at one time”). According to Himmler’s appointment schedule for 1941 and 1942 (a rather substantial set of documents), the most recent meeting between Himmler and Brack before this letter occurred on December 14, 1941. Topics of discussion were listed as “[…] Course in East Ministry]” and “Euthanasia.” In light of this chain-of evidence, it seems highly likely that Himmler discussed the plans to liquidate all European Jews with Brack at that meeting.
Further, Philipp Bouhler, the head of the Fiihrer Chancellery and Brack’s superior, was present on December 13,1941, at a meeting with Hitler attended by Rosenberg and von Ribbentrop. He was also present at a December 14, 1941, meeting with Hitler that Himmler and Rosenberg attended.104 The frequency of these meetings is striking. According to his letter cited above, Brack, at Bouhler’s behest, had provided personnel to Globocnik on at least two occasions for use at the extermination camps. After the war Brack would testify that this had first occurred following a meeting between Himmler and Bouhler. A document written by Bouhler in July 1942 confirms this last point, especially Bouhler’s own responsibility: he asserts that “I have placed a large part of my organization at the disposal of Reichsfiihrer Himmler for use in a solution to the Jewish question that will extend to the ultimate possible consequences!’
As to exactly when the first large group of personnel from the Fuhrer chancellery arrived in Belzec, there are conflicting opinions as to whether it was in November or December of 1941. Based on all the available evidence, it seems to have been shortly before the Christmas of 1941.It is possible that the exchanges on December 13 and 14 described above led to a shift of personnel on very short notice. But it is also conceivable that, at these meetings, Bouhler, Rosenberg, and Himmler gave Hitler only information about the steps that had already been taken to exterminate the Jews using poison gas—that is, about the murders using gas vans in the Soviet territories and in Chelmno, and about the status of preparations at Belzec. The meetings may also have led to “experts” being sent to the planned extermination sites in order to inspect the liquidation techniques. At the very least, it is difficult to believe that these meetings had no connection at all with the unfolding of the “Final Solution.”
What brought about this sudden flurry of meetings? The reason can be seen most clearly in a note made by Rosenberg on December 16, 1941. The entry deals with a meeting Rosenberg had had with Hitler two days earlier. At that meeting, Rosenberg gave Hitler the manuscript copy of a speech for the Fuhrer’s approval. Hitler “remarked that the text had been prepared before the Japanese declaration of war, in circumstances that had now altered.” Rosenberg’s entry continues as follows: “With regard to the Jewish question, I said that my remarks about the New York Jews would perhaps have to be changed now, after the decision.
***My position was that the extermination of the Jews should not be mentioned. The Fuhrer agreed. He said they had brought the war down on us, they had started all the destruction, so it should come as no surprise if they became its first victims.”
By “the decision” Rosenberg could not have meant the entry of the United States into the war, for there is no logical connection between that event and the cessation of public threats against the Jews. Hitler’s reaction indicates this as well, for he reiterates the justification for his decision to exterminate the Jews. Rosenberg certainly would have been informed immediately about such a decision, so this discussion on December 14 about the need to alter a speech that Rosenberg had written before December 7 indicates that the decision to “exterminate the Jews in Europe” must have been made after December 7 and before December 14, 1941
“The Wannsee Conference, the Fate of German Jews, and Hitler’s Decision in Principle to Exterminate All European Jews”
The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 70, No. 4. (Dec., 1998), pp. 759-812.
I remarked on the Jewish question that the comments about the New York Jews must perhaps be changed somewhat after the conclusion (of matters in the East). I took the standpoint, not to speak of the extermination [Ausrottung] of the Jews. The Fuehrer affirmed this and said that they had burdened the war upon us and that they had brought the destruction; it is no wonder if the results would strike them first.
“Continual reports on the work of the Einsatzgruppen in the East are to be presented to the Fuhrer.”
Source, Ian Kershaw, Hitler, the Germans and the Final Solution. p. 105 re:
Aug 1, 1941 Martin Bormann’s office
more proof of Hitler’s knowledge of the Holocaust.
Entries from the diaries of Felix Kersten, former physician to the Dutch royal family and the masseur of Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler:
November 11, 1941: “To-day Himmler is very depressed. He has just come from the Fuehrer’s Chancellery. I gave him treatment. After much pressure and questions as to what was the matter with him, he told me that the destruction of the Jews is being planned.” (Hoehne 367
The status of Auschwitz as a focal point was underscored in a report by Bischoff to Kammler on January 27, 1943. Referring specifically to the “implementation of the special action [Durchführung der Sondemktion] in Birkenau, Bischoff noted an intervention by Hitler himself: “Pursuant to a Führer order the completion of construction in the camp is to be carried out on a specially accelerated basis [Durch einen Führerbefehl ist der Aufbau des Lagers besonders beschleunigt durchzuführen].”
Bischoff to Kammler, January 27, 1943, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives, Record Group 11.001 (Center for Historical Collections, Moscow), Roll 20, Fond 502, Opis 1, Folder 28
Christa Schroder, Hitler’s second senior secretary, told me of one such occasion when I talked with her in 1977.I mentioned that one of Bormann’s former adjutants, Heinrich Heim (to whom he had entrusted the daily recording of Hitler’s Tabletalk), had told me that he didn’t think Hitler knew about the extermination of the Jews. Schroder laughed. “Oh, Heimchen-” she said, “he’s too good for this life. Of course Hider knew! Not only knew, it was all his ideas, his orders.
“Albert Speer: his battle with truth” by Gitta Sereny, pp.248-249
“I clearly remember a day in 1941, I think it was in early spring,” she said. “I don’t think I will ever forget Himmler’s face when he came out after one of his long, ‘under four eyes’ conferences with Hitler. He sat down heavily in the chair on the other side of my desk and buried his face in his hands, his elbows on the desk. ‘My God, my God,’ he said, ‘what I am expected to do?’
“Later, much later,” she said, “when we found out what had been done, I was sure that that was the day Hitler told him the Jews had to be killed.”
When I told this story to Speer a year later, he considered it highly probable. “Himmler was a very paradoxical personality,” he said. “I have read many memoranda in which, for instance, he regulated precisely the treatment for workers in concentration camps-so many calories, so many vitamins-and if they had received them, believe me, it would have been enough. The fact that they didn’t get it had less to do with Himmler than with the stupendous corruption in all administrative areas, with countless people amassing fortunes for themselves.
“Certainly he was cruel and ruthless in his persecution of individuals,” he
said, “but he did have this other side, and I can perfectly visualize him coming out of Hitler’s office after one of those ‘under four eyes’ conferences, and slumping down at a desk and saying, ‘My God, what I am required to do?’
Perhaps he wasn’t saying it to Christa Schroder, but rather to himself, as a reaction to what he had experienced on the other side of the door. Yes, I can
see him having just that reaction.”
“There is one mention of mobile gassing vans but this has nothing to do with the system of camps and permanent gas chambers installed in eastern Europe.to murder the Jews of Europe.Vans capable of operating as small gas chambers (in which their occupants were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning) were used in the east to murder Soviet mental patients as well as some Jews.” The editors Uhl and Eberle go on to explain that Stalin may have had references to the Holocaust deleted. (xv, Foreward to Hitler Book)
Jewish Telegraph Agency, New York, Monday, March 28, 2005
Found book answers question: Yes, Hitler knew about genocide
By Toby Axelrod
BERLIN, March 28 (JTA) — Hitler knew in detail about the attempted
extermination of the Jews. That’s according to “Das Buch Hitler” —
“The Hitler Book” — a newly published German translation of a work
written in Russian for the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1949.
Though few have really doubted that Hitler knew about the genocide of
European Jewry, the book seeks to make clear that SS chief Heinrich
Himmler conferred with Hitler about the details of the mass murder,
according to historian Matthias Uhl of the Institute for Contemporary
History [Institut für Zeitgeschichte] in Berlin.
An English-language edition of “The Hitler Book” is due out in November.
“The most remarkable thing about the book is the direct connection
between Hitler and the Holocaust,” Uhl said. “This is the first
information showing that Hitler got real information from Himmler on
the gas chambers, and that Himmler showed him the sketches of the
project of the gas chambers.
“This is the first time that we have this information that Hitler was
so involved in the Holocaust.”
Not all historians agree that the book offers an important
contribution. It’s one of several new books focusing on Hitler and the
Third Reich, including “Hitler’s Bomb,” by Berlin historian Rainer
Karlsch, about Nazi testing of atomic weapons; and “Hitler’s Ethnic
State: Robbery, Racial War and National Socialism,” by journalist and
Hitler expert Goetz Aly.
“I think it’s completely insignificant how much Hitler knew of the
details of the genocide,” said Wolfgang Benz, director of the Center
for Research on Anti-Semitism at the Technical University in Berlin.
“It’s clear that Hitler knew. And whether he knew about the methods in
detail, or if he just told Himmler to get rid of the Jews, it’s all
“I consider such books dumb, even if I haven’t yet read them,” Benz
added, because “they keep on adding importance to this figure of
“If you take the international scene, I would agree that most
historians do know that of course Hitler knew,” said rabbi and
historian Andreas Nachama, director of the “Topography of Terror”
archive and documentation on the history of the Gestapo.
“But German historians are in a class by themselves. They say, ‘We
haven’t seen any proof for that.’ So for a German historian that might
be of importance,” said Nachama, “even though for me personally I
never had any doubt that anything important that happened in the Third
Reich was basically known to Hitler.”
Nachama said he would read the new book with interest.
“But the interrogations were probably done by KGB intelligence
personnel, and you have to be in a way cautious with these kinds of
sources,” he said.
The book, which had been stashed in a Soviet archive for decades, was
based on interviews with two of Hitler’s aides — his butler, Heinz
Linge, and SS adjutant Otto Günsche, below, who worked as Hitler’s
assistant for 10 years.
Soviet authorities arrested Linge and Guensche in Berlin on May 2,
1945. The two had been present when Hitler’s body was burned in his
The interviews were conducted while the two men were in Soviet
prisons; interviewers got them to talk by beating them, Uhl said.
The resulting text, which Uhl described as “entertainment for Stalin,”
was completed in December 1949.
“It’s a description of how Hitler ruled between 1933 and 1945, Uhl
said. “It’s a history of Hitler.”
Now that it has been made available to the public, the text can help
disprove the arguments of some Holocaust revisionists who say Hitler
was unaware of the attempted genocide or did not approve of it, Uhl
“It’s good evidence showing that Hitler was involved in the Holocaust
and it is a really good source to stop” the efforts of Irving and
others like him,” Uhl said.
According to the text, Hitler was personally interested in the
development of gas chambers in extermination camps, and Himmler showed
him the plans. Hitler even ordered support for engineers building the
In a segment of the book’s text cited by Reuters, “Hitler told Himmler
to use more trucks with mobile gas chambers so that munitions needed
for the troops wouldn’t be wasted on shooting Russian” prisoners.
“Himmler reported that the mobile gas chambers were working. He
laughed cynically when he said that this method of murder is ‘more
considerate’ and ‘quieter’ than shooting them,” the excerpt continues.
According to the Reuters report, Linge and Günsche said Hitler was not
worried when the United States declared war in December 1941, and made
jokes about it. Hitler is quoted as saying that American “cars never
win races, American planes look sharp but their engines are worthless
Uhl uncovered the book by chance in 2003 while researching Soviet
military security policy in the 1960s, when the Berlin Wall was built.
“I found it in a file of the Soviet Central Committee of the Communist
Party,” he said. He recognized it as a text that had been cited
It was known that the document existed, Uhl said, adding that Guensche
and Linge had talked about it when they were released from prison and
sent back to Germany. But the text apparently had been seen by few
people [Website: including David Irving] until now.
“Until the collapse of the Soviet Union, for most historians it was
impossible to work in Russian archives,” Uhl said. “There is one copy
of this book in the archive of the president of the Russian Republic,
where only Russian historians can work. The other copy was in a file
that was not interesting for historians who deal with the Third Reich
and the Holocaust. It was in an area dealing with the 1960s.”
Uhl received permission to publish the text from the Russian Archive
of Contemporary History, and worked with University of Halle historian
Henrik Eberle, who specializes in National Socialist history.
The two historians acknowledge that the information in the report was
extracted through torture.
“Of course, the circumstances in the Soviet prison were not very
good,” Uhl said. “We have information from the document, and from
Linge and Günsche, that their Soviet interrogators beat them, and if
they talked they got more food and medical help. So it was like the
carrot and the stick.”
Linge and Günsche were sent back to Germany in 1955. Linge died in
1980, and Guensche died in 2003, shortly before Uhl rediscovered the