Irving v. Lipstadt

Defense Documents

David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial: Electronic Edition, by Richard J. Evans

Table of Contents
(C) The correspondence b... >>

(xiv) Use of an unreliable source: the testimony of Karl Wolff

1. Irving's star witness is SS 'Colonel General' [SS-Oberstgruppenführer] Karl Wolff.254 In his biography of Hitler, Irving wrote
[...] the written testimony of Karl Wolff is persuasive; Wolff, who was also Himmler's Chief of Staff, believes that Himmler desired, in some bizarre way, to perform great deeds for the "Messiah of the next two thousand years" - without having to involve his Führer in them.255
2. Elsewhere he stated: 'Even SS General Karl Wolff, Himmler's Chief of Staff and liaison officer to Hitler, was at this time [September 1942] ignorant of the program that now got underway.'256 This rests on document 121 as presented to the court, presumably the same document referred to when Irving wrote 'SS General Karl Wolff estimated - in a confidential post-war manuscript - that altogether probably only some seventy men, from Himmler down to Höss, were involved in the liquidation program.'257
3. Wolff [1906-1982] was Himmler's right-hand man and a close confidant of Hitler's.258 From August 1939 until February 1943 he was Himmler's liaison officer to Hitler, or better said Himmler's eyes and ears at the Führerhauptquartier. It was Wolff's job to inform Himmler about daily events, political and war decisions, new plans, and the general mood. Hitler personally appointed him the military governor of north Italy and plenipotentiary to Mussolini in 1943. He surrendered his troops in Italy to Allen Dulles, which probably spared him from being one of the accused at Nuremberg. He was freed in August 1949.
4. On 9 June 1958 SS Lieutenant-Colonel [Obersturmbannführer] Dr. Otto Bradfisch, the head of Einsatzkommando 8 was questioned by the Munich State prosecutor about the shooting of Jews and communists in Minsk in mid-August 1941. In his defence Bradfisch claimed that the executions were legal, as proven by the presence of Himmler and Wolff at the shootings. Bradfisch was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment in 1961.259 His statement increased pressures on the German authorities to try Wolff. In September 1964 the Munich Landgericht finally sentenced Wolff to 15 years imprisonment. He was found guilty of being an accessory to murder [Beihilfe zum Mord] in 'at least 300,000 interconnected coincidental cases'.260
5. Wolff was tried in Munich on two charges: the Minsk shootings and his part in the deportation and murder of at least 300,000 Jews from Warsaw at Treblinka and Sobibor. The Munich court refused to believe Wolff's defence that he had had no knowledge of the extermination of Europe's Jews. Neither did the court believe his defence that 'Himmler and others had purposefully deceived and misled him because it was clear to them that he, the accused, did not sanction such crimes and would not have gone along with carrying them out.' Instead the court judged that Wolff 'learnt of Hitler's instruction in early 1941 to exterminate the Jews in the areas conquered by Germany or in those area within the orbit of German influence, because they were '"subhumans", "parasites".'261 Further the court judged that Himmler entrusted Wolff with commissions 'which could only be carried out by someone who enjoyed his highest confidence, someone he could rely on in every eventuality.'262 The court likewise refused to   accept Wolff's defence that he had helped individual Jews. The court pointed out that both Hitler and Himmler had helped individual Jews, but that it would be absurd to therefore declare them innocent of mass murder.263
6. In the pleadings only one portion of the Munich case has been contested, namely the exchange between SS -Gruppenführer Harald Turner and Wolff. The Munich court in fact presented no fewer than twenty-eight separate pieces of evidence to prove Wolff's knowledge of and complicity in the 'Final Solution'. For the sake of brevity it is not intended to detail each piece of evidence separately, rather to refer first to the contested Turner letter and then to selected documents or incidents which shed light on Irving's thesis and his manipulations.


254. The fullest biography of Wolff is Jochen von Lang, Der Adjutant. Karl Wolff: Der Mann zwischen Hitler und Himmler (Munich, 1985). Although his book is well researched, von Lang unfortunately makes do without footnoting.
255. Hitler's War, p. 851.
256. Ibid., p. 327.
257. Ibid., p. 858' document 121 is titled 'May 11, 1952: Zeugenschrift in Institüt für Zeitgeschichte files: Karl Wolff', but is a single page of Irving's own hand-written notes on Wolff's statement. Even then the gist of Wolff's claim seems open to more than the interpretation Irving puts on it. For instance the line (in Irving's transcript) that Himmler considered that he had to tackle problems ' ... to realise Hitler's ideas without having to engage him personally,' [ Hitlers Ideen zu verwirklichen, ohne ihn persönlich zy engagieren.].
258. From February until July 1943 Wolff was ill and excused from his duties. He claimed at his trial that his relation with Himmler began to worsen about this time because Himmler 'took offence, that he enjoyed Hitler's respect and trust.' (Irene Sagel-Grande/ H. H. Fuchs / C. F. Rüter (eds.) Justiz und NS-Verbrechen. Sammlung deutscher Strafurteile wegen nationalsozialistischer Tötungsverbrechen 1945-1966, vol. XX, Die vom 12. 04. 1964 bis zum 03. 04. 1965 ergangenen Strafurteile. Lfd. Nr. 569-590 (Amsterdam, 1979), 1 Ks 1/64, 385-504, p. 486, § 43). Henceforth Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, vol. XX.
259. Von Lang, p. 325-6.
260. Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, vol. XX, p. 385.
261. Ibid., p. 386-7.
262. Ibid., p. 411.
263. Ibid., pp. 488-495, §47 and 48.
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