Sunday, December 25, 2011

Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka. Holocaust Denial and Operation Reinhard. Chapter 2: Nazi Policy (1).

Nazi Policy

Mattogno’s policy contributions to the trilogy are the result of a writing career on the topic that stretches back to the 1980s.[1] It is therefore instructive to contrast his lack of progress with the advances that have been made in the proper historiography. Scholars such as Browning, Gerlach, Kershaw and Longerich[2] have produced a body of work which recognizes that the decision-making that produced and implemented the Final Solution was “an incremental process, with a number of acceleratory spurts, between summer 1941 and summer 1942” rather than one that required a single, explicit written order that was unchanging thereafter.[3] Mattogno, by contrast, is still wading in the shallows, unable to swim with the tide of scholarship, because he is wedded to false dilemmas, fixed thresholds and fallacies of the excluded middle, which lead him to insist that an extermination never took place unless a single decisive written order can be established that was issued by a fixed date, namely the end of September, 1941.
Mattogno’s work is therefore a dual negation because, whereas other Holocaust deniers focus on textual misrepresentation, and fixate on technical minutiae, Mattogno adds to that mix a falsification of the discussion that has taken place within historiography during the last three decades. Mattogno has partially shifted the focus of negationism from ‘lying about Hitler’ and the Nazi regime to ‘lying about Hilberg’ and his academic successors.
Mattogno’s writings on Nazi policy ignore the fact that the evolution of a Europe-wide Final Solution from September 1941 was predicated on the fact that an extermination of Soviet Jews was already in motion, the foundations of which were laid during the planning of Operation Barbarossa. Plans were already submitted prior to June 22, 1941, which entailed the mass starvation of civilians and the political killing of male Jews, which then escalated into a decision to kill all Soviet Jews that was taken by the end of July. This also inevitably fed into deportation policy because designers such as Globocnik knew that Jews were to be deported into areas where the existing Soviet Jews were being exterminated. Evacuation plans made increasing reference to ‘reprisals’ and ‘decimation’, which would have brought about gradual extermination by a variety of means (starvation, shootings, pogroms, disease, etc). Extermination policy therefore evolved from evacuation measures that already contained exterminatory components. The radicalization from such measures to a policy that included homicidal gas chambers could be achieved by evolution, because Nazi Jewish policy no longer required a massive moral leap once it was already intended that millions would die.
Mattogno's neglect of the literature on these facts makes his chapters on deportation policy meaningless because they fail to consider why Jews would be resettled from September 1941 into areas where the existing Jews were being exterminated. For example, section 8.1 of Sobibór is a series of unfounded assumptions and fallacies of the excluded middle concerning the historiography of Hitler’s decision-making during 1941. Mattogno is deeply unhappy that many historians no longer rely upon a single Hitler order, so he pretends that all such historiography “borders on parapsychology.”[4]
This pretence in turn relies upon three incorrect assumptions. Firstly, Mattogno asserts that, if the historiography were true, there would have had to be a single moment when “the policy of emigration/evacuation was abandoned in favour of extermination.” This is a fallacy of the excluded middle because it ignores the fact that radicalization from deportation plans that were already decimatory to a policy that included homicidal gas chambers could be achieved by evolution, because it did not require the massive moral leap that Mattogno would like his readers to assume.
Secondly, Mattogno ignores numerous statements by senior Nazi figures referring to Hitler speeches and table talk that show a progressive radicalization of his intentions. Rosenberg and Goebbels understood in December 1941 that Hitler’s intentions were more radical than they had assumed just months earlier. These written responses to Hitler’s expressions of intent clearly show that Hitler’s desires could be communicated to his inner circle without the need for an order.
Thirdly, the assumption of a false dichotomy between orders and ‘parapsychology’ ignores the ways in which historians have advanced their understanding of decision-making, not just with regard to the Third Reich but to all complex organizations. The relationship between centre and periphery is no longer viewed as always dominated by the former, but is instead understood by many historians to be a network of proposals, counter-proposals and requests for radical measures to resolve local problems.
Furthermore, Mattogno himself gives importance to consensual decision-making below Führer level when it suits his purposes to do so. Nearly all the policies proposed by Mattogno in Chapter 7 of Sobibór are driven by Hitler's underlings, who seem to be ‘working towards the Führer’ rather than in response to his orders; for example, Mattogno’s discussion of the Madagascar Plan never goes higher than Ribbentrop and Heydrich. Mattogno also in that chapter gives importance to actors on the periphery such as Zeitschel, to the extent that he argues that “Zeitschel's proposal was thus accepted some months later by Hitler himself.”[5] Mattogno is willing to entertain consensual decision-making below Führer level, and processes in which Hitler gave his consent to proposals from elsewhere, when the subject is evacuation, but not for major killing actions. This double standard suggests that his assumptions are held for the sake of political convenience.
Mattogno also fails to consider other policies that did not require a written order. In September 1940, for example, Brandt and Bouhler obtained Hitler’s verbal authorization for extralegal abortions. This was implemented by the RMdI two months later.[6] A year later, the Reich Ministry of Justice requested a meeting with the RMdI and the Führer’s Office to clarify Hitler’s authorization. This was held on November 26, 1941. The Ministry noted afterwards that “The Führer’s Office is of the opinion that it is not the right time to ask the Führer to put the authorization in writing. It is certain that the Führer stands by this authorization.” We thus have documentary proof that Hitler’s Office was protecting the Führer from having to issue written orders on subjects that were socially and politically controversial during the period when the extermination of the Jews was being decided. Extermination would clearly have fallen into that category of subject.
Mattogno’s summary of the historiography since 1984 is taken entirely from a paper by Kershaw that is available online. The historians cited by Kershaw have not been read by Mattogno in relation to this issue. Mattogno ignores Kershaw’s caveat that the term ‘Führerbefehl’ can be understood in different ways, not necessarily a “precise and clear directive” but also as merely a “green light” to proposals from others.[7] Browning’s formulation regarding the summer of 1941 actually uses the term “green light”:
Having received the “green light” from Hitler to prepare what was in effect a “feasibility study” for the Final Solution”, Heydrich drafted his famous “authorization” to prepare and submit a plan for the “total solution” of the Jewish Question in Europe. He then visited Göring on July 31 and obtained the latter’s signature.[8]   
This is clearly a different scenario from Mattogno’s single moment when “the policy of emigration/evacuation was abandoned in favour of extermination.” Browning does not state that all evacuation plans halted at that moment. Instead, according to Browning, there were clearly two overlapping processes, in which the feasibility study was occurring alongside the old policy, which would not be abandoned until all contingencies and feasibilities had been determined.
Mattogno’s claim that “as of 2005 the controversy around the Führerbefehl was not only unresolved but continued to rage to a greater degree”[9] is utter nonsense. Most of the literature reviewed in Kershaw’s article was written in the 1990s or earlier. Browning and Gerlach have not published new work on the subject recently. Their most recent research has been on labour camps and comparative violence respectively, reflecting the concerns of present-day history departments.
The sections that make up this chapter discuss the policy decisions and documents that are neglected and/or distorted by Mattogno in pursuit of his false assumptions. The first section examines the extermination of Soviet Jews that set the precedent for a Europe-wide extermination. The subsequent sections look at the decision-making that led to extermination decisions regarding Jews across Europe. It should be noted from the outset that we argue for a process of gradual radicalization during this period. The feasibility of extermination was being studied from July 1941, as per Browning’s formulation, and Hitler gave his consent to the implementation of extermination before the end of 1941 (we argue for December as the month), but the implementation itself depended on other decisions made in the first seven months of 1942.
Furthermore, we argue that extermination decisions in 1941 followed different timelines for Soviet and non-Soviet Jews. Preparations for Barbarossa included long-term plans to starve millions of Soviet Jews and short-term plans to shoot Jewish males who held suspected political positions. These plans were replaced in July by the demand to alleviate pressures on food supplies by killing “useless eaters”, namely unfit Jews, whilst placing working Jews in conditions where they would gradually die from hard labour. In December, it was clarified further that Soviet Jews would be killed regardless of economic considerations. Intentions towards non-Soviet Jews initially included sterilization and deportation to a harsh climate that would induce a dying out. By August 1941, this had been reformulated into a more explicit language of reprisals, whereby deported Jews would be “worked over in the harsh climate.” This language informed plans to deport Reich Jews to the East. In December, however, the language of reprisals gave way to explicit extermination across Europe.
The implementation of the decision from January 1942 was not linear but required instead later decisions about how and when working Jews would be killed. Industrialists and the Wehrmacht had labour needs that frustrated SS attempts to complete the extermination before Germany’s impending military defeat enabled a small number of Jews to survive.


[1] Carlo Mattogno, 'The myth of the extermination of the Jews: Part I', The Journal of Historical Review 8/2, 1988, pp.133-172; Carlo Mattogno, La soluzione finale.
[2] Christopher R. Browning, The Path To Genocide. Essays on the Launching of the Final Solution. Cambridge, 1992, p.114; Christian Gerlach, ‘The Wannsee Conference, the Fate of German Jews and Hitler's Decision in Principle to Exterminate All European Jews,’ The Journal of Modern History 70/4, December 1998; Ian Kershaw, ‘Hitler’s Role in the Final Solution’, Yad Vashem Studies 34, 2006, pp.7-43; Peter Longerich, The unwritten order: Hitler’s role in the final solution. Stroud, 2001; Gerhard Feldman and Wolfgang Seibel (eds), Networks of Nazi Persecution. Bureaucracy, Business and the Organization of the Holocaust. New York: Berghahn, 2004; Michael Thad Allen, ‘Not Just a ‘Dating Game’: Origins of the Holocaust at Auschwitz in the Light of Witness Testimony’, German History 25/2, 2007, pp.162-191; Peter Witte, ‘Two Decisions Concerning the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question". Deportations to Lodz and Mass Murder in Chelmno’, in David Cesarani and Sarah Kavanaugh (eds), Holocaust. Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, Volume 3. London, 2004, pp.48-49.
[3] Kershaw, ‘Hitler’s Role’, p.24. Online: http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/studies/vol34/Kershaw%20E.pdf .
[4] MGK, Sobibór, p.236.
[5] M&G, Treblinka, p.114.
[6] Götz Aly, Peter Chroust and Christian Pross, Cleansing the Fatherland. Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene. London and Baltimore, 1994, p.54, citing Geheimerlass des Reichsministerium des Inneren, 19.11.40, and Reichsjustizministerium note, 26.11.41, both held in BAK, R 22/5008.
[7] Kershaw, ‘Hitler’s Role’, p.25.
[8] Browning, Path, p.114.
[9] MGK, Sobibór, p.229.

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