Friday, February 05, 2016

Correction Corner #6: Michael Shermer and Hans Frank's speech

In Michael Shermer's and Alex Grobman’s book Denying History (2009, expanded edn.) we see the following claim (p.186):
On October 7, 1940, in a speech to a Nazi assembly, Hans Frank, head of the Generalgouvernement (the governmental administration over Poland’s four districts of Krakow, Warsaw, Radom, and Lublin), summed up his first year:
“My dear Comrades! … I could not eliminate [ausrotten] all lice and Jews in only one year. But in the course of time, and if you help me, this end will be attained.”28
To those deniers who claim that by ausrotten Frank merely meant deportation, we counter: Did Frank, then, mean to “deport” all the lice? Only one translation makes sense here.
The endnote is:
28. N.D. 3363-PS, 891.
However, PS-3363 has nothing to do with Frank. The speech is from PS-2233, Frank’s official diary. The speech took place not on Oct. 7, but rather on Dec.19 (see IMT vol. 29, p. 415).


And contrary to Shermer and Grobman, Frank used beseitigen instead of ausrotten:
Freilich, in einem Jahre konnte ich weder sämtliche Läuse noch sämtliche Juden beseitigen (Heiterkeit). Aber im Laufe der Zeit und vor allem dann, wenn Ihr mir helft, wird sich das schon erreichen lassen. Es ist ja auch nicht notwendig, dass wir alles in einem Jahre und alles gleich tun, denn was hätten sonst diejenigen, die nach uns kommen, noch zu schaffen?
This claim was also made in Shermer’s book Why People Believe Weird Things and in the first edition of Denying History, and it seemingly first appeared in his article "Proving the Holocaust: The Refutation of Revisionism & the Restoration of History" in Skeptic, 1994, Vol. 2, No. 4.

That Hans Frank made this speech on Oct.7, 1941 was claimed by William Shirer in his classic tome Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich. He specified his source as “NCA, IV, p. 891 (N.D. 2233-C-PS)”. And indeed, when we go to the relevant volume of NCA, we do find the speech in the following form (pp. 890-1):
[Page 943, 4th-6th lines]
10/7/40
The Governor-General then addresses the assembly with the
following words :
My dear Comrades ! * * * * * * *
[Page 946, lines 1-3, 21-30]
10/7/40
* * * There are so few of us here that no one can actually
really conceal himself. Everybody has to fear that the spotlight
will now and then rest on him * * *
* * * It is clear that education will perhaps still be necessary
here and there; furthermore, it is clear that this openminded
comradeship, this common spirit of close contact finds its
counter-part in the unstinted observation of authority in inner
office relations. We cannot permit the offices to become 5 o’clock
tea rooms. But, of course, our position as Germans here must be
such that the lowest of us is still far above the highest Pole in
this room * * *
[Page 1158, 2nd par. to p. 1159 4th line]
* * * And another thing was told me by the Fuehrer in all
seriousness, a few days ago: that the old Japanese proverb:-
after the war tighten your helmet strap-should retain its validity.
Comrades, never again shall we be a weak Reich. The
Armed Forces will represent the crown of community education.
Just as the NSDAP is the crown of social, political and ideological
leadership, so the Armed Forces will be the essence of military
training, of the proud and immaculate bearing of our people.
And you can say: you took part in it as soldiers. I am very
happy about this hour of the Armed Forces, for it joins us all
together. Some of you left your mothers, your parents at home,
others their wives, their brides, their brothers, their children.
In all these weeks, they will be thinking of you, saying to themselves:
my God, there he sits in Poland where there are so many
lice and Jews, perhaps he is hungry and cold, perhaps he is
afraid to write. It would not be a bad idea then to send our dear
ones back home a picture, and tell them: well now, there are not
so many lice and Jews any more, and conditions here in the Government
General have changed and improved somewhat already.
Of course, I could not eliminate all lice and Jews in only one
year’s time.’ (public amused) But in the course of time, and
above all, if you help me, this end will be attained.
After all, it is
not necessary for us to accomplish everything within a year and
right away for what would otherwise be left for those who follow
us to do?
Shirer erroneously assumed that the date “10/7/40” applies to all the paragraphs below. This cannot be, of course, since there are more than 200 pages separating the two excerpts! And if you look at the same speech in IMT, it is clearly dated Dec. 19.

So it was the NCA editors’ oversight in not assigning the date, Shirer’s sloppiness in not noticing the page count and not cross-checking with the IMT version. But at least Shirer gives the correct source.

Shermer clearly relied on Shirer. Here is Shirer:
Frank did not neglect the Jews, even if the Gestapo had filched the direct task of extermination away from him. His journal is full of his thoughts and accomplishments on the subject. On October 7, 1940, it records a speech he made that day to a Nazi assembly in Poland summing up his first year of effort.
My dear Comrades! … I could not eliminate all lice and Jews in only one year. [”Public amused,” he notes down at this point.] But in the course of time, and if you help me, this end will be attained.
Here’s Shermer:
On October 7, 1940, in a speech to a Nazi assembly, Hans Frank, head of the Generalgouvernement (the governmental administration over Poland’s four districts of Krakow, Warsaw, Radom, and Lublin), summed up his first year:
“My dear Comrades! … I could not eliminate [ausrotten] all lice and Jews in only one year. But in the course of time, and if you help me, this end will be attained.”
The phrasing is the same, and they quote basically the same parts (with “my dear comrades” actually belonging to another speech, which is skipped by both authors). Also note that the official English translation has "in only one year’s time" and "and above all, if you help me", whereas both Shirer and Shermer have "in only one year" and "and if you help me".

Let’s compare their endnotes again:

  • Shirer: NCA, IV, p. 891 (N.D. 2233-C-PS)
  • Shermer: N.D. 3363-PS, 891.

Page 891 is a page in the 4th NCA volume, not a page of the original document! It’s meaningless otherwise. Shermer’s endnote should have included the NCA reference. Moreover, as pointed out, Shermer gets the document number completely wrong. But interestingly enough, the same document (PS-3363) is referenced by Shirer in the same chapter (see e.g. note 37 here - and keep in mind that the Frank endnote is 41 - quite close).

This explains why Shermer misdated the Frank speech and possibly explains why he referenced a wrong document (if he was relying on Shirer - without checking the original sources - and somehow mixed up Shirer’s endnotes).

This still doesn’t explain the main error, namely, why Shermer claims that Frank used the word “ausrotten” though he used the word “beseitigen”. The meaning of “ausrotten” plays a big role in Shermer’s book so it’s not just a secondary detail.

PS: this error was also noted by Carlo Mattogno in his critique of Shermer and Grobman. However he wrongly assumed that they were quoting a speech from Dec. 20, which contains a similar passage (IMT vol. 29, p. 416):
Man kann natürlich in einem Jahre nicht sämtliche Läuse und Juden hinaustreiben; das wird im Laufe der Zeit geschehen müssen.
It is obvious though that Shermer quotes the Dec. 19 speech. 

2 comments:

Dass Prussian said...

One thing I have always been curious about in respect of Hans Frank's diary, and that is if he wrote his speeches down in this diary by hand or were they separate documents ie typed or handwritten drafts of the actual speech he was to make. Was the diary a 'normal diary' or was it a collection of notes, papers and other documents ?

It just seems strange that someone would actually take the time to write the contents of a whole speech in their diary.

Sergey Romanov said...

A collection of notes. It's a "work diary" probably compiled by some secretary. Probably better called a "journal" or something.

Anyway, I gave a link to it, you can have a look:

http://nuremberg.law.harvard.edu/php/pflip.php?caseid=HLSL_NMT01&docnum=3799&numpages=492&startpage=1&title=Abteilungsleitersitzungen.&color_setting=C