Sunday, March 31, 2019

Correction Corner #8: the alleged Himmler speech about extermination of Poles is most probably a forgery.

Author: Sergey Romanov
1. Introduction.

In the Eastern Bloc literature as well as in the modern Polish studies on the Nazi policies an alleged speech made by Himmler on March 15, 1940 before the camp commandants in the occupied Poland is quoted quite often. Himmler is reported to have said:
All skilled workers of Polish origin are to be utilized in our war industry; then all Poles will disappear from this world.
In fulfilling this very responsible task, you must destroy Polishness* quickly in prescribed stages. I give all the camp commanders my full authorization...
The hour is drawing closer when every German will have to stand the test. It is therefore necessary that the great German nation sees its main task in exterminating all Poles...
This claim is peculiar, for at that time the official Nazi policy did not even include wholesale slaughter of Jews (the exterminatory "Final Solution" policies appeared in 1941 and escalated throughout 1941 and 1942), and Jews were on a lower rung of the Nazi "racial hierarchy" than Poles.

Morever, no other genuine document seems to exist that would confirm existence of a policy of a total physical extermination of all Poles** (as opposed to the actual policies of the destruction of the Polish intellectual elites and culture, breaking the Polish spirit, brutally suppressing the Polish resistance and planning to eventually deport or starve millions of Poles in the framework of the Generalplan Ost).

Indeed, in a memorandum to Hitler on the treatment of the "foreign" ethnic groups in the East, dated May 1940, Himmler describes large-scale ethnic rearrangements in the East, and measures that would lead to an eventual eradication of various ethnic groups (see H. Krausnick, "Denkschrift Himmlers über die Behandlung der Fremdvölkischen im Osten (Mai 1940)", Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 1957, Heft 2, S. 194–198). This was certainly a genocidal program. However those measures were not the physical extermination of all the individuals of these groups but rather the cultural "reformatting" through, for example, limiting school education to 4 grades of "simple counting up to a maximum of 500, writing the name, teaching that it is a divine command to be obedient to the Germans and to be honest, hardworking, and good". "I do not think reading is necessary", added Himmler. One other measure was to take away "racially valuable" children in order to assimilate them.

Most importantly, Himmler remarks on his proposed measures:
However cruel and tragic every single case may be, this method, if one, out of inner conviction, rejects the Bolshevik method of physically exterminating a people as ungermanic and impossible, is nevertheless the mildest and the best.
While already the next year all such scruples would fly out of the window, this was nevertheless Himmler's state of mind shortly after the alleged speech of March 15, 1940, hence there is a stark contradiction to be explained. It is therefore necessary to take a deeper look at the document with the alleged speech.

2. Provenance of the document.

The document in question, dated 24.08.1943, was first introduced by the Soviet prosecution during the first Nuremberg trial on 02.08.1946 and received the designation USSR-522 (IMT, vol. 20, pp. 228ff.; the German text is in IMT, vol. 39, pp. 554-5). According to the assistant prosecutor L. Smirnov the document "was captured by the Polish Army in Mogilno in the building of the SD". The Nuremberg edition of the document adds that the document with the speech is a part of a larger set of instructions for the confidential agents of the Blockstelle Mogilno dated from June to August of 1943.

A photocopy of the original document as well as further details about the circumstances under which the document was found are contained in the document set I.Z.Dok.I-644 at the Western Institute (Instytut Zachodni) in Poznań***.

A protocol written by Dr. K. M. Pospieszalski (head of the documentary section of the Western Institute) in Poznań on 04.01.1946 provides further details about the envelope in which this and other documents (5 other instructions to a confidential informant and some document apparently called "Abschrift aus der Arbeitsversorgung") were located. It was addressed to Mr. Plagens, Wirtschaftsführer in Landeck, district Mogilno. Address of the sender: Der Landrat des Kreises Mogilno. Pospieszalski describes the circumstances of the find:
The mentioned envelope was found at the estate Wójcin by the citizen Watta-Skrzydlewski who provided the document to the Western Institute through the citizen Kubiak from the Polish Western Union in Poznań.
Wójcin was owned by the Watta-Skrzydlewski family and was taken over by the Germans during the war. Hence the Soviet prosecution's claim that the document was found by the Polish army was incorrect.

The person identified by Pospieszalski was the owner of the Wójcin estate Włodzimierz Watta-Skrzydlewski (see the Main Commission's receipt from 20.02.1946, p. 13 of I.Z.Dok.I-644). He studied in Munich and then served in the German army during the WWI.

Pospieszalski writes that Wójcin was called Landeck by the Germans and that the Volksdeutsch Plagens is known to Dr. Rusinski who works at the Western Institute and that he had a reputation of a "kind" German. Pospieszalski speculates that the number 40 that appears on all instructions was Plagens' confidential informant number.

According the 20.02.1946 receipt by the Warsaw section of the Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland (p. 13 of I.Z.Dok.I-644) the original document set together with the envelope was taken over by the Commission and was sent to Nuremberg, for use at the trial. The Commission promised to return the documents after their use, but never did.

3. Text of the document.

Photocopy of the original document.

40                                         Mogilno, 24th August, 1943
Security Service of the Reichsführer SS
Blockstelle Mogilno

To confidential informants.
Subject: Identifying Poles.

I have repeatedly pointed out to you the necessity of paying
special attention to Poles nowadays. Below I'm reproducing
the speech of the Reichsführer SS Himmler from March 15, 1940
(meeting of camp commanders in former Poland) and ask you
accordingly to immediately identify all Poles.

From the speech of the Reichsführer SS:

"... It is therefore necessary that all our collaborators
(men and women), should consider as their main and urgent task
the finding out of all unscrupulous Polish leaders, so that
these are rendered harmless! You, as camp leaders, know best
how this task should be fulfilled.

All skilled workers of Polish origin are to be utilized in our
war industry; then all Poles will disappear from this world.
In fulfilling this very responsible task, you must destroy
Polishness quickly in prescribed stages. I give all the camp
commanders my full authorization..."

..."The hour is drawing closer when every German will have to
stand the test. It is therefore necessary that the great German
nation sees its main task in exterminating all Poles"...

"I expect all my confidential informants to report to me
immediately all Polish scaremongers and defeatists. For this
task one should also utilize children and aged persons, who can
play a very great role because of their perceived friendliness
toward Poles."
            (from Himmler's speech from March 15, 1940)
                          Heil Hitler!
                      SS Hauptsturmführer
The signature is illegible. The word "Namhaftmachung" in the subject line has no direct translation into English and means finding out someone's name, identity, making someone's name known.

4. Testing the document's credibility (1): Himmler's whereabouts on March 15, 1940.

The document claims that Himmler gave the speech at a meeting of camp commandants in occupied Poland on 15.03.1940. Incidentally, no such meeting is known from other sources. It should be noted that most concentration camps in occupied Poland had not even been created yet.

In any case, Himmler could not have taken part in any such meeting in occupied Poland since on 15.03.1940 he was in Berlin.

In the 15.03.1940 entry in his pocket calendar that served as a diary we read:

"Berlin. - Büro
Mittags Gen. Oberst Milch.
"Berlin. - Office
At noon colonel general Milch.

Therefore the whole day was spent at the office in Berlin, he also met with Milch.

Later Himmler added another line above the lines pertaining to him:

"Mami n. Posen-Bromberg"
"Mami to Posen-Bromberg"

"Mami" is a reference to his (by that time effectively estranged) wife Margarete who was born near Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) and made a trip there to visit some acquaintances (see her diary entry for 23.03.1940 in J. Matthäus, "'Es war sehr nett'. Auszüge aus dem Tagebuch der Margarete Himmler, 1937-1945", WerkstattGeschichte, 2000, p. 89).

Himmler's pocket calendar diary for 1940 was published in 2013 as a commented edition, Heinrich Himmlers Taschenkalender 1940. The book provides a further source with additional information to confirm Himmler's whereabouts - Himmler's desk diary (p. 218), which notes that at 12:00 Himmler had an appointment with his physical therapist Felix Kersten, at 17:00 - with general Reinecke, at 18:00 with the SS-Standartenführer Mühlmann in Kaiserhof, and that he had his supper "im Amt" (at the office). The note 159 in the book provides further detailed information about his "bureaucratic" activities at the office that are known from the documents created by Himmler on that day.

Moreover, both on the 14th and 16th March Himmler also was in Germany (on the 14th he was in Koblenz, Wiesbaden, then in Berlin; on the 16th the whole day in Berlin).

Therefore Himmler could not have held a speech anywhere in occupied Poland on 15.03.1940.

5. Testing the document's credibility (2): the language.

Native German speakers have pointed out that the last sentence of the alleged speech excerpt is unlikely to have been written by a native speaker.

Here is this sentence in German:
Für diese Aufgabe sollen auch Kinder und alte Menschen eingesetzt werden, die sehr grosse Rolle wegen der Meinung einer Freu[n]dlichkeit gegen Polen ausspielen können.
A possessive pronoun or an article somewhere before "Rolle" is absolutely necessary here.

Most common in this context would be the possessive pronoun "ihre" ("their"). Much less common would be the use of "eine" in this context (Rolle ausspielen is usually used with a possessive pronoun).

It seems like the author has mixed together two very different German expressions: eine Rolle spielen (to play a role - e.g. "the spy played an important role during the war") and jemandes/eine Rolle ausspielen (to act out someone's/a role - e.g. "the spy has acted out his role of a common person"). "Sehr grosse Rolle" is most commonly used with "spielen", not "ausspielen" (and in general, adjectives are rarely used with "Rolle ausspielen").

Neither is "wegen der Meinung einer Freundlichkeit" correct - if the author meant that people have an opinion about children and old people being friendly to them, it should have been something like "wegen der Meinung über ihre Freundlichkeit".

The date of Himmler's alleged speech is given both times as "vom 15 März 1940", but that is incorrect, it should have been "vom 15. März 1940". The period sign turns the numeral "fifteen" into the adjective "fifteenth". If we write the numbers out as words, the difference is between "vom fünfzehn März 1940" (nonsense) and "vom fünzehnten März 1940" (correct). A German, especially a bureaucrat, is much less likely to make such a mistake, twice, with the same date.

The comment "in ehem. Polen" ("in former Poland") is ungrammatical - the use of an adjective in this case necessitates a definite article, in this case "dem" which amalgamates together with the proposition "in" into "im" - "im ehem. Polen".

On the other hand "Im dieser verantwortlichen Arbeit" is false, it should be "In dieser verantwortlichen Arbeit". But even when we correct the grammar (this could, after all, be a typo), this is an expression that a native speaker would be unlikely to use as it sounds weird. Rather it should be something like "im Rahmen dieser verantwortlichen Arbeit".

The dative case in "von allen meinen V.Männer" necessitates the ending "n" in the plural "V.Männer": "von allen meinen V.Männern".

There are several other irregularities in the text ("sie" (they) instead of "Sie" (you), Freudlichkeit instead of Freundlichkeit), but these can be explained away as typos that also a native speaker could easily make.

Interestingly enough, someone corrected another grammatical mistake ("der" instead of "den").

If that was the author, it is significant that he took pains to do this but did not notice the rest of the mistakes. If that was not the author, there is one more crude mistake to account for.

6. Other observations and the conclusion.

One could raise points like the fact that this instruction to an underling is not typed on an official preprinted form or that it contains alleged extremely incriminating Himmler quotes but does not even have any reminder to the confidential informant (who is, after all, an "average person" rather someone schooled in such matters) that this document is extremely sensitive and cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. That's suggestive, but also in the realm of practically possible.

The fact that the document is typed on a plain piece of paper on a typewriter without the SS-runes (which were not always used) is thus not an argument here, but it is necessary to reiterate that basically anyone with an access to a generic German typewriter and a piece of paper could have typed it. Had the document exhibited any formal signs (SS-runes, stamps etc.), the burden of proof would shift significantly towards the side claiming this is a forgery, but as things stand, it's not an argument for either side. Everything hinges on the content and provenance of the document.

A better question to ask is whether the content of the document is better compatible with it being a genuine instruction to a confidential informant or a propagandistic forgery.

The fact, that the instruction is very short and pretty useless (identify all Poles? in Poland? what is the procedure? are lists supposed to be made? what is supposed to be noted? what is the geographical extent for one informant? what about the double work by other informants? - these and many other questions would have necessitated further detailed instructions) but the bloodthirsty quote that sort of justifies the instruction (but isn't really of any use too) takes up most of the document, is more compatible with this being a propagandistic forgery rather than a real instruction.

Next, what exactly was the purpose of the instruction to identify the Poles? What was the rush? Were they about to engage in this alleged wholesale physical extermination program in 1943? Well, no, nothing is known about such plans for 1943 or later and already in 1942 we see in the Kinna report that according to the RSHA instructions in Auschwitz "the Poles have to die of a natural death contrary to the measures applied to the Jews". It would seem then that the instruction, if genuine, serves no purpose. This is once again more compatible with this being a propagandistic forgery rather than a real instruction.

Moreover, why would Himmler tell to the camp commandants about what he is awaiting from his confidential informants and what tasks he is giving to them? How convenient is this that he gave this information during this meeting that then could be used as a direct instruction to the actual confidential informants? How convenient it is that the last sentence paints the whole German population, including children and old people, as being at least potentially complicit, but is once again useless in practice despite taking the form of a practical piece of advice? Once again, this is more compatible with this being a propagandistic forgery rather than a real instruction.

Let's sum up:
  • this document has failed the factual test (its key claim is that Himmler made a speech on 15.03.1940 in occupied Poland, whereas Himmler was in Berlin that whole day);
  • this document has failed the linguistic test (it is unlikely to have been written by a native speaker);
  • the document contradicts the actual known Nazi policies (and Himmler's proposals) towards Poles;
  • the style and the content of this document are more compatible with it being a propagandistic forgery rather than a real instruction to a confidential informant.
Conclusion: these points, taken together, show that this document is most probably a forgery.

I want to thank Dr. Bogumił Rudawski, Hans Metzner and Steve Tyas for providing me with the key sources for this article.


* "Polentum", sometimes translated as "Poles" into English, but actually a more abstract term referring to the Polish character and culture.

** We are of course not counting the partially fabricated rendition of Hitler's Obersalzberg speech supplied to Louis Lochner in 1939 by the German opposition circles. Albeit based on an authentic transcript by Canaris, this version contains numerous wild additions not confirmed by other transcripts of the speech, and this includes one explicit bit about the extermination of Poles (the other versions only contain vague bits about the destruction of "living forces" or "armed forces"). The credibility of this version is fully illustrated by the claim contained therein that after Hitler's speech to the generals Goering got on the table, gave a "bloodthirsty" thanks to Hitler and then danced around like a savage. (See W. Baumgart, "Zur Ansprache Hitlers vor den Führern der Wehrmacht am 22. August 1939", Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 1968, Heft 2, S. 120–149).

*** Notably, the online description of the document by the Institute is very skeptical:
At the request of the Main Commission for the Investigation of Hitlerite Crimes in Poland the original was sent to it, after which it was forwarded to the Polish delegation in Nuremberg. Along with the original, all the other documents contained in the envelope addressed to the confidential informant Plagens were sent. The accused Höppner, head of the Gauamt für Volkstumsfragen, stated at the trial in 1948 that the document was not authentic. The Nuremberg trial files show that the authenticity of the document was discussed at the trial. However, it was not definitively determined whether the document is authentic or not. The accused Höppner objected at the trial in Poznań, in particular, that the signature under the document of 24.8.1943 differed from the signatures on other documents, and moreover that there was no Blockstelle in the SD organization.
It should be noted, however, that Blockstellen were indeed official temporary intelligence gathering points of the SD (see e.g. K. Paehler, The Third Reich's Intelligence Services. The Career of Walter Schellenberg, 2017, p. 121) and during the Nuremberg trial Höppner himself did not dispute that the designation might have existed (IMT, vol. 20, p. 233).


Sergey Romanov said...

Contrast this likely fake with the unimpeachably authentic Himmler speeches in which he rants about the extermination of Jews, like the Posen speeches or the Sonthofen speech:

Nathan said...

Thanks for sharing.

This really isn't surprising. The Communist Polish government seemed to be all too eager to participate in the Soviet "Masking" of the Holocaust, especially since they were also eager to promote the narrative that the Poles were the Nation that suffered most under the Nazis. See also for example the Polish Government's official notice of establishing the Auschwitz Memorial, which emphasized the "Martyrdom of the Polish Nation" and gave no mention of the Jews (everyone else was just described as 'Other Nations').

Whatever the Victors of WW2 may or may not have faked, they absolutely did not fake the Holocaust.

Sergey Romanov said...

Quite possibly Watta-S forged the document all on his own.

Hans Metzner said...

The mentioned "Mr. Plagens" could be Richard Plagens, b. 1.3.1901, Reichsgesellschaft für Landbewirtschaftung mbH, Zweigstelle Hohensalza and member of the NSDAP (BArch R 82/488, R 9361-II/813681).

Nicholas Terry said...

From the IZ finding guide for the relevant document collection, which adds further questioning of the authenticity of this document, from Hoeppner.

"Oryginał został na żądanie Głównej Komisji Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce przesłany do niej, po czym został przekazany do delegacji polskiej w Norymberdze. Wraz z oryginałem posłano wszystkie inne dokumenty zawarte w kopercie zaadresowanej do męża zaufania Plagensa. Oskarżony Höppner, kierownik Gauamt für Volkstumsfragen oświadczył na procesie w 1948r., że dokument ten nie jest autentyczny. Z akt procesu norymberskiego wynika, że autentyczność dokumentu była dyskutowana na rozprawie. Nieustalono jednak ostatecznie, czy dokument jest autentyczny, czy nie. Oskarżony Höppner podnosił na rozprawie w Poznaniu w szczególności, że podpis pod dokumentem z 24.8.1943 różnił się od podpisów na innych dokumentach, a nadto, że w organizacji SD nie istniała Blockstelle."

machine translaton:

"The original was sent to her at the request of the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland, and then forwarded to the Polish delegation in Nuremberg. Along with the original, all other documents contained in the envelope addressed to Plagens' husband were sent. Accused Höppner, head of Gauamt für Volkstumsfragen stated at a trial in 1948 that this document is not authentic. According to the files of the Nuremberg trial, the authenticity of the document was discussed at the hearing. However, it has not been finally determined whether the document is authentic or not. The accused Höppner claimed at the hearing in Poznań in particular that the signature of the document of 24.8.1943 differed from the signatures on other documents, and that there was no Blockstelle in the SD organization."

Nicholas Terry said...

It's worth adding that nowhere in the finding-guide for GARF fond 7021 opis 148, a trophy documents collection whose contents were demonstrably drawn upon for IMT (eg using select documents from the Pol.Btl. 310 records) to produce USSR-documents, is there any reference to Mogilno, Warthe-anything, or anything that might match concerning the SD or Himmler.

Indeed, the entire opis is very, very light on documents relating to occupied Poland - there may indeed be only one file with contemporary German documents from there, going by what shows up for Poland (1 hit - the file in question) and Polish (8 hits - statements, instructions re RK UKraine and other non-GG, non-Warthegau regions).

The 'original' of USSR-522 is probably therefore in GARF fond 7445 where other USSR-series documents not in 7021-148 seem to be held.

The provenance described by Pospieszalski, as well as the earnest paper trail in IZ I-644, makes it likely that the forger was as Sergey speculated, the Polish citizen Watta-Skrzydlewski.

The nascent IZ had enough documents piling up to keep it busy w/o needing to forge anything, ditto the Soviets, who could probably have cared less whether a document existed expressing Nazi intentions to exterminate their troublesome neighbours.

The organised Polish underground acquired enough Nazi documents on its own through theft, which are often included in their intelligence reports which circulated internally; there would be no reason for them to forge such a document. In fact, there are several examples in appendices to reports re western Poland reprinted in Adamczyk/Gmitruk/Waszniewski (eds.), Ziemie Zachodnie (2004), but the Mogilno document is NOT one of them.

The document would also be a bit odd if forged for the genuine 'black propaganda' campaign waged by the Polish underground, as it would hardly make much of an impact on German occupation forces, who either were already repulsed by Nazi occupation policies or would have thought Himmler's proclamations were a-okay with them.

So this example confirms the pattern whereby very isolated documents not being discovered in larger caches are the ones where forgery is more likely (but still not guaranteed). That does not apply to 99.99% or more of Nazi documents. I've yet to see any evidence of an 'official forgery' by Soviet, Polish or western authorities.

Sergey Romanov said...

Thanks for your comment, Nick! BTW, the IZ description had already been included in the article with an appropriate correction.