Saturday, April 08, 2006

R.I.P., Gerald Fleming

Some belated news, courtesy of Andrew's Flavor Country, that historian Gerald Fleming, author of Hitler and the Final Solution, died aged 84 on February 25. Obit here.

Fleming was one of the first historians to gain access to East European archives, visiting the Latvian Central Historical Archive in Riga and the now infamous Special Archive in Moscow. For the conceit of finding documents which deniers found inconvenient, he was gratuitously and abusively attacked by among others the Pope of Revisionism, Robert Faurisson.

Prompted by David Irving's thesis in the 1977 edition of Hitler's War that Hitler did not know of the mass murder of the Jews until 1943, Fleming set out to resolve the question of Hitler's involvement in the decision for the 'Final Solution of the European Jewish Question' once and for all. Though he found no 'written order', and no such document will ever be found, Fleming assembled such an overwhelming amount of contextual evidence that Hitler knew of and steered the planning of the Holocaust that arguments to the contrary can only be regarded with derision. The book, too, is one of the few works of history to have an almost literary quality; its structure was unusually elliptical, each chapter veering in on the subject from a fresh angle. It electrified me when I read it as a student, and it remains surprisingly fresh today, twenty years after its original edition in 1984 and more than a decade since its revised edition in 1994.

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