Ten years ago, I visited the mansion where the Wannsee Conference took place on January 20, 1942. At this famous conference, the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question” was planned. The mansion is now a Museum with displays in the rooms on the ground floor. I spent a lot of time there and read everything in the displays, using a guidebook with English translations.
An excerpt from Heinrich Himmler’s famous speech at Posen on October 4, 1943 was quoted in one of the Wannsee museum displays:
…”The Jewish people are being exterminated.” every party member says. “Of course, it’s in our program, elimination of the Jews, extermination, we’ll do it all right.” Among all those who talk like this, no one has witnessed it, no one has seen it through. Most of you will know, however, what it means to see 100 corpses lying together, or 500, or 1,000. To have stuck it out and at the same time to have remained decent – aside from a few exceptions succumbing to human weakness – that has made us tough. This is a page of glory in our history, unwritten and never to be written…
As quoted by the Wannsee museum, Himmler’s speech is cut off in the middle of a sentence. According to a book written by Holocaust historian Martin Gilbert, the full sentence from Himmler’s speech was as follows:
This is an unwritten and never-to-be-written page of glory in our history, for we know how difficult it would be for us if today under bombing raids and the hardships and deprivations of war – if we were still to have the Jews in every city as secret saboteurs, agitators, and inciters. If the Jews were still lodged in the body of the German nation, we would probably by now have reached the stage of 1917-18.”
The last part of the sentence is a reference to 1917-18 during World War I when the Jewish labor leaders called a strike of ammunition workers in 1917 and the Social Democrats overthrew the established government and declared a Republic in Germany in 1918.
The part of the sentence, that the museum display cut out, explains why the Nazis made the decision to “transport the Jews to the east” six months after Germany attacked the Soviet Union: they didn’t want the Jews to cause them to lose another war.
Why would a Museum leave out such an important detail in the history of World War II? Maybe for the same reason that Peter Longerich, an expert witness who testified for the defense in the lawsuit brought by David Irving against Deborah Lipstadt, left out this part of the speech in his testimony.
This quote is from the Wikipedia page about David Irving’s lawsuit:
Longerich testified to the meaning of the often euphemistic language used by German officials during the war regarding the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”, and argued that from 1941 onwards, the term “resettlement in the East” was a metaphor for deportation to the death camps. During his exchanges with Irving, Longerich insisted quite firmly that the term “resettlement” was only a euphemism for extermination and nothing more, and used the Posen speech given by Himmler in October 1943 as a proof of the genocidal policy of the German state. Irving by contrast argued for a literal interpretation of the phrase “resettlement in the East”.
I’m not accusing Longerich of falsifying history. I think he honestly didn’t know what Himmler had actually said, since this part of Himmler’s speech is routinely cut off in mid-sentence.
Here is a full quote of the part of Himmler’s famous speech at Poznan, Poland on October 4, 1943, that is usually cut short:
I want to mention another very difficult matter here before you in all frankness. Among ourselves, it ought to be spoken of quite openly for once; yet we shall never speak of it in public. Just as little as we hesitated to do our duty as ordered on 30 June 1934, and place comrades who had failed against the wall and shoot them, just as little did we ever speak of it, and we shall never speak of it. It was a matter of course, of tact, for us, thank God, never to speak of it, never to talk of it. It made everybody shudder; yet everyone was clear in his mind that he would do it again if ordered to do so, and if it was necessary.
I am thinking now of the evacuation <Evakuierung> of the Jews, the extermination <Ausrottung> of the Jewish people. It is one of those things that’s easy to say: “The Jewish people will be exterminated” <wird ausgerottet>, says every Party comrade, “that’s quite clear, it’s in our program: elimination <Ausschaltung> of the Jews, extermination <Ausrottung>; that’s what we’re doing.” And then they all come along, these 80 million good Germans, and every one of them has his decent Jew. Of course, it’s quite clear that the others are pigs, but this one is one first-class Jew. Of all those who speak this way, not one has looked on; not one has lived through it. Most of you know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when 500 lie there, or if 1,000 lie there. To have gone through this, and at the same time, apart from exceptions caused by human weaknesses, to have remained decent, that has made us hard. This is a chapter of glory in our history which has never been written, and which never shall be written; since we know how hard it would be for us if we still had the Jews, as secret saboteurs, agitators, and slander-mongers, among us now, in every city — during the bombing raids, with the suffering and deprivations of the war. We would probably already be in the same situation as in 1916/17 if we still had the Jews in the body of the German people.
I have put in the original German for some of the important words in the speech. The English translation of these words is another controversy that is still argued about today. I don’t want to get into that argument now, but I will tell you that David Irving brought in a German dictionary from 1935 during his lawsuit. Today’s German dictionaries are not the same as the old dictionaries from the 1930s.