Documents on Auschwitz

The 1930s Meaning of the German Word Ausrottung


Extract from Reply by David Irving [Plaintiff] to the "Defence" served by Deborah Lipstadt in his Libel Action


March 18, 1997

See too:

Rudolf Hess's use of the word in May 1935

Himmler's use of the word, February 1944.

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(32) (i) THE DEFENDANTS falsely aver that on December 14, 1941 Alfred Rosenberg noted after a conversation with Hitler, 'Ich stand auf dem Standpunkt von der Ausrottung des Judentums nicht zu sprechen', which the Defendants falsely and speciously paraphrase as being Rosenberg recommending that nothing be said (in a forthcoming speech) about the extermination of the Jews.

(ii) The Defendants correctly state that the Plaintiff confined a summary of this conversation to a footnote at page 356, and translated the German sentence as: 'I said I took the view that I shouldn't mention the stamping out of Judaism.'

(iii) The Defendants point out that when the German noun Ausrottung is used in connection with the extermination of the Jews but not attributed to Hitler the Plaintiff translated it as 'extermination' (e.g. in HITLER'S WAR at pages 867 and the footnote at pages 575--76).

At page 867 of HITLER'S WAR the Plaintiff indeed quoted a news reports forwarded by Himmler's adjutant to Ernst Kaltenbrunner's office: 'On the instructions of the Reichsführer SS I am transmitting herewith to you a press dispatch on the accelerated extermination [Ausrottung] of the Jews in Occupied Europe.' The Plaintiff clearly inserted the German word in brackets because he was hesitant about using that translation of the word and wanted expert readers to know the German original.

In the note in HITLER'S WAR at page 576, there was no doubt as to the proper translation being 'extermination', as Himmler had himself defined what he meant by the word Ausrottung -- 'I did not consider myself justified in exterminating the menfolk -- that is to kill them or have them killed -- [...]' This passage indicates incidentally how ambiguous the word could be at that time: speaking to the Nazi gauleiters on October 4, 1943, even Himmler had to explain what he meant by ausrotten. (The whole passage has been promoted to the main text of the new edition, at page 590).

The plaintiff allows that there is probably no argument about what the word Ausrottung has come to mean in modern 1990s German usage. What it meant in Hitler's hands in the 1930s and 1940s is however what is germane to this issue. According to the standard Langenscheidt 1967 German dictionary, which suggests translations in descending order of likelihood, Judentum is translated only as: '(n.) Judaism,' while Ausrottung has the entry '(f.) uprooting; extirpation, eradication; extermination, pol. a. genocide.' Precisely because the verb ausrotten and the noun Ausrottung have so many different meanings, the plaintiff was careful not to translate it with only one given meaning, namely a meaning specifically pre-loaded with the meaning needed to support a special hypothesis needed.

When used by Hitler -- the subject of the book -- there is not one example known to the plaintiff where the word ausrotten has exclusively the meaning submitted by the Defendants, namely of liquidate.

On the contrary, when used by Hitler ausrotten has on several occasions demonstrably a meaning that can not be liquidate. Three examples:--

(a) In August 1936 he dictated to his young secretary Christa Schroeder the text of the famous memorandum on the Four Year Plan (printed with commentary by Professor Wilhelm Treue in Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 1955, at pages 184 et seq.; quoted by the plaintiff in THE WAR PATH, at page 50). In this Hitler stated that Germany must be rendered capable of waging War against the Soviet Union because 'a victory by Bolshevism would lead not to a new Versailles treaty but to the final annihilation, indeed the Ausrottung, of the German nation'. Clearly Hitler is not saying that the Bolsheviks would liquidate one hundred million Germans: but that they would subsume the nation, take it over, emasculate it -- the Germans would cease to exist as a sovereign world power.

(b) On November 10, 1938, addressing Nazi editors, he said: 'I have, I must add, often just one misgiving and that is the following: whenever I have a look at these intellectual classes of ours -- sadly, we need them; otherwise one might one day, uh, I dunno, ausrotten them or something' (German Federal Archives file NS.11/28, pages 30--46; and Dr Hildegard von Kotze and Professor Helmut Krausnick (ed.), Es Spricht der Führer, Gütersloh, 1966, at page 281; see too Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 1958, at page 188). Here too, the plaintiff submits, the sense of the verb ausrotten is 'turf them out' because at that time the Nazi blood purges had not begun, apart from Hitler's one murderous fling against the Brownshirts in 1934.

(c) On July 4, 1942 he described over dinner a conversation he had had with the Czech president Emil Hácha about his threat to expel the Czechs from the occupied territories of Bohemia and Moravia. 'The Czech gentlemen had understood this so well,' he said, 'that they had thereafter attuned their future policies explicitly to the principle that all pro-Soviet Benes intrigues and Benes people had to be ausgerottet, and that in the struggle for the preservation of the Czech national characteristics there could no longer be any neutrals, but those who blew neither hot nor cold were also to be spat out.' (Text in Henry Picker, Hitlers Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquartier 1941--42 Stuttgart, 1963, at page 435). The context shows that ausgerottet is used by Hitler to denote physical removal and expulsion.

(d) Even Himmler used the word ausrotten on occasions to mean something other than murder. For example replying on February 21, 1944 to a report from Bormann on abuses in the Lublin concentration camp, Himmler wrote: 'The guilty commandant, SS-Sturmbannführer Florstedt, has been under arrest for two months already. The deplorable conditions are being severely ausgerottet and redressed in rigorous court-proceedings' (National Archives microfilm T-175, roll 53, at page 7290).

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