November 16, 1996
From Ms Gitta Sereny
Sir, The impression given by Professor Richard Breitman's remarks, as quoted, in your report, is misleading. Presenting already well-known historical facts as new discoveries tends to diminish their substance and even to misrepresent them.
The murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews in Russia in 1941, well before the establishment of extermination camps, and the fact that many of the first killings were carried out by the German Ordnungspolizei, have been amply described in Those Were The Days and God With Us by Klee, Dressen and Riess (1988, 1992), in Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning (l992) in my own Albert Speer, His Battle With Truth (1995) and, however critical I was in my review (March 28, 1996), in Hitler's Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen.
The East European murders, ordered by Hitler and carried out during the last six months of 1941, included not "only" about half a million Russian Jews, but many tens of thousands of non-Jewish Russian civilians -- the political and cultural elite of dozens of conquered cities.
They also included most of the Jews (250,000 in Lithuania alone) and countless non-Jews in the three Baltic republics and Poland. It is true that many of these actions were originally carried out by native National Guards and later by the Ordnungspolizei. However, these organisations were under the control and command of the SS, and all their reports were signed by SS officers.
These murders have long been a matter of historical fact. It is still unclear when they were first recognised as being the start of the genocide of all European Jewry and of the systematic elimination of Eastern Europe's social, religious and cultural elite. The truth about British knowledge of these matters will not be found in German or Russian documents, but in Britain where it is as yet carefully hidden away.