International Campaign for Real History

Reports by expert witnesses were exchanged (July 30, 1999) in the Libel Action between DJC Irving v Penguin Books Ltd and Deborah Lipstadt. One was Professor Christopher Browning, the noted historian
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Michael Mills, of Canberra, Australia, writes on Sunday, October 29, 2000

Apparent mistranslation by Christopher Browning

Sunday, October 29, 2000


YOU may be interested in what appears to be an egregious mistranslation by Browning, occurring on page 75 of his recent book Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers.

It involves his use of material drawn from page 495 of the book by Praeg and Jacobmeyer, Das Diensttagebuch des deutschen Generalgouverneurs in Polen 1939-1945. Browning mistakenly identifies the material as the entry for 5 May 1942; in fact it is the entry for 11 May 1942.

Browning writes:

'Buehler feared that using Jewish labor in large camps would destroy the existing organizational forms within which Jews were working and damage their "multifaceted use" ("Mehrfaches des Nutzes").'

Reference to page 495 of Praeg/Jacobmeyer shows that Buehler's reported words were

" einer Verwirklichung dieses Planes [accommodating working Jews in large concentration camps] der Schaden, der durch die Zerstoerung bisheriger Organisationsformen entstehen werde, EIN MEHRFACHES DES NUTZENS betragen werde, den man sich von einer solchen Massnahme verspreche".

The meaning of these words is quite clear; the damage caused by the destruction of existing organisational forms would be "many times greater than the benefit" promised by the plan. Browning's mistranslation of "ein Mehrfaches des Nutzens" as "multifaceted use" is a real howler, and one is left wondering how he could possibly have arrived at it.

I am reminded of something Browning said in his evidence at your libel action against Lipstadt, in relation to Professor Burrin's rendering of Schrecken as "ominous report" in the latter's explanation of Hitler's reported words "es ist gut, wenn uns der Schrecken vorangeht, dass wir das Judentum ausrotten". Browning claimed that this must have been a mistranslation by an incompetent translator, and said that he himself had had the experience of being the victim of such incompetence.

One wonders whether Browning has once again fallen victim to an incompetent translator. On the other hand, in his introduction he makes no reference to having received assistance in translating from German, although he does thank two people who translated material for him from Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew. One is forced to the conclusion that this egregious mistranslation is of Browning's own making.

Michael Mills


David Irving responds, Sunday, October 29, 2000:

YES Browning does his own German translations. Having watched him in action, I feel, as you know, that he is head and shoulders above the other experts, and can even be cultivated to think independently.