Unless correspondents ask us not to, this Website will post selected letters that it receives and invite open debate.
Gonzalo Baeza asks, Sunday, April 18, 2004, what we think of Peter Padfield's biography of Himmler
What do you think of Peter Padfield on Himmler?
I AM looking forward to reading your biography of Heinrich Himmler. How is the book coming along? I am particularly curious about your take on Wewelsburg and am eager to read what a serious historian such as you has to say about all the mythology that cranks such as Pauwels (The Morning of the Magicians) or Ravenscroft (Spear of Destiny) have spun from Himmler's alleged proclivity to esoteric rituals. Have you ever discussed this subject before?
I am likewise eager to finally read a well-researched biography on Himmler after seeing the poor job made by Peter Padfield in his shoddy book on the life of the Reichsführer-SS.
David Irving comments:
I replied to another reader's Letter already about Peter Padfield: I wrote
[. . .]
I NOW come to the strange case of biographer Peter Padfield. I had never heard of him when Adam Sisman, my then editor at Macmillan UK Ltd, who were my publishers too, approached me back in the mid 1980s with a problem. They had perhaps foolishly commissioned a biography of Heinrich Himmler from Padfield, who had previously written on Grand Admiral Dönitz. The manuscript had now arrived and, ahem 'nuff said.
In short, Macmillan's asked me to report on the manuscript -- a rather unusual move, with a published author like Padfield.
Reporting on a manuscript is a task I have rarely agreed to, as it brings all ones personal prejudices to the fore; invited once to write a report on the Reinhard Heydrich biography submitted by a Swiss historian of some notoriety, well-known for his over-political approach to themes like the Reichstag Fire, I had turned the job down and explained quite simply I did not feel I could report fairly. (Macmillan rejected the book for other reasons).
As I had never heard of Padfield, nor was I then writing on Himmler, I felt I could be objective. A fee of £200 was agreed for my report. What should have been a two-day task eventually took three or four weeks, and I produced a 200-page typescript report on the Padfield manuscript, highlighting its failings.
Despite a lengthy bibliography, Padfield had mostly relied on a dozen source books and had done no archive work at all: Richard "Skunky" Evans would probably warmly approve of him. It is always possible to write a useful thirteenth book in such circumstances (not that I have done so), but it depends on picking the right twelve books to lean upon.
I identified at once the book Conversations with Hitler, by Hermann Rauschning: Published in 1940 by the Hungarian-born Jewish wartime propagandist Imre Revesz (Emery Reeves) the book led to furious secret investigations by the top Nazis who established that Rauschning had spoken with Hitler but once, and briefly, at a diplomatic cocktail party. Like the part-fake Ciano Diaries, the Rauschning book is one of the favourite source books of lazier historians.
Another work used by Padfield was The Kersten Diaries. Now, Felix Kersten -- Himmler's physician -- did write real diaries, and there are other useful documentary sources on him; but the published book is not the real diaries. (Compare the chapter he wrote on the "Hitler medical dossier" which he claimed Himmler had once shown him, with Hitler's actual medical dossier, which I found in the US National Archives and published in 1983).
And of course, Padfield used the published memoirs of Walter Schellenberg, right (London, André Deutsch): But compare it with the original handwritten memoirs (now in the Institut für Zeitgeschichte), and his voluminous interrogations (Public Record Office, London), and you will see that the Deutsch book is less by the SS Intelligence chief than by Mr Deutsch himself.
I could go on, about each of the other source-books used by Padfield. As a bonne-bouche I put into my report a few of the original Himmler documents which I had obtained over the years, to show the kind of book which in my view Padfield should and could have written.
THOSE were, unfortunately, weeks of flux at Macmillan's. A new CEO had been appointed, Felicity Rubinstein of the famous and gifted literary/legal Rubinstein family. She was 23. Many of the top editors resigned in outrage, among them -- to my regret -- my own editor Adam Sisman.
He was replaced as editor by the spineless Roland Philipps; Philipps came under outside pressure a few years later, and on July 6, 1992 he secretly ordered that all of my books were to be destroyed within 24 hours and that I was not to be informed of this, and that there was to be "no publicity". Ms Rubinstein's views on this are not known. Philipps subsequently married Ms Rubinstein, which must have insulated him from criticism, but he moved to Hodder & Stoughton, another old publisher of mine, in January 1994.
All of this had little directly to do with the publishing of Real History. I gave up writing my analysis on Padfield's book after churning through three-quarters of it, writing in the covering letter to my report that there was little point my continuing, as they would no doubt not be publishing the manuscript in the circumstances.
To my considerable surprise the book did appear later that year; it contained passages which bore a flattering, if remarkable, similarity to parts of the 200 page report I had submitted. As for the fee, I never saw it.