Radical's Diary

[I] N THE EVENING we drove over the 26 mile causeway to New Orleans, and William C., a chiropractor, took me to the synagogue in St Charles Avenue where Daniel Goldhagen is to speak on his book Hitler's Willing Executioners. It came out last May and, of course, my own book Goebbels. Mastermind of the Third Reich was sacrificed by St Martins Press, on orders from the Traditional Enemies of Free Speech, to give "Professor" G a clear run with his book -- no nasty confrontations on talk shows, etc., with somebody who might know what he was talking about when it came to Hitler and the Jews. The rotunda was packed with over a thousand listeners, and a sprinkling of police outside. A rabbi introduced the speaker, while a young man who had the thin gaunt face reminiscent of Key West's HIV-positive population slouched on a chair at stage-right. This turned out to be Goldhagen. His talk was disappointingly bland: delivered without notes in a gentle, laid-back voice, speaking at such a slow, hesitant pace that one wondered whether he suffered a chromosome defect, Goldhagen uttered a ninety minute tirade against the "ordinary Germans" who he said were fully aware of what was going on, and were willing and indeed eager to make up the firing squads when it came to getting rid of the Jews.

As he talked of the zeal with which these "ordinary Germans" had rounded up, tortured, mocked and killed their opponents, I thought involuntarily of the West Bank, and of the Arab children shot down with live ammunition, and of modern prime ministers who send assassins into neighbouring countries armed with nerve-gas guns to dispose of their opponents.

Dr C. afterwards said he had never before heard so much hatred spewed forth in a House of Worship. The same thought occurred to me: it was undiluted Volksverhetzung, far more ugly than the kind which now earns revisionists hefty prison sentences in Europe. He finally rambled to a conclusion -- mid-sentence, mid-paragraph, in fact mid-lecture for all anybody could tell, since the whole talk was utterly shambolic from start to finish, without starting point, milestones, or objective. If he is a lecturer in politics at Harvard, I feel endlessly sorry for his students. One wonders how he got the job; one must ask his father, a long-time benefactor and professor at the university. He probably picked up at least a $20,000 fee for his performance this evening.

At question time I got to the microphone, which was stood right up front, and grabbed it hard. "Professor Goldhagen, we have listened with enormous interest to your talk, but forgive me if I now voice some criticism. I too am an historian, an English historian who has worked for thirty-five years at the other end of the spectrum, as I might put it, questioning most closely every member of Hitler's private staff about what decisions were taken at the very highest level.

"Let me make plain that there can be no doubt whatever as to the scale of the killings of Jews carried out on the eastern front during Hitler's Russian campaign. But you are aware that your book has attracted much informed comment world-wide, both for the narrowness of its focus and for the cavalier manner in which you used archival records during your visit to Ludwigsburg. For instance, you claimed in your talk to have used the interrogation records of 'literally thousands of the Perpetrators,' as you call them; but we know that in fact you used scarcely a hundred if that."

At this, I could feel the temper of the audience behind me rising. I continued: "What concerns me most however is the narrowness of your focus, the claim that it was only 'ordinary Germans' who carried out the killings. This is totally untrue and might lead to

the very wrong conclusion that because Germany was finished, squashed flat during the appalling military conflict of World War II, therefore the Jews of the world no longer have anything to fear. We know the make-up of the police battalions which carried out the killings on the eastern front, the battalions to which you attached such emphasis. In these units the Germans were in a minority -- most of the men were drawn from units of the Baltic states, the Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians, as well as a large number of Ukrainians and other Russians too. And surely this raises a fundamental question, which you would have done better to address --"

The audience were now very restive, as it dawned that I was not a Goldhagen fan.

" -- Why did you not ask the far more important question: why everybody joined in getting rid of their Jews with such zeal, 'Why us?' Let's face it, when Germany said to her neighbouring countries, in 1942 and 1943 and 1944, 'Give us your Jews,' Hungary, France, Slovakia, etc., could not hand them over fast enough! There was no reluctance to do so."

This generated a small uproar in the audience, but I pressed on: "And when other countries like England, Sweden and so on were invited to take in these Jews nobody, nobody, wanted to have them."

At this there was a sprinkle of applause.

"Why did you not address that far more vital question? Why did nobody want the Jews! You address only the question, 'Who did it?' and you fail to ask the far more ominous question, 'Why us?'"

The answer was more verbal blancmange from Goldhagen. He was clearly angry to be accused once again of "inventing," as he (not I) put it, and had no real answer to my point that, as he said, the Jews were now "complacent" about the risk of it all happening again. The chairman made a point of saying that no more questioners would be allowed to "make statements," so I had got in not only under their radar, but right under their skin as well.

Back at Mandeville at 11 p.m.

To Order Books | Auschwitz Index | Irving Index | Irving Page | Irving Book-List | Action Report | Other FP Authors
 Buchladen | Auschwitz | Irving-Verzeichnis | -Hauptseite | -Bücher | Action Report | Weitere FP-Autoren
©Focal Point 1999 e-mail:  write to David Irving