Hitler's Obersalzberg Speech

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The Obersalzberg Speech is a speech given by Adolf Hitler to Wehrmacht commanders at his Obersalzberg home on 22 August 1939, a week before the German invasion of Poland.[1] The speech details, in particular, the pending German invasion of Poland and a planned extermination of Poles. It shows Hitler's knowledge of the extermination and his intention to carry out this genocide in a planned manner.

Origin of the document[edit]

In August 1939, Louis P. Lochner contacted the American diplomat Alexander Comstock Kirk and showed him the text, which Kirk was not interested in.[2] Lochner next contacted the British diplomat George Ogilvie-Forbes, who did indeed transmit it back to London on 24 August 1939.[3] The Canadian historian Michael Marrus wrote Lochner almost certainly obtained the text from Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, the chief of the Abwehr (German intelligence), who was present at the Obersalzberg conference.[4]

Three documents were grouped together during Nuremberg Trials which contained Hitler's speech on 22 August 1939 (1014-PS,[5] 798-PS,[6] and L-3,[7][8]) and only the document L-3 contained the Armenian quote.[9] Documents 1014-PS[7] and 798-PS were captured by the United States forces inside the OKW headquarters[10] but these documents did not contain the Armenian quote. On May 16, 1946, during the Nuremberg War Tribunals, a counsel for one of the defendants, Dr. Walter Siemers requested from the president of the trial to strike out the document 1014-PS,[7] but his request was rejected by the president.[11] Document L-3 was brought to the court by an American journalist, Louis P. Lochner.[10]

According to Louis P. Lochner, while stationed in Berlin he received a copy of a speech by Hitler from his "informant", which he published (in English translation) in his book What About Germany? (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1942) as being indicative of Hitler's desire to conquer the world. In 1945, Lochner handed over a transcript of the German document he had received to the prosecution at the Nuremberg trials, where it was labeled L-3. Hence it is known as the L-3 document. The speech is also found in a footnote to notes about a speech Hitler held in Obersalzberg on 22 August 1939 that were published in the German Foreign Policy documents[7][12] When asked in the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal who his source was, Lochner said this was a German called "Herr Maasz" but gave vague information about him.[13]

The Times of London quoted from Lochner's version in an unsigned article titled The War Route of the Nazi Germany on 24 November 1945. The article stated that it had been brought forward by the prosecutor on 23 November 1945, as evidence. However, according to the Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik (ser. D, vol. 7, 1961), the document was not introduced as evidence before the International Military Tribunal for undisclosed reasons and is not included in the official publication of the documents in evidence. Two other documents containing minutes of Hitler's Obersalzberg speech(es) had been found among the seized German documents and were introduced as evidence, both omitting the Armenian quote.[14]

In Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (colloquially also known as "the Red Set"), a collection of documents relating to the Nuremberg trials prepared by the prosecutorial team, the editors describe the relation between the documents concerned as follows:[15]

Just one week prior to the launching of the attack on Poland, Hitler made an address to his chief military commanders, at Obersalzberg, on 22 August 1939. [Three reports of this meeting are available: (L-3; 798-PS and 1014-PS). The first of the three documents (L-3) was obtained through an American newspaperman, and purported to be original minutes of the Obersalzberg meeting, transmitted to the newspaperman by some other person. There was no proof of actual delivery to the intermediary by the person who took the notes. That document (L-3) therefore, merely served as an incentive to search for something better. The result was that two other documents (798-PS) and (1014-PS) were discovered in the OKW files at Flensberg [sic]. These two documents indicate that Hitler on that day made two speeches, one apparently in the morning and one in the afternoon. Comparison of those two documents with the first document (L-3) led to the conclusion that the first document was a slightly garbled merger of the two speeches, and therefore was not relied upon.]

German and English wording[edit]

The third paragraph of the L-3 document is as follows:

Unsere Stärke ist unsere Schnelligkeit und unsere Brutalität. Dschingis Khan hat Millionen Frauen und Kinder in den Tod gejagt, bewußt und fröhlichen Herzens. Die Geschichte sieht in ihm nur den großen Staatengründer. Was die schwache westeuropäische Zivilisation über mich behauptet, ist gleichgültig. Ich habe den Befehl gegeben – und ich lasse jeden füsilieren, der auch nur ein Wort der Kritik äußert – daß das Kriegsziel nicht im Erreichen von bestimmten Linien, sondern in der physischen Vernichtung des Gegners besteht. So habe ich, einstweilen nur im Osten, meine Totenkopfverbände bereitgestellt mit dem Befehl, unbarmherzig und mitleidslos Mann, Weib und Kind polnischer Abstammung und Sprache in den Tod zu schicken. Nur so gewinnen wir den Lebensraum, den wir brauchen. Wer redet heute noch von der Vernichtung der Armenier?

The above is a verbatim rendering of that paragraph, as included in a footnote in the Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik (ser. D, vol. 7, 1961, p. 193).

In his book What about Germany?, Lochner offered the following English translation of the document then in his possession:

Our strength consists in our speed and in our brutality. Genghis Khan led millions of women and children to slaughter – with premeditation and a happy heart. History sees in him solely the founder of a state. It's a matter of indifference to me what a weak western European civilization will say about me. I have issued the command – and I'll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad – that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formation in readiness – for the present only in the East – with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?[16]

The Armenian quote[edit]

The key area of contention regarding the Armenian quote is a reference to the Armenian Genocide, referencing the ethnic extermination of Armenians during World War I in the Ottoman Empire, where an estimated one to one-and-a-half million ethnic Armenians were killed by Turks.[17][18][19] The quote is now inscribed on one of the walls of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In 2009 the International Association of Genocide Scholars used the quote in a letter to Barack Obama related to the Armenian Genocide recognition.[20] When the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal got hold of the first note of the speech, named "L-3", they rejected its use as evidence because the American newspaperman that provided the document refused to disclose the source.[21][22][23]

Richard Albrecht [de], a German social researcher and political scientist,[24] published a three-volume study (2006–08) on 20th century genocides that contained the document of the original German version of the Armenian quote (the L-3 text) for the first time.[25] The book is summarized as "When discussing, and applying, all relevant features scholarly accepted as leading principles of classifying documents as authentic, the author not only works out that the L-3-document as translated and brought in a few days later at 25 August 1939, by the US-newspaper man Louis P. Lochner (1887–1975) from Associated Press, and first published in 1942, whenever compared with any other version of Hitler's speech – above all the Nuremberg-documents 798-PS, 1014 PS, and Raeder-27, as produced by a dubious witness after realising the L-3-version, too – this version must be regarded as the one which most likely sums up and expresses what Hitler said – for what Hitler really said in his notorious second speech was only written down simultaneously during his speech by one of his auditors: Wilhelm Canaris (1887–1945), at that time chief of the military secret service within the Third Reich".[24]

Dr. Kevork B. Bardakjian, an expert in Armenian studies, also argues that the L-3 document originates in the notes secretly taken by Wilhelm Canaris during the meeting of 22 August 1939:

To conclude, although its author is unknown, L-3 and its unsigned counterparts 798-PS and 1014-PS originate from the notes Wilhelm Canaris took personally as Hitler spoke on 22 August 1939. ... Although not an "official" record, L-3 is a genuine document and is as sound as the other evidence submitted at Nuremberg.[26]

According to German historian Winfried Baumgart, among the documents of Hitler's speech on 22 August 1938, 1014-PS is the one that contains the original notes taken that day by Wilhelm Canaris, the Head of Military Intelligence during the Third Reich. Therefore, Baumgart argues that the document 1014-PS, which does not contain the Armenian quote, is superior to the other documents of Hitler's speech including L-3 which is the only source of the Armenian quote.

Historian Vahakn N. Dadrian has argued that Winfried Baumgart's suggestion that the reference to the Armenians in Hitler's speech was an editorial coloring up by the editors of the reports is erroneous.[27]:408 At the same time in 1968, Edouard Calic [de; hr], a Yugloslav-Italian historian published a book called Ohne Maske, which claimed to unveil two newly uncovered confidential interviews with Hitler in 1931 containing the Armenian quote.[citation needed] Historians Hugh Trevor-Roper and Hans Mommsen judged Calic's book to be a forgery.[28]

Abram L. Sachar, an Jewish-American historian, founding president of Brandeis University and former leader of B'nai Brith Hillel Society, wrote: ...the genocide was cited approvingly twenty-five years later by the Fuehrer...who found the Armenian 'solution' an instructive precedent.[29] This is corroborated by David Matas, a Canadian expert on international law and senior legal counsel of B'nai Brith Canada.[30] Richard Lichtheim [ru], one of the German Jews who, as a young leader of the Zionist movement, feverishly negotiated with Ittihadist leaders in wartime Turkey, described the cold-bloodedly planned extermination of over one million Armenians (kaltblutig durchdacht) as an act of perpetration akin to Hitler's crusade of destruction against the Jews in the 1940–1942 period.[31][27]:409

It is also mentioned that the German periodical Die Zeit (Hamburg) mentioned in 1984 that Hitler must have known exactly about the Armenian case of Genocide because one of his closest collaborators at the early stages of the National Socialist movement was Dr. Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter, i.e. Germany's former Vice Consul at Erzurum and later Co-Commander of a joint Turko-German Expeditionary guerilla force whose awful reports on the massacre of the Armenians are preserved. The periodical went even one step further asserting that the skills used in the Armenian episode served as an example for Hitler's similar initiative against the Jews.[32] Scheubner, in one of his World War I reports to his ambassador characterized the city-dwelling Armenians as these Jews of the Orient, these wily businessmen (gerissene Handelsleute).[33][27]:411–412

According to Heath Lowry, an Armenian genocide denier and former Professor of Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies at Princeton University, a close examination of the quotation reveals that "there is no historical basis for attributing such a statement to Hitler".[34] German Conservative historian Andreas Hillgruber, once mentioned in 1976 about the L-3 document that the forgery is established beyond doubt (Die Fälschung steht zweifelsfrei fest).[35]

In his 1987 survey of the historiography of the Holocaust, the Canadian historian Michael Marrus wrote that "recent research" pointed towards the "authenticity" of the controversial L-3 document, but he however cautioned against scholars who used a single reference to the Armenian genocide in the speech as proving that Hitler was inspired by the example set by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP).[36] Marrus wrote that however horrifying the Armenian genocide was, Hitler had a very low opinion of non-white peoples, making it unlikely that he would have seen the CUP as a role model.[37]

According to Margaret L. Anderson, Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, "we have no reason to doubt the remark is genuine, both attack and defense obscure an obvious reality" that the Armenian Genocide has achieved "iconic status... as the apex of horrors imaginable in 1939," and that Hitler used it to persuade the German military that committing genocide excited a great deal of "talk" but no serious consequences for a nation that perpetrates genocide.[38]

According to Christopher Browning, American historian of the Holocaust, L-3 document, which contains the Armenian quote, is an "apocalyptic" version of Hitler's speech that day which was purposefully leaked to the British in order to gain their support to Poland.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dadrian, Vahakn (2003). The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. Berghahn Books. p. 408. ISBN 1-57181-666-6.
  2. ^ von Klemperer, Klemens The German Resistance Against Hitler: The Search for Allies Abroad, 1938-1945, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993 p.133.
  3. ^ von Klemperer, Klemens The German Resistance Against Hitler: The Search for Allies Abroad, 1938-1945, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993 p.133.
  4. ^ Marrus, Michael The Holocaust In History, Hanover: Brandeis University Press, 1987 p.20-21.
  5. ^ "Translation of doc 1014-PS"http://library2.lawschool.cornell.edu/donovan/pdf/Batch_2_pdfs/Vol_IV_8_06.pdf
  6. ^ "Translation of doc 780-ps"http://library2.lawschool.cornell.edu/donovan/pdf/Batch_2_pdfs/Vol_IV_8_05.pdf
  7. ^ a b c d "IMG Nürnberg 1014-ps" http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1b/A-Hitler-08-22-1939-at-Obersalzberg-on-planned-attack-on-Poland-and-extermination-of-Poles.pdf
  8. ^ "L-3 is inside the footnote of the document"http://library.fes.de/library/netzquelle/zwangsmigration/32ansprache.html
  9. ^ Albrecht, Richard (2007). Crime/s against mankind, humanity and civilisation (1. Aufl. ed.). München: Grin Verlag. p. 65. ISBN 3638888630.
  10. ^ a b "ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-SECOND DAY Friday, 17 May 1946 page 64 " http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/05-17-46.asp
  11. ^ ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FIRST DAY Thursday, 16 May 1946 page 47"http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/05-16-46.asp
  12. ^ "Portrayals of Hitler Project" http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/projects/hitler/hitler.htm
  13. ^ Reisman, Arnold, Could the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Have Erred in a Major Exhibit? (31 December 2010). p.18. Available at SSRN: [1]
  14. ^ In his scholarly essay published in 2008, the German researcher Dr. Richard Albrecht discussed not only all five versions of Hitler's second secret speech delivered to his High Commanders on 22 August 1939, at Obersalzberg, but also republished the first German version of the fifth which later on was named the Lochner- (or L-3-) version, at first published in the German journal in exile, "Deutsche Blätter. Für ein europäisches Deutschland / Gegen ein deutsches Europa" [Santiago de Chile], 2 (1944) 3, 37–39; see Richard Albrecht, "Wer redet heute noch von der Vernichtung der Armenier?"- Kommentierte Wiederveröffentlichung der Erstpublikation von Adolf Hitlers Geheimrede am 22. August 1939; in: Zeitschrift für Weltgeschichte, 9 (2008) 2: 115–132
  15. ^ Office of the United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality (1946). "Chapter IX – Launching of wars of aggression". Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. 1.
  16. ^ Lochner, Louis Paul (1942). What About Germany?. Dodd, Mead & Company. pp. 11–12.
  17. ^ Dictionary of Genocide, by Samuel Totten, Paul Robert Bartrop, Steven L. Jacobs, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008, ISBN 0-313-34642-9, p. 19
  18. ^ Intolerance: a general survey, by Lise Noël, Arnold Bennett, 1994, ISBN 0-7735-1187-3, p. 101
  19. ^ Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Society, by Richard T. Schaefer, 2008, p. 90
  20. ^ "Letter to President Obama" "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/1985/07/06/opinion/l-hitler-s-armenian-extermination-remark-true-or-false-103469.html
  22. ^ The Trial of German Major War Criminals Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany. Fifth Day: Monday, 26 November 1945. Prosecutor Sydney Alderman to the president of the court:

    In this presentation of condemning documents, concerning the initiation of war in September 1939, I must bring to the attention of the Tribunal a group of documents concerning an address by Hitler to his chief military commanders, at Obersalzburg, on 22 August 1939, just one week prior to the launching of the attack on Poland. We have three of these documents, related and constituting a single group. The first one, I do not intend to offer as evidence. The other two, I shall offer. The reason for that decision is this: The first of the three documents came into our possession through the medium of an American newspaperman, and purported to be original minutes of this meeting at Obersalzberg, transmitted to this American newspaperman by some other person; and we had no proof of the actual delivery to the intermediary by the person who took the notes. That document, therefore, merely served to keep our prosecution on the alert, to see if it could find something better. Fortunately, we did get the other two documents, which indicate that Hitler on that day made two speeches, perhaps one in the morning, one in the afternoon, as indicated by the original minutes, which we captured. By comparison of those two documents with the first document, we conclude that the first document was a slightly garbled merger of the two speeches.[2]

  23. ^ "Yet its (the Armenian quote's) veracity cannot be confirmed anywhere in the transcripts of evidence admitted into record by the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. Quite the contrary. Transcripts of the speech made by Hitler on 22 August 1939 admitted into evidence are devoid of the last sentence widely attributed to Hitler and allegedly in that speech. What the transcripts do show is that the tribunal examined and then rejected Lochner's third-hand version of Hitler's address." Reisman, Arnold, Could the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Have Erred in a Major Exhibit? (December 31, 2010). p.12. Available at SSRN: [3]
  24. ^ a b "Book summary, Richard Albrecth"http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=160809
  25. ^ " Wer redet heute noch von der Vernichtung der Armenier " http://www.shaker.de/de/content/catalogue/index.asp?lang=de&ID=8&ISBN=978-3-8322-6695-0
  26. ^ K. B. Bardakjian (1985). Hitler and the Armenian Genocide. Special Report No. 3, The Zoryan Institute. ISBN 978-0-916431-18-1. Available on-line (8.1 MB).
  27. ^ a b c Vahakn 1995.
  28. ^ http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-42842793.html
  29. ^ Howard M. Sachar, The Emergence of the Middle East, 1914–1924 (New York, 1969), 115.
  30. ^ David Matas, "Prosecuting Crimes Against Humanity: The Lesons of World War I", Fordham International Law Journal (1990): 104.
  31. ^ Richard Lichtheim, Ruckkehr, Lebenserinnerungen aus der Fruhzeit des deutschen Zionismus (Stuttgart, 1970), 287, 341.
  32. ^ Die Zeit (German weekly in Hamburg), No. 50, "Dossier", 7 December 1984.
  33. ^ A. A. Turkey 183/39, A28584, enclosure no. 2, in "secret report" No. 23, pp 11–12 of the 15 pp. report of August 5, 1915 filed from Erzurum
  34. ^ Lowry, Heath W. The U.S. congress and Adolf Hitler on the Armenians Political Communication, Volume 3, Issue 2, 1985
  35. ^ Quellen und Quellenkritik zur Vorgeschichte des Zweiten Weltkriegs. In: Gottfried Niedhart: Kriegsbeginn 1939, Entfesselung oder Ausbruch des Zweiten Weltkriegs?. Darmstadt 1976, page 384
  36. ^ Marrus, Michael The Holocaust In History, Hanover: Brandeis University Press, 1987 p.20-21.
  37. ^ Marrus, Michael The Holocaust In History, Hanover: Brandeis University Press, 1987 p.21.
  38. ^ "Who Still Talked about the Extermination of the Armenians: German Talk and German Silences" in A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire, ed. R. Suny, Oxford, 2010, p. 199.
  39. ^ Browning, Christopher R. The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy University of Nebraska Press, 2007. p. 437-438. ISBN 0-8032-5979-4

Further reading[edit]

  • Dadrian, Vahakn (1995). The History of the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. Oxford: Berghahn Books. ISBN 978-1571816665.

External links[edit]