Sunday, July 17, 2011

December 12, 1941: Hitler Orders the Final Solution

The historian Christian Gerlach proves that on this day Hitler made the fundamental decision to annihilate all European Jews.

Historians have long searched for the order to annihilate the Jews or - insofar as they excluded a Fuehrer-order - for other central documents. The Wannsee Protocol was rejected. Here second-level men were to be found, here they spoke not of an order, but rather an authorization of Hitler. Characteristically, a pre-arranged agreement applied to this meeting, ordered from above. At the least, documentary criteria had to be found that permitted plausible inferences as to place, point in time and personal construction of such a conversation. The research led nowhere.

Now however a 34-year old Berlin historian [translator's note: Geschichtswissenschaft is science of history] has precisely answered the old question. And to say it right up front: the proof is ingenious. He didn't publish it in one of the eternally boring academic tomes and in so doing made the right choice. The work appeared in Volume 18 (6th year, November 1997) of the unorthodox, independent magazine "Werkstatt Geschichte." Written with practically mathematical precision, the essay covers 37 pages, including 223 source notes. The title is: "The Wannsee Conference, the fate of German Jews and Hitler's fundamental political decision to murder all European Jews." The author's name is Christian Gerlach. He has found proof of an internal speech of Hitler's from 1941 that no other researcher had even mentioned before.

The original German edition of this article  appeared December 13, 1997 in theBerliner Zeitung. This article, and an English translation by Gord McFee appears with the friendly permission of the Berlin Verlag and the author at the Holocaust History Project.