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USF Libraries Exhibits

Nazi Documentation of the Holocaust

Yehuda Bauer, Professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

There was a contradiction in Nazi perception. On the one hand, they wanted to hide the murder of the Jews. There was a direct order by Hitler, direct order by Hitler not to mention what was happening to the Jews. It's dated 11 June 1943. It's a direct order, transmitted by his secretary Martin Bormann. So, you know, that's on the one hand. And on the other hand, they -- Goebbels, the propaganda minister, published in his paper clear statements that the Jews have to be killed, annihilated, eliminated. So, there's a contradiction there. On the one hand, they reburied Jewish corpses, in order to burn them so the Allies wouldn't find evidence of the mass murders. On the other hand, they left document behind.

Now, there is no Hitler order to kill the Jews. Hitler would have never given such an order. He never committed in writing an order of that kind. There are no protocols of government meetings in Nazi Germany after 1938, because there were no government meetings in Nazi Germany after 1938. Hitler ruled by discussing things with people, usually with individuals, occasionally with two or three or four people at the same time, never documented. There was never a protocol of any such meeting, never any minutes taken. This was all oral. Sometimes he would use the telephone, very rarely.

Now, the way he ruled was that he gave all instructions or suggestions or wishes, and then he controlled what the others did with it. Not always, because he relied on them. There was a consensus, you see. So, we have documentation up to a certain level. Then when it comes to the discussions between Hitler and Himmler, for instance, we know they took place. And we have brief notes by Himmler of what he discussed. Occasionally we have something more than that.

For instance, regarding the Gypsies, there is a note by Himmler, in his appointment diary of April 20, 1942, which says explicitly, "No annihilation of the Gypsies." And indeed, there was never a plan to kill all the Gypsies. There was an intention to kill all the wandering Gypsies: in other words, all those who were wandering around. Now, a large proportion of the Roma, the Gypsy population in Europe, at that time was no longer wandering. They did want to eliminate all the Roma in Germany, but there was a total of some -- roughly speaking, 44,000 Roma in Germany, Austria, and what is now the Czech Republic. But there was probably about 2 to 3 million Roma in the rest of Europe.

So there was a mass murder of Gypsies. It was a genocide, there is no doubt. According to the United Nations definition, it was a genocide. But it was not intended to be total, and we have clear evidence. So you see, sometimes we do have evidence of it. We have evidence, for instance, of the intention to mass murder Jews that were not under their control. In North Africa, for instance; we have two documents about that. But you know, the documentation on the one hand is huge, and on the other hand is limited.