Himmler on the execution of Jews
- This is an appendix to the Holocaust denial article.
In 1943, Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, spoke openly about the extermination of the Jewish people, as well as the equivocation used to cover it up, during a speech to SS Officers. An audio recording, as well as a transcription of the original German, is available.
I also want to mention a very difficult subject before you here, completely openly.
It should be discussed amongst us, and yet, nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public.
Just as we did not hesitate on June 30 to carry out our duty, as ordered, and stand comrades who had failed against the wall and shoot them.
About which we have never spoken, and never will speak.
That was, thank God, a kind of tact natural to us, a foregone conclusion of that tact, that we have never conversed about it amongst ourselves, never spoken about it, everyone shuddered, and everyone was clear that the next time, he would do the same thing again, if it were commanded and necessary.
I am talking about the "Jewish evacuation": the extermination of the Jewish people.
It is one of those things that is easily said. "The Jewish people is being exterminated," every Party member will tell you, "perfectly clear, it's part of our plans, we're eliminating the Jews, exterminating them, ha!, a small matter."
And then along they all come, all the 80 million upright Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. They say: all the others are swine, but here is a first-class Jew.
And none of them has seen it, has endured it. Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when there are 500, or when there are 1000. And to have seen this through, and -- with the exception of human weaknesses -- to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned.
Because we know how difficult things would be, if today in every city during the bomb attacks, the burdens of war and the privations, we still had Jews as secret saboteurs, agitators and instigators. We would probably be at the same stage as 1916-17, if the Jews still resided in the body of the German people.
We have taken away the riches that they had, and I have given a strict order, which Obergruppenführer Pohl has carried out, we have delivered these riches completely to the Reich, to the State. We have taken nothing from them for ourselves. A few, who have offended against this, will be [judged] in accordance with an order, that I gave at the beginning: He who takes even one Mark of this is a dead man.
A number of SS men have offended against this order. There are not very many, and they will be dead men - WITHOUT MERCY! We have the moral right, we had the duty to our people to do it, to kill this people who wanted to kill us. But we do not have the right to enrich ourselves with even one fur, with one Mark, with one cigarette, with one watch, with anything. That we do not have. Because at the end of this, we don't want, because we exterminated the bacillus, to become sick and die from the same bacillus.
I will never see it happen, that even one bit of putrefaction comes in contact with us, or takes root in us. On the contrary, where it might try to take root, we will burn it out together. But altogether we can say: We have carried out this most difficult task for the love of our people. And we have taken on no defect within us, in our soul, or in our character.
The National Archives explains why this speech was recorded: "The SS, for example, used recording equipment to obtain transcripts of Himmler's speeches. During the 1930's many of Himmler's speeches were taken down in shorthand by secretaries or SS aides who later typed texts from these shorthand notes. Then, beginning in 1940, efforts were made to replace the stenographers with sound recording equipment. Though initial efforts were not very successful, by late 1942 the technique had been perfected and nearly all the extant typed and printed texts of Himmler speeches dating from 1943 and 1944 were derived from recordings made while Himmler was speaking.2 Goebbels also found speech recordings useful. After delivering an address, he could leisurely listen to the recording and make the changes that he felt would heighten the speech's propaganda effect. Then the propaganda ministry would issue a press release containing the edited text, or parts of it, which German newspapers would publish as if they were presenting the text of the original speech.3 Though the recordings were chiefly just useful tools, Himmler, Goebbels, and other prominent Nazis were careful not to destroy the original discs. The Nazis' interest in preserving oral records matched their prodigious efforts to save written records of their rise to power and days of glory.4 The leaders of the Third Reich were convinced that they were participating in events of great historical magnitude, and, because of the importance they attached to the spoken word, it must have seemed obvious to them that the recordings should be preserved."
2 days later, Himmler said:
We came to the question: what to with the women and children? I decided to find a clear solution here as well. I did not consider myself justified to exterminate the men - that is, to kill them or have them killed - and allow the avengers of our sons and grandsons in the form of their children to grow up. The difficult decision had to be taken to make this people disappear from the earth. For the organisation which had to execute this task, it was the most difficult which we had ever had. But it was accomplished, and without -- I believe I can say -- our men and their leaders suffering any mental or spiritual damage. (IfZ, MA 309 (=NA, T 175, R 85), pp. 0152-0200), printed in: Smith/Peterson (eds.), Himmler, Geheimreden, p. 169.)