Paper presented at the conference "Genocide and the Modern World",
Association of Genocide Scholars, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada,
June 11-13, 1997
By Stig Hornshoj-Moller, Copenhagen, Denmark
The paper presents a core summary of my Danish book FOERERMYTEN. ADOLF
HITLER, JOSEPH GOEBBELS OG HISTORIEN BAG ET FOLKEMORD (The Fuehrer-Myth.
Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and the History behing a Genocide). It argues
the importance of a Nazi propaganda film, "Der ewige Jude", which is
characterized as an X-ray of the decision-making process that led to the
Holocaust, as the film is the result of the efforts of both Joseph Goebbels
and Adolf Hitler themselves. Based on a source-critical analysis of the
film and its production history a new, very precise chronology is presented
of the final decision-making process to launch the Holocaust, with four key
1. Viewing rushes on October 16, 1939, Goebbels decided to use the film
an advocacy for killing the Jews.
2. Finally approving the film on May 20, 1940, Adolf Hitler had become
emotionally prepared to take the ultimate decision.
3. Adolf Hitler took the decision on June 1, 1940, while visiting the
site, where he was blinded in WW1.
4. On June 22, 1940, Adolf Hitler gave an oral order to Heinrich Himmler
to be in charge of the extermination program.
The paper furthermore argues that the film can be seen as the official
promulgation of Hitler's decision, and that it - together with the feature
film Jud Suess - deliberately was used to prepare both prepetrators and
bystanders for the extermination of the Jews. Finally, the paper contains
principal reflections on the importance of "produced reality" in
reality-like media, and the need to leave the still rather literary
tradition and to aim for a broader concept of recognition in scientific
When first the concept of
differentness has been rooted,
all the incomprehensible becomes possible.
Slavenka Drakulic, 1992
The Holocaust has changed human civilization. The knowledge of the fact
that it was possible to disestablish and exterminate a certain group of
people from the rest of the society simply because they were defined by the
authorities as different and dangerous, is a challenge of the outmost
importance to the human mind. The systematic mass murder of six million
Jews cannot be erased from the history of mankind, but could, should and
must be used to discern and warn against structures and developments in
present society which could lead to new genocides.
Therefore the complex development that led to the Holocaust has been
submitted to numerous investigations, based on theories and methods from
widely different scientific disciplines and research traditions. Many
questions have been solved, but the intense debate after Daniel J.
Goldhagen's book on "Hitler's Willing Executioners" has shown that there
are still many major problems left to clarify (note 2).
One of these problems - and, as I see it, probably the principal reason
the very critical reception of the book by leading scholars of contemporary
history - is the lack of a commonly accepted interpretation of the
decision-making process itself, because a detailed, chronological
reconstruction of this process (like in all other crimes) is the very
precondition for evaluating the significance of the many different
contributory factors and their complex interrelations.
Only after establishing a chronology which acknowledges all those data
observations which can be considered to have factual character, will it be
possible to evaluate the relationship between the conditions which could be
characterized as historically unique in the case of the Holocaust, and
those factors and structures which can be considered more general elements
of processes leading to genocidal behaviour.
The establishment of such a chronology belongs to the most heavily
discussed issues in modern history because written evidence is weak and
inconsistent. It is in its original context deliberately so vaguely phrased
that the same document can lead to directly opposite conclusions among
scholars of today. After more than 25 years of intense debate most
historians now tend to consider 1941 as the decisive year, although there
still exists a major controversy whether Hitler actually took the key
decision himself, and about the time at which such a decision was made
(spring, summer or autumn, 1941) (note 3).
Two fundamentally different views of history have led to two different
traditions of interpretation. The "intentionalists" (Philippe Burrin (note
4), Gerald Fleming (note 5), Eberhard Jackel (note 6) and others) claim
that Adolf Hitler did give a formal order to set in train the extermination
programme - although it was never put into writing as was the order
transferring the responsibility of the socalled Euthanasia-Project to
Philipp Bouhler and Rudolf Brandt at the beginning of October 1939(note 7).
On the other hand, the "functionalists" (Goetz Aly (note 8), Christopher R.
Browning (note 9), Hans Mommsen (note 10) and others) claim that such an
order was never neccessary because the administrative system started the
systematic annihilation of the Jews in Europe "all by itself" as a
"natural" consequence of Nazi ideology. The differences between these two
schools have, however, in recent years become less distinct and most
historians today use elements from both traditions in their models of
interpretation, almost exclusively based on the existing written source
material (note 11).
The purpose of this paper is to suggest a new chronology of the final
decision-making process with two crucial dates:
June 1, 1940, as the date on which Adolf Hitler personally took the
decision to shoulder the ultimate consequence of his own ideology
June 22nd, 1940, as the date on which the Fuehrer gave Heinrich Himmler an
oral order to prepare for the total annihilation of the Jews in Europe,
which should begin simultaneously with the attack on Soviet Russia.
The basic assumption behind my attempt to establish this new chronology
a notion that the decision to kill other human beings ultimately is taken
by a human being - the fundamental question being: How and why is the
empathy towards fellow human beings removed in the decision-makers, the
perpetrators and the bystanders?
The whole reasoning behind this attempt is also greatly indebted to
Arendt and her observation on Eichmann in Jerusalem from 1961:
"The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him,
that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and
still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the point of view of our
legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality
was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together, for it
implied ... that this new type of criminal, who is in fact hostis generis
humani, commits his crimes under circumstances that makes it well-nigh
impossible for him to know or to feel that he is doing wrong." (note 12)
The importance of this statement is supported by the testimony of Kurt
Moebius which is related by Daniel J. Goldhagen at a key place in his book:
"I would also like to say that it did not at all occur to me that these
orders could be unjust. It is true that I know that it is also the duty of
the police to protect the innocent, but I was then of the conviction that
the Jews were not innocent but guilty. I believed the propaganda that all
Jews were criminals and subhumans and that they were the cause of Germany's
decline after the First World War. The thought that one should disobey or
evade the order to participate in the extermination of the Jews did not
therefore enter my mind at all." (note 13)
Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and other instigators of the Holocaust,
however, were also human beings - and if one wants to understand the
complex of factors and structures that created the genocidal mentality of
both decision-makers and perpetrators, one consequently has to use a very
broad - and in the very sense of the word: human scientific
("humanwissenschaftlich") approach where the actual use of theory and
methods of analysis is defined by the character of the different
detail-questions raised during the research. And the evolving explanation
must be in accordance with both the scientific standards and the accepted
knowledge of all these disciplines.
The sociological notion of "the social construction of reality" (note
consists of both imagery (pictures) and words, but the social
(re-)construction of reality in a scientific context nevertheless still
primarily consists of words, based on an interpretation of written
evidence, although these only reflect a part of that social construction of
reality from which a person perceives, thinks and acts. The significance of
the non-verbal part - especially of imagery - for the world view of the
person in question and his relations with the outer world is often
This is partly because it is most difficult and time-consuming to
reconstruct. Or to put in a another way: The non-verbal side has not
received the attention it ought to have had - especially in a modern
mass-media society like the Third Reich, where the production of "reality"
by means of visual media, like photos and films, played a well-documented
role in establishing and reproducing Nazi world view to the German society
(note 15). And although it is well-known that Adolf Hitler was a person who
reacted very emotionally to what he saw (note 16) - and that many of his
decisions were taken suddenly and often took the men around him with
surprise - there does not seem to have existed a systematic analysis of the
possible relation between such decisions taken by Hitler personally and the
experiences he had had just before taking these decisions.
This observation - together with the use of both the newest psychiatric
knowledge on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (note 17) and a broad semiotic
(note 18)/cultural anthropological (note 19) approach including a
consequent use of film, fotos, art, architecture, music etc. as sources
equal to the written source material - has led me to undertake an analysis
of some of the situations in Adolf Hitler's life where he took key
In the centre of my reconstruction of the most important decision of
the Holocaust decision - stands the source-critical analysis of the
notorious propaganda film "Der ewige Jude" (1940) which - from my point of
view - can best be characterized as an X-ray of the decision-making process
itself, thus making the history of its production and distribution the
skeleton for a very precise chronology of the decision-making process (note
<b>Empirical research background</b>
Going back to the formation of a critical historical science in the
century there exists a long tradition concerning the standards of
publishing written sources, but although our century has witnessed the
development of other media for social communication, scholars of
contemporary history still seem to consider written evidence to be more
valuable and trustworthy than other kinds of sources. It should also be
noted that it has been specialists of medieval history - and not scholars
of contemporary history - who have taken the initiative to establish a
methodology for using film and television in historical research.
One of the pioneers was the late professor Niels Skyum-Nielsen at the
Institute of History, University of Copenhagen, who laid down his
principles in a book called "Film and Source Criticism" (only in Danish,
1972). His main interest was aimed at developing methods to evaluate the
authenticity of single clips which in his opnion always had a pars
eventu-character contrary to most written sources which normally had to be
considered as post eventum-evidence.
In 1970 he made "Der ewige Jude" the topic of a project in order to
establish methodological criteria for future source-critical editions of
important film documents. The editorial method was based on these
principles, but it also had a semiotic angle, as it analysed in details the
many different kinds of symbols and imagery in the film which were part of
the social construction of reality for the German audience in the cinemas
Apart from this attempt to create an exemplary demonstration of how
historical film documents, the original research project soon came up with
another perspective. Film historians had for a long time claimed that on
the basis of an analysis of its contents, the film should be considered as
deliberate targeting propaganda for the Holocaust; it should - using the
words of Erwin Leiser in 1968 - "turn brave citizens into willing mass
murderers" (note 21). Such a claim would, however, mean that a conscious
decision to instigate the Holocaust had been taken at least before the
first performance of the film on November 28, 1940, and for chronological
reasons this was imcompatible with the models of interpretation put forward
by historical research.
The original purpose of my analysis was therefore to demonstrate that
painstaking source-critical analysis would show no positive evidence to
substantiate such a claim and that it must therefore be seen as an
over-interpretation by the film historians deriving from the sheer fact of
the Holocaust. My original working hypothesis was to prove that the
production of the film was solely due to a wish by the Ministry of
Propaganda to use the film medium as a another means of legitimizing
anti-Semitism as a corner-stone in Nazi ideology to the German public.
During the study this hypothesis began to crumble, because it was
impossible for me to find any such evidence, which supported it in any way.
Instead more and more sources indicated that the film expressed a
deliberate call for genocide where the "produced reality" in the most
reality-like medium at that time was intended to legitimate to the public
the "need" to annihilate the Jews of Europe. It should act as the "visual
proof" of Adolf Hitler's notorious prophecy from January 30, 1939, which in
a recut version played a predominant part in the film's conclusion.
It became clear that the whole film could only be understood as one
"commercial" for genocide, using the same simple technique of
"problem/solution" now to be seen in TV-commercials for e.g. washing
detergents (note 22).
>From Goebbels' diary as well as from other contemporary written sources
could furthermore be documented that the original concept of the film came
directly from the Minister of Propaganda himself, and that the film was
considered to be of such importance that Hitler himself saw several
versions of the film and repeatedly ordered changes. Eventually, it was
Hitler, not Goebbels, who decided upon the release of the film for the
Fritz Hippler - executive director of the film - told the BBC in 1992,
"Hitler wanted with this film to prove, so to speak, that Jewry was
parasitic race in humanity which should be extirpated from the rest of
humanity. This film should be the very evidence for this purpose. For more
than 13 months this film was changed, recut, enlarged etc. on at least more
than a dozen occasions, not to speak of the different versions of the
commentary which became increasingly more bloodthirsty, more aggressive"
And the correctness of this testimony is corroborated in detail by the
source-critical analysis of the production history of the film.
<b>The production history of "Der ewige Jude" (note 24)</b>
On November 10th, 1938, the Fuehrer made an important speech to the
press (note 25). Although he did not directly refer to either the
Reichskristallnacht itself or to Jews in general, he nevertheless did so in
his own way, when he spoke about matters of foreign policy: as the German
Jews from his point of view did not belong to the German people, the Jewish
Question consequently was a matter of foreign policy. Therefore, his whole
speech can be regarded as his comments upon the lack of support for the
pogrom of the German public. He rebuked the propaganda makers for not
having understood his strategy - aiming at war - and made it unmistakingly
clear to his audience what he meant:
"Coercion was the reason why for years I only talked about peace. But
gradually it became necessary to attune the German people psychologically
and slowly make them grasp that there do exist things which one must solve
with violent means when this is not possible by peaceful means. To do so,
however, it was neccessary not to make propaganda for violence as such, but
to elucidate certain events of foreign policy to the German people in such
a way that the nation's inner voice all by itself slowly begins to call for
violence. Accordingly, certain events would be presented in such a way that
there in the brain of the broad masses gradually totally automatically
would evolve the conviction: What one cannot solve benignly, one has to
solve with violence because it cannot go on like that."
The rebuke was certainly understood by Joseph Goebbels who immediately
launched a fierce anti-Jewish campaign and also for the first time decided
to use the film medium as part of inducing anti-Semitism into the German
people (note 26). Being responsible for Nazi film production Goebbels had
for almost six years preferred other topics for the screen (including sheer
entertainment and a more "positive" presentation of Nazi world view), but
immediately after Hitler's speech he called upon the production companies
to present scripts for anti-Semitic feature films. Eventually this order
led to the production of two films, "Die Rothschilds" and "Jud Suess, both
released in 1940 (note 27).
Goebbels also wanted to have a "documentary" - a "reality film" - based
the concept of the 1937-exhibition in Munich called "Der ewige Jude" in
order to reach the attention of all Germany. He was, however, confronted
with a practical problem which delayed the production of the film: He
simply lacked footage of Jews who looked like Jews (i.e. Orthodox Jews) and
the Polish authorities declined his request for filming in the ghettoes of
Poland. However, with the outbreak of World War II this obstacle no longer
existed, and the UFA newsreel 471 of September 14, 1939, contained a minor
sequence with Polish Jews (note 28).
Three weeks later - on October 4, 1939, after having approved a newsreel
with a comprehensive story on life in the Polish ghettos - Goebbels decided
to send Fritz Hippler, Head of the Film Department in the Ministry of
Propaganda, to Lodz to take further shots for a "Ghetto film", and on the
following day he outlined the structure for such a film to Hippler and his
expert on anti-Semitism, Eberhard Taubert (note 29). Hippler was ordered to
film "characteristic types of Jews", life in the ghetto, service in the
synagogue as well as ritual slaughter (note 30).
Hippler returned to Berlin on October 16, 1939. After having informed
Hitler about the project which had the Fuehrer's "great interest", Goebbels
later that night saw half-an-hour of rushes with slaughter of cows, calfs
and sheep. Although Goebbels himself had ordered the recordings to look
like cruelty to animals - and so they were! - he was nevertheless deeply
shocked at what he saw. He wrote in his diary: "This Jewry must be
annihilated" (note 31). That night - October 16, 1939 - Goebbels must have
passed the "Threshold of Genocide" (Robert Jay Lifton), and from that day
on he deliberately used these pictures as well as the whole film production
as a cynical and ruthless advocacy for genocide.
Twelve days later Goebbels showed these slaughtering scenes to Hitler
others present at the dinner table. According to his diary they were all
"deeply shocked" (note 32). And in estimating the effect on Hitler one
should not forget his attitude towards animals: he was almost religiously a
vegetarian (note 33). To Adolf Hitler these scenes - and later the whole
film, in which they were the emotional climax - must have functioned as a
reinforcing factor and legitimization of his latent wish to exterminate the
Jews as the "Evil of the World".
Three days later - on October 31, 1939 - Goebbels personally went to
and summarized his impressions of the visit in the ghetto in his diary:
"Lodz is a disgusting city. Driving through the ghetto. We get out and
inspect everything carefully. It is indescribable. They are no longer human
beings, but animals. It is, therefore, also no humanitarian task, but a
task for the surgeon. One has got to cut here and that most radically. Or
Europe will vanish one day due to the Jewish disease." (note 34)
This notion certainly defined the whole mentality behind the production
the film and Goebbels was explicitly confirmed in his opinion of Jews by
Hitler when he reported on his visit to Poland. An entry in his diary of
November 2, 1939, states:
"Above all my description of the Jewish problem finds his (i.e. Hitler's)
total approval. The Jew is garbage. Rather a clinical than a social
matter." (note 35)
On this trip Goebbels was probably accompanied by his script-writer
Eberhard Taubert and a cameraman, Erich Stoll, who was considered to be
politically particularly trustworthy. Additional footage for the film was
shot. About one week later Goebbels saw new rushes - and during the
following weeks and months entries in his diary demonstrate how intensely
he took interest in the film, and how important he considered it to be. His
diary from November 19, 1939: "I inform the Fuehrer about our Jew film. He
gives some ideas for it. On the whole film is a very valuable propaganda
medium for us just now." (note 36) It should also be noted that Goebbels
regarded himself as an important film maker (note 37), and that Hitler,
too, considered himself to be an expert on film propaganda. He took each
week the neccessary time to review the latest UFA-Newsreel. The Fuehrer
even sometimes ordered changes before approval for public screening (note
On December 11, 1939, the Fuehrer rebuked Goebbels for bad film making
and worse: It happened at Hitler's dinner table while Goebbels' intimate
enemy Rosenberg was present (note 39). "Der ewige Jude" could therefore
also be seen as Goebbels' answer to this rebuke. The first cut of January
8, 1940, did not include the sequence with Hitler's notorious prophecy made
on January 30, 1939. It contained only "Jewish" scenes (including a
comparison between Jews and rats) and climaxed with the slaughter scenes
(note 40). Hitler turned this version down on January 11, 1940 (note 41).
Unfortunately, it is impossible to discern who came up with the idea
including the speech: Goebbels, Hitler or a film-researcher looking for a
suitable Hitler-quotation. But, as the Fuehrer's public response to the
Jewish way of slaughter, it was included in the following versions. The
quotation that 'if a war should start the consequence would be "the
annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe"' was, as-it-were, "hammered"
into Hitler's own mind by constant repetition as he viewed Goebbels'
A protocol of a test screening before top propagandists from all branches
of the Third Reich on March 1, 1940, proves that "Der ewige Jude" was
tested the way commercials are tested to-day before shown on television
(note 42). Another intention of this screening was probably to radicalize
the mentality of these opinion-makers of German society through the effect
of the slaughter scenes, as ritual slaughter had for long been one of the
spearheads of anti-Semitic propaganda. This protocol is together with the
source-critical shot-to-shot analysis of the film another elucidating proof
of the subtle accuracy and the technical perfection with which "Der ewige
Jude" was produced in order to be as effectful as possible.
>From the start, the so-called "film document" was to be understood
Goebbels' advocacy for a radical solution as the ultimate logical
consequence of Hitler's own anti-Semitism - the Fuehrer, not Goebbels,
being the decision-maker in the "Jewish Question". And this also seems to
be the reason why the film was so very well "researched" and in an almost
"scientific" way embedded in the traditions of anti-Semitic propaganda,
although it also used the whole range of audio-visual manipulations known
in 1940 (note 43).
According to the rolling titles at the beginning of the film it was
"documentary film" which "shows us Jews the way they really are, before
they conceal themselves behind the mask of the civilized European." It used
the slaughter scenes as the emotional climax, claiming that the reason for
showing this "original footage", which belonged to the "most dreadful" ever
recorded by a camera, was justified by one argument: By means of seeing for
themselves the German people would at last "comprehend the truth of Jewry".
And according to the commentary - read by the authoritative speaker of the
Newsreels - "these pictures prove the cruelty of this form of slaughter. It
reveals the character of a race which conceals its brutality beneath the
cloak of pious religious practices."
Therefore the screenings of the film - being Hitler's only concrete
confrontation with Jews after the Campaign in Poland - must have actualized
the Jewish question in general and especially the "need" for him to take a
decision in accordance with his ideology. It must have put him
psychologically under pressure for making a move, as the "Saviour" of the
German people, and thus to adhere to his own "prophecy" of January 30,
1939, which in the film was presented as the "solution" to the Jewish
problem. And in 1940 the premise had become a reality, as the war was
already in progress - a fact which was explicitly stressed in the promotion
in press and radio, when the film finally had its opening night on November
It was, however, only when "Providence" once more had confirmed him
psychopatic world view on May 20, 1940 (i.e. when German troops according
to his strategy cut the enemy forces into two by reaching the Channel
Coast, and thus proving to himself that he had chosen the right strategy
contrary to the advice of his military staff), that he seems to have given
Goebbels his approval of the version of the film which is known today (note
The visualized and structured externalisation of Hitler's more vague
thinking through the "film document" had finally struck back. It had become
the validation of his own hatred to the Jews and had removed any last
doubts he, Hitler, might still have had in his subconsciousness. To the
World, the climax of this film was to be understood as the Fuehrer's
unspoken yet incontrovertible Sentence of Death upon the Jews. And yet,
from his psychopatic point of view it was not him, but "Fate" - or
"Providence" - that commanded the extermination of Evil: He was just a
"Der ewige Jude" was nevertheless not released immediately after its
approval by Hitler in May, 1940. The reason was that it awaited the final
cut of the feature film "Jew Suess" which was another part of the
propaganda package and which should arouse those anti-Semitic feelings that
were to be "proven" by the other, "authentic film-document" (note 45).
While "Jud Suess" had its opening night during the film festival of Venice
on September 6, 1940, "Der ewige Jude" was shown to the top people of the
Third Reich on September 8.
On that occasion Goebbels used it as a concrete demonstration of the
kind of war propaganda, which was to be used to prepare the German audience
for the continuation of the war (note 46). Members of the attendant
audience protested strongly against showing the slaughtering scenes outside
party meetings, and Goebbels had to produce a milder version for women and
children. However, he insisted that both should be screened in public
cinemas (note 47).
"Der ewige Jude" finally had its opening night on November 28, 1940,
the director of the film - Fritz Hippler - stressed that the film was the
proof of the correctness of Hitler's prophecy of 1939. In an interview,
broadcasted all over Germany, Hippler ended by quoting this prophecy after
having pointed out that the premise - the war - had become reality (note
And just after the film had been shown all over Germany, Hitler himself
January 30, 1941, started recalling this his prophecy in his broadcasted
speeches - thus virtually giving oral confirmation of the call for genocide
expressed and legitimized in the film (note 49). Especially as he - on this
occasion and ever after (note 50) - claimed to have said it at the very
outbreak of the war (just as he backdated the Euthanasia order). It was the
dreadful images of the "inhumanity" of the Jews that the German public was
expected to recall when they heard or read these speeches. In a time where
real blood was virtually never shown on the screen, the slaughter scenes
certainly had the same psychological effect of creating the genocidal
mentality as the use of pictures of commited atrocities by the enemy during
the war in former Yugoslavia in the 1990's (note 51).
In other words, there are many cogent reasons to argue that "Der ewige
Jude" can be considered to be Hitler's public statement to perpetrators and
bystanders of what was going to be the next step in his war against the
<b>The final decision</b>
Using this notion and the well-established chronology of the production
"Der ewige Jude" it seems possible to suggest the exact dates and places
for Hitler's insane decision and for his order to Heinrich Himmler to take
charge of the extermination project.
Hitler's pattern of behaviour during the Campaign in France was certainly
defined by his war trauma from WW1. Although he was the Supreme Commander
of the German army he was more interested in visiting his old battle-fields
from this war (note 53). From a psychological point-of-view the approval of
"Der ewige Jude" for public release must have activated his latent desire
for a "Final Solution of the Jewish Question", but his visits to key places
of relevance to his own, personal war trauma pulled the trigger and
enforced his irrevocable decision to kill European Jewry.
On June 1, 1940 at around 6 p.m. Adolf Hitler returned to a little hill
called "La Montagne" on the French-Belgian border, 2 kilometres to the
south of the village of Wervicq (note 54). Here during the night of October
13/14, 1918, he had been blinded by a British gas grenade (note 55). He had
then been transferred to a hospital in Pasewalk, Pomerania, where he
recovered his ability to see, but as on November 10, 1918, he heard that
the Kaiserreich had disintegrated and Germany lost the war, he wept
hysterically and once more he temporarily lost his eye-sight (note 56).
In order to get back his ability to see the future "psychopatic God"
(Robert G.L. Waite) Adolf Hitler signed his personal Faustian pact with the
Devil - or God or Providence, as Hitler preferred to call it. At least that
is how he himself perceived and internalized this traumatic experience
(note 57), which made him take the decision to become a politician: "With
the Jew there can be no pact - only 'either ... or'". This sentence became
the "credo" of his life (note 58).
Standing on "La Montagne" he was once more confirmed in his "mission",
because with his very own eyes Hitler could see that he had done what he
had promised himself to do in Pasewalk. He had turned the wheel of history
and reestablished the power of the German nation: He had achieved the
conquest of France.
Apart from this psychological argument there is some evidence supporting
such an interpretation, especially if one accepts the notion of Yehuda
Bauer and others, that the war against the Soviet Union from Hitler's point
of view, was a war against the Jews (note 59). On the day after the visit
to Werwicq - June 2, 1940 - he told a general, that he hoped that England
would soon "come to its sense", so that he could commence his "real task"
and march against "Bolshevik Russia" (note 60).
The following days also saw new initiatives in anti-Jewish policy (note
61), but the most important piece of evidence is probably the secret decree
of June 5, 1940, which could be used to cancel all German laws representing
legal obstacles to total warfare (note 62). This move can hardly have been
justified by the second phase of the campaign in France, but must be seen
in connection with a principal decision of attacking the Soviet Union. This
interpretation is supported by the dates when the decree was renewed -
December 20, 1940 and May 15, 1941. Both have clear connections with the
planning of Operation Barbarossa.
On the following day - June 6, 1940 - Hitler moved to a new Field
Headquarters which he himself renamed and gave the symbolic name
"Wolfsschlucht" (note 63). The "Wolfsschlucht" does not only refer to
Hitler's first name - "the noble Wolf" - but also to the German national
opera "Der Freischuetz" by Carl Maria von Weber, where the Wolf's Gorge is
the place of a Faustian pact with the Devil. Shortly after he also named
the next Field Headquarters to be used in Schwartzwald after the
capitulation of France. He called it "Tannenberg", thus clearly indicating
his decision to attack Russia as his next step in the war (note 64).
On June 17, 1940, France asked for negotiations and Hitler ordered a
"re-enactment" of the armistice of WW1 in Compiegne on June 21, where he
was present as a "mute", god-like figure. However, he also visited old
battle-fields that day, including the site near Soissons where he had been
awarded his Iron Cross 1st Class (note 65). Then - on the evening of June
22, 1940 - he received the official document, stating that France had
surrendered. From a psychological point of view this must have been the
final confirmation to Hitler of his "chosenness", and this made him
externalize the decision taken at Werwicq. He called upon Heinrich Himmler
right after having received the document around 9 p.m. and installed him by
an oral order with the task to annihilate all European Jews.
This hypothesis, based on an analysis of Hitler's traumatic pattern
behaviour, is supported by one written source. According to Himmler's
masseur Felix Kersten, Himmler at first refused to accept the order,
because he considered it to be "un-Germanic" to kill an entire people, but
finally he gave in and accepted the dreadful commission (note 66). Kersten
claimed that this command was given by Hitler "immediately after the
capitulation of France" - and that Himmler explicitly blamed Goebbels as
the person who had made Hitler take the decision (note 67). From Kersten we
also learn how the Fuehrer carefully checked Himmler's various actions. For
example, Hitler had all Himmler's secret speeches recorded - and Himmler
later told Kersten about Hitler's rages when the Fuehrer found his speeches
or measures too weak - or when he didn't like the speed with which the
actions against the Jews were being carried out (note 68).
As usual when confronted with moral problems Himmler got stomach cramps
let Heydrich - the real "Architect of the Final Solution" - take over (note
69). On June 24, 1940, Heydrich wrote a short but pointed letter to
Ribbentrop, reminding him that in January 1939 Goering had entrusted him,
Heydrich, with authority over Jewish emigration. As the American specialist
on this matter, Richard Breitman, has pointed out, this letter is
unthinkable, unless Heydrich was sure that he acted on the authority of the
Fuehrer (note 70).
The assumption that Hitler gave such a verbal order to Himmler on June
1940, would explain why there is no reference to Jews in Himmler's second
plan for Germanization of Eastern Europe, dated June 30, 1940, in contrast
to his former plan, presented to and approved by Hitler on May 25, 1940
(note 71). It would also explain the purpose of Heydrich's wellknown report
of July 2, 1940, on the activities of the SS and the SD during and after
the Polish Campaign (note 72). This report was certainly intended for
Hitler's eyes and can be seen as an operational step to secure the
independence of the killer force. At the same time it can be seen as the
formal acceptance by Heydrich (and Himmler) of the assignment.
In return for this acceptance there is some evidence that suggests that
Hitler promised Himmler a both significant and somewhat odd "fee": On July
12, 1940, the Reichsfuehrer-SS got permission to tear down a church and
enlarge the Wewelsburg Castle near Paderborn which Himmler meant to be the
future "Centre of the World" (note 73). The architecture of the North Tower
as well as the planning of the whole site implies that Hitler's body was
going to be buried here, and the possession of this most sacred "relic" of
The Third Reich would secure Himmler's power after Hitler's death (note
<b>The implementation of the order</b>
The Reichsfuehrer-SS was to keep the task as secret as possible, following
Hitler's general instructions of not letting anyone know anything they did
not need to know, and to inform those, who had to know, as late as possible
(note 75). In this respect, the plan for sending the Jews to Madagascar was
part of the cover-up, because it ensured the cooperation of the authorities
(from Eichmann as chief coordinator and down- and outwards in the
bureaucracy) and of the Jews themselves, who were made to believe in this
possibility of a "human way" of solving the Jewish problem (note 76).
Judging from the psychology and moral thinking of Himmler, he - contrary to
Heydrich - was reluctant to carry out his assignment and desparately hoped
that the Madagascar Plan would become a reality, for both Madagascar and
annihilation had the first phase - registration and segregation - in
The designated murderers (including Himmler himself) had to be
psychologically prepared, because they had to believe that they were doing
something good and noble - even while killing. And the German public as
well as the non-Jewish population in occupied Europe had to accept what was
going to happen to the (once) fellow citiziens that they could still meet
in the streets.
"Der ewige Jude" was instrumental for this purpose together with the
feature film "Jew Suess". Both films were used to "elucidate" the Jewish
problem to the Waffen-SS which had to cope with the gradually growing
economical and social problems of detaining Jews in ghettos (note 77), and
the public showings of these films in Germany and the rest of occupied
Europe were a subtle way of making the public accomplices in the killings
(note 78) - even if the task itself was delegated to the SS. In acting in
this manner, Hitler once more followed the strategy he had outlined in the
chapter on propaganda and organization in "Mein Kampf" (note 79).
Hitler's prediction of a "conviction" that would be "gradually, totally
automatically released" became true, as we can discern from the
above-mentioned testimony by Kurt Moebius as well
as from the notorius letter from Rolf-Heinz Hoeppner in Lublin to Adolf
Eichmann on July 16, 1941. Hoeppner found it more 'human' to search for a
way of killing the Jews than to let them starve in the forthcoming winter.
In his brain-washed mind they had to die anyway (note 80).
<b>Concluding comments and perspectives</b>
The source-critical shot-to-shot analysis of the film demonstrates that
"Der ewige Jude" probably is the most manipulated film ever made (note 81).
Apart from being a shuddering example of Nazi paranoia towards the Jews it
is also one of the best illustrations of how distorted "reality" can be
used as a means of creating hate and genocidal mentality, because the way
it was done can be documented down to the tiniest detail.
Unfortunately, the story of the "produced reality" of "Der ewige Jude"
not just a contribution to the ongoing academic discussion of the
decision-making proces, which led to the Holocaust. Despite the fact that
German authorities has forbidden its distribution and public showing, it
can easily be obtained in both German and English versions and it is used
by Neo-Nazi groups as "cult film" (note 82). Finally, one has just to see
the propaganda of the contending sides in former Yugoslavia to conclude
that Joseph Goebbels with his anti-Semitic films did create standards for
dehumanization that still are applied as justification of genocide (note
The psychologist Israel W. Charny once concluded from his comprehensive
study of genocidal killing: "The mass killers of humankind are largely
everyday human beings - what we have called normal people according to
currently accepted definitions by the health profession" (note 84). The
sociologist Everett C. Hughes confirmed the observation by Hannah Arendt on
Eichmann and stated that such mass killers could in fact be viewed as "good
people" doing the "dirty work" of their societies (note 85). The
sociologist Michael Ley has described the necessity to understand the
"religious" function of National Socialism (note 86) and the sociologist
Zygmunt Bauman has stressed genocide as part of modern mass society (note
87). Finally the sociologist Eric Markusen and the historian David Kopf
have underlined the function of mediated dehumanization as a neccessary
condition for such mass killings (note 88).
Bearing all these observations on the reasons for instigating past
genocides in mind one also has to acknowledge another important fact which
in many ways have been sadly neglected by scholars of genocide: the
influence of modern mass media. As most of our conscious perception of the
outer world derives from our eyes and as modern society is more and more
developing into a mediated "information society", where our perception of
reality is more and more shaped by visual information, it becomes urgently
important to create a scientific approach which can integrate and compare
information from written and non-written evidence.
The case of "Der ewige Jude" as Hitler's unspoken, yet unmistakingly
order to commit genocide is a warning example that we as historical
scientists need to revaluate our basic thinking and methodology, deriving
from the traditional primacy of written evidence, and to take the
consequence of the fundamental character of science as societal
communication. As the history of the film shows, it is neccessary to use a
broader approach than the traditional, based as it is on the assumption
that only written evidence is permissible in scientific contexts.
<b>Notes and references:</b>
1. I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Gerald Fleming,
London, for his encouraging and challenging criticism during the
preparation of this paper, which contains the core summary of a book which
was published last year in Danish: Forermyten. Adolf Hitler, Joseph
Goebbels og historien bag et folkemord. Copenhagen 1996, 424 pages.
2. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen: Hitler's Willing Executioners. Ordinary Germans
and the Holocaust. New York 1996. - Cf. Julius H. Schoeps (ed.): Ein Volk
von Moerdern? Dokumentation zur Goldhagen-Kontroverse um die Rolle der
Deutschen im Holocaust. Hamburg 1996.
3. Christopher R. Browning: The Path to Genocide. Essays concerning
Final Solution. Cambridge 1992. - Philippe Burrin: Hitler und die Juden.
Die Entscheidung fuer den Voelkermord. Frankfurt 1993. - Christopher R.
Browning: "The Euphoria if Victory and the Final Solution: Summer-Fall
1941". German Studies Review 17 (1994), No. 3, 473-481. - Richard Breitman:
"Plans for the Final Solution in Early 1941". German Studies Review 17
(1994), No. 3, 483-493.
4. Cf. note 3.
5. Gerald Fleming: Hitler und die Endloesung: "es ist des Fuehrers
Wunsch...". Frankfurt/Main 1987.
6. Eberhard Jackel: Hitlers Weltanschauung: Entwurf einer Herrschaft.
Stuttgart 1986. - Eberhard Jackel/Juergen Rohwer (ed.): Der Mord an den
Juden im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Stuttgart 1985.
7. Karl A. Schleunes: "Nationalsozialistische Entschlussbildung und
Aktion T 4". In Jackel/Rohwer (note 6), p. 70-83.
8. Goetz Aly/Susanne Heim: Vordenker der Vernichtung. Auschwitz und
deutschen Plane fuer eine neue europaische Ordnung. Frankfurt/Main 1993. -
Goetz Aly: "Endloesung". Voelkerverschiebung und der Mord an den
europaischen Juden. Frankfurt/Main 1995.
9. Cf. note 3.
10. Hans Mommsen: "Die Realisierung des Utopischen: Die 'Endloesung
Judenfrage' im 'Dritten Reich'. Geschichte und Gesellschaft 3 (1983), p.
11. Cf. Ian Kershaw: The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives
Interpretation. London 1993.
12. Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of
Penguin edition, 1978, p. 276.
13. Goldhagen (note 2) p. 179. My underlining.
14. Peter L. Berger/Thomas Luckmann: The Social Construction of Reality:
Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Penguin 1972.
15. David Welch: Propaganda and the German Cinema 1933-1945. Oxford
Rudolf Herz: Hoffmann & Hitler. Fotografie als Medium des Fuehrer-Mythos.
16. Robert G.L. Waite: The Psychopatic God Adolf Hitler. New York 1977.
Norbert Bromberg/Verena V. Small: Hitler's Psychopathology. New York 1983.
- I have describe several examples of this in my book Forermyten (note 1).
One of them also is a significant example of, how his perception of films
made him take important decisions. It is well-known that it was Hitler's
personal letter to Stalin on August 20, 1939, that was the reason why the
Hitler-Stalin-Pact became a reality. In her memoirs Leni Riefenstahl tells
what happened immediately before Hitler wrote this letter. Sie was present,
when Hitler saw foreign news-reels: "In one of them one saw Stalin at a
military parade in Moscow. Among the shots were some which showed the
profile of Stalin in close-ups. I saw that Hitler bend forward and looked
upon them very concentrated. As the screening was over, he surprisingly
demanded to see the news-reel one more time without saying why. When Stalin
once more was to be seen, I heard him say: 'This man has a good face - one
ought to be able to negotiate with him.' When the lights were turned on,
Hitler got up, excused himself and left." Leni Riefenstahl: Memoiren
1902-1945. Frankfurt/Main 1994, p. 344. Her story is confirmed by an entry
in Goebbels' diary of March 15, 1940, when Hitler related his view upon
Stalin: "The Fuehrer saw once Stalin in a film, and he (i.e. Stalin) seemed
immediately to be sympathetic to him (i.e. Hitler). At that moment the
German-Russian coalition actually had begun." Elke Froehlich (ed.): Die
Tagebuecher von Joseph Goebbels. Samtliche Fragmente. Muenchen 1987. Vol.
4, p. 75.
17. It is well-known that Adolf Hitler's pattern of behaviour was highly
ritualized and was characterized by acts of obsessions, cf. Waite (note 16)
and Bromberg/Small (note 16). The kind of his psychopathology is reflected
in his keen interest in dates, places and symbols. This is one of the
reasons why I in my Danish book Forermyten (note 1)have presented him as a
person suffering from some kind of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
after his decision to become a politician in Pasewalk on November 10, 1918.
The notion could probably be supported by an psychiatric expert on these
matters who could make a lot of observations on Hitler by means of the
massive amounts of film material which exists and to my knowledge only have
been used once by a psychiatrist, although for another purpose. Ellen
Gibbels: Hitlers Nervenkrankheit - Eine neurologisch-psychiatrische Studie.
Vierteljahrshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte 42 (1994), p. 155-220. - A survey of
the literature on PTSD is given by John P. Wilson/Beverley Raphael (ed.):
International Handbook of Traumatic Stress Syndromes. New York 1993.
18. John K. Sheriff: The Fate of Meaning: Charles Peirce, Structuralism
Literature. Princeton 1987. - Charles Morris: Languages and Behavior. New
York 1946. - Charles Morris: Foundations of the Theory of Signs. Chicago
1970. -Christian Metz: Film-Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema. Oxford
1974. - Suegfried Kracauer: From Caligari to Hitler. A psychological
History of the German Film. Princeton 1970.
19. Claude Levi-Strauss: Structural Anthropology. Penguin 1972. - Marcell
Henaff: Claude Levi-Strauss. Paris 1991. - Michael Walitschke: Im Wald der
Zeichen: Linguistik und Anthropologie - das Werk von Claude Levi-Strauss.
Tuebingen 1995. - Roland Barthes: Mythologies. Paris 1970. - Roland
Barthes: Le texte et l'image. Paris 1986. - Irenaus Eibl-Eibesfeldt: Liebe
und Hass. Zur Naturgeschichte elementarer Verhaltensweisen. Muenchen 1972.
20. Stig Hornshoj-Moller: "Der ewige Jude". Quellenkritische Analyse
antisemitischen Propagandafilms. Institut fuer den Wissenschaftlichen Film,
Goettingen 1995 (= Beitrage zu zeitgeschichtlichen Filmquellen Bd. 2). -
Stig Hornshoj-Moller: "Die Entscheidung. Der antisemitische Propagandafilm
'Der ewige Jude' und seine Bedeutung fuer den Holocaust. In: Gerhard
Maletzke/Ruediger Steinmetz (ed.): Zeiten und Medien - Medienzeiten.
Festschrift zum 60. Geburtstag von Karl Friedrich Reimers. Leipziger
Universitatsverlag, Leipzig 1995, 142-163. - Stig Hornshoj-Moller: "'Der
ewige Jude' (1940) - Legitimation und Ausloeser eines Voelkermordes. In:
Karl Friedrich Reimers (Hrsg.): Unser Jahrhundert im Film und Fernsehen.
Verlag oelschlager, Muenchen 1995, 59-97.
21. Erwin Leiser: Deutschland, erwache! Reinbek/Hamburg 1968, p. 67.
22. When commercial TV was introduced in Denmark in 1987 I worked for
year as the assistent in-house producer for a very experienced English
producer who worked as a consultant for the second biggest advertising
agency in Denmark. We also produced four major commercials for washing
detergent. There were striking similarities between the way the
audio-visual medium was used to influence people in The Third Reich and in
a modern democratic country like Denmark. My experience from this job,
however, made me understand the "creative" process during the production of
"Der ewige Jude" much better.
23. Lawrence Reece: We have Ways of Making You Think. Goebbels - Master
Propaganda. BBC - International Services, 23.12. 1992.
24. The production history is described in details in my source-critical
edition (note 20).
25. Wilhelm Treue: "Rede Hitlers vor der deutschen Presse (10. November
1938). Vierteljahreshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte 6 (1958), p. 175-88.
26. Ralf Georg Reuth: Goebbels. Muenchen 1990, p. 399-400.
27. Dorothea Hollstein: Jud Suess und die Deutschen. Frankfurt/Main
Regine Mihal Friedmann: L'image et son juif. Paris 1983.
28. The very same day Hitler had a meeting with Reichsfuehrer-SS, Heinrich
Himmler, which can be seen as the beginning of the policy of establishing
ghettos as formally ordered by Himmler's deputy, Reinhard Heydrich, on
September 21. Here, too, visual perception can be seen as the releasing
factor for the decision: Hitler had had all his prejudices of Jews -
actually looking like Jews - confirmed while visiting the already
overcrowded ghetto of Lodz the day before, and once again on September 20,
when both Himmler and Heydrich were present.
29. Cf. my source-critical edition of the film (note 20) p. 16.
30. For chronological reasons it should be noted that Hitler on October
1939, outlined his concept for Eastern Europe in a broadcasted speech
before the Reichstag and that he on the following day made Himmler
responsible for the "Germanization" of the area. It was also at that time
that he signed the authorization of the Euthanasia project - which Hitler
by the way backdated to the outbreak of the war at September 1, 1939. War
was to him a process of "racial cleansing". This project had been on its
way for some time, but here too "visual exposure of reality" played an
important role for his final decision: Philipp Bouhler had shown
documentary footage of mentally ill persons at his dinner table on August
31. Froehlich (note 16) vol. 3, p. 612. - According to Hippler's memoirs,
Goebbels "wanted to show me how somebody with a proper attitude towards the
Jewish question would react. Almost every close-up was accompanied by
shouts of disgust and loathing; some scenes he criticized so strongly as if
to bring a reaction from the screen itself; at the ritual slaughter-scenes,
he held his hands over his face." Fritz Hippler: Die Verstrickung.
Duesseldorf 1981, p. 187.
32. Entry in Goebbels' diary under October 29, 1939. Froehlich (note
vol. 3, p. 625-26.
33. Waite (note 16) p. 27f. Froehlich (note 16) vol 3, p.680, entry
Goebbels' diary from December 29, 1939: "The Fuehrer is a fundamentally
34. Froehlich (note 16) vol 3, p. 628-29.
35. Froehlich (note 16) vol. 3, p. 630.
36. Froehlich (note 16) vol. 3, p. 647.
37. Rudolf Semler: Goebbels - The Man Next to Hitler. London 1947, p.
38. E.g. on November 9, 1939. Froehlich (note 16) vol. 3, p. 638.
39. Hans-Guenther Seraphim (ed.): Das politische Tagebuch Alfred Rosenberg
aus den Jahren 1934/35 und 1939/40. Muenchen 1964, p. 110-11.
40. Frank Maraun: "Symphonie des Ekels. Der ewige Jude - ein
abendfuellender Dokumentarfilm. Der deutsche Film 4 (1939/40) p. 156-61.
41. Froehlich (note 16) vol. 4, p. 11.
42. Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte, Muenchen. Mc 31 a. Fritz Hippler.
43. "Der ewige Jude" contained nothing new, but was virtually a filmed
"black book" filled with examples from many years of anti-Semitic
traditions. As part of the propaganda set-up - and as with all feature
films of the day - one could purchase an illustrated program, the
Illustrierte Film-Kurier, with a summary of the contents of the film which
is reprinted here in order to give an impression of this the hate-film of
"The film begins with an impressive expedition through the Jewish ghettoes
in Poland. We are shown Jewish living quarters, which in our view cannot be
called houses. In these dirty rooms lives and prays a race, which earns its
living not by work but by haggling and swindling. From the little urcin to
the old man, they stand in the streets, trading and bargaining. Using trick
photography, we are shown how the Jewish racial mixture in Asia Minor
developed and flooded the entire world. We see a parallel to this in the
itinerant routes of rats, which are the parasites and bacillus-carriers
among animals, just as the Jews occupy the same position among mankind. The
Jew has always known how to assimilate his external appearance to that of
his host. Contrasted are the same Jewish types, first the Eastern Jew with
his kaftan, beard, and sideburns, and then the clean-shaven, Western
European Jew. This strikingly demonstrates how he has deceived the Aryan
people. Under this mask he increased his influence more and more in Aryan
nations and climbed to higher-ranking positions. But he could not change
his inner being.
After the bannishment of the Jews from Europe was lifted, following
age of Enlightment, the Jew succeeded within the course of several decades
in dominating the world economy, before the various host nations realized -
and this despite the fact that they made up only 1 per cent of the world
population. An excerpt from an American film about the Rothschilds, made by
Jews, reveals to us the cunning foundations of their banking empire. Then
we see how Jews, working for their international finance, drive the German
people into the November Revolution. They then shed their anonymity and
step out openly on to the stage of political and cultural life. Thus the
men who were responsible for the disgraceful debasement of the German
people are paraded before us. Incontestable examples are shown of how they
robbed the country and the people of immense sums. As well as gaining
financial supremacy they were able to dominate cultural life. The repulsive
pictures of so-called Jewish 'art' reveal the complete decline of cultural
life at that time. Using original sequences from contemporary films, the
degrading and destructive tendency of Jewish power is exposed. For hundreds
of years German artists have glorified figures from the Old Testament,
knowing full well the real face of Jewry. How the Jew actually looks like
is shown in scenes shot by Jews themselves in a 'culture film' of a Purim
festival, which is still celebrated today to commemorate the slaughter of
75.000 anti-Semitic Persians, and the doctrine with which future Rabbis in
Jewish schools are educated to be political pedagogues. We look into a
Jewish 'Talmud' class and experience the oriental tone of the ceremony in a
Jewish synagogue, where Jews conduct business deals among themselves during
the holy services.
However, the cruel face of Judaism is most brutally displayed in the
final scenes, in which original shots of a kosher butchering are revealed,
These film documents of the inhuman slaughter of cattle and sheep without
anaesthesia provide conclusive evidence of a brutalty which is simply
inconceivable to all Aryan people. In shining contrast, the film closes
with pictures of German people and German order which fill the viewer with
a feeling of deep gratification for belonging to a race whose Fuehrer is
fundamentally solving the Jewish problem."
44. The evidence is circumstancial, but this date is the only one that
interlocks with the logic of the film production and with the psychological
pattern of Hitler's behaviour. From an entry in Goebbels' diary on May 9,
1940, we know that he is still working on the final cut. Froehlich (note
16), vol. 4, p. 150-51. We know from the same diary, that he sent a
transportable projector to Hitler's Field Headquarters because he
considered it important for his activities as a propaganda minister that
Hitler at least could see the news-reels. Entry from May 12, 1940,
Froehlich (note 16) vol. 4, p. 156. In the following days Goebbels does not
refer to "Der ewige Jude" in his diary, but on May 23 he suddenly informed
his staff that he was satisfied with the film in its present version. Willi
A. Boelcke (ed.): Kriegspropaganda 1939-1941. Geheime Ministerkonferenzen
im Reichspropagandaministerium. Stuttgart 1966, p. 487. It was the first
time that "Der ewige Jude" is mentioned officially in the protocol of the
secret conferences and it can only mean that Hitler must have approved it
before this date. Another indication of an approval on May 20 might be the
fact that the earliest hint towards a future campaign against
Jewish-Bolshevik Russia was a remark from Hitler to general Halder on May
21. Klaus Hildebrand: Deutsche Aussenpolitik. Kalkuel oder Dogma? Stuttgart
1990, p. 99.
45. Cf. note 27.
46. Froehlich (note 16) vol. 4, p. 315.
47. Boelcke (note 44) p. 503 and 518.
48. Interview printed in three German film magazines: Der Film No. 48/1940;
Film-Kurier No. 279/1940; Filmwelt No. 49/1940. Reprinted in my
source-critical edition (note 20) p. 309-12.
49. M. Domarus (ed.): Hitler. Reden und Proklamationen. Wuerzburg 1962.
Vol. 2, p. 1663.
50. C.C. Aronsfeld: "'Perish Judah'. Nazi Extermination Propaganda
1920-1945. Pattern of Prejudice 12,5 (1978), p. 22-23.
51. During the summer of 1992 I closely followed Serbian and Croate
Television live on Cable-TV. My experiences from viewing these programs as
well as the whole mix of programs finally made me leave my original working
hypothesis and to accept "Der ewige Jude" as a crucial factor for
instigating the Holocaust.
52. This interpretation is supported by three further arguments: 1)
Goebbels would never have dared to present a film on such a key issue in
Nazi ideology to the public without the explicit approval by the Fuehrer.
2) In 1940 all visual representation of the Fuehrer had to be approved by
him personally. 3) The significance of the Fuehrer-Myth and the way Hitler
was presented to the German public by means of documentary footage is
documented through the SD-report from November 28, 1940 (the opening night
of "Der ewige Jude"), commenting on the news-reels: "There is still an
overwhelming interest for all shots of the Fuehrer. It is almost so that a
news-reel without pictures of the Fuehrer is not regarded as a proper
news-reel. One wishes all the time to see what he looks like, whether he is
grave or laughs. On the other hand one is deeply disappointed that for a
long time one has not been able to hear his voice in the news-reels, too."
- Heinz Boberach: Meldungen aus dem Reich. Neuwied-Berlin 1965, p. 114f.
53. Cf. Froehlich (note 16), vol. 4, 192.
54. Bundesarchiv-Militararchiv Freiburg. RW 47/6. Kriegstagebuch des
Kommandanten Fuehrerhauptquartier. Entry from June 1, 1940, shows that
Hitler visited Wervicq that afternoon after having visited other sites of
WW1. His photographer Heinrich Hoffmann took nine photos on that occasion.
Fotoarchiv Hoffmann, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Muenchen. File XVI. 39.
55. Adolf Hitler: Mein Kampf. 681-685. Auflage. Muenchen 1942, p. 220-21.
56. Mein Kampf (note 55) p. 222-25.
57. Rudolph Binion: "... dass ihr mich gefunden habt". Hitler und die
Deutschen: Eine Psychoanalyse. Stuttgart 1978. In an appendix (p. 178-81)
Binion has collected many sources of how Hitler himself described what
happened in Pasewalk.
58. From my reading as a lay-man of modern research on Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder - using the excellent library of the International Research
and Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims in Copenhagen - it seems to
be a very fruitful hypothesis to regard Adolf Hitler as a person suffering
from a potential PTSD and to use modern knowledge on this condition as the
structural explanation of the development of his personality. The doctor
that treated him in Pasewalk described him as being hysterical because of a
shell shock, which was the way PTSD was diagnosed at that time. - This
approach might also point to the reason why Adolf Hitler hated the Jews -
and not the English who had sent the shell that blinded him. Brigitte
Hamann has recently shown that when Hitler left Vienna in Spring 1913, he
had not yet become a fanatic anti-Semite, although his impressions from
Vienna later became part of the reasoning behind his anti-Semitism.
Brigitte Hamann: Hitlers Wien. Lehrjahre eines Diktators. Muenchen 1996.
Therefore we have to search a personal experience with a Jew during the war
to be the key event which at the outbreak of the trauma made him believe
that he himself was responsible for the German defeat: He had committed a
sin because he had violated German spirit by carrying out the wish of a Jew
and therefore he himself had to redeem it by fighting the Jews. From a
semiotic point of view it is possible to put forward the following
scenario: Hitler's immediate superior from January 31 to August 30, 1918,
was a Jewish officer, named Hugo Gutmann. Gutmann promised Hitler Iron
Cross 1st Class, if he was successful in getting an important message
through during heavy fighting in late May. It was months later - on August
4, 1918 - that Hitler got the award which later became the token of his
life, but only four days later - at a time when Gutmann was on leave - that
the German army had to retreat, and Gutmann was shortly after transferred
to a post far behind the lines, while Hitler stayed and got wounded.
Strangely enough, Hitler never told anybody why he was awarded, although
one could assume that this could have been instrumental in his efforts to
gain political support. Hitler, however, referred once explicitly to
Gutmann, namely in his table-talks on November 10, 1941. Jochmann, Werner
(ed.): Adolf Hitler. Monologe im Fuehrerhauptquartier 1941-1944. Die
Aufzeichnungen Heinrich Heims. Hamburg 1980, p. 132. The date here is
important, as his curse on Gutmann took place on the anniversary of his
trauma - and coincides with the date where Himmler was put so much under
pressure by Hitler that he told Kersten about the order to kill the Jews.
59. Yehuda Bauer: Freikauf von Juden? Verhandlungen zwischen dem
nationalsozialistischen Deutschland und juedischen Reprasentanten von 1933
bis 1945. Franfurt/Main 1996, p. 97.
60. Karl Klee: Das Unternehmen 'Seeloewe'. Goettingen 1958, p. 189f.
61. Uwe Dietrich Adam: Judenpolitik im Dritten Reich. Tuebingen 1972,
62. Adam (note 61) p. 245 with note 59.
63. Kommandotagebuch (note 54). Entry from June 6, 1940.
64. Kommandotagebuch (note 54). Entry from June 13, 1940. The implications
of this name was clearly understood by the Staff of the Army which started
to work out plans for the campaign without having a specific order. -
Hitler's pattern of symbolic behaviour during this period is also confirmed
by other events. On the morning after the capitulation of France Hitler
paid a visit to Napoleon's grave in Paris and, so to speak, took over the
task of fighting Russia, which Napoleon had invaded on June 22, 1812. It
was, therefore, no coincidence that the final battle against the Jews was
launched on June 22, 1941. It was exactly one year after he had ordered
Himmler to be responsible for exterminating the Jews.
65. Just as Hitler turned the village of his father (whom he hated because
of the possibility of having a Jewish grandfather) into a training field
for the Wehrmacht, he "erased" the site where he had obtained his Iron
Cross 1st Class by installing a new Field Headquarters. He called it
"Wolfsschlucht 2", a fact, which could be considered as another indication
of Gutmann's importance to the exterminist character of Hitler's
66. Felix Kersten: Totenkopf und Treue. Heinrich Himmler ohne Uniform.
den Tagebuechern des finnischen Medizinalrats. Hamburg 1952, p. 149.
Kersten is a disputed source among historians, because he is overestimating
his own influence upon history. Richard Breitman choose to disregard him in
his important book The Architect of Genocide. Himmler and the Final
Solution. London 1991. Yehuda Bauer has on the other hand underlined that
there always seems to be some truth in the factual information, that
Kersten relates. See Bauer (note 58) p. 166-67. Gerald Fleming, who has
himself studied Kersten, in a letter to me has stressed that Kersten can be
used as a source, if he is double-checked. The main reason for me to
believe in Kersten on this particularly point is the date, he gives for his
entry: November 11, 1941. This date would account for the reason why
Himmler suffered that much from psychosomatic stomach cramps that he told
Kersten. It was the day after Hitler had cursed Gutmann, and Himmler's
stomach problems could have derived from a rebuke from Hitler for not being
67. Kersten (note 66) p. 200.
68. Cf. Bradley F. Smith/Agnes F. Peterson (ed.): Heinrich Himmler:
Geheimreden 1933-1945 und andere Aussprachen. Frankfurt/Main 1974.
69. Richard Breitman (note 66) argues that Himmler started the preparations
for the Holocaust in the summer of 1940 on his own. Although I disagree on
this point, I consider his book to be an excellent und well-documented
analysis of Himmler's crucial role in actually carrying out Hitler's order
which in details interlocks with the chronology of the decision-making
process presented in this paper.
70. Breitman (note 66) p. 124.
71. Helmut Krausnick: "Denkschrift Himmlers ueber die Behandlung der
Fremdvoelkischen im Osten (Mai 1940)". Vierteljahrshefte fuer
Zeitgeschichte 5 (1957), p. 194-98. Breitman (note 66) p. 127.
72. Helmut Krausnick: "Hitler und die Morde in Polen". Vierteljahrshefte
fuer Zeitgeschichte 11 (1963), p. 207
73. Karl Hueser: Wewelsburg 1933 bis 1945. Kult- und Terrorstatte der
Paderborn 1982, p. 274.
74. In my Danish book (note 1) there is a detailed argumentation for
75. Lucy S. Dawidowicz: Der Krieg gegen die Juden 1933-1945. Muenchen
76. Cf. Breitman (note 66) p. 116-44.
77. On September 30, 1940, Himmler ordered the SS and the police to
"Jud Suess" during the winter. Hollstein (note 27) p. 106. No such order
was neccessary with relevance to "Der ewige Jude", because it was produced
by the state itself - and not by a private company. Therefore there were no
expenses connected with the presentation of "Der ewige Jude" which were the
case when showing "Jud Suess".
78. There were also produced a Dutch, a French and an international
of "Der ewige Jude". Cf. my source-critical edition (note 20), p. 305.
79. Mein Kampf (note 55) p. 649-69.
80. Adalbert Rueckerl: Nationalsozialistische Vernichtungslager im Spiegel
deutscher Strafprozesse. Muenchen 1979, p. 256-57.
81. Cf. my source-critical edition (note 20) with its shot-to-shot
82. Stig Hornshoj-Moller: "Kultfilm der Neonazis. 'Der ewige Jude'
verbreitet immer noch 24 Luegen pro Sekunde". medium 3/1994, p. 31-33.
Michael Schmidt: Heute gehoert uns die Strasse. Der Inside-Report aus der
Neonazi-Szene. Duesseldorf 1994, p. 47-52. - A video-copy of "Der ewige
Jude" with an American voice-over can be obtained from International
Historic Films, Box 29035, Chicago, Illinois 60629, USA.
83. To quote the Minister of Information of the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia, Slobodan Ignjatovic, in a television interview from 1993: "We
avoided showing atrocities and genocide committed by the Croatians and
Moslems against the Serbian people - except when we had no other
choice...". Video-copy in the archive of the author.
84. Israel W. Charny: "Genocide and Mass Destruction: Doing Harm to
as a Missing Dimension in Psychopathology". Psychiatry Vol. 49 (1986), p.
85. Everett C. Hughes: "Good People and Dirty Work". In: Howard S. Becker
(ed.): The Other Side. New York 1964, p. 23-36.
86. Michael Ley: Genozid und Heilserwartung. Zum nationalsozialistischen
Mord am europaischen Judentum. Wien 1993.
87. Zygmunt Bauman: Modernity and the Holocaust. Cambridge 1989.
88. Eric Markusen and David Kopf: The Holocaust and Strategic Bombing:
Genocide and Total War in the Twentieth Century. Boulder 1995.
Oral presentation (with supplementary observations):
<h1>THE ROLE OF "PRODUCED REALITY" IN THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
WHICH LED TO THE HOLOCAUST</h1>
Oral presentation of paper, given at the conference "Genocide and the
Modern World", Association of Genocide Scholars, Concordia University,
Montreal, Canada, June 11-13, 1997
By Stig Hornshoj-Moller, Copenhagen, Denmark
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please allow me first of all to express my gratitude to the Conference
Committee for giving me a special session at this conference. To present
more than 25 year's of research within twenty minutes is an almost
impossible task - especially as I may have arrived at some rather
However, I do hope to be able to clarify some of my main arguments for
new interpretation of the decision-making process, which led to the
You will know from the summary, that I have used two different approaches:
A source-critical/semiotic one - and a psychological one. Due to the
limited amount of time I will concentrate on the first one, because it
contains my key methodological argument: The importance of visual
perception in the decision-making process.
That means that I would like to raise and discuss the highly complex
question of the integration of non-written evidence into inter-disciplinary
research, and I will try to argue why I consider the Nazi propaganda film
"Der ewige Jude" to be an X-ray of the Holocaust decision-making process
Film historians have always interpreted this film as a deliberate call
the Holocaust. To quote Erwin Leiser, it should "turn brave citizens into
willing mass-murderers". Such an evaluation is, however, seemingly
encumbered with one big problem - chronology. "Der ewige Jude" was produced
in 1940, whereas most historians to-day regard 1941 as the decisive year.
When I started my research in 1970, I intended to show that Leiser's
conclusions were based on hindsight. I wanted to demonstrate that a proper
source-critical analysis of the film, its production and distribution
history would demonstrate a total lack of evidence in support of this
However, I was proved utterly wrong. I have only found evidence that
supported the notion of the film as a deliberate call for genocide.
The sources for the production history of "Der ewige Jude" reveal that
final version was a joint product by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels.
The "Fuehrer" followed the production of the film very closely, gave
and ordered several recuts. The main responsibility for the film, however,
definitely lies with Joseph Goebbels.
After having approved a news-reel with a major issue on Polish Jewry
October 4, 1939, Goebbels initiated the production of a propaganda film,
which should look like reality. The very next day, he outlined the concept
to two prominent members of his staff.
The script was developped by Dr. Eberhard Taubert, Head of anti-bolshevik
and anti-semitic activities, while Dr. Fritz Hippler, Head of the Film
Department, was sent to Poland to film Orthodox Jewry in the ghetto of
In the evening of October 16, 1939, Hippler presented about 30 minutes
rushes, showing alleged Jewish ritual slaughter of cows, calves and
sheepsto Goebbels. Although Goebbels himself had ordered these recordings
to be cruelty to animals, he was nevertheless deeply shocked at what he
He wrote in his diary the next morning:
"Scenes so horrific and brutal in their explicitness that one's blood
cold. One shudders at such barbarism. This Jewry must be annihilated."
Goebbels showed these rushes to Hitler and others present at Hitler's
dinner table on October 28, 1939. According to his diary they were all
"deeply shocked". And in estimating the effect on Hitler one should not
forget his attitude towards animals: he was a lover of animals and almost
To Adolf Hitler these scenes - and later the whole film, in which they
used as the emotional climax - can only have reinforced his paranoid
anti-Semitism and his latent wish to exterminate the Jews.
On October 31, 1939, Goebbels personally went to Lodz to see for himself.
He summarized his impressions in his diary:
"They are no longer human beings, but animals. It is, therefore, also
humanitarian task, but a task for the surgeon. One has got to cut here and
that most radically. Or Europe will vanish one day due to the Jewish
According to his diary, Goebbels was explicitly confirmed in this opinion
by Hitler, when he reported on his visit to Poland on November 2, 1939:
"Above all my description of the Jewish problem finds his (i.e. Hitler's)
total approval. The Jew is garbage. Rather a clinical than a social
It certainly became the task of "Der ewige Jude" to "prove" this
exterministic view upon Jewry to all those Germans who did not as yet share
During the following weeks and months entries in Goebbels' diary document
how intensely he worked on this film, and how
important both he and Hitler considered it to be. Thus, in his diary on
November 19, 1939:
"I inform the Fuehrer about our Jew film. He gives some ideas for it.
the whole, Film is a very valuable propaganda medium for us just now."
It should be noted that both Goebbels and Hitler regarded themselves
experts on film propaganda. On December 11, 1939, the "Fuehrer" in a fit
critized Goebbels for bad film making and for not having made proper
anti-Semitic films. The final version of "Der ewige Jude" is therefore also
to be seen as Goebbels' answer to this rebuke.
The first cut of January 8, 1940, contained only "Jewish" scenes (including
a vivid juxtaposition of Jews and swarms of rats). It climaxed with the
explicit bloody slaughter scenes.
Hitler, however, turned this version down on January 11, 1940.
In the subsequent versions a re-cut quotation of Hitler's notorious
of January 30, 1939 was added. It was presented as the "Fuehrer"'s own,
public "prophecy" of the future fate of the Jews after one hour of
allegedly true "documentation" of how they had destructed German society
The quotation that 'if a war should start, the consequence would be
annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe"' was thus "hammered" into
Hitler's own mind by constant repetition, as he viewed Goebbels'
progressive versions. It became the "prophecy", to which the "Fuehrer"
would return again and again.
A protocol of a test screening before top propagandists from all branches
of the Third Reich on March 1, 1940, shows, how "Der ewige Jude" was tested
the way commercials are tested to-day before shown on television. The
side-purpose of this screening was to further radicalize the mentality of
the opinion-makers of the German society by means of the slaughter scenes.
According to the rolling titles at the beginning of the final version,
ewige Jude" was a "film document" which "shows us Jews the way they really
are, before they conceal themselves behind the mask of the civilized
European." By means of seeing for themselves the German people would here
at last "comprehend the truth of Jewry".
According to the commentary to the slaughter scenes - read by the
authoritative speaker of the UFA Newsreels - "these pictures prove the
cruelty of this form of slaughter. It reveals the character of a race which
conceals its brutality beneath the cloak of pious religious practices."
And the film concluded: "The eternal law of nature, to keep one's race
pure, is the legacy which the National Socialist movement bequeaths to the
German people forever. It is with this resolve that the unified German
people march on to the future."
By means of a shot-to-shot analysis of the film, I have been able to
its cynical lies and manipulations. This analysis demonstrates, how "Der
ewige Jude" was embedded in the traditions of anti-Semitic propaganda.
Anyone, who has participated actively in film or TV production, will
how difficult it is to produce or reproduce exactly the message, that one
wants to communicate. And yet, a frame-to-frame analysis of "Der ewige
Jude" proves how meticulously the message of this film was constructed down
to the very last detail.
The scrutiny with which the research was carried out also indicates
the makers themselves considered the film to be "scientific". Or at least
their research in the so-called "Institut zum Studium der Judenfrage"
enabled them to make themselves believe, that the film was a true
representation of reality.
Therefore, as the production advanced Goebbels must have put Hitler
psychological pressure for making a move - as the self-imposed "Saviour" of
the German people - by means of the screenings of the film, which were
Hitler's only concrete confrontations with Jews after the campaign in
When the "Fuehrer" finally approved the film on May 20, 1940, it must
- as a visualized and structured externalisation of his own, more vague
thinking - become identical with his own "social construction of reality".
As a means of social communication the climax of this film can only
understood as the "Fuhrer"'s unspoken, yet incontrovertible Sentence of
Death upon the Jews. Or to use the conceptual notion of Robert Jay Lifton:
When Hitler approved the film, he crossed the "Threshold of Genocide".
In order to evaluate when, how and why the "Fuehrer" took the ultimate
decision and invested Heinrich Himmler with the responsibility for the
planning and execution of the Holocaust, we have to look into the personal
psychology of Adolf Hitler.
Adolf Hitler certainly was a psychopath, but even psychopaths are human
beings, who act according to their individual "social contruction of
reality". A comprehensive analysis of decisions, that actually were taken
personally by Hitler, demonstrates the methodological need to distinguish
between two separate aspects:
a) The reasons behind a decision, which in this case would be as
visualized in "Der ewige Jude".
b) The exact moment, when Hitler took a decision - because it has become
clear to me, how much his actual decision-making was emotionally influenced
by what he had just experienced.
As briefly argued in my summary, this analysis has led me to conclude
his pattern of behaviour as a politician can be explained by modern
theories on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In my view, Hitler's behaviour during the Campaign in France in May
June 1940 can be characterized as "ritual acts of obsession". He was
clearly more interested in visiting the battlefields of World War 1 than in
the ongoing World War 2.
His visits can be seen as symbolic "revocations" of both his personal
trauma as well as of the war trauma of Germany. Here he - in his own mind -
again and again received "confirmations" of the "mission", that he believed
"Providence" had invested him with in Pasewalk on November 10, 1918, when
he became blind for the second time and decided to become a politician.
Of course, we cannot know exactly what went on in Hitler's mind when
visited Langemarck, Wervicq, Compiegne, Soissons or Paris. We can only try
to reconstruct his feelings from what he did and said afterwards - and
compare these deductions with an over-all picture of his psychology and
pattern of behaviour.
For a number of reasons - some of them are very briefly presented in
summary - this analysis has made me suggest a very precise chronology with
three key moments:
a) Hitler's final approval of "Der ewige Jude" on May 20, 1940, as the
moment, which provoked the Holocaust decision.
b) Hitler's visit to Wervicq on June 1, 1940, as the moment, where he
the Holocaust decision.
c) The official capitulation of France on June 22, 1940, as the moment,
where he invested Himmler with the responsibility for carrying out the
I am well aware of the fact that this chronology seems to be in severe
conflict with the explanatory frame-works which have evolved from many
years of intense scholarly debate on the issue.
The debate between "intentionalists" and "functionalists" has largely
based on written evidence. An over-all explanation must, however, also be
able to account for all kinds of available evidence, including non-written
sources like "Der ewige Jude", which until to-day has hardly been included
in this debate.
As I see it, the explanation suggested here integrates both
"intentionalist" and "functionalist" arguments. The main difference from
most other approaches and explanations is to be found in my shift of focus.
I am from arguing from an analysis of the process of creating and
developping a genocidal mentality instead of arguing from the development
of the executive system that carried out the mass-murder:
By means of "produced reality" Goebbels intended to make Hitler take
ultimate decision to get rid of the Jews - and Hitler primarily used a
"functionalist" strategy to have his decision carried out by willing
executioners and accepted by the by-standers.
The explanatory model behind my point-of-view is a still more impatient
Fuehrer, a Heinrich Himmler, who remains reluctanct as much as he could and
as long as he dared - and an eager subordinate, Reinhard Heydrich, who
became the real architect behind the "Final Solution".
A test of the validity of my explanation would be my date of Hitler's
to Himmler on June 22, 1940. I have tried to find conclusive evidence to
refute this early date. But to me, it seems, that all written sources which
have been used as arguments for a later date can just as well be
interpreted as evidence for the "twisted road of implementation".
In fact, there is even one - although highly disputed - source in support
of the chronology suggested here. Himmler's masseur, Felix Kersten,
relates, that Himmler got the order from Hitler "immediately after the
capitulation of France" - and that Himmler explicitly blamed Goebbels as
the person who had made Hitler take the decision.
As I see it, this testimony matches exactly my conclusions concerning
role of Goebbels, who used "Der ewige Jude" as his means to make Hitler
take the ultimate decision.
"Der ewige Jude" was, however, not released immediately to the public.
awaited the final cut of the feature film "Jew Suss", which also was part
of the anti-Semitic propaganda package.
The emotions, created by this film, was then to be "proven" by the power
the visuals in the other, "authentic film-document".
While "Jew Suss" had its opening night during the film festival of Venice
on September 6, 1940, "Der ewige Jude" was shown to the top people of the
Third Reich and members of the press two days later. On this occasion
Goebbels used the film as a concrete demonstration of the new kind of war
propaganda, which should impress the coming radicalization of the war upon
When "Der ewige Jude" finally had its opening night on November 28,
the director of the film - Fritz Hippler - stressed the fact that the film
was to be seen as the verification of Hitler's "prophecy" from 1939. In an
interview, broadcasted all over Germany, Hippler ended by quoting this
prophecy after having pointed out that the premise - the war - had become
On January 30, 1941 (i.e. just after "Der ewige Jude" had been shown
over Germany) Hitler once more reminded his audience in a broadcasted
speech, how he had always been right in his earlier "prophecies". Then for
the first time since 1939 - but many more similar, almost verbatim
quotations were to follow - he recalled his "prophecy" of the annihilation
of the Jews.
In doing so, the "Fuehrer" virtually gave his oral, public affirmation
the call for genocide expressed and legitimized in the film, "Der ewige
Jude". Especially as he now claimed to have made the "prophecy" at the very
outbreak of the war. And the pictures from Der ewige Jude were the dreadful
images of the "inhumanity" of the Jews that the members of the "Master
Race" were expected to recall when they heard these speeches - thus leaving
it up to them to implement the "prophecy".
By using this subtle way of conveying his Will as a distant "Fuehrer-God",
Hitler followed the strategy, he himself had outlined on November 10, 1938
(the 20th Anniversary of his traumatic experience in Pasewalk), while
commenting upon the Pogrom the night before:
Now issues of foreign policy - which in Hitler's mind would also include
the "Jewish Question" - should "be presented in such a way that the
conviction would gradually and totally automatically evolve in the minds of
the broad masses; What one cannot solve benignly, one has to solve with
violence because it cannot go on like that."
Joseph Goebbels was present that night. And - as I hope to have
demonstrated to you - there is no doubt in my mind, that he was the one,
who lit the flames of the Holocaust by means of the "produced reality" of
"Der ewige Jude".
I thank you very much for your attention!
THE ROLE OF "PRODUCED REALITY" IN THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
WHICH LED TO THE HOLOCAUST
Stig Hornshoj-Moller, Copenhagen, Denmark
The paper contains a core summary of my Danish book FORERMYTEN. ADOLF
HITLER, JOSEPH GOEBBELS OG HISTORIEN BAG ET FOLKEMORD (The Fuehrer-Myth.
Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and the History Behind a Genocide), Tiderne
Skifter, Copenhagen 1996, 423 pages. A key source for this study is the
source-critical German edition of Joseph Goebbels' anti-Semitic film "The
Eternal Jew": "DER EWIGE JUDE". QUELLENKRITISCHE ANALYSE EINES
ANTISEMITISCHEN PROPAGANDAFILMS. Institut fur den Wissenschaftlichen Film,
Gottingen 1995. 349 pages.
The paper suggests a new interpretation and a new chronology of the
ultimate decision-making process to launch the Holocaust, based on two
different, very complex frame-works of conceptual analysis:
A source-critical/semiotic approach, analyzing "produced reality" as an
independent, self-enforcing factor in the decision-making process and
evaluating its significance for the "social construction of reality" of
Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels - and a psychological approach, using
modern theory on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as an explanation of
Hitler's pattern of behaviour as the "Fuehrer".
The basic assumption behind my research is the conception that a decision
to kill other human beings ultimately is taken by a human being - the
fundamental question thus being: How and why is the empathy towards fellow
human beings removed in the decision-makers, the perpetrators and the
Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and other instigators of the Holocaust were
human beings, too. Therefore, if one wishes to try to evaluate the
complexity of interrelated factors and structures that shaped their
genocidal mentality and removed empathy towards their victims, one has in
principle to use an integrated, interdisciplinary approach, where the
choice of theory, methodology and sources is defined by the specific issue
in question of the empirical research.
The sociological theorem of "the social construction of reality" consists
of both imagery (pictures) and words. However, the social (re-)construction
of reality in a scientific context nevertheless still primarily consists of
words. The significance of the non-verbal part - especially of imagery -
has often disregarded, partly because it is both difficult and
time-consuming to reconstruct with just some kind of certainty. From my
point-of-view, this non-verbal side has not received the attention it ought
to with regards to the history of the Third Reich, where "the social
production of reality" by means of visual media, like photos and films,
played a well-documented role in establishing and transferring Nazi world
view to the German society. And although it is well-known that vision was
the most important sense for Adolf Hitler and that he reacted very
emotionally to what he saw - many of his decisions were taken suddenly and
often took the people around him by surprise (e.g. when he decided the
Anschluss immediately after having visited the grave of his mother, or when
he decided to write Stalin a personal letter immediately after having seen
him in a news-reel etc.) - I have found no systematic analysis of a
possible relation between decisions, taken by Hitler personally, and his
experiences (i.e. what he had seen) just before taking such decisions.
I have, therefore, included film, photos, art, architecture, music etc. as
sources in principle equal to written evidence in my attempt to disclose
the psychological pattern behind his way of making decisions, which I
believe can be explained as a case of PTSD.
Empirical findings and interpretation
Adolf Hitler certainly was a psychopath, but even psychopaths act according
to their individual social construction of reality, which is formed and
expressed according to the cultural codes of society. Socially, he remained
his whole life a distant "on-looker" with conspicious autistic features -
e.g. his ritualized behaviour, his interest in dates and his very own logic
of visual associations.
When Adolf Hitler lost his eyesight for the second time within a month on
November 10, 1918, his military psychiatrist described him as suffering
from "hysteria, caused by a shell-shock" (generally regarded as the
contemporary diagnosis for PTSD). Hitler, however, later conjured it as the
moment where "Providence" had "invested" him with his "mission" - and he
often referred to an "inner voice" which told him what to do. In accordance
with modern research on PTSD I have discerned between two different Egos:
The original, almost infantile "Adolf" and a new, which evolved as a
consequence of his traumatic experience and - contrary to the original Ego
- had an extrovert character. This new Ego, which he himself called "Wolf",
was basically constituted by those "strategies of survival" that he had
collected from the world of Wagnerian operas before the traumatic
experience in Pasewalk. Due to his earlier, introvert life these
"strategies of survival" happened to be the only ones, he had
Through a psycho-dynamic process - which I have reconstructed in great
detail in my Danish book - this new Ego was transformed into the person,
that we to-day see and identify as the "Fuehrer". Different personal
experiences - political meetings and propaganda, visits to Bayreuth, pieces
of art (especially by Franz von Stuck), films, photos, Weber's opera "Der
Freischutz" and last, but not least Richard Wagner - enabled Adolf Hitler
to put both images and words to his new identity as the fanatical
politician, which he himself described at length in "Mein Kampf". In my
book I have also argued in great detail, how he continued to perceive
certain specific experiences as self-enforcing "confirmations" of his
self-imposed role as a new "Messias".
A "Fuehrer-Myth" was shaped during 1930's due to the impact of
event-making and mass-media, which both got still more pseudo-religious
connotations. It affected not only German society, but also the way Adolf
Hitler himself looked upon his own societal role as "Fuehrer". However,
even in his behaviour as "Fuehrer" he continued to be a person with
distinct autistic features, who primarily conceived himself as an
intermediary of "Providence" (i.e. his "inner voice"). I have found
confirmation of this point-of-view in a comprehensive analysis of the look
in his eyes in numerous film-documents, where I have compared occasions
where he speaks or acts as the "Fuehrer" with more private situations. Just
before he begins to speak, his eyes become "staring" in a most peculiar way
within less than a second - and it really does seem, as if he does not know
what he is saying, when he has got himself into this kind of "hysterical
During the first year of the war, Hitler perceived more such
"confirmations" of his "mission" of establishing a "Thousand Years' Reich"
from the surrounding world: Astonishing victories and an escape from a
bomb-attack. Another "confirmation" occurred on May 20, 1940, when German
troops reached the English Channel. It was Hitler himself, who had chosen
the strategy, that made the capitulation of France just a matter of time.
The very same night the "Fuehrer" gave his final approval to an
anti-Semitic propaganda film, which he had seen (and turned down) several
times - and the next day he talked about attacking Soviet Russia for the
first time. Just a mere coincidence?
"Der ewige Jude" was made by Joseph Goebbels and can only be interpreted
as the personal advocacy of the Minister of Propaganda to the Fuehrer for a
radical solution as the ultimate logical consequence of Hitler's own
anti-Semitism. According to the rolling titles at the beginning of "Der
ewige Jude", it was a "film document" which "shows us Jews the way they
really are, before they conceal themselves behind the mask of the civilized
European." Shehitah - deliberately staged as cruelty to animals - was used
as the emotional climax and presented as "original footage", belonging to
the "most dreadful ever recorded by a camera". The film "justfied" its use
by one argument: By means of seeing for themselves the German citizens (as
well as the Fuehrer himself) would - and should - at last "comprehend the
truth of Jewry". And according to the commentary - read by the
authoritative speaker of the Newsreels - "these pictures prove the cruelty
of this form of slaughter. They reveal the character of a race which
conceals its brutality beneath the cloak of pious religious practices."
Therefore, the repeated screenings of the film - being Adolf Hitler's (a
lovers of animal and a fanatical vegetarian) only concrete confrontation
with Jews after his visit to the ghetto of Lodz on September 20, 1939 - can
hardly have done anything else but to have put him under psychological
pressure to adhere to his own "prophecy" of January 30, 1939, which in the
film was presented as the "solution" to the Jewish problem. (It should be
noted, that in 1940 no visual representation of the Fuehrer in film or on
photos was allowed without his specific approval. Moreover, the premise of
his "prophecy" - war - had become a reality, a fact, which was stressed in
the promotion of the film, when it finally had its opening night on
November 28, 1940).
This externalization of Hitler's own "social reconstruction of reality"
was produced by somebody else, Goebbels, and claimed to "prove" the "true
character of the Jews" in a pseudo-scientific way and in a "reality-like"
medium. Psychologically, it cannot have acted but as the final legitimation
of Hitler's own hatred to the Jews. At least, he now personally approved
the film for public screening and thus endorsed its fateful quotation of
his "prophecy". To the world, the climax of this film was to be understood
as the Fuhrer's unspoken yet incontrovertible Sentence of Death upon the
Jews. And yet, from Adolf Hitler's psychopathic point of view it was not
him, but "Providence" that had "commanded" the extermination of Evil: He
was just a "tool", which continued to "confirm" in his role as "Saviour".
A lot of evidence exists to show how Adolf Hitler was much more interested
in visiting his own battlefields of WW I than in the ongoing Battle of
Dunkerque. These visits can be seen as symbolic "revocations" of his
personal war trauma (as well as of Germany's), because here he could
witness with his own eyes, how he - by means of war - had accompliced the
first part of his task of creating a new and powerful Germany, which he had
set out to do during his traumatic experience in Pasewalk. On June 1, 1940,
Hitler was celebrated by his soldiers as a victorious "Fuehrer-God" at
Langemarck - the key symbol for the fallen German soldiers in WW I, which
even had the same memorial day as he himself: November 10. The newsreel
report and the fotos present this event as a kind of "resurrection". Hitler
then paid a visit to La Montagne near Wervicq, where he had lost his
ability to see in October 1918. The next day he told General von Rundstedt,
that he hoped England would soon "come to its senses", so that he could
commence his "real task" and march against "Bolshevik Russia".
If one accepts the notion of e.g. Yehuda Bauer, that the war against the
Soviet Union from Hitler's point of view was a war against the Jews, this
remark could be the first evidence of a decision, taken at Wervicq. A more
important piece of evidence would be a secret "Fuehrer-decree" of June 5,
1940, which made it possible to cancel all German laws representing legal
obstacles to total warfare. This move can hardly have been justified by the
second phase of the campaign in France, but must be seen in connection with
a decision in principle of the attack on Soviet Russia. And on June 6
Hitler gave his new FHQ the symbolic name "Wolfsschlucht", referring to the
German national opera "Der Freischutz" by Carl Maria von Weber, where the
Wolf's Gorge is both a symbol of German spirit and the setting around a
Faustian pact with the Devil. A week later (he had just approved the
newsreel on Langemarck and heard of the surrender of Paris) he gave his
next FHQ in Southwest Germany the name of "Tannenberg", thus clearly
indicating a campaign against Soviet Russia as his next step in the war.
Driving back to the "Wolfsschlucht" after the "re-vocation" of the
armistice of WW1 in Compiegne on June 21, Hitler visited the site near
Soissons where he had been awarded his Iron Cross 1st Class - his personal
"token" - by his Jewish superior officer, Hugo Gutmann (and where he soon
was to install a new FHQ, which he called "Wolfsschlucht 2"). Then - on the
evening of June 22, 1940 - he received the official capitulation of France.
>From a psychological point of view this would have acted as the final
"confirmation" to Hitler of his "pact" with "Providence", which would make
him carry out the decision taken at Wervicq and by oral order install
Heinrich Himmler with the task of annihilating all European Jews.
Despite extensive research I have found no conclusive evidence to refute
such an early date of a direct order to Himmler, which I have deduced from
an analysis of Hitler's traumatic pattern of behaviour and a content
analysis of "Der ewige Jude". As I see it, all written sources which have
been used as arguments for a later date can just as well be interpreted as
evidence regarding a "twisted road" of implementation, following an
explanatory model with a still more impatient Fuehrer, a reluctant Himmler
and an eager subordinate, Reinhard Heydrich. There is even one - although
highly disputed - source, namely Himmler's masseur Felix Kersten, who
relates, that Himmler got the order from Hitler "immediately after the
capitulation of France" - and that Himmler explicitly blamed Goebbels as
the person who had made Hitler take the decision. This testimony would
match my conclusions concerning "Der ewige Jude" as an X-ray of the
decision-making process, where the "produced reality" of the film became
part of the "social construction of reality" within both decision-makers
and perpetrators (cf. Goebbels' own reaction to the rushes with ritual
slaughter on October 16, 1939: "This Jewry must be annihilated").
On January 30, 1941 (i.e. just after the public screening of "Der ewige
Jude" all over Germany) Hitler once more reminded his audience in a
radio-broadcasted speech, how he had always been right in his earlier
"prophecies". Then for the first time since 1939 - but many more similar,
almost verbatim quotations were to follow - he recalled his prophecy of the
annihilation of the Jews. In doing so, the "Fuehrer" virtually gave his
oral, public affirmation of the call for genocide expressed and legitimized
in the film, especially as he now claimed to have said it at the very
outbreak of the war: It was the dreadful images of the "inhumanity" of the
Jews that the members of the "Master Race" were expected to recall when
they heard these speeches - thus leaving it up to them to implement the
By using this subtle way of conveying his Will as a distant "Fuehrer-God",
Hitler followed the strategy, he had himself outlined on November 10, 1938
(the 20th Anniversary of his traumatic experience in Pasewalk), while
commenting upon the Pogrom the night before: Now issues of foreign policy -
which in Hitler's mind would also include the "Jewish Question" - should
"be presented in such a way that in the brain of the broad masses would
gradually and totally automatically evolve the conviction: What one cannot
solve benignly, one has to solve with violence because it cannot go on like
Joseph Goebbels had heard his "Fuehrer-God" and lit the flames of the
Holocaust by means of the "produced reality" of "Der ewige Jude".
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