Essay on background, reasoning, methodology, thesis and documentation
my Danish book on the decision making process that led to the Holocaust
The cornerstone for the whole approach in my book is the source-critical
edition of the notorious anti-Semitic propagandafilm "The Eternal Jew"
which was published late 1995 by the Institute for the Scientific Film in
Gottingen, Germany. In this I carefully described the production history,
the distribution history and the effects of the film on the audience. The
main section of the book contains a frame-to-frame analysis on several
a) Identification of - as well as an evaluation of the authenticity of -
its 712 clips
b) Description of the manipulation of the film through the way it was
shot, cut and commented by the narrator
c) A semiotic analysis of how the many different topics as ideological
signs and codes in the film reflected the contemporary Nazi view of the
Jews, acting as "visual proof" of Nazi anti-Semitic conceptions (because it
allegedly was left to the individual on-looker to draw the conclusions of
what he or she saw with their own eyes)
Film-historians had, at that time, for long claimed that the film was
as a deliberate advocacy for mass-murder, but most historians had never
taken notice of this claim. The main reason for disregarding this notion
was that for pure chronological reasons (the film was produced and shown in
1940) it did not match the general opinion among historians that the final
key decision for a radical final solution of the "Jewish question" was
taken sometime during the year of 1941.
Through my detailed analysis I, therefore, at first tried to prove that
there was no positive evidence to support the claim of those
film-historians who had based their claim on an internal analysis of "Der
ewige Jude" and the feature film "Jew Suss" (also produced and shown in
1940 as part of an anti-Semitic film campaign). It seemed reasonable to
believe that their analytical deductions were influenced by their knowledge
of the Holocaust that followed. This was still my opinion when I - together
with David Culbert - published an article in Historical Journal of Film,
Radio and Television vol. 12, 1, 1992 (pp. 41-68): 'Der ewige Jude'
Joseph Goebbels' unequaled monument to anti-Semitism.
However, while writing this article I had already difficulties with the
verification of my original hypothesis - and as Ilan Avisar rightfully
pointed out in the next number of the journal: We had in this article not
drawn the conclusions of the film itself (the actual reason for this
omission originally being the forthcoming source-critical edition). I found
still more and more evidence on many different levels which supported the
claim that "Der ewige Jude" was intended to legitimize the systematic
annihilation of the Jews. And it became to me that I had to change my
hypothesis and had to accept that the chronology reconstructed by some of
the world's leading historians could be wrong. I began instead to look for
more evidence which could verify that this film had had an important
function in the very decision-making process itself that led to the
It happened during the genocidal fighting over East Slavonia (Ossiek
Vukuvar) and what I saw in the program mix on both sides was exactly the
same kind of propaganda mix that was presented to the German public in the
cinemas in 1939-1941. The programmes proved to me, beyond any doubt, how
the presentation of an "inhumane" enemy formed that genocidal mentality
which - according to the book by Robert J. Lifton and Eric Markusen:
"Genocidal Mentality" (1990) - is a neccesary condition for perpetrators to
be able to commit genocide. The only difference between "The Eternal Jew"
and Serbian and Crotian presentation of "reality" was that mutilated human
bodies were used instead of ritual slaughtering as "proof" of this
inhumanity - and that the call for genocidal behaviour in these programmes
was not quite so outspoken as it was in "The Eternal Jew". This notion has
later been substantially supported by several studies of the role of the
media in the genesis of genocidal killing in Former Yugoslavia.
I consequently had to accept the film as a mirror of a deliberate decision
by Adolf Hitler and started to develop a new chronology in the
decision-making process based on the production and distribution history of
"The Eternal Jew" as well as its propaganda-twin "Jew Suss". The socalled
"documentary" of "The Eternal Jew" was initiated and produced by Joeseph
Goebbels himself, but it was shown several times to Hitler, who each time
ordered new changes, before he finally approved it for public screening.
This process has me made characterize the film "an X-ray of the actual
The Polish authorities rejected German filming in Polish ghettos, but
during the Campaign in Poland this obstacle disappeared, and the German
Newsreels began to have Jewish topics. After having approved the UFA 474
(which had a longer story on Polish ghettos) on October 4, 1939, Goebbels
ordered his chief of the filmproduction within the Ministry of Propaganda,
Fritz Hippler, to go to Poland to film Jews in the ghettos, Jewish service
in the synagogue and ritual slaughtering: "That must be the (unreadable
word) anti-Semitic propaganda, one can think of." The next day Goebbels had
another meeting with Hippler and Eberhard Taubert - an expert on
anti-Semitism - where he himself outlined the contents of such a
"documentary" film: "It should be a first-class propaganda film".
Fritz Hippler went to Lodz and filmed according to his master's wishes,
including ritual slaughtering which was deliberately staged as cruelty to
animals. When Goebbels saw half-an-hour of the rushes from this event, he
wrote in his private diary: "The Jewry has got to be annihilated" (Entry
from October 17, 1939) - and the film-production thereafter can only be
conceived as his personal effort, as an adviser, to convince and to compell
the Fuehrer to implement the ultimate consequence of the Fuehrer's own
ideology (just as Hitler himself had "prophezised" publicly in his notorius
speech on January 30, 1939: "If the international Jewish financiers in and
outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a
world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevizing of the earth, and
thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in
Hitler finally approved the film on May 20, 1940 - the day when German
troops reached the English Channel and thus in reality sealed the destiny
of France. This event was - as I see it - conceived by Hitler as a
confirmation by Fate of his "godgiven mission". Already the next day he
spoke to general Halder of his next goal: Soviet Russia. (As Yehuda Bauer
and others have conncluded from quite different sources than I have used,
Hitler's warfare must be understood as his personal war against the Jews
where the war against "Jewish-Bolshevik Russia" was the foreign policy
component and the killing of the rest of European Jewry the component of
internal policy). Hitler, however, needed more external confirmation from
Fate in order to be able to take such an atrocious decision.
For psychological reasons (cf. my explanatory analysis for his probable
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder further down) it must have been here (or
immediately after) that Hitler took the decision to embark upon the final
phase of his war against the Jews. At least, there is concrete evidence
that he once more talked about attacking Russia the very next day - and his
behaviour during the following days clearly supports such a claim from a
semiotic point of view. E.g. on June 5 he issued a secret decree which
legitimized the possibility of calling a state of legal emergency (the
decree was renewed twice - on December 20, 1940, and again on May 15, 1941
- both in clear connection with tne launch of "Operation Barbarossa").
Another semiological argument is the name "Wolfsschlucht" which Hitler gave
to his new headquarter on June 6. It derives from the opera "Der
Freischutz" by Carl Maria von Weber, the German national opera. In this
opera the "Wolfsschlucht" is both an well-known allegory of Germany and the
scene of a Pact with the Devil (who has a Jewish name). I am arguing in my
book why and how this opera helped Hitler in the early 1920's to find his
identity after the war trauma (cf. further down).
After having acted like a mute God in Compiegne on June 21, 1940, Hitler
visited the place near Soissons, where he got his Iron Cross 1st Class -
which obviously acted as a token for him - on the way back to the
Wolfsschlucht. From a psychological point of view it is therefore
reasonable to claim that when he had received another "concrete"
confirmation from Fate - the formal capitulation of France the next day
(June 22, 1940, exactly one year before the attack on Soviet Russia) - he
called upon Himmler and gave him an oral order to be responsible for the
extermination of European Jewry. Is Felix Kersten to be trusted, Himmler
rejected at first, but then he accepted the assignment due to his loyalty
to the Fuehrer. Himmler apparently delegated it to Heydrich - who did not
have the same kind of moral scruples as Himmler - to start planning. To me
Heydrich's letter to Ribbentrop on June 24 could be seen as the first
In the meantime Hitler visited Paris and Napoleon's grave where he -
see it - symbolically took over the task of fighting Russia. After having
visited more old battlefields from WW 1 he left "Wolfsschlucht" on June 28,
1940 - the anniversary of the Versailles Treaty - and left for the next
headquarter in Germany, which he had already named "Tannenberg". No member
of the general staff could misinterpret this meaning of this symbolic name.
It could only signifie that the next phase of the war would be a campaign
against Russia and the general staff started planning such a campaign all
by itself without a specific order. According to Albert Speer Hitler also
explicitly talked about Russia with Keitel before leaving the
"Wolfsschlucht" that day.
In this part of the research I have used a holistic, mainly semiotic
analyzing, because it soon became clear to me that what set such decisions
in train was what Hitler just had experienced, i.e. what he just had seen.
This importance of this notion is also confirmed by the many psychological
portraits of Adolf Hitler that have been published by leading scholars, but
contrary to these studies which focuses more on a description of the
different features of his personality, I have used chronology as my main
structure, asking the simple question: what had he just experienced before
making a specific decision?
Just one example to show the viability of such an approach. It is
well-known that Adolf Hitler wrote a surprising personal letter to Stalin
on August 20, 1939, an act which by all historians is considered to be the
very reason for Stalin's quick acceptance of the German offer of a pact
between the two ideological enemies. I asked myself why that day and not
one day before or one day after? The reason turned out to be as simple as
it was stunning and also elucidating for Hitler's behaviour: That afternoon
he was watching newsreels from all over the world, including one from
Russia with Stalin in a close-up during a parade. He then asked to see the
Russian newsreel once more and studied Stalin very carefully. Then he left
the audience without a word - and wrote the letter to Stalin. That it
really was the film that motivated the letter is confirmed by an entry in
Goebbels' diary from March 15, 1940, where he and Hitler discussed Russia:
"The Fuhrer saw Stalin in a film and found him immediately sympathetic. At
that moment did the German-Russian alliance really start."
My book is filled with such examples of the intimate relation between
Hitler's visual experiences and well-known political decisions which can be
traced back to Adolf Hitler himself.
Following this theory (which now has been substantiated through scannings
of brains and other physiological research) it would be possible to explain
the gap between Hitler as Fuhrer and Hitler in private which has confused
many historians. One could say that the new Ego from the traumatic event in
Pasewalk constitutes Hitler's "inner voice" (which he himself often talked
about) and that Mein Kampf is part of his own inner struggle to describe
and come to terms with this "inner voice".
Such an explanation would account for a lot of things. First of all
would explain the change of Hitler after Pasewalk, where he suddenly began
to be extrovert in social relations with others, and no longer stayed in
his own fantasy world. It would secondly explain how he had received all
the components in his ideology from corroborative experiences in his
earlier fantasy world and from key events in his life before Pasewalk when
he had been confronted with the real world in a way which he himself had
conceived as "traumatic". As Brigitte Hamann most recently has pointed out
in her book on "Hitler's Wien", although he had experienced all the
features of anti-Semitism that later became part of his ideology, he was
not a radical anti-Semite, when he left Vienna.
After Pasewalk Hitler went through an identity crisis during which he
to find out what his "inner voice" was telling him, and one can conceive
the time up till "Mein Kampf" as his attempt to describe his new Ego, which
he himself called "Wolf". In my book I am outlining, how Hitler first found
visual confirmation of the political and cultural features of his new role
in society through films, photos and art (especially the painter Franz von
Stuck). Later, he was also able to put describe his new Ego in words in
"Mein Kampf", using a mix of personal experiences and books where he found
confirmation of his new role in life.
Finally I am describing how his Fuhrer-Ego developed into the Fuhrer-Myth
with the help of modern mass-media, especially through the photos of
Heinrich Hoffmann and films like "Triumph of the Will" as well as other
propaganda-films, newsreels and feature films. One could also say, that I
have made a detailed inventory of Hitler's "social reconstruction of
reality" always using chronology as the skeleton for my analysis.
It is obvious that in Hitler's mind the new war (i.e. WW 2) should reverse
the old war (WW 1) and establish the Thousand-Year Reich. From a
psychological point of view he seemed to have been obsessed with this goal
where the extermination of Evil (i.e. the Jews) was the escatological
precondition for achieving this goal.
This observation led me to a semiotic comparison between Hitler's
experiences in WW 1 and his strange behaviour during the Campaign in
France. The later does at first sight not seem to have any kind of logic,
unless one does not accept his actions as a kind of conjuration or
"exorcism": Through ritual visits to important places of WW 1 - both those
with symbolic connotation to Germany like Langemarck and Compiegne and
those with symbolic connotations to himself like Werwicq and the place near
Soissons where he was awarded the Iron Cross 1st Class.
Modern research into PTSD has identified individuals, suffering from
traumas, who in their personality and social background resembled Adolf
Hitler. Some of them believed that the Vietnam war had been lost simply
because they earlier had committed a severe personal sin (which had no
connection with either combat nor the incident that evoked their
PTSD-condition). Therefore they felt forced by their new Ego to do
something in order to atone for their sin and thereby save their country.
These psychological patterns are very much alike the political behaviour
of Adolf Hitler and resemble the way he himself verbally explained his
"mission" after Pasewalk.
According to Gutmann's statement after the war he had promised Hitler
an another soldier the Iron Cross, if they would get a message through
during severe fighting in late May 1918. However, it took two months before
Gutmann was able to fulfill his promise. Hitler got the cross on August 4,
Four days later the German army had to retreat, and at the end of the
Gutmann left the regiment for a post behind the front. The regiment with
Hitler was sent to Belgium, where he was wounded during the night between
October 13 and 14 and temporarily blinded. Then he was sent to Pasewalk,
where he took his decision on November 10, 1918, to become a politician,
because an "inner voice" told him to do so.
Hitler refered to Gutmann only on one single occasion, where he explicitly
singled him out as an example of how German honour had been violated during
WW 1 by Jews bearing the Iron Cross. The date of this reference (November
10, 1941) is crucial, because Hitler had just recalled his notorious
prophecy in a speech and probably also had rebuked Himmler for lack of
efficiency carrying out his order. This date also had other semiotic
connotations to Hitler: Pasewalk 1918, a "prophetic" speech in 1933, the
Reichskristallnacht 1938 and a secret, also "prophetic" speech to the
press, commenting this event and urging propaganda for violence.
I believe that such a rebuke from Hitler on that day was the reason why
Himmler had such severe stomach pains that the latter broke his oath of
secrecy and told Felix Kersten after treatment the following day for the
first time about, how Hitler had given him an order to annihilate the Jews
immediately after the capitulation of France. There are also other signs of
the importance of this date for the implementation of the Holocaust:
Goebbels went public in his weekly "Das Reich" on November 16 with the
notorious leading article "Die Juden sind schuld", while Heydrich started
to prepare the Wannsee-Conference.
There is, however, perhaps an even stronger argument for the importance
Gutmann as the arouser of Hitler's fierce anti-Semitism. It would seem
unlikely that Gutmann would voluntarily lobby for Hitler to be awarded an
Iron Cross, if Hitler had been a strong anti-Semite in Spring 1918 - yet
right from his first known political statement from September 1919 he was.
I have earlier pointed to the significance of the name "Wolfschlucht" which
he called his new FHQ after having visited Werwicq. And that it must have
been here that he gave Himmler the order to be responsible for the
annihilation of the Jews on June 22, 1940. The day before - on the way back
from Compiegne, where he had acted like a mute God in public (it was filmed
for the Wochenschau) - the Fuehrer visited the place near Soissons where he
had got his Iron Cross - and in order to "erase" the memory from WW 1 he
installed a new headquarter here and called it "Wolfsschlucht 2". This move
can be seen as a parallel to the way he removed the memory of his father.
In 1938-42 he destroyed the villages of Strones and Dollersheim where his
father and his grandparents came from and turned them into the biggest
military training area of Western Europe.
From these observations arises the big question about what actually
happened that made Hitler hate Gutmann so much?
One - although unlikely - possibility could be that the Iron Cross was
Hitler's award in return for a homosexual relationship. Gutmann was born in
1880 and was still unmarried in 1918 despite a good financial situation
before the war. He later got married and had two children.
Another - and a much more likely - possibility is the following scenario.
It is well-known that one of the reasons for Hitler's strange relations to
women derived from the lack of one testicle which made him distrust his
manhood. There are nevertheless reasons to believe that he had a sexual
relation to a French woman, Charlotte Lobjoie, in 1917. She got pregnant,
but their relation broke because Hitler's regiment was transfered. Then
Hitler - already having some anti-Semitic dislike - got Gutmann (described
in a recommendation from August 4, 1918, as a very efficient link between
officers and private soldiers, i.e. authoritative) as his immediate
If Gutmann's story is correct (and I believe that it is) - and Hitler
really got the Iron Cross for bravery - Hitler could have started
mistrusting Gutmann because it took two months before it was awarded.
Gutmann was on leave on the "blackiest day in the history of WW 1" four
days later (August 8, 1918), when the German army had to retreat and
shortly after he was tranfered to a post behind the lines, while Hitler
stayed in the frontlines and got wounded etc. From Hitler's childish
fantasy world this succession of experiences might - together with the
anti-Semitic outburst in the German society in November 1918 - be the
reason why he conceived the reception of the Iron Cross from a Jew as his
personal sin to his moral as a German. It all got mixed up in his mind
during the traumatic experience in Pasewalk.
From this approach it becomes evident that the private life of Joseph
Goebbels and his struggle with other top men of the Third Reich to have
Hitler's backing, played a decisive role in the whole proces. There is a
detailed description on the origin of the Reichskristallnacht whose
radicality was closely connected with Goebbels' affair with the actress
Lida Baarova and his attempt to install a "menage a trois" with her and his
wife Magda. It is concluded that the Minister of Propaganda - partly
because of his own radical anti-Semitism, partly as a means for regaining
power - was the decisive instigator of the Holocaust.
Another main topic is the analysis of the executive system, i.e. the
relations between Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich. Although it was Himmler who
was put in charge of the annihilation project, it was clearly Heydrich who
organized it. It is argued that Heydrich competed with Himmler to become
the successor to Hitler, and that while Himmler morally was against the
genocide and was reluctant to carry the order out, Heydrich had no such
scruples. It is also argued that Himmler was promised the highest award in
The Third Reich for the assignment - the physical remainings of Adolf
Hitler after his death - and that he rebuilt the castle Wewelsburg as a
mausoleum for the Fuehrer and the Fuehrer Myth which was to be the "center
of the world".
The book ends with a description of the Wannsee Conference and a short
chapter on the atrocities of the Holocaust itself, using quotations and
well-known pictures which are intended as icons.
The epilogue stresses the importance of Hannah Arendt's famous book on
Eichmann and the notion, that every person acts out of his or her "social
construction of reality". It also underlines the dangers of modern society,
where the construction of reality by the media can lead to the development
and/or a substatiation of a genocidal mentality in the same way as it
happened during the production of "The Eternal Jew".
P.S.: This book is looking for a publisher in English or German. Danish
2 has made a high class documentary series, based on the book, which was
nomineed for the award "Program of the Year".
Return to the H-Holocaust page.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]