By John Weir
Since the end of World War II a search has continued, and for many has ended with the quarry having eluded its hunters. Some believe what they seek never existed in physical form, but existed nonetheless. It is vitally important that it existed during the war though it has never been located by those chasing it ever since Germany's defeat. Though no one has seen it, circumstances dictate that it must exist. The fabulous item assumed, but never seen, is the order to commence the extermination of Jews.
The logic behind the assumption of a "Hitler order" is that since there was a Nazi program to exterminate Jews, it must have been ordered by someone; and the someone with authority to do it in Nazi Germany was Adolf Hitler. But no such order has ever been found. This being the case, the order must have either been destroyed or issued orally and never committed to paper. Or so the argument goes.
Michael Shermer in his Holotome, Denying History goes into a long, convoluted explanation as to why Hitler resorted to ordering the murder of Europe's Jews without committing the elusive order to paper: It seems he had been pressured by various religious and political organizations into suspending his euthanasia program and didn't want to be embarrassed again by having his signature on a piece of paper in case the same should happen with the "Final Solution."
This explanation for an oral Hitler order is speculative. It also explains nothing since the pressure that was brought to bear to end the killing of disabled Germans had little to do with the fact that the order was written. If no paper order existed, relatives of the victims would still have brought pressure to have it stopped. And Hitler would have still been the logical focus for that pressure -- a paper order bearing his signature would have made no difference.
Countering the need for Hitler to avoid embarrassment would have been the need for those carrying out the order to have a copy of it. An order is more than an command to do something. It confers the authority to a subordinate to fulfill the instructions given him by his superior. It also identifies who is responsible for the order along the chain of command and whether this person has the authority to issue it.
A German housewife during the war needed papers in the form of coupons in order to purchase butter or almost anything else. When she had run out of coupons she could not buy any more butter. People needed papers when traveling, or working. Nazi Germany was a top-down bureaucracy where paperwork was needed to do nearly everything. When anyone wanted to do something out of the ordinary, permission would have to be requested from the proper authorities who would then issue the proper papers granting permission. Yet this pattern is broken with the extermination of the Jews and no viable explanation as to why this is the case has ever been offered.
Written orders to kill Jews under Nazi control would have to have been issued. There is no way around it since issuing an oral command would have created its own consequences. Such consequences would have been as obvious in the historical record as any written order. For example, any time someone with any authority passed through Auschwitz or Treblinka or any of the "extermination camps" he would have asked what the meaning of the pyres piled high with dead bodies was. Such a visitor would ask to see the order which granted the camp administration the power and authority to wantonly kill camp inmates. When those in charge could not produce such documentation, because the order was oral, the requester would naturally have written to Berlin to request confirmation. Berlin would have to respond. One would expect to find hundreds of such letters if the extermination camps were operating on oral authorization. These queries and requests for verification would have produced a paper trail which would have survived the war since copies of this correspondence would have proliferated as they made their way through the Nazi bureaucracy in duplicate and triplicate.
One line of argument used to explain the void in documents relating to the Holocaust is that the order to kill the Jews along with other documents relating to the extermination program were destroyed by the Nazis in order to hide their crimes. This too is unlikely since it would have been nearly impossible to keep track of all of these documents. In addition, Allied intelligence agents had infiltrated the Nazi government and were intercepting coded German communications. The enemies of the Nazi Germany would have leaked these to the Allies long before the end of the war. Those implementing the orders would have had a strong incentive not to destroy these orders since these could be used in their defense in the event of their prosecution for war crimes.
For these and other reasons the "verbal command from Hitler" explanation is not credible. Rather it is an example of circular logic. Like Alice's plum cake in Through the Looking Glass which she had to distribute before she could cut it, one has to start with the conclusion that there was a Nazi policy to exterminate the Jews before determining that a Hitler order must exist: There was an extermination program therefore there was an order to initiate it. Since no order has been found, an explanation for why the order is missing was created as a substitute to support the conclusion of an extermination program which was really assumed in the first place.
Such thinking is clearly backwards. Since no order has been found, and one would be needed to initiate an extermination program as government policy, logic dictates that there was no extermination program. Our conclusion must follow our premise. Holocaust authors like Michael Shermer argue that evidence for the extermination program comes by way of a missing Hitler order. That the order was either given orally or destroyed can be concluded since the extermination program existed. Refusing our piece of plum cake, revisionists simply note that no order was issued because it would have been located if such an order existed. Since none has been found, the conclusion is inescapable: There was no policy to exterminate Jews by the Nazi government.
1) From Through the Looking Glass Chapter VII:
'I'm sure I don't know,' the Lion growled out as he lay down again. 'There was too much dust to see anything. What a time the Monster is, cutting up that cake!'
Installed: 07/27/98, 1: 00 AM, PST