The former commandant of the Auschwitz Camp Rudolf Höss, after having been coerced to sign various absurd “confessions” dictated to him by the British after severe torture, testified on 15 April 1946 at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal. Among other things, he claimed that Heinrich Himmler had told him in the summer of 1941 about an order issued by Adolf Hitler to exterminate the Jews of Europe (IMT, Vol. XI, p. 398). This alleged Führerbefehl immediately became the cornerstone of orthodox Holocaust historiography. And for sure, if “it” happened, it must have been ordered by Hitler, and there must exist traces of this order.
During his lifetime, Raul Hilberg was considered by many as the world’s leading orthodox Holocaust scholar. In the first, 1961 edition of his book The Destruction of the European Jews, he wrote that Hitler actually issued two separate orders for the extermination of Europe’s Jews: one for the Einsatzgruppen in the spring of 1941, and another one for the extermination centers shortly after Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. When Hilberg testified as a witness for the prosecution at the first Zündel Trial in 1985, he had to admit during cross-examination that he could not produce any document for either of these orders. He stated instead that he was really referring in the first case to the so-called “Commissars’ Order.” However, this order merely demanded the execution of Jewish-Bolshevik commissars, hence of certain fanaticized Soviet apparatchiks. (See the entry on that order.)
In the second, 1985 edition, Hilberg deleted any reference to a Hitler order to exterminate all Jews. He replaced it with a reference to musings of a German general on having to render harmless “all Bolshevik chieftains and commissars” in the Soviet Union. A second source he quoted is an order eventually issued which mentions nothing about killings. (For details on this, see Mattogno 2021c, pp. 57-62.)
Other historians have been more straight forward to admit that no order for the extermination of the Jews written or authorized by Adolf Hitler has ever been discovered. Popular media frequently suggest that there is a significant amount of material in Hitler’s hand that ordered a vast extermination program. The historical evidence is just the opposite, as the entries on emigration and resettlement clearly demonstrate.
The result of this situation is that many historians presume that the order was transmitted orally or through “winks and nods.” Hilberg, contradicting what he wrote in the first edition of his book, also led the charge in this regard. During a public discussion in 1983, Hilberg tried to explain how this vast program of extermination, spanning an entire continent, encompassing six million victims, and lasting some four years, could have evolved with no order from the very top, and more still: without a centrally developed plan, and without a budget (De Wan 1983):
“But what began in 1941 was a process of destruction [of the Jews] not planned in advance, not organized centrally by any agency. There was no blueprint and there was no budget for destructive measures. They [these measures] were taken step by step, one step at a time. Thus came about not so much a plan being carried out, but an incredible meeting of minds, a consensus mind reading by a far-flung [German] bureaucracy.”
In other words, “Holocaust by mind-reading.” That this is ridiculous in the extreme requires no explanation.
Here are several other historians’ takes on the central issue of the missing “Hitler order”:
“What became known in high Nazi circles as the Fuehrer Order on the Final Solution apparently was never committed to paper – at least no copy of it has yet been unearthed in the captured Nazi documents.” — William Shirer (1960, p. 1256)
“For in the table talk, the speeches, the documents or the recollections of participants from all those years not a single concrete reference of [Hitler] to the practice of annihilation has come down to us. No one can say how Hitler reacted to the reports of the Einsatzgruppen, whether he asked for or saw films or photos of their work, and whether he intervened with suggestions, praise, or blame. When we consider that he ordinarily transformed everything that preoccupied him into rampant speechmaking, that he never concealed his radicalism, his vulgarity, his readiness to go to extremes, this silence about the central concern of his life – involving, as it did in his mind, the salvation of the world – seems all the stranger.” — Joachim Fest (1975, p. 681)
“The process by which total extermination replaced resettlement in Madagascar or ‘the East’ as the so-called final solution of the Jewish question remains unclear. No written order by Hitler for the extermination of the Jews has been discovered, and the evidence of an oral order is only indirect. The chronology of the development of the extermination program is also confused.” — Jeremy Noakes, Geoffrey Pridham (1988, Vol. 2, p. 1136).
“No written document containing or reporting an explicit command to exterminate the Jews has come to light thus far. This does not of course mean that such direct evidence will not appear in the future. In the meantime, the presumption must be that the order or informal injunction to mass-murder Jews was transmitted orally.” — Arno Mayer (1990, pp. 235f.)
“For the want of hard evidence – and in 1977 I offered, around the world, a thousand pounds to any person who could produce even one wartime document showing explicitly that Hitler knew, for example, of Auschwitz. My critics resorted to arguments ranging from the subtle to the sledgehammer (in one instance, literally). They postulated the existence of Fuehrer orders without the slightest written evidence of their existence. […] Of explicit, written, wartime evidence, the kind of evidence that could hang a man, they have produced not one line.” — David Irving (1991, pp. 19f.)
The confusion among orthodox historians facing the fact that no extermination order by Hitler exists, and also no document from any of his subordinates referring to such an order, was demonstrated during two international conferences organized in Europe during the 1980s. At these conferences, the most competent mainstream experts on the Holocaust wrestled aimlessly and unsuccessfully with this issue. Each one of them came up with another “explanation” of when and how “the decision” was made. However, all of them merely pointed at hints and clues, but none of them were able to demonstrate it convincingly to their like-minded colleagues, let alone to skeptics.
The issue has flared up repeatedly in later years, leading to an ever-growing diversity of opinions on the fact that there is still nothing concrete to talk about. It all resembles the fruitless discussion among medieval scholars of Christian theology as to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
It is clear that, for virtually all orthodox scholars, the Hitler Order is an element of faith; despite the fact that we cannot find it, it “must” be there. A rational person would apply Occam’s Razor here – simply put, that the simplest answer is most likely the correct one: The reason why there is no trace of a Hitler order to exterminate Europe’s Jews is: Hitler did not order it!