Little Grey Rabbit's Historical Skepticism Blog

Correction Corner: Richard Breitman on Heinrich Himmler

Posted in Correction Corner, Other Camps by littlegreyrabbit on March 16, 2010

Orthodox Holocaust historians often display an approach reminiscent of the drunk man and the lamp post – they use documents for support, not illumination.  Richard Breitman’s biography of Heinrich Himmler provides a classic example. “Later that month [March 1941] Himmler had occasion to visit Dachau. He noticed that a Jewish prisoner was in the infirmary, which violated an order dating back before the war that ewish prisoners should receive medical attention only if they were indispensable. Himmler now issued an order that all Jews who reported sick should be killed. by the spring of 1941 he had few inhibitions about putting Jews to death.” [1]

The following references are given:

55 Interrogation of Isaak Egon Ochshorn, 14 Sept. 1945, NA RG 238, NO-1934. Ochshorn testified that the Jews in the infirmary “by accident”. discussion of a general prewar order not to treat jews, affidavit of Gerhard Oskar Schiedlausky, 4 March 1947, NA RG 238, NO-2332. Himmler’s new order also in interrogation of Ochshorn.

Reading Ochshorn’s affidavit we see he does indeed describe seeing Himmler in Dachau, March 1941 and giving such an order, during Ochshorn’s short stay there before being transferred Auschwitz.  In fact, we know Ochshorn is mistaken as we now have Himmler’s diary and it shows no visit to Dachau that year (and certainly not in March).  But Professor Breitman didn’t need to consult Himmler’s appointment book to reject this testimony.  In the very same affidavit we see Ochshorn claim that at Dachau:

“The Jews were thrown alive into huge concrete mixers where they were milled into pulp. This material served as street plaster, hence these streets were commonly called “Judenstrasses””[2]

What appears to be a remarkably literal interpretation of the term “blood roads” built near Buchenwald (normally it is assumed they were called blood roads because of the high death rate during construction – although this may just be indignation by intellectuals at having to engage in road works normally undertaken by lower social stratas).  If that was not enough Ochshorn describes seeing the gas chambers at Auschwitz which “looked like a beehive” and gas bombs being thrown in, crematoria adjoining had “many hundreds of ovens”.  He also claims to have seen an official letter giving returns of “sonderbehandelt” persons in one week in October 1942 as over 54 000 (completely unsupported by any post war literature).  According to Ochshorn “I would like to remark that the total figure of 54 287 is absolutely correct, for I remember this figure well. I shall never in my life forget”.  In other words, an affidavit, a sworn statement, without any credibility whatsoever.

Given that the survivor literature is littered with accounts of Jews spending time in hospital and being released back into the labour pool, not least being Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel [hmmmm….], one wonders why Professor Breitman thought that Himmler could have given such an order at all.  But to affirm such an order on such a fantastical statement by someone clearly deranged and in the face of enormous anecdotal and archival evidence to the contrary, is truly mind boggling.

[1] Richard Breitman; The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution, page 159

[2] NO-1934

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