The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

David Irving on 'Ausrotten'


The Context

Let us see exactly what Hitler means by the word "ausrotten" -- the word he uses repeatedly and publicly to describe what he will do to the Jews.

What was Germany's war situation at the time?

By May 26th, 1944, Germany was on the losing side of the war, and was sliding fast. The great Allied offensive had begun in summer 1943; with Italy captured and Germany's air force decimated, Allied bombers were destroying nearly any target they pleased in Europe.

"Toward the end of 1943 at the latest," the now unemployed General Halder would later write, "it had become unmistakably clear that the war was militarily lost." [2]

By May of 1944, the Allied invasion of France was expected at any minute (and D-Day was in fact just two weeks away).

Hitler and the Nazi leaders insisted, even when things were hopeless, that victory would be theirs -- but, in order to secure that victory, the German people would have to fight to the bitter last -- down to the last man, woman, and child. This commitment to total war had been part of Hitler's rhetoric from the beginning, but became more important as the Allied armies approached the German border.

Hitler's May 26th Speech

To establish this fixated suicidal determination in the people, the army, and the officers of the army, required that Nazi leaders convince them that death, and worse, was the price of defeat. Hitler stressed this point over and over. The war may look hopeless, he repeated, but surrender or defeat would mean such utter destruction that the war must be fought at all costs.

To communicate this image of utter destruction, on May 26th, 1944, Hitler painted a vivid picture of what a German loss would mean:

Meine Herren Offiziere, wir stehen in einem Kampf auf Leben und auf Tod. Wenn in diesem Kampf unsere Gegner siegen, würde das deutsche Volk ausgerottet werden. Der Bolschewismus würde Millionen und Millionen und Millionen unserer Intellektuellen abschlachten. Was nicht durch Genickschuß stürbe, würde abtransportiert. Die Kinder höherer Schichten würden wegkommem und beseitigt werden.

In English:

My dear generals, we are fighting a battle of life and death. If our enemies are victorious in this struggle, the German people will be extirpated. The Bolsheviks will butcher millions upon millions of our intellectuals. Those who escape the bullet in the back of the neck will be deported. The children of the upper classes will be taken away and got rid of.

This speech was met with loud applause.

Hitler's aim in this part of the speech was to emphasize the total destruction which awaited defeat, and to make it appear so horrible that no one could do anything but fight to the very end.

And how did Hitler describe this butchery? What word did he choose to underscore the horrible slaughter of millions, to communicate the brutality which awaited the German Volk?

...das deutsche Volk ausgerottet werden.
...the German people are to be extirpated.

"Ausgerottet werden" is the present passive infinitive of the verb "ausrotten."


Recall from the previous page that David Irving had quoted Hitler:

If the Soviet Union should ever succeed in overrunning Germany it will lead to the Ausrottung [1] of the German people.

Because this was the same word used by Hitler to describe his plans for the Jews, Mr. Irving sought to nullify its meaning:

There's that word ("ausrotten"). There is no way that Hitler can mean the physical liquidation of 80 million Germans.

But this is what Hitler meant, excepting the exact figure: the "butchery" of "millions and millions and millions."

Hitler's words, regarding what would happen to a defeated Germany, could have referred to the Holocaust of European Jews with great accuracy. Shall we say that the Holocaust was the butchery of millions and millions, including children, and the deportation of those who survived execution? If Mr. Irving or anyone else wishes to say that, no historian will argue.

Recall that Hitler said repeatedly: [3]

[...] it would not be the Aryan people which would be ausgerottet, but Jewry [...]

[...] the result will not be the Ausrottung of the European races, but the Ausrottung of Jewry in Europe.

Was Irving Unaware?

Mr. Irving has clearly ignored the May 26th speech. But can he claim he was not aware of it?

The answer is no. The translation above is David Irving's.

It is David Irving's translation, from the 1977 edition of his book Hitler's War, p. 631. In fact, it is only thanks to Mr. Irving that Nizkor became aware of this speech at all! [4]

So what are we to make of Mr. Irving's "card index" of Hitler's usages of this word? Perhaps his card index really only applied to the 1930s, and perhaps he somehow overlooked this usage in 1944 (even though he had translated it himself). Or perhaps he will expect us to believe that, despite Hitler's continuing to use the word to refer to the destruction of European Jews throughout the war, [5] he was correct to turn a blind eye to its meaning in this speech.

Did the Meaning Change?

And what are we to make of his claim that "the word ausrotten means one thing now in 1994, but it meant something very different in the time Adolf Hitler uses it"?

Words do change meaning over time, it is true, but German dictionaries tell us that "ausrotten" has not changed at least in this century. [6]

But, since Mr. Irving doubts the dictionaries, it would be interesting to see him try to explain how the word changed meaning between page 51 of the transcript of Hitler's speech and page 53!

On page 53, Hitler says:

Ich habe auch hier eingegriffen, und auch dieses Problem wird nun gelöst werden, wie ich überhaupt sagen muß: der Jude hat als Programm aufgestellt die Ausrottung des deutschen Volks. Ich habe am 1. September 1939 in Deutschen Reichstag erklärt: wenn jemand glaubt, durch einen solchen Weltkrieg die deutsche Nation auszurotten, dann irrt er sich; wenn das Judentum das wirklich arrangiert, dann wird derjenige, der ausgerottet sein wird, das Judentum sein.

In English -- again, the translation is Mr. Irving's, along with the bracketed comment:

If I may say this: the Jews had as their program the extirpation [Ausrottung] of the German people. On September 1, 1939, I announced in the Reichstag, if any man believes he can extirpate the German nation in a world war, he is wrong; if Jewry really tries that, then the one that will be extirpated is Jewry itself.

The other words that he translates "extirpate" are also ausrotten.

As we have seen, he has later explained how Hitler did not mean literal killing of people -- only "emasculation" and so on. So perhaps he can also explain how the meaning changed from the "butchery" of "millions and millions" on p. 51, to "the emasculation of the [Jewish] people as a power factor" on p. 53.

Of course, even if he could explain this, Hitler's other speeches on the ausrotten of the Jewish people would remain.

Or, on the other hand, perhaps he can admit that his theories are wrong, and that Hitler really did speak, publicly, of the extermination of the Jewish race in Europe.


  1. Note that both Shermer's and CODOH's transcription of what Irving said are almost certainly wrong. Irving would know better than to use the verb "ausrotten" as a noun, or to fail to capitalize the noun, "Ausrottung." Because these are transcriptions of spoken text, I am giving Irving the benefit of the doubt, and silently correcting these errors.

  2. Shirer, William, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 1960, pp. 1009-1010.

  3. Please see previous page.

  4. My thanks go out to Nizkor volunteer Laura Finsten for finding and copying the microfilm of Himmler's transcript of Hitler's speech. As Irving's book indicates (p. 883n), it is at the National Archives on microfilm, Microcopy T175, roll 92, pp. 3475 et seq. Nizkor has scanned ten pages of the transcript; the section quoted is on page 51.

    I do not claim that Mr. Irving's translation is perfect; I use it mostly so that no supporter of his can accuse me of mistranslation.

  5. See e.g. Shirer, op. cit., p. 964. Regarding Hitler's 1939 prophecy to the Reichstag, quoted on the previous page, Shirer says "he repeated it five times, verbatim, in subsequent public utterances." Two of those occasions are also quoted on the previous page, once directly above.

  6. See for example the 1906 edition of the Muret-Sanders enzyklopädisches englisch-deutsches und deutsch-englishes Wörterbuch, published in Berlin-Schöneberg by Langenscheidtsche Verlagsbuchhandlung:

    aus-rotten I v/a. (21) b. sep. 1. [...] Volksstämme, Wölfe zc.: to exterminate.


    aus-rotten 1. [...] Tribes or races of people, wolves, etc.: to exterminate.

    Or, Der Sprach-Brockhaus. Deutsches Bildwörterbuch für jedermann, published in Leipzig by F. A. Brockhaus in 1935 (this is the complete entry):

    die Aus rottung, -/-en,
    voellige Vernichtung.


    die Aus rottung, -/-en,
    complete annihilation.

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