Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Hitler’s First Anti-Semitic Writing

From NYT, 3 June 2011:

FRANKFURT — In 1919, a soldier in Munich discovered that he could galvanize small groups of fellow trench warfare veterans with virulently anti-Semitic oratory. A superior officer, impressed with the soldier’s oral skills, asked him to commit his ideas to paper.

Thus came into existence the first written record of Adolf Hitler’s obsessive hostility toward Jews, an embryonic form of the worldview that would later lead to the Holocaust and millions of deaths.

Now, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles has acquired what it believes may be the original version of the document, known as the Gemlich letter. In July, the center plans to put it on public view for the first time, at its Museum of Tolerance, making the letter the centerpiece of its Holocaust exhibit.

The text of the letter is well known to scholars. It is considered significant because it demonstrates just how early in his career Hitler was formulating his anti-Semitic views.

“It is his first written statement about the Jews,” said the historian Saul Friedlander, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his study of the Holocaust. “It shows that this was the very core of his political passion.”

The version of the letter best known to scholars is in an archive in Munich, and news that another copy had made its way to Los Angeles met with some skepticism among historians. The market for Hitler memorabilia is notorious for forgeries.

... Othmar Plöckinger, an expert on early Hitler documents, says it appears that the document acquired by the Wiesenthal Center is the original letter written by Hitler and that the one in Munich is a copy made about the same time...

...Hitler’s ability to hold the interest of his listeners drew him to the attention of a superior officer, Capt. Karl Mayr. When a soldier named Adolf Gemlich, who was doing similar propaganda work for the army in Ulm, wrote asking for a clarification of “the Jewish Question,” Captain Mayr gave Hitler the assignment.

Hitler wrote to Mr. Gemlich that occasional pogroms against the Jews were not enough — the Jewish “race” must be “removed” from Germany as a matter of national policy.

...The document in the state archives in Munich is not the original and is not signed by Hitler, said Johann Pörnbacher, a representative of the archives. He says the archives has no record of where the original is.

Mr. Plöckinger, the historian who examined both versions, said that the copy in the Munich archive corrected some typographical and punctuation errors in the Wiesenthal Center document ... “...structural aspects speak in favor of the authenticity” of the document acquired by the Wiesenthal Center.        The implication is that the signed version in Los Angeles was the letter originally sent to Adolf Gemlich...
Post a Comment