Historical News and Comment
An Open Letter to the President of West Germany
(Translated by R. Clarence Lang)
23 November 1988
The President of the Federal Republic
Richard von Weizsäcker
You have repeatedly expressed yourself publicly on questions pertaining to Germany's history in this century (the first time was in your speech of 8 May 1945 before the West German parliament). The content and tone of your statements shows that you have based them on what is at best a partisan outlook, namely that of the victors of the two world wars. In his pamphlet On Von Weizsäcker's Speech of 8 May 1945 (J. Reiss Verlag, 8934 Grossaitingen, 1985), of which you are no doubt aware, the publicist Emil Maier-Dorn demonstrated this convincingly, providing many examples of this bias. Evidently unimpressed, in the following years you continued, if anything even more stridently, to accuse the German people at almost every opportunity. Finally you even thought it necessary to provide the historians attending the 37th Historians' Conference in Bamberg with guidelines, so to speak, for treating the Auschwitz problem, which has been the object of scholarly discussion for at least the past decade. Can it be that you are unaware of Article 5, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law, which guarantees freedom in scholarship, research, and instruction? The applause for your unqualified and utterly biased remarks from our enemies in the world wars, and from a West German mass media which evidently still follows their orders, should have reminded you of a saying of Bismarck, who once remarked that when his enemies praised him, he had doubtless committed a blunder.
Unfortunately, Maier-Dorn had to omit from his pamphlet any treatment of your statements on the question of the extermination of the Jews, since the official version of this is in his words "legally protected" in West Germany. Although this is not entirely correct, Maier-Dorn's assessment is on the mark insofar as a justice system undoubtedly subject to political pressure, and thus not independent, manipulates the facts and the law to prosecute and otherwise harry those who doubt or even contest the annihilation of the Jews in alleged "gas chambers" in so-called "extermination" camps. This phenomenon is no doubt a unique one in the history of justice.
Now, however, an event which took place about six months. ago has forced a rethinking of the official history. The defense in the trial of Ernst Zündel, a German-Canadian, in Toronto, Canada submitted expert testimony by the American gas-chamber expert Fred A. Leuchter (as is well known, executions are still carried out in gas chambers in certain states of the U.S.A.) according to which those places at Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Majdanek which were identified by alleged eyewitness as gas chambers could not have functioned as such. This expert study, which has meanwhile become famous around the world, can in the future no longer be ignored by any serious historian with a claim to scholarly objectivity. Besides gas-chamber technology, Leuchter's report deals with the composition and mode of operation of the pesticide Zyklon-B, allegedly used for killing Jews, as well as crematory technology. I specified these questions as urgently in need of clarification for the treatment of the extermination problem as early as 1979, on page 336 of my study Der Auschwitz Mythos, which, significantly, was confiscated at the order of a court which followed directives from higher up. Neither historians nor judges have worried about this state of affairs, not to mention the politicians, including yourself.
Unfortunately the Leuchter report, like everything which could exonerate our nation historically, is passed over in dead silence officially. Therefore I take the liberty to submit this important document in the original English text to you, Mr. President, so that at last you can obtain a clear understanding of things. This text differs from that of the original report only in the omission of chemical analyses performed by the American chemist Professor Roth, whom Leuchter engaged to study the samples he had gathered during his personal inspections at those sites at Auschwitz and Birkenau officially designated as "gas chambers," as well as, for purposes of comparison, at the former delousing chambers. These analyses are included only in summary form (on page 16) in the text of Leuchter's report intended for mass distribution.. Mr. President, now you can acquaint yourself with the most up-to-date, authoritative research on this matter of such consequence to our nation.
I dare say I may assume that thereafter, even if you won't correct your past accusations, you will at least refrain from unjustifiably imposing guilt on our nation in the future. The high office you occupy requires, in conformity with the oath you took on assuming it, that you serve as a protector of the German nation, rather than depriving it of the last bit of political self-confidence. In your speeches you have repeatedly demanded "courage to face the truth," notwithstanding that the "truth" which you proclaimed was already questionable, at the very least, for being so one-sided. Now is the time to demonstrate your own courage to face the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, Mr. President! Otherwise you must later face, with good reason, being reproached for your hypocrisy.
With the regards of a citizen,
15 December 1988
Dear Mr. Stäglich:
The President has asked me to acknowledge receipt of your letter. Clearly you have not yet been able to read his speech at the 37th Historians' Conference in Bamberg in its full context. Neither at Barnberg or on any other occasion has the President expressed himself in favor of the thesis of the German people's collective guilt. He has steadily maintained the exact opposite. As he put it in his address to the German parliament of 8 May 1985, the fortieth anniversary of the end of the war, Guilt, like innocence, is always personal. I have taken the liberty of sending you the text of that speech as well as of the Bamberg speech for your information.
The President of the Federal Republic
Richard von Weizsäcker
You were obliging enough to have Dr. Kuhnhardt answer my letter of 23 November 1988, although in fact a reply was neither required nor expected. I don't know whether the reply of 15 December 1988 embodies your explicit instructions, but in any case its content is entirely beside the point
My letter of 23 November nowhere insinuated that you had ever professed the theory of the German people's collective guilt, but rather objected to your partisan historical views, which, to be frank, must be similar in their effect to the collective guilt theory. My own and, in my opinion, clearly stated purpose was to convince you, in reference to the Leuchter report, which I enclosed, that the version of Auschwitz which you have repeatedly publicized must now at the very least be subjected to verification. For when America's leading gas-chamber expert concludes in his expert report that, after exhaustive on-site investigations, there were no gas chambers capable of mass murder either in Auschwitz or in Birkenau and Majdanek, it appears to me that your statements to the contrary, given out as "irrefutable truth" at the Bamberger Historians' Conference, will in the future be untenable.
The existing Auschwitz story is therefore false! A false version of history, however, as you yourself rightly stressed at the historians' conference, possesses significant "political and moral" importance. We Germans are reminded of this importance every day, whether by the image of the "evil German" incessantly pushed in the mass media, or by the reparations paid to Jews in Israel and throughout the world today and demanded by them for tomorrow, with no end in sight. I need not mention the inferior political status which continues to accrue to us Germans through the division of our people into different states and the theft, presented to us as final, of fie Eastern Territories of the German Reich, which still exists in international law and according to the West German constitution, as the Federal Republic's supreme court has ruled. If we desire a continued national existence (sometimes, hearing our politicians talk, one has doubts about that), it is high time for us to correct false versions of history emanating from the anti-German propaganda arsenal. This, and nothing else, was what I wanted to make clear to you by my letter and the enclosed report.
One scarcely assumes that my letter could be as thoroughly misunderstood as seems to have been the case, judging from the Dr. Kühnhardt's reply. Mr. President, can it be that certain relationships prevent you from even taking notice of those findings which, like the Leuchter report, exonerate Germany? That might well explain Dr. Dr. Kühnhardt's evasive answer. After the Jenninger "affair" such a suspicion seems in no way unfounded, since after his disgraceful dismissal the former president of the Bundestag is said to have told journalists that in this country, on certain issues, you can't call a spade a spade. Not even if it's the truth, Mr. President? In that case, we haven't really made all that much progress in what you never stop glorifying as the "liberation" of 1945!
With the regards of a citizen,
[These letters were originally published in Die Bauernschaft, Nordwind Verlag, Molevej 12, 6430 Denmark.]
From The Journal of Historical Review, Fall 1990 (Vol. 10, No. 3), pages 373-377.