German civilians, old men, women, children, no one knows how many, maybe a half million, city was full of refugees, were burned. by British fire bombs on a non Military target, then strafed with USA machine guns from USA planes as the terrified survivors gathered in cleared areas safe from some of the all encompassing fires, like community parks.
Wilhelm Höttl and the Elusive ‘Six Million’
by Mark Weber
So ingrained has the Six Million figure become in the popular consciousness that while the average American may be quite sure that six million Jews were slaughtered by the Germans in the Second World War — that is, in what is now called “the Holocaust” — he has no idea of how many British, Poles, Russians, or even Americans died during that global conflict, or, for that matter, of how many of his fellow countrymen lost their lives in the American Civil War.
This is hardly surprising, considering how relentlessly the Six Million figure is hammered into the public consciousness, not only in newspapers, magazines, motion pictures, and television, but also routinely in our schools, and even by a special taxpayer-funded U.S. federal government agency, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, which runs the imposing U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.
The familiar World Book Encyclopedia tells readers, for example: “By the end of 1945, the Nazis had slaughtered more than 6 million Jewish men, women and children — over two-thirds of the Jews in Europe.” / 1 German president Richard von Weizsäcker, in his much-cited commemorative speech of May 8, 1985, spoke of “the six million Jews who were murdered in German concentration camps.” Anglo-Jewish historian Martin Gilbert, a prolific writer who is also the “official” biographer of Winston Churchill, has referred to “the systematic murder of six million Jews.” / 2 The Encyclopaedia Judaica states flatly: “There can be no doubt as to the estimated figure of some six million victims.” / 3 An information sheet issued by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council describes the grand Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, as a “living memorial to the six million Jews and millions of other victims of Nazi fanaticism who perished in the Holocaust.”
Just what is the basis for this familiar figure?
Even before the end of the Second World War in Europe, that is, before any careful or detailed investigation was possible, the Six Million figure was already in wide circulation. For example, in essays published in late 1944 and early 1945, the prominent Soviet-Jewish writer Ilya Ehrenburg repeatedly told his many readers that “the Germans” had killed six million Jews. In an article published in March 1945, for instance, in the English-language London weekly, Soviet War News, he wrote: “The world now knows that Germany has killed six million Jews.” / 4
Some weeks later, as David Irving has related, this figure was affirmed in New York by representatives of major Jewish organizations: “In June 1945, just a few weeks after the end of the war in Europe, three Jewish lawyers who represented major Jewish organizations, met in New York with Robert Jackson, who would soon be serving as the chief U.S. prosecutor at the so-called ‘International Military Tribunal’ in Nuremberg. Jackson asked how many Jews had lost their lives in all Nazi-occupied lands. The number, he was told, was six million.” / 5
By remarkable coincidence, some 25 years earlier the American Jewish community had been warning of a “holocaust” of six million Jews in Europe. In an address published in 1919 in a leading Jewish American paper, the American Hebrew of New York City, under the headline “The Crucifixion of Jews Must Stop!,” the former governor of New York state, Martin Glynn, spoke repeatedly of “six million” European Jews who were “dying” and “being whirled toward the grave” in a “threatened holocaust of human life.” / 6
Given all this, it is hardly surprising that someone was found to provide “proof” for the Six Million figure at the most extravagant judicial undertaking in history, the 1945-46 trial in Nuremberg of Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess, and other high-ranking Third Reich personalities. The legendary figure was fixed in history at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, where it was cited by chief British prosecutor Sir Hartley Shawcross in his closing address, and by the Allied judges in their final judgment. / 7
This figure was not the result of any careful investigation, research, or calculation. The only specific evidence presented for it to the Nuremberg Tribunal was the hearsay testimony of former SS officer Wilhelm Höttl (sometimes spelled Hoettl), who said that he recalled it from a remark by Adolf Eichmann, the wartime head of the Jewish affairs section of Himmler’s Reich Security Main Office (RSHA). Höttl, who also served with the RSHA during the war, stated in an affidavit dated November 26, 1945, and provided to the U.S. prosecution at Nuremberg, that Eichmann confided to him in August 1944 that some four million Jews had been killed in the “various extermination camps,” and another two million had been killed in other ways, mostly in shootings by Einsatzgruppen forces in the course of the military campaign in Russia. / 8
Eichmann himself, it should be noted, later called the Höttl story “nonsense,” vigorously denied ever having made the alleged remark, and speculated that Höttl may have picked up the figure from a radio or newspaper report. / 9
If it were not for Wilhelm Höttl’s role in branding into the world’s consciousness the trademark Six Million figure, his place in history would likely be little more than a footnote.
Who was this man, and how reliable is his historic affidavit? He was born in Vienna in March 1915. In 1938, at the remarkably young age of twenty-three, he received a doctorate in history from the University of Vienna. While still a student there, he joined the National Socialist party and the SS. From 1939 until the end of the war in Europe, Höttl was employed almost without interruption by Germany’s central intelligence agency, the RSHA. He was first stationed in Vienna with the “foreign bureau” (Amt Ausland, later Amt VI), and then, from early 1943, in Berlin in the “Southeastern Europe” branch E of Amt VI, with the SS rank of major (Sturmbannführer).
In March 1944 Höttl was assigned to Budapest, where he served as second in command to Himmler’s SS representative in Hungary, and as political advisor to Hitler’s ambassador there, Edmund Veesenmayer, who reported to Berlin, for example, on the large-scale deportations in 1944 of Jews from Hungary. On May 8, 1945, as German forces were unconditionally surrendering to the Allies, American troops arrested Höttl in Austria, and for several years after that he worked as an intelligence agent for the United States. He died in 1999, not long after the publication of his self-serving memoirs.
In April 2001 the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency made public thousands of pages of long-suppressed documents from its files of major German wartime figures, including the bulging Höttl file. Along with the release of these documents, two U.S. government employees wrote and issued a detailed report about Höttl based on those recently declassified CIA files, which sheds revealing light on his wartime and postwar career. This report, entitled “Analysis of the Name File of Wilhelm Hoettl,” was written by two “historical researchers” of the U.S. government’s “Interagency Working Group” (IWG), Miriam Kleiman and Robert Skwirot. / 10
These documents establish that Höttl was a completely unreliable informant who routinely fabricated information to please those who were willing to pay him. In their report, the two U.S. government researchers write: “Hoettl’s name file is approximately 600 pages, one of the largest of those released to the public so far. The size of the file owes to Hoettl’s postwar career as a peddler of intelligence, good and bad, to anyone who would pay him. Reports link Hoettl to twelve different intelligence services, including the U.S., Yugoslav, Austrian, Israeli, Romanian, Vatican, Swiss, French, West German, Russian, Hungarian and British.”
Soon after his arrest by the Americans in May 1945, Höttl began working for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the predecessor to the Central Intelligence Agency, and then for the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC). As the two U.S. government researchers put it: “Upon his arrest, Hoettl played to the interests of his captors …” It was during this period, while he was secretly working for American intelligence, that Höttl provided his historic and damning “six million” affidavit for submission by the American prosecution at the Allied-run tribunal at Nuremberg.
Höttl benefited from his readiness to tell those who paid him what they wanted to hear, but this eventually proved his undoing. All the same, it took several years for U.S. intelligence to firmly conclude that it was being had.
In June 1949 one U.S. intelligence official cautioned against using Höttl for any reason, calling him “a man of such low character and poor political record that his use for intelligence activities, regardless of how profitable they may be, is a short-sighted policy by the U.S.” In August 1950, CIA messages referred to Höttl as a “notorious fabricator [of] intelligence.” A U.S. Army CIC report in early 1952 deemed his information useless, noting that Höttl “is involved in extensive intelligence activities for almost anyone who is willing to purchase his findings.” In April 1952 his reports were called “worthless and possibly inflated or fabricated.”
Interestingly, numerous U.S. intelligence reports identify connections between Höttl and Simon Wiesenthal, the well-known “Nazi hunter.” One U.S. Army CIC document described Wiesenthal as the “Chief Austrian Agent of the Israeli Intelligence Bureau.” A U.S. Army CIC report in January 1950 noted that for the last three or four months Wiesenthal had “recruited the services of Wilhelm Höttl,” and had hired him to gather information for reports by the “Nazi hunter.”
In July 1952, when U.S. Army intelligence finally broke completely with Höttl, a letter on U.S. Army stationery warned: “Dr. Höttl has long been known to this headquarters and other allied military organizations in Austria as a fabricator of intelligence information. His reports normally consist of a fine cobweb of fact, heavily padded with lies, deceit, conjecture and other false types of information. This organization will have absolutely nothing to do with Dr. Höttl or any members of his present entourage. He is persona non grata to the American, French and British elements in Austria.”
In their report on his postwar career, U.S. government historical researchers Kleiman and Skwirot conclude: “The voluminous materials in Wilhelm Höttl’s personality file … trace the activities of a notorious intelligence peddler and fabricator, who successfully convinced one intelligence service after another of his value, and then proceeded to lose such support.”
Indeed, and as already noted, Höttl “successfully convinced” the American and British prosecutors, and the judges, of the inter-Allied tribunal in Nuremberg, and many others around the world ever since, that German authorities killed six million Jews during the Second World War. And even though U.S. intelligence services and U.S. government researchers have, finally, as it were, discredited him, Höttl’s most historically important claim remains widely, and even officially accepted.
The recently released U.S. intelligence documents on Höttl, and the U.S. government report about his postwar career, confirm what some revisionist scholars have contended for years. In his book The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, first published in 1976, Dr. Arthur Butz cited sources that were publicly available even in the 1950s to show that, during the war, Höttl had gotten into trouble more than once with SS authorities. His involvement in a shady Polish land deal led in 1942 to an SS investigation of his activities. An internal SS report characterized him as “dishonest, scheming, fawning,… a real hoaxer,” and concluded that he was not fit even for SS membership, let alone a sensitive intelligence service
position. / 11 Höttl was, accordingly, demoted. But his luck improved after his friend and fellow Austrian, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, was appointed in 1943 to head the RSHA. It seems that Kaltenbrunner protected him from a second disciplinary action, this one for misappropriation of security service funds.
Regardless of the unreliability of Höttl’s infamous affidavit, the more important question remains: How valid is the six million figure?
The most common technique used by Holocaust historians to calculate figures of between five and six million Jewish extermination victims is to compare prewar and postwar estimated Jewish population figures for various European countries and areas, and then assume that the differences between the figures were all killed. This was the method used, for example, by Jacob Lestchinsky to produce a figure of 5,957,000 Jewish Holocaust deaths, in his important 1946 World Jewish Congress report. / 12 It is also the technique used by the late Lucy Dawidowicz, another prominent Jewish Holocaust historian, who estimated a total of 5.9 million Jewish victims. /13
However, this method fails to take into account substantial numbers of Jews who emigrated or fled to Allied or neutral countries during the war years. It also ignores the fact that many Jews, particularly in Eastern Europe, did not return to their original homelands at the end of the war, but instead emigrated to Palestine, the United States, and other countries beyond Europe.
It further assumes that all Jewish deaths (or “losses”) were due to German or Axis policy. Thus, all Jews in areas under German or Axis control who died during the war years are routinely and misleadingly counted as “victims of the Holocaust,” regardless of the cause of death. This includes Jews who died of natural causes, perished in Allied bombings of cities and concentration camps, who died as Allied soldiers, particularly in the Soviet military, or who — like hundreds of thousands of German civilians — succumbed to exhaustion, disease, and exposure in the particularly catastrophic final months of the war. Raul Hilberg, probably the most prominent Holocaust historian, acknowledges that a distinction should be made between “Jewish losses” and “Holocaust victims.” He notes, for example, that the average age of Jews in Germany at the outbreak of the war was abnormally high anyway. /14
It is unlikely that there were ever six million Jews under German control during the war. The wartime representative of the World Jewish Congress in Switzerland, Gerhard Riegner, confidentially reported to London and Washington in August 1942 that the total number of Jews in the countries occupied or controlled by Germany was three and a half to four million. / 15 This figure presumably referred to Jews in the “Greater” German Reich (including Poland), as well as in France, Holland, Belgium, Slovakia, and the occupied Soviet territories. If one adds the approximately 1.2 million Jews estimated to be living in Hungary and Romania, the total number of Jews that came under direct or indirect German control during the war years could not have been more than 5.2 million.
The unreliable character of the legendary Six Million calculation is also shown in the manipulation of Holocaust statistics in the cases of specific countries. In this regard, it is much more fruitful to examine Jewish losses in western European countries, where much more reliable statistics and other data are available, than to attempt to estimate Jewish losses in such eastern territories as Poland, where reliable data is not available. (In the case of Poland, even the country’s borders changed drastically during and just after the war.) An important feature of these manipulations is that even though figures of alleged Jewish wartime losses in individual countries may be inflated and deflated over the years, there is an obvious effort to juggle figures so that the overall total is kept as high as possible.