File:Page of Himmler Posen Speech, Oct 4, 1943.jpg

The Posen speeches were two secret speeches made by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler on October 4 and 6, 1943 in the town hall of Posen (Polish: Poznań), in Nazi occupied Poland. The recordings are the first known documents in which a high-ranking member of the Nazi government openly spoke of the on-going destruction of the Jews. They demonstrate that the Nazi government wanted, planned and carried out the Holocaust.


File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-S72707, Heinrich Himmler.jpg

The Posen speeches of October 1943 are two of 132 speeches obtained in various forms, which Himmler conducted before officials of the Nazi party.[1] The first speech was given before 92 SS officers, the second before Reichsleiters and Gauleiters, as well as other government representatives.[2] They constitute some of the most important of Himmler's speeches during the war, as they demonstrate Himmler's role as "Architect of the Final Solution" and a visionary of an elite race to be henceforth supported by the SS state.[3]

Although the genocide of the Jews was not the central topic in either of them, both carry historical significance in reference to it. Himmler did away with the usual camouflage terms[4] and spoke explicitly of the extermination of the Jews via mass murder, which he depicted as a historical mission of the Nazis. This connection became clear in five further speeches made between December 1943 and June 1944 to commanders of the Wehrmacht.[5]

In the literature, only the first speech was known as the "Posen Speech" until 1970. The second speech, uncovered at that time, is often mistaken as the first or equated with it.

Historical context Edit

Himmler gave the speeches at a time when the German war effort sustained constant set backs, which the Nazi leaders found increasingly disconcerting. At the Casablanca Conference in January, the Allies had decided that the only acceptable outcome of the war was Germany's unconditional surrender. The Soviet victory in the Battle of Stalingrad on February 2 was a turning point in the war. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the prosecution of those mainly responsible for war and genocide on February 12, which the US Congress agreed to on March 18. US troops landed on Sicily on July 7 and after the Italian change of front on September 8, gradually advanced northward. On October 1, Naples was freed from German occupation.

The Red Army also ran a successful summer offensive on July 17, during which partisans blew up many railway connections behind the Eastern Front on August 3. In the week July 27 - August 3, Allied air raids attacked Hamburg in Operation Gomorrha, and the armament centre of Peenemünde was destroyed also on August 18. At the same time resistance against occupying German forces grew, and a state of emergency was declared in Norway (August 17) and Denmark (August 29). Nazi dissidents planned Germany's reorganisation (the Kreisau Circle on August 9) and assassination attempts on Adolf Hitler ("Operation Walküre", August 12), on which basis the scorched earth policy was brought in on September 4 for the foreseeable retreat of the Eastern Front, and martial law against those in the armed forces who refused to follow orders, initially introduced by the General Government on October 2.

In the same period, the destruction of the Jews became the most important goal.[6] In the spring, Sonderaktion 1005 was ordered, demanding the exhumation and incineration of those murdered by the Einsatzgruppen across the whole Eastern Front in order to hide the on-going genocide, whose death toll had so far reached 1.8 million Jews. Himmler ordered the liquidation of all Polish ghettos on June 11, and all Soviet ones on June 21. As of June 25, four new crematoria and gas chamber installations were completed in Auschwitz-II Birkenau at Auschwitz concentration camp. On July 1 all Jews in the Reich were placed under police law. On August 24 Himmler was appointed as minister of the interior, and thus all police forces in the Reich and occupied territories were subordinated to him. By October 19, Operation Reinhard was to be terminated and the affiliated extermination camps dismantled.

Nonetheless, acts of resistance against the destruction of the Jews occurred. There were prisoner rebellions in Treblinka (August 2) and Sobibor (October 14). Jews of the Białystok ghetto mounted an insurrection against their liquidation (August 16 - 23), and the Danes helped most of the Danish Jews planned for arrest to escape. Inland church representatives condemned the killing of innocent life (Catholic Pastoral, August 19) for age, disease and race reasons.(Confessing Church, October 16).[7]

Speech of October 4, 1943 Edit

Oral and written record Edit

Himmler did not prepare most of his speeches beforehand, but used terse handwritten notes instead. Since the end of 1942 his verbal lectures were no longer documented in shorthand, but recorded via phonograph onto wax master plates. These recordings were then typed up by SS-Untersturmführer Werner Alfred Wenn, who corrected obvious grammatical errors and supplemented missing words. Himmler then added his own handwritten corrections, and the thus authorised version was copied up via typewriter in large characters and then filed away.[8]

Of Himmler's three hour speech of October 4, 115 pages of the final typewritten edition (one page was lost) were discovered among SS files and submitted to the Nuremberg Trials as document 1919-PS.[9] On day 23 of the hearing, a passage (which however did not concern the Holocaust) was read out.[10] A live recording of this speech survives, allowing for the differences between the spoken and the copyedited version to be examined. They are minor, and in no case distortionary.[11]

Addressees, reason and purpose Edit

File:Bundesarchiv ZLA 7 Bild-0001, Posen, Rathaus.jpg

Himmler held the first speech in the town hall, and not in Posen Castle as is often erroneously assumed.[12] Of the SS's management, 33 Obergruppenführers, 51 Gruppenführers and eight Brigadeführers from the whole of the Reich were present. Many of these came from areas of occupied eastern Europe.[13] Large parts of the speech therefore concerned the precarious situation on the Eastern Front. War and resistance successes by the supposedly subordinate Slavs required an explanation in order for the SS officers to agree to the imminent and arduous battles in the third winter of the Russian campaign.

Only around two minutes of the speech concerns the destruction of the Jews. Himmler postulates his audience's experiences with mass shootings, ghetto liquidations and extermination camps, and accordingly, their knowledge of them. The speech is to justify the crimes already perpetrated, and to commit its listeners to the "higher purpose" bestowed upon them. Around 50 officers not present were sent a copy of the speech and had to confirm their acknowledgment of it.[14]

On the course of war Edit

After a tribute to the dead, Himmler gave his view of the war so far. The tough Russian resistance could be attributed to the Political commissars, a Russian attack was only just anticipated, and due to failure by Germany's allies, a chance for victory in 1942 was wasted. Himmler speculated over the Russian army's potential, spoke disparagingly of the "Vlasov shivaree" (der Wlassow-Rummel), expatiated on the inferiority of the Slavic race, and included thoughts as to how a German minority can prevail over it.

In later passages, Himmler discusses how Italy's army is contaminated with communism and is sympathetic to Anglo-America. He also touches upon the situation in the Balkans and other occupied territories, whose acts of resistance he disregards as irritating pinpricks. The war in the air and sea is also mentioned, as well as the domestic front (die innere Front) and factors from it such as enemy radio broadcasters and defeatism stemming from air raids.

Subsequently, Himmler turns to the situation on the enemy's side, speculating over the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States and their resilience and readiness for war. He goes into extensive detail about variances in the SS, individual divisions, police organisations, and outlines his duties regarding economic operations of the SS and being a minister of the Reich.

On the treatment of eastern European peoples Edit

In his outline of the course of the war in the east, Himmler comments on the deaths of millions of Soviet prisoners of war and forced labourers. Like in pre-war speeches, and in accordance with Hitler's remarks in Mein Kampf, he speaks of how the eradication of the slavic Untermensch is a historical and natural necessity. There is to be no place for sentiment:[15]


"Extermination of the Jewish people" Edit

Template:Listen Himmler then explicitly speaks of the genocide of the Jews, something which had not been previously done by a representative of the Nazi party up until this point:[16]


Himmler then praises the mindset of the SS man, devoting approximately 30 of the 116 pages to their virtues as well as their duty of becoming Europe's ruling class in 20 to 30 years.

Speech of October 6, 1943 Edit

Records, discovery and proceedings Edit

Of the second Posen speech, Himmler's terse notes are available, as well as a version recorded via shorthand then typed up and corrected in detail, and the final version as authorised by Himmler himself. The speech in each of these stages resided in the files of the Personal Staff of the Reichsführer (Persönlichen Stabes Reichsführer-SS), which were seized in their entirety by U.S. authorities in 1945.

The text of the speech was recorded into microfilm by the U.S. and released to the Bundesarchiv. Analysis of these previously unavailable documents by historian Erich Goldhagen in 1970 in Koblenz revealed a speech hitherto unknown.[17] It was printed in its entireity for the first time in 1974 in Bradley Smith's and Agnes Peterson's book of selected Himmler speeches.[18]

Reason, intention and relevance Edit

At the end of September 1943, the party chancellery invited all Reichsleiters and Gauleiters, the head of the Hitler Youth Artur Axmann and Reich ministers Albert Speer and Alfred Rosenberg to a conference. It began on October 6 at 9 o'clock in the morning with Speer's reports, his speakers, and four big industries for armament production. Talks from Karl Dönitz and Erhard Milch followed. Himmler held his speech from 17:30 to 19:00.[19]

The second speech is shorter than the first, but contains a slightly longer and more explicit passage regarding the genocide of the Jews.[20]

Beginning of the speech Edit

Himmler begins by discussing partisans in Russia and support from Vlasov's auxiliary forces. The widespread idea that there would be a 300 kilometre wide belt dominated by partisans behind the German front is considered false. Frequently expressed is the view that Russia can only be conquered by Russians. This view is considered to be dangerous and wrong. Slavs are to be considered unreliable on a matter of principle, and for that reason, Russian Hiwis may only be employed as combatants in mixed units.

The danger of infiltrated parachutists, fugitive POWs and forced labourers is considered marginal, since the German population is in an impeccable way and grants the opponent no shelter, and the police have such dangers under control. A request by Gauleiters for a special force against the insurgency in the country is considered to be unnecessary and unacceptable.

On the Jewish question Edit

Himmler then reveals to "this most secret circle" his thoughts on the Jewish question, which he describes as "the most difficult decision of my life".[21]


Albert Speer remark Edit

Himmler then discusses the Warsaw ghetto uprising (April 19 - May 16, 1943) and the heavy battles during it:[22]


Albert Speer, Reich minister for arms and munition since 1942, was, since September 2, 1943 as Reich minister for armament and wartime economy, responsible for all German armament production. This used Jewish forced labourers who were partly exempted from being deported to their extermination until 1943. After 1945, Speer always maintained that he left the conference before Himmler made his speech and knew nothing of the Holocaust. Historians cite Himmler's direct reference to Speer as proof of his presence.[23]

Further contents Edit

Himmler then discusses the dismissal of Benito Mussolini, which is to have led to defeatism. A few death sentences imposed on the basis of making corrosive remarks are to serve as dissuasive warnings for thousands of others, and party members must display exemplary behaviour.

Himmler then discusses his duties as Reich minister of the interior. By Hitler's volition, party organisation and administrative organisation are henceforth two separate pillars. Decentralized decisions are considered important, but centralised arrangements take precedence in the strained war situation. As a result, Himmler makes broad criticism of the personal politics of Gauleiters. In the last part of his speech, he goes into the benefits of the Waffen-SS.

Himmler closes by discussing how the German national boundary will be pushed 500 km eastwards with 120 million people being relocated, and ends with the appeal:[24]


Further speeches Edit

Statements from five further secret speeches by Himmler confirm the sentiment he expressed in Posen on the "final solution to the Jewish question". On December 16, 1943, he said to Kriegsmarine commanders:[25]


A handwritten memo from Himmler's speech on January 26, 1944 in Posen to Generals of fighting troops reads:[25]


On May 5, 1944, Himmler explained to Generals in Sonthofen that perseverance in the bombing war has only been possible because the Jews in Germany have been discarded.[26]


Applause can be heard on a recording of another speech given to Generals in Sonthofen on May 24, 1944, when Himmler says:[27]


On June 21, 1944, Himmler spoke to Generals educated in the Nazi world view[28] in Sonthofen, mentioning the Jewish question again:[27]


Reception Edit

Historical reception Edit

The destruction of the Jews was to be kept secret from those outside the Nazi regime, but could only be organised and carried out with the participation of all relevant state and party executives. The Posen speeches offer a retrospective look at the mass killings already carried out, and show how these and further killings were ideologically justified. The extermination of the "internal enemy" (innerer Feind), the Jewish race, had become an objective of the war, and success in this field was to compensate for other defeats accrued in the course of the war.

Saul Friedländer highlights Himmler's self-image as an unconditionally obedient executor of Hitler's plans for the Germanic "Lebensraum in the east".[29]


Konrad Kwiet comments on Himmler's association of the "heaviest task" the SS ever had to perform with the Anständigkeit (decency) that had been preserved of it:[30]


Hans Buchheim comments that the accused perpetrators very probably lacked a mens rea. Himmler's revaluation of soldierly virtues was not a total negation of moral norms, but a suspension of them for the exceptional situation of the extermination of the Jews, which had been passed off as a historical necessity. Therefore Himmler endorsed the murder of the Jews not by instruction, but via the "correct" ideological motives, while letting similar murders committed out of sadism or selfishness be prosecutable.[31]

Historian Dieter Pohl states:[32]


The unsparing portrayal of the genocide in Himmler's secret speech is thus interpreted as a means to formally render senior SS and Nazi functionaries as co-conspirators and accomplices in the perpetration of the Holocaust.[33] Joseph Goebbels alludes to this view in his diary entry of March 2, 1943:[34]


In an entry dated October 9, 1943, Goebbels commented on Himmler's second speech, at which he was present:[35]


Holocaust denial Edit

"Ausrottung" Edit

Holocaust deniers have frequently attempted to negate Himmler's speeches as proof of the Holocaust. In particular, where Himmler - in his speech of October 4, 1943 - refers to the "Ausrottung des jüdischen Volkes" (extermination of the Jewish people), they will read the verb ausrotten (to exterminate) and its related noun Ausrottung (extermination) to offer a much more benign interpretation, i.e., Himmler was merely referring to the deportation of Jews and a figurative desire to "root them out", as opposed to their mass destruction.[36]

This is completely untenable in both context and translation. The 1972 edition of the Sprach-Brockhaus dictionary defines Ausrottung as "complete annihilation". David Irving has tried to suggest that the meaning of the word has changed since Himmler's usage of it. Critics dismiss this, pointing out that the definition in the 1935 edition of the same dictionary is identical.

Ausrotten can mean "to stamp out/to root out", but only figuratively, e.g., in contexts of concepts or ideals.[36] In the context of living things (such as a people or race), ausrotten accordingly means destroying something so that it cannot return.[36] In the subsequent paragraph, Himmler compares his disdain for individuals gaining personally (e.g. stealing) from Jewish victims and the necessity to prevent it to becoming sick and dying "from the same bacillus that we have exterminated" (weil wir den Bazillus ausrotten, an dem Bazillus krank werden und sterben). This confirms that ausrotten means killing/extermination in the context of living things, since to argue for the deportation of bacteria would make no sense.[36]

In the "Ausrottung des jüdischen Volkes" paragraph, Himmler says:

Original Translated
Template:Quote Template:Quote

Himmler thus confirms that the context is explicitly physical extermination, since umbringen simply has no meaning other than "to kill".[36] Because of this, critics explain that Holocaust deniers will arbitrarily select words from the dictionary that have nothing to do with the given context, such as cherry-picking the definition for Unkraut (weeds) and erroneously applying it to Volk (people).[36]

In the second speech in Posen, critics point to the fact that he defines the meaning of ausrotten, where the operative word is umbringen.

Original Translated
Template:Quote Template:Quote

Holocaust deniers will also offer erroneous translations of ausrotten by analysing the word's compounds, on the basis that "aus" and "rotten" are cognate with the English "out" and "root". To native German speakers, this is simply wrong.[36] Critics compare this attempted etymological explanation to as if one were to cite the Latin origins of "ex" (out of) and "terminus" (borders) and on that basis, claim that "exterminate" means deportation, which would make comparably no sense to native English speakers.[36]

Critics point out that German Holocaust deniers do not dare suggest a translation to a German audience where ausrotten does not mean physical extermination,[36] citing instances of German deniers dismissing failed etymological analysis by English speakers by responding to confirm that ausrotten means complete destruction, and material written by German deniers where, in the context of people, ausrotten and vernichten are used synonymously.[37]

Germar Rudolf and Udo Walendy have claimed that the recording of the first speech is a forgery: Himmler's voice was actually that of a 1945 Allied voice imitator.[38] However, other speeches by Himmler were independently recorded in the same written and aural manner. The voice therein is clearly attributable to Himmler, and confirms the detail of the first speech. In addition, the discovery of the second Posen speech in the Koblenz Bundesarchiv rendered allegations of falsification completely irrelevant. Himmler's explicit statements, such as making the decision to make the Jews "disappear from the earth", leave no room for alternative interpretation. Historians consider such denier claims as untenable, deliberately misleading, and devoid of any factual basis.[39]

Artistic references Edit

In Romuald Karmakar's 2000 film "The Himmler Project", the actor Manfred Zapatka reads the entire speech of October 4, 1943 word for word according to the recording, including all the nuances and incidents also recorded. During the film, Zapatka wears no uniform and simply stands in front of a grey wall.[40]

Heinrich Breloers multipart television film "Speer und Er" contains a debate as to whether Albert Speer was present during Himmler's speech on October 6, 1943.

In Jonathan Littell's "The Kindly Ones", the first-person narrator, Maximilian Aue, cannot remember whether Speer was present or not.

See alsoEdit

References Edit

  1. Smith, Peterson: Heinrich Himmler Geheimreden, Speech index, p. 268–277 f.
  2. Richard Breitman: Heinrich Himmler. Der Architekt der „Endlösung“. Pendo Verlag, Zürich et al 2000, ISBN 3858423785
  3. Joachim Fest, Einführung zu Smith, Peterson: Heinrich Himmler Geheimreden, p. 15 ff.
  4. Raul Hilberg: Die Quellen des Holocaust, Frankfurt/Main 2002, ISBN 3-10-033626-7, Kapitel Drastische und verschleiernde Sprache p. 123ff
  5. Original transcript - see literature
  6. Peter Longerich: Der ungeschriebene Befehl, Munich 2001, p. 175–184.
  7. Christoph Studt: Das Dritte Reich in Daten, Becksche Reihe, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-476-35-X, S. 212–221
  8. Smith, Peterson: Heinrich Himmler, p. 251 f.
  9. IMT Volume 29, p. 110-173
  10. IMT: Band 4 (Verhandlungsniederschriften, December 1945), p. 197
  11. "Text of Himmler's Speech, October 4, 1943". The Holocaust History Project. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  12. Heinrich Schwendemann, Wolfgang Dietsche: Hitlers Schloß. Die 'Führerresidenz' in Posen, Berlin 2003, p. 133
  13. "Anwesende SS-Generäle bei der "Posener Rede"" (in German). 3sat. November 2, 2001. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  14. "Erläuterung: "Posener Rede"" (in German). 3sat. October 30, 2001. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  15. IMT: Volume 29 (Urkunden und anderes Beweismaterial), p. 123
  16. IMT: Volume 29, p. 145f
  17. Stefan Krebs, Werner Tschacher: Speer und Er. Und Wir? Deutsche Geschichte in gebrochener Erinnerung. In: Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, Book 3, 58 (2007), p. 164.
  18. Smith, Peterson: Heinrich Himmler Geheimreden p. 267 (Edition notes), p. 273 (Nr. 85) and p. 300, Note 1
  19. Gitta Sereny: Albert Speer: Sein Ringen mit der Wahrheit. Munich 2001, ISBN 3-442-15141-4, p. 468ff
  20. Smith, Peterson: Heinrich Himmler p. 162–183
  21. Smith, Peterson: Heinrich Himmler p. 169 f.
  22. Smith, Peterson: Heinrich Himmler p. 170
  23. Krebs, Tschacher: Speer und Er p. 163–173
  24. Smith, Peterson: Heinrich Himmler p. 183
  25. 25.0 25.1 Smith, Peterson: Heinrich Himmler p. 201
  26. Smith, Peterson: Heinrich Himmler p. 202
  27. 27.0 27.1 Smith, Peterson: Heinrich Himmler p. 203
  28. Peter Longerich: Der ungeschriebene Befehl p. 191
  29. Saul Friedländer: Das Dritte Reich und die Juden 2. Band: Die Jahre der Vernichtung 1939–1945, C.H. Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54966-7, p. 570.
  30. Konrad Kwiet: Rassenpolitik und Völkermord, in: Enzyklopädie des Nationalsozialismus, dtv, 2nd edition, Munich 1998, p. 64.
  31. Hans Buchheim: Anatomie des SS-Staates Volume 1: Die SS – das Herrschaftsinstrument. Befehl und Gehorsam. dtv (1. edition 1967) 2. edition Munich 1979, ISBN 3-423-02915-3, p. 247–253 and p. 266f.
  32. Frank Bajohr, Dieter Pohl: Der Holocaust als offenes Geheimnis. Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54978-0, p. 126.
  33. Peter Longerich: Heinrich Himmler – Biographie. Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-88680-859-5, p. 710 / q. v. Gitta Sereny: Albert Speer…, p. 468.
  34. Joseph Goebbels. Tagebücher, Band 5: 1943–1945, Piper Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-492-21415-0, p. 1905.
  35. Cited according to Saul Friedländer: Das Dritte Reich und die Juden Volume 2: Die Jahre der Vernichtung 1939–1945, I.c. p. 572.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 36.4 36.5 36.6 36.7 36.8 Template:Cite news
  37. Template:Cite news
  38. "Heinrich Himmler in Posen" (in German). Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  39. Smith, Peterson: Heinrich Himmler…, p. 301 and footnote 16.
  40. "Das Himmler-Projekt" (in German). Retrieved 2009-07-19. 

Bibliography Edit

  • Internationaler Militärgerichtshof Nürnberg (IMT): Der Nürnberger Prozess gegen die Hauptkriegsverbrecher. Delphin Verlag, Nachdruck München 1989, ISBN 3-7735-2523-0, Band 29: Urkunden und anderes Beweismaterial
  • Bradley F. Smith, Agnes F. Petersen (Hrsg.): Heinrich Himmler. Geheimreden 1933 – 1945, Propyläen Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin/Wien 1974, ISBN 3-549-07305-4
  • Peter Longerich: Der ungeschriebene Befehl, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-492-04295-3
  • Richard Breitman: Himmler und die Vernichtung der europäischen Juden. Schöningh, Sammlung zur Geschichte und Gegenwart, 1996, ISBN 3506774972

External linksEdit

cs:Poznaňský projev da:Posen-talen de:Posener Reden es:Discurso de Posen pt:Discurso de Posen

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