Virtually every major biography of Adolf Hitler or history of the Third Reich quotes from the memoir of Hermann Rauschning, a former National Socialist Senate President of Danzig. In the book published in Britain as Hitler Speaks(London, 1939) and in America as The Voice of Destruction (New York, 1940) Rauschning presents page after page of what are purported to be Hitler’s most intimate views and plans for the future. They are allegedly based on a hundred or so private conversations between the two men.
Now, after more than forty years, a Swiss historian has thoroughly exposed this supposed document of Hitler’s madness as completely fraudulent. Wolfgang Haenel presented the results of his research to the annual conference in May 1983 of the Ingolstadt Contemporary History Research Center in West Germany.
Rauschning’s Hitler is nothing more than a nihilistic revolutionary utterly lacking in ideas, goals, principles or systematic ideology who demagogically exploited words and men to accumulate power for its own sake. He was a clever but completely unscrupulous opportunist who believed nothing of what he said. His National Socialism, according to Rauschning, was just a “Revolution of Nihilism.” He was allegedly preoccupied with war. His numerous disarmament proposals and peace offers were just hypocritical rhetoric designed to mislead his future victims.
Of the man who unified Germany, Hitler is supposed to have said: “Bismarck was stupid. He was just a Protestant.” He allegedly rebuked Rauschning for his qualms: “Why do you babble about brutality and get upset over suffering. The masses want that. They need some cruelty.” “I want a violent, masterful, fearless, cruel youth,” he is quoted as saying. On another occasion, Hitler reportedly declared: “Yes, we are barbarians. We want to be barbarians. It is an honorable title.”
Wolfgang Haenel spent many years in detailed research, text comparison and interviewing contemporary witnesses. He found that instead of “about a hundred conversations” with Hitler, Rauschning actually met with the German leader only four or five times. And these few meetings were neither private nor lengthy, but always in the company of high ranking officials while visiting Hitler in Berlin or Obersalzberg. Rauschning never had the opportunity to hear Hitler’s intimate views or secret plans for the future, as he boasted in his spurious “memoir.”
Haenel shows that some of the words attributed to Hitler by Rauschning were actually lifted from the works of Ernst Juenger and Friedrich Nietzsche. Hitler is quoted as making statements which could not possibly have been made at the times alleged. Some quotes supposedly made in private were in fact taken from speeches made by Hitler after 1935, the year Rauschning left for France. Haenel also exposes serious contradictions between events as presented by Rauschning and the way they actually occurred, as in the case of an alleged conversation following the Reichstag fire of March 1933.
Haenel shows that the spurious memoir was commissioned by some French journalists and New York publishing firms as a literary weapon in the propaganda war against National Socialist Germany. For many years the amount paid to the financially strapped Rauschning for his work remained a record in France for a political book.
The democratic mass media, which devoted endless columns of print and hours of broadcast time in denouncing the so-called Hitler diaries as phony, characteristically ignored the story of the exposure of this great historical hoax. An exception was the generally sober West German daily Die Welt (19 May) which, however, buried its report on page 21. The U.S. daily press published nothing.
To his credit, American historian John Toland made no use of the Rauschning work in his detailed study, Adolf Hitler. And German historian Werner Maser noted in his biography of Hitler that “Rauschning’s statements may, at best, be considered a secondary historical source. They have no documentary value.”
It is always easier to produce a forged document or phony memoir than to prove it false. But it’s still remarkable that it took this long for someone to expose the Rauschning work as fraudulent. Any open-minded reader familiar with the literature on Hitler can determine rather quickly that The Voice of Destruction is an imaginative concoction. It simply lacks the “feel” of authenticity. In contrast, the genuine memoir of Otto Wagener, Hitler aus naechster Naehe, provides lengthy and detailed insights into Hitler’s thinking and private views. As first chief of Staff of the SA (“Brown Shirts”) and Director of the EconomicPolitical Department of the National Socialist Party, Wagener got to know Hitler intimately. They spent hundreds of hours together between 1929 and 1932, many of them alone.
The Ingolstadt Contemporary History Research Center deserves credit for its role in exposing this great fraud. Its director, Dr. Alfred Schickel, has authored numerous substantial revisionist historical essays.
Wolfgang Haenel’s long overdue debunking of the Rauschning memoir is a welcome contribution to the slow and painful process of clarification in an age of historical obfuscation.
1. See The Forced War by David L. Hoggan, which is a good book.