Can you tell something new about Nazism? In Auschwitz: research on a Nazi plot (Arpa editorial), the French historian Florent Brayard, one of the greatest experts in the genocide of the Jews, proves that he does. In spite of the enormous amount of books, biographies, documentaries and fictions that, eighty years after the beginning of the Second World War, continues to generate the regime of Adolf Hitler, it still remains to be explained. Issues as simple in appearance as who knew what and when – the classic questions in all research – are still open.
Rereading with magnifying glass the journals of Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda of Germany, and applying to the text the look of a philologist as well as a historian, Brayard reaches a conclusion that breaks with some ideas received about this period.
A small number of National Socialist leaders, with Hitler at the head, orchestrated a plot to hide from a large part of the Nazi leadership and the Administration – and the rest of Germans and the world – a key aspect of the plan to exterminate European Jews. . The conspiracy managed to keep in absolute secrecy, between the spring of 1942 and autumn of 1943, the execution in Auschwitz and other camps and extermination sites of hundreds of thousands of Jews from Western Europe, including Germans.
In the 483 pages of Auschwitz: research on a Nazi plot, dissects the decision-making process and the circulation of information in Nazi Germany, recomposes some pieces of the story hitherto accepted and thus completes the story the so-called "final solution".
The diaries of Goebbels, one of the most powerful leaders of Nazism, are the starting point. "What I expected [al estudiar sus diarios] It was that he knew everything and that he commented on it in his own way, that is, in a fanatical way. And it was not what I found, "explains Brayard in his office of the School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS, in its French acronym), in Paris.
While the murder of German Jews was already under way, none of this was recorded in Goebbels' diaries
What the historian discovered was that, while the murder of German Jews was already under way, none of this was recorded in Goebbels' diaries. It seemed that he was in the wrong. Goebbels had news of the murder of Polish and Soviet Jews. But of the Germans, nothing. His idea was that, as the initial plans indicated, they were deported to Eastern Europe, and he trusted in their definitive disappearance, but he did not know that they were being executed at that moment. And, if this news had not even reached someone as significant as Goebbels, who was informed?
"Regarding the Jews of the West, the highest officials and the security apparatus hid the rest of the state apparatus, except for those who needed this information, the fact that it had mutated the initial transplant project that was to be carried out at the end of the year. time to the extinction of the Jewish people, "explains Brayard. "It was no longer about the transfer and extinction but about immediate extermination. And the State apparatus did, for 18 months, as if the previous program had not changed. "
There was a plot, then, or a "superlative secret," as Brayard also says. But why? Why did they need Hitler and the head of state security Heinrich Himmler, who was also in the garlic, hide it?
"Hitler and Himmler believed that, if the massacre of German Jews deported abroad were made public, this could provoke protests as had happened the previous year, in the summer of 1941, when a certain number of responsible of the Catholic Church, in particular the archbishop Von Galen of Münster, protested the death of diseased metals, which was secret. Killing the mentally ill, for a Nazi state imbued with social Darwinism, should be the most natural thing in the world. Well no: visibly it was not, nor was it acceptable to the German population, "argues Brayard. "So, perhaps, they said that, by killing German Jews, who were the neighbors, the people you cross every day, maybe a moral border was crossed, and that the implementation of this program would be put at risk if his real purpose was unveiled. "
Does this mean that Hitler and Himmler were ashamed of what they were perpetrating? That the Nazi bosses were aware that it was wrong?
No, the historian replies. If they existed, these objections had not manifested themselves before the death of the Jews of Eastern Europe. And everyone, those who were in the conspiracy and those who did not, shared the genocidal policy. "Basically, what I try to show in the book is that the evaluation by Hitler or Himmler of the morality of the murder of the Jews obeys a double criterion. According to Nazi morals, their acts are not transgressive, but they are the application of the laws of nature, and they can glorify themselves, "says Brayard. "At the same time, they are obliged to take into account the way in which this same action can be evaluated within the framework of Judeo-Christian morality. They are obliged to take both into account. What they are sure of is that the new Nazi morality has not yet completely replaced Judeo-Christian morality. "
It was a time of civilization change. One world was ending, another was not born yet. The plot – the year and a half in which the Hitler clique hid the murder of the Jewish compatriots, until the killing was almost over – ended when in October 1943 Himmler unveiled it to other Nazi leaders. Among them Goebbels. Can you tell something new about Nazism? Without a doubt, yes.
He has been working on it for three and a half years with a group of 15 historians and experts, and the work is not finished yet. The historian Florent Brayard directs the critical edition in French of Mein Kampf (My fight), the book that Adolf Hitler wrote in 1925. This edition will be an adaptation of the one published in 2016 by the Institute of Contemporary History of Munich, which was accompanied by 3,500 explanatory notes and consisted of two volumes. The French edition, for its part, will reduce the grades, but will have an introduction for each chapter. "I do not contribute to spread Mein Kampf: I help readers who want to read Mein Kampf they can do it in an informed way, "says Brayard.
Mein Kampf is now available in French on paper and online in the old edition, 1934. It was not easy to translate Hitler well into French. "We do not want the French version of Mein Kampf be more pleasant to read than the German ", explains the historian. And he adds: "There is no need to improve Hitler. You have to write just as badly as he does. And it's very complicated. "