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Eberhard Jäckel

Eberhard Jäckel

German historian
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro German historian
A.K.A. Eberhard Jackel
Countries Germany
Occupations Historian of the modern age Historian University teacher
Gender male
Birth 29 June 1929 (Wesermünde)
Death 15 August 2017 (Stuttgart)
Star sign Cancer
Politics Social Democratic Party of Germany
Education University of Tübingen, University of Paris (1896-1968), University of Florida, University of Göttingen
The details
Biography

Eberhard Jäckel (29 June 1929 – 15 August 2017) was a Social Democratic German historian, noted for his studies of Adolf Hitler's role in German history. Jäckel sees Hitler as being the historical equivalent to the Chernobyl disaster.

Career

Born in Wesermünde, Hanover, Jäckel studied history at Göttingen, Tübingen, Freiburg, Gainesville, and Paris after World War II. After serving as an assistant and docent at Kiel until 1966, he taught from 1967, following Golo Mann, as Professor for Modern History at the University of Stuttgart and remained loyal to this university.

Jäckel's PhD dissertation was turned into his first book, 1966's Frankreich in Hitlers Europa (France In Hitler's Europe), a study of German policy towards France from 1933 to 1945. Jäckel first rose to fame through his 1969 book Hitlers Weltanschauung (Hitler's Worldview), which was an examination of Hitler's worldview and beliefs. Jäckel argued that far from being an opportunist with no beliefs as had been argued by Alan Bullock, Hitler held to a rigid set of fixed beliefs and he had consistently acted from his "race and space" philosophy throughout his career. In Jäckel's opinion, the core of Hitler's world-view was his belief in what Hitler saw as the merciless struggle for survival between the "Aryan race" and the "Jewish race" and in his belief that stronger "races" possessed large amounts of Lebensraum (living space). In Jäckel's view, everything that Hitler did throughout his life stemmed from the beliefs he had adopted in the 1920s. Jäckel has argued that Hitler felt there were three factors that determined a people's "racial value", namely its awareness of itself, the type of leadership it had, and its ability to make war. According to Jäckel, for Germany these meant ultra-nationalism, the Führerprinzip (Führer principle), and militarism, and all three were the constants throughout Hitler's beliefs throughout his life. In Jäckel's opinion, Mein Kampf is a long rant against the three principles that Hitler saw as the antithesis of his three sacred principles, namely internationalism, democracy and pacifism. Jäckel asserts that for Hitler "the originators and bearers of all three counterpositions are the Jews". In Jäckel's view, in the Zweites Buch of 1928, Hitler:

established for the first time a logical link between his foreign policy conception and his antisemitism. They were synthesized in his view of history. With this, Hitler's Weltanschauung had finally achieved the kind of consistency for which he had groped for a long time.

In this way, Jäckel argues that Mein Kampf was not only a "blueprint" for power, but also for genocide. In Jäckel's view:

He [Hitler] had to annihilate the Jews, thus restoring the meaning of history, and with the thus restored, nature-intended struggle for existence, he at the same time had to conquer new living space for the German people. Each of these tasks was inextricably linked to the other. Unless the Jews were annihilated there would very soon no longer be any struggle for living space, nor therefore any culture and consequently nations would die out; not just the German nation, but ultimately all nations. But if, on the other hand, the German people failed to conquer new living space, it would die out because of that and the Jews would triumph.

Jäckel takes the view that Hitler's ideology developed in stages in the 1920s, and wrote "It is an important fact that the final completion [of Hitler's ideology], contrary to Hitler's own statements, in 1919 had only begun". In addition, Jäckel's book was noteworthy as the first account of Hitler's beliefs written in Germany by someone from the left (Jäckel joined the SPD in 1967). In regards to the foreign policy debates, Jäckel is a leading "continentalist", arguing that Nazi foreign policy aimed only at the conquest of Eastern Europe against the "globalists" who argue that Hitler wanted world conquest

Jäckel is one of the leading intentionalists in regard to the functionalism versus intentionalism debate, arguing from the 1960s on that there was a long range plan on the part of Hitler to exterminate the Jewish people from about 1924 on, views that led to intense debates with functionalist historians such as Hans Mommsen and Martin Broszat. Jäckel dismissed the argument made by Broszat in his 1977 essay "Hitler and the Genesis of the Final Solution" that local officials began the Holocaust on their own initiative under the grounds that a:

great deal of evidence that some [local officials] were shocked or even appalled when the Final Solution came into effect. To be sure, they did not disagree with it. But they agreed only reluctantly, referring again to an order given by Hitler. This is a strong indication that the idea did not originate with them.

In the Historikerstreit (Historians' Dispute) of 1986-88, Jäckel was a prominent critic of Ernst Nolte, whose theory of Nazi crimes as a reaction to Soviet crimes was denounced as ahistorical by Jäckel under the grounds that Hitler held the Soviet Union in contempt and therefore could not have possibly felt threatened by the Soviets as Nolte suggested. Jäckel attacked Nolte's statement that Hitler had an especially vivid fear of the Soviet "rat cage" torture by arguing that Hitler's statement of 1 February 1943 to his generals about captured German officers going off to the "rat cage" clearly meant the Lubyanka prison, and this is not as Nolte was arguing to be interpreted literally. Jäckel went on to argue that Nolte had done nothing to establish what the remarks about the "rat cage" had to do with the Holocaust. Jäckel went on to accuse Nolte of engaging in a post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument to establish the "causal nexus" between Hitler's supposed fear of the "rat cage" torture, and the Holocaust. Jäckel wrote in a 1986 essay entitled "The Impoverished Practice of Insinuation: The Singular Aspect of National-Socialist Crimes Cannot Be Denied" first published in the Die Zeit newspaper on 12 September 1986 that

Hitler often said why he wished to remove and kill the Jews. His explanation is a complicated and structurally logical construct that can be reproduced in great detail. A rat cage, the murders committed by the Bolsheviks, or a special fear of these are not mentioned. On the contrary, Hitler was always convinced that Soviet Russia, precisely because it was ruled by Jews, was a defenseless colossus standing on clay feet. Aryans had no fear of Slavic or Jewish subhumans. The Jew, Hitler wrote in 1926 in Mein Kampf, "is not an element of an organization, but a ferment of decomposition. The gigantic empire in the East is ripe for collapse." Hitler still believed this in 1941 when he had his soldiers invade Russia without winter equipment."

Against Nolte's claim that the Holocaust was not unique, but rather one of out many genocides, Jäckel rejected Nolte's view and those of his supporters like Joachim Fest by writing:

I, however claim (and not for the first time) that the National Socialist murder of the Jews was unique because never before had a nation with the authority of its leader decided and announced that it would kill off as completely as possible a particular group of humans, including old people, women, children and infants, and actually put this decision into practice, using all the means of governmental power at its disposal. This idea is so apparent and so well known that it is quite astonishing that it could have escaped Fest's attention (the massacres of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War were, according to all we know, more like murderous deportations than planned genocide)".

Jäckel accused Nolte, Fest and Klaus Hildebrand of engaging in a "game of confusion.". Jäckel wrote that the "game of confusion" comprised posing hypotheses disguised as questions without proof, and when one demands proof, there is an angry response that "one is after all still allowed to ask!". In response to Jäckel's attack, Nolte in an essay published in the Die Zeit newspaper on 31 October 1986 wrote that Jäckel's attack was something that one might expect in an East German newspaper and that:" And I am amazed at the coldheartedness with which Eberhard Jäckel says that not every single bourgeois was killed.". During a debate in London in 1987 to consider the Historikerstreit, Fest and Jäckel again clashed over the question of the "singularity" of the Holocaust with Fest accusing Jäckel of presenting a "caricature" of his and Nolte's views.

Recently, Jäckel has modified his position. He now believes that most of the initiatives for the Holocaust came from Hitler, though it was more the result of a series of ad hoc decisions rather than a masterplan on the part of Hitler. In 1998, Jäckel argued that Hitler was able to begin the Holocaust in mid-1941 by playing Himmler against Heydrich. Jäckel argued that though Himmler was antisemitic, he was less enthusiastic about genocide than Heydrich, whereas the latter saw genocide as a way of obtaining Hitler's support for building a power base outside of Himmler's control. In Jäckel's view, antisemitism was a necessary, but not sufficient condition for the Holocaust under the grounds that people had been intensely antisemitic in Europe for centuries without genocide occurring. In contrast to the functionalists who have argued for the "weak dictator" thesis about Hitler's power, Jäckel has supported the "master of the Third Reich" thesis and has described Hitler's power as Alleinherrschaft (sole rule).

In the late 1970s, Jäckel was a leading critic of the British author David Irving and his book Hitler’s War, which argued that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust. Jäckel in his turn wrote a series of newspaper articles later turned into the book David Irving's Hitler : A Faulty History Dissected attacking Irving and maintained that Hitler was very much aware of and approved of the Holocaust. Jäckel attacked Irving for claiming that an entry in Heinrich Himmler's notebook saying "Jewish transport from Berlin, not to be liquidated" on 30 November 1941 proved that Hitler did not want to see the Holocaust happen. Jäckel maintained that the order referred only to that train, and argued that if Hitler had ordered the people on that train to be spared, it must stand to reason that he was aware of the Holocaust. Jäckel went to argue that because the "Final Solution" was secret, it is not surprising that Hitler's servants were ignorant of the Holocaust, and that anyhow, five of Hitler's servants interviewed by Irving later claimed that they believed that Hitler was aware of the Holocaust. Jäckel argued that on the basis of Hitler's statements in Mein Kampf the Führer was always committed to genocide of the Jews, and that because Hitler later attempted to execute the foreign policy he outlined in Mein Kampf, it is a reasonable assumption that Hitler was always committed to genocide. As a sign of Hitler's intentions, Jäckel used Hitler's tendency to involve himself in minutiae to argue that it is inconceivable that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust. Jäckel used Hitler's "Prophecy Speech" of January 30, 1939, where Hitler declared:

I shall once again be your prophet: if international Jewry with its financial power in and outside of Europe should manage once more to draw the peoples of the world into world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevization of the world, and thus the victory of Jewry, but rather the total destruction of the Jewish race in Europe

Likewise, Jäckel used Himmler's Posen speeches of 1943 and certain other statements on his part in 1944 referring to an "order" from an unnamed higher authority as proof that Hitler had ordered the Holocaust. In the same way, Jäckel noted Hitler's order of 13 March 1941 that the Einsatzgruppen be reestablished for Operation Barbarossa as proof of the Führer's involvement in the Holocaust. Jäckel also argued that the entry in Joseph Goebbels's diary on 27 March 1942 mentioning the Führer's "Prophecy" was coming true was a sign that Hitler had ordered the Holocaust, and accused Irving of dishonesty in claiming that there was no sign in the Goebbels diary that Hitler knew of the Holocaust. Finally, Jäckel noted the frequent references to the "Prophecy Speech" in Hitler's wartime speeches as a sign that Hitler had ordered the Holocaust.

Likewise, Jäckel used Himmler's Posen speeches of 1943 and certain other statements on his part in 1944 referring to an "order" from an unnamed higher authority as proof that Hitler had ordered the Holocaust. In the same way, Jäckel noted Hitler's order of March 13, 1941 that the Einsatzgruppen be reestablished for Operation Barbarossa as proof of the Führer's involvement in the Holocaust. Jäckel also argued that the entry in Joseph Goebbels's diary on 27 March 1942 mentioning the Führer's "Prophecy" was coming true was a sign that Hitler had ordered the Holocaust, and accused Irving of dishonesty in claiming that there was no sign in the Goebbels diary that Hitler knew of the Holocaust. Finally, Jäckel noted the frequent references to the "Prophecy Speech" in Hitler's wartime speeches as a sign that Hitler had ordered the Holocaust.

In response to Jäckel's first article, Irving announced that he had seen a document from 1942 proving that Hitler had ordered the Holocaust not to occur, but that the document was now lost. Jäckel wrote that he had "easily" discovered the "lost" document, which the head of the Reich Chancellery, Hans Lammers wrote to the Justice Minister Franz Schlegelberger that Hitler ordered him to put the "Jewish Question" on the "back-burner" until after the war. Jäckel noted the document concerned was the result of a meeting between Lammers and Schlegelberger on 10 April 1942 concerning amendments to the divorce law concerning German Jews and Mischlinge. Jäckel noted that in 1942, there was a division of labour between the representatives of the Rechtsstaat (Law State) and the Polizeistaat (Police State) in Nazi Germany. Jäckel argued that for the representatives of the Rechtsstaat like the Ministry of Justice, the "Final Solution" was a bureaucratic process to deprive Jews of their civil rights and to isolate them, whereas for representatives of Polizeistaat like the SS, the "Final Solution" was genocide. Jäckel argued that Hitler's order to Lammers to tell Schlegelberger that to wait until after the war before concerning him about the "impracticable" details of the divorce laws between German Jews and "Aryans" was simply Hitler's way of putting Schlegelberger off. Jäckel ended his essay that the "lost" document in no way proved that Hitler was unaware of the Holocaust, and accused Irving of deceitfulness in claiming otherwise.

In 1980, Jäckel together with Axel Kuhn published Hitler: Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905-1924, a collection of primary documents that record all of Hitler speeches and writings in the period from 1905-1924. Included in the book were every surviving letter, postcard, note and poem written by Hitler. In their opinion, the editors concluded, there was a real change in Hitler's personality in 1919, with his writings before that year having been relatively apolitical, and his writings starting in 1919 showing an increasing obsession with antisemitism. In April 1981, it was revealed that 16 of the six hundred documents published in Hitler: Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905-1924 were forgeries.

In the Historikerstreit (Historians' Dispute) of 1986-88, Jäckel was a prominent critic of Ernst Nolte, whose theory of Nazi crimes as a reaction to Soviet crimes was denounced as ahistorical by Jäckel under the grounds that Hitler held the Soviet Union in contempt and therefore could not have possibly felt threatened by the Soviets as Nolte suggested. Jäckel attacked Nolte's statement that Hitler had an especially vivid fear of the Soviet "rat cage" torture by arguing that Hitler's statement of 1 February 1943 to his generals about captured German officers going off to the "rat cage" clearly meant the Lubyanka prison, and this is not as Nolte was arguing to be interpreted literally. Jäckel went on to argue that Nolte had done nothing to establish what the remarks about the "rat cage" had to do with the Holocaust. Jäckel went on to accuse Nolte of engaging in a post hoc, ergo propter hoc argument to establish the "causal nexus" between Hitler's supposed fear of the "rat cage" torture, and the Holocaust. Jäckel wrote in a 1986 essay entitled "The Impoverished Practice of Insinuation: The Singular Aspect of National-Socialist Crimes Cannot Be Denied" first published in the Die Zeit newspaper on September 12, 1986 that

Hitler often said why he wished to remove and kill the Jews. His explanation is a complicated and structurally logical construct that can be reproduced in great detail. A rat cage, the murders committed by the Bolsheviks, or a special fear of these are not mentioned. On the contrary, Hitler was always convinced that Soviet Russia, precisely because it was ruled by Jews, was a defenseless colossus standing on clay feet. Aryans had no fear of Slavic or Jewish subhumans. The Jew, Hitler wrote in 1926 in Mein Kampf, "is not an element of an organization, but a ferment of decomposition. The gigantic empire in the East is ripe for collapse." Hitler still believed this in 1941 when he had his soldiers invade Russia without winter equipment.

Against Nolte's claim that the Holocaust was not unique, but rather one of out many genocides, Jäckel rejected Nolte's view and those of his supporters like Joachim Fest by writing:

I, however claim (and not for the first time) that the National Socialist murder of the Jews was unique because never before had a nation with the authority of its leader decided and announced that it would kill off as completely as possible a particular group of humans, including old people, women, children and infants, and actually put this decision into practice, using all the means of governmental power at its disposal. This idea is so apparent and so well known that it is quite astonishing that it could have escaped Fest's attention (the massacres of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War were, according to all we know, more like murderous deportations than planned genocide).

Jäckel accused Nolte, Fest and Klaus Hildebrand of engaging in a "game of confusion.". Jäckel wrote that the "game of confusion" comprised posing hypotheses disguised as questions without proof, and when one demands proof, there is an angry response that "one is after all still allowed to ask!". In response to Jäckel's attack, Nolte in an essay published in the Die Zeit newspaper on 31 October 1986 wrote that Jäckel's attack was something that one might expect in an East German newspaper and that:" And I am amazed at the coldheartedness with which Eberhard Jäckel says that not every single bourgeois was killed.". During a debate in London in 1987 to consider the Historikerstreit, Fest and Jäckel again clashed over the question of the "singularity" of the Holocaust with Fest accusing Jäckel of presenting a "caricature" of his and Nolte's views.

A major theme of Jäckel's writing has been what he sees as the uniqueness and singularity of the Holocaust, which Jäckel feels is like no other genocide. In an essay published in Der Spiegel on 23 December 1991, Jäckel argued against those who claimed that the East German dictatorship was just as inhumane as the Nazi dictatorship. During the "Goldhagen Controversy" of 1996, Jäckel was a leading critic of Daniel Goldhagen, and wrote a very hostile book review in the Die Zeit newspaper in May 1996 that called Hitler's Willing Executioners "simply a bad book". The Canadian historian Fred Kautz in defence of Goldhagen wrote that: "Jackel is not a "structuralist", but a Hitler biographer. He expounds the theory that Hitler alone was driven by the explicit desire to kill all the Jews and that in essence only he is guilty. This narrows down the question of guilt to only one evil person and absolves the "ordinary Germans.".

In 1990, Jäckel and Lea Rosh were awarded the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis for their work, Der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland. On 33 March 2006 in a feuilleton (opinion) piece in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Jäckel wrote a book review that approved of Guenter Lewy's thesis in his book The Armenian Massacres in Ottoman Turkey about the 1915 Armenian Massacres, that there were massacres, but no genocide of the Armenians. Jäckel's critics accused him of disregarding the fact that Turkish troops were crossing the border and exterminating Armenians outside the Ottoman Empire in 1918 (young-Turkish campaign in Caucasus killing 40,000 Armenians) and in 1920 (Kemalist troops killing 60,000 civilians).

Selected works

  • Frankreich in Hitlers Europa : die deutsche Frankreichpolitik im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Stuttgart : Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1966.
  • Hitlers Weltanschauung : Entwurf einer Herrschaft, Stuttgart : Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1969 translated into English as Hitler's World View : A Blueprint for Power by Herbert Arnold, Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1972, 1981 ISBN 0-674-40425-4.
  • Deutsche Parlamentsdebatten, Frankfurt a. M. u. Hamburg; Fischer-Bücherei 1970.
  • Die Funktion der Geschichte in unserer Zeit, Stuttgart : Klett, 1975 ISBN 3-12-902160-4.
  • "Litaraturbericht: Rückblick auf die sogenanngte Hitler-Welle" ("A Look at the So-Called Hitler Wave") pages 695-711 from Geschichte in Wissenschaft und Unterricht, Volume 28, 1977.
  • Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905-1924 , Stuttgart : Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1980 ISBN 3-421-01997-5.
  • "Wie kam Hitler an die Macht?" pages 305-321 from Weimar Selbstpreisgabe einer Demokratie edited by Karl Dietrich Edmann and Hagen Schulze, Düsseldorf, 1980
  • Co-edited with Jürgen Rohwer Kriegswende Dezember 1941 : Referate und Diskussionsbeiträge des internationalen historischen Symposiums in Stuttgart vom 17. bis 19. September 1981, Koblenz : Bernard & Graefe, 1984 ISBN 3-7637-5433-4.
  • Co-written with Jürgen Rohwer Der Mord an den Juden im Zweiten Weltkrieg : Entschlussbildung und Verwirklichung, Stuttgart : Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1985 ISBN 3-421-06255-2.
  • Hitler in History, Hanover, NH : Published for Brandeis University Press by University Press of New England, 1984 ISBN 0-87451-311-1.
  • Hitlers Herrschaft. Vollzug einer Weltanschauung, Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1986.
  • Co-written with Lea Rosh Der Tod ist ein Meister aus Deutschland', Komet, 1990 ISBN 3-933366-44-5
  • "Une querelle d'Allemands? La misérable pratique des sous-entendus" pages 95–98 from Documents, Volume 2, 1987.
  • "Die doppelte Vergangenheit" pages 29–43 from Der Spiegel, December 23, 1991.
  • David Irving's Hitler : a faulty history dissected : two essays translation and comments by H. David Kirk ; with a foreword by Robert Fulford; Port Angeles, Wash. ; Brentwood Bay, B.C. : Ben-Simon Publications, 1993 ISBN 0-914539-08-6
  • "The Impoverished Practice of Insinuation: The Singular Aspect of National-Socialist Crimes Cannot Be Denied" pages 74–78 from Forever In The Shadow of Hitler? edited by Ernst Piper, Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands, 1993.
  • "L'arrivé d"Hitler au pouvoir: un Tschernobly de l'histoire" from Weimar ou de la Démocratie en Allemagne edited by Gilbert Krebs and Gérard Schneilin, Paris, 1994.
  • Das Deutsche Jahrhundert Eine historische Bilanze, Stuttgart, 1996.
  • "The Holocaust: Where We Are, Where We Need to Go" pages 23–29 from The Holocaust and History The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed and the Reexamined edited by Michael Berenbaum and Abraham Peck, Indiana University Press, 1998.
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References
http://data.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb12036992g
http://isni.org/isni/0000000109326726
http://www.3sat.de/3sat.php?http://www.3sat.de/specials/24804/
http://www.faz.net/s/RubA330E54C3C12410780B68403A11F948B/Doc~E3E0055D9443C4696B61E5FE37258ABBE~ATpl~Ecommon~Scontent.html
http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/people/i/irving-david/jackel/jt-2-1.html
https://catalogue.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb12036992g
https://d-nb.info/gnd/120992736
https://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/n81022151
https://libris.kb.se/auth/276408
https://viaf.org/viaf/109176460
https://web.archive.org/web/20070613163418/http://www.uni-stuttgart.de/hing/mitarbeiter/jaeckel-en.htm
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