"HITLER\'S TABLE TALK" (German : Tischgespräche im
Führerhauptquartier) is the title given to a series of World War II
monologues delivered by
Adolf Hitler , which were transcribed from
1941 to 1944. Hitler's remarks were recorded by
Heinrich Heim , Henry
Picker , and
Martin Bormann , and later published by different
editors, under different titles, in three different languages.
Martin Bormann, who was serving as Hitler's private secretary,
Hitler to allow a team of specially picked officers to
record in shorthand his private conversations for posterity. The
first notes were taken by the lawyer Heinrich Heim, starting from 5
July 1941 to mid-March 1942. Taking his place,
Henry Picker took
notes from 21 March 1942 until 2 August 1942, after which Heinrich
Martin Bormann continued appending material off and on until
The talks were recorded at the
Führer Headquarters in the company
of Hitler's inner circle. The talks dwell on war and foreign affairs
but also Hitler's attitudes on religion , culture , philosophy , his
personal aspirations and feelings towards his enemies and friends.
* 1 History
* 2 Controversies
* 2.1 Hitler\'s comments on religion
* 2.1.1 Revisionist views
* 2.1.2 Contemporaneous sources
* 3 See also
* 4 References
* 5 External links
The history of the document is relatively complex, as numerous
individuals were involved, working at different times, collating
different parts of the work. This effort spawned two distinct
notebooks, which were translated into multiple languages, and
covered, in some instances, non-overlapping time-frames due to ongoing
legal and copyright issues.
All editions and translations are based on the two original German
notebooks, one by
Henry Picker , and another based on a more complete
Martin Bormann (which is often called the
Henry Picker was the first to publish the table
talk, doing so in 1951 in the original German . This was followed by
the French translation in 1952 by
François Genoud , a Swiss
financier. The English edition came in 1953, which was translated by
R. H. Stevens and
Norman Cameron and published with an introduction by
Hugh Trevor-Roper . Both the French and English
translations were purportedly based on the Bormann-Vermerke
manuscript, while Picker's volume was based on his original notes, as
well as the notes he directly acquired from
Heinrich Heim spanning
from 5 July 1941 to March 1942. The original German content of the
Bormann-Vermerke was not published until 1980 by historian Werner
Jochmann . However Jochmann's edition is not complete, as it lacks
the 100 entries made by Picker between 12 March and 1 September 1942.
Both Heim's and Picker's original manuscripts seem to have been lost,
and their whereabouts are unknown.
Albert Speer , who was the Minister of Armaments and War Production
Nazi Germany , confirmed the authenticity of Picker's German
edition in his 1976 memoirs. Speer stated that
Hitler often spoke at
length about his favorite subjects, while dinner guests were reduced
to silent listeners. In the presence of his "superiors by birth and
Hitler made a sincere effort to "present his thoughts in as
impressive manner as possible." Speer noted that, "we must remember
that this collection includes only those passages in Hitler's
monologues—they took up one to two hours every day—which struck
Picker as significant. Complete transcripts would reinforce the sense
of stifling boredom."
According to historian
Max Domarus ,
Hitler insisted on absolute
silence when he delivered his monologues. No one was allowed to
interrupt or contradict him.
Magda Goebbels reported to Galeazzo Ciano
that, "It is always
Hitler who talks! He can be
Führer as much as he
likes, but he always repeats himself and bores his guests." Ian
Kershaw reports that:
Some of the guests—among them Goebbels, Göring, and Speer—were
regulars. Others were newcomers or were seldom invited. The talk was
often of world affairs. But
Hitler would tailor the discussion to
those present. He was careful in what he said. He consciously set out
to impress his opinion on his guests, perhaps at times to gauge their
reaction. Sometimes he dominated the 'conversation' with a monologue.
At other times, he was content to listen while Goebbels sparred with
another guest, or a more general discussion unfolded. Sometimes the
table talk was interesting. New guests could find the occasion
exciting and Hitler's comments a 'revelation'. Frau Below, the wife of
the new Luftwaffe-Adjutant, found the atmosphere, and Hitler's
company, at first exhilarating and was greatly impressed by his
knowledge of history and art. But for the household staff who had
heard it all many times, the midday meal was often a tedious affair.
After the war,
Albert Speer referred to the table talks as "rambling
was that classic German type known as
Besserwisser , the
know-it-all. His mind was cluttered with minor information and
misinformation, about everything. I believe that one of the reasons he
gathered so many flunkies around him was that his instinct told him
that first-rate people couldn't possibly stomach the outpourings.
Although the table talk monologues are generally considered
authentic, contentious issues remain over aspects of the published
works. These include the reliability of particular translated
statements within the French and English editions, questions
over the manner in which
Martin Bormann may have edited his notes,
and disputes over which edition is most reliable. François Genoud
denied claims that he had inserted words into the original German
manuscript, pointing out that it was close-typed apart from
handwritten additions by Bormann and therefore such insertions would
not have been possible.
Richard Evans expresses caution when using the English edition,
describing it as "flawed (and in no sense 'official')" and adding that
it needed to be compared to the 1980 German edition to ensure it was
accurate before being used.
Ian Kershaw also notes that the English
edition is imperfect, with a tendency to miss words, leave out lines,
or include phrases not found in the German text. He uses the original
German sources for preference, advising "due caution" in using the
In 2016 historian Mikael Nilsson argued that Trevor-Roper failed to
disclose source-critical problems, including evidence that significant
portions of the English translation were translated directly from
Genoud's French edition and not the original German Bormann-Vermerke,
as claimed by Trevor-Roper in his preface. Nilsson maintains that this
information was likely known to Trevor-Roper, because it was laid out
in the publishing contract that the "translation into English will be
made on the basis of the French version by François Genoud..."
Nilsson concludes that, "the translation process was highly doubtful;
the history of the manuscript from conception to publication is
mysterious at best, and it is impossible to be sure that the majority
of the entries are in fact authentic (that is, actual statements by
Hitler as opposed to things he could have said)." For this reason
Nilsson argues that
Hitler should not be listed as its author because
it is not clear "how much of it is Hitler's words as they were spoken,
and how much is a product of the later recollection and editing
HITLER\'S COMMENTS ON RELIGION
Further information: Adolf Hitler\'s religious views and Religious
"Hitler's Table Talk" reveals his continued to wish for a unified
Protestant Reich Church of Germany for some time after 1937, which had
largely proven unsuccessful. This was in line with his earlier policy
of uniting all the Protestant churches so they would purvey the new
racial and nationalist doctrines of the regime and act as a unifying
rather than divisive force in Germany. By 1940
Hitler had abandoned
even the syncretist idea of a positive Christianity . According to
Thomas Childers , after 1938
Hitler began to publicly support a
Nazified version of science, particularly social Darwinism , at the
core of Nazi ideology in place of a religious one —a development
that is reflected in his increasingly hostile remarks towards religion
in the Table Talk. Historian
Richard Weikart characterized Hitler's
belief in "evolutionary ethics as the expression of the will of God"
who routinely "equated the laws of nature and the will of Providence."
In the Table Talk,
Julian the Apostate 's Three Books
Against the Galilaeans , an anti-Christian tract from AD 362. In the
entry dated 21 October 1941
When one thinks of the opinions held concerning Christianity by our
best minds a hundred, two hundred years ago, one is ashamed to realise
how little we have since evolved. I didn't know that Julian the
Apostate had passed judgment with such clear-sightedness on
Christianity and Christians ... the Galilean, who later was called the
Christ, intended something quite different. He must be regarded as a
popular leader who took up His position against Jewry ... and it's
certain that Jesus was not a Jew. The Jews, by the way, regarded Him
as the son of a whore—of a whore and a Roman soldier. The decisive
falsification of Jesus's doctrine was the work of St. Paul ... Paul of
Tarsus (his name was Saul, before the road to Damascus) was one of
those who persecuted Jesus most savagely."
Remarks which have not been challenged include, "Christianity is the
prototype of Bolshevism: the mobillization by the Jew of the masses of
slaves with the object of undermining society." The Table
Hitler a confidence in science over religion, "Science
cannot lie, for it's always striving, according to the momentary state
of knowledge, to deduce what is true. When it makes a mistake, it does
so in good faith. It's Christianity that's the liar."
however, "We don't want to educate anyone in atheism." Of the Ten
Commandments of the
Old Testament ,
Hitler affirms his belief that
they "are a code of living to which there's no refutation. These
precepts correspond to irrefragable needs of the human soul; they're
inspired by the best religious spirit, and the Churches here support
themselves on a solid foundation."
In 2003, two challenges appeared to this consensus view. One was from
Richard Steigmann-Gall as part of his wider thesis that, "leading
Nazis in fact considered themselves Christian" or at least understood
their movement "within a Christian frame of reference." He argues
that several passages in the Table
Hitler to have a direct
attachment to Christianity, to be a great admirer of Jesus, and
"gave no indication that he was now agnostic or atheistic"— a
Hitler continued to denigrate the Soviet Union for
promoting. Steigmann-Gall maintains that Hitler's "view of
Christianity is fraught with tension and ambiguity" and Hitler's Table
Talk shows an "unmistakable rupture" with his earlier religious views,
which Steigmann-Gall characterizes as Christian. He attributes this
to Hitler's anger at his failure to exert control over the German
churches, and not anger at Christianity itself. Steigmann-Gall's
wider thesis proved highly controversial, although as John S. Conway
pointed out, the differences between his thesis and the earlier
consensus were mostly about the "degree and timing" of Nazi
In the same year, the historical validity of remarks in the English
and French translations of the table-talk were challenged in a new
partial translation by
Richard Carrier and Reinhold Mittschang, who
went so far as to call them "entirely untrustworthy", suggesting they
had been altered by
Francois Genoud . They put forward a new
translation of twelve quotations based on Picker and Jochmann's German
editions, as well as a fragment from the Bormann-Vermerke preserved at
Library of Congress . Carrier maintains that much of
Trevor-Roper's English edition is actually a verbatim translation of
Genoud's French, and not the original German. Carrier's thesis is
that an analysis between Picker's original German text and Genoud's
French translation reveals that Genoud's version is at best a poor
translation, and in certain places contains "blatant distortions."
Many of the quotations used to support arguments in favor of Hitler's
anti-Christianity are derived from the Genoud–Trevor-Roper
translation. Carrier argues that no one "who quotes this text is
Hitler actually said."
One disputed example includes Hitler's statement that, "Our epoch
will certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity." Picker as
well as Jochmann's German edition, read, "Die Zeit, in der wir leben,
ist die Erscheinung des Zusammenbruchs dieser Sache." Which Carrier
translates (in bold) as: "I have never found pleasure in maltreating
others, even if I know it isn't possible to maintain oneself in the
world without force. Life is granted only to those who fight the
hardest. It is the law of life: Defend yourself! THE TIME IN WHICH WE
LIVE HAS THE APPEARANCE OF THE COLLAPSE OF THIS IDEA. It can still
take 100 or 200 years. I am sorry that, like Moses, I can only see the
Promised Land from a distance."
The Trevor-Roper edition also quotes
Hitler saying, "I realise that
man, in his imperfection, can commit innumerable errors—but to
devote myself deliberately to error, that is something I cannot do. I
shall never come personally to terms with the Christian lie. In acting
as I do, I'm very far from the wish to scandalise. But I rebel when I
see the very idea of Providence flouted in this fashion. It's a great
satisfaction for me to feel myself totally foreign to that world."
However, in Picker's second edition this is written as:
Ich weiß, dass der Mensch in seiner Fehlerhaftigkeit tausend Dinge
falsch machen wird. Aber entgegen dem eigenen Wissen etwas falsch tun,
das kommt nicht in Frage! Man darf sich persönlich einer solchen
Lüge niemals fügen. Nicht weil ich andere ärgern will, sondern weil
ich darin eine Verhöhnung der ewigen Vorsehung erkenne. Ich bin froh,
wenn ich mit denen keine innere Verbindung habe.
Which Carrier translates: "I know that humans in their defectiveness
will do a thousand things wrong. But to do something wrong against
one's own knowledge, that is out of the question! One should never
personally accept such a lie. Not because I want to annoy others, but
because I recognize therein a mockery of the Eternal Providence. I am
glad if I have no internal connection with them."
Carrier also claims there are omissions in the English translations.
In the original German Picker and Jochmann's texts,
"What man has over the animals, possibly the most marvellous proof of
his superiority, is that he has understood there must be a Creative
Power!" However, this text is missing from both the Genoud and
Trevor-Roper translations. The problem of omitted sentences is an
issue also noted by Kershaw, although he attaches less significance
to it, merely advising "due caution" when using it as a source.
According to Carrier, Hitler's views in the Table Talk, "resemble
Kant's with regard to the primacy of science over theology in deciding
the facts of the universe, while remaining personally committed to a
more abstract theism."
In the new foreword to the Table Talk,
Gerhard Weinberg commented
that "Carrier has shown the English text of the table-talk that
originally appeared in 1953 and is reprinted here derives from
Genoud's French edition and not from one of the German texts." Citing
Carrier's paper Diethelm Prowe remarked that Trevor-Roper's "Table
Talk, has been proven to be wholly unreliable as a source almost a
decade ago." Rainer Bucher referencing the problems raised by Carrier
described the English translation as "not only of dubious origin but
also of dubious intent and ideological underpinning" choosing instead
to rely on both Picker and Heim's German editions. Derek Hastings
references Carrier's paper for "an attempt to undermine the
reliability of the anti-Christian statements." Carrier's thesis that
the English translation should be entirely dispensed with is not
accepted by Steigmann-Gall, who despite referencing the controversies
raised by Carrier, "ultimately presume its authenticity."
Between 1941 and 1944, the period in which the Table
Talk was being
transcribed, a number of Hitler's intimates cite him expressing
negative views of Christianity, including
Joseph Goebbels , Albert
Speer , and
Martin Bormann . However Nazi General Gerhard Engel
reports that in 1941
Hitler asserted, "I am now as before a Catholic
and will always remain so." Similarly Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber
reported that after speaking with
Hitler he "undoubtedly lives in
belief in God ... He recognizes Christianity as the builder of western
Ian Kershaw concluded that
Hitler had deceived Faulhaber,
noting his "evident ability to simulate, even to potentially critical
church leaders, an image of a leader keen to uphold and protect
A widespread consensus among historians, sustained over a long period
of time following the initial work of
William Shirer in the 1960s,
Hitler was anti-clerical . This continues to be the
mainstream position on Hitler's religious views, and these views
continue to be supported by quotations from the English translation of
the Table Talk.
Michael Burleigh contrasted Hitler's public
pronouncements on Christianity with those in Table Talk, suggesting
that Hitler's real religious views were "a mixture of materialist
biology, a faux-Nietzschean contempt for core, as distinct from
secondary, Christian values, and a visceral anti-clericalism."
Richard Evans also reiterated the view that
Nazism was secular,
scientific and anti-religious in outlook in the last volume of his
trilogy on Nazi Germany, writing, "Hitler's hostility to Christianity
reached new heights, or depths, during the war" citing the 1953
English translation of
Hitler's Table Talk
Hitler's Table Talk 1941–1944.
* Last will and testament of
Hitler and Mannerheim recording
* ^ A B C D E F Trevor-Roper, H.R. (2000). Hitler's Table Talk
1941–1944. New York: Enigma Books, p. vii.
* ^ A B C Domarus, Max (2004). Speeches and proclamations,
1932–1945. Wauconda IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, p. 2463.
* ^ A B Picker, Henry and
Gerhard Ritter , eds. (1951).
Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquartier 1941–1942. Bonn: Athenäum.
* ^ A B Genoud, François (1952). Adolf Hitler: Libres Propos sur
la Guerre et la Paix. Paris: Flammarion.
* ^ A B C Trevor-Roper, H.R. (1953). Hitler's Table Talk
Norman Cameron and R.H. Stevens. London:
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1941–1944. Hamburg: Albrecht Knaus Verlag.
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1941–1944: His Private Conversations. New York: Enigma Books. p. 61.
In Jochmann (1980) this is quoted as, "Mag die Wissenschaft jeweils
nach eintausend oder nach zweitausend Jahren zu einem anderen
Standpunkt kommen, so war ihr früherer Standpunkt nicht verlogen; die
Wissenschaft lügt überhaupt nicht, sie bemüht sich, nach den
Grenzen, die jeweils ihrer Einsicht gezogen sind, eine Sache richtig
zu sehen. Sie stellt nicht bewußt falsch dar. Das Christentum lügt:
Es ist in einen Konflikt mit sich selbst hineingeraten." Monologe im
Führerhauptquartier 1941-1944. Hamburg: Albrecht Knaus Verlag, p. 84.
* ^ Trevor-Roper, H. R. (2013) Hitler\'s Table
Talk 1941-1944. p.
7. In Jochmann (1980) this is quoted as, "Zum Atheismus wollen wir
nicht erziehen." Monologe im Führerhauptquartier 1941-1944. Hamburg:
Albrecht Knaus Verlag, p. 40.
* ^ Trevor-Roper, Hugh, ed. (2013). Hitler\'s Table Talk