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Henry Picker Hitler's Religion (book) Monologe im Führerhauptquartier Richard Carrier Richard Weikart

A note on sources


by Richard Weikart

The authenticity of most of Hitler’s speeches and writings are uncontroversial, and I use them liberally. However, some have questioned Hitler’s Table Talks as a reliable source for discovering Hitler’s views on religion. In an interesting piece of detective work, Richard Carrier demonstrates convincingly that the English version of Hitler’s Table Talk is based on the translation of a problematic and possibly inauthentic text.[1] Thus, I do not use nor cite the English translation of Hitler’s Table Talk. However, even Carrier admits that the two German editions edited by Henry Picker and Werner Jochmann are generally reliable. Carrier was hoping that debunking Hitler’s Table Talk would demolish the image of Hitler as an anti-Christian that many scholars have built on this flawed document. Unfortunately for Carrier, Hitler is every bit as anti-Christian in the Jochmann and Picker editions.

The Picker and Jochmann editions of Hitler’s Table Talk monologues are very similar—indeed verbatim—in many passages. Each contains some passages not found in the other one. However, when comparing the many passages they share in common, most of them are identical, though occasionally there are very minor differences. Oddly, Carrier maintains that Picker is probably more reliable than Jochmann, but this is not the opinion of most scholars. I have read both editions and will rely mostly on Jochmann, though many of the passages I quote are in both editions. I will only use Picker sparingly and to confirm points Hitler made elsewhere, not to try to establish some unique point. We also need to remember that these monologues are not transcriptions of Hitler’s talks, but are reconstructions based on notes taken during the monologues. Based on some testimony of those present at these monologues, the renditions we have are generally accurate, since they were written immediately afterwards.

The only book Hitler published during his lifetime, Mein Kampf, poses a different kind of problem. It is notoriously unreliable as a memoir, and many scholars—myself included—consider some of the vignettes about his earlier life completely fictitious. It does, however, accurately convey Hitler’s ideology, as does Hitler’s Second Book, which was only discovered after World War II.

Two other contemporary sources—Joseph Goebbels’ diaries and the recently recovered Alfred Rosenberg diaries—confirm the general account of Hitler’s monologues. My book is one of the first to use Rosenberg’s diaries, which do not divulge anything that overturns our previous knowledge about Hitler, but rather corroborate other sources and provide some interesting details…

Where I use English language sources, in most cases I have read the original German to verify the accuracy of the translation.


[1] Richard C. Carrier, ‘Hitler’s Table Talk: Troubling Findings’, German Studies Review, 26 (2003): 561-76.

Henry Picker Martin Bormann

The Führer’s monologues (ix)

This edition

The texts published here are all part of Martin Bormann’s collection of Führergespräche (Führer talks). They are printed in unabridged form, retaining their chronological order. As a rule, Heim summarised the content in a note immediately after each conversation. Only in a few cases did he add statements to later notes, resulting in slight deviations in the chronology (e.g., table talk #91). Only the regularly recurring opening formulas were deleted: ‘The boss expressed himself at tea in approximately the following lines of thought’ or: ‘The boss expressed himself in the sense of, among other things, the following lines of thought’.

Spelling has been normalised; corrections of obvious spelling mistakes, especially in personal names, are not marked. The omissions in the text appear in the original. It is unclear whether Heim left the gaps because he did not remember the information correctly, or whether there are other reasons for the omissions.

The records of Heim’s conversations that Henry Picker transcribed and included in his edition of the Tischgespräche are all marked with an asterisk after the document number. Given the errors and oversights that Picker made in transcribing or printing his documents, these texts should in future be cited according to the edition available here. The editor did not consider it necessary to point out all the deviations and oversights, as this would have impaired the readability of the source and bloated the annotation apparatus.

Document 6 of 9 August 1941, which Picker included in his edition, is not in the collection of interview transcripts. Nor was it written by Heim, as Picker claims. Whether these Grundsätze der Offiziers-Ehrauffassung were formulated based on the keywords and guiding ideas given by Hitler himself must remain an open question. They do not belong in this collection and are not included in the first edition of Tischgespräche edited by Gerhard Ritter.

Four of Hitler’s monologues (#41, 61, 62 and 213) were recorded by Martin Bormann himself. In character, they are more file notes and were partly dictated as such. However, since the head of the Party Chancellery himself classified them as ‘Führer Talks’ and placed them chronologically in his collection, they have been included in this edition, as have documents #203 to 212, which were prepared by one of Bormann’s assistants after Heim’s departure.

All other documents were dictated and signed by Heim.

Our commentary on Hitler’s monologues has been kept deliberately brief. The editor has refrained from interpreting expressions of opinion on questions of history, politics, worldview or art, as this would have more than doubled the annotation apparatus.

Henry Picker Martin Bormann

The Führer’s monologues (v)

If this rather light-hearted handling of the texts—and the examples could be multiplied—already suggests restraint about Picker’s tradition, the critical reserve is reinforced by two marginal notes by Bormann. In Picker’s record of the conversation of 12 May 1942,[1] the head of the Party Chancellery complains: ‘This transcript is in many cases quite inaccurate, since Dr Picker, when he took notes during the very long conversation, did not add to them who held this or that view!’ Quite obviously, then, Picker does not seem to have been sufficiently successful in reliably distinguishing Hitler’s views from those of his dinner guests or of party leaders not present who were quoted during the conversation. Even if the validity of the statement can no longer be verified, it must in any case call for caution. There is no evidence in the available material for Picker’s assertion that Bormann ‘blatantly corrected’ his notes. The objections are measured rather than sharp and unobjective. For example, Bormann found the note of the conversation of 4 July 1942 ‘in many cases not quite accurate’, for in a conversation about the Concordat, Hitler had stated: ‘In the case of a Reich regulation, we would have to go by the area that was furthest behind ideologically, i.e. particularly favourable to the enemy’. Picker must have considered this correction by Bormann to be justified, because he included the sentence in his text in a slightly modified form—without, of course, marking it as an addition by another hand—which in no way made the passage in question more precise or unambiguous.[2] In other respects, too, Picker seems to have found notes dictated by Bormann worthy of attention, for he incorporated them very generously into his edition of the Tischgespräche and did not always mark them as someone else’s intellectual property.[3]

Since Picker considers his transcripts made for the NSDAP party chancellery to be private property, a historical-critical edition of all the records from the Führer’s headquarters, as Eberhard Jäckel and Martin Broszat have repeatedly called for, is not to be expected in the foreseeable future. Given the deficiencies of Picker’s records, such an edition would be urgently desirable in the interest of international research.

A discussion of the insightful value of the source must first start with the motives that determined Martin Bormann to have Hitler’s monologues recorded. When he took over as head of the party chancellery after Hess’s flight to England in May 1941, he was aware that the political influence of the NSDAP in the country had dwindled because it lacked ideological unity and a clear course. He wanted to remedy this. Since he knew the close ties between the National Socialist elite and Hitler and was well aware that even the Reichsleiter and Gauleiter had not developed an independent position, only the party leader himself came into question as an interpreter of the world view. Bormann hoped that by fixing Hitler’s statements he could create a kind of compendium for the intellectual-political orientation of the NSDAP. Based on the party leader’s comments on concrete events and his declarations of intent in connection with domestic and foreign policy decisions, he wanted to coordinate and activate party work. To secure for the NSDAP the role of the ‘will-bearer of the nation’, which was always aspired to but never achieved, Bormann tried to immediately translate Hitler’s thoughts and views into political practice and incorporate them into the decrees and directives of the Party Chancellery. In possession of clear directives, the political leaders in the country had to succeed, he hoped, in emphatically reasserting their claim to leadership vis-à-vis state authorities, offices of the Wehrmacht and influential business circles.

Martin Bormann, left.

In some cases, the head of the party chancellery passed on Hitler’s statements as directives. For example, Alfred Rosenberg, Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, received by letter on 23 July 1942 everything that Hitler had developed in conversation shortly beforehand in terms of views on Ostpolitik.[4] In another case, there is evidence that a note by Heim was made available to the responsible Reich Minister. Following the reception of the newly appointed Minister of Justice, Thierack, and his State Secretary at the Führer’s headquarters on 20 August 1942, Hitler abandoned the customary practice of not discussing at the table the matters under discussion. He criticised the administration of justice, which in his opinion was due to a lack of political insight, and then very firmly formulated his views and demands. Bormann gave the monologue transcript prepared by Heim to the minister so that he could familiarise himself in detail with his Führer’s thoughts and make them the guideline for his actions. This is what happened; in any case, Hitler’s formulations can be found in the speech that Thierack gave to the directors of the higher regional courts and the attorneys general on 29 September 1942.[5] What effect this speech had, whether it impressed or even influenced the judges, cannot be proven, however. Doubts are permitted here, because Hitler was repeatedly dissatisfied with the judiciary even later.

In general, the political effectiveness of the system should not be inferred from Bormann’s intentions and restless activity. The head of the party chancellery by no means immediately transformed every thought Hitler expressed into an order,[6] but kept precisely to the limits Hitler set for him. Thus, among other things, he was fundamentally forbidden to take a harder line against the churches, as he wished. The Reichsleiter also had no power of action in personnel policy. Hitler reserved the right to decide in all important cases. The Gauleiters of the NSDAP in particular, as well as the leaders of the branches and affiliated associations, knew this and therefore decided very high-handedly whether to heed or ignore Bormann’s directives. For example, the Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter of Hamburg, Karl Kaufmann, weakened Hitler’s criticism of the judiciary by explaining to the judges in his Higher Regional Court district that they had given no cause for complaint, that the criticism was primarily directed at the Ministry and not at the individual judge.[7] But precisely in this way he contradicted the opinion of the party leadership, without being reprimanded for it. He was not required to drop the considerations and steer a harder course.

Bormann’s intimate knowledge of Hitler’s views undoubtedly enabled him to reinforce the party’s influence in important decision-making processes at the highest level. However, he was not able to bring the party onto a unified and clear political course. The distance from the Führer’s headquarters to Berlin and the Gau capitals was too far for that, and the war in any case considerably narrowed the scope for action. Joseph Goebbels, the Gauleiter of Berlin, later gave vent to his growing annoyance in his diary: ‘Bormann has turned the party chancellery into a paper office. Every day he sends out a mountain of letters and files that the Gauleiter, who is now in the thick of the fight, can practically no longer even read through’.[8] Ultimately, precise knowledge of Hitler’s worldview was primarily to Bormann’s advantage in that he strengthened his reputation by expressing the same views. Despite his restless zeal and the comprehensive information he received, he remained Hitler’s first assistant until his death.


[1] Picker, Hitlers Tischgespräche, doc. 114, p. 283.

[2] Ibid., doc. 168, p. 414.

[3] Ibid., oc. 43 (24. 2. 1942), p. 135, clearly bears Bormann’s dictation mark.

[4] This was first pointed out by Alexander Dallin, Deutsche Herrschaft in Russland 1941-1945, Düsseldorf 1958, pp. 15 and 469/70. Letter from Bormann to Rosenberg, 23 July 1942, ND-NO 1878.

[5] Detailed references in Lothar Gruchmann, Hitler über die Justiz. Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 12, 1964, p. 91.

[6] Jochen von Lang, Der Sekretär. Stuttgart 1977, p. 229.

[7] Werner Johe, Die gleichgeschaltete Justiz. Organisation des Rechtswesens und Politisierung der Rechtsprechung 1933-1945, dargestellt am Beispiel des Oberlandesgerichtsbezirks Hamburg. Frankfurt/Main 1962, p. 176.

[8] Joseph Goebbels, Tagebücher 1945. Die letzten Aufzeichnungen. Hamburg 1977, p. 514. Similar complaints from other Gauleiters are also available from earlier times.

Henry Picker Martin Bormann

The Führer’s monologues (iii)

Picker (pic left) pointed out in the introduction to the edition of his Table Talk that, apart from short walks, Hitler ‘only found the necessary mental and spiritual relaxation in private conversation at his table, i.e. in talking in a personal, convivial atmosphere’.[1] This purpose was best achieved the further the respective topic of conversation led away from the pressing tasks and decisions of the day. Since every effort and concentration was to be avoided, the guests refrained from deepening or continuing a topic by asking questions or raising objections. In addition, the commander-in-chief, who was cut off from many contacts and isolated from the people in his headquarters, also monologued to gain clarity for himself. He found it particularly helpful when the guests were open-minded and joined in. During the war, the small dinner party replaced the population, whose response Hitler had always so urgently needed for his decisions and whom he could not entirely do without.

The need for communication became even more obvious at the nightly teatimes. Hitler didn’t retire after the evening briefing to relax or reflect on current events, but invited a few confidants to his bunker, which also served him as a workroom, to shed the burden of the day and gain new energy. He attached particular importance to the presence of his secretaries, because he felt stimulated by this, but at the same time the informal atmosphere was preserved. Very different topics were often discussed than in the conversations in the larger circle.

______ 卐 ______

Editor’s Note: This is what those who do a detailed analysis of Mein Kampf fail to understand: the real Hitler is the one of his after-dinner talks. The other is the ‘PR Hitler’ for the masses.

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When assessing Hitler’s monologues, these aspects will always have to be taken into account. It corresponded to the need for relaxation and repression that in the winter months of 1941/42 the serious crisis on the Eastern Front, the hardships of the population in the increasingly severe war, the supply difficulties and the looming weakness of Italy weren’t mentioned at all. No less visible is the need for recreation in the reminiscences of a special past, the reports of interesting encounters and experiences, and discussions about questions of art. This is often matched by the style of relaxed chit-chat, whereby the topics changed quickly and easily and undoubtedly not every word and every opinion should be weighed on the gold scales.

Hitler sought contact with his aides and collaborators when fundamental questions of worldview and politics moved him and he wanted to gain clarity about his course of action, especially about the possibilities and limits he had for his actions during the war. The frequent discussions on questions of faith, the vitality of Christianity in Germany and Europe, the position of the churches on National Socialism and politics in the occupied territories of Eastern Europe belong in this context; and the same for his remarks on the administration of justice and the special problems of the penal system under the exceptional conditions of war. Hitler sensed in his conversations with the few people around him in the Führer’s headquarters that the readiness to take tougher and more uncompromising action against outsiders or enemies of the regime grew the more severe as the war unfolded, and the sacrifices it demanded. Even in the seclusion of his headquarters, he still had a feeling for the mood in the country and the state of consciousness of the individual groups and classes. Hence his repeated harsh criticism of the administration and its schematism, which was shared by parts of the population, his mockery of the concerns and objections of the experts in all areas of public life, and his anger at the Germans who showed fear and disgust given the deportations of Jews and the persecution measures in the occupied territories.

______ 卐 ______

Editor’s Note: This reminds me of American racialists that falter over the exterminationist measures that William Pierce fantasized about in both fiction and his story of the white race.

______ 卐 ______

Now, admittedly, the records convey only an inadequate picture of Hitler’s remarks. Heim did take notes at lunchtime and in the evening during the talks in the larger circle ‘to have a basis for the most important details’. But even then, after the board had been removed, he was only able to summarise on a few pages what sometimes had been discussed in great detail. For the very long monologues during the nightly teatimes, he had to rely entirely on his memory.

Furthermore, Bormann’s adjutant, who was interested in problems of art, refrained from the outset from ‘recording statements on military and questions of technology’ because he wasn’t competent and knowledgeable in this regard. He did this in wise self-restraint, although conversations about these topics at the table took up a great deal of space and Hitler had considerable knowledge in these areas. But beyond that, Heim didn’t jot down anything unless he was sure ‘that he had grasped the gist of it’. When reading these notes it must always be borne in mind that they contain by no means everything that concerned Hitler and what he talked about.

Nevertheless, the transcripts presented here are of great value because the man who made them, as a convinced National Socialist, tried to capture the ‘train of thought and the quintessence’ of what he heard. Particularly short, striking statements and remarks on ideological and political issues, that were familiar to Heim as an old party comrade, stuck with him. When talking about less familiar topics or events that were off the beaten track, on the other hand, sentences were sometimes recorded that no longer allow a full reconstruction of the course of the conversation and the train of thought.

No matter how hard Heim tried to convey the words of his leader as faithfully and accurately as possible, they remain subjectively filtered. Here, too, what Baroness Spitzemberg noted in her diary about a long conversation with Bismarck in Friedrichsruh after his resignation is true: ‘In writing all this down immediately after hearing it, with no other intention than to entrust the great man’s words to this book, I realise how inevitable the errors are… When I read over what has been written, I am well aware that I have not written anything wrong; but some things have nevertheless been left out, through the different order or it doesn’t appear as it was intended. Perhaps I put a different meaning in the prince’s words!’[2]

To leave no doubt that it was always only a summary of Hitler’s remarks, Heim introduced each interview note with a sentence such as: ‘According to the meaning, the chief expressed himself in approximately the following lines of thought’, or: ‘Among other things, according to the meaning, the chief expressed himself as follows…’ This practice was also adhered to by Bormann’s adviser, who recorded the few statements from the years 1943/44. His notes always began with the formula: ‘Today the Führer said roughly the following…’ This makes it clear that it is merely a reproduction, that long discussions were summarised, and that occasionally less important or very specific statements were omitted.

This finding must be particularly emphasized because Picker described Heim’s 36 conversation recordings, which he included in his edition of the Tischgespräche, as ‘original shorthand’.[3] This claim may be in private interest—shorthand notes are not protected by copyright to the same extent as memorial transcripts and memos, but it doesn’t serve the needs of science and the interested public at all. After all, there is a serious difference between a verbatim reproduction of Hitler’s remarks and a summary of his monologues.

Moreover, Picker’s assertion that he had received the express permission of Hitler and Bormann to take his own and some selected notes of Heim’s must also be questioned. According to Heim, Hitler knew nothing at all about his notes. He can therefore—at least in the case of Heim’s texts—hardly have had material at his disposal of which he had no knowledge. Furthermore, it is not evident why Bormann treated the Führer’s talks as a ‘secret’ party matter and carefully kept them safe, if at the same time he expressly released them as a private work.

For the evaluation of the source, it is of great importance whether Hitler carefully checked his statements in the knowledge of the transcripts and only said what was allowed to become known, or whether he was able to speak freely and relaxedly in a circle of confidants about questions that shouldn’t leak out, to which he didn’t yet have a clear answer. All the information suggests that the latter was the case. In any case, Hitler didn’t expect that what he said at the nightly meetings in his study would be recorded in writing. In this relaxed atmosphere he expressed himself more openly and informally than at the lunch and dinner table. Picker was well aware of this, because during his work on Bormann’s staff he mainly procured copies of these notes. Of the 36 notes he took from Heim’s inventory into his edition, 13 alone refer to the nightly teatimes, to which he was never asked.


[1] Picker, Hitlers Tischgespräche, p. 24.

[2] Das Tagebuch der Baronin Spitzemberg. Ausgewählt und herausgegeben von Rudolf Vierhaus (The Diary of Baroness Spitzemberg. Selected and edited by Rudolf Vierhaus). Göttingen 1976, p. 291.

[3] Picker, Hitlers Tischgespräche, p. 33.

Henry Picker Martin Bormann

The Führer’s monologues (ii)

The majority of Hitler’s monologues, which are published in this volume, were handed down by Heinrich Heim (pic above). He was born in Munich on 15 June 1900, and grew up in Zweibrücken where he also attended school.

In keeping with his heritage—Heim came from an old and respected Bavarian legal family (his father was a judge at the Bavarian Supreme Court and from 1918 to 1925 a member of the Bavarian State Court and for a time of the Disciplinary Court)—he studied law at the University of Munich.

Heim met Rudolf Hess at an economics college and through him came into contact with the NSDAP, which he joined as early as 19 July 1920. After passing his exams for the higher judicial and administrative service, the young lawyer set up his own practice in Munich. He worked in an office partnership with Dr Hans Frank, who was already Hitler’s and the NSDAP’s preferred legal representative at that time. Heim, too, immediately became active as a lawyer for the party. He primarily represented the interests of the NSDAP’s relief fund, which was headed by Martin Bormann. This established a collaboration that lasted until 1945.

When Rudolf Hess was appointed Deputy Leader in 1933 and Martin Bormann appointed as his chief of staff, the systematic development of an efficient party headquarters began.

Bormann brought Heim onto his staff on 13 August 1933 where he worked, albeit initially on a fee basis without clearly defined responsibilities. Only after the National Socialist party leadership had been given a say in state legislation and namely in the appointment and promotion of civil servants, other lawyers and staff were recruited. In the newly established constitutional law department of the party headquarters, Heim was assigned the handling of all questions concerning the judiciary. He remained in this position of head of the Reich Office until the end of 1939. In 1936 he was appointed senior government councillor, and in 1939 he received the rank of ministerial councillor.

When, at the beginning of the war, Martin Bormann (who had already been in Berlin from time to time and had kept the connection between Hitler and the party leadership) followed the leader of the NSDAP to his respective headquarters, he took Heim with him as his adjutant. He remained in this position from the end of 1939 until the autumn of 1942. After that, when he returned to the Braune Haus in Munich, he headed a newly created department until the end of the war, in which fundamental questions of a reorganisation of Europe were dealt with.

The decisive factor for Heim’s command to the Führer’s headquarters was Hitler’s wish. If possible, he only wanted to see people he knew in his environment.

The fact that Heim was one of his earliest followers (he had the old membership number 1782) also established a special relationship of trust that made him seem suitable to record Hitler’s discussions and explanations. As Bormann’s adjutant, Heim not only ate regularly at Hitler’s table, but he was also frequently invited to the nightly teatimes in the Führer’s bunker, which were attended only by the closest political confidants and the secretaries. The circle was rarely larger than six to eight people. The records of these nocturnal monologues by Hitler make up the special value of Heim’s collection.

In spring 1942, Heim was commissioned to assist the painter Karl Leipold, to whom he was particularly close, in preparing an exhibition at the Haus der Kunst. For the time of his absence from the Führer’s headquarters from March to July 1942, Bormann was looking for a substitute. Since no one was available in the party chancellery, he turned to the Gauleiter of the NSDAP and asked them for suggestions. Among the names he was given was that of Dr Henry Picker, a senior government official. He had been proposed by the Gauleiter of Oldenburg, Karl Rover. The party chancellery made a preliminary selection, and the decision lay with Hitler himself.

Bormann accepted Picker as Heim’s representative because the proposal came from a proven Gauleiter and Hitler transferred the recognition he paid to Picker’s father to his son. Senator Daniel Picker had already promoted the NSDAP in Wilhelmshaven in 1929 and brought its leader into contact with representatives of the shipyard industry and the navy.[1]

During his visits to the port city, Hitler had repeatedly been a guest in the Picker house. For the sake of clarification, it deserves to be stated that Henry Picker did not come to the Führer’s headquarters as a civil servant or lawyer, but served there as Bormann’s adjutant on behalf of the Party Chancellery. His permanent duties therefore included recording Hitler’s conversations during the official lunch and dinner table.


[1] Picker: Hitlers Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquartier (op. cit.), page 12.

2nd World War Henry Picker Richard Carrier Richard Weikart

The Führer’s monologues (i)

Editor’s note: This site has been promoting Richard Carrier’s work about the dubious historicity of Jesus. But Carrier is a typical neochristian. As Robert Morgan once said, the Christian influence on culture has been so profound that even atheists like Dawkins and Carrier accept the Christian moral framework without question. Carrier’s liberalism has gone so far that he even subscribes the psychosis en mass that a human being can choose his or her sex, disregarding biology.

Carrier also talks nonsense about Hitler, especially about the Führer’s after-dinner talks. All his rigour as a scholar of 1st-century Mediterranean religions goes out the window when he addresses Hitler’s anti-Christianity. Carrier cheats by deliberately using sloppy English translations instead of the originals (this video featuring David Irving and Richard Weikart explains it briefly).

Here is my hand holding one of the good German editions, Henry Picker’s, which, unlike the popular translations, wasn’t slightly altered. It is time to refute Carrier’s claim that Hitler wasn’t anti-Christian, although in this new translation I will be using another edition also mentioned in the above-linked video, not the book in my hand. However, the editor’s introduction is too long for a single blog post and I’ll have to divide it into parts (i, ii, iii, etc.). If you want to read it all in the original language, you can do so in the German section of this site.

______ 卐 ______


Adolf Hitler

Monologues at the Führer’s Headquarters 1941-1944

– The Records of Heinrich Heim Edited by Werner Jochmann –


Shortly after the beginning of the war against the Soviet Union, Reichsleiter Martin Bormann suggested recording Hitler’s conversations during breaks in the Führer’s headquarters. He was guided by the following considerations: After years of unprecedented restlessness with travels, visits, events, intensive consultations with architects, artists, party leaders, representatives of the state, the economy and the Wehrmacht, and after the major foreign policy actions and the first campaigns of the Second World War, the Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht was now directing operations against the Red Army with his staff from East Prussia. To preserve for posterity the ideas and conceptions he developed in this seclusion and during the most decisive phase of the war so far, Bormann, as head of the party chancellery, asked his adjutant Heinrich Heim to set them down.

On the way home from a lunch meeting with Hitler at the end of June or beginning of July 1941, Heim reports, Bormann suggested that he ‘try to write down from memory an omission we had just heard. What I submitted to the Reichsleiter seemed to him to miss what he was interested in; he therefore made a transcript himself and submitted it to me; inwardly I held fast to my idea, even if I could not reprove his’. Some of the difficulties that had been encountered in this accidental recording of Hitler’s expositions could be overcome by proceeding according to plan. From then on, Heim concentrated intensively on the course and content of the conversations at the table; as far as possible, he also unobtrusively noted down a few keywords, occasionally even the one or other striking sentence. With the help of these notes, he then immediately dictated his notes of the conversation to one of Bormann’s secretaries. During the nightly teatimes, however, to which only a small and intimate circle was invited, there was no opportunity to record even a single word. Since this intimate circle often remained gathered around Hitler until the first hours of the following day, the record of the course of conversation could only be dictated the next morning.

In his casual chats, Hitler frequently changed the subject. Initially, therefore, an attempt was made to systematically summarise remarks on certain problem areas over several days.[1] However, since this procedure lost the immediacy of the statement and it was also impossible to reconstruct the context in which the remarks were to be placed, it was quickly abandoned. The conversations were recorded in their course and in the order in which they took place. As a rule, Hitler spoke alone, usually choosing topics that moved him at the time. In many cases, however, he evaded the pressing problems by distancing himself from the work of the day, for example, in reports from his school days or the early days of the NSDAP. Not every monologue Heim recorded advances the reader’s political insight. But all of them provide an insight into the everyday life of the Führer’s headquarters and the mentality and lifestyle of Adolf Hitler.

Martin Bormann was soon very satisfied with Heim’s work. He saw a collection of material emerging to which he attached great importance. In a memo to the Party Chancellery in Munich, he wrote on 20 October 1941: ‘Please keep these – later extremely valuable – notes very well. I have finally got Heim to the point where he is taking detailed notes as a basis for these memos. Any transcript that is not quite accurate will be corrected by me once again!’ As far as can be seen, there was little cause for correction. In the record published here, the head of the Party Chancellery added only a few additions, which are marked in the text of the edition. The extent to which individual objections and remarks were already taken into account in the final transcription of the notes cannot be established with certainty. According to Heim’s statements, this was not the case, and the findings in the files also speak against it. For each talk note, an original was made, which Heim revised and corrected once more. An original with two carbon copies was made of the final version. The first, signed by Heim in each case, was taken by Bormann, the carbon copies were kept by the heads of the political and constitutional departments of the party chancellery. Some notes dictated and signed by Bormann himself were added to the collection.

Heim’s notes begin on 5 July 1941, are interrupted on 12 March 1942, then continued again from 1 August to 7 September 1942. During Heim’s absence, his deputy, Oberregierungsrat Dr Henry Picker, prepared the talk notes from 21 March to 31 July 1942. At the beginning of September 1942, a serious crisis occurred at the Führer’s headquarters. Hitler was disappointed by the lack of success of Army Group A in the Caucasus. He heaped reproaches on the Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal List, and his generals. The Chief of the Wehrmacht Joint Staff, Colonel General Jodl, therefore flew to the Field Marshal’s headquarters to get information about the situation on the fronts of the Army Group. On his return to the Führer’s headquarters on 7 September, he recommended to Hitler a cessation of the attack and a withdrawal of the Mountain Corps, which had been particularly far advanced and weakened by the hard fighting.[2] Hitler reacted angrily and accused Field Marshal List of not following his orders and therefore being responsible for the failure. When Jodl, on the other hand, claimed that the Army Group had strictly followed his instructions and thus indicated that the criticism fell back on Hitler, the rupture was sealed.

The consequence of this serious conflict was that from then on Hitler had the briefings recorded by Reichstag stenographers; did not leave his barracks in daylight for long periods and, in particular, no longer ate with the members of the Führer’s headquarters.[3] To what extent his self-confidence received a severe blow from this event, because he realised that his goals in Russia could no longer be achieved, may remain undiscussed in this context. What is decisive is that Hitler henceforth distrusted his officers and showered them with reproaches that shocked even his closest political confidants.[4] Martin Bormann, too, registered with concern that Hitler was closing himself off more and more from those around him.[5] The transcripts end with the abolition of the common table. If there were still conversations in a relaxed atmosphere afterwards, there was hardly any opportunity to record them. The few notes made in 1943/44 by one of Bormann’s advisers, who also added them to the collection of Führer conversations, are summarised – released for publication – in the fourth part of this volume. A glance at these few documents reveals the change in atmosphere that had taken place since September 1942. Hitler no longer spoke so freely, most questions were only touched on briefly.

Martin Bormann marked his collection of ‘Führer conversations’ as ‘secret’ and sent parts of it to his wife for safekeeping. Gerda Bormann left Obersalzberg on 25 April 1945, after the property had been destroyed in a bombing raid, and took not only her husband’s letters but also the conversation notes with her to South Tyrol. She died there in a prisoner-of-war camp in Merano on 23 March 1946.[6] After the German surrender, an Italian government official in Bolzano took over the entire collection and later sold it to François Genoud in Lausanne, who still owns it. It forms the basis of the present edition.

While Henry Picker has meanwhile repeatedly published his conversation notes from the Führer’s headquarters,[7] Heim’s much more extensive notes have so far only been published in foreign languages. A French edition was produced by François Genoud[8] at the beginning of the 1950s; the English edition, by H. R. Trevor-Roper at the same time. This first English edition was followed by a second in 1973; [9] two American editions identical to the English edition had appeared before that.[10] Since these translations of such a central source are much used by international researchers, it is about time that it is finally made accessible in the original text. This is all the more urgent because specific National Socialist terms and also some of Hitler’s linguistic idiosyncrasies can only be translated imperfectly. Attempts to retranslate his remarks have inevitably led to errors that have been to the detriment of the interpretation.


[1] Cf. Gespräch Nr. 28, S. 74.

[2] Colonel General Haider, Kriegstagebuch Vol. III, edited by Hans-Adolf Jacobsen. Stuttgart 1964, p. 518 f. (8. 9. 1942).

[3] Notizen des Generals Warlimont. Kriegstagebuch des OKW, Vol. 2, 1st half volume. Compiled and explained by Andreas Hillgruber. Frankfurt/Main 1963, S. 697.

[4] Heinrich Hoffmann reports on a conversation with Hitler in late summer or autumn 1942, in which Hitler called his officers ‘a pack of mutineers and cowards’. Hoffmann notes: ‘I was deeply affected by this abrupt outburst of hatred. I had never heard Hitler talk like that before’. Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler, wie ich ihn sah. Munich-Berlin 1974, page 178.

[5] Bormann in letters to his wife Jochen von Lang, Der Sekretär. Stuttgart 1977, page 230.

[6] Death certificate of the registry office I in Berlin. Cf. Joseph Wulf, Martin Bormann. Gütersloh 1962, page 223.

[7] Henry Picker, Hitlers Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquartier 1941-42 (Hitler’s Table Talks at the Fuehrer’s Headquarters 1941-42), ed. by Gerhard Ritter, Bonn 1951. The second edition was supervised by Percy Ernst Schramm in collaboration with Andreas Hillgruber and Martin Vogt. It appeared in Stuttgart in 1963 and was followed in 1976 by a third new edition edited by Picker himself, published by Seewald-Verlag, Stuttgart. The edition edited by Ritter was published in Milan in 1952 in an Italian translation Conversazioni di Hitler a tavola 1941-1942. Andreas Hillgruber supervised the edition published by Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich, in 1968, and in 1979 Goldmann-Verlag in Munich published a paperback edition edited by Picker.

[8] Adolf Hitler, Libres Propos sur la Guerre et la Paix, recueillis sur l’ordre de Martin Bormann. Paris, 1952 and 1954.

[9] Hitler’s Table Talk 1941-44: His Private Conversations. London 1953 und 1973.

[10] Hitler’s Secret Conversations 1941-1944. New York 1953 and 1961.