History is all about knowledge management. Hence all historians MUST be properly trained in this discipline (unfortunately, to my knowledge, no one is). More specifically, history is all about knowledge mining – extracting knowledge from data and information.
By definition, data (although “datum” is a correct term) is an elementary unit of information (i.e. name or a rank of a certain officer of Waffen-SS). Information is a structured collection (group/assembly/set) of data that has a unique meaning (i.e. a number of victims of the Night of the Long Knives).
In a general sense, knowledge is information that has value (to the one who has this knowledge, of course) – financial, functional, emotional or spiritual. For a historian, knowledge is the truth about historical events (i.e. the Holocaust) or historical objects and individuals (i.e., Adolf Hitler, the SS, a certain concentration camp, etc.). Actually, individuals are objects as well – at least in the historical research.
The truth about events consists of the most fundamental questions of historical research – who did what (which usually includes the “how”) when and why (i.e. what were the objectives of the decisions and actions in question). And, of course, what were the actual results; were they different from objectives in question (i.e. from intended consequences) and if they were, why.
The truth about objects or individuals is usually structured as profiles (i.e. psychological profile of a criminal or a victim, specifications of a fighter aircraft, the structure and key attributes of an organization, etc.).
History is a science and for a scientist there is no such thing as a relative truth. The truth is always absolute. Always. The unbreakable laws of formal logic dictate that if a statement by one historian contradicts a statement of another historian (i.e. they are mutually exclusive), then they can not be both right – although they can be both wrong, of course.
I am Roman Catholic, consequently, I believe in the supernatural. In other words, I believe in the existence of an intangible, invisible, “subtle” world which is as real as the physical world that we can see, hear, feel, etc.
I also believe (as it makes complete sense) that this invisible world contains a complete and comprehensive knowledge base; in other words, complete, comprehensive and accurate knowledge about any events that ever took place in human history – and any objects and individuals who ever existed on Earth.
Understandably, every historian who believes in the existence of this knowledge base (and there are a few) would want to be able to access it the way we all can access JSTOR, ProQuest or any other database developed by humans. Or Wikipedia for that matter.
Obviously, it is not possible – at least not directly. All we can hope for (actually, it is a lot) is to collect, structure and study sufficient amount of data and information to accumulate a “critical mass” that will produce a “revelation”.
In other words, provide the historian in question with access to knowledge that he or she intends to “mine” from the abovementioned data and information. Or “download” this knowledge from the abovementioned knowledge base, if you will.
It is important to note that the sources of information and data do not need to be 100% accurate (which is good because they seldom are). They only need to be sufficiently accurate to unlock access to the “knowledge base” (i.e. to produce revelation).
People lie – it is a fact of life. They lie in their memoirs, they lie in their witness statements (even when being cross-examined by expert lawyers or interrogated by highly skilled professionals); they lie in their speeches, reports and other documents… in short, they lie just about everywhere and just about everything that really matters.
Hence it is futile to hope to obtain knowledge from analyzing even the primary sources; instead, one must learn how to use them to get access to the “intangible knowledge base”.
And that’s exactly what I am going to do – using both the primary and secondary resources. In fact, any and all resources (including even Wikipedia) to obtain the genuine knowledge from the only reliable source – the abovementioned intangible knowledge base.
As this book is about Adolf Hitler, the most important primary sources are, of course, his books (Mein Kampf and Zweites Buch), his most important speeches, his orders and his (in)famous Table Talk.