With the publication of a wartime diary in
Kellner pasted a newspaper clip in his diary about a German who initially was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the crime of listening to a foreign broadcast on his radio. A German judge overturned the initial sentence. Instead, the judge ordered the man to be executed. Kellner, who was a justice inspector in the small town of Laubach, wrote in astonishment and deep anger at this administration of Nazi “justice.”
Kellner continued to write throughout World War II. And, on the page of Oct. 28, 1941, Kellner wrote his first entry about the mass murder of Jews. The entry begins near the bottom of the page.
The diary expanded to 10 volumes with a total of 861 pages. It contained 676 individually dated entries from September 1939 to May 1945. More than 500 newspaper clippings are pasted on the pages of the diary.
On July 20, 2011, nearly 72 years after Kellner’s first journal entry, his complete diary was published in Germany under the title “Vernebelt, Verdunkelt Sind Alle Hime” (“All The Minds Are Clouded and Darkened”). The discovery, translation and publication of the diary have been the life mission of one man: Robert Scott Kellner, a resident of
“My grandfather belonged to the Social Democrats [SPD]. He had campaigned against the Nazis. When Hitler took over in January 1933, my grandfather had already moved to Laubach. He was the administrative manager of the regional district courthouse. He was considered a mid-level official in
Hitler banned all political parties and labor unions as soon as he took office as chancellor. The SPD leadership was arrested and thrown into improvised camps – then into concentration camps. Kellner’s grandfather, as a mid-level official, was able to keep his post because the Nazis needed experienced civil officials to run the government.
In 1938, Friedrich Kellner began to think of keeping a diary. But, he didn’t start writing until the day the German army pushed into
Kellner saw the diary as the sole place of light. He directed some of his diary entries to specific individuals in the Nazi government, as if he were shredding the propaganda that poured from Nazi newspapers and radio. He was determined to win his political battle.
Ironically, Friedrich Kellner’s own son, Scott Kellner’s father, was caught up in the patriotic enthusiasm of the day. He fancied himself a Nazi. “That was a sad situation for my grandparents,” said Scott Kellner.
“My grandfather had no illusions about these diaries being published. It was something he felt he had to do. He was so busy in his work by day that he worked through much of night to get his entire diary written. He said he was going to write the diary for future generations, so that they would have a weapon to fight any resurgence of Nazism and anti-Semitism. He fervently believed the Nazis would lose the war, because he believed the democratic nations would not give up their liberties to such as Adolf Hitler. My grandfather couldn’t believe the cultured nation of
The publication of the diary has reignited the controversy in
After the war, most Germans claimed it was only the Nazi Party members who were involved in the killings. Most Germans claimed they didn’t know anything about the killings. But, as early as 1939, Kellner wrote in his diary from this small town – certainly not at the center of
In Oct. 28, 1941, Kellner wrote an entry following a discussion he had with a soldier home on leave. The soldier witnessed naked Jewish men and women being lined up before a ditch in
“I consider that the single most important diary entry, because it shows very clearly what the average citizen knew about the genocide,” said Scott Kellner.
Friedrich Kellner kept his diaries hidden in a hutch in the dining room throughout the war. After the war, instead of publishing the diaries, he continued to keep them hidden. The timing seemed wrong to make the diaries public, his grandson explained.
“My grandfather realized what he had written was not going to be well received in
“My grandfather, even though he was angry at the Nazis, saw that many of them were dead or punished. Judge Schmidt, for example, his boss who tried to get him to join the Nazi Party, was sent to the Eastern Front. He was in a Russian POW camp and died there. My grandfather was appointed the deputy mayor of Laubach. He sat on the commissions that helped remove the leading Nazis from power in the local government. His larger task was to resurrect the Social Democratic party in his region. He became the chairman of the SDP and represented the region in the State Parliament [
So, the diaries remained tucked away in the kitchen hutch until 1960.
Robert Scott Kellner, then 19 years old and a member of the U.S. Navy, was in Frankfurt for 48 hours, en route to duty in
Kellner didn’t speak German. Although he knew that he had grandparents in
At Laubach’s edge, up a hill, Kellner approached a small white cottage. “You cannot imagine the inspiration I felt,” Kellner said. “It was obvious my grandparents had succeeded in leading a kind of life that led to this cottage.”
Kellner knocked and was received inside. His grandfather spoke a broken English, learned from his postwar work with the Allied Army. After introductions and an exchange of family photographs, Scott brought up the word “Nazi.” The elder Kellner didn’t say a word. He went into the dining room to the ornate antique hutch. He brought out 10 accounting ledger notebooks. Silently, he laid out all 10 volumes on a coffee table in the living room. Then, the elder Kellner pointed to the title on the first page of the diary: “Mein Widerstand” (“My Opposition” or “My Resistance”).
“When I saw that, I immediately knew,” said Scott. “I knew my mother had given me the false impression that her in-laws were Nazis. I knew it was a diary, but I couldn’t initially read anything. His [grandfather] made it clear that the diaries were for me. “Fur dich,” [“for you”] Friedrich told him.
When he returned to
In 1968, Scott returned to
Scott retired at age 58 in 1999. He then was able to work full time on getting the diaries translated, first from Suetterlin script (a stylized way of writing Old German) to modern Latin-lettering German and then into English. Slowly and by piecemeal, the complete diaries were translated over a total of 40 years.
“That’s a long time,” said Scott. “I did the translation, so it’s only a mediocre translation. I probably had a lot of hubris to think I could do it.”
Scott Kellner wanted to be certain the diary was published first in Germany, by Germans.
“Within the diary, my grandfather asked: How could a cultured nation and a cultured people trample democracy and give power to a madman,” said Kellner. “So, I felt the diary needed to be read in German by the German people.
“I was able to collaborate with some professors at the
“Grandfather would often write his entries, based on what was in the newspaper clippings. For example, in 1944, as the Soviet army pushed the German forces westward, the newspaper reported about how the German army was ‘restructuring the lines.’ My grandfather wrote that the word ‘retreat’ had been eliminated from the Nazi jargon.”
Critical reaction to the diary, since the July 20 publication, has been quite positive.
“At this stage,” said Kellner, “I feel I have completely succeeded in fulfilling the promise I made to my grandfather. The newspapers in