Saturday, October 15, 2011

NAZI Horror Through Kellner Diary

In the end it is not how much they knew so much how thoroughly each and everyone was first intimidated and was then often succumbing to the prevailing received mythology of the NAZIs.

It is why I cringe to watch the USA suborn their criminal justice system through so called bought justice in which almost everyone entrapped is intimidated into accepting a minor plea in order to avoid prosecution on a very expensive more serious charge.  Thus the psychology of intimidation pervades the system and becomes the first choice.

It is so easy to slide down this road and that may in fact be the ultimate price we pay for the war on drugs in which a real percentage of the population is criminalized.

I have often heard the blithe statement from folks who should know better, that ‘why did they not stop Hitler?’ while forgetting the thousands who did oppose and where then trampled.  Communism is a classic example.  It fell only because it finally seized up and left no choice but abandonment.  So long as a few true believers could be hoodwinked, it was possible to intimidate everyone else.  Or at least for several generations as it turned out.

Today we have liberal democracies under attack by small groups of Islamic Fascists.  Ultimately they need to be crushed.

Importantly, this voice is capable of inoculating German society against such madness in a way other writers are unable to.

Diary shows Germans could have known of Nazi horrors

BERLIN | Wed Oct 12, 2011 10:00am EDT

(Reuters) - The newly published diary of an indignant small-town official in Nazi Germany has stirred the sensitive debate over how much ordinary Germans knew of atrocities committed under Hitler, creating a wave of interest at home and abroad.

The diary of Friedrich Kellner "'All Minds Blurred and Darkened' Diaries 1939-1945" came to prominence thanks to the intervention of the elder former U.S. President George Bush.
Filled with scathing commentaries on events, newspaper clippings and records of private conversations, Kellner's 940-page chronicle gives an insight into what information was available to ordinary Germans.

Kellner, a mid-ranking court official who was in his mid-50s when he started writing, vents his anger at Hitler, hopes his country will be defeated in the war and laments reports of mysterious deaths at mental homes and mass shootings of Jews.

"These diaries ... represent a towering refutation of the well-worn refrain of so many Germans after the war -- 'We knew nothing of the Nazi horrors'," Elan Steinberg of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants said.

Kellner was a Social Democrat who refused to join the Nazi party and his perspective offers a unique view, say historians.

Born in 1885, Kellner was the son of a baker. He fought in World War One and became a government employee in the district court at Laubach, a western town largely sympathetic to Nazis.

"The decisive thing is that he is not an intellectual, he is an ordinary employee sitting in the provinces who reads the newspapers. He is full of anger about what is happening," said Sascha Feuchert, head of the Research Unit for Holocaust Literature at Giessen University, and editor of the volumes.


One of the most chilling entries comes on October 28, 1941:

"A soldier on vacation here said he witnessed a terrible atrocity in the occupied parts of Poland. He watched as naked Jewish men and women were placed in front of a long deep ditch and upon the order of the SS were shot by Ukrainians in the back of their heads and they fell into the ditch. Then the ditch was filled with dirt even as he could still hear screams coming from people still alive in the ditch."

"...There is no punishment that would be hard enough to be applied to these Nazi beasts."

That an occurrence like this was the talk of the town as early as October 1941 shows what information was available.

"Kellner realized there was more to be seen than was being shown. That is some proof that it was not impossible, maybe not even so difficult to see through things," said Feuchert.

Personal conversations, news reports and keen observation convinced Kellner the Nazis were committing terrible crimes.

On September 16, 1942, he wrote: "In the last few days Jews from our district have been removed. From here it was the families Strauss and Heinemann. I heard from a reliable source that all Jews were taken to Poland and would be murdered by SS brigades.

"This cruelty is terrible. Such outrages will never be wiped from the history of humanity. Our murderous government has besmirched the name 'Germany' for all time."

Kellner also wrote a great deal about the crazed ambition of Hitler that would lead to defeat. Noticing a lack of reports about German losses, he made his own calculations on the basis of death notices and came up with a figure of 30,000 per month.

"That may not be the right figure, but the point is he realizes the losses are extreme and he concludes that the war cannot be won. This is very striking," said Feuchert.


Kellner, realizing Germany was heading for turbulent times, set out to record them. He read newspapers from the Voelkischer Beobachter, the Nazi party mouthpiece, and Das Schwarze Korps, the SS newspaper, to local papers from all over the country.

"The purpose of my record is to capture a picture of the current mood in my surroundings so that a future generation is not tempted to construe a 'great event' from it (a heroic time or something similar)," he wrote on September 26, 1938.

"I fear very few decent people will remain after events have taken their course and that the guilty will have no interest in seeing their disgrace documented in writing."

Kellner, who never pretended to hold Nazi views, was under surveillance and questioned by officials several times.

"My grandfather was determined, at great risk to his life, to provide future generations with a weapon of truth against any resurgence of Nazism and totalitarian impulses," Robert Martin Scott Kellner, Friedrich's grandson and joint editor of the diary, told Reuters in an email exchange.

Documents show Kellner came close to being sent to a concentration camp but was careful enough not to let the Nazis get hold of proof against him. "If his diaries had been found it would have been over," said Feuchert.

In 1940, one Nazi official wrote: "If we want to apprehend people like Kellner we will have to lure them out of their corners and let them incriminate themselves. The time is not ripe for an approach like the one used with the Jews. This can only take place after the war."


After the war, Kellner helped decide which local Nazi party members should be barred from professions and public office. In the late 1960s he gave the diaries to his grandson in the United States who faced an uphill battle to get them published.

"I had no idea it would take over four decades to fulfill my promise. Publishers throughout the United States and Germany did not want to take a gamble," said his grandson.

Eventually the chronicles caught the eye of Bush, who put them on exhibition at his presidential library in Texas in 2005.

That sparked interest in Germany and Feuchert and a team of colleagues started five years of research, verifying Kellner's sources and conversation partners before publication.

The appearance of the diaries, 15 years after a major controversy over U.S. academic Daniel Goldhagen's book "Hitler's Willing Executioners," has revived a debate on how much Germans knew about the Holocaust. Goldhagen argued that many more Germans were complicit in carrying out Hitler's plan to exterminate Jews than had previously been acknowledged.

In the last few years, some focus has shifted to Germans' own suffering, with documentaries and books on subjects from the Allies' firebombing of Dresden and the rape of German women by Soviet troops to expulsions of Germans from central Europe.

Kellner's diary features on Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper's "recommended reading" list. The publishers, Wallstein, are on the third print run, indicating unexpectedly strong demand with about 6,000 copies sold and an English translation planned.

Der Spiegel weekly compared the diaries to those of Jewish academic Victor Klemperer, whose account of the climate of hostility and fear in the Nazi years is widely used in Germany as a teaching text on the Third Reich.

"These magnificently edited volumes ... belong in every German library and if possible every book shelf -- next to the diaries of Klemperer," wrote Der Spiegel.

(Reporting By Madeline Chambers; Editing by Peter Graff)

• Thu, Sep 29, 2011

With the publication of a wartime diary in Germany, a grandson keeps a family promise


On the day the German army invaded Poland, August Friedrich Kellner began writing a diary. It was a diary of resistance against a totalitarian state, written in secret. After six years in power, all of Adolf Hitler’s political opponents were in concentration camps or executed. The slightest hint of disagreement or dissent against Hitler was a punishable crime.

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 College Station and former instructor at Texas A&M University. He’s also the grandson of the diarist. 

“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 Germany,” said Kellner.

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 Poland. From 1920 to 1932, he had been politically active. Now, with no public space available for any political dissent or opposition, Kellner envisioned his diary as a private platform to continue his campaign against the Nazis. Darkness was over his homeland.

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.

Had his diary fallen into Nazi hands, he would have been killed. But, Kellner was determined to have the last word.

“My grandfather was called up by the head of the Nazi Party in Laubach in 1940. He was threatened, because he continued to speak out to his fellow employees in the courthouse that the Nazis were wrong to start the war. He had a very strong sense of right and wrong. He knew you couldn’t give into political expediency. He saw what was happening to his fellow citizens, especially the German Jews, and he showed his strong sense of justice,” said Scott Kellner.

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 Germany could have handed over all their liberties to this man [Hitler]. He knew certainly the English and the Americans wouldn’t.”

The publication of the diary has reignited the controversy in Germany about how much the average German citizen knew of what went on, particularly the Nazi crimes against humanity and the persecution of the Jews. In one entry, the diarist wrote, “Only 1 percent of the German people are against the Nazis.” The rest of the German people, he said, either were Nazis or had given into the Nazis “like lambs.”

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 Germany – about “the persecution and the elimination of the Jews” [his words]. 

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 Poland and shot in the back of their heads. There were screams coming from the trench, while the dirt was being shoveled in on top of them, the soldier testified to Kellner.

“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 Germany. There was an underlying tension in the German soul that still believed, to some extent, in Hitler’s vision for a Greater Germany, or Germany as the master nation.

“Second, Germany itself was devastated. They were in a starvation mode for almost a year. [U.S. Gen. Dwight] Eisenhower wanted the German people to feel the consequences of the war. [But, as the post-war politics changed and the Cold War began], Eisenhower realized that he might need the Germans’ help now that he had to fight the Soviets.

“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 [Hesse] through 1960.”

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 Saudi Arabia. Kellner asked permission to leave the base, so he could look for his German grandparents, on his father’s side. Permission was denied. Kellner ignored orders and went AWOL.

Kellner didn’t speak German. Although he knew that he had grandparents in Germany, he never had been in touch with them. He didn’t know if they were alive or dead. The only thing he knew from his mother was that his grandfather had lived in Laubach. For three days, Kellner searched to find the correct Laubach, since there were six other small towns by the same name in Germany. Finally, at the fourth Laubach, a young German girl who knew the grandparents directed the young serviceman towards the outskirts of town.

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 Frankfurt, Scott was put under house arrest for going AWOL. But, he shipped out to the Gulf two days afterward. Grandfather and grandson began a regular correspondence. Scott’s grandfather made it clear that he expected the young man to study German, to take possession of the diaries and to make them public. Scott promised. “For me to think that this man, who went through two wars, created this amazing document and survived with dignity, could believe in me – a young man of 19 – was an inspiration. I did not want to disappoint him.”

In 1968, Scott returned to Germany and took possession of the diaries. Both of his grandparents died in 1970. Scott would end up teaching American literature and technical writing at Texas A&M University from 1979 to 1985. He then quit teaching to start his own construction company. His goal was to retire early, so that he could fulfill the promise he made to his grandfather.

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 University of Giessen and the University of Heidelberg. We have worked together for six years to create the definitive edition of the diary. These professors obtained funding from different German foundations to get it published and continue work on it.

“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 Germany are referring, once again, to the need for Germans to examine why they went along with Hitler. More important, there is a neo-Nazi party in Germany today. One of the diary reviewers said Friedrich Kellner would be disappointed to know that this neo-Nazi party in Germany today has not been banned. That is exactly the kind of issue I hoped the diary would raise.”

Diaries Reveal How Much Wartime Germans Knew

By Elke Schmitter

Newly published diaries by a Nazi-era court official document details that others conveniently ignored. While many Germans would later claim they knew nothing of Nazi crimes, Friedrich Kellner's critical observations show that such information was available.

The penultimate year of the war began with a speech exhorting Germans to persevere.

Italy was no longer Germany's ally, and the Soviet army was approaching the borders of Poland, Hungary and Romania. The Allied landing in France was imminent. After addressing soldiers and his fellow Germans, Adolf Hitler turned his attention to the Lord himself in his speech to ring in the New Year of 1944. "He is aware of the goal of our struggle," he said. The Lord's "justice will continue to test us until he can pass judgment. Our duty is to ensure that we do not appear to be too weak in his eyes, but that we are given a merciful judgment that spells 'victory' and thus signifies life!"

Two very different men in the German Reich noted their thoughts about Hitler's expression of religious sentiments in their diaries. The first, Victor Klemperer, lived with his wife in a "Jew house" in Dresden, where he wrote about the dictator, using a false name: "New content: Karl becomes religious. (The new approach lies in his approximation of the ecclesiastical style.)."

The second, Friedrich Kellner, lived with his wife in an official apartment in a court building for the Hessian town of Laubach, where he hid his written account of the war in a living-room cabinet. In his commentary on the Hitler speech, Kellner wrote: "The Lord, who has been maligned by all National Socialists as part of their official policy, is now being implored by the Führer in his hour of need. What strange hypocrisy!"

The extensive diary written by Klemperer, a professor of Romance Literature who had been fired from his job in Dresden, was published in 1995 under the title "Ich will Zeugnis ablegen bis zum letzten" ("I Will Bear Witness 1942-1945: A Diary of the Nazi Years"). It is perhaps the most important private document about the Nazis, because it offers an extremely clear-sighted and detailed account of the 12 years of the "Thousand-year Reich" from the perspective of someone who was marginalized. The account details small annoyances and major crimes, daily life and the development of Nazi propaganda.

This document now has a counterpart, the diaries of judicial inspector Friedrich Kellner. The 900-page book begins in September 1938, told from the perspective of a German citizen who was not a Nazi. It also reveals what information Germans could have obtained about the Nazis if they had wanted to.

An Ordinary Family

Kellner, born in 1885, a few years later than Klemperer, was not a privileged man. The son of a baker and a maid, he embarked on a judicial career after graduating from the Oberrealschule, a higher vocational school. At 22, Kellner completed his one year of compulsory military service as an infantryman in the western city of Mainz, and in 1913 he married Paulina Preuß, an office clerk. The couple's only son was born three years later, when Kellner returned from the French front after being wounded in the First World War.

They were an ordinary, lower middle-class family, but they were also politically active. He distributed flyers, gave speeches and recruited new members for the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Kellner had read Hitler's "Mein Kampf," and he took the book seriously, saying that it brought shame to Gutenberg. After the 1932 elections, in which the Nazi Party became the strongest faction in the parliament, the Reichstag, Kellner requested a transfer from Mainz. In 1933, two weeks before Hitler's appointment as Reich chancellor and the first wave of internal terror, he began working as a government employee in the Laubach District Court. He was an unknown entity in a town with strong Nazi sympathies. It was there that Kellner wrote his diary: a conversation he conducted with himself out of despair that was also an analysis of the present and a planned legacy.
"The purpose of my record," he began, on Sept. 26, 1938, "is to capture a picture of the current mood in my surroundings, so that a future generation is not tempted to construe a 'great event' from it (a 'heroic time' or the like)." In the same passage, on the same day, Kellner revealed a bitter clear-sightedness, when he summed up German postwar history in one sentence: "Those who wish to be acquainted with contemporary society, with the souls of the 'good Germans,' should read what I have written. But I fear that very few decent people will remain after events have taken their course, and that the guilty will have no interest in seeing their disgrace documented in writing."

Ten closely written volumes document the things Kellner experienced, observed and, most of all, what he read and heard. He cut out speeches and calls to action from newspapers and analyzed them, and he made notes about ordinances and decrees. He contrasted the information provided by the government with the facts, both in everyday life in Hesse and at the distant front. He listened to foreign radio stations when he could. But most of all, he analyzed the propaganda from a critical standpoint. Commenting on the 1939 "Treaty of Friendship" with the Soviet Union, he wrote: "We must resort to aligning ourselves with Russia to even have a 'friend.' Russia, of all countries. The National Socialists owe their existence entirely to the fight against Bolshevism (World Enemy No. 1, Anti-Comintern Pact). Where have you disappeared to, you warriors against Asian disgrace?"

Clippings as Evidence

Less than two years later, the warriors had returned, supposedly to preempt an attack by the Soviet Union. On June 22, 1941, Kellner wrote in his diary: "Once again, a country has become a victim of the non-aggression pact with Germany. No matter how our actions are justified, the truth will be found solely in the economy. Natural resources are the trump card. And if you are not compliant, I am prepared to use violence." But hardly anyone saw things the way he did. The women, over tea, liked to refer to the Germans "taking" a city, a region or even an entire country. Kellner was horrified, both by the gullibility and barbarism of the people around him.

Using military news, obituaries of those who died ("for Germany's greatness and freedom"), caricatures, newspaper articles and conversations with ordinary people, Kellner fashioned an image of Nazi Germany that has never existed before in such a vivid, concise and challenging form. Until now, the discussion over German guilt has fluctuated within the broad space between two positions. The one side emphasizes the deliberate disinformation of Nazi propaganda and the notion that ordinary citizens lived in fear and terror, concluding that they couldn't have known better. The other side takes the opposite position, namely that most were aware of what was happening.

Kellner's writings offer a glimpse into what everyone could have known about the war of extermination in the East, the crimes against the Jews and the acts of terror committed by the Nazi Party. He wrote about the executions of "vermin" who made "defeatist" remarks, and about "racial hygiene." In July 1941 he wrote: "The mental hospitals have become murder centers." A family that had brought their son home from an institution later inadvertently received a notice that their child had died and that his ashes would soon be delivered. "The office had forgotten to remove the name from the death list. As a result, the deliberate killing was brought to light," he wrote.
Under Nazi Watch

By reading Kellner's diaries and recognizing what Germans could have known, it's tempting to rethink how the expression "We knew nothing about those things!" came into being. According to Kellner, people simply ignored the information available to them out of both laziness and enthusiasm for German war victories. When this denial of reality no longer worked, when too much had been revealed about what the Nazis were doing in Germany's name, there was no turning back for the majority of Germans. "'I did that,' says my memory," Nietzsche wrote. "'I could not have done that,' says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually, the memory yields."

Kellner himself wrote that "this pathetic German nation" had been held hostage by the perpetrators. "Everyone is convinced that we must triumph so that we are not completely lost." The Nazis themselves warned the population against the revenge of the perpetrators. For most Germans, the only conceivable end of the war was victory -- or total annihilation.

Kellner lived until 1970. Despite having been under surveillance by the party and questioned several times, he escaped the concentration camps. In a denunciation written in 1940, a Nazi official named Engst wrote: "If we want to apprehend people like Kellner, we will have to lure them out of their corners and allow them to make themselves guilty. The time is not ripe for an approach like the one that was used with the Jews. This can only happen after the war."

In the epilogue, the author's grandson describes how the publication of Kellner's diaries came about. German publishers were not interested at first. But then the diaries attracted attention when, in April 2005, SPIEGEL reported that former US President George Bush had looked at Kellner's original notebooks in the George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University.

Now that they have finally been published, the volumes are likely to find a place next to the Klemperer diaries in German libraries and on private bookshelves too.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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