Jan. 12, 2018
- What Did Germans Know? Secret Anti-Nazi Diary Gives Answers – Matt Lebovic
A vociferous critic of the Nazis, Friedrich Kellner used his diary to document the regime’s atrocities beginning in 1939. His Nazi-era diary, My Opposition, to be published in English by Cambridge University Press in January, is seen by some historians as a barometer for what “ordinary” Germans might have known about the mass murder of Jews, Poles, and Slavs.
“There is no punishment that would be hard enough to be applied to these Nazi beasts,” wrote Kellner. “Of course, when the retribution comes, the innocent will have to suffer along with them. But because 99% of the German population is guilty, directly or indirectly, for the present situation, we can only say that those who travel together will hang together.”
Kellner, a veteran of World War I, was a public opponent of Hitler and his movement. A lifelong Social Democrat, he delivered anti-Nazi speeches during the Wiemar Republic years, for which he was often assaulted.
Kellner wrote in 1941, “A solider on leave here said he personally witnessed a terrible atrocity in the occupied part 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 in as screams kept coming from it.”
“This cruel, despicable, and sadistic treatment against the Jews that has lasted now several years – with its final goal of extermination – is the biggest stain on the honor of Germany,” wrote Kellner on Dec. 15, 1941. “They will never be able to erase these crimes.” (This is much prior to formal implementation of the Final Solution.)
Friedrich Kellner gave his diary to his American-born grandson, Robert Scott Kellner, two years before his death in 1970. Robert said, “[Friedrich’s] voice will remain, a new voice to check revisionist historians and Holocaust deniers with an irrefutable account – an account not by a Nazi or a victim of the Nazis, but by an average German citizen who never lost sight of the simple truth that a person always has a choice between right and wrong, between good and evil.” (Times of Israel)