Diary shows Germans could have known of Nazi horrors

Wed Oct 12, 2011 10:00am EDT
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By Madeline Chambers

BERLIN (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.   Continued...

<p>German writer Friedrich Kellner sits in his living room in this undated photo. REUTERS/Robert Scott Kellner, College Station, Texas</p>