On my recent book tour in Germany for my memoir, My Germany, I was reminded of what a rich book culture that country has when I browsed in crowded book stores at the train stations, and studied billboards for all kinds of books, not just thrillers.
And speaking at Justus Leibig University in Giessen north of Frankfurt, I heard about a remarkable diary just published in Germany that should make waves in the U.S. when it's translated from German.
The devastating two-volume book by Friedrich Kellner is the diary of a court clerk in a small German town in the western state of Hesse. The German title translates as "All Minds Are Clouded and Darkened"; the author's own title was "My Opposition" (Mein Widerstand).
These diaries make it very clear that despite any claims to the contrary, ordinary Germans during the War knew a great deal about what was being perpetrated in their name upon the Jews and every other victim of the Nazis. It's simply not true that people did not talk about what was happening, or were so terrorized by the Nazis that they were completely blind to events around them, or silenced. Conversations on these subjects may not have been public, but they were widespread.
Kellner asked questions, read newspapers carefully, kept clippings, listened to what others were saying, and composed a stunning portrait of what was really going on in Germany before and during the war. Without difficulty, he learned about killings of those deemed mentally unfit. He learned about the real fate of Jews being shipped "to the East."
He was remarkably prescient in foreseeing post-war denial: "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." The diaries go from the beginning of the war in 1939 to just past its end and offer an unparalleled entrance into the period. Until the English translation is published, interested readers can learn more about them at Wikipedia and in Der Spiegel International.
This blog was adopted from a column in Bibliobuffet.com