From a German Dissenter’s Diary Comes a Sense of What Ordinary Germans Knew about the Holocaust

Jan. 16 2018

In 1939, Friedrich Kellner, a German opponent of Hitler, began to document his impressions of the Nazi regime and its crimes. The resulting diary was published in German in 2011, and will soon become available in English. Among other things, the text offers evidence of what ordinary citizens of the Third Reich knew about their government’s activities. Matt Lebovic writes:

Kellner . . . wrote 676 entries [in the diary], drawing from numerous sources and a formidable knowledge of history. . . . Some of Kellner’s information came from sources that were widely available, including the Nazi-party broadsheet and illegal radio broadcasts. To gather other [information], Kellner questioned people and sifted through gossip, attaching more than 500 newspaper clippings along the way. A potent sense of anger fills Kellner’s diary, directed not only at the Nazis but also [at] his fellow citizens and the world for allowing Hitler to rise.

As the Nazis spread terror across Europe, Kellner documented atrocities the regime sought to hide. To put current events in context for future readers, he made pointed references to Hitler’s tome Mein Kampf, on which he was an expert. Among other crimes, he wrote about the “mercy killings” of disabled Germans at Hadamar and “retribution” killings carried out against civilians in occupied countries.

Kellner’s accounts of the Holocaust were concise, including his report on an early Jewish “action” in Poland. “A solider on leave [in the small central German town where Kellner lived] said he personally witnessed a terrible atrocity in the occupied part of Poland,” wrote Kellner in 1941. “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.”

A few weeks later, Kellner wrote about “Jews being transported somewhere” and “treated worse than animals” along the way. In another entry, he reported on the deportation of specific Jewish families from his town.

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More about: Germany, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Nazism

Precision Rockets Pose a Strategic Threat to Israel—by Targeting Civilians

Oct. 23 2018

In 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein began bombarding Israel with Scud missiles. The U.S., having prevailed upon Jerusalem not to retaliate or to destroy Iraqi missile launchers, provided its ally with Patriot anti-missile missiles—which proved entirely ineffective. Then the Israeli Ministry of Defense, overcoming longstanding objections from the IDF brass, decided to develop its own missile-defense system, and put Uzi Rubin in charge of it; his efforts led to the multilayered system that now protects the Jewish state from rockets of all kinds. In an interview with Yonah Jeremy Bob, Rubin assesses the current strategic threats to Israel from the precision rockets now used by Hizballah and Iran:

A simple rocket is a terror weapon. [Shooting one] is like blowing up a bus. Yes, it is a problem and it needs to be dealt with it, but precision-guided rockets cross over into being military weapons. [The threat from such weapons] changes the whole system of prioritizing what actions to take. You need first to guard your ability to keep fighting, which includes [defending] the home front—and not just for the sake of national morale. Food, gas, and other things come to the military from the civilian sector. . . .

[Currently Israel] doesn’t have enough Arrow missiles or Iron Dome batteries. Ask the IDF officers and they will say we have too many. To be objective, it’s necessary to address this question by first determining where the emphasis is in war today. The strategy [of Israel’s enemies] is not to overwhelm the IDF, it’s to overwhelm the civilian population. Until the 1973 [Yom Kippur] war, our adversaries’ wars were about trying to beat the IDF. Now our adversaries are not preparing themselves for war against the IDF. Fighting the IDF is at best a secondary goal; mainly they are going after civilians. . . .

Yet Rubin was optimistic about his country’s ability to rise to new challenges, crediting the “creative chaos” that characterizes the Israeli way of doing things:

We have a special atmosphere. We do not think about rules and decorum. You do what needs to be done. There is a unique social network and cross-fertilization between the military and the defense industry.

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More about: Hizballah, IDF, Iran, Iron Dome, Israel & Zionism, Israeli technology, Persian Gulf War