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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Read more at Times of Israel

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

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey