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

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times