My grandfather, August Friedrich Kellner, was a local court official in Germany during WWII. He was
the chief justice inspector in the district court in Laubach, a
small town in the Vogelsberg mountains north of Frankfurt. He spoke
out against the Nazis and in March 1940 was called to account for
his statements and almost sent to a concentration camp. After that
harrowing experience he confined himself to writing down his thoughts
in a diary that he titled "Mein Widerstand" (which can mean both "My Resistance" and "My Opposition"). His
writings do not deal with the mundane daily events of life, but
rather challenge the falsehoods of Nazi propaganda and record the
inhuman atrocities committed by the Nazis. The entries in the diary read like today's headlines, and Friedrich Kellner's solution for the terrorism of his own time may be the answer for the terrorism confronting our generation.
Some of the diary entries refer to the murder of Russian prisoners of war, and to the execution of civilians as reprisals for resistance to German occupation. There are also entries verifying the deliberate genocide of the Jews and the
Poles, and to the active anti-Semitism encountered locally.
The dates of these entries belie the argument that the ordinary
German was unaware of these atrocities. For example, here is one
such entry from 1941:
October 1941: A soldier on vacation here said he witnessed
a terrible atrocity in the occupied parts of Poland. 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 with dirt even as he could still hear screams coming
from people still alive in the ditch.
These inhuman atrocities were so terrible that some of the Ukrainians,
who were used as tools, suffered nervous breakdowns. All the soldiers
who had knowledge of these bestial actions of these Nazi sub-humans
were of the opinion that the German people should be shaking in
their shoes because of the coming retribution.
There is no punishment that would be hard enough to be applied to
these Nazi beasts. Of course, when the retribution comes, the innocent
will have to suffer along with them. But because ninety percent
of the German population is guilty, directly or indirectly, for
the present situation, we can only say that those who travel together
will hang together.
And in another entry that resonates to this day, my grandfather
September 16, 1942: In the last few days the Jews from this region
have been removed. The families Strauss and Heinemann were taken
from here. I've heard from a reliable source that all the Jews were
being brought to Poland to be murdered there by SS brigades.
This cruelty is terrible. Such horror shall never be erased from
the history of humanity. Our murderous government has for all times
besmirched the name "Germany." For a decent German it is inconceivable
that no one can bring down these Hitler bandits.
But the diary is not just a record of past evil deeds. On almost
every page my grandfather confronts the mentality that succumbs
so easily to barbarous doctrines, and in so doing his words serve
as a warning to our own and future generations about the constant
need to combat any resurgence of Nazism and anti-Semitism. In fact,
he presciently speaks about the dangers of the spread of neo-Nazism
occurring in our own time.
And along with this warning comes my grandfather’s constant
call in the diary for America and other democracies to stand together
to fight against the evils of terrorist regimes and dictatorships.
His diary written in the 1940's directly addresses what has become
for our own generation the most dangerous and pressing challenge
of the twenty-first century. In an entry in June 1941 he writes:
When will this insanity be brought to an end? When will the intoxication
of victory turn into a terrible hangover?
Now is a unique chance for England and America to take the initiative,
but not only with empty promises and insufficient measures. If America
had the will to throw its entire might into the fray, it could tip
the balance for a return of peace . . . Only a tremendous force
and the commitment of all war material can bring the German wild
steer to reason . .
Up until now the statesmen--through unbelievable shortsightedness--have
neglected or failed their duty. Mankind awake! Attack together with
all your might against the destroyers of peace!
No reflections, no resolutions, no speeches, no "neutrality." Advance
against the enemy of mankind!
The handwritten diary is 860 pages long with 676 dated entries, and it includes 525 newspaper clippings. The diary is divided into ten notebooks. My grandfather also gave me a set of the Archiv der Gegenwart (1939 - 1945), a scrapbook of newspaper headlines, a collection of pre-war German
currency, and some other documents.
I could not fight the Nazis in the present, as they had the power to still my voice, so I decided to fight them in the future,my grandfather explained to me, when he gave me the diary for safekeeping. I would give the coming generations a weapon against any resurgence of such evil. My eyewitness account would record their barbarous acts, and also show the way to stop them. And the solution is not that complicated. If there is to be peace, you must have democracy, where laws have been agreed upon by the governed; and democracy must be preserved by men of courage who will fight for it. When dictators enslave their own people and seek to impose their anti-democratic ideology upon others, when evil seeks power, men and women of good will, no matter how much they love peace and hate war, must put aside their differences and stand together and fight.
A number of professors from such universities as Purdue, Columbia,
Stanford, and the University of Texas, as well as the two universities
at which I taught, the University of Massachusetts and Texas
A&M University, have seen parts of the diary and have verified
the historical value of this work. Also, the directors of Yad Vashem
Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and the Holocaust Museum in Washington,
D.C. have asked me to donate the diary to them.
Before the diary ends up on a museum shelf, I want to continue to
try to make it available to the widest possible audience. The diary exposes the
true nature of fascism and dictatorships. Somehow we must get everyone--not
just the historical researcher or museum visitor--to reflect upon
the essential lessons written within these pages if we are to counter
future generations of haters and terrorists.
The diary had its first public showing during the months of April and May 2005 at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, as part of the Presidential Library's commemoration of the 60th anniversary of VE Day, Victory in Europe Day. Two of the links above connect to a separate Geocities page with photos of the exhibit and to the "past exhibits" page of the George Bush Presidential Library.
The German magazine Der Spiegel carried a report about the presidential library exhibit. The newspaper Giessener Anzeiger ran a series of articles written by Klemens Hogen-Ostlender, and co-sponsored an exhibit during September 2005 at the Heimat Museum in Laubach, Germany. This museum is located on the same street as the Laubach courthouse, where Friedrich Kellner wrote the diary. A permanent exhibit will be maintained by this museum. The diary was also on display at Holocaust Museum Houston in the summer of 2006. Also, the Asper Foundation is working to build the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, where an exhibit for the Kellner Diary is under consideration.
The members of the research unit for Holocaust literature at Justus Liebig University in Giessen have established the Kellner Project and maintain a website with current information about the diary.
The documentary film, "My Opposition: the Diaries of Friedrich Kellner," was produced in 2007 by CCI Entertainment and Global Television in Toronto. It is scheduled to be shown at the Dag Hammarskjold theater at the United Nations in New York in November 2008.
An Internet search using the phrases Friedrich Kellner diary or Scott Kellner diary will provide more information. The encyclopedia entries at Wikipedia are also useful for further research. You can also contact me, Robert Scott Kellner, at the email address below: