Diary and notebooks -Kellner
Diary and notebooks -Kellner Courtesy

"The Jews who left Germany should thank God," wrote justice inspector Friedrich Kellner on November 7, 1941, copying into his diary a list of harsh regulations that Field Marshall Hermann Goering had established for Jews in the workforce:

Jews could no longer become apprentices to learn a craft.
Jews must take any job assigned to them.
Jews may not associate with other workers but must work in groups by themselves.

"The treatment of Jews who remained here is cruel, relentless, and inhuman. Why not just call them slaves? Their fate is pitiful."

One of the few Germans who told the truth about the deliberate genocide of the Jews, Friedrich Kellner's angry diary entries remind us on this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2021 why we must not forget what occurred when an evil man sent his followers on a path of destruction.

Friedrich and Pauline Kellner, 1934
Friedrich and Pauline Kellner, 1934 Courtesy

We reflect often on the victims and the enormity of the crimes against them. But now with the resurgence of a virulent anti-Semitism in our own time that has led to the murder of Jews reciting prayers in their synagogues, we must focus ever more on the absurd irrationality behind it. Friedrich Kellner, who had campaigned as a Social Democrat during the time of the Weimar Republic against Hitler and his Nazi Party, and who then kept a diary to record Nazi crimes when Hitler came to power, clearly saw through the propaganda and deliberate falsehoods.

"The Jews are not worse than people in general," Kellner declared. "They are blamed only because rulers in every age need a scapegoat to divert attention away from their own guilt. The entire action against the Jews is the same as throwing down a piece of meat to distract the beasts."

"A great number of mentally inert German people succumb to this cunning deception." And he explained why so many of his educated fellow Germans subscribed to such an obvious ruse and played along with the Nazis' phobic racial theories.

"The judges, lawyers, teachers, and physicians always behaved as the worst anti-Semites," said Kellner, "--from professional jealousy."

And he added sardonically, "The Jews have to be exterminated because they are wiser than the German people."

"If the Jews--who have contributed real achievements over the centuries to our nation's development--can be made a people without rights, then that is an act unworthy of a cultured nation, and the curse of this evil deed will indelibly rest on the entire German people."

Some of the "real achievements" were the many Nobel prizes won by Jewish scientists that elevated Germany's status in the world.

But such vital contributions meant nothing to their Nazi overseers. On October 28, 1941, Friedrich Kellner recorded this conversation:

"A soldier home on leave personally witnessed a terrible atrocity in the occupied part of Poland. He watched as naked Jewish men and women were placed in front of a long deep ditch and were shot in the back of their heads, and they fell into the ditch. Then the ditch was filled in as screams kept coming from it!

"There is no punishment that would be hard enough for these Nazi beasts. Ninety-nine percent of the German people, directly or indirectly, carry the guilt for the present situation."

Two months later, in December 1941, he noted that German Jews were being transported out of the country. He did not yet know where they were being sent, but he was sure it was to their deaths. When he did learn of their destination, he wrote this: "In the last few days the Jews from this region have been removed. The families Strauss and Heynemann were taken from Laubach. I heard from a reliable source that all the Jews were taken to Poland and murdered by SS brigades."

Angry and in despair, he proclaimed, "Such atrocities will never be able to be erased from the book of humanity. Our murderous regime has for all times besmirched the name Germany."

Irrational hatreds are on the rise again

Yet the irrational hatreds that brought the Holocaust continue, even though, the "real achievements" have reached astounding proportions: Jewish Nobel Prize winners comprise approximately 20% of the total awards -- 1 out of every 5 -- even though Jews are but a tiny fraction of the world's population.

But once again such vital contributions to civilization mean nothing to those who defile Jewish cemeteries, stalk the streets to attack old men wearing yarmulkes, and silence prayers with bullets. Nor do they give pause to fanatics roused to violence by jihadist Ayatollahs.

As we commemorate the six million victims of the 1940s, let us be aware that there could be a second Holocaust if we and our leaders fail to make better decisions. The difference this time is that concentration camps won't have to be built, and there will be no need for railroad cars, because today's self-appointed enemies of the Jewish people are threatening to drop a nuclear bomb on Israel, where the next six million Jews are already in place.

Robert Scott Kellner, a navy veteran, is a retired English professor who taught at the University of Massachusetts and Texas A&M University. The grandson of Friedrich Kellner, he published the diary in Germany in 2011 and is the editor and translator of My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner--A German against the Third Reich, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, 2018.