'Of all their many promises, the Nazis kept only one'
'Of all their many promises, the Nazis kept only one'

In Israel, and for Jews around the world, the setting sun on April 20, 2020 will begin the solemn observance of Holocaust Day: Yom Hashoah.

Three times in four years Adolf Hitler exposed the world's indifference to the fate of Jews:

-In 1935 his Nazi Party stripped German Jews of citizenship, making them aliens without rights in their own country. The world responded by filling the Olympic Stadium in Berlin the next year with exuberant young athletes who performed for their preening host.

-In November 1938 Nazi stormtroopers plundered Jewish homes and businesses without any adverse effect on England and France's calamitous appeasement pact signed two months earlier in Munich.

-In 1939 Gestapo SS squads hunted down Jews in Poland, with no one to stop them.

No wonder then that when the Nazi leadership gathered for the Wannsee Conference in 1942, their agenda for the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" was not hindered by ethical impediments or moral dilemmas. In ninety minutes, the practical Germans solved the mundane challenges of transportation and accommodation with railroad cars, concentration camps, and gas chambers.

The plans were supposed to be secret, but the German people knew. They saw the cruel abuse of their Jewish neighbors, and still they lifted their arms and cried out, "Heil Hitler! Lead us, and we will follow!"

But not everyone.

"If the Jews, who contributed demonstrable economic achievements over the centuries to help develop our nation, can be made a people without rights, that is an act unworthy of a cultured nation," wrote justice inspector Friedrich Kellner--my grandfather--about the 1935 Nuremberg Laws. "The curse of this evil deed will indelibly rest on the entire German people."

He had opposed the Nazis from the beginning. A political organizer for the Social Democrats, Kellner campaigned against them during the short-lived Weimar Republic (1919-1933). When Hitler came to power, Kellner moved his family to the small town of Laubach where he was not known for his political activities and became the courthouse manager.

In 1939, when German troops marched into Poland, he began a diary to record Nazi crimes. Because he sometimes gave voice to his feelings, the Gestapo placed him under surveillance. Fortunately, his position in the courthouse kept him and his wife, Pauline, from arbitrary arrest.

Kellner diary notebooks
Kellner diary notebooksINN:RK

In the first month of war, Kellner knew that Jews in Poland were targeted for death. Soldiers home on leave described horrific attacks. "Tales of atrocities of the worst kind are buzzing in the air," Kellner wrote. He predicted that "the extermination of the Jews" would bring about the Third Reich's downfall.

In October 1941 he recorded a soldier's account of a massacre: "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!"

"There is no punishment hard enough," declared the justice inspector, "to be applied to these Nazi beasts."

"There is no punishment hard enough," declared the justice inspector, "to be applied to these Nazi beasts."
Despite such reports, his fellow citizens were "intoxicated" by the victories. "This is a great and glorious time!" shouted Frau Anna Jochem to Kellner.

Judge Heinrich Bischoff remarked, "If we had killed all the Jews, this war would not have come."

The plans made at the 1942 Wannsee Conference were zealously carried out. "In the last few days the Jews from this region have been removed," Kellner reported in September 1942. "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. Our murderous regime has for all times besmirched the name Germany."

Friedrich Kellner did not spare the Allies. He criticized them for participating in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, signing the 1938 appeasement pact, dropping leaflets on Germany instead of bombs in the first months of war, and ignoring the construction of concentration camps.

"Hitler duped the entire world. He had the great unbelievable luck to meet with weak and vacillating opponents," Kellner wrote. "The Western powers will carry the historical guilt for not promptly providing the most intensive preventative measures against Germany's incessant politics of aggression."

When the massive armada from England crossed the Channel to the French coast at Normandy on June 6, 1944, Friedrich Kellner wrote contemptuously: "Finally!"

They came too late. The Holocaust was done.

"Of all their many promises, the Nazis kept only one," wrote Friedrich Kellner: "The eradication of the Jews."


Kellner Diary newspaper clipping July1943
Kellner Diary newspaper clipping July1943INN:RK

The headline of the newspaper clipping, and a few sentences from it, including the mention of the Nazi Party's 25-Point Program that so infuriated my grandfather: "Das Parteiprogramm immer in die Praxis umsetzen," Hessische Landes-Zeitung, July 1, 1943, p. 1.

The Gauleiter spoke at the inauguration of District President Schwebel’s government in Wiesbaden

. . . . An official's fulfillment of his tasks is determined by the relationship of his loyalty to the Führer. His actions must in every case conform to the National Socialist world view as expressed in the firm foundation of the Party's 25-Point Program. The program of the party is, as it were, the Constitution of the German Reich. . . . . Officials get their dynamism from National Socialist ideology and apply it despite all bureaucratic obstacles for the benefit of the people. . . . to align and employ all forces for final victory and thus national freedom and social progress for our people.

Robert Scott Kellner, a navy veteran, is a retired English professor who taught at the University of Massachusetts and Texas A&M University. He published the diary in Germany in 2011 and is editor and translator of the 2018 English edition, "My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner—a German Against the Third Reich."