The first study of Joseph Goebbels based on his recently-published diaries yields important insightsby Richard J Evans / May 21, 2015 / Leave a comment
In April 1983, the Sunday Times, together with the German magazine Stern, revealed to an astonished world the diaries of the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. Running to a total of 60 volumes, the diaries had been authenticated by two leading historians of the period, Gerhard Weinberg and Hugh Trevor-Roper. “I am now satisfied,” declared Trevor-Roper after examining the documents in a Swiss bank vault, “that the documents are authentic; that the history of their wanderings since 1945 is true; and that the standard accounts of Hitler’s writing habits, of his personality and, even, perhaps, of some public events, may in consequence have to be revised.”
This was certainly true, or would have been had the diaries been genuine. Hitler was well known for his irregular lifestyle, staying up into the small hours watching movies, getting up late, and preferring to make decisions on the hoof rather than ploughing through the mountains of documents that usually confront heads of state. Was he, then, confounding everyone’s view of his character by writing down an account of his thoughts and deeds day after day for years on end? After the German Federal Archives had finally obtained samples of the diaries, they discovered that the ink and paper had been manufactured long after Hitler’s death, and that most of the diaries’ content was copied from his speeches. As the forger Konrad Kujau was sent to prison, it seemed the standard account of Hitler’s writing habits and personality would not have to be revised after all.
Even before the decisive intervention of the archivists, however, there was good reason to doubt that the Hitler diaries were authentic. There had been no mention of them before. Nobody, neither his friends and acquaintances nor his secretaries and assistants, had betrayed even the slightest suspicion that they existed. By contrast, the fact that his chief of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, was writing a diary had been well known for many years. Goebbels published edited extracts in a chronicle of the rise and triumph of Nazism and the party’s coming to power in 1933.…