The Devil’s Diary: Alfred Rosenberg and the Stolen Secrets of the Third Reich

by | Nov 10, 2016 | Book Reviews

The Devil’s Diary: Alfred Rosenberg and the Stolen Secrets of the Third Reich

Robert K. Wittman and David Kinney Harper,513 pages, $35

The Devil’s Diary of interconnected significant dramas is an invaluable addition to the continued growth of Holocaust literature and research. It allows illuminating, though painful entry into the essential contribution of horrific proportions of Alfred Rosenberg, “the intellectual high priest of the ‘master race,’” who more than anyone else was responsible for shaping Hitler’s repugnant racial and racist ideology, culminating in a colossal tragedy.

Rosenberg, who given his surname, was suspected of having a Jewish background, was born in 1883 in Reval (now Tallinn), Estonia’s capital, to an ethnic German family. He studied architecture (Hitler also aspired to be an architect) in Riga, Latvia, moving with his technical institute to Moscow, Russia, during WWI. Eerily, he designed a crematorium for his final project. Arriving in Munich, Germany, in 1918 he bonded with Hitler and soon became the editor of the nascent Nazi party’s newspaper. Among his high appointments, as of July 17, 1941, he was in charge of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, as well as responsible for looting valuable artifacts owned by Jews and the sacking of libraries throughout occupied Europe.

Under the command of General George S. Patton, the Third U.S. Army had a special G-2 military intelligence unit to track down hidden piles of Nazi documents. Kurt von Behr, a German aristocrat turned Nazi, disclosed that under his Bavarian castle he had stored a treasure trove of Nazi memorabilia. Rosenberg’s priceless diary was found there. Only two other top Nazi officials kept diaries—Joseph Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister, and Hans Frank, Poland’s Governor-General. The 500-page handwritten diary was composed over 10 years beginning in 1934, just a year following Hitler’s rise to power, and concluded shortly before the war’s end.

A courageous and colorful character proving to be pivotal in the riveting drama of Rosenberg’s diary was Robert Kempner, a Jewish Berliner and a police administrator in the 1930s who dared warn early on of the danger posed by rising Hitler and his Nazi cohorts. Following harrowing circumstances, he ended up on the American prosecuting team at the Nuremberg Trials, rendering invaluable assistance. It was Kempner who smuggled Rosenberg’s diary to the U.S., though it was government property and not his own.

To his bitter end of being hung on October 16, 1946, Rosenberg refused to confess for his horrendous crimes as a Nazi leader, denying involvement with the actual murder of millions and failing (or merely pretending) to grasp the ominous power of the poisonous ideas he so eagerly unleashed fueling Hitler’s evil purpose. However, Rosenberg was not convicted to die for his noxious ideas leading to genocide, but for his actual activities. He chose to remain faithful to the very core of the Nazi movement and its supreme leader, both of which he unfailingly served. Toward the end, Rosenberg blamed Himmler and Goebbels for their undue influence on Hitler who should have listened more to Rosenberg’s likes.

Rosenberg’s diary came to permanently rest on December 17, 2013, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. following its delivery from the National Archives and Records Administration. The elusive diary’s recovery was made possible through the dogged efforts (with surprising twists and turns, creating a drama of its own), by the The Devil’s Diary’s co-author Robert Wittman, noted founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, his son Jeff, Mark Olexa, Special Agent with the Home Security Investigations, Dave Hall, assistant U.S. Attorney and Henry Mayer, chief archivist at the Holocaust Museum. David Kinney, the book’s co-author is a distinguished journalist and author.

Dr. Israel Zoberman is the founding rabbi of Congregation Beth Chaverim in Virginia Beach and the son of Polish Holocaust survivors. He spent his early childhood in Germany’s Wetzlar Displaced Persons Camp.