The Friedrich Kellner Diaries: “From the Darkness into the Light of a Better Future”

Photo used with permission

Friedrich Kellner, shown above in his World War I uniform, was a young man when Germany became a democracy, and he had high hopes that his nation would become a place of free speech and personal liberty. Unfortunately, the young republic inherited crushing problems, and radicals on both sides pushed political agendas of fault-finding and revenge.

In the 1930’s, Friedrich Kellner risked attack to attended rallies in order to speak out against Hitler’s ideas. When the scandal and tragedy of Kristallnacht occurred–the night during which over 1500 synagogues were vandalized and 100,000 Jews were arrested–Kellner and his wife tried to intervene. When he demanded that the guilty be brought to justice, he and his wife were investigated instead. Finally, the Nazi authorities brought Kellner in and warned him that he and his wife would be sent to the camps if he didn’t stop speaking out.

Photo used with permission

Deprived of the right to speak publicly, Friedrich Kellner began keeping a detailed diary on September 1, 1939, the day World War II officially began. He wanted to document the ease with which a democracy can become a totalitarian dictatorship and people’s willingness to believe propaganda rather than face hard truths. Full of contemporary newspaper clippings and Kellner’s own decidedly anti-Nazi observations, the diary probably would have led to Kellner’s death if it had been found during the war.

Photo used with permission

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Dr. Robert Scott Kellner, Friedrich Kellner’s grandson, the diary is finally available in German. We can only hope that it will soon be available in English as well. In the meantime, Dr. Kellner has provided a fascinating online writeup of his grandfather’s life and his own extraordinary part in it. Sample diary entries in English and in German are also online.

UPDATE: It is with great pleasure that I announce that these fascinating diaries are finally available in English! My Opposition: The Diary of Friedrich Kellner – A German against the Third Reich has just come out from the Cambridge University Press, and the translator is none other than Friedrich Kellner’s grandson, Dr. Robert Scott Kellner. Both a hardcover and a Kindle version are currently available. Congratulations, Dr. Kellner, and thank you for your tireless efforts to make your grandfather’s voice heard. I hope the book finds a wide readership.

Photos used with the express written permission of Dr. Robert Scott Kellner. Text copyright 2011 by Clare B. Dunkle.

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