A prescient World War II diary by a German judge who loathed the Nazi regime yet was a military judge during the war.
Taken up the day after his 59th birthday, on March 28, 1944, until the end of the war, and infused with his raging against the duplicity of Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda machine, this diary is a stunning document for all its cleareyed realism, impassioned scorn and historical potential. Since Müller-Hill began the diary at a time when Germany’s defeat for him appeared indisputable, was he writing with a sense of self-preservation after the country’s occupation, as he predicted correctly, or did he write out of a conviction that the diary would be “of some interest” to his young son, as he claims up front? Neither introducer Benjamin Hett (History/Hunter Coll.) nor translator Jefferson Chase indicates how and when the diary actually came to light. Nonetheless, it’s a fascinating, readable narrative by an erudite, patriotic German from a wealthy family, a self-described “mild” judge with strong humanitarian and skeptical streaks and disgust for the Prussian military culture that, he believed (wrongly, according to Hett), bred the arrogance and “sense of power” that made the National Socialists drunk with power. The Nazi barbarity toward the Jews was “unheroic,” he writes; the reckless foreign policy led to catastrophe and the slaughter of senseless numbers of people. Throughout, the author heaps scorn on the newspaper accounts filled with false optimism about Germany’s impending “secret weapon” and “holy war,” and he despairs at the willful gullibility of his colleagues, all the while aware of how perilous his views were, if exposed. It’s an account of a man stuck inside a lunatic asylum.
A man of reason in Nazi Germany observes the approaching maelstrom.