Photo: ICE HSI. Click to enlarge.
In Washington today, US officials and U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum representatives announced the seizure of a long-lost diary maintained by a close confidant of Adolf Hitler.
The recovery of this historical document was the result of an extensive investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The author of the so-called "Rosenberg Diary" was Alfred Rosenberg, a leading member of the Third Reich and of the Nazi Party during World War II.
Rosenberg was one of the intellectual authors behind key Nazi beliefs, including persecution of Jewish people, expansionist “lebensraum” (living space) ideology, the "master race" theory, and the rejection of modern art as "degenerate." He was tried at Nuremberg, sentenced to death, and hanged on October 16, 1946, after having been convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The diary will eventually be displayed in the Holocaust Museum. More photos, video from the press conference where the seizure was announced, video of Rosenberg speaking, and more of the story behind this important historic artifact are below.
Incidentally, yesterday, June 12, marks the birthday of another famous World War II diarist—Anne Frank.
Why is the Rosenberg diary significant? ICE Director John Morton said today, "As time marches on, there are fewer and fewer living victims and witnesses to the horrors of the Third Reich. 68 years have passed since the fall of Berlin, and soon there will be no more human testimony of what happened during the Holocaust, and just as important, how it happened. It is critical to locate and preserve all written records from this time period."
Reuters reports that the diary was discovered to be in the possession of Herbert Richardson, an 80 year-old Canadian academic who operates a publishing house in Lewiston, NY. From the Reuters account:
Pages of the diary, which will eventually be turned over to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., were shown to reporters, including one entry dated April 1941. Rosenberg describes walking alone after "an important meeting" with Hitler, who told him: "Your great hour has come."
Museum senior adviser Henry Mayer, who had been searching for the diary for 17 years, noted Rosenberg did not elaborate in the entry. "What Hitler described was so great, he couldn't put it down," Mayer told reporters.
Historians have long suspected that a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, Robert Kempner, smuggled the diary back to the US after the trials ended.
Photo: At left, Rosenberg; at right, Hitler. Photograph from Dr. Wilfried Bahnmüller, National Geographic
Alfred Rosenberg’s diary is one such artifact that has surfaced after more than a decade of Museum efforts to find it. The roughly 400 pages of loose-leaf paper cover the years 1936 through 1944, when Rosenberg was responsible for looting valuables in lands occupied by the Nazis and planning Nazi rule of conquered Soviet territories. The discovery of the diary will undoubtedly give scholars new insight into the politics of Nazi leaders and fulfills a Museum commitment to uncover evidence from perpetrators of the Holocaust.
From the HSI press release today:
The "Rosenberg Diary" was written by Alfred Rosenberg, one of the most notorious members of the Third Reich and of the Nazi Party during World War II. Rosenberg was privy to much of the planning for the Nazi racial state, mass murder of the Jewish people, planning and conduct of World War II and the occupation of Soviet territory. As such, his diary entries could provide historians with a potential wealth of previously unknown information regarding the history of this period.
The recovery of the diary was announced Thursday by ICE Director John Morton; U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly III, District of Delaware; and Henry Mayer, senior advisor on archives at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
"Thanks to the tireless investigative work of HSI special agents, and years of perseverance by both the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the long-lost Rosenberg Diary has been recovered, not in Germany but in the United States," said Director Morton. "This important record of the crimes of the Third Reich and the Holocaust is now preserved for all to see, study and learn from. The work of combating the international theft of cultural heritage is a key part of our work, and no matter how long these items may appear to be lost to history, that hard but important work will continue."
"This seizure is the result of the joint efforts of this office and Homeland Security Investigations," said U.S. Attorney Oberly. "The discovery and return of this long-lost, important historical document to the government of the United States is a significant achievement. Although it is a reminder of a dark time, the Rosenberg Diary is important to our understanding of history. Our hope is that it will provide valuable insight to historians."
"The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is thrilled to have recovered the diary of Alfred Rosenberg, a leading Nazi ideologue," said U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. "As we build the collection of record on the Holocaust, having material that documents the actions of both perpetrators and victims is crucial to helping scholars understand how and why the Holocaust happened. The story of this diary demonstrates how much material remains to be collected and why rescuing this evidence is such an important museum priority."
The Myth of the Twentieth Century, written by Rosenberg, articulated the philosophical underpinnings of national socialist ideology. Rosenberg served as head of the Nazi party's foreign affairs department and as the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories, which included the Baltic States, Ukraine and parts of Belorussia. As Reich Minister, Rosenberg played a significant role in the mass murder of the Jewish people in the Occupied Eastern Territories, as well as the deportation of civilians to forced labor camps to support the German war effort. Rosenberg also established and headed an organization, Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (Reichsleiter Rosenberg Taskforce), the mission of which was to loot cultural property from all over Europe.
Rosenberg was a defendant at the Nuremberg Trials in Nuremberg, Germany, from 1945 to 1946. He was found guilty on all four counts of the indictment for conspiracy to commit aggressive warfare, crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Rosenberg was hanged Oct. 16, 1946.
Allied forces advancing through Germany seized documents, books, and other records of strategic or tactical importance. After the surrender of Germany in May 1945, governmental authority for Germany was placed into allied hands. This authority included ownership of all documents created by the defeated German government or captured by allied forces. To prepare for war crimes trials after the cessation of hostilities, agencies of the U.S. government examined and selected relevant documents as potential evidence.
Among the documents seized by allied forces was the Rosenberg Diary. On Aug. 10, 1945, the Records Subsection of the Documents Unit of the War Crimes Branch, U.S. Army, received from the Berlin Documents Control Center the "...private papers of Alfred Rosenberg, former Reichsminister for the Occupied Eastern Territories." Among these papers, according to the receipt prepared Aug. 15, 1945, were "handwritten diary notes" from the years 1934 to 1944. These included notes, dated 1941, "dealing in the early part of (Apr 41) with the conspiracy to dominate Russia and preparations for this occupation (conferences with HITLER and others)."
Robert M.W. Kempner
Dr. Robert M.W. Kempner was a German lawyer who fled Germany for the United States during the war. At the conclusion of the war, Kempner served as the deputy chief counsel and was the chief prosecutor in the "Ministries Case" at the Nuremberg Trials. In this role, Kempner had access to seized Nazi documents in his official capacity as an employee of the U.S. government. At the conclusion of the Nuremberg Trials, Kempner returned to the United States and lived in Lansdowne, Pa. Contrary to law and proper procedure, Kempner removed various documents, including the Rosenberg Diary, from U.S. government facilities in Nuremberg and retained them until his death in 1993.
In November 2012, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Delaware and HSI special agents received information from an art security specialist, who was working with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, regarding the search for Rosenberg Diary. The Rosenberg Diary was subsequently located and seized pursuant to a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.
HSI plays a leading role in criminal investigations that involve the illegal importation and distribution of cultural property, including the illicit trafficking of cultural property, especially objects that have been reported lost or stolen. The HSI Office of International Affairs, through its 75 attaché offices in 48 countries, works closely with foreign governments to conduct joint investigations, when possible.
Since 2007, HSI art and antiquities investigators have returned over 7,150 artifacts to 26 countries, including paintings from France, Germany, Poland and Austria, 15th to 18th century manuscripts from Italy and Peru, as well as cultural artifacts from China, Cambodia and Iraq.
Raw video from the press conference below.
More coverage around the web:
• Long-Lost Diary of Nazi Alfred Rosenberg Expected to Bring 'New Insight' Into Hitler's Inner Circle (ABC)
• Missing Nazi Diary Recovered (National Geographic)
• Long-lost diary of top Hitler aide offers window into Nazi soul (Reuters)