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Diary Of Influential Nazi Given To Holocaust Museum

A page dated Feb. 2, 1941, from the diary of German Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg is displayed at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington on Tuesday.
Nicholas Kamm
AFP/Getty Images
A page dated Feb. 2, 1941, from the diary of German Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg is displayed at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington on Tuesday.

A long-lost diary kept by a top aide to Adolf Hitler was formally transferred to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Tuesday. Scholars say the 425-page document gives a glimpse into the mind of Alfred Rosenberg, and a view of his role in shaping the Nazi regime's genocidal policies.

Rosenberg's meticulous script runs straight as a ruler across the sepia-colored pages. The notes are from 1936 through 1944.

Museum Director Sara Bloomfield says it took years — and the help of many — to procure the diary.

"We spent 17 years ... looking for something that we suspected was in the United States," she says.

It turned out the diary was indeed in the U.S. — brought by Robert Kempner, a German lawyer who was a chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials. After he died in 1993, the diary was lost, but it was eventually seized by federal agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Bloomfield says Rosenberg helped mold Nazi ideology. "We hope this diary will contribute to our understanding of the nature and power of those ideas and, of course, the catastrophic consequences of them," she says.

Rosenberg, who was head of the Nazi Party's foreign affairs department, established a task force to loot cultural property from all over Europe. He was also involved with the mass murder of Jews in the occupied eastern territories, including the Baltic states.

The Holocaust Memorial Museum's Juergen Matthaeus says from the start of Rosenberg's career as a radical journalist to his hanging after the Nuremberg trials, Rosenberg stuck to his belief "that the Jews were Germany's most deadly enemy."

Matthaeus says Rosenberg quotes Hitler in the diary. But he says because of the formal style of many Nazi diaries, it's difficult to get a grasp of Rosenberg the man.

"What he writes is very much colored by his ideology, and that is where the problem lies in terms of grasping the concepts that he's dealing with," Matthaeus says, "because to us, of course, they often seem esoteric, if not completely insane."

Matthaeus says in the diary's pages, Rosenberg never once questioned Nazi ideology.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has made all 425 pages of the Rosenberg diary available on its website.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Allison Keyes
Allison Keyes is an award-winning journalist with almost 20 years of experience in print, radio, and television. She has been reporting for NPR's national desk since October 2005. Her reports can be heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition Sunday.