I learned about the Goebbels Diaries ("Tagebücher" in German) from a series of articles in the German news-magazine Der Spiegel. Spiegel must have received a heads-up about the publication of the diaries in book-format because the books (4 volumes) did not come out until 1992. The Spiegel articles, on the other hand, ran from 30 August until 21 September 1987.

By 1943, Goebbels accepted that Nazi Germany would lose the War; and from what he knew about Germany's horrendous conduct during that War, the victorious allies would clamor for his head on a chopping-block. Thanks to his own penchant for publicity, the whole World knew about his arrogance, his deceit, and contempt for civilized standards, and that he would probably suffer execution as a consequence of it.

By that time, the diaries had grown to numerous, thick volumes. Goebbels recognized the historical importance of the diaries and decided to stow the diaries in a bank-vault in Berlin for safekeeping. Additionally, he copied the diaries onto microfilm, a new technique at that time, and stowed those in a separate location. During the final days of World War II, as the Soviet Red Army battled its way into Berlin, much of the handwritten diaries burned.

The Soviet Army, however, found the microfilmed diary intact and took it to an archive in Moscow, where it sat for decades unread. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a German researcher studied its many volumes. Researchers authenticated the diaries and labored over Goebbels's idiosyncratic, almost illegible handwriting to produce a printed version of the diaries.


Scholars generally refer to Goebbels's work in the plural, to reflect that it appears in several thick volumes and covers a period of 20+ years. Note that the four volumes shown in the photo only represent his output until 1941. As a central figure in the Nazi regime, he participated in decision-making at the highest level; but the World remembers him best as the architect of Nazi Germany's vast propaganda-ministry, which has inspired and enabled dictators ever since, the World-over. He revolutionized propaganda, pioneering its use in cinema, in printed matter, and publications.

Additionally, Goebbels introduced the "Volks-Empfänger", the "people's radio", to enable "Volks-Verdummung", the dumbing down of the German people, and to gear them up for service to the Nazi regime. Goebbels expected the Volks-Empfänger to produce "Gehirnwäsche für Abermillionen", the brainwashing of millions of Germans. Goebbels had no qualms about describing them as "schwache, faule, und feige", weak, lazy, and stupid people, reasoning that they needed the propaganda to motivate them.

Unfortunately, the Allies and the military court that held the war-crimes trials of leading Nazis never got to interview him. He committed suicide in Hitler's own bunker, taking his wife and six adorable children with him into death. So he did not leave behind a personal testament, a public statement about why he did what he did. He left only the diaries. Fortunately, they give us an intimate view of Goebbels that no amount of interrogating would have produced.

Goebbels, raised a Catholic, refers to the diaries as his "Beichtvater", his father-confessor. What motivated him? "Rache!" he screams, revenge! "Who cares what for", but basically to avenge himself for having a "Klumpfuß" and "eine schwächliche Gestalt mit dem zu großen Kopf", a club-foot, the body of a weakling, and a large head. It sounds like he reacts hatefully out of self-hatred. He saw himself, he admits, as a "Demagoge, schlimmster Sorte", a demagogue of the worst sort. He also admits he had little love for the other Nazi "Oberbanditen", the Nazi ruling bandits. His negative feelings are "destruktiv und abgrundtief", destructive and fathomless.

For all the cruelty he exhibited, Goebbels leaves behind a stunning summing up of his life. We cannot help but sympathize with him, while also recognizing that he needed to hang with the rest of his lot for perpetrating one of the greatest catastrophes in modern times.