The Devil's Diary: A Review
There is a writer's surprise in this book and I rather enjoyed it as the unexpected unfolded with each page. The way the story is told in The Devil's Diary really helps to reinforce this real tale of WWII.
The story begins and centers around the re-discovery of the Rosenberg Diaries. Rosenberg was the Nazi Party's chief ideologue from the foundation of the party onward. He was at Hitler's side from the early days and helped engineer the Final Solution, a fact that led to his conviction and execution during the Nuremberg Trials. Rosenberg kept a diary and one of the prosecutors in the trial, Robert Kempner - who knew many major Nazi leaders personally - took the diary home with him. And kept it there.
Fast-forward to Kempner's death and in comes Robert Wittman, the former head of the F.B.I.'s unit that traces lost art and artifacts, who is asked by the U.S. Holocaust Museum to follow a lead on the diaries. How Wittman ends up recovering the diaries comprises the opening chapters of the book. This is where the book takes a turn.
Wittman and Kinney turn the story into a tale of both Kempner and Rosenberg and how their paths skirt each other. Using the diary, letters written by parties concerned, and other on record written evidence by other prominent figures in WW2, we learn of Rosenberg's rise in the Nazi Party - and subsequent fall - and how Kempner wormed his way to America. We learn how both men had shadier sides hidden from the public.
Kempner had Rosenberg beat in this department. You will need a scorecard to keep track of the fact that Kempner was married, had a couple mistresses, children, and they all lived together under one roof for decades.
Rosenberg had a first wife that was clearly a case of him marrying up. His second wife isn't described a lot in the book, nor his is child, Irene. This is the one detail I wish I knew more of because I think I think it would've given a fuller picture of Rosenberg away from the Party although according to the book, Rosenberg was seldom away from his work. He considered himself a pioneering intellectual and his book The Myth of the 20th Century was the biggest best-seller, second only to Hitler's Mein Kampf. Though, according to the book, everyone thought Hitler's was an easier read and that should tell you a lot right there.
Through the tale of Rosenberg and Kempner, the reader is given a glimpse of WWII with p.o.v.'s rarely offered. We also get a more complete picture of how the hatred of Jews took root and came to dominate the thinking of the Nazi Party. With Kempner, the reader learns what it meant to flee Nazi Germany as a hunted and unwelcomed refugee.
One surprising aspect - at least for me - discussed in length was Rosenberg's hatred for traditional religion, particularly Christianity. This scorn was shared by most leading Nazi's and the book outlines how Rosenberg plotted to squash the Church, once and for all. It was a revealing agenda. For me, it reinforced my contention that hatred lies at the core of Nazi belief. Every action is based on the hate of something.
The Devil's Diary was an easy read and a thrilling one. I met Robert Wittman at the MJCCA Bookfest in November and bought this after his talk. The book lives up to the hype. I recommend this to everyone and give it 5/5 on the rating scale.