Otto Dietrich was born in August 1897, in Essen. After his military service as a soldier during World War I, he was awarded the Iron Cross (First Class). After this he studied at the universities of Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Freiburg, from which he graduated with a doctorate in political science in 1921.
Dietrich worked for newspapers in Essen and Munich. In 1929 he became a member of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and advanced quickly. On 1 August 1931 he was appointed Press Chief of the NSDAP, and the following year joined the SS. By 1941 he had risen to the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer.
His job as Press Chief overlapped with Joseph Goebbels's Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, and thus many anecdotes exist of their feuds. They were infamous for their disagreements, and both often felt obliged to "repair" the mistakes of the other.
Dietrich retained the confidence of the Führer throughout the regime until Hitler fired him after an argument towards the end of World War II. However, in the secrecy mandated by war, Dietrich, who was not in Hitler's "inner circle," often did not truly know of Hitler's whereabouts. In 1949, he was tried at the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, where he was convicted of crimes against humanity and being a member of a criminal organization, namely the SS and was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. He was released in 1950. At the age of 55 Dietrich died in November 1952 in Düsseldorf.
Memoir: The Hitler I Knew
In captivity in Landsberg Prison, Dietrich wrote The Hitler I Knew. Memoirs of the Third Reich's Press Chief, a book sharply critical of Hitler personally and strongly denouncing the crimes committed in the name of Nazism. The first part of the book contains assessments by Dietrich about his character, his reflections on Hitler as a politician and as a soldier, and his critique of his leadership. The second part (Scenes from Hitler's Life) describes Dietrich's first-hand oberservations of Hitler's daily activities before and during the war. The book was republished in 2010 by Skyhorse Publishing, with a new introduction by historian Roger Moorhouse, who indicates that "his (Dietrich) insights are sound and sincere, but the obvious question which arises is: when did they occur to him?". However, following the suicide of Robert Ley at Nuremberg, Dietrich's sincere and insightful expression of the wrongs of the Nazi regime was the first, and perhaps the best expression of remorse with self-understanding of a convicted World War II war criminal after conviction and during incarceration. Albert Speer wrote Spandau: The Secret Diaries, Inside The Third Reich, infiltration and The Slave State: Heinrich Himmler's Master Plan for SS Supremacy, but these works were not published until well after Dietrich's death in 1952, upon Speer's release from Spandau Prison, in 1966.
- Dietrich O. The Hitler I Knew. Memoirs of the Third Reich's Press Chief. Skyhorse Publishing, 2010. ISBN 978-1602399723
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