Joseph Goebbels, a leading member of the German Nazi Party (NSDAP) and Propaganda Minister in Adolf Hitler's government from 1933 to 1945, kept a diary from 1923, when he was an unemployed ex-student with no interest in politics, until shortly before his death by suicide in Berlin on 1 May 1945. The Goebbels Diaries, which have only recently been published in full in German and are available only in part in English, are a major source for the inner history of the Nazi Party and the Third Reich which it ruled for twelve years. The British historian Ian Kershaw wrote in the preface to his biography of Hitler: "For all the caution which must naturally be attached to Goebbels's regularly reported remarks by Hitler ... the immediacy as well as the frequency of the comments makes them a vitally important source of insight into Hitler's thinking and action."
Goebbels began to keep a diary in October 1923, shortly before his 27th birthday, while unemployed and living in his parents' home at Rheydt in the Ruhr region. He had been given a diary as a present by Else Janke, a young woman (of part-Jewish background) with whom he had a turbulent but eventually unsuccessful relationship, and most of his early entries were about her. His biographer Toby Thacker writes: "Writing a diary quickly became a kind of therapy for this troubled young man, and several historians have commented on how extraordinarily candid and revealing Goebbels was, particularly in his early years as a diarist." From 1923 onwards he wrote his diary almost daily.
According to Biographer Peter Longerich, Goebbels' diary entries from late 1923 to early 1924 reflected the writings of a man who was isolated, preoccupied by "religious-philosophical" issues, and lacked a sense of direction. Diary entries of mid-December 1923 forward show Goebbels was moving towards the völkisch nationalist movement. Goebbels first took an interest in Adolf Hitler and Nazism in March 1924. In February 1924, Hitler's trial for treason had began in the wake of his failed attempt to seize power in Munich, Bavaria, during 8–9 November 1923 (this failed coup became known as the Beer Hall Putsch). The trial garnered Hitler much press and gave him a platform for propaganda. After Goebbels first met Hitler in July 1925, however, the Nazi leader increasingly became the central figure in the diary. By July 1926 Goebbels was so enraptured by Hitler that he could write: "It is impossible to reproduce what he said. It must be experienced. He is a genius. The natural, creative instrument of a fate determined by God. I am deeply moved." when Hitler spoke of 'race problems'.
Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933 and appointed Goebbels Propaganda Minister. Goebbels then published an edited version of his diaries for the period of Hitler's rise to power in book form, under the title Vom Kaiserhof zur Reichskanzlei: Eine historische Darstellung in Tagebuchblattern (From the Kaiserhof to the Reich Chancellery). The Kaiserhof was a Berlin hotel where Hitler stayed before he came to power. Goebbels's book was later published in English as My Part in Germany's Fight. Although this book was propagandist in intent, it provides insight into the mentality of the Nazi leadership at the time of their accession to power.
By July 1941 the diaries had grown to fill twenty thick volumes, and Goebbels realised that they were too valuable a resource to risk their destruction in an air raid. He therefore moved them from his study in his Berlin home to the underground vaults of the Reichsbank in central Berlin. From this time onwards, he no longer wrote the diaries by hand. Instead he dictated them to a stenographer, who later typed up corrected versions. He began each day's entry with a resume of the day's military and political news. Thacker notes: "Goebbels was already aware that his diary constituted a remarkable historical document, and entertained fond hopes of reworking it at some future stage for further publication, devoting hours to each day's entry." The involvement of a stenographer, however, meant that the diaries were no longer entirely secret, and they became less frank about personal matters.
By November 1944 it was evident to Goebbels that Germany was going to lose the war. He wrote in his diary: "How distant and alien indeed this beautiful world appears. Inwardly I have already taken leave of it." Realising that he was unlikely to survive the fall of the Third Reich, he gave orders that his diaries were to be copied for safekeeping, using the new technique of microfilm (recently developed, in a strange coincidence, by Dr Joseph Goebel). A special darkroom was created in Goebbels's apartment in central Berlin, and Goebbels's stenographer, Richard Otte, supervised the work.
Goebbels made the last entry in his diary on 10 April 1945, less than a month before his death. The boxes of glass plates containing the microfilmed diaries were sent to Potsdam just west of Berlin, where they were buried. The original handwritten and typed diaries were packed and stored in the Reich Chancellery. Some of these survived, and formed the basis for the publication of sections of the diaries (mainly from the war years) after the war. The boxes of glass plates at Potsdam were discovered by the Soviets and shipped to Moscow, where they sat unopened until they were discovered by the German historian Elke Fröhlich in 1992. Only then did the publication of the full diaries become possible.
A 29-volume edition, spanning the years 1923–1945, was edited by Elke Fröhlich and others. It is said to be 98% complete. Beginning in 1993, the last volume was published in 2008. Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels was published on behalf of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte and with the support of the National Archives Service of Russia by K. G. Saur Verlag in Munich. Full information follows:
- Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil I Aufzeichnungen 1923–1941 [The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels, Part I: Notations, 1923–1941] (ISBN 3-598-23730-8)
|Volume||Entry dates||Editor(s)||Year published|
|1/I||October 1923 – November 1925||Elke Fröhlich||2004|
|1/II||December 1925 – May 1928||Elke Fröhlich||2005|
|1/III||June 1928 – November 1929||Anne Munding||2004|
|2/I||December 1929 – May 1931||Anne Munding||2005|
|2/II||June 1931 – September 1932||Angela Hermann||2004|
|2/III||October 1932 – March 1934||Angela Hermann||2006|
|3/I||April 1934 – February 1936||Angela Hermann
|3/II||March 1936 – February 1937||Jana Richter||2001|
|4||March – November 1937||Elke Fröhlich||2000|
|5||December 1937 – July 1938||Elke Fröhlich||2000|
|6||August 1938 – June 1939||Jana Richter||1998|
|7||July 1939 – March 1940||Elke Fröhlich||1998|
|8||April – November 1940||Jana Richter||1997|
|9||December 1940 – July 1941||Elke Fröhlich||1997|
- Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil II Diktate 1941–1945 [The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels, Part II: Dictations, 1941–1945] (ISBN 3-598-21920-2):
|Volume||Entry dates||Editor(s)||Year published|
|1||July – September 1941||Elke Fröhlich||1996|
|2||October – December 1941||Elke Fröhlich||1996|
|3||January – March 1942||Elke Fröhlich||1995|
|4||April – June 1942||Elke Fröhlich||1995|
|5||July – September 1942||Angela Stüber||1995|
|6||October – December 1942||Hartmut Mehringer||1996|
|7||January – March 1943||Elke Fröhlich||1993|
|8||April – June 1943||Hartmut Mehringer||1993|
|9||July – September 1943||Manfred Kittel||1993|
|10||October – December 1943||Volker Dahm||1994|
|11||January – March 1944||Dieter Marc Schneider||1994|
|12||April – June 1944||Hartmut Mehringer||1995|
|13||July – September 1944||Jana Richter||1995|
|14||October – December 1944||Jana Richter
|15||January – April 1945||Maximilian Gschaid||1995|
- Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil III Register 1923–1945 [The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels, Part III: Register, 1923–1945]:
|Geographical register. Register of persons||Angela Hermann||2007|
|Introduction by Elke Fröhlich to the complete work. Subject index. 2 volumes.||Florian Dierl, Ute Keck, Benjamin Obermüller, Annika Sommersberg and Ulla-Britta Vollhardt. Coordinated and brought together by Ulla-Britta Vollhardt. Composed by Angela Hermann.||2008|
- Astrid M. Eckert, Stefan Martens, "Glasplatten im märkischen Sand: Ein Beitrag zur Überlieferungsgeschichte der Tageseinträge und Diktate von Joseph Goebbels," Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 52 (2004): 479–526.
- Angela Hermann, "In 2 Tagen wurde Geschichte gemacht". Über den Charakter und Erkenntniswert der Goebbels-Tagebücher ["In Two Days, History Was Made": About the Character and Scientific Value of the Goebbels Diary]. Published in Stuttgart in 2008 (ISBN 978-3-9809603-4-2).
- Angela Hermann, Der Weg in den Krieg 1938/39. Quellenkritische Studien zu den Tagebüchern von Joseph Goebbels. München 2011 (ISBN 978-3-486-70513-3).
In English translation
- The Goebbels Diaries, 1942–1943 was translated, edited, and introduced by Louis P. Lochner. First published by Doubleday in 1948. It was reprinted by Greenwood Press in 1970 (ISBN 0-837-13815-9)
- Final Entries 1945: The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels was edited, introduced, and annotated by Hugh Trevor-Roper. First published by Putnam in 1978 (ISBN 0-399-12116-1). An annotated edition was published by Pen and Sword in 2008 (ISBN 1-844-15646-X).
- The Goebbels Diaries, 1939–1941, edited and translated by Fred Taylor. First published in London by Hamish Hamilton in 1982 (ISBN 0-241-10893-4). The first American edition was published by Putnam in 1983 (ISBN 0-399-12763-1). This translation of a previously unpublished part of Goebbel's diaries was the subject of controversy.
- Thacker 2010, p. 2.
- Kershaw 1998, p. xiii.
- Longerich 2015, pp. 28, 33, 34.
- Longerich 2015, p. 33.
- Longerich 2015, p. 36.
- Kershaw 2008, pp. 127–131.
- Kershaw 2008, pp. 133-135.
- Fest 1970, p. 90.
- Thacker 2010, p. 231.
- Thacker 2010, p. 234.
- Stroebel & Zakia 1993, p. 482.
- Thacker 2010, p. 285.
- Thacker 2010, p. 295.
- Churcher 1983.
- Churcher, Sharon (30 May 1983). "The Goebbels Diaries: More Controversy Over Nazi Papers". New York Magazine: 9.
- Fest, Joachim E. (1970). The Face Of The Third Reich: Portraits Of The Nazi Leadership. New York: Pantheon. p. 90. OCLC 556907716.
- Kershaw, Ian (1998). Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris. New York: W.W.Norton.
- Kershaw, Ian (2008). Hitler: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06757-6.
- Longerich, Peter (2015). Goebbels: A Biography. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-1400067510.
- Stroebel, Leslie; Zakia, Richard D. (1993). The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography. Focal Press.
- Thacker, Toby (2010) . Joseph Goebbels: Life and Death. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-27866-0.