A groundbreaking World War II narrative wrapped in a riveting detective story, The Devil’s Diary investigates the disappearance of a private diary penned by one of Adolf Hitler’s top aides—Alfred Rosenberg, his “chief philosopher”—and mines its long-hidden pages to deliver a fresh, eye-opening account of the Nazi rise to power and the genesis of the Holocaust
An influential figure in Adolf Hitler’s early inner circle from the start, Alfred Rosenberg made his name spreading toxic ideas about the Jews throughout Germany. By the dawn of the Third Reich, he had published a bestselling masterwork that was a touchstone of Nazi thinking.
His diary was discovered hidden in a Bavarian castle at war’s end—five hundred pages providing a harrowing glimpse into the mind of a man whose ideas set the stage for the Holocaust. Prosecutors examined it during the Nuremberg war crimes trial, but after Rosenberg was convicted, sentenced, and executed, it mysteriously vanished.
New York Times bestselling author Robert K. Wittman, who as an FBI agent and then a private consultant specialized in recovering artifacts of historic significance, first learned of the diary in 2001, when the chief archivist for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum contacted him to say that someone was trying to sell it for upwards of a million dollars. The phone call sparked a decade-long hunt that took them on a twisting path involving a pair of octogenarian secretaries, an eccentric professor, and an opportunistic trash-picker. From the crusading Nuremberg prosecutor who smuggled the diary out of Germany to the man who finally turned it over, everyone had reasons for hiding the truth.
Drawing on Rosenberg’s entries about his role in the seizure of priceless artwork and the brutal occupation of the Soviet Union, his conversations with Hitler and his endless rivalries with Göring, Goebbels, and Himmler, The Devil’s Diary offers vital historical insight of unprecedented scope and intimacy into the innermost workings of the Nazi regime—and into the psyche of the man whose radical vision mutated into the Final Solution.
Wittman (Priceless), a former FBI investigative expert on cultural property crime, joins forces with journalist Kinney (The Dylanologists) to share the engrossing story of former Nazi Alfred Rosenberg, his diary, and the lengths historians had to go to in order to get their hands on it. Rosenberg, a virulent anti-Semite with a deep need for attention and status, found kindred souls in the Nazi party and had a profound influence on Hitler during his rise to power. In 1934, Rosenberg began a diary that he kept current through the end of WWII. It was packed with details of the party's inner workings. Robert Kempner, a lawyer and Social Democrat who escaped Germany, ended up in the U.S. and landed a gig in the War Department where he helped prosecute Rosenberg, among others. Kempner took possession of Rosenberg's diary, but it was essentially "lost" for decades. Kempner disavowed ownership of it, and after his death his heirs went to extraordinary lengths to keep it secret. Wittman and Kinney's chronicle of the efforts historians took to gain access to the diary feels like it's pulled from a movie, especially when they add in Rosenberg's story. This is an outstanding piece of journalism.