Joseph Goebbels

Diaries 1945 - The Final Entries

Joseph Goebbels was Hitler's Minister for Propaganda during the period of the Third Reich. He was probably the most effective preacher not only of his day, but also of this century. Until shortly before his death he kept a diary, which went into enormous detail on Germany's military position and world politics. The diary was not intended for publication during his lifetime and has survived very largely intact.
With one exception, I have selected extracts from the diary for the period February - March 1945. The extracts are intended to convey both the spirit of this unique record as well as an insight into the man himself, the extent of his self-deception, and the ultimately self-destructive pursuit of the self.
Goebbels committed suicide with his wife the day after Hitler on 1st May 1945, having administered poison to their six innocent children.

An auspicious start

27th June 1924
Diary starts with the precept that his aims in life are to become: "Simpler in thought, greater in love, more trusting in hope, more fervent in belief, and more modest in speech".
No comment!

The Church

12th March 1945
"In the main, the clergy have placed themselves at the disposal of the Anglo-Americans. Here we shall find a rich field of activity for our terror groups. Moreover the Fuhrer intends that when we recover our lost territories we shall exercise a summary jurisdiction against these priests which they will never forget."

The destruction of Germany

16th March 1945
"Our munitions factories and communications are being destroyed to such an extent that one can easily envisage a time coming when we are faced, as it were, with nothing."

22nd March 1945
"Not only our cities, but also our industry has for the greater part been destroyed. The consequence is a complete breakdown in morale. People in the West of the country are not able to sleep at all and are therefore becoming extremely nervous, hysterical and on edge. The long and the short of it is that the situation has become somewhat unbearable. We must apply all our resources at least to achieve a modest success on the military front and bring the people back into line."

Self deception

Nowhere does Goebbels ever seem to draw the inevitable conclusion from the obvious. There are frequent passages in the diary describing the wholesale destruction of Germany's cities including of course its cultural heritage. Space prevents me from including the bitter complaints he makes when his own Ministry of Propaganda is flattened by Mosquitoes in February 1945. One passage alone should, however, reveal just how far Goebbels was fooling himself...

15th March 1945
"The reports of Dr Ley (his assistant) and Speer (Albert Speer, Hitler's munitions minister) have a most alarming effect. But I assume that they are very strongly under the impression of what they have seen in the West, and no longer possess the necessary distance from things, otherwise they would be representing them to be different from what they actually are. It is absolutely crucial at this time to look at things from the appropriate distance. Close up, they do of course sometimes look appalling. But war does have its ups and downs and especially in the downs it is important to keep one's cool and not to lose one's nerve. I again learn this from reading an exposition on the Punic War by Professor Frank. This exposition shows what must be done in critical phases of the war and how long one must suffer defeat after defeat until eventually victory is obtained. Not in vain does one speak of Roman virtues. They appear at their purest in the second Punic War and even today are an example to us. As the Fuhrer has repeatedly stressed, it must be our ambition to see to it that our own age appears in the annals of humanity as just as glorious and resolute as that of the Second Punic or Seven Years War."

The Jewish People

14th March 1945
"Provided one has the power to do so, the Jews must be destroyed once and for all, like rats. In Germany we have, thank God, already dealt with the matter fully. I hope that the world will learn an example from it."

A statement of frightening and chilling evil. The irony of the last sentence would, of course, be lost on Goebbels.

A prophet of our time?

15th March 1945
"The English always have very expansive plans for the next quarter and half centuries. But they have absolutely no credibility, for I suspect that so far as anything in Europe in 25 or 50 years is concerned they will have very little influence."

14th March 1945
"A lively exchange of telegrams is taking place between Eisenhower and (Bomber) Harris congratulating on the destruction of German cities in the west. This exchange of telegrams is a cultural document of the most despicable kind. I believe that in 50 years from now European humanity will turn away in disgust from this cynicism."

Overall the diaries are a horrifying account of the triumph of ideology over humanity. Unsparing of the sufferings of the German people, there is also no record of the anticipated tragedy which was to overtake his wife and children. He is not a man deserving of our sympathy, and ended his life unredeemed and unforgiven.

David Griffiths
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 30th July 1997