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The True German: The Diary of a World War II…

The True German: The Diary of a World War II Military Judge (2013)

by Werner Otto Müller-Hill

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A novel peek into a German official's mindset during WW2. Mueller-Hill kept a diary in order to communicate his distress about his country's actions to his son. He seemed to be a level-headed person who attempted to keep his small corner of the world on an even keel. His despair and sorrow voice his disgust at the propaganda machine and the waste of lives that the continuing hopeless conflict exacts towards the end of the war is palpable.

Well worth reading. ( )
  2wonderY | Dec 28, 2017 |
542 Nonfiction History Military History & Affairs World War II

Werner Otto Mueller-Hill, The True German. The Diary of a World War II Military Judge.

Palgrave Macmillan, September 2013.

Publisher Contact: Lauren Dwyer-Janiec, Publicity Manager, 646.307.5698, lauren.janiec@palgrave-usa.com/.

Werner Otto Mueller-Hill served Germany during both the First and Second World War, on both occasions as an Army Military Judge. In 1944 his unit, 158th Reserve Division, was stationed in Alsace-Lorraine (Lothringen in German). Mueller-Hill was a native of Lothringen, and his billet in 1944 was in Strasbourg, an old and beautiful city, and a cultural center of western Germany.

On or about March 28, 1944, Mueller-Hill began to keep a personal diary, an act which if not actually criminal on its face, had the potential for subjecting the diary’s author to the unwanted attention of the Gestapo if discovered. In spite of the diary’s inherent potential to create mischief for him, Mueller-Hill continued to make entries in it until June 7, 1945, a month following Germany’s surrender.

In his diary, Mueller-Hill failed to accord Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party the level of respect, honor and gullibility demanded of any citizen of the Third Reich. And he openly expressed the view that Germany was on the verge of losing the Second World War. Mueller-Hill knew well that should his diary fall into the wrong hands, his own chances of surviving the war would diminish precipitously.

The Mueller-Hill Diary is, if nothing else, mundane. Its entries generally deal with a short list of topics, among which the most persistent is the past, present and future course of the war. This is the common thread that ties the Diary together. It weaves its way through the text, at some points appearing almost daily, and at others more infrequently.

Another persistent theme in the Mueller-Hill Diary is the author’s contempt for the callous perfidy of the Nazi party and the Fuehrer in their death throes. The author’s complaints in this area arise from the steady diet of claptrap being fed to Germans by the Nazi regime via a number of sources, including radio broadcasts, the party-controlled press, and imperial edicts, as well as orders issued and speeches given by National Socialist guidance officers (Natzionalsozialistische Fuehrungsoffiziere) assigned to nearly every unit in the German Army following the attempt on Hitler’s life of July 20, 1944. The general tenor of this “information” was that despite the evidence of their senses, Germans must have faith that victory and retribution were both at hand.

From a literary point of view, the Mueller-Hill diary is just that---a diary. In spite of the nearly universal cynicism that infects modern society and culture, it is possible for someone to write a diary that is not self-exonerating, self-serving, self-aggrandizing, and an outright lie. Werner Otto Mueller-Hill’s diary is that diary.

This diarist was concerned with the here and now. He did not have in mind the question of how historians would interpret what he said, place it in its proper historical context, judge it against the work of other contemporary diarists. Mueller-Hill did not intend his diary to be didactic, to tell the future how it should or should not behave. More than likely, he sought to have a means for remembering what his former life was like, and to teach his children and grandchildren who their Papa and Opa was.

And this is where the diary and the diarist, speaking to us from the Germany of the 1940’s, diverge from the historian and his historical analysis, speaking to us from a Germany and a world seventy years on. The historian in this case is Benjamin Carter Hett, currently Professor of History at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of the Introduction to the diarist’s work. Hett’s scholarship, based solely upon my own reading of his excellent Burning the Reichstag, as well as his literary skills, are of the very highest order.

Nevertheless, Professor Hett’s Introduction is not sacrosanct and thus beyond reproach. The principal issue here is that the Introduction is rife with the de rigueur criticisms directed at Germans who were adults in wartime Germany. And it is worth bearing in mind, when considering these criticisms, that with very few exceptions, many were first made, and all have been perpetuated, by people without the firsthand experience of living in a police state such as the Third Reich.

Here we have, for example, Professor Hett’s condemnation of “Nazi” military jurists for their collective and extraordinary harshness to their own troops and others in condemning 20,000 to 33,000 (numbers often doubled by other supposed experts on the issue) “soldiers, prisoners of war, and civilians subject to military justice” to death, and for drafting the Commissar Order calling for mass shootings behind the lines “which historians recognize as a major step on the path to the Holocaust.”

Professor Hett would be remiss, of course, if he did not address that progenitor of all of the other hackneyed inquiries into the black souls of German survivors of the Second World War (and as other historians would have it, the black souls of the children, grandchildren and further descendants of such persons, ad infinitum), namely “what Germans in the Third Reich knew and when they knew it”. The “what” and the “when” in that sentence refer, need it be said, to the obvious complicity of all Germans in that work of works for the Third Reich, the Holocaust.

The litany of crimes and other injustices committed or ratified by ordinary Germans during the Second World War and illuminated by Professor Hett in his Introduction to Herr Mueller-Hill’s diary is too long to be considered here. The Nazi regime “enjoyed genuine, strong, and unforced support from a majority” of its citizens; ordinary Germans were compliant with and nonresistant to “the regime’s worst crimes”. And, as if there were any doubt about it, Germans knew about the Holocaust. And to have known about the Holocaust is to have endorsed the Holocaust, to have exulted in it, to have enabled it, to have pulled the trigger or opened the gas valve to make it happen.

There is one last bit of Professor Hett’s “analysis” of the Mueller-Hill diary that should be highlighted. In the Introduction, Hett embraces the view of historian Wolfram Wette, who has written that Mueller-Hill wrote his diary because “he wanted to create a document for his own exculpation after a clearly foreseeable Allied victory”.

This sort of thing always reminds me of Luke: 18, 9-14.

He (Jesus) also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ ( )
  tenutter | Apr 16, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Werner Otto Mueller-Hill offers an insider's perspective of the Third Reich. As a military court judge, Mueller-Hill was spared the burdens of service on the front, but he was positioned to see the madness that surrounded the party leaders in Nazi Germany.

The True German is a journal originally prepared to provide a record of Mueller-Hill's observations of Germany at war and of the Nazi leadership in general. In this journal, he comes across as a conflicted man. He is a loyal and patriotic German, but he shows the utmost contempt for the Nazi party. He displays no joy at the prospect of an allied victory over Germany. Yet, he desires the overthrow of Nazism for the sake of the German people.

I was surprised by the amount of criticism and ridicule expressed in this diary. Certainly, given Nazi censorship, this could not have been published during the Third Reich. In fact, Mueller-Hill hid his journal, for its discovery would have likely sent him to a concentration camp.

The True German reminds readers that there were many in Germany who opposed the policies of Hitler and his henchmen. Mueller-Hill has gone on record as one of those. ( )
  RonStarcher | Mar 13, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Perhaps my expectations of what this diary would contain were too high. But with a subtitle that includes 'World War II Military Judge', I hoped that something about his actual work as a military judge would be included as he muses about the day-to-day activities he reads/hears about and participates in. Unfortunately, this 'diary' was mainly wasted space and time. There is close to nothing that discusses the cases or defendants this judge might have encountered, which could have given the reader an inside look at how they reflected on the Wehrmacht and the German war effort overall, etc. I found myself interested in maybe three or four pages, which contained some revealing information - the author's knowledge of the activities that became known as the Holocaust is the best example. The rest of the book is made up of meanderings based on propaganda articles in newspapers and speeches by Goebbels, Hitler, and Himmler. I found little here that will add to our overall knowledge of the Third Reich or what living in Nazi Germany was like, as the thoughts of this military judge are mostly superficial, being primarily based on rumor or hearsay. ( )
  Kunikov | Jan 24, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
THE TRUE GERMAN is a diary that covers the time frame between March 1944 to June 1945.

It was written by a military judge, Werner Otto Muller-Hill. Muller-Hill was in his late 50's as the war began. Too old, and really too valuable to be sent to either front, he sat instead as a military judge, and for our purposes this puts him in a unique position of being an insider to the social and political structure of the fall of the 3rd Reich, as he was able to hear information from military and political leaders, as well as common soldiers and civilians.

Since I'm not a student of this era, I found much of the content new and interesting. I learned a great deal about the German mindset. How they viewed the French, British, Americans and Russians. [He writes at one point that Americans do not enjoy fighting against determined resistance. But only attacks after he has ground down his enemy by his air force.]

And it was fascinating to see parallels to modern events. For just like modern politicians, some Germans held onto their beliefs so firmly that they could not imagine that events would not turn out they way they wanted. So there was always the hope for a secret weapon to turn the tides. And with their own powerful internal media, they only heard the feedback they wanted to hear. Defeat was inconceivable.

The TRUE GERMAN is not a book just about politics and military maneuvers. There's insight into what daily life was like. Herr Muller-Hill had a wife and young son. And he writes about how they all adjust to war; everything from picnics, the shortage of shoes, bombings, as well as how he was treated for a heart condition.

He also writes about things that I hadn't considered before. For example, one doesn't read much or hear much about what the Germans might have thought would be their fate once they lost the war. The author writes about this frequently. In terms of whether Germany would be broken up, or allowed to remain whole.

He also writes about retribution from the Jews --something that had never crossed my mind.

"From now on until the end of the war, we will get to read every day about what our enemies plan to do with us after our defeat. As impartial voices, the authors cite the two pro-Nazi newspapers in Switzerland, Di Tat and Das Vaterland. It is clear that Jewry, which we have mistreated so badly, is determined to get revenge of the Old Testament sort. If they had their way, as many Germans would be murdered, as we killed Jews in cold blood in Poland and Russia."

THE TRUE GERMAN is very readable. The author was erudite and writes in a personal and chatty fashion. If you have more than a passing interest in WWII, I would highly recommend this work. I thought it was a fascinating look into German life during the last stages of the war. ( )
  PamFamilyLibrary | Dec 17, 2013 |
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"You could see it coming, but it still shakes you to the core." ~Journal entry, April 12, 1944
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March 28,1944
My decision to begin a diary on the day after my 59th birthday, which like the four proceding ones, I "celebrated" in uniform, was prompted by a book that I received yesterday as a gift.
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Werner Otto Mller-Hill served as a military judge in the Werhmacht during World War II. From March 1944 to the summer of 1945, he kept a diary, recording his impressions of what transpired around him as Germany hurtled into destruction-what he thought about the fate of the Jewish people, the danger from the Bolshevik East once an Allied victory was imminent, his longing for his home and family and, throughout it, a relentless disdain and hatred for the man who dragged his beloved Germany into this cataclysm, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. Mller-Hill calls himself a German nationalist, the true Prussian idealist who was there before Hitler and would be there after.… (more)

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