The lost diary of one of Adolf Hitler’s close confidants is now in the hands of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., thanks to the efforts of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Alfred Rosenberg’s handwritten diary was among the documents seized by allied forces at the end of World War II. It went missing when the Nuremburg Trials ended in the 1940s.
“We already see that the Rosenberg Diary is no ordinary diary of the time,” former ICE Director John Morton said, when the diary was first recovered last June. “It is the unvarnished account of a Nazi leader, his thoughts, his philosophies, his interactions with other Nazi leaders.”
Rosenberg was a leading member of the Nazi Party in Germany during the war. He was also the author of “The Myth of Twentieth Century,” which outlined the philosophy behind national socialist ideology. As Reich Minister of the Occupied Eastern Territories, he played a significant part in the mass killing of Jewish people as well as other ethnic groups.
“Reading Rosenberg’s Diary is to stare into the mind of a dark soul, a man untroubled by the isolation and the violent extermination of Jews and others he deemed undesirable, a man consumed with visions of racial and ethnic superiority,” Morton said.
On Tuesday, ICE transferred the diary to the Holocaust Memorial Museum for safekeeping. Scans from the diary have already been placed online for the public to view.
“This is an item that has been the subject to quite a degree of controversy as well as effort to find it,” said Daniel Ragsdale, ICE’s deputy director. “It’s a very important document to the Holocaust Museum and society in general. Hopefully, there are some lessons that we can continue to learn from having this important artifact available to the public.”
The story behind the disappearance of the diary remains unclear. According to Ragsdale, Dr. Robert M. W. Kempner, a U.S. government employee who was a member of the legal team in Nuremburg, had access to the seized Nazi materials. It is believed he brought the diary back with him to the U.S. along with other documents.
Kempner died in 1993 and the museum received materials from his estate in 1999, but the diary was not among them. The museum first worked with a private investigator and then the FBI to track down the diary.
In 2012, an individual in the antiquities industry provided ICE officials with information on the diary’s location.
“Our agents, who are quite skilled in this area and have attended some training put on by the Smithsonian Institution, took that information and continued to work with the prosecutors in the Department of Justice to develop the lead and ultimately find the Rosenberg diary,” Ragsdale said.
The Office of Homeland Security Investigations, which is staffed by criminal investigators who are focused on a variety of smuggling crimes, led ICE’s effort to recovery the diary.
“As a document, such as the Rosenberg Diary or any sort of cultural antiquity, it could be statues or tapestries or even paintings, they’re smuggled across borders,” Ragsdale said. “In our view, if it’s an item or piece of art that is imported into the United States contrary to law, it falls within our investigative portfolio.”
Ragsdale said presenting the Rosenberg Diary to the museum was a proud day for ICE.
“I think this is a very important document and making sure that this type of material is in the right hands and preserved for public access is an important part of our mission,” he said.