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

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

Werner Otto Müller-Hill was a military judge who served in that role in the German army in both world wars. His diary shows that he was present during the early fighting on the Eastern Front, but from 1942 until October 1944 he was based in Strasbourg, and he remained with his division (the 158th replacement division), as it retreated east. His motive for keeping a diary appears to have been a wish to record the fall of Hitler and the Nazi regime and to keep a record of his opinions, with the hope that his son would be interested in them after the war. He was unimpressed with the Nazis, but was aware that it was dangerous to express opinions hostile to the regime in public unless you were very sure of your audience.

Müller-Hill touches on an impressive number of interesting topics in his diary. Views on the course of the war and the military situation are most common. He spends some time trying to work out how some of his colleagues can appear to believe so firmly in an eventual German victory even as the Allies were fighting their way into Germany. His views on post-war Germany are interesting (although his views didn't come true - he expected either total Soviet control or that the western Allies would arrive first and split the country into its component parts).

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this diary is the light it casts on what a well informed member of the military knew about the course of the war and about the Nazi atrocities. It is clear that Müller-Hill was very well informed about the course of the fighting, although it isn't always clear how much of this was general knowledge and how much came through internal military channels. On occasions we do find out - the collapse of Army Group Centre in the summer of 1944 was admitted on German radio, while on the same day a plan to raise fresh units came through his division.

Müller-Hill clearly knew quite a bit about the holocaust, remarking on several occasions that Germany had shot and gassed vast numbers of Jews. This casts further doubt on the idea that most Germans didn’t know about the holocaust, although Müller-Hill's position in the military means that we do need to be a little cautious here - did his knowledge come through conversations with other senior military figures?

Some of his concerns are very telling. One of his themes was the possibility that another 'stab in the back' myth might arise, just as after the First World War. After the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler he was worried that this would be used, but as time passed that fear disappeared.

This is a fascinating diary, providing us with a valuable view of the last year of the war as seen by a well connected member but non-combatant member of the German military.

Author: Werner Otto Müller-Hill
Translator and editors: Jefferson Chase
Publisher: Palgrave-Macmillan
Year: 2013 (first English translation)

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