Goebbels Diaries

The Goebbels Diaries are a collection of writings by Joseph Goebbels, a leading member of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) and the Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in Adolf Hitler's government from 1933 to 1945. The diaries, which have only recently been published in full in German and are available only in part in English, are a major source for the inner history of the Nazi Party and of its twelve years in power in Germany. The British historian Ian Kershaw wrote in the preface to his biography of Hitler: "For all the caution which must naturally be attached to Goebbels's regularly reported remarks by Hitler ... the immediacy as well as the frequency of the comments makes them a vitally important source of insight into Hitler's thinking and action."[1]


Goebbels began to keep a diary in October 1923, shortly before his 27th birthday, while unemployed and living in his parents' home at Rheydt in the Ruhr region. He had been given a diary as a present by Else Janke, a young woman (of part-Jewish background) with whom he had a turbulent but eventually unsuccessful relationship, and most of his early entries were about her. His biographer Toby Thacker writes: "Writing a diary quickly became a kind of therapy for this troubled young man, and several historians have commented on how extraordinarily candid and revealing Goebbels was, particularly in his early years as a diarist."[2] From 1923 onwards he wrote his diary almost daily.

According to biographer Peter Longerich, Goebbels' diary entries from late 1923 to early 1924 reflected the writings of a man who was isolated, preoccupied by "religious-philosophical" issues, and lacked a sense of direction.[3] Diary entries of mid-December 1923 forward show Goebbels was moving towards the völkisch nationalist movement.[4] Goebbels first took an interest in Adolf Hitler and Nazism in March 1924.[5] In February 1924, Hitler's trial for treason had begun in the wake of his failed attempt to seize power in Munich, Bavaria, during 8–9 November 1923 (this failed coup became known as the Beer Hall Putsch).[6] The trial garnered Hitler much press and gave him a platform for propaganda.[7] After Goebbels first met Hitler in July 1925, however, the Nazi leader increasingly became the central figure in the diary. By July 1926 Goebbels was so enraptured by Hitler speaking on "racial issues", that he wrote: "It is impossible to reproduce what [Hitler] said. It must be experienced. He is a genius. The natural, creative instrument of a fate determined by God. I am deeply moved.".[8]

Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933 and appointed Goebbels Propaganda Minister. Goebbels then published an edited version of his diaries for the period of Hitler's rise to power in book form, under the title Vom Kaiserhof zur Reichskanzlei: Eine historische Darstellung in Tagebuchblattern (From the Kaiserhof to the Reich Chancellery: a Historical Diary). The Kaiserhof was a Berlin hotel where Hitler stayed before he came to power. Goebbels's book was later published in English as My Part in Germany's Fight. Although this book was propagandist in intent, it provides insight into the mentality of the Nazi leadership at the time of their accession to power.

By July 1941 the diaries had grown to fill twenty thick volumes, and Goebbels realised that they were too valuable a resource to risk their destruction in an air raid. He therefore moved them from his study in his Berlin home to the underground vaults of the Reichsbank in central Berlin.[9] From this time onwards, he no longer wrote the diaries by hand. Instead he dictated them to a stenographer, who later typed up corrected versions. He began each day's entry with a resume of the day's military and political news. Thacker notes: "Goebbels was already aware that his diary constituted a remarkable historical document, and entertained fond hopes of reworking it at some future stage for further publication, devoting hours to each day's entry."[10] The involvement of a stenographer, however, meant that the diaries were no longer entirely secret, and they became less frank about personal matters.

By November 1944 it was evident to Goebbels that Germany was going to lose the war. He wrote in his diary: "How distant and alien indeed this beautiful world appears. Inwardly I have already taken leave of it." Realising that he was unlikely to survive the fall of the Third Reich, he gave orders that his diaries were to be copied for safekeeping, using the new technique of microfilm.[11] A special darkroom was created in Goebbels's apartment in central Berlin, and Goebbels's stenographer, Richard Otte, supervised the work.[12]

Goebbels made the last entry in his diary on the afternoon of 1 May 1945, hours before his death, but it was not preserved.[13] The last preserved entry dates to 9 April 1945. The boxes of glass plates containing the microfilmed diaries were sent in April 1945 to Potsdam just west of Berlin, where they were buried. The original handwritten and typed diaries were packed and stored in the Reich Chancellery.[14] Some of these survived, and formed the basis for the publication of sections of the diaries (mainly from the war years) after the war. The boxes of glass plates at Potsdam were discovered by the Soviets and shipped to Moscow, where they sat unopened until they were discovered by the German historian Elke Fröhlich in 1992. Only then did the publication of the full diaries become possible.


In German

A 29-volume edition, spanning the years 1923–1945, was edited by Elke Fröhlich and others. It is said to be 98% complete. Publication began in 1993, with the last volume appearing in 2008. Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels was published on behalf of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte and with the support of the National Archives Service of Russia by K. G. Saur Verlag in Munich. Full information follows:

  • Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil I Aufzeichnungen 1923–1941 [The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels, Part I: Notations, 1923–1941] (ISBN 3-598-23730-8)
VolumeEntry datesEditor(s)Year published
1/IOctober 1923 – November 1925Elke Fröhlich2004
1/IIDecember 1925 – May 1928Elke Fröhlich2005
1/IIIJune 1928 – November 1929Anne Munding2004
2/IDecember 1929 – May 1931Anne Munding2005
2/IIJune 1931 – September 1932Angela Hermann2004
2/IIIOctober 1932 – March 1934Angela Hermann2006
3/IApril 1934 – February 1936Angela Hermann
Hartmut Mehringer
Anne Munding
Jana Richter
3/IIMarch 1936 – February 1937Jana Richter2001
4March – November 1937Elke Fröhlich2000
5December 1937 – July 1938Elke Fröhlich2000
6August 1938 – June 1939Jana Richter1998
7July 1939 – March 1940Elke Fröhlich1998
8April – November 1940Jana Richter1997
9December 1940 – July 1941Elke Fröhlich1997
  • Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil II Diktate 1941–1945 [The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels, Part II: Dictations, 1941–1945] (ISBN 3-598-21920-2):
VolumeEntry datesEditor(s)Year published
1July – September 1941Elke Fröhlich1996
2October – December 1941Elke Fröhlich1996
3January – March 1942Elke Fröhlich1995
4April – June 1942Elke Fröhlich1995
5July – September 1942Angela Stüber1995
6October – December 1942Hartmut Mehringer1996
7January – March 1943Elke Fröhlich1993
8April – June 1943Hartmut Mehringer1993
9July – September 1943Manfred Kittel1993
10October – December 1943Volker Dahm1994
11January – March 1944Dieter Marc Schneider1994
12April – June 1944Hartmut Mehringer1995
13July – September 1944Jana Richter1995
14October – December 1944Jana Richter
Hermann Graml
15January – April 1945Maximilian Gschaid1995
  • Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Teil III Register 1923–1945 [The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels, Part III: Register, 1923–1945]:
ContentsEditor(s)Year published
Geographical register. Register of personsAngela Hermann2007
Introduction by Elke Fröhlich to the complete work. Subject index. 2 volumes.Florian Dierl, Ute Keck, Benjamin Obermüller, Annika Sommersberg and Ulla-Britta Vollhardt. Coordinated and brought together by Ulla-Britta Vollhardt. Composed by Angela Hermann.2008
  • Astrid M. Eckert, Stefan Martens, "Glasplatten im märkischen Sand: Ein Beitrag zur Überlieferungsgeschichte der Tageseinträge und Diktate von Joseph Goebbels," Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 52 (2004): 479–526.
  • Angela Hermann, "In 2 Tagen wurde Geschichte gemacht". Über den Charakter und Erkenntniswert der Goebbels-Tagebücher ["In Two Days, History Was Made": About the Character and Scientific Value of the Goebbels Diary]. Published in Stuttgart in 2008 (ISBN 978-3-9809603-4-2).
  • Angela Hermann, Der Weg in den Krieg 1938/39. Quellenkritische Studien zu den Tagebüchern von Joseph Goebbels. München 2011 (ISBN 978-3-486-70513-3).

In English translation

  • The Goebbels Diaries, 1939–1941, edited and translated by Fred Taylor. First published in London by Hamish Hamilton in 1982 (ISBN 0-241-10893-4). The first American edition was published by Putnam in 1983 (ISBN 0-399-12763-1). This translation of a previously unpublished part of Goebbel's diaries was the subject of controversy.[15]
  • The Goebbels Diaries, 1942–1943 was translated, edited, and introduced by Louis P. Lochner. First published by Doubleday in 1948. It was reprinted by Greenwood Press in 1970 (ISBN 0-837-13815-9)
  • Final Entries 1945: The Diaries of Joseph Goebbels was edited, introduced, and annotated by Hugh Trevor-Roper. First published by Putnam in 1978 (ISBN 0-399-12116-1). An annotated edition was published by Pen and Sword in 2008 (ISBN 1-844-15646-X).


  1. Kershaw 1998, p. xiii.
  2. Thacker 2010, p. 2.
  3. Longerich 2015, pp. 28, 33, 34.
  4. Longerich 2015, p. 33.
  5. Longerich 2015, p. 36.
  6. Kershaw 2008, pp. 127–131.
  7. Kershaw 2008, pp. 133-135.
  8. Fest 1970, p. 90.
  9. Thacker 2010, p. 231.
  10. Thacker 2010, p. 234.
  11. Stroebel & Zakia 1993, p. 482.
  12. Thacker 2010, p. 285.
  13. Reuth 2003, p. 2186.
  14. Thacker 2010, p. 295.
  15. Churcher 1983.


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