It is hard to know what to think of WernerOtto Muller-Hill, the German military judge who kept a diary during the last year of World War II while he was serving as a military judge for the Third Reich. Muller-Hill’s diary has been translated with some editing in The True German, with an introduction by Benjamin Carter Hett, and translation and editing by Jefferson Chase. Muller-Hill was approaching 60 and had a wife and young son, when he decided to start a diary in March 1944. He knew that this was a dangerous act that could get him killed if he were discovered, but he wanted to make a record for his family. As he writes, Muller-Hill knows Germany will be defeated and that it is only a matter of how and when. He is furious with Hitler for dragging German into what he sees as an unnecessary and catastrophic war. He is completely cynical about Goebbels’ incessantly shrill and groundless reports of victory and as well as all the aggressive military orders that cannot be executed because the German army is in shambles. Several times he writes that Germany has no right to expect any mercy when the war is over because of how it has behaved and, in particular, how it has murdered Jews. Muller-Hill clearly knows quite a bit about that and seems to appreciate how unforgivable Germany’s behavior has been. He is very concerned about what will happen to him and his family.
Yet, as he criticizes his countrymen for buying Hitler’s false promises and behaving so badly, the sixty-four thousand dollar question is where was he? It seems that the best he could say for himself is that he wasn’t an active supporter of the regime, but neither was he taking any active measures to resist. Indeed, he kept doing his job until the end. Given the timing, it is of course possible that Muller-Hill wrote this with an eye toward making himself a more sympathetic prisoner for the Allies, but that doesn’t seem to be the thrust of his diary. For example, he writes about the Holocaust as if it were a tactical error that will doom Germany, but doesn’t express any empathy for the Jews or give any indication that he ever opposed Anti-Semitism.
It is a short book that leaves a lot of questions, but it does provide a primary source and helps us understand what at least one person was thinking as the war drew to a close. Interestingly, after the war, Muller-Hill returned to his legal career as a prosecutor. It seems like life largely went back to normal for him until he died in 1977.