The nine notebooks of the diary on display
WASHINGTON – Plans to present Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a copy of a famed World War II diary that documents Nazi war crimes fell through when Columbia University scrapped plans for an address today by the Iranian president because of security and logistical problems.
Robert Scott Kellner, the grandson of the diarist, Friedrich Kellner, a chief justice inspector in the German town of Laubach during Adolph Hitler’s reign, saw an opportunity to confront Ahmadinejad with the truth about the Holocaust, which the Iranian leader has denied on several occasions.
Coincidentally, Columbia University had long expressed interest in becoming the custodian of diaries in its Library of Rare Manuscripts – a fact Kellner was hoping to use as leverage to make the presentation to Ahmadinejad.
Kellner first wrote to Ahmadinejad Aug. 28 about the diary offering proof of the Holocaust.
“My father was born in Germany, and his father, Friedrich Kellner, served as chief justice inspector in the town of Laubach in Hessen,” he explained in his letter. “During the Third Reich, my grandfather secretly recorded the deeds of the Nazis. He gave me his diary in 1968 with the request I use it as a weapon against any resurgence of those forces that brought about the war.”
Kellner pointed out the nine notebooks were on exhibit last year at the George Bush Presidential Library, that a university in Germany is planning to publish the material and that a Canadian film company has completed a documentary about his grandfather’s life.
Robert Scott Kellner with his grandparents, Friedrich and Paulina Kellner, in 1968
“So the diary has already reached out to three nations,” Kellner wrote to Ahmadinejad. “I am hoping it can reach out to a fourth: Iran.”
Columbia’s President Lee Bollinger came under severe criticism from the New York-based Jewish Defense Organization for “for inviting the vicious Jew-hating president of Iran to speak” on campus.
“I find President Ahmadinejad’s stated beliefs to be repugnant,” Bollinger said, while adding, “I have no doubt that Columbia students and faculty would use an open exchange to challenge him sharply and are fully capable of reaching their own independent conclusions.”
A spokeswoman said that the invitation to Ahmadinejad was made and accepted on Wednesday by noon, however, by the afternoon, it had become clear “that it would not be possible to make the extraordinary logistical and security arrangements necessary on short notice.”
Even though Ahmadinejad will not address the conference today at Columbia, Kellner is hoping the university will make every effort to coordinate a future presentation of the diary to Ahmadinejad.
Columbia first wrote to Kellner in 1982 seeking to make the diaries part of its rare book and manuscript collection.
“The diary contradicts Ahmadinejad’s perceptions about the Holocaust and also calls upon the democracies to stand firmly against any future fascists,” Kellner told WND. “If President Ahmadinejad’s appearance at any American university at any time in the future is to have the fullest meaning, he should receive there a copy of this historical document.”
Friedrich Kellner spoke out against the Nazis in 1940 and was nearly sent to a concentration camp. After that, instead of making his protests vocal, he dutifully recorded his observations and analysis in a diary he titled, “Mein Widerstand,” which can translate to both “My Resistance” or “My Opposition.”
“His writings do not deal with the mundane daily events of life but rather challenge the falsehoods of Nazi propaganda and record the inhuman atrocities committed by the Nazis,” explains his grandson. “The entries in the diary read like today’s headlines, and Friedrich Kellner’s solution for the terrorism of his own time may be the answer for the terrorism confronting our generation.”
Robert Scott Kellner seems determined – at some point – to confront Ahmadinejad with the truth of the Holocaust as experienced first-hand and recorded by his grandfather.
“I would like to make an appointment with you, so that I might present to you a copy of the diary of Friedrich Kellner,” he wrote to the Iranian leader. “Not only does the diary confirm the events of World War II, but it gives a prescription or preventing such man-made catastrophes in the future. Another war can be prevented if our leaders view historical events as parables for current ones, and if they have the will to spare humanity the sufferings of another conflagration. More specifically, we need to renounce ideologies that do not uphold, above all else, human life and personal liberty.”