JFK Diary Calls Hitler ‘Stuff of Legends’ Who ‘Will Emerge From Hatred’
John F. Kennedy wrote in his diary in 1945 that the genocidal Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler “had in him the stuff of which legends are made” and would “emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived.”
CBS News reports JFK’s only diary will be sold to the highest bidder by auction house RR Auction on April 26. But it’s not the one-of-a-kind sale that’s raising eyebrows, but rather what’s penned in the pages of the slain president’s private journal.
It was the summer of 1945, just months after Hitler killed himself shortly before the arrival of the triumphant Soviet Red Army in Berlin. Kennedy was traveling Europe as a journalist in the wake of Germany’s surrender when he paused to contemplate the life and legacy of the man whose actions brought about the deadliest war in human history, and the near total extermination of the Jewish people in the nations he conquered.
“He had in him the stuff of which legends are made,” Kennedy wrote of the recently deceased tyrant. “Within a few years Hitler will emerge from the hatred that surrounds him now as one of the most significant figures who ever lived.”
Kennedy added that Hitler “had boundless ambition for his country which rendered him a menace to the peace of the world, but he had a mystery about him in the way he lived and in the manner of his death that will live and grow after him.”
Later, while serving as a U.S. senator, Kennedy handed his diary off to research assistant Deidre Henderson, who published it as a book titled Prelude to Leadership in 1995. “There is a misty quality about these lines that makes them seem removed from the squalor nearby,” Henderson wrote in her book in an attempt to explain her mentor’s words. “Is Kennedy just drifting and dreaming?… Had he not heard of the death chambers yet?” Henderson writes that perhaps Kennedy “was in some manner trying to view the scene with cosmic detachment, perhaps as a historian.”
“When JFK said that Hitler ‘had in him the stuff of which legends are made,’ he was speaking to the mystery surrounding him, not the evil he demonstrated to the world,” Henderson explained in the auction notes. “Nowhere in this diary, or in any of his writings, is there any indication of sympathy for Nazi crimes or cause.”
However, in 2013, the leading German newsweekly Der Spiegel reported on earlier JFK writings from previous trips to the Third Reich in which the future U.S. president called fascism “the right thing for Germany.” As a 20-year-old Harvard undergrad visiting Germany in 1937, Kennedy was apparently “very taken” with the Nazis and even wrote that the “Nordic races appear to be definitely superior to their Latin counterparts.” The Jerusalem Post noted Kennedy’s controversial past statements in a 2013 article but concluded he later became a staunch supporter of Israel.
JFK’s diary is expected to fetch around $200,000 at auction.