Diary of Georg Zellner

Georg Zellner was a 38-year-old Wehrmacht officer and commander of a battalion of the 44th Reich Grenadier Division "Hoch- und Deutschmeister", a Viennese infantry division. He joined the Reichswehr in 1926 as a professional non-commissioned officer and was a permanent officer from 1934. At the outbreak of war, he served in command of a regiment on the Western Front and took part in the French campaign in 1940. Following this, he was assigned to the OKH (Oberkommando des Heeres, Army High Command) as a liaison officer to the youth organisations of the NSDAP, such as the Hitler Youth. From 1943, he led a battalion of the 44th Division, which had been reorganised in Belgium after being broken up in Stalingrad. Zellner held this position until his transfer to the Western Front in the summer of 1944. After the armistice between Italy and the Allies on 8 September 1943, he took part in the disarmament of the Italian military in South Tyrol and Trentino. He was then stationed in Mantua and was directly involved in one of the Wehrmacht's first reprisal actions, the shooting of ten Italian soldiers at Valletta dell'Aldriga near Curtatone on 18 September 1943. In Italy, Zellner was at the front near Cassino and then retreated with his unit through central Italy.

A copy of the diary - made on a typewriter in the 1970s or 1980s - is preserved in the Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv (the military archives of the German Federal Archives) (MSg 2/13458).

In his diary, Zellner repeatedly affirms his affection for his family and especially for his wife ("Mutti"). In addition, there are references to the consumption of alcohol and the repeated use of Pervitin, a methamphetamine that was distributed among soldiers in the armed forces of various countries during the Second World War. At times, Zellner expresses impatience about the war and military life in surprising bursts of emotion.

The account of the events of the war is vivid and often dramatic, especially that of the fighting at Cassino and the retreat through the Umbrian and Tuscan Apennines. Violence is accepted as an integral part of war. Retaliation is also seen as normal, even if it is portrayed with an air of annoyance or personal discomfort.

Based on Carlo Gentile's translations, the theatre collective ArchivioZeta has produced podcasts in Italian on some first-person documents. You can find them on the Italian pages for each document.