Wolfgang A. Mommsens Aufzeichnungen aus dem Baltikum, Polen und der Ukraine 1942-1944

Stefan Lehr


Historian and archivist Wolfgang A. Mommsen (1907-1986) experienced World War II as a civil servant in the German-occupied Baltic states (Reichskommissariat Ostland) in 1942/1943 and as a soldier in Ukraine (Reichskommissariat Ukraine) in 1943/1944, as well as in Poland (Generalgouvernement). During this time, he wrote diaries, in which he noted “strange things” as a “silent observer”. The present article takes a look at Mommsen’s notes and his biography, focusing on World War II and the events described in the diaries. Furthermore, it includes the first complete edition of that part of the diaries in which Mommsen reports about his experiences in the Baltic states and Ukraine. Mommsen’s notes are enlightening in many respects. For instance, during his stay in the Baltic states, he repeatedly criticized in his diaries the persecution and murder of the Jews. The German archivist also dismissively portrayed other phenomena and developments he had witnessed, such as the NS regime’s polycratic structure, the widespread corruption among German officials and the misbehaviour of German authorities against the native population in the occupied territories. When the German army pulled back in Ukraine from Poltava to Kiev in the autumn of 1943, Mommsen experienced the confiscation of property, the deportation of the population and the deliberate destruction of buildings and infrastructure. Repeatedly, Mommsen described the wrongdoing of German soldiers and observed the activities of partisans. In Kiev, he took part in the relocation of Ukranian cultural assets. In this context, Mommsen’s entries provide new information about the fate of Kiev’s central archives (Zentralarchiv Alter Akten), whose stocks were largely destroyed. In East Galicia, Mommsen got to know about the ethnic cleansings of Ukranian nationalists (Organisation der Ukrainischen Nationalisten – Ukrainische Aufstandsarmee) among the Polish population in 1944. In Poland, in contrast to his experiences in other countries (Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine), he noticed a largely anti-German attitude within the Polish population.