Why Hitler invaded Norway

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The Independent Online
TODAY I have an unusually important announcement. I have secured the rights to the serialisation of what I think will turn out to be the ultimate book of the year so far.

It is a document of our times. It is a tale of passion, power, heartache and high society. It is called simply Mrs Goebbels: Her True Story. It tells the story of a wife who saw her man drifting away from her on to a sea of intrigue and manoeuvring she could not understand, with tragic consequences.

Mrs Goebbels is a figure who has always been swept aside by historians, as if she were of no account, merely the wife of a pivotal figure and the bearer of his children. As far as the wielding of power is concerned, that is true; she never led an army and made no great decisions. But she was uniquely placed to be a witness to the sweep of history in this century, and her journals, letters and household account books now give us a powerful insight into the palace intrigues of that evil empire which might have conquered the world, and which still sells millions of newspapers whenever it is mentioned, 50 years later.

Her heartbreaking situation - trapped against her will inside an organisation which had nothing to give her, and which sometimes seemed to be driving her mad - cannot but speak to us across the decades.

People may criticise me for bringing you Mrs Goebbels's story. They may say it is wrong to reopen a shameful chapter of world history which is best left closed. They may say that much of what is contained in this book is personal, painful, even intimate, showing a proud, passionate woman at the end of her tether, reacting in violent and unpredictable ways to the nightmare bonds entrapping her.

I hope they do say these things. The more they say them, the more copies of this paper will be sold, and the better it is for free speech, democracy and access to information. That's why I say: Blimey, have you read that new book they're serialising in the Independent about Mrs Goebbels? It's red-hot, it's saucy, it's dynamite] Phew . . .

That Mrs Goebbels was close to the centre of power is not in doubt. Here is one entry from her diary, dated 17 June:

'Joseph says that Hitler is still absolutely furious about Rudolf Hess flying to Scotland like that. Apparently they have now found forms among his papers indicating that he had flown to Britain on contract for the Sunday Times, for whom he would write a regular column giving his views on the war's progress and his estimate of our top men.

'Hitler had to pull some pretty long strings to get the deal stopped. It amazes me that even during a world war we can still have contacts and influence in London.'

Here is another extract:

'Joseph has been up day and night for three days, working on another propaganda campaign. I plucked up courage to say that we don't see enough of each other, that our marriage is suffering, that people are talking about the way we appear separately all the time. He got angry and said that his first duty was to the Fuhrer, and so was mine, and that our happiness came second. I sometimes wonder if I didn't get married to the Fuhrer as well as my husband . . .'

There were times when the Goebbelses joked about things.

'I pressed Joseph yet again to think about a holiday. In the old days he would not go to France or Italy or anywhere abroad, because of the language problem, but, as I pointed out to him, there are now plenty of people in all these countries who speak excellent German] He laughed, and asked where I would like to go. I said I have always fancied Norway. He said it would be hard, as Norway was neutral, but he would see what he could do.'

Five weeks later Hitler invaded Norway. Ironically, Goebbels never took his wife there. At about the same time there appears this strange entry.

'Told Joseph that I had been to see the Jewish milliner on the corner but that she had vanished. He said not to tell anyone, but the Nazis were gradually getting rid of all the Jews. 'Why would Hitler want to do such a thing?' I exclaimed. 'Hitler knows nothing about it,' my husband said. 'He would be furious if he knew.' '

(This last entry is written in bright ball-point blue, and may have been added much more recently by some other hand, for some hard-to-guess reason.)

Don't forget. Starting tomorrow: Mrs Goebbels: Her True Story] Only here, and in the Mail, probably.