Were there any ghosts in the Rosenberg diary? You think?

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First things first: Anyone who is interested in history, especially the history of the ideas behind Adolph Hitler, is going to amazed by the twists and turns that unfold in the new Los Angeles Times “Column One” feature about the search for the lost diary of Nazi intellectual Alfred Rosenberg. This is one amazing ride, with the son of a Holocaust survivor acting as a kind of quiet, peaceful, but highly motivated Indiana Jones on the quest to find the Great White Whale of Holocaust studies.

Here is how reporter Richard Simon begins this riveting tale, which has a Washington, D.C., dateline:

Henry Mayer had long heard of the lost Nazi diary.

Mayer helped maintain the vast collection of artifacts at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and knew the diary had been kept by Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi Party’s chief ideologue and a confidant of Adolf Hitler.

The diary was found in the final days of World War II, hidden behind a false wall in a Bavarian castle. Excerpts were introduced into evidence at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Then the 425-page diary disappeared. Half a century later, Mayer, the son of a Holocaust survivor, made it his mission to find it.

Simple and to the point. The problem is that the Mayer and other historians kept finding more and more Rosenberg papers — including materials that surprised them — yet the diary continued to elude them. It’s kind of like a ghost.

The key to the story is tied up in that simple phrase at the top of the story, that Rosenberg was the “Nazi Party’s chief ideologue.” Yes, that includes the fine-tuning of the hellish racial, scientific and religious formula that led to the Holocaust. As the story notes:

Mayer and others long hoped to secure the diary because of the prominent role Rosenberg played in the Nazi hierarchy.

“It was Rosenberg, the intellectual high priest of the ‘master race,’ who provided the doctrine of hatred which gave the impetus for the annihilation of Jewry,” Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg, said at the tribunal.

Rosenberg was hanged on Oct. 16, 1946, at age 53.

Yes, the story delivers on the details of the eventual recovery. In this case, there is no need to whisper “Spoilers,” to quote the famous scholar Dr. River Song. However, I believe that there is a major hole in the story at that point.

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Logic! What are they teaching at the NYTimes copy desk?

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Let’s carefully think our way — one step at a time — through this rather outlandish little story from The New York Times, the one that ran under the headline, “Funeral for Ex-Nazi in Italy Is Halted as Protesters Clash.”

It would be hard to imagine a more controversial figure in the context of modern Europe than an unrepentant Nazi. Thus, using the logic often associated with the powers that be at the Times, this man must have something to do with the hard-right Roman Catholic Church. Here’s the top of the story:

ROME – To shouts of “assassin” and “murderer,” the hearse bearing the corpse of Erich Priebke, the former Nazi who died under house arrest in Rome last Friday, wound on Tuesday through the streets toward a church in a tiny hilltop town 20 miles south of Rome. Police officers in riot gear had to hold back enraged citizens who kicked and punched the vehicle as it passed.

Eventually, the funeral was halted, Italian news media reported. Afterward, protesters and hard-right sympathizers battled in the streets. It was unclear when — even whether — it would actually take place.

For a while, it did not seem as if the former SS captain, associated with one of the most gruesome massacres of civilians in World War II, would find anyplace to rest in peace. The Diocese of Rome refused Mr. Priebke a public funeral in a church.

So, step one. The Diocese of Rome — as in the real local Catholic diocese — said “no.”

Let’s continue — carefully.

… (Up) stepped the Society of St. Pius X, a Roman Catholic group that rejects the church’s modernizing overhauls — in particular, the teaching that absolved Jews of responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus — and agreed to celebrate a furtive funeral in the town of Albano Laziale.

Now you remember the Society of St. Pius X, of course. This is a group of radical traditionalists that has been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

In this case, strangely enough, we know that because of the very next statement in this Times report.

The Society of St. Pius X is no stranger to controversy. During his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI devoted considerable energies to bringing the group into the fold, and the church has never fully abandoned that effort.

Logic! Perhaps it is best to paraphrase the wise Professor Digory thoughts in “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe,” in the classic C.S. Lewis series “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

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