Book Reviews of I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years 1942-1945

I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years 1942-1945
I Will Bear Witness A Diary of the Nazi Years 1942-1945
Author: Victor Klemperer
ISBN-13: 9780375502408
ISBN-10: 0375502408
Publication Date: 3/21/2000
Pages: 576

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Publisher: Random House
Book Type: Hardcover
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This second volume of Klemperer's diary of the Nazi years confirms its place alongside Anne Frank's diary and Elie Wiesel's Night in the pantheon of Holocaust literature. Yet in many ways it is a more valuable source for the historian and general reader, as Klemperer gives the most finely detailed and intricately delineated portrait of the Nazi era for the man-in-the-street. Granted, as a Jew married to an "Aryan" woman, and with his incredible capacity to see what his fellow Germans couldn't or wouldn't see, Klemperer was no ordinary German. Rather, he was an ordinary man in his desire to live freely--and in his empathy. The defining characteristic of the diary is how he maintains a capacity for the human in the face of the barbaric. On the first day of the new year 1942, Klemperer writes: "It is said children still have a sense of wonder, later one becomes blunted.--Nonsense. A child takes things for granted, and most people get no further; only an old person, who thinks, is aware of the wondrous." Exactly one year later he writes: "The paper shortage is so great that I was unable to come by a block calendar.... I miss the calendar more than I can say. Time stands still." From paper shortages to the suicides of 3,000-4,000 Jews in the autumn of 1941 when the meaning of deportation was starting to sink in, there is no better portrayal of daily life for the Jews in Nazi Germany. As a philologist, Klemperer was engaged in a meticulous and revealing study of the Nazi lexicon. This study was interrupted by his forced labor (April 1943-June 1944), but the compulsory work was mitigated by the impending Nazi defeat. The Allied bombing of Dresden in February 1945 is recounted in dramatic, breathless fashion over the course of eight pages. The bombing permits Klemperer to escape the fate of other European Jews and throws him and his wife into a strange journey through the German countryside during the spring and summer of 1945. Klemperer states that their return to Dresden was "a fairytale." They were greeted by an old man who lost his wife and whose dog had been stolen by the Russians, and by their neighbor, Frau Glaser, who welcomed them with "tears and kisses." In its depiction of the great and small injustices and barbarities of living under the Nazis, Klemperer's diary is a timeless piece of literature.