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I Shall Bear Witness - The Diaries of Victor Klemperer 1933-41 [Hardcover]

Victor Klemperer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 May 1998
The diaries of a Jew in Nazi Germany; the most important documnet to emerge from the period since the publication of The Diary Of Anne Frank.The first of two volumes, this covers the period from Hitler's election to the beginning of the holocaust.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 523 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; First Edition edition (25 May 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297818422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297818427
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.8 x 5.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 421,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Born in 1881, Victor Klemperer studied in Munich, Geneva and Paris. He was a journalist in Berlin, taught at the University of Naples and received a DSM during WWI as a volunteer in the German army. He was subsequently a professor of romance languages at the Dresden Technical College until he was dismissed as a consequence of Nazi laws in 1935. He survived the Holocaust and the war and taught again as an academic until his death in 1960.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving... 18 Nov 2006
This is an important and moving account of life for a jewish professor in Nazi Germany. Along with Vol 2., "To the Bitter End", it is perhaps the finest documentary evidence of real-life for jews at that time. Stunning, and a great tribute to the man.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars tragic story of a struggle to survive 14 Mar 2000
By A Customer
You think you've read everything you can about Nazi Germany and then...this comes along. Reading the story of the Klemperers' struggle to survive brought tears to my eyes. It is a wretched, terrible yet fascinating story. It blows anything else from this period right out of the water.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding Account Of A Jew's Life In The War Years 24 Nov 2003
By Barron Laycock - Published on
As with Volume One (see my review), the most disarming and appealing feature of this tome is its slow and ineluctable building of suspense and empathy as World War I veteran Klemperer steadily weaves the day to day details of his life in Nazi Germany in the 12 years of that regime into a portrait of a rogue state moving irresistably down the path to tyranny and terror. The reader is sucked into the vortex of what it is like to live under such circumstances, where an aging Jewish professor who has built a life of purpose and meaning based on scholarship, hard work, and the belief in the rationalism of the state begins to understand that it will all unravel around him.
As the story continues here, the years of tyranny of National Socialism reach their climax, so that Klemperer, a Jew married to an Aryan woman, increasingly finds solace and relief from the growing insanity swirling around him by concentrating on his academic writing, which he continues against all odds. Even the most simple and basic freedoms are denied them, so his refusal to submit to the progressively more invective growth of lies, invectives, and accusations of the Nazi regime build into a quiet resolve to resist in the way he knows best, by maintaining an intelligent, insightful, and careful witness to the everyday horrors perpetrated with malice and cunning on the Jews as the scapegoat for all of Germany's post-WWI social and economic woes.
One reads in horror as Victor and Eva continue to be persecuted and systematically stripped of everything of meaning to them; their house, car, telephone, typewriter, even their beloved cat. While he understands all too well the dangers for him and his family, he consistently resists the increasingly strident pleas from family members for him to emigrate primarily because he identifies himself first and foremost as a German, and he refuses to abandon the Fatherland to the beastial likes of Hitler and the Nazis. One's sense of horror is magnified by his careful attention to the day to day details of living in the regime, the difficulties in finding socks, or clothing, or a cobbler, or vegetables, coffee, tobacco (both he and Eva are smokers), dealing with increasingly restrictive curfews, the ordeal and shame associated with the enforced wearing of the yellow star of David, the progressive acts of enforced segregation from the general populace, the occasional experiences at degradation at the hands of a youthful crowd of Hitler Youth.
Yet there is great humanity evidenced here, both within the Jewish community and without it. The pathos of ordinary people caught in the web of a totalitarian state is made quite clear; unlike other academics who recently have argued in belief of a generalized and universalized hate on the part of ordinary Germans leading to their willing complicity in the persecution of Jews, Klemperer offers almost daily testimony of the unending acts of kindness, generosity, and personal risks that everyday citizens take to help and assist Jews to survivie against the dictates of the totalitarian regime. Again and again he is given free food, extra provisions, someone looking deliberately the other way when they did so at personal risk.
In sum, Klemperer seems to acknowledge that life in Nazi Germany was a hell for all of the citizens, Jew and non-Jew alike. He pointedly gives credit to all the Aryans who assit Eva and him as they flee from the Nazis into the more anonymous countryside in the tumult and confusion caused by the firebombing of Dresden. This, like the first volume, is a book that should become required reading for college students in world history.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Remarkable Witness 23 July 2011
By Stephen Cowley - Published on
This is the first of three volumes of diaries of life in Germany from 1933 to the 1950s covering the Hitlerite tyranny. Victor Klemperer was a Jewish-Christian convert who married an Aryan wife and had served as a Front-soldier. The latter two facts helped him survive the war in Dresden, though it was a close call even then. The day to day detail he records has an intense drama, though it must have been tedious and very stressful to live through. In 1933, he loses his job as a professor, then he is forbidden to use the library and public transport and eventually he and his wife lose their house. You feel like you are living through the times day to day. To take one story, if he cannot find evidence of his military service his job, then his life, are at stake. It is the string of such little insect stings that tell the story, as he says. The author later wrote a book on The Language of the Third Reich, noting its use of boxing metaphors and such like, but it is this account that tells us the most about his era in Germany and the range of responses of ordinary people to the ideologies and events of the day. To anyone interested in this era, I can't recommend this book and its companion volumes highly enough.
5.0 out of 5 stars Where the Surreal is Real 5 Nov 2013
By Jay Chatzkel - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author was one of the few Jews who survived being in Germany during WWII. The series of books are his diaries, which on a day to day basis describe his experience as his world gets more and more prescibed and bizarre. He survives but most of those he knows do not. He does not konw that at first, but he gradually comes to understand the horrow he is living in. The writing is transparent. If anyone wants an insider's view of living in a monstosity, this is an excellent place to begin.
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