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.