I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941 Review

I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941
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I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941 ReviewMy review refers to the german original edition of the Klemperer diaries from 1933-1945. In the german edition, the diaries are not published in two parts. It must be hard for the english reader to stop 1941 and wait. Klemperer wrote more than 5000 typoscript pages of diary during the nazi period. The german original edition with many cutbacks has more than 1800 pages (1933-1945), the english translation about 500 (1933-1941), so I expect more cutbacks in the english version - most likely around Klemperers language studies about LTI-lingua tertii imperii, the language of the 3. Reich - more interesting for german native speakers. For the english reader, which had yet only read the diary until 1941 I will give the warning, that the 1942 diary is really the most depressing one.
The Klemperer diary is definitely the best book I ever read about the nazi-time. (second one: Hans Fallada, 1947: "Jeder stirbt fur sich allein" (Everybody dies for himself), English title: ?)
As a German I grew up with an endless amount of information, literature, books, documentations, discussions and history school lessons about the 3. Reich, but the most refer only to long known facts and their problem is, that they are written with the look of the survivers, the next generation or the history view which sorts and interprets the facts with the knowledge of the ending. I believe, that nobody can understand the system, who has not read "first-hand" impressions. The Klemperer diary is, what I always was looking for: An uncommented inside view to the all day life in germany in that days and the evolution of the unthinkable. A first-hand information about the terrorism not in the concentration camps, but in "normal" life.
Klemperer shows on nearly every page of his book, how many germans didn't follow Hitler's antisemitic view. He noticed the meanings, conversations, wishes, anxiety of the german population and always wondered about the opinion of the majority - is it pro or contra Hitler? He noticed the endless list of restrictions for the jews - simple and little things, which are forgotten and pressed to the background by the horror of the concentration camps, but new for us today. He noticed, how people divide in heroes and opportunists. By reading about the nazi-time we always ask ourself "What would I have done?" Would I had helped the people who needed me despite of the danger of loosing my own life, or would I had taken care only for my own security.
It's hard to imagine, that someone can register, analyse und document all this on an unbelievable level of quantity and quality under the circumstances of starving, illness, pressure work und humiliation. He wrote not only a diary, he wrote high level literature - espessially his description "Zelle 89" about his 8-day prisonary on a level like "Schachnovelle" (Chess novell) from Arnold Zweig (highly recommended!). Around Victor Klemperer his (and the readers) friends are murdered or make suicide and he expects his own death every day but he wrote a real thriller like nobody else. We know, that he survived, but nearly everybody else, who was introduced to the reader didn't. A fiction thriller can not be a better page turner.
After reading this diaries I decided to buy also his memories from 1881-1918 and the diaries from 1918-1932 to read how life was during World War I and how the republic turned to dictatorship and his diaries from 1945-1959, to read why he decided to stay in East-Germany and join the communist party - in contrast to his liberal political opinions. Together all four books must be the best inside view to german history during these important periods.
The book is a memorial for all the nameless, who decided to be a hero (espessially Eva Klemperer) and for the six million, which would not have lost their life, if there had been more heroes. It brings us back a remembrance to at least a few of the six million precious human beings Europe lost forever and brings us back, that the nazis really killed a main part of the elite of european culture and society by killing the jews.
Buy it and read it.I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941 Overview

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