When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Victor Klemperer (1881-1960), honored as a frontline veteran of World War I, was a distinguished professor at the University of Dresden. A scant few months later he was merely a Jew, protected from deportation to a death camp only by his marriage to an Aryan. He suffered every other indignity to which German Jews were subjected, from losing his job to having his driver's license revoked to being denied permission to own a pet, and all are recorded with bitter clarity in his diary entries, which cover the years 1933 to 1941. (A second volume continuing through 1945 will be published in English in 1999.) The German edition of this book caused a sensation when it was published in 1995, and it's easy to see why: the relentless, quotidian nature of Nazi racism comes through forcefully in Klemperer's litany of daily humiliations and insults, a painful chronicle of situations in which readers can readily imagine themselves. Like Anne Frank, but with a more adult understanding of political fanaticism and human weakness, he makes the abstract horror of genocidal persecution very intimate, very personal, and very real. --Wendy Smith
From Publishers Weekly
In April 1935, Klemperer (1881-1960) was a Protestant professor of French literature at Dresden University and a front-line veteran of WWI. By early May, he was simply a Jew and, like other Jews, forcibly retired. His marriage to an Aryan gave him (precarious) protection, and by 1945, he was one of only 198 registered Jews left in Dresden. Through it all, Klemperer kept a diary (Vol. II, 1942-1945, is due out in 1999) that turns out to be one of the most important to come out of Nazi Germany. While his early entries are filled with work and health, as circumstances worsened his focus turns to the nuances of Nazism's degrading influence. Small acts of kindness and solidarity from Gentiles were surprisingly frequent, yet pervasive isolation and lack of courage left real resistance a fantasy for everyone but the Wends (Catholic Slav peasants) and the Communists (whom Klemperer would later join). Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this book is Klemperer's parallel record of the insidious progress of laws that stripped Jews of their rights and of the propaganda and censorship that stripped the Germans of their judgment. But through it all, Klemperer maintained his "commitment to Germanness," making his account more akin to the complexities recorded in Peter Gay's recent My German Question than Daniel Goldhagen's simplistic Hitler's Willing Executioners. The diaries weren't intended for publicationAthey are in part a m?lange of notes for a study of Nazi manipulation of language and jottings regarding quotidian concerns about Klemperer's teeth, the cat's health or the price of supplies. This catch-all quality adds veracity to Klemperer's shrewd understanding of Germany's nightmarish decline, however, evincing the kind of clarity that usually comes with hindsight. First serial to the New Yorker; audio rights to Random, all others to Aufbau Verlag.
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