- Hardcover: 220 pages
- Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (July 12, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1509510583
- ISBN-13: 978-1509510580
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 4.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Munich 1919: Diary of a Revolution 1st Edition
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"Klemperer guides us through the confusion of those troubled days in Munich with empathy, subtlety and a perceptive eye." - Christopher Clark, University of Cambridge, UK
"Klemperer has once again proven himself to be a brilliant reporter and an intelligent essayist. A sensational testimony. - Die Zeit
"With his talent for dramatic portrayals, for reflection, and his knack for boiling things down to their essence, Munich 1919 gives us a more intimate view of Klemperer than we've ever seen before." - Die Welt
"Klemperer's ability to grasp moods and attitudes has a truly Dickensian quality." - Los Angeles Times
"A message in a bottle, with real immediacy." - Sydney Morning Herald
"A compelling chronicle" - The Times Literary Supplement
“This account needs to be read for itself and its dramatic descriptions of chaos and political madness. But it also needs to be read as a harbinger of the future — and attitudes that shaped German acquiescence in, and belief in, the violent antisemitism of Nazi ideology" - The Jewish Chronicle
About the Author
Victor Klemperer was one of the most famous chroniclers of 20th century German history. His diaries, published in three volumes covering the Third Reich and its aftermath, are bestsellers and a standard source for historians of the period.
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The book is composed of two types of material. First, are a number of essays which Klemperer had written and published (some at least) in a German newspaper--contemporary recollection recorded in other words. The second source of material is from a memoir he was writing in 1942. Even at this early stage of his career, Klemperer manifests in this material his acutely perceptive analytical abilities, his skills as a story teller, and his ability to draw the reader right in for a 148 page ride. The book also includes extremely helpful notes which further add context and background to Klemperer's account. When you read Klemperer, it is almost like you are standing next to him on the streets of Munich as he recounts what is happening.
One important theory author develops is that it was during this 1919 uprising that the bitter anti-Semitism that Klemperer would suffer later under the Nazis in the 1930's got underway. As he sees it, the conservative Munich residents began to refer to the Communist revolutionaries as "Jewish pigs" as they became increasingly frustrated with the bloody fighting which killed several thousand. Klemperer also refers to this phenomenon as "the Jewish bogeyman". How ironic that Klemperer is experiencing in 1919 the very same conditions he will later endure during the 1930's. The book also contains many helpful photographs which provide additional context for the narrative.
There is nobody in my experience who can write with the skill and insights of Klemperer. And here he is in 1919 manifesting those unique skills which will grow into his 1930-1942 diaries and other publications. We are so fortunate that Klemperer "learned by doing" during 1919, so he was in a position to produce his World War II volumes which have rightly become so famous as among the most authentic and perceptive studies we have of Jewish life (and death) under the Nazis.
Klemperer was a life-long academic and writer who had no sympathies with the Spartacists –or communists- who were in control of Munich's First and Second Council Republics, but he found little to like about his own class, the bourgeoisie, either, finding them apathetic and passive. Klemperer considered liberalism "the pure and solely European doctrine" and abhorred fanatics of all stripes, in the end sympathizing only with his academic colleagues at the university. He is impressed only by the comic absurdity of the Council Republic and tends to make fun of the communist revolution's leaders, such as Bavarian Prime Minister Kurt Eisner. Though Klemperer finds humor in the whole mess, he is also exasperated, alarmed, and horrified by the consequences of the Revolution in Munich.
Klemperer's account begins as he is trying to get himself discharged from the Army in November 1918 (recalled later in 1942) and settle in Munich with some money, clothes, ration cards, and a job. He lectures at the university during the "war emergency semester", reserved for returning soldiers. Klemperer observes the dominance of communists on the Council Republic, the people's reaction to them, the arming of the "Red Army", and the invasion of Munich by the Bavarian cavalry, Friekorps troops, and Prussians in early May 1919 to violently wrest the city from communist control, complete with bombing, shelling, and killing of innocents. A diary entry from January 1920 looks back on events after order has been restored. The diaries from 1942 that comment on these events contain a lot of detail. I'm sure that Klemperer had a good memory, but I wonder what details he may have imagined writing 23 years after the events took place.
Klemperer is a lively and opinionated writer, a German patriot, whose bemusement makes him an excellent observer. He is detached on one hand and anguished on another. His articles and diary entries from 1919 vary in their approach: Some describe the scene of a particular incident, some are vignettes that evoke an atmosphere, some are more rhetorical than informative. He communicates what Munich was like politically and socially during this brief tumultuous period. Most names and references are not introduced or explained in the text, but the notes provide good explanations. It is necessary to do a lot of flipping to the back while reading. There is also a chronology of Klemperer's life in the back and a section containing 16 black-and-white photographs in the center of the book. I took another reviewer's advice and read "The German Revolution of 1918-19: A Historical Essay" by Wolfram Wette that begins on page 135 (hardback edition) before reading the diaries. That was good advice. Though Victor Klemperer was a good writer, I think "Munich 1919" will only be of interest to students of the November Revolution.
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