I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941
I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941
Victor Klemperer 1995Introduction
Victor Klemperer wrote his diaries during the twelve years of Hitler's rule. The English version of I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941 was published in New York by Random House in 1998 (with a second volume covering the years 1942-1945), but the diaries have an interesting history. After Klemperer's death in 1960, his diaries were taken to the Dresden State Library. Walter Nowojski, a former student of Klemperer's, found them and, recognizing their historical value, typed the handwritten diaries in German. Finally, a small Berlin publisher agreed in 1995 to publish the manuscripts in German as a single volume covering the years 1933 to 1945. Klemperer's diary quickly became a bestseller despite its length (1,500 pages) and price (well over sixty dollars).
The diary is considered important as a detailed account of the spread of Nazism in Germany and the reception of Nazi ideals by the population. It represents the unusual perspective of a Jew throughout all twelve years of Nazi power. The diary's unique contribution to the field of Holocaust literature is its step-by-step presentation of the systematic dehumanization and persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany.
Some readers focus on the fact that Klemperer knew Germans who were sympathetic to him as a Jew at a time when it was unpopular to be so. Others hold the diary up as evidence that the horrors of the Holocaust were widely known at the time, an issue that has been sharply debated over the years. Regardless of the reader's or scholar's interpretation of the diary, its important historical value is universally recognized.
Victor Klemperer was born October 9, 1881, in Landsberg-on-the-Warthe in the province of Brandenburg, Germany. Klemperer was the youngest in a family of three other brothers and four sisters. When Klemperer was nine, the family moved to Berlin, where his rabbi father, Wilhelm, was summoned to a liberal Reform Synagogue. As an unorthodox rabbi, Wilhelm was supportive of his four sons converting to the national religion, Lutheranism, in adulthood.
Klemperer married a concert pianist named Eva in 1906. His brothers disapproved of the union because they thought Eva was their brother's social inferior. As for Eva's family, some of her relatives disapproved of her marrying a Jewish man. During World War I, he served as a cannoneer in the German army, earning a Distinguished Service Medal. This service, along with his marriage to an Aryan woman, protected him from deportation to the concentration camps that sealed the fates of millions of Jews during Hitler's rule.
Upon returning from his service in World War I, Klemperer worked for a few years as a freelance journalist. In 1920, he accepted a position at Dresden Technical University as a professor of Romance languages and literature. He occupied this position until 1935, when he was forced to retire. After World War II, he was reinstated.
From the age of seventeen, Klemperer kept a detailed diary of his life. He continued writing during the Nazi years, despite knowing that if the Nazis discovered his diary, he would be killed. The exercise of writing his thoughts and interpretations of changing Germany was a necessary outlet for him, and it was also his personal brand of heroism. He was determined to "bear witness" to the horrors he saw, no matter the risk.
At the beginning of 1945, Klemperer was one of only 198 registered Jews still in the entire city of Dresden, all of whom were still free because of their marriages to Aryan spouses. On February 13, all Jews who were deemed fit to work were to report for deportation in three days. This meant that their "privileged" status would come to an end. Klemperer knew this was a death sentence, so when the Allies bombed the city that very evening, he and Eva took advantage of the chaos and escaped Dresden. Eva tore the yellow star from his clothing, and they kept running for three months until it was safe. After the war, the couple returned to Dresden, and Klemperer joined the Communist Party.
Klemperer died of a heart attack while attending a conference in Brussels, Belgium, in 1960, nine years after Eva's death. His diaries were taken to the Dresden State Library where one of Klemperer's former students found them and, recognizing their historical value, began transcribing them for publication. The diary was a bestseller in Germany, and critics generally voice their hope that the diary will be as widely read in its English translation.
Chapter One: "1933"
In I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941, Klemperer begins by writing of day-to-day cares and his efforts to make progress on building a small house on the plot of land he and his wife have purchased in Dolzschen, just outside Dresden. Although Klemperer finds the house to be worrisome, his wife is desperate for it, so he wants to see it built for her sake.
Klemperer and Eva suffer from a variety of aches and pains. Because of Eva's declining health, Klemperer often does the domestic chores in addition to working as a lecturer at Dresden Technical University. He is a professor of Romance languages and literature, but the Third Reich's influence threatens his position.
The Klemperers are social people, frequently entertaining guests and visiting friends' homes. Hitler's regime sends waves of fear into every corner of their lives, and they express their uncertainty about the future. Klemperer identifies himself strongly with Germany and is outraged at the rise of the current "un-German" regime. Even though he no longer adheres to the Jewish faith, the regime sees anyone who is one-quarter Jewish by descent to be a Jew, and the restrictions are already beginning.
Chapter Two: "1934"
Because Klemperer fought at the front in World War I and because he is married to an Aryan (of Indo-European descent), he is protected from the fate of most other German Jews. He continues to worry about Eva, who is both sick and depressed. The only thing that energizes her is gardening on the land in Dolzschen.
In addition, Klemperer's outlook is grim regarding his career, his health, and their financial situation. The house is expensive, and they have only begun landscaping and building the cellar. A much-needed break comes in July when a friend is able to loan them money for their house.
Gradually, the Klemperers' friends begin to seek ways to leave Germany. This sickens Klemperer because he feels completely devoted to his country, especially as it suffers the shame of the Nazi regime.
Chapter Three: "1935"
Klemperer is officially dismissed by the university, which causes him great worry because "retirement" income is half what he has been making. He begins looking for positions in other countries but has no luck. Having no other choice, he writes to his brother and asks for a loan, which is granted.
When the restrictive Nuremberg Laws are enacted, further stripping Jews of their rights, more of the Klemperers' friends move out of the country.
Klemperer enrolls in driving classes so that he will have better mobility, especially since Eva's health leaves her too weak to walk.
Chapter Four: "1936"
Klemperer passes his driving test and purchases an inexpensive car. Although he enjoys the freedom of a car, he finds that it creates a new set of worries. Eventually, he learns to relax and take pleasure in his and Eva's drives. Unfortunately, as the year progresses, his money problems prevent him from driving very often.
Meanwhile, Klemperer makes slow progress on his writing projects. In October, he encounters an obstacle when he is told at the library that Jews are no longer allowed in the reading room. Instead, he will have to take with him whatever books he needs.
To Klemperer's surprise, there are a few Germans who go out of their way to be kind to him because they are sympathetic to the plight of the Jews.
Chapter Five: "1937"
Klemperer is distraught at the news of the deaths (by illness and suicide) of some of his friends. To add to Klemperer's hopelessness, he becomes even more pessimistic about the political situation in Germany. He fears that Hitler will remain in power for a very long time.
Klemperer makes progress on his French literature book and his language study. While both he and Eva suffer from repeated bouts of illness, he also begins to experience harassment, as when an official checks his garden for weeds and forces him to pay a hefty fine.
Chapter Six: "1938"
Klemperer's hopelessness about the reign of the Third Reich becomes more and more pronounced, and he feels certain he will not live to see a new order. To make matters worse, anti-Semitism mounts, and Jews are barred from certain occupations.
Policemen visit Klemperer, asking if he has any weapons. When he answers that he probably has his saber and bayonet from World War I, they search the house until they find the saber, though not the bayonet. Klemperer is taken into custody, not formally charged with anything, and released a few hours later.
Chapter Seven: "1939"
The Klemperers experience severe depression and ongoing health problems. Klemperer progresses with his work on the literature book, but it is slow. His plans to write a study of the language of the Third Reich are progressing, and he notes his observations on the topic.
Rations and restrictions on purchases make it difficult for Klemperer to secure all of the goods he and Eva need. Although shopkeepers claim there are shortages, Klemperer suspects otherwise.
Someone tries to assassinate Hitler by setting off a bomb. Because the perpetrator is a Jewish man, Klemperer expects the worse for himself and waits for the police to come get him, but they do not.
Chapter Eight: "1940"
The Klemperers receive terrible news that they must surrender their house and allow someone to rent or buy it. Because of Klemperer's Jewish status, he and his wife are forced to live in a Jewish ghetto called the Jews' House. They find a tenant, Berger, whom they like, and make the deal they are ordered to make.
The Klemperers find the Jews' House cramped, chaotic, and stark, but they try to make the best of it. While not particularly fond of many of the other people living there, they remain friendly for the sake of solidarity. Klemperer notes that the one good thing that has come from moving to the Jews' House is that Eva has learned to enjoy walking again.
More restrictions are placed upon Jews; they are no longer allowed to enjoy public parks or lending libraries. They are also subject to a curfew of eight o'clock, after which they must remain in their ghetto apartments.
Chapter Nine: "1941"
Klemperer inadvertently violates a blackout (leaving the window curtains open during a bombing raid) and is sentenced to eight days in prison. During his stay, he finds that time moves very slowly, and he feels that he is trapped in a dismal cage. Above him, he hears another prisoner pacing back and forth for hours at a time. Prisoners are not allowed to converse during outdoor exercise times, and every rule comes with a threat of punishment. When he is released, he feels such relief that he is actually happy for a few days.
The most humiliating blow comes when the Jews are instructed to wear identifying yellow stars. Klemperer dreads the day this policy goes into effect, and afterwards Eva does the shopping and other public chores. Klemperer's sense of shame is profound, and he feels that this experience is worse than his prison stay. His only comfort is that the star identifies him to Germans who are sympathetic: He goes to the market and receives produce he would not otherwise be able to secure.
Klemperer writes that there are shocking and terrifying reports of Jews being transported to Poland. All he knows is that they must go with only the clothes on their backs and without any possessions. In world news, Japan declares war on the United States.
When the Nazis plan an inventory of all Jews' household items, Eva must remove Klemperer's diary from their apartment at once. They take it to a friend's house where it will be much safer.
Berger is an aryan shopkeeper who is chosen as the Klemperers' tenant when they are forced to leave their house and live in the Jewish ghetto. He is sorry that they are getting such a bad deal, but is glad for himself. Sympathetic to the mistreated couple, he is friendly and brings them honey, which the Nazis had forbidden Jews to have.
A friend of the Klemperers, Dember is a physicist who is very anxious. He characterizes the Jews as hoping for deliverance from an outside force, such as an invasion or German defeat. Dember is bitter and pessimistic and eventually finds work with the University of Constantinople in Turkey.
Eva is Klemperer's Aryan wife. Although many Aryan spouses give in to public and political pressure to leave their Jewish spouses, Eva remains loyal and dedicated to her husband throughout the trying years of the war. She is a concert pianist whose physical ailments and emotional depression prevent her from playing music very often. The only thing that seems to keep her going is the cottage they are trying to build in Dölzschen. She is an avid gardener who thrives on working on the land while they await the money needed to build the house itself.
Throughout the book, Eva suffers from a variety of ailments, ranging from serious dental problems to swollen ankles. Klemperer also describes her frequent anxiety attacks and bouts of hysteria. At the beginning of the book, she still manages to find the energy and strength to work on the landscaping for the house. Klemperer worries about his wife but sees that this is the only activity that brings her any hope or joy, so he allows her to continue working hard. Eva is a woman obsessed with the house, and when Klemperer fears for their financial future, he keeps spending money on the house only for Eva's sake. When she returns home, however, she has no strength for housework, so she lets her husband perform domestic chores.
Klemperer's older brother, Georg, is a successful doctor who has left Germany and is living elsewhere in Europe. His sons live in the United States, and he tells Klemperer that if the situation in Europe worsens, he will go there, too. In 1935, he does so, but he is disappointed that his age prevents him from acquiring the type of position he had expected. He begins working on his memoirs.
At key times, Georg lends Klemperer much-needed money, but he does not understand the resolute patriotism that keeps him in Germany. Georg tries to convince Klemperer to leave Germany and start a new life where it is safe, but Klemperer dismisses his brother's advice because he feels misunderstood.
Klemperer is the diarist whose writings make up the entire text. His father is a rabbi in a Reform synagogue, so Klemperer and his siblings are accustomed to very liberal religious practices. Klemperer, like all three of his brothers, converts to Lutheranism in adulthood, a decision that is supported by their father. Still, in Nazi Germany, anyone who has one Jewish grandparent is regarded as Jewish, so Klemperer is subject to persecution. He is spared the deadly fate of the concentration camps, however, by virtue of his marriage to an Aryan woman, Eva, and his service in the German army during World War I.
• I Will Bear Witness was adapted for the stage by Karen Malpede and George Bartenieff and premiered off-Broadway in the 2000-2001 season. It was presented as part of the "Classic Stages / New Visions" series (see the Web site: http://www.nypost.com/theatre/031201a.htm). The oneman show, directed by Malpede and starring Bartenieff, is scheduled to be performed at theaters around the world. For example, The Vassar College's Jewish Studies Program will present I Will Bear Witness at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House (see the Web site: http://www.vassar.edu/relations/011107.klemperer.html); I Will Bear Witness is also scheduled to be performed at the Ko Fest (see the Web site: http://www.kofest.com/performances).
As the diary opens, Klemperer is a professor at the Dresden Technical University. He loves lecturing and interacting in the academic community but soon realizes that because students are discouraged from taking his courses (Nazi policies limit his effectiveness; for example, he is not allowed to administer tests), he will be forced to retire. Klemperer and Eva have recently purchased a small plot of land in a town just outside Dresden, and they are planning to build a cottage. The Klemperers enjoy an active social life in the beginning, but as their friends gradually leave the country, they come to rely more on each other for meaningful interaction. Klemperer is an avid reader and writer who enjoys reading aloud to Eva, and the two often engage in intellectual discussion. During the course of the diary, Klemperer discusses two major works he is writing. One is an academic survey of eighteenth-century French literature, and the other is a study of the Third Reich's use of language. The latter would become a highly respected study and is still read by historians and language specialists today.
Klemperer expresses his fear of death although his expressions of this fear have a casual, matter-of-course tone. He only expects to live a few more years, an expectation that affects his plans for new projects. When he is particularly disheartened, he often reminds himself that Eva needs him, a thought that motivates him to keep trying to find money, to keep working around the house, and in general to keep trying to improve their situation. He also suffers from a number of ailments, and he is frequently depressed as a result of the disastrous circumstances in which he finds himself.
Despite his difficult lot in life, Klemperer maintains a detailed journal (at great personal risk) in which he writes his thoughts, feelings, and observations. His careful records of the day-to-day struggles of a man in his precarious position give his diary a great deal of historical weight. In addition, the diary fulfills Klemperer's dream of writing his memoirs for publication, an ambition he felt he never accomplished.
Johannes Köhler is an Aryan man who, along with his wife, maintains a very close friendship with the Klemperers. He teaches history and religion and feels tremendous weight on his conscience because of the behavior of government officials. He considers teaching another course less relevant to current events, such as medicine or business. Klemperer refers to Köhler and his wife as the "respectable" Köhlers because they are married; in contrast, they have another friend, named Annemarie Köhler, who lives with a man, and so Klemperer jokingly calls them the "unrespectable" Köhlers. Klemperer admires Johannes Köhler and his wife because, although they come from a different background than the Klemperers, they deeply despise Hitler's regime.
Auguste "Gusti" Lazar is a longtime friend of the Klemperers. She is an author of books for children and young adults. In the dairy, Klemperer refers to her by her married name, Wieghardt. She is optimistic and believes that the Nazi regime will not last. In Klemperer's first entry of 1935, he writes that she expressed her opinion that the regime will not last the year. She later realizes that the regime will last much longer, so she goes into exile in England in 1939, only to return to Dresden in 1949.
Frau Lehmann is the Klemperers' maid, who is eventually forced to stop working for the Klemperers because they are categorized as a Jewish household. Her affection for the couple, however, leads her to visit them occasionally in the evenings.
Lissy Meyerhof is a friend of the Klemperers who manages to keep her position as a social worker because of her service as a nurse during World War I. She is industrious and optimistic. After the Klemperers are sent to the Jews' House, she occasionally sends them packages containing such items as socks, coffee, and tea.
Präatorius is the builder contracted by the Klemperers to build their house. While he waits for them to come up with the money needed to begin work, he stays abreast of their financial affairs. Once building begins, he is fair and negotiates with them when unexpected expenses arise.
Sandel is a Polish Jew who cheats Klemperer out of 240 marks and refuses to pay it back. He led Klemperer to believe that he could take the money and make more money with it, but instead he spent it while he was drunk. Sandel believes that Klemperer will not report the incident because Jews should protect each other. Klemperer, on the other hand, feels that not reporting it will make his friends think he lacks integrity for protecting a Jew. Reluctantly, he reports it to the police, and even though Sandel admits his wrongdoing, the police tell Klemperer that they can do nothing to recover his lost money. When Sandel tells the police that he was with Nazi officials when he spent the money, the entire matter is dropped. Klemperer is secretly relieved to have the matter behind him.
Jule Sebba is a friend of the Klemperers who makes plans to move his family to Israel. He is a lawyer and teacher in Germany, but he plans to open a candle-making business after he moves. Once he arrives in Israel, however, his original business plan fails and he makes a meager living giving cello lessons and performing at music concerts. Before he leaves, he explains to Klemperer that the reason he must go is that the Nazi regime is making life for the Jews bad now, but the situation will only escalate into "unimaginable and bloody chaos." He adds that after the regime finally falls, there will be nothing left because all other institutions and structures have been destroyed.
Johannes Thieme is a young man who lived with the Klemperers for a number of years beginning in 1920. He was like a foster son to them and called them mother and father. When he visits the Klemperers in 1933, he declares his support of the new regime. This disgusts Klemperer, who sees Thieme as a conformist with bad judgment, and he ends the relationship.
From the beginning of the diary, Klemperer expresses profound disillusionment with Germany and with his own life. He is disheartened at the way Hitler has assumed power and at how the German people welcome him and believe what he tells them.
On May 13, 1934, Klemperer expresses his disappointment with his fellow Germans:
The masses let themselves be talked into believing everything. If for three months all the newspapers are forced to write that there was no World War, then the masses will believe that it really did not happen.
Klemperer finds the Nazi regime to be "un-German," and he is disturbed by the ways he sees people in his own circle of friends and colleagues changing to suit the regime.
Klemperer is tormented by his deep love of his country and his complete powerlessness to save it. On March 20, 1933, he writes,
I think it is quite immaterial whether Germany is a monarchy or a republic—but what I do not expect at all is that it will be rescued from the grip of its new government. I believe anyway that it can never wash off the ignominy of having fallen victim to it. I for my part will never again have faith in Germany.
He adds on April 3rd of the same year, "Everything considered un-German, brutality, injustice, hypocrisy, mass suggestion to the point of intoxication, all of it flourishes here." Similarly, on February 21, 1935, he notes, "The sense of justice is being lost everywhere in Germany, is being systematically destroyed." Klemperer's sense of identity is wrapped up in his patriotism, as evident in this comment from the March 30, 1933, entry: "In fact I feel shame more than fear, shame for Germany. I have truly always felt a German."
At the same time, Klemperer feels ongoing helplessness in his personal and professional life. He agonizes over his health, Eva's health, money, his career, and his writing. On May 15, 1933, he confides, "I have given up thinking about things. I feel it's all coming to an end." On June 17 of the same year, he asks, "Does it make any difference at all what I spend the remainder of my time doing? Just do something and forget oneself."
On his birthday, October 9, 1933, he writes,
Birthday wishes: To see Eva healthy once again, in our own house, at her harmonium. Not to have to tremble every morning and evening in anticipation of hysterics. To see the end of the tyranny and its bloody downfall. See my Eighteenth Century finished and published. No pains in my side and no thoughts of my death.
He immediately adds, "I do not believe that even one of these wishes will come true for me." Klemperer also feels increasingly alone as people around him either leave the country or adopt the new ways. What was once a vibrant social life for the Klemperers becomes a life of quiet disappointment.
He continues to write as an outlet, but at times, even this practice is insufficient. He remarks on November 25, 1938, "I completely lack the peace of mind to write." Still, he manages to complete a lengthy entry.
Perhaps the greatest despair and loss of control experienced by Klemperer is the day when he must wear the identifying yellow star. On September 15, 1941, he writes, "I myself feel shattered, cannot compose myself." Five days later, he writes, "Yesterday, Eva was sewing on the Jew's star, I had a raving fit of despair."
As Hitler's leadership gains momentum in Germany, Klemperer finds himself increasingly at odds with those around him. He is quick to express his opinions and finds himself so infuriated with others that he ends relationships. This happens partly because of the fundamentally incompatible points of view being expressed and partly because Klemperer loses respect for people who readily accept the new ideology rather than resist conformity by thinking for themselves.
On March 17, 1933, Klemperer writes about a visit from Johannes Thieme, a young man who came to stay with the Klemperers in 1920 and called them mother and father for a while. Klemperer writes:
Thieme—of all people—declared himself for the new regime with such fervent conviction and praise. He devoutly repeated the phrases about unity, upwards, etc.… He is a poor swine and afraid for his post. So he runs with the pack.…[H]e is absolutely at the mercy of every influence, every advertisement, everything successful. Eva already realized that years ago. She says, "He lacks any sense of judgment." But that he would go so far … I am breaking with him.
Topics for Further Study
- Suppose you were to leave behind a diary that would preserve an important chapter in your life. What part of your life would it be? Consider the events of your life, both personal and historical, and choose the time you feel is most important. Write between seven and ten diary entries in which you relate these events for posterity. Include a short introduction explaining why you have selected this particular time in your life and what you hope readers will learn from reading it.
- Research the Jim Crow laws, which sustained racial segregation in the American South during the first part of the twentieth century. Compare these laws to the Nazis' increasingly restrictive measures inflicted on Jews in Germany. Draw conclusions about the similarities and differences that you identify. Do you think such situations could happen in today's world? Why or why not? How do you think Klemperer would answer this question?
- Choose an event from Klemperer's diary that you found especially intriguing. Find three pieces of music that capture the feeling and atmosphere of that episode. Try to find three pieces that are as different from one another as possible.
- You are a substitute teacher for a high school English class that is finishing a study of Holocaust literature. Prepare for a class discussion. Create a graphic organizer that compares and contrasts Klemperer's diary with Anne Frank's. You will want to generate thought-provoking discussion during your class, so come up with at least three questions that will prompt your students.
- Research a personality test, such as the Myers Briggs test, which is based on the psychological theories of Carl Jung. See if you can determine Klemperer's personality type, paying close attention to such qualities as his academic nature, his competitive streak, his patriotism, his devotion to his wife, and his relationships with his friends. Once you have determined his personality type, read more about that specific profile. What new insights do you gain from this exercise? Explain how it casts one or more of the events of the diary in a new light.
In reviewing the year 1933, Klemperer writes about how he has lost two friends due to political differences. His entry on December 31 reads,
This is the characteristic fact of the year that has come to an end, that I had to break with two close friends, with Thieme because he is a National Socialist [Nazi], with Gusti Wieghardt because she became a Communist.
In April of the following year, he writes that his friend Grete shocks him because she has allowed everything German about herself to fall away and instead takes a completely Jewish point of view of things. Klemperer is unable to understand how anyone can separate such core pieces of his or her identity, and it disgusts him.
Preoccupation with Death
While reading Klemperer's diary, readers may be struck by his casual references to his own death. Although he says he feels horror at death, his tone indicates otherwise. For example, on July 20, 1933, he writes, "But there are countless people who have the strength for some kind of simple belief (or unbelief). I only have the quite childish horror of the grave and of nothingness—no more than that."
Klemperer seems preoccupied with the deaths of men his age and makes a point of noting their names, ages, and causes of death. On July 20, 1933, he reports, "Frau Blumenfield's brother, the missionary preacher, was here for a visit with his wife, fell ill suddenly and died very quickly after an unsuccessful gallbladder operation, fifty-four years old." At the time of this entry, Klemperer was 52.
On June 11, 1935, he comments on an obituary: "Heiss died on May 31. The obituary notice shook me, not because I loved him, but because the man was my generation, barely five years older."
The historical context of Klemperer's preoccupation with death is important because during the years covered in this volume of his diary, the mass extermination of Jews was not yet in force. In addition, because of the censored press, it is unlikely that he knew the full extent of the violence being committed against Jews throughout Germany. Thus, his preoccupation with death is not an indication that he has resigned himself to dying at the hands of the Third Reich but an indication that he is simply resigned to dying soon.
His feelings about his own death arise from his declining health and his general sense of hopelessness. Klemperer is depressed throughout 1933-1941, so the threat of death is not met with the same sense of dread and panic that a man with a full and happy life would feel. On September 27, 1934, he casually remarks, "But my first year of retirement will begin in 1935, and soon after that I shall be buried."
Klemperer's diary is full of minute details about his private life, the books he is writing, and the events occurring in Nazi Germany. These details are what give the diary its historical significance as well as its human dimension. At times, however, readers may find the level of detail a bit difficult to absorb. While the reactions of people to the Third Reich are fascinating, the recurring lists of his and Eva's ailments, as well as notations of the amount of money spent on cat food and of what plants and shrubs have been purchased for landscaping, can seem a bit mundane.
Klemperer had been an avid diarist since the age of seventeen, and it is clear that by the time he reached his fifties, he was not at all self-conscious in his entries. He wrote for himself, not for posterity, which is why the entries often contain minute detail about topics that are of little interest to the reader. They do, however, provide insight into Klemperer's personality and show him to be an ordinary man.
The details about the rise of Nazism, on the other hand, are both intriguing and historically important. Because Klemperer refuses to accept the Third Reich, he is affronted by its appearance in every aspect of his life. He sees it as the reason he is forced to retire from his position as a university professor, and he also sees it in toothpaste packaging; its pervasiveness horrifies him.
On March 22, 1933, for example, he notes, "A young man with a swastika comes into the school on some official errand or other. A class of fourteen-year-olds immediately begin singing the Horst Wessel Song [a Nazi song]." Other images serve as "signs of the times," such as when Klemperer receives a cat magazine displaying a swastika or when, in 1935, the Nazis try to create German names for the months.
Later, the realities of ever-present Nazi power take on a more sinister quality. Klemperer explains on September 18, 1941, that when one person in the Jewish ghetto visits another, he or she rings three times. He adds, "That has been agreed, so that no one catches fright. A simple ring could be the police."
Blend of Formality and Informality
Klemperer's writing is formal in tone but informal at times in content and sentence structure. His diction and vocabulary frequently remind the reader that he is an academic and that he is accustomed to speaking and writing in a lofty, cerebral manner.
He relates the progress of his book on eighteenth-century French literature, and he includes new observations for his study of language in the Third Reich. Such writing is familiar to him, so it finds its way into his personal writing. When discussing his friends, he often describes their fundamental philosophical differences or his close observations as to why he admires or respects them. In such cases, the content is centered on analytical thinking. In these ways, Klemperer's diary is formal.
In other ways, the diary is quite informal. Because Klemperer did not intend the diary to be published, he was comfortable writing incomplete sentences that nevertheless expressed a complete thought. An example is in the March 27, 1933, entry: "The Köhlers depressed and cautiously gritting their teeth." On July 20, 1933, he simply notes, "Political situation bleak," and on July 14, 1934, he writes, "The terrible uncertainty." Such phrases and incomplete comments fully express Klemperer's state of mind at the time of each entry.
In addition, he writes about domestic details such as his love for his cats, the latest gossip about a friend, or Eva's swollen ankle. Together, the formal and informal elements of Klemperer's diary provide a full portrayal of the man behind the diary.
Hitler's Rise to Power
Anne Frank and her family were in hiding from June 1942 to August 1944. World War II lasted from 1939 to 1945, involving the United States, Japan, Russia, and most of Europe. While the causes of the war are complex, historians agree that without Hitler's regime, there would have been no World War II at that time.
Following World War I, Hitler began to develop his idea of a master Aryan race. This vision included enlarging Germany by overtaking neighboring countries. The National Socialist Party, or Nazis, believed in a totalitarian government that would, in theory, fairly distribute wealth and provide full employment.
Faced with economic hardship and political uncertainty, Germans were responsive to Hitler's impassioned speechmaking. Hitler maintained that radicals and Jews were to blame for Germany's problems, adding that the Aryan race was naturally superior and, thus, destined to rule the world.
In 1933, Hitler became the chancellor of Germany, and, contrary to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles (which ended World War I), Hitler began to build his military. Because these efforts went unchallenged by other European countries, Hitler's war machine was soon well armed. This rearmament created jobs, restored the economy, and stoked national pride, which increased public acceptance of Hitler.
Armed with a strong military, Hitler invaded Austria and Czechoslovakia in 1938 and set his sights on Poland after France and Britain declared war on Germany. The Allies, however, had not been strengthening their militaries, so they were no match for Hitler's forces. In 1939 and 1940, Hitler invaded Poland, Norway, Holland, Belgium, and France. In 1941, he broke his pact with Stalin and invaded Russia.
Hitler's social design involved banning all other political parties, censoring publications that were not pro-Nazi, and forbidding interaction between Jews and Aryans. Increasingly restrictive measures against Jews followed; they were forbidden to hold public office, teach, practice law or medicine, work in the press, or run businesses. Property was seized, fines were imposed, and emigration was stifled. The Nazis had lists of all Jews in each area and forced them to wear identifying yellow stars.
These measures were the reason that Anne Frank's father moved his family to Holland when Hitler came to power in 1933. Hitler's anti-Semitism was absolute, and the Nazis engaged in the systematic killing of "undesirable" and "inferior" segments of the population that included not only Jews, but also gypsies, the mentally retarded and disturbed, and homosexuals. The Nazis viewed these groups as subhuman and often made them work under harsh conditions so that the regime could capitalize on their labor before killing them.
When defeat of the Nazis was imminent, they continued to kill as many prisoners as possible before the Allies could liberate their camps. At the end of the war, six million Jews had been killed, a number representing two-thirds of the world's Jewish population at the time.
Persecution of German Jews
As soon as Hitler became Germany's chancellor, he began enacting laws that would empower his regime and limit the civil liberties of the people. These limitations were especially strict for Jewish citizens. In February of 1933, Nazi officials declared boycotts on Jewish businesses; the next month violence against Jews and their businesses intensified when the Nazis announced that the German police would no longer defend Jewish citizens or their property. Soon, Jewish judges and lawyers were pulled from cases before being forced to retire.
In April, Hitler enacted laws that would reduce the legal rights of Jews and thus pave the way for harsher persecution. Four hundred laws were enacted to seriously limit the freedom of German Jews. Jews could not sit on juries, professional Jews such as lawyers, doctors, and dentists were no longer allowed to practice, university enrollment was reduced, and attendance at cultural events was forbidden.
Compare & Contrast
1930s: Germans often keep private diaries in which they can express their true opinions and feelings. Fear of discovery is a risk, and many diaries are self-censored by using pseudonyms, euphemisms, and vague references.
Today: In the United States, freedom of speech is a constitutionally protected right enjoyed by all citizens. Americans freely criticize the government and its institutions.
1930s: Klemperer writes on March 17, 1933, that some German papers are permanently banned while others are sometimes banned for a few days. Government control of the press becomes an important means of influencing public opinion and maintaining support for the regime.
Today: Freedom of the press is protected by constitutional law in the United States. No matter how extreme the point of view, anyone has the right to print a newspaper expressing it. This freedom extends to harsh criticism of the government and its officials.
1930s: On April 20, 1933, Germany celebrates the Day of the Nation, the Fuehrer's (Adolf Hitler's) birthday.
Today: In the United States, influential leaders do not declare their birthdays national holidays. Only a few such birthdays are recognized in the United States, and each of these birthdays was declared a holiday after the honored person's death as a tribute to that person's life and contribution. Americans recognize Martin Luther King Day (to honor the birthday of the civil rights leader) and President's Day (to honor the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln).
1930s: Klemperer's annual salary as a professor of Romance languages and literature at Germany's Dresden Technical University is the equivalent (according to today's foreign exchange rates) of $4300.
Today: Primarily because of inflation, but also due to increased cost of living and various other economic and cultural differences, the average annual salary of a U.S. professor of Humanities or Liberal Arts is around $65,000.
In September of 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were enacted, which prohibited marriage between Jews and non-Jews, made extramarital relationships between Jews and non-Jews illegal, limited Jews' ability to hire female domestic help, and prohibited Jews from flying German flags. Hitler summarily blamed all of Germany's problems on the Jews, even as the Jewish population began to dwindle. Once he had reduced their status, he instituted more drastic solutions to what he called the "Jewish Question."
Once the Nuremberg Laws were in place, the elimination of Jews became a top priority in the regime. On November 9, 1938, an event known as Kristallnacht ("the night of broken glass") took place. It involved the destruction of two hundred synagogues and a thousand Jewish businesses. In addition to the irreparable property damage, many Jews were beaten and killed.
Because other countries were unwilling to allow German Jews to immigrate, Hitler began forcing Jews to move to ghettoes. This would be the transition step to his "final solution." Reinhard Heydrich, an SS leader, organized the Einsatzgruppen, an elite killing squad created for the sole purpose of massacring Jews. However, Heydrich soon found that his squad could not kill people as fast as he would like, and there was a danger to the sanity of the members of his elite group.
The next step was to starve as many of the people in the ghettoes as possible, while using others to construct concentration camps. Many of these laborers were literally worked to death; the lifespan of laborers forced to work on building Auschwitz was only three or four months.
Once the concentration camps were complete, Nazi officials devised very efficient means of genocide. Soon, Jews from all over Europe were transported by train to the concentration camps, where most would meet their deaths. Once they arrived, their heads would be shaved so German manufacturers could use the hair. Any valuables had to be surrendered to the officials at once.
The numbers are staggering. In two months' time in 1942, three hundred thousand Jews from Warsaw were gassed at Treblinka. On one day in July of 1944, officials at Auschwitz killed 34,000 prisoners. In all, 750,000 were killed at Auschwitz, and one and a half million died in Maidanek. By the end of the war, the Nazis had murdered six million Jews.
Critics overwhelmingly praise Klemperer's I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941 for its accessible style, its compelling story, and its historical significance. Peter Gay of New York Times Book Review comments, "To read Klemperer's almost day-to-day account is a hypnotic experience; the whole, hard to put down, is a true murder mystery—from the perspective of the victim."
Because Klemperer never intended his diary for publication, critics find that it rings true. Omer Bartov of the New Republic observes, "Klemperer's diary has the immediacy and the poignancy of unedited notes written in the thick of experience."
That Klemperer dreamed of writing his memoirs but feared they would never be completed is ironic given the global audience his diary has reached. The character of Klemperer himself is, in fact, part of the book's appeal. Critics commend him for his humanity, integrity, courage, and insight. Gay notes that Klemperer's "observations, including pitiless self-examinations, are unblinking; his reflections are remarkable for their precision and their penetrations."
A Publishers Weekly reviewer finds that Klemperer's understanding of the ramifications of the rise of Nazism has "the kind of clarity that usually comes with hindsight." As well, commenting at length on Klemperer's character, Bartov writes:
What is remarkable about Klemperer's diaries is that he has clearly understood the nature of the Nazi regime and the extent of the public's support for Hitler, but refuses to modify his view that those who brand him un-German are themselves un-German.… He thus remains the only true German in a country that denies his right to exist there.… For all his refusal to accept the realities of his situation, for all his doubts, his terrible loneliness, his terror and his delusions, Klemperer displays remarkable courage in the face of an inconceivable material and psychological catastrophe.
In a review for the Nation, Silvia Tennenbaum commends Klemperer as a diarist, noting that the title of the book:
says it all. Never has a victim observed his victimization with greater insight. Never has a victim described the apparatus of state-inflicted persecution with greater fidelity. Never has the isolation of living in a world that wishes one's people dead been rendered with greater pathos. Every act of cruelty as well as every gesture of kindness is scrupulously recorded.
Literary and historical scholars value I Will Bear Witness as a treasure of Holocaust literature. As a first-hand account of what it was like to be in Nazi Germany, the diary provides crucial details about the nuances of Jewish persecution. Tennenbaum goes so far as to proclaim, "Nothing I have read before made the years of Nazi terror so real." In addition, Gay is quick to note "even the reader familiar with Holocaust material must be gripped by these pages." As well, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly calls it "one of the most important [diaries] to come out of Nazi Germany." The reviewer adds that the diary's historical contribution is its record of the "insidious progress" of policies that reduced the status of Jews in German society.
Richard Bernstein of New York Times Book Review praises the book as a diary that is "full of pain and anger, but also full of shrewd observations on the nature of the Nazi regime and the quality of the response of the German people to it." Furthermore, in Commentary, Daniel Johnson praises the diary as a great work that is among the most readable and revealing first-hand accounts of Nazi Germany. As well, Bartov summarizes Klemperer's contribution to Holocaust literature:
What we have in this extraordinary book, then, is a view of German society under Nazism by the perfect insider who is rapidly transformed by the regime's ideology and its internalization by the population into the ultimate outsider, a Jew in a racist, violently anti-Semitic land which succeeds in bringing about the social death of its Jewish citizens before it condemns them to physical annihilation.
Comparisons to Anne Frank's diary are inevitable, but critics are quick to note how fundamentally different the two accounts are. A reviewer for Time calls Klemperer's diary "richer and more profoundly disturbing" than Frank's diary. Crediting both diaries as valuable and insightful, Johnson points out what he sees as the core difference between the two diaries: "It is Anne Frank's childish naivete that lends her journal its unforgettable charm, and her fate that renders it unbearably poignant; by contrast, the relatively happy end of Klemperer's war is less obviously tragic."
Bernstein acknowledges that while the two accounts show how Nazi rule was experienced by individuals, Klemperer's diary is, after all, that of "a sophisticated, assimilated, cosmopolitan, middle-aged man striving to maintain self-control and dignity as the only world he knows crumbles around him for no reason." Concurring, Tennenbaum finds that Frank's sentimental diary is read tearfully and hopefully while Klemperer's diary is not at all sentimental in its unblinking look at every "shocking" detail. She concludes that Klemperer's diary "allows no tears but breaks our hearts instead."
The diary contains lessons that can be appreciated by virtually any reader. Bartov is especially drawn to the lesson of human nature's tendency to overlook wrongs committed against others, as long as the danger remains distant. He explains,
The world that we see through Klemperer's eyes is a world in which most (though not all) Germans gradually turned their backs on the Jews, excluding them from their midst partly out of prejudice or conviction, partly out of fear and opportunism, and partly out of indifference and moral callousness.
Other critics find in Klemperer's diary a warning to the present against the repetition of the past. Johnson concludes his review with the following observation:
Truly to immerse oneself in this modern classic is to find oneself wondering, and not for the first time, whether the mentality of national self-deception and willful ignorance that it so brilliantly depicts will ever, like the ideology of National Socialism, fade into history.
Finally, a reviewer for Newsweek remarks, "The overwhelming theme of Klemperer's diary is that it can happen here: modern society can plunge into brutality. Day by day, he shows precisely how."
Bussey holds a master's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and a bachelor's degree in English Literature. She is an independent writer specializing in literature. In the following essay, she discusses the importance of Klemperer's imagery to help the modern-day reader understand the slow spread of Nazism in Germany.
Contemporary readers of Klemperer's astonishing I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941 are struck by the unexpected details the diarist notes from his daily life. Klemperer demonstrates how the influence of Nazism was pervasive and penetrated every facet of daily life. Further, he shows how the ever-present images of Hitler and the swastika affected the psyches of the citizens of Germany, having a profound influence on the ways they behaved and treated one another. Modern readers, knowledgeable about the horrors of the concentration camps and the inhumanity of the Holocaust, do not understand how such an unimaginable evil escalated.
Klemperer's diary depicts those tiny steps with which Hitler's regime took power and gradually evolved into what is perhaps the most infamous tyranny in history. Klemperer shows how Hitler's officials were so adept at public relations that they were able to garner widespread support. The diary is thus extremely valuable to modern readers because Klemperer provides startling and memorable images of a Germany moving steadily toward the worse.
Klemperer concentrates on two forms of Nazi imagery: ordinary objects and people's behavior. Both are equally disturbing. While shopping, Klemperer encounters everyday objects somehow transformed by the new regime. On March 22, 1933, Klemperer observes, "In a pharmacy toothpaste with a swastika." Eight days later, he notes, "In a toy shop a children's ball with the swastika." Later, on October 30, 1934, Klemperer writes, "I received a magazine with a swastika on the cover: 'The Care of the German Cat."'
Later, in October of 1939, Klemperer describes walking through a market where many of the retailers' goods were replaced by pictures of Hitler. Klemperer certainly understood that toothpaste, toys, and cat magazines had nothing to with political events, but he also understood that they did have something to do with political strategy.
Similarly, when Klemperer tells about the Nazis' attempts to create German names for the months of the year, he sees it as a ridiculous effort, but a potentially dangerous sign. The imprint of the swastika on so many ordinary things sends a clear message that the regime is everywhere and controls everything, and to be outside the regime is to be alone.
While on the surface, such "marketing" measures appear to be a simple means of getting in touch with the people, they are really intimidation. Such tactics were designed to lead to only one conclusion, which Klemperer labels the thought process of Nazism: "Hitler IS Germany."
The other type of imagery Klemperer provides is imagery of people's reactions to the growing Nazi influence. In September of 1935, Klemperer describes signs being displayed by ordinary citizens who have fallen under the spell of Nazism. One sign reads, "Who buys from the Jew, is a traitor to the nation," while another reads, "No Jews do we want, in our fair suburb Plauen."
The schools were a focal point for Nazi efforts. On March 22, 1933, Klemperer describes this disturbing scene:
Fraulein Wiechmann visited us. She tells how in her school in Meissin all are bowing down to the swastika, are trembling for their jobs, watching and distrusting one another. A young man with the swastika comes into the school on some official errand or other. A class of fourteen-year-olds immediately begins singing the Horst Wessel Song [a Nazi song].
What Do I Read Next?
- The classic autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) is a thoughtful telling of Douglass's life first as a slave and then as an abolitionist in America. Despite suffering extreme oppression and humiliation, he was determined to become educated so he could be a leader for his people. His recollections of his past are marked by keen observations and a striking ability to recognize hypocrisy and abuse of power.
- Anne Frank's diary, published as The Diary of a Young Girl (1952), is often discussed in the context of Klemperer's diary. Frank was a teenage Jewish girl who went into hiding with her family and four other people in Amsterdam after the Nazis occupied Holland. It has become a classic in young adult nonfiction.
- Thomas Keneally's moving novel Schindler's List (1993) is based on the true story of German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who was so horrified by the Nazis' mass murder of Jews that he employed thirteen hundred Jews in a manufacturing facility. At great personal and financial risk, he remained dedicated to saving as many Jews as he could.
- Nora Levin's Holocaust Years: The Nazi Destruction of European Jewry, 1933-1945 (1968) remains one of the key studies of the Nazi persecution of the Jews from the year of Hitler's rise to power through the end of World War II.
- The philosophical question at the center of Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness (1998) is whether evil can be forgiven. The author recalls his experience in a concentration camp and the day a dying Nazi soldier asks him to forgive the evils done to the Jews. Over fifty great thinkers, including the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, address this difficult question.
The son of one of Klemperer's friends communicates another school-related incident. The boy was a "passionate Nazi" until he began thinking for himself and became disillusioned with what he saw. Klemperer tells the boy's story on September 27, 1934:
The leaders—fellow pupils—take more money from us for excursions than they spend. It is impossible to check, a couple of marks always goes into their pockets; I know how it's done, I've been a leader myself.… One fellow, who was really poor, a leader for some time, is now riding a motorcycle …—'Don't the others notice too.'—'They're so stupid,' and then: 'No one dares say anything or talk to the others. Everyone is afraid of everyone else!'
This example of boyhood abuse of power demonstrates how receptive young minds were to the Nazis. They readily accepted positions of power and had no problem taking advantage of one another. Teachers were not immune to Nazi influence, either. On October 19, 1935, Klemperer explains that many teachers provide "character sketches" of their students. Commenting on a Jewish student, one teacher wrote that he "shows all the characteristics of his race." These sketches were designed to help assess the suitability of very small children for the "national community."
Another type of behavior seemed innocent enough but had harsh consequences. Modern readers can readily identify with the practice of making jokes about current events. Apparently, the same was true in Nazi Germany, as Klemperer explains on January 13, 1934. He writes that jokes about conversations in heaven are very popular, and that the best one at the time involves Hitler asking Moses, "But you can tell me in confidence, Herr Moses. Is it not true that you set the bush on fire yourself?"
Klemperer adds, "It was for such remarks that Dr. Bergsträsser, an assistant in the mechanical engineering department—an Aryan, by the way—was sentenced to ten months in prison by the special court."
Klemperer not only shows the reader how people behaved, he offers some explanation as to why. He writes with great disgust about the manipulation of the media. First, the Nazis banned publications that were not in their favor. Securing "forbidden" newspapers was a serious crime, as Klemperer notes when a friend of his smuggles newspaper clippings with him back from Bohemia.
Second, the National Socialists saturated the newspapers and radio broadcasts with pro-Nazi propaganda, even going so far as to cast news in a more favorable light. They made light of defeats and exaggerated their victories. The effect was that Germans, like Klemperer, began to feel that the Nazi regime would last a very long time.
This "whitewashing" extended to lesser incidents, too. On May 15, 1933, Klemperer writes about a Communist who came under scrutiny by the Nazis:
The garden of a Communist in Heidenau is dug up, there is supposed to be a machine gun in it. He denies it, nothing is found; to squeeze a confession out of him, he is beaten to death. The corpse brought to the hospital. Boot marks on the stomach, fist-sized holes in the back, cotton wool stuffed into them. Official post-mortem result: Cause of death dysentery, which frequently causes premature "death spots."
Klemperer discusses another Nazi control tactic: preaching against the individual and for the group. By encouraging people to act as a group, the Nazis positioned themselves as the leaders of the groups. In addition, they reduced a lot of dangerous independent thinking that would create resistance to their ideologies and policies.
They reduced the importance of the individual and exalted the importance of the whole, and in so doing made their followers more compliant. To the true followers, nothing was as important (not even themselves) as the good of the regime.
The next step was to provide ongoing "education" for the public, especially for young people, about the Nazi ideology. On September 4, 1934, Klemperer reports, the Reich Educational Ministry declared, "A total science of people and state based on the National Socialist idea is at the heart of the non-denominational school." In other words, the Nazis planned to perpetuate themselves by recruiting and instructing school-aged children attending public institutions.
" A toothpaste box and a child's ball are not on the same scale as the gas chambers at Auschwitz, but by providing these early images of Hitler's grip on Germany, Klemperer shows how one escalated to the other."
Readers may notice that most of the examples of Nazi imagery occur toward the beginning of the diary. This is so because the early diary depicts the early years of Nazism, when the signs of the times were subtler and seemingly harmless. A toothpaste box and a child's ball are not on the same scale as the gas chambers at Auschwitz, but by providing these early images of Hitler's grip, Klemperer shows how one escalated to the other. He does modern readers a great service by demystifying the harrowing omnipotence of Hitler, and somehow reminds them that the German people were, after all, people subject to the same influences as anyone else.
Does this mean that Klemperer's diary is a warning not to let the past be repeated? Not necessarily, but it is a tool for understanding how such a dark chapter in world history methodically evolved. Although his diary was never intended for publication, Klemperer's inclusion of these striking images makes Nazi Germany more tangible for readers who otherwise have no context for knowing what it was like.
Jennifer Bussey, Critical Essay on I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941, in Nonfiction Classics for Students, The Gale Group, 2002.
Bartov, Omer, "The Last German," in New Republic, December 28, 1998, p. 34.
Bernstein, Richard, "How the Little Things Add Up to Horror," in New York Times Book Review, November 11, 1998.
Brady, Philip, Review, in Times Literary Supplement, January 24, 1997, pp. 27-28.
Gay, Peter, "Inside the Third Reich," in New York Times Book Review, November 22, 1998.
Johnson, Daniel, "What Victor Klemperer Saw," in Commentary, Vol. 109, No. 6, June 2000, p. 44.
Review, in Publishers Weekly, October 5, 1998, p. 65.
Review, in Time, November 30, 1998, p. 126.
Shapiro, Laura, Review, in Newsweek, Vol. 132, No. 20, November 16, 1998, p. 84.
Tennenbaum, Silvia, Review, in Nation, November 16, 1998, p. 12.
Hahn Beer, Edith, The Nazi Officer's Wife: How One Jewish Woman Survived the Holocaust, Rob Weisbach Books, 1999.
In this memoir, the author recalls her experience as a Jewish woman acting the part of a Christian wife to a Nazi officer. Although her husband knows about her true heritage, he keeps her secret. When he is sent to Russia, she becomes a strong, independent woman who is able to save herself and her infant daughter under the most dangerous circumstances.
Klemperer, Victor, I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1941-1945, translated by Martin Chalmers, Random House, 2000.
This is the second volume of Klemperer's wartime diary. It relates the events leading up to the end of the war, including Klemperer's summons for deportation, his and Eva's escape from Dresden, and the end of the war.
———, The Language of the Third Reich: LTI, Lingua Tertii Imperii: A Philologist's Notebook, translated by Martin Brandy, Athlone Press, 2000.
Klemperer's study of the language of the Third Reich is described in his diary. Today, this study is considered one of the most important of its kind in researching the Third Reich.
Schleunes, Karl A., The Twisted Road to Auschwitz: Nazi Policy Toward German Jews, 1933-1939, University of Illinois Press, 1990.
Schleunes provides a detailed account of the development of the Nazi regime with regard to their policies toward the Jews prior to the mass executions that took place in concentration camps. Originally published in 1970, this book opened the way for additional historical studies of the Holocaust.