I WILL BEAR WITNESS by Victor Klemperer


A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933-1941
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A classic (of two genres) finally translated into English. As an example both of Holocaust literature and the memoir, the diaries of Klemperer are superior. First published in 1995 in Germany, the diaries there caused a minor sensation: Nearly 150,000 copies of the 1,500-page hardcover edition were sold (the present volume contains the first half of the diaries, in a slightly abridged form); a television serial is in production. Although less well known than his famous conductor-cousin, Otto Klemperer, Victor began his career as a literary journalist and became a highly regarded historian and scholar of the Enlightenment—a courageous choice in a Germany where the “superficial” French Enlightenment was spuriously contrasted with the “profundity” of German philosophy. Klemperer, a German Jew, served in WWI and married a Protestant woman; both experiences would help to insure his survival during the Holocaust. For him, just as for many others in Nazi Europe, the decision to keep a diary was an act of moral rebellion and resistance against a totalitarian state. The diaries are unique, written with a marvelous urgency. As a linguist, Klemperer has always been sensitive to the nuances of words; his study of the Nazi lexicon, published after the war, is a classic in the field. In the diaries, he didn—t wish to paint a large picture, preferring instead to record life’s daily small details. Six weeks after Hitler’s appointment, Klemperer confided, “I can no longer get rid of the feeling of disgust and shame . . . it’s terribly frivolous to write all this in my diary.” He always insisted that as a German Jew he represented the —real— Germany, while the Nazis were barbaric impostors. Whatever kind of catharsis the diaries may supply to Germans, others will also read them gratefully. (First serial to the New Yorker)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-45696-1
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1998


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