I Will Bear Witness

I Will Bear Witness

Book - 1998-
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The publication of Victor Klemperer's secret diaries brings to light one of the most extraordinary documents of the Nazi period. "In its cool, lucid style and power of observation," said The New York Times, "it is the best written, most evocative, most observant record of daily life in the Third Reich." I Will Bear Witness is a work of literature as well as a revelation of the day-by-day horror of the Nazi years.          A Dresden Jew, a veteran of World War I, a man of letters and historian of great sophistication, Klemperer recognized the danger of Hitler as early as 1933. His diaries, written in secrecy, provide a vivid account of everyday life in Hitler's Germany.          What makes this book so remarkable, aside from its literary distinction, is Klemperer's preoccupation with the thoughts and actions of ordinary Germans: Berger the greengrocer, who was given Klemperer's house ("anti-Hitlerist, but of course pleased at the good exchange"), the fishmonger, the baker, the much-visited dentist. All offer their thoughts and theories on the progress of the war: Will England hold out? Who listens to Goebbels? How much longer will it last?          This symphony of voices is ordered by the brilliant, grumbling Klemperer, struggling to complete his work on eighteenth-century France while documenting the ever- tightening Nazi grip. He loses first his professorship and then his car, his phone, his house, even his typewriter, and is forced to move into a Jews' House (the last step before the camps), put his cat to death (Jews may not own pets), and suffer countless other indignities.          Despite the danger his diaries would pose if discovered, Klemperer sees it as his duty to record events. "I continue to write," he notes in 1941 after a terrifying run-in with the police. "This is my heroics. I want to bear witness, precise witness, until the very end." When a neighbor remarks that, in his isolation, Klemperer will not be able to cover the main events of the war, he writes: "It's not the big things that are important, but the everyday life of tyranny, which may be forgotten. A thousand mosquito bites are worse than a blow on the head. I observe, I note, the mosquito bites."          This book covers the years from 1933 to 1941. Volume Two, from 1941 to 1945, will be published in 1999.
Publisher: New York : Random House, 1998-
Edition: First U.S. edition.
ISBN: 9780679456964
0679456961
Branch Call Number: 943.086 K6764K
Characteristics: volumes <1- > : portraits ; 25 cm

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hamerkop
Aug 25, 2019

This powerful commentary on the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany and its subsequent vicious attack on Jews and those opposing the regime carried me forward into the terror of this era for many Germans. Klemperer draws us into the atmosphere and growing terror of this era. As an academic I empathised with the author's need to carry on his own work and to document the experience his family and friends were forced to endure. The growing terror of fascism; its propaganda, denial of human rights, and targeted violence, witnessed and analysed over more than a decade, is a powerful evocation of the need for vigilance. Too often the echoes of this past have resonated across the globe in the past decade. As such, the book's relevance extends beyond an historical account.

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yanere
Jun 30, 2015

I read the two volumes of I Will Bear Witness together and found them mesmerizing. The detailed footnotes point out source materials from which all historical references are made. This was the work of a scholar that detailed the horribly fascinating world falling apart over the ten year period that Klemperer survived. I have read many autobiographies and histories of this period and this is among the best.

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