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 ownpets), 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.
About the Author
About the Translator
Martin Chalmers has translated, from the German, books by Hubert Fichte, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, and Erich Fried. He is a frequent contributor to the New Statesman and The Independent, and lives in London.
Read an Excerpt
January 14, Saturday
Rectoral election. After a great deal of plotting and scheming Reuther was elected for the second time and Gehrig was defeated. It was a dirty business; they pulled a fast one on our section. Despite my participation in the "Whispering Committee" I felt inwardly almost unmoved. It bothered me just as little that yesterday evening (section meeting) Beste became dean.
The miseries of the new year the same as before, the house, the cold, lack of time, lack of money, no hope of credit, Eva's obsession with building the house, and her desperation, still growing. This business will really be the end of us. I can see it coming and feel helpless.
The Hueber court case also plagues me greatly, robs me of time and is not going well. I should have accepted the 250M I was offered; at law the man's got the advantage over me. With all these distractions the "Image of France" is at a standstill.
Two little things have been agreed with the Dresdener NN. Little things (Stendhal anniversary, the new Spain), but they take up time too. Then the lectures, which are always an effort, and the domestic misery (lighting stoves, dusting, drying dishes--precious hours).
Yesterday afternoon Liesel Sebba was here (much aged) and the young Kohlers. From time to time our usual evening guests. Nickelchen was castrated on January 3, and now the two cats are together a lot. I sometimes have the impression that they are the only thing that is a pure joy to Eva and that give her a firm hold on life.
January 24, Tuesday
Annemarie here on Sunday, told us Fritz Kopke, the newspaperman (Harms circle) died in Leipzig. Just over forty. That shook me. I said to Annemarie: Where is his immortal soul? There are happy people who firmly believe in it. Annemarie, almost shocked, very vigorously: "But Victor! Every Christian does!" And afterward, "If there wasn't even the prospect that later things will be better!" So she, the surgeon, who has the corpse, the brain under her knife, who has a university education--and yet quite evidently for all her cynicism and lack of religiosity--is at bottom a believer, or at least hopes--
February 21, afternoon
Increasingly I fall back on reading aloud. Own work almost completely at a standstill. A review for the Germ.-Rom. Literaturblatt, that's all. I've put aside the "Image of France" once again. Perhaps during the holidays. On the one hand I'm tortured by lack of time: a drudge lighting stoves, washing up, shopping; on the other a sense of worthlessness. What difference does it make if I leave behind one book more or less! Vanitas ....
Lectures are coming to an end. Today is my last Tuesday because it's carnival next week. For some while I've been reading the Italy course to four, five people. Monday the conclusion of the France course--next semester the lecture theater will be even more gapingly empty. Things are throttled more and more.
For something like three weeks now the depression of the reactionary government. I am not writing a history of the times here. But I shall nevertheless record my embitterment, greater than I would have imagined I was still capable of feeling. It is a disgrace, which gets worse with every day that passes. And there's not a sound from anyone and everyone's keeping his head down, Jewry most of all and their democratic press. One week after Hitler's appointment we were (on February 5) at the Blumenfelds with Raab. Raab, busybody, political economist, chairman of the Humboldt Club, made a big speech and declared it was necessary to vote for the German Nationals, so as to strengthen the right wing of the coalition. I vehemently took issue with him. More interesting his opinion that Hitler will end in religious madness... what is strangest of all is how one is blind in the face of events, how no one has a clue to the real balance of power. Who will have the majority on March 5? Will the terror be tolerated and for how long? It is impossible to make predictions. Meanwhile the uncertainty of the situation affects every single thing. Every attempt to borrow money for building comes to nothing. That weighs heavily on us.
On February 14 the Thieles were here, and we were their guests in the Ratskeller. Melanie told us her husband must not know that Wolfgang, the chemistry student, a good lad, is wearing a Hitler uniform in Frankfurt. He, Thiele, was against Hitler but for banning the Communist Party. [...]
We spent a fine evening on the fourteenth with the Kohlers, the "respectable" ones. He wanted to celebrate after the event because he had become a probationary teacher, and because he wanted to express his gratitude to me. We very much felt the effects of excellent sparkling fruit wine.
A fortnight ago I met Wengler in Bismarckplatz, and I noticed that his mouth was twisted and hanging open. Shortly afterward I received news of his illness. A "light" stroke. The man is in his mid-forties. His father died at the same age. Inherited sclerosis or the consequence of syphilis. I visited him last Saturday. He could move, talked, made a good impression (lying down). But he's marked nevertheless. Death all about me. Young Frau Kuhn has had a serious heart attack, sixty-year-old Breit has a very weak heart. I am gripped by the thought of death and it never leaves me now even for an hour.
On the afternoon of February 4 we visited Kube, the harp maker, husband of the beautiful Maria, in his tiny workshop. Using the most primitive means and after months of labor, he has built a whole concert harp and he showed us every detail of this extraordinary work of art.
In the newspapers it is said that Baeumler had been named as candidate for the Prussian Ministry of Culture under Hitler. (Alongside Kriek!) At a section meeting he behaved as if he already were minister. We discussed the rescue of the seriously threatened Pedagogical Institute. The German Nationals want to do away with the academic training of school-teachers. "You overestimate the influence of the German Nationals in the coalition," said Baeumler. -- Politics everywhere and everywhere the terror of the Right.
March 10, Friday evening
January 30: Hitler Chancellor. What, up to election Sunday on March 5, I called terror, was a mild prelude. Now the business of 1918 is being exactly repeated, only under a different sign, under the swastika. Again it's astounding how easily everything collapses. What has happened to Bavaria, what has happened to the Reichsbanner etc., etc.? Eight days before the election the clumsy business of the Reichstag fire--I cannot imagine that anyone really believes in Communist perpetrators instead of paid [swastika] work. Then the wild prohibitions and acts of violence. And on top of that the never ending propaganda in the street, on the radio, etc. On Saturday, the fourth, I heard a part of Hitler's speech from Konigsberg. The front of a hotel at the railway station, illuminated, a torchlight procession in front of it, torchbearers and swastika flag bearers on the balconies and loudspeakers. I understood only occasional words. But the tone! The unctuous bawling, truly bawling, of a priest. -- On the Sunday I voted for the Democrats, Eva for the Zentrum. In the evening around nine with the Blumenfelds to the Dembers. As a joke, because I entertained hopes of Bavaria, I wore my Bavarian Service Cross. Then the tremendous election victory of the National Socialists. Their vote doubled in Bavaria. The Horst Wessel Song between the announcements. -- An indignant denial, no harm will come to loyal Jews. Directly afterward the Central Association of Jewish Citizens in Thuringia is banned because it had criticized the government in "Talmudic fashion" and disparaged it. Since then day after day commissioners appointed, provincial governments trampled underfoot, flags raised, buildings taken over, people shot, newspapers banned, etc., etc. Yesterday the dramaturge Karl Wolf dismissed "by order of the Nazi Party"--not even in the name of the government--today the whole Saxon cabinet, etc., etc. A complete revolution and party dictatorship. And all opposing forces as if vanished from the face of the earth. It is this utter collapse of a power only recently present, no, its complete disappearance (just as in 1918) that I find so staggering. Que sais-je? -- On Monday evening at Frau Schaps with the Gerstles. No one dares say anything anymore, everyone is afraid [...] Gerstle was hobbling on crutches, he broke a leg skiing in the Alps. His wife drove her car and took us part of the way home.
How long will I keep my post?
On top of the political pressure the misery of the constant pain in my left arm, the constant thinking about death. And the distressing and always unsuccessful efforts to obtain building money. And the hours of lighting stoves, washing up, keeping house. And the constant sitting at home. And not being able to work, to think.
After cursory reading I wrote a bad newspaper piece, "The New Spain," after previously writing a bad article for Dante in Paris, "The Idea of Latinity in Germany." Now I want to--no, I must return to the nightmare of the "Image of France." I want to force myself to write now and catch up on the missing reading chapter by chapter.
I ordered a lot of books for my department, since it turned out there was still 100M left in my budget: Spain, eighteenth-century France and cultural history. On Tuesday I have to give a primary-school teaching candidate the now required unseen translation into French. I am so out of practice myself that I would only make a very poor translation. -- [...]
March 17, Friday morning
Last Sunday morning in spring weather walked with Eva from the Weisseritz to Hohendolzschen, looked at our plot of land, and back down again. An expedition. In between we rested a little while at the Dembers. We found them alone at table, their children are skiing in Innsbruck. We talked about politics--cautiously, since the windows were open.
For the last two days I have been altogether stymied by a heavy, feverish cold; yesterday in particular I lay around feeling miserable or sat sluggishly in some corner. Today throat and eyes are still in a very bad state but I'm no longer feeling washed out because of the fever. We had invited people today, and were supposed to be at the young Kohlers tomorrow, but had to call off both.
But unfortunately on Tuesday evening we had the Thiemes here. That was dreadful and the end of that. Thieme--of all people--declared himself for the new regime with such fervent conviction and praise. He devoutly repeated all the phrases about unity, upwards, etc. Trude was harmless by comparison. Everything had gone wrong, now we had to try this. "Now we just have to join in this song!" He corrected her vigorously. "We do not have to," the right thing was truly and freely voted for. I shall not forgive him that. He is a poor swine and afraid for his post. So he runs with the pack. But why to me? Caution in the shape of utterly consistent hypocrisy? Or can he simply not think clearly? Probably--Eva's view--the latter. We have been mistaken in Thieme's intellect. He has a partial mathematical gift. Otherwise he 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.
The defeat in 1918 did not depress me as greatly as the present state of affairs. It is shocking how day after day naked acts of violence, breaches of the law, barbaric opinions appear quite undisguised as official decree. The Socialist papers are permanently banned. The "Liberals" tremble. The Berliner Tageblatt was recently banned for two days; that can't happen to the Dresdener Neueste Nachrichten, it is completely devoted to the government, prints verses to "the old flag," etc.
Individual items: "On the instruction of the Chancellor of the Reich the five men sentenced in the summer by a special court in Beuthen for the killing of a Communist Polish insurgent have been released." (Sentenced to death!) The Saxon Commissioner for Justice orders that the corrosive poison of Marxist and pacifist literature is to be removed from prison libraries, that the penal system must once more be punitive, improving and retributive in its effects, etc., etc. [...] We would be more likely to live in a state of law under French Negro occupation than under this government. [...] This is truly no empty phrase: I can no longer get rid of the feeling of disgust and shame. And no one stirs; everyone trembles, keeps out of sight.
Thieme told us with gleeful approval of a "punishment expedition" of SA men from the Sachsenwerk against "uppity Communists in Okrilla": castor oil and running a gauntlet of rubber truncheons. If Italians do something like that--well, illiterates, children of the South and beasts... but Germans. Thieme was full of enthusiasm for the strong Socialism of the Nazis, showed me their proclamation of Works Council elections in the Sachsenwerk. One day later the elections were banned by Commissioner Killinger.
Actually it's terribly frivolous to write all this in my diary.
March 20, Monday evening about midnight
At the cinema after a long gap: Hindenburg in front of troops and SA men on Sunday the twelfth, the day of the war dead. When I saw him filmed about a year ago, the President walked somewhat stiffly, his hand on the wrist of his escort, but quite firmly and not at all slowly down the Reichstag steps, an old but vigorous man. Today: the tiny, laborious steps of a cripple. Now I understand it all: that is how Father walked after his stroke at Christmas 1911, until he died on February 12, 1912. During that time he was no longer in his right mind. I am now completely certain that Hindenburg is no more than a puppet, that his hand was already being guided on January 30.
Every new government decree, announcement, etc. is more shameful than the previous one. In Dresden an Office to Combat Bolshevism. Reward for important information. Discretion assured. In Breslau Jewish lawyers forbidden to appear in court. In Munich the clumsiest sham of an attempted assassination and linked to it the threat of the "biggest pogrom" if a shot should be fired. Etc., etc. And the newspapers snivel. The Dresdener Neueste Nachrichten pays the government compliments. Hitler "as statesman" has always stood for a revision of the peace treaty.
Goebbels as Minister of Advertising. Tomorrow the "Act of State of March 21"! Are they going to have an emperor? The "Square of the Republic" is called Konigsplatz--King's Square--again, and they've left the new name for Ebertstrasse in Berlin open. -- 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.
Today at the Capitol we saw Grand Hotel. The film is as moving as Vicki Baum's novel. And altogether outstandingly shot and affectingly acted. Also spoken very naturally. [...] the performance also included (see above) March 12 and--with a good lecture--very handsome caravan pictures from Manchuria. I so enjoy going to the cinema; it takes me out of myself. But it is so difficult to persuade Eva to go. And when it doesn't appeal and she sits there miserably, then I don't get any pleasure from it after all. This time things went passably enough, although she suffers a great deal from neuralgia and muscle pain.
Day of the "Act of State" in Potsdam. Pity that we don't have a radio. -- The most frightful pogrom threats in the Freiheitskampf together with gruesome medieval reviling of the Jews. -- Jewish judges dismissed. -- Appointment of a committee to "nationalize" the University of Leipzig. [...]
With all of that my "Image of France" crawls along a line at a time. I started writing on March 11; today there are less than seven complete pages.
Fatigue and lethargy. Weariness of life and fear of death.
Blumenfelds' maid, the honest [...] Wend Kathe, gave notice. She had been offered a secure post and the professor will soon no doubt not be in a position to keep a maid anymore. Fraulein Wiechmann visited us. She tells how in her school in Meissen 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. Singing in the corridor is not allowed. Fraulein Wiechmann is on duty. "You must forbid this bawling," urge her colleagues. -- "You do it then. If I forbid this bawling, it'll be said that I've taken action against a national song and I'll be out on my ear!" The girls go on bawling. -- In a pharmacy toothpaste with the swastika. -- A mood of fear such as must have existed in France under the Jacobins. No one fears for their lives yet--but for bread and freedom.
March 27, evening
On Saturday four "respectable" Kohlers and the Dembers were here. Conversation was about politics. The Kohlers depressed and cautiously gritting their teeth. -- Legal proceedings have been started against Blumenfeld; as joint owner of his brother's brick works he is a double-earner, which is incompatible with his status as a civil servant. The case is pending.
The government is in hot water. "Atrocity propaganda" from abroad because of its Jewish campaign. It is constantly issuing official denials, there are no pogroms, and has Jewish associations issue refutations. But then it openly threatens to proceed against the German Jews--if the mischief making by "World Jewry" does not stop. Meanwhile there is no bloodshed in the country, but oppression, oppression, oppression. No one breathes freely anymore, no free word, neither printed nor spoken.
Nothing by me appears anymore. I work away quietly for myself on the "Image of France."
March 30, Thursday
Yesterday evening at the Blumenfelds with the Dembers. Mood as before a pogrom in the depths of the Middle Ages or in deepest Czarist Russia. During the day the National Socialist boycott call had been announced. We are hostages. The dominant feeling (especially as the Stahlhelm revolt in Brunswick has just been played out and immediately hushed up) is that this reign of terror can hardly last long, but that its fall will bury us. Fantastic Middle Ages: "We"--threatened Jewry. In fact I feel shame more than fear, shame for Germany. I have truly always felt a German. I have always imagined: The twentieth century and Mitteleuropa was different from the fourteenth century and Romania. Mistake. -- Dember describes the effects on business: Stock Exchange, setbacks for Christian industry--and then "we" would pay for all of it with our blood. Frau Dember related the case of the ill-treatment of a Communist prisoner which had leaked out: torture with castor oil, beatings, fear--attempted suicide. Frau Blumenfeld whispered to me, Dr. Salzburg's second son, a medical student, has been arrested--letters from him had been found in the home of a Communist. Our parting (after abundant good food) was like a leave-taking at the front.
Yesterday a wretched statement in the Dresdener Neueste Nachrichten--"on our own account." They are 92.5 percent founded on Aryan capital, Herr Wollf, owner of the remaining 7.5 percent, has resigned as chief editor, one Jewish editor has been given leave of absence (poor Fentl!), the other ten are Aryans. Terrible! -- In a toy shop a children's ball with the swastika.
March 31, Friday evening
Ever more hopeless. The boycott begins tomorrow. Yellow placards, men on guard. Pressure to pay Christian employees two months salary, to dismiss Jewish ones. No reply to the impressive letter of the Jews to the President of the Reich and to the government. [...] No one dares make a move. The Dresden student body made a declaration today: United behind... and the honor of German students forbids them to come into contact with Jews. They are not allowed to enter the Student House. How much Jewish money went toward this Student House only a few years ago!
In Munich Jewish university teachers have already been prevented from setting foot in the university.
The proclamation and injunction of the boycott committee decrees "Religion is immaterial," only race matters. If, in the case of the owners of a business, the husband is Jewish, the wife Christian or the other way around, then the business counts as Jewish.
At Gusti Wieghardt's yesterday evening. The most depressed atmosphere. During the night at about three--Eva unable to sleep--Eva advised me to give notice on our apartment today, perhaps renting a part of it again. I gave notice today. The future is quite uncertain. [...]
On Tuesday at the new Universum cinema on Prager Strasse. Beside me a soldier of the Reichswehr, a mere boy, and his not very attractive girl. It was the evening before the boycott announcement. Conversation during an Alsberg advertisement. He: "One really shouldn't go to a Jew to shop." She: "But it's so terribly cheap." He: "Then it's bad and doesn't last." She, reflective, quite matter-of-fact, without the least pathos: "No, really, it's just as good and lasts just as long, really just like in Christian shops--and so much cheaper." He falls silent. When Hitler, Hindenburg, etc. appeared, he clapped enthusiastically. Later, during the utterly American jazz band film, clearly with a touch of Yiddish at points, he clapped even more enthusiastically.
The events of March 21 were shown, including passages from speeches, Hindenburg's proclamation laborious, his breath short, the voice of a very old man who is physically near the end. Hitler declaiming like a pastor. Goebbels looks uncommonly Jewish [...]. We saw a torchlight procession and a great deal of marching awakening Germany. Also Danzig with the swastika flag.
April 3, Monday evening
On Saturday red posters on the shops: "Recognized German-Christian enterprise." In between them closed shops, SA men in front of them with triangular boards: "Whoever buys from the Jew supports the foreign boycott and destroys the German economy." -- People poured down Prager Strasse and looked at it all. That was the boycott. "For the time being only Saturday--then a pause until Wednesday." Excluding banks. Including lawyers and doctors. Called off after one day--it has been a success and Germany is "magnanimous." But in truth a wild turnaround. Evidently resistance at home and abroad and evidently from the other side pressure from the National Socialist mob. I have the impression of swiftly approaching catastrophe. That the right wing cannot go on participating much longer, cannot put up with the National Socialist dictatorship much longer, that on the other hand Hitler is no longer free and that the National Socialists are urging ever greater use of force. Today the rectors of Frankfurt University, the Technical University Brunswick; Kantorowicz, the director of the Bonn University hospital; a Christian business editor of the Frankfurter Zeitung were arrested. Etc. There will be an explosion--but we may pay for it with our lives, we Jews. [...] I am unable to work on my "Image of France." [...] Everything I considered un-German, brutality, injustice, hypocrisy, mass suggestion to the point of intoxication, all of it flourishes here.
On Saturday evening in Heidenau to visit Annemarie and Dr. Dressel. Both on the Right, both anti-National Socialist and dismayed. But both isolated by the mood in their St. John's Hospital. -- On Sunday afternoon by myself for an hour with the deeply depressed Blumenfelds. I complain at length about Eva, whose state of health suffers in the extreme from the German catastrophe; I believe that in all the difficult years since Lugano I have never seen her in such despair. At her request I've given notice here for July 1. In order to save money, we decided to share the flat and rent only three rooms. I have directed Pratorius to fence in my plot. 635M costs out of 1,100M reserves! We are making frantic efforts to borrow 8,000 to 10,000M to build a small house or part of one. But it is now even more hopeless than before. For us personally, everything is also heading for catastrophe.
April 7, Friday morning
The pressure I am under is greater than in the war, and for the first time in my life I feel political hatred for a group (as I did not during the war), a deadly hatred. In the war I was subject to military law, but subject to law nevertheless; now I am at the mercy of an arbitrary power. Today (it changes) I am again less certain that the catastrophe will occur soon.
No one dares write a letter, no one dares make a telephone call, we visit one another and weigh up our chances. One civil servant at the Ministry said this, another that. But one never knows whether the one with the favorable opinion will remain in charge, or to what degree he's "in charge" at all, etc., etc. No beast has fewer rights and is less hounded. -- Yesterday Albert Hirsch wrote to me from Frankfurt am Main: "leave of absence" after thirteen years service. Unsure what to live on. Is moving with wife and two children to the parents-in-law. Perhaps, at best, he'll receive a few pennies for a pension, but certainly not anywhere near enough to live on. One case out of thousands, thousands upon thousands. [...] Whether I shall keep my post will probably be settled on May 2, at my first lecture.
Meanwhile further efforts to erect a small house in Dolzschen. Last personal reserves went on fencing. The work has begun now. Yesterday the earth was plowed up. The farmer, the team of horses, eight hours work: 20M. The fence will cost 624M. Dolzschen demands the costs of laying sewer drains immediately: 340M. Total: one thousand marks--last reserves.
In between domestic work, the building business (never ending effort, deliberations, brooding) I wearily collect my thoughts for a work I hardly believe anymore will be printed or made use of in my course. Chapter II/Part One of the "Image of France" is ready at last.
Newspapers are read differently now [...]. Between the lines. Art of the eighteenth century, the art of reading and writing awakens again.
April 10, Monday
The awful feeling of "Thank God, I'm alive." The new Civil Service "law" leaves me, as a front-line veteran, in my post--at least for the time being (Dember and Blumenfeld are also spared). But all around rabble-rousing, misery, fear and trembling. A cousin of Dember, doctor in Berlin, fetched from his office in his shirtsleeves and brought to the Humboldt Hospital in a very bad state, and died there, forty-five years of age. Frau Dember whispers it to us with the door closed. By telling us she's spreading "atrocity stories," untrue ones of course.
We are often up in Dolzschen. Our "field" is now going to get its fence, we have ordered seven cherry trees and ten gooseberry bushes. I force myself to act as enthusiastically as if I believed in the building of the house, so that I even believe it a little myself and thus am able, as a kind of self-hypnosis, to shore up Eva's mood. But it does not always work, Eva is in a bad way and the political catastrophe affects her terribly. (Sometimes, for a few moments, I almost feel that the great universal hatred forces her to rise a little above the obsession with her own personal sufferings, that it strengthens her will to live. [...]
Man is bad. My quite involuntary feeling, when I learned that Dember and Blumenfeld were also to be allowed to escape destruction, was a kind of disappointment. As one is disappointed when Someone given up for lost escapes with his life after all. But it is very probable that all of us will pay in the end. [...]
Annemarie Kohler was here yesterday evening. Filled with the greatest bitterness. She tells us how fanatical the male and female nurses in her hospital are. They sit around the loudspeaker. When the Horst Wessel Song is sung (every evening and at other times too), they stand up and raise their arms in the Nazi greeting.
[...] "Image of France" goes very very slowly. It takes too much out of me, and I have far too little hope.
I hear nothing from my relatives, nothing from the Meyerhofs. No one dares write. -- No other post either.
One is an alien species or a Jew with 25 percent Jewish blood, if one grandparent was Jewish. As in fifteenth-century Spain, but then the issue was faith. Today it's zoology + business.
April 12, Wednesday evening
In the afternoon--nice walk, but heart trouble--alone to the Dolzschen council office. To ask them to divide the sewer drain costs (340M) into installments. Six installments granted. Up there the Social Democrat mayor has been suspended. I was received by the commissioner (giant of a man, Teuton with goatee) and the barrel-shaped council surveyor, both in SA uniform. The first time that I've dealt with such people. Both very polite, the commissioner a little reserved, visibly anxious about his dignity, the fat one a very homely Saxon, right away chatting to me about the University and the Teacher Training Institute--I must emphasize once again: both uncommonly polite. But here I saw for the first time with my own eyes that we really are entirely at the mercy of the Party dictatorship, of the "Third Reich," that the Party no longer makes any secret of its absolute power.
And every day new abominations. A Jewish lawyer in Chemnitz kidnapped and shot. "Provocateurs in SA uniform, common criminals." Provision of the Civil Service Law. Anyone who has one Jewish grandparent is a Jew. "In case of doubt the final decision lies with the Specialist for Racial Research in the Reich Interior Ministry." A worker or employee who is not nationally minded can be dismissed in any factory, [and] must be replaced by a nationally minded one. The NS plant cells must be consulted. Etc., etc. For the moment I am still safe. But as someone on the gallows, who has the rope around his neck, is safe. At any moment a new "law" can kick away the steps on which I'm standing and then I'm hanging.
I'm constantly listening for "symptoms." A resentful speech by Hugenberg; Oberfohren, the parliamentary leader of the German Nationals, resigning his seat. Friction between SA and Stahlhelm--but what does it all amount to? Power, a tremendous power, is in the hands of the National Socialists. Half a million armed men, all offices and instruments of state, press and radio, the mood of the inebriated millions. I cannot see where salvation could come from. [...]
The Spanish Ministry of Education has offered Einstein a professorship at a Spanish university, he has accepted. This is the strangest joke of world history. Germany establishes limpieza de la sangre--Spain appoints the German Jew.
April 20, Thursday evening
Is it the influence of the tremendous propaganda--films, broadcasting, newspapers, flags, ever more celebrations (today is the Day of the Nation, Adolf the Leader's birthday)? Or is it the trembling, slavish fear all around? I almost believe now that I shall not see the end of this tyranny. And I am almost used to the condition of being without rights. I simply am not German and Aryan, but a Jew and must be grateful if I'm allowed to stay alive. -- They are expert at advertising. The day before yesterday we saw (and heard) on film how Hitler holds his big rallies. The mass of SA men in front of him, the half-dozen microphones in front of his lectern, which transmit his words to 600,000 SA men in the whole Third Reich--one sees his omnipotence and keeps one's head down. And always the Horst Wessel Song. And everyone knuckles under. How wretched the Doctors' Congress in Wiesbaden. Gratitude to Hitler--even if the racial question has not yet been clarified, even if the "aliens" Wassermann, Ehrlich, Neisser have made important contributions to our medicine--we thank Hitler, he is saving Germany! Likewise the rest.
April 25, Tuesday
Since telephone calls are unsafe, and since everyone is depressed, we constantly have nerve-racking morning or afternoon visits. Frau Dember, Frau Wieghardt. Today, recovered, but bent over with paralysis, Wengler. Always the same conversations, the same despair, the same vacillation: Catastrophe is imminent, and things will go on like this for a long time yet, there is no salvation, always the same aversion. Eva's nerves are completely gone. The political loathing and the disastrous effect on our credit go hand in hand for her. No morning without violent weeping, no day without hysterics. I am already almost blunted in the face of all this misfortune. I no longer think about tomorrow.
Yesterday Frau Schaps and the Blumenfelds were our guests, the day before the Wieghardts, on Sunday we were invited to the "respectable" Kohlers and accompanied part of the way home by the young people. The same conversations everywhere.
At the TU Dember is now the most threatened because he was imposed on it when Fleissner was Minister [of Education]. He is suffering tremendously. A circular requested all non-Aryans to leave all committees and not to conduct examinations. God knows how that's feasible. Non-Aryans in our section, Holldack (mother), Kafka (father) ... In Kiel the students have put un-German texts by their former and no longer acceptable teachers on the index. [...] Something similar is expected here. -- The Prussian Minister of Education has ordered that school pupils who have had to repeat a year should, where possible, if they are members of the Hitler movement, [...] move up after all. -- Notice on the Student House (likewise at all the universities): "When the Jew writes in German, he lies," henceforth he is to be allowed to write only in Hebrew. Jewish books must be characterized as "translations."--I only note the most ghastly things, only fragments of the madness in which we are unceasingly immersed.
Despite everything our fence is just being finished in Dolzschen, we are planning to do more--but it is quite impossible to look forward to a real dwelling, there is simply no money and credit. I really do not know what else can be done. On this point too we are facing catastrophe. We have bought gardening tools and trees; we want to go up today to do some digging.
My "Image of France" is at a standstill for days, then grows by a few lines, is at a standstill again. And yet there is no point at all in thinking of publication. And all my faith in national psychology--where has it gone? Perhaps the current madness is indeed a typically German madness. I shall write an appendix about it, which will certainly not be intended for publication.
The fate of the Hitler movement will undoubtedly be decided by the Jewish business. I do not understand why they have made this point of their program so central. It will sink them. But we will probably go down with them.
April 30, Sunday evening
Dember has been "given leave of absence until further notice." A statement by the student body on the bulletin board, "A Jewish professor breaks his word," pilloried him, because despite his promise he had given an examination. He says he never made this promise. He is being thrown out because he was given his chair by the Ministry against the will of rector and senate. Kafka, Holldack (50 percent Jewish) threatened, Gehrig threatened because he's a Democrat, Wilbrandt goes because he's a Socialist. -- Baeumler made Professor of Political Pedagogy in Berlin, where Spranger has had to go. -- But I hear from Annemarie Kohler on the telephone that Georg had to go. (I have completely lost touch with my family; no one writes to me.)
Tomorrow "the festival of labor." The Stahlhelm now subordinated to Hitler, Hugenberg about to collapse. I very much have the firm impression that the catastrophe cannot be long postponed.
In the mornings Eva often has the most violent nervous crises. "I have been going to pieces for years and no one helps me!" Then somewhat calmer during the day.
On the twenty-eighth the whole day on our plot of land. The trees were planted. She was up there with Frau Lehmann, I followed in the afternoon. Coffee in the beautifully situated Cafe Hohendolzschen. Afterward at the Dembers for a while. [...]
All in all I exist apathetically beyond despair and almost beyond indifference. Tomorrow another appointment with a money man; perhaps a loan can be obtained after all. But my finances are on the point of collapse. I don't earn a penny anymore aside from the 800M of my salary. And the Kirschberg swallows it up and swallows it up.
May 15, Monday evening
I'm lecturing. Old French to six, cultural history to about twenty, the seminar to ten people. All quiet. But, in compliance with the "request" from the rectorship, I don't examine. I did not attend the section meeting either. -- We received sympathy visits: on the evening of the section meeting from Frau Kuhn, on the Sunday after from Delekat. Delekat had just given a sermon in the Kreuzkirche -- it is possible "to say more" than in a lecture. [Illegible] me (reference and recommendation to Rudiger). Beste, now dean, stands up for me, is inwardly embittered (Zentrum man). But everywhere complete helplessness, cowardice, fear.
I broke curtly and definitively with Thieme, who had declared his enthusiasm for the new regime. He phoned us with an invitation. I said, we did not want to come and I would like to end the telephone conversation, hung up.
Annemarie fears for her post because she refused to take part in the procession on May 1. She (who is a supporter of the German Nationals through and through) relates: 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."
Atrocity stories are lies and severely punished.
Jule Sebba in Dresden for a couple of days. Here one evening with Frau Schaps. The next evening we were at Frau Schaps. The Gerstles and the Salzburgs there too. Very cordial, but no new points of contact and not many of the old ones anymore. The conversations the same everywhere, the situation in Konigsberg no different from here.
The next morning and for a couple of days after Eva even more shattered than usual. Neuralgia in her failing knee, severe fits of weeping and despair: cripple, "too late," she is being allowed to go to pieces without the least pity being taken on her. My heart cannot bear all this misery much longer.
Constant pain in my throat, hoarseness, pains in arm and shoulder.
On top of that the house business is more hopeless than ever. Pratorius had gotten hold of a Polish-Jewish broker called Sandel. He was going to raise--as good as certain, 99 percent probability!--15,000M in Offenbach on easy terms. I paid him 240M, almost the very last penny of my reserves. Then it all fell through, the man was even impertinent, and now I have no idea what else I can do. From time to time Eva goes up to Hohendlozschen, to varnish and paint our fence, etc. Going there and back costs 6M each time, but the expedition does not satisfy her. I cannot go on. My extra income has dried up completely, not a line by me is printed. I have given up thinking about things. I feel it's all coming to an end.
The "Image of France" creeps on. Perhaps it will be published posthumously. [...]
Of the National Socialists' criminal and insane acts I only make a note of what somehow touches me personally. Everything else can be looked up in the newspapers. The mood of the present time, the waiting; the visiting one another, the counting of days, the inhibited telephone conversations and correspondence--all of that could be recorded in memoirs one day. But my life is coming to an end, and these memoirs will never be written.
May 22, Monday
May 16 passed very gloomily this time. -- Eva's nerves have now given out so completely that I too am hardly able to bear up anymore: My heart gives way more and more.
New misfortune, not to be taken lightly: Our little black tomcat has fallen ill. Wound on his stomach, the animal is suffering, the treatment by Dr. Gross is distressing (and expensive). -- On the evening of the nineteenth Herr Kaufmann was here as grass widower. His wife in Berlin with Edgar's family. They are going to Palestine next week, leaving the child with its grandparents for the present, taking 15,000M with them, want to find some kind of livelihood. Sick joke, passed on by the Dembers: An immigrant to Palestine is asked, "Are you coming from conviction or from Germany?"--Letter from Georg: He himself is retired ("they could have held on to me"); Otto, the physicist; Friedrich, the medical probationer; and the youngest, who is in the middle of his examinations in economics, want to emigrate to England or America; Hans, who has just got a son, has "up to now" not yet been dismissed by Siemens. -- Three people today in my Old French lecture; cultural history and tutorial, however, better attended (about twenty and ten students).
House affair hopeless. It will send Eva and myself literally to our graves.
Since Hitler's peace speech and the easing of tension in foreign affairs I have lost all hope of living to see the end of this state of affairs.
June 17, Sunday morning
Dialectic of the soul. During the day I now forcibly cling to some relatively pleasant event or other, even the most trivial thing like the growth of a philodendron leaf or the improved condition of our little Nickelchen-Amfortas tomcat, whose stomach wound heals and then opens again (even though he was treated by Dr. Gross for some considerable time). It is really indispensable to find such support for oneself. [...]
I am content if Eva begins the morning without a weeping and screaming fit, falls asleep quite easily in the evening. I put out of my mind the fact that she does not go out, lets the harmonium, the piano gather dust, etc., etc.
I put the despair over the whole housing business out of my mind. There is no chance of finding building money. Sandel, a Polish Jew, has cheated me of 240M, does not want to pay it back, and counts on my being too afraid of the scandal to go to the police (for me to report a Jew, now! But I shall have to do it nevertheless, otherwise Pratorius and Gestein will think I'm frightened--and they are right to think so). I am now entirely without reserves, hardly know how to find the money for insurance policies, rent, etc.--and all extra income has ceased.
I had given notice here for July 1 and have withdrawn it again, but only until October 1. What is going to happen here in the winter? Eva detests the apartment, in the winter it is literally her prison. I too dread all the laying of fires. [...]
I believe my own health to be gone. Repeated heart trouble. I don't go to the doctor. He cannot tell me anything, at most forbid me to smoke. Berthold reached the age of 59, perhaps that is how long I shall last. And sometimes my pointless horror of death is already numbed by all the sorrow and gloom. I see no way out. We are immobile in every respect. Occasionally one of Eva's little expeditions by cab to Dolzschen, where she paints our fence. Then I fetch her in the evening by cab. After intervals of months a visit to the cinema.
Recent guests: for a couple of hours (after more than two years) on his way to an NSDAP-ordered pharmacists' "coordination" day from his little town of Plauen--Scherner. Unchanged and his tubby heartiness was for me really very remote and strange. He has stopped his payments and yet is quite cheerful. One day the pharmacy will pay its way again and then he'll exchange it for one in Leipzig and will leave the small-town dump he hates. He complains, he has hopes, he is alive and kicking, he revolves in his tiny circle, is content. His friends in Leipzig. Dr. Schingnitz--he is leader of the National Socialists, their representative at the university. Scherner does not like the Nazis at all--but why hold that against Schingnitz? He really wants to get on!
Lissy Meyerhof was here on Whitsunday and Whit Monday. As optimistic as ever, modest, hard-working, yet her health obviously weakened, heart trouble. She has--so far--kept her post as social worker (war service, nurse in contagious diseases hospital). Also Martha Wiechmann and her sister, who is now living with her. Her brother, mid-forties, not a member of a party, senior district attorney at the High Court in Berlin, "placed on temporary retirement" on the grounds that a National Socialist must occupy this highest post. That same evening Fraulein Rudiger was here, after a very long gap. Her brother, major in the old army, has a post in the National Socialist Party. "Your nerves are completely shattered, you should go somewhere where there aren't any newspapers," she said to me, when she heard my bitterness; she has no idea what is really happening.
At university my examinations have been transferred to Wengler (explicitly for my "protection," to keep me in my post). I am now lecturing on Old French literature to three students, I go through my Cultural History contortions in front of about twenty students. My most eager student is the Nazi cell leader Eva Theissig.
Also here over Whitsun was Hans Hirche, whom I--I!--helped get into the army. Looked splendid and talked very sensibly. He and his parental home evidently completely anti-Hitlerist. Hostility in the Reichswehr against the SA, attitudes more often right wing than Hitlerist, but nevertheless also a lot of National Socialism--which is compulsorily "encouraged." One never knows.
Two surprises of a more pleasant kind: Contrary to all expectations Flitner has started printing my 1931-32 education paper. [...] Walzel (and he has the next twelve months to decide) wrote to me, Heiss has withdrawn from his Romance literatures around 1850, whether I wanted to manage the second volume. I proposed: Schurr, French; Hatzfeld, Spanish; and myself, Italian and general introduction. I am dying to know how it will develop; deep down, however, yes or no is all the same to me. On the one hand pro Italia: God knows whether my old contracts are still worth anything, and this would be a reliable new one. It would mean a change, renewal. In addition, a subject that would also interest Eva, she would read with me. For once I would be quite outside my usual province. I have wanted to come to grips with modern Italy for a long time. -- D'altra parte, a vast amount of work, for which I am not at all prepared, which thrusts me completely away from my "life's work," and I do not know how much time I still have. -- And yet: Does it make any difference at all what I spend the remainder of my time doing? Just do something and forget oneself.
At last: On June 11, exactly three months to the day after starting, "The New German Image of France" was completed; yesterday and the day before yesterday I wrote the very peculiar "Afterword" to it and want to read it aloud this evening, as the Blumenfelds, the young Kohlers, the Wenglers are our guests.
We saw and heard the delightful Kiepura film Be Mine Tonight (Lugano landscape and a profusion of songs, arias) for the third time. (When Kiepura's concert in Berlin was banned, he was the Jew Kiepura; in the Hugenberg film he is "the famous tenor from La Scala, Milan"; in Prague recently, when his German song "Heute nacht oder nie" [Tonight or never] was booed, he was "the German singer Kiepura.")
I am corresponding with Professor I. Elbogen, Orthodox Jew and brother-in-law of the musician Otto Klemperer (the Catholic!). A relief agency for German university teachers is being set up in London, it seems to involve publication of journals above all, and he has inquired about details of people in the Romance and philological fields.
June 19, Monday (after lecture to three people)
On Saturday I read out my "Afterword." Shock. How could I keep something like that in the house? Kohler advised: hide it behind a picture. -- But what shall I do with my diaries? I wait from one day to the next. Nothing stirs. Sometimes I lose all heart and believe that this regime will last after all and outlive me.
In the meantime I work up reviews. [...] I wrote to Hubner, asking whether he still intended to take my "Image of France." So far no reply.
The complaint to the police regarding Sandel's swindle is finished and in the envelope. I send it off with a heavy heart, God knows what kind of scandal I will be dragged into. But what will the Pratorius' say (and what will they do) if I do not take the matter to the police? They will then think that I positively want to protect the Jew (which Sandel is firmly counting on), or even: I should do so. A terrible situation.
June 29, Thursday evening
Of the 29 June 29s of our life together, this is basically the most dismal; but we have fairly successfully endeavored to get through it calmly. I read aloud. Now in the evening Karl Wieghardt is with us by chance. Since Hugenberg went yesterday without the least resistance and the German National Party "has dissolved itself," I have lost all courage.
[CHAPTER ONE CONTINUES ...]
Table of ContentsPREFACE: The Lives of Victor Klemperer...........vii