Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 304
The diaries published as I Will Bear Witness were compiled by Victor Klemperer from 1933—until the end of the war in 1945. Klemperer, the son of a Jewish Rabbi, had been a university professor in Dresden before the war. He had chosen to be baptized a Christian and married Eva, a German Christian. Victor lost his professorship under the National Socialist government and was forced to wear the star to identify his Jewish ancestry, although his wife Eva was spared this humiliation. The fact that Victor identified as German Christian and had married a German Christian may have spared him and his wife an even worse fate in Nazi Germany as Jews from mixed marriages were treated differently.
Even so, they lost their livelihood, their house (which they were fortunate to recover after the war), and everything except what they could carry in suitcases. They suffered almost daily privation from the scarcity of food. Victor was often tasked with manual labor that included shoveling and factory work, while Eva was still able to visit restaurants. While some Germans were unkind to them, others offered kind words and deeds. Many of their Jewish friends suffered beatings, home invasions, and theft. Some committed suicide. Others were sent to the concentration camps. The diaries offer a first-hand account of life during wartime for a marginalized couple that was not quite Jewish yet not quite fully German during an authoritarian regime that placed the blame for the economic suffering of Germany on the Jewish minority.
Victor wrote his diaries to stave off the monotony of his day-to-day life, which he found intellectually under stimulating, as well as to record the injustices that he saw and suffered. As opposed to other memoirs written after the war, I Will Bear Witness has the immediacy and authenticity of a contemporary eyewitness account.
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