I Will Bear Witness

by Victor Klemperer

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 442

I Will Bear Witness is a 1998 biographical novel by Victor Klemperer. It is written in the form of a diary and it’s considered to be one of the most authentic testimonies of life in Nazi Germany in literature. Klemperer wrote his journals and diaries in secret. He feared that if someone discovered his antifascist writings, he was going to be imprisoned and even executed, and so most of his journals depicting the day-to-day life in Germany under Hitler’s autocratic rule were published after 1995.

One of the main themes in I Will Bear Witness is the totalitarian regime of the Third Reich. Klemperer explains, on various dates, how the German political system during the fascist dictatorship was anything but good and functional. He describes how the media was cleverly used to brainwash the masses and spread the Nazi propaganda, promoting it as the only suitable political system that Germany can have. Many of Hitler’s speeches were taken quite literary to heart by many of his followers and those who shared his beliefs. Klemperer feels as though Germany is slowly losing its value and that deeply disappoints him, a point which would lead us to the next theme of the book—patriotism.

Klemperer writes how he witnessed many people slowly and obliviously accepting the Nazi program, but also how he recognized its flaws since the very beginning. He says that Germany is a noble country, but unfortunately it has fallen under tyranny and injustice. He slowly loses his faith in his second homeland and feels that everything he or anyone else does is unimportant and insignificant. He’s very pessimistic and loses the will to keep on moving forward, both in his life and in his writing. Klemperer explains how deeply a person can hurt when the love they feel towards their country is shattered. His disappointment in the political climate takes a big toll on his personal life as well. Some of his closest friends turn into his biggest enemies, because he refuses to become a sheep that blindly follows a despotic, oppressive and immoral ideology. Because of this, broken friendships and relationships might be considered a secondary theme of I Will Bear Witness.

Even though Klemperer expresses his disappointment in great detail, he still refuses to become a forgettable name and continues to write about everything that Germany endured under the fascist government, down to the most trivial events. 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.

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