I will bear witness: A diary of the Nazi years (Victor Klemperer 1998)

In the prologue to I will bear witness: A diary of the Nazi years (1998), Malcolm Chalmers notes that for readers in Germany, Victor Klemperer’s wartime diary “has become one of the key works through which the Third Reich and the murder of the Jews is understood.”

A unique feature of the diaries, Chalmers adds, is that they “were not written with publication in mind and were never reworked to iron out contradictions and repetitions.” I learned of Klemperer’s work when I read The Third Reich at war, 1939-1945 by Richard J. Evans, which I had, in turn, learned about in The New York Times.

On p. 375 of the 1998 edition of the 1933-1941 diary, one can read the following paragraph from Sunday, February 20, 1941:

    Fragments of conversation picked up while eating at the Monopol: A girl who had been working for a year in some kind of administration office in Poland, on leave here, to her girlfriends, shootings were going on constantly, it was rarely in the papers. There was no blackout because of the many attacks. Another girl about a third: She has been frozen out, “because too friendly with the Jews.”


Image from Arsenal Lands west of Small Arms Building at Dixie Road and Lakeshore Road East. Jaan Pill photo

Image from Arsenal Lands west of Small Arms Building at Dixie Road and Lakeshore Road East. Jaan Pill photo

An April 6, 2015 New Yorker article is entitled: “The System: Two new histories show how the Nazi concentration camps worked.”

A May 7, 2015 New York Times article is entitled: ” ‘Forbidden Films’ Exhumes Nazi Poison From the Movie Vaults.”

The opening paragraphs read:

“The Third Reich was not only a totalitarian state but also a total multimedia regime. Seven decades after its fiery collapse, the embers remain — including some 1,200 feature films produced under Joseph Goebbels’s ministry of propaganda. Are they historical evidence, incitements to murder, fascist pornography, evergreen entertainments, toxic waste or passé kitsch? All of the above?

“Those questions are raised by ‘Forbidden Films: The Hidden Legacy of Nazi Film,’ a documentary essay by the German filmmaker Felix Moeller, opening May 13 at Film Forum for a weeklong, free-admission run.

“Mr. Moeller, born 20 years after Germany’s defeat, is concerned about what he sees as youthful disinterest in the Nazi period and the concurrent rise of right-wing nationalism in Europe. He arrived at “Forbidden Films,” he said by telephone from Berlin, after making ‘Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Süss,’ a documentary about the family legacy of Nazi Germany’s most celebrated director, Veit Harlan. Harlan’s most notorious film, “Jew Süss” (1940) — a period melodrama in which a Jewish moneylender connives to take control of the duchy of Württemberg — is as incontrovertibly anti-Semitic as it was enormously popular.”

[End of excerpt]

A Feb. 7, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “‘My family resisted the Nazis’: why director had to film Alone in Berlin.”

An Aug. 15, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Joseph Goebbels’ 105-year-old secretary: ‘No one believes me now, but I knew nothing’: Brunhilde Pomsel worked at the heart of the Nazis’ propaganda machine. As a film about her life is released, she discusses her lack of remorse and the private side of her monstrous boss.”


1 reply
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Also of interest: Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany (2016).

    A blurb reads:

    ‘The most brilliant and fascinating book I have read in my entire life’ Dan Snow

    ‘A huge contribution… remarkable’ Antony Beevor, BBC RADIO 4

    ‘Extremely interesting … a serious piece of scholarship, very well researched’ Ian Kershaw

    The sensational German bestseller on the overwhelming role of drug-taking in the Third Reich, from Hitler to housewives.

    The Nazis presented themselves as warriors against moral degeneracy. Yet, as Norman Ohler’s gripping bestseller reveals, the entire Third Reich was permeated with drugs: cocaine, heroin, morphine and, most of all, methamphetamines, or crystal meth, used by everyone from factory workers to housewives, and crucial to troops’ resilience – even partly explaining German victory in 1940.

    The promiscuous use of drugs at the very highest levels also impaired and confused decision-making, with Hitler and his entourage taking refuge in potentially lethal cocktails of stimulants administered by the physician Dr Morell as the war turned against Germany. While drugs cannot on their own explain the events of the Second World War or its outcome, Ohler shows, they change our understanding of it. Blitzed forms a crucial missing piece of the story.

    [End of text]


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