Destined to take its place alongside The Diary of Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel's Night as one of the great classics of the Holocaust, I Will Bear Witness is a timeless work of literature, the most eloquent and acute testament to have emerged from Hitler's Germany. Volume Two begins in 1942, the year the Final Solution was formally proposed, and carries us through to the Allied bombing of Dresden and Germany's defeat.
Incredibly enough, numbers of German Jews managed to live through the Nazi years and avoid the Holocaust, not as emaciated death camp inmates, but as citizens openly walking the streets of Germany's cities. Endlessly harassed and humiliated, they nevertheless survived thanks to the meticulous thoroughness with which the Reich observed its own pitiless laws. Klemperer, a scholarly and endlessly fussy professor of classical history, was a full-fledged Jew who had married an "Aryan" woman. As such, the authorities classified him as a "protected" citizen; an awkward problem to a society that anathematized all Jews yet respected the status of their Aryan mates. Such second-class citizens were protected from immediate deportation yet were obliged to wear the yellow star and endure the systematic loss of job, car, ration cards and any other rights the authorities could think of. As the end of the war drew nearer and the plight of the Nazi government grew desperate, ever-harsher measures came into effect and the numbers of officially protected Jewish people dwindled. Ironically, Klemperer and the remaining Jews of Dresden were saved by the devastating air raids that incinerated the city in the final weeks of the war. With the Gestapo headquarters safely leveled, the elderly couple slipped away into the chaos of a dying nation and trekked to the Allied lines and safety. Professor Klemperer seems to have been anything but a "survivor" type. He was an effete academic and an eternally fretting hypochondriac with genuine health problems. Yet he not only walked out of the Goetterdaemmerung, but also brought with him a titanic record of the day-by-day fate of German Jewry. All through the years of theThird Reich, he had managed to keep a detailed diary of his experiences from 1933 until just after the German surrender. This, the second and final volume of his epic, is probably the most fascinating. It is dense with detail, but deftly edited to be readable and is clearly the best choice for YAs. Recommended to high school and academic libraries. KLIATT Codes: SA*Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1999, Random House, Modern Library, 558p. index. 21cm., $14.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Raymond L. Puffer; Ph.D., Historian, Edwards Air Force Base, CA , July 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 4)