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Folio Archives 107: Klemperer Diaries by Victor Klemperer 2006

Folio Society devotees

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Apr 12, 2:51am Top

Klemperer Diaries 1933 to 1945 : I Shall bear Witness & To the Bitter End by Victor Klemperer

This is an extraordinary publication, not only because of its contents, but its very existence. Written over a 12 year period, originally on typed manuscript sheets, but later by pencil on scraps of paper that were hidden in various places around Dresden, it survived World War Two and its devastating effects, and its author, a Protestant who had Jewish heritage, was also one of the very few Jews who survived inside Germany, and he was saved from probable death only by hours when the fire bombing of Dresden destroyed all records and allowed him to change his identity and escape.

Victor Klemperer came from a very distinguished family of doctors, musicians and lawyers. He was professor of Romance languages at Dresden university, and despite having left the Jewish faith decades earlier, was still considered by the Nazis to be Jew, and was persecuted as one. His wife was an Aryan, was fiercely loyal to her husband, and this was a significant factor in his survival.

The diaries document the gradual reduction in freedoms experienced by Jews. He lost his university post, had his pension reduced and eventually ceased, his home was confiscated, his pet cat euthanased, and eventually he was forbidden to own a typewriter or even any writing material. It also gives a fascinating insight into the privations suffered by the average German, and their mindset, during WW2.

Klemperer died in 1960, but his diaries were not published in German until 1995. A third diary, “The Lesser Evil” covering the period 1945 to 1959 has not been published by the Folio Society. This English translation is abridged, and I believe the full version is only available in German.

The diary is divided into two volumes (604 and 664 pages) that are bound in dark red buckram and housed in a black slipcase (24.5x17x9cm.) with title and image printing on the front. The endpapers in both volumes are maps of Dresden, and there are other maps at the front of volume two. Black and white photographs are scattered throughout the text. It has been translated from the German by Martin Chalmers and the preface was written by Martin Gilbert.

Front and back endpapers in both volumes

Volume One

Volume Two

An index of the other illustrated reviews in the "Folio Archives" series can be viewed here.

Apr 12, 3:33am Top

Very nice set. I did not know about this one.

Apr 12, 11:03am Top

Looks very interesting. I bought a copy this morning on eBay for £17.50

Apr 12, 6:02pm Top

What a nice set. No listings on Abe in the US and I'd expect high postage for such a heavy set sent from overseas. I guess I'll have to stick to my 1998 and 2000 first US releases from Random House. If I ever see them for a good price in the US I'd probably upgrade like I did replacing my trade hardbacks for the FS Gilbert books. The Folio Society does such a nicer job on a book like this than the standard trade releases.

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