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I Will Bear Witness:
The second volume of Victor Klemperer's searing diary, kept in secret during the 12 years he suffered under the Nazi regime, covers the period from 1942 to 1945. The humiliations visited on even such "privileged" Jews as Klemperer (whose wife was Aryan) grew increasingly severe, with house searches, arbitrary arrests, and brutal beatings becoming virtually routine. The 60-year-old historian is forced to shovel snow despite his heart condition; hunger gnaws at him as rations are mercilessly cut. Yet he clings to an intellectual life, continuing his reading and making notes on the lies and obfuscations of official Nazi discourse that would become his postwar masterpiece, Lingua Tertii Imperii. "The Russians, who have only just been annihilated, are tremendous and quite inexhaustible opponents," he notes sardonically after reading a mendacious fascist article in 1942. His lengthy account of his escape with his wife from Dresden after the Allied bombings of 1945 unforgettably captures the chaos of World War II's final days and the mixed feelings of a Jew who could never wholeheartedly gloat over the defeat of the nation that had persecuted him. Above all, his unflinching depiction of human nature and society in extremis amply justifies his cherished belief that even the Nazis "cannot prevent language from testifying to the truth." --Wendy Smith [via]