The Lesser Evil: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer 1945-1959 by Victor Klempere, Martin Chalmers (trans, ed) - review by David Cesarani

David Cesarani

Tormented At The End

The Lesser Evil: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer 1945-1959


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REVIEWING THE FIRST volume of Victor Klemperer's daries, covering the years 1933-41, I compared him to Victor Meldrew and suggested that the sheer bloody-mindedness of this grumpy, middle-aged man attained nobility when pitted against the Third Reich. His determination to continue his academic research after being dismissed from his university job was admirable. Given the risks of discovery, his quarrying and recording of Nazi rhetoric for a study of how the regime subverted and debased language was awesome. His self-pity that a converted Jew who was a German patriot, and an anti-Zionist to boot, should suffer from racial anti-Semitism was understandable and his vacillation over his identity was poignant.

Unfortunately, in this third and final volume Klemperer is no longer automatically on the side of the angels and there is nothing immedate to counterbalance his personal weaknesses and political havering. Whereas under the Nazis his fate was in the hands of others, now he makes choices and has to bear the consequences. In retrospect, as he was drnly aware at the time, he made the wrong choice. What continues to make his diary compulsive reading is the insight it offers into the reasons why a man who was otherwise so perceptive

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