Klaus Langer was a German-Jewish boy who grew up in Nazi Germany. This simple fact gives his diary a different character than that of most other Jewish teens who wrote during the Holocaust. Klaus’ diary began in 1938, far earlier than most other accounts. For most Jewish teens, the great divide in their lives was caused by the German invasion of their countries during the war. For them, there was a “before” to look back on that existed prior to the arrival of the Nazis. Often, they hoped to survive the occupation and to return to a condition which they had already known. This was not Klaus’ experience at all. He grew up in a country which was dedicated to his ultimate removal. He had no idea of the future Final Solution, but he did know that he lived in a place where he was not welcome and that he was expected to eventually leave.
The great divide in Klaus’ young life was the Kristallnacht pogrom. He and his family had already been planning to emigrate before November 1938, but the violence of the riots convinced them of the urgency of the situation. Klaus had been a member of a Zionist youth group and desired most of all to go to Palestine. His father, however, did not share this desire. If there had been more time to find options that would have allowed the whole family to stay together, then Klaus may not have planned to leave by himself. As it was, no option would be ignored. Of course, this increased urgency to leave also meant that every other Jewish youth was looking at the same options. This introduced the strange new situation that Klaus wrote about on April 29, 1939.
Klaus and his fellow members of the Zionist youth group found out that permission had come through for a set number of young people to leave for Eretz Israel. The group would have some input on which names would be included on the list, though the ultimate decisions would be made by others. Klaus wrote, “A list was prepared by us, the boys, and we discussed every person. Nineteen were confirmed by us immediately, five were questionable. We presented that list to the madrichim [youth group leaders]. It is interesting to note that we, the youth, applied a stricter standard than the madrichim, who were far kinder in their confirmations. Perhaps it was because of the urgency to leave Germany as quickly as possible.”
It is interesting for us to note how strange it was that Klaus still believed, even at this late date, that he and his fellow youth had any choice at all. The youth leaders probably had a clearer picture of the desperate need to get everyone out as quickly as possible. As it was, it would still be four more months until Klaus was safely out of Germany. He had to leave his parents behind, but at least he had his opportunity to escape and to ultimately survive.
Klaus Langer’s diary was included in a book entitled, . You can read more about this collection here.
Klaus Langer was one of the people featured in an MTV video production entitled, I’m Still Here. You may see a photo, read a short biography, and learn more about the project here.
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