Klaus Langer was a German Jewish boy who was eight years old when Adolf Hitler became the leader of Germany. He was not the only young diary writer to record his experiences under Nazi persecution, but he was one of the few to do so from a German perspective. Many other writers’ accounts begin with the dramatic events surrounding the invasion of their countries during World War II. Klaus, on the other hand, grew up under Nazi rule. He witnessed the more gradual, but ever-increasing hardships imposed on Jews over time. He planned to leave Germany when the opportunity arose, but probably thought that he had more time. This changed with the violent events of Kristallnacht, the nationwide campaign of riots attacking Jews on the night of November 9, 1938. After Kristallnacht, discriminatory actions against Jews increased rapidly. Most Jews realized the need to leave Germany as soon as possible.
Klaus’ parents, like many other German Jews, raced to get things in order so that they could emigrate quickly. Unfortunately, it was a detailed and time-consuming process with many obstacles along the way. Klaus recorded their frustrations and setbacks. On December 19, 1938 he wrote, “Regarding the emigration of my parents, I have the following to report. First came two refusals from Argentina for lack of letters of credit. The rich uncle in America is unable to assume such a financial responsibility. We don’t have an affidavit for the U.S. India requires firm employment there or a contract. Father is now trying to make connections in India to obtain a contract.” Klaus’ diary entry for this day went on to mention five other possible destinations that were most likely out of their reach.
Many people ask why the rest of the world didn’t do more to help the Jews during the war years, when news of the “Final Solution” began to spread. Certainly, more could have been done at that time, but the real missed opportunity came after the violence of Kristallnacht rendered the Nazi’s intent crystal clear. If other countries had opened their doors to Jewish refugees on an emergency basis, many thousands more lives could have been saved. Sadly, this did not happen.
Klaus Langer’s diary was included in a book entitled, by Alexandra Zapruder. Click here to download a study guide for this collection.
You may read about Kristallnacht and hear Holocaust survivor recollections here.
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