Most of the diaries written by teens during the Holocaust were written after World War II began. They reflect the conditions faced by Jews in countries under German occupation and were often penned in ghettos or hiding places. Klaus Langer is one of the few teen diarists to have written during the period in Germany before the war. He began his writing in 1937 and left a valuable record about this earlier period of Nazi persecution. Accounts like this demonstrate that German Jews recognized the danger of their situation under the Nazis, but that they had no idea that the genocide was yet to come.
Klaus’ diary entry on January 24, 1939 continued the theme that was the constant preoccupation of his life at the time, namely emigration. Since the Kristallnacht pogrom (riots) the previous November, Klaus was desperately looking for any way out of Germany. He tried to get permission to go to England, or to Holland, or to the land of Israel, but he faced many obstacles. Some of these involved the complex problems of lining up all of the necessary documents. The legal process frequently changed and individuals often had to waste time resubmitting paperwork because of some new regulation or required form. Many people were seeking to emigrate, so there was also the problem of competition with other potential emigrants for the limited opportunities to leave. Naturally, this created feelings of great frustration. Klaus wrote,
“It is ironic that while waiting to go to Erez Israel I am sitting here waiting for authorization to go to Schniebinchen. At this point I am only on a waiting list. It is terrible. The damn youth committee removed me from the list for the Youth Aliyah and now lets me wait. […] I have been awaiting authorization for two weeks and will not be surprised when I am also stricken from the list for Schniebinchen”.
It is easy to understand why Klaus was beginning to lose hope. Several open doors had already closed in his face, and it seemed to be happening again. In this case, he had been placed on a list to go to Erez Israel, and now found out that his name had been removed. Schniebinchen was the city from which he was to have departed and he anticipated that he would no longer be able to take even the first step toward freedom. Under the circumstances of continual disappointment, it is amazing that Klaus found the strength to continue his efforts. It took another year, but eventually Klaus was successful. Unfortunately, his parents were not as fortunate. They perished in the Holocaust.
Klaus Langer’s diary was included in a book entitled, “Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust”. You can read more about this collection at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website.
You may learn more about struggle of German Jews to emigrate in this article.
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Exhibit Opening: Works of David Friedmann
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