Klaus Langer: July 1, 1939

Klaus Langer was a young Jewish-German boy who kept a diary in which he recorded his efforts to leave Germany. He was one of the only teen diarists to write during the period between Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938) and the beginning of World War II (September 1, 1939). During this period, Nazi Germany greatly increased the pressure on Jewish people to leave Germany. Some Jewish people still resisted this pressure, but more and more began to look for any opportunity to flee. People were more likely at this time to take advantage of opportunities that required families to split up, whereas such opportunities might have been rejected beforehand.

Jewish parents and their children sometimes had different attitudes about leaving their homeland. For example, Klaus was eager to leave Germany for a Jewish community in Palestine. He had few non-Jewish friends. Most of his young life had come after the Nazis had come to power. They had been actively working to sever the ties that connected Jewish and non-Jewish children as friends and school-mates. As a result, Klaus’ main activities were connected to Zionist youth groups whose members had the same goals and experiences as he did. Klaus’ parents, on the other hand, remembered the Germany into which they had been fully assimilated. By career and by culture, they thought of themselves as fully German. They couldn’t see themselves as Zionist pioneers doing physical labor in a new land; therefore they sought a different destination. Klaus knew that the new life he was preparing for would also bring a major change to his family relationships. His diary reflected this change, as he wrote a great deal about his friends from the Zionist youth groups, with whom he hoped to maintain contact in Palestine.

On July 1st, Klaus wrote about the current status of his efforts to make “aliyah” (the term used by Jewish people to describe returning from the diaspora to the land of Israel). He and his friends were working through various groups to try to find the best way to accomplish their emigration. Each young person had to take advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves, so each might make it to Palestine by differing routes. On July 1st Klaus wrote, “I am maintaining an extensive correspondence with all the members of my group at Schniebinchen [the site of a Zionist youth agricultural training camp] as well as with people who are still there. Bobby did not reply to my last letter and I just wrote him an extensive letter about the situation here.” Bobby was a friend who had gotten a spot on the Kindertransport, which allowed him to go, at least temporarily, to England. Klaus wanted to keep in contact with these friends who were like a new family to him, but circumstances would make it harder and harder to do so. Two months and one day later, he would achieve his dream of leaving Germany. He may have reconnected with some of his friends later, but he would never see his parents again.

You may read excerpts from Klaus Langer’s dairy in Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust by Alexandra Zapruder.

You may see some photos and symbols from the He-Halutz Jewish Youth group movement in Germany here.

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