Klaus Langer was a German-Jewish teenager who began keeping a diary in the years before the onset of World War II in Europe. He started recording his observations much earlier than most Jewish teens, who only came under Nazi rule along with the German occupation during the war. He was one of the few to record a diary entry in the immediate aftermath of the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9-10, 1938.
Klaus began his diary entry on November 11th with a simple description of what had happened before and during the violence of Kristallnacht. He wrote, “The past three days brought significant changes to our lives. On November 7, a German legation member was assassinated in Paris. He died two days later. The day following, on November 10, came the consequences. At three o’clock the synagogue and Jewish youth center were put on fire. Then they began to destroy Jewish businesses. During the morning, private homes were also being demolished. Fires were started at single homes belonging to Jews. At six-thirty in the morning, the Gestapo came and arrested Father and Mother […] Mother returned after about one and a half hours. Dad remained and was put in prison.” Klaus went on to describe a great deal more damage that was done to his home, his family and his neighbors. He also made it clear that he did not believe that the danger had fully passed. He wrote about how difficult it was to sleep, not knowing whether or not Nazi thugs would return to wreak more havoc at any moment. He considered the possibility of riding his bicycle to the home of Christian friends in another city, but his mother objected, probably because it was too dangerous for him to travel alone. In truth, no one knew what to do in order to be safe. As Klaus had written, significant changes had come to their lives, but what they would be in the long run, no one knew.
Klaus had already decided, before Kristallnacht, that he wanted to leave Germany. He was an ardent Zionist and belonged to a youth group (the Bund) that was helping him to prepare to make aliyah (emigration to Palestine). The last part of his diary entry on the 11th referred to his future plans. “I now want to get to Erez Israel as quickly as possible, maybe with the first Youth Aliyah. The plan for making aliyah was made some time ago. The Bund of course has come to a standstill. Its leaders were arrested.” For Klaus, every part of his life was turned upside down by the Kristallnacht pogrom, and it would be almost a year before he was finally able to leave. He was more fortunate than his parents, though. They were not able to get out of Germany at all. Klaus never saw them again.
You may read excerpts from Klaus Langer’s diary in a book entitled, “+Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust+” by Alexandra Zapruder.
You may learn more about the Kristallnacht pogrom here.
Click here to learn more about the difficulties that faced German Jews as they tried to leave Germany, especially after Kristallnacht.
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