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 accounts in 1937 and left a valuable record about this earlier period of Nazi persecution.
Klaus’ diary entry on November 16th was only the second he was able to write after the infamous Kristallnacht pogrom (November 9th) that represented a new phase in the Nazi persecution of Jews. Even one week later he was still struggling to comprehend the many ways that his life and circumstances had changed. He wrote
“A number of events occurred since my last entry. First, on November 15, I received a letter from school with a notice of dismissal. This became superfluous since that same day an order was issued that prohibited Jews from attending public schools. I did not realize at first that I no longer had to attend that awful school, with the ‘Heil Hitler’ at the beginning and end of every lesson, with the boring algebra, the terrible Latin, the way the teachers talked. Each day that I did not have to attend school, I considered myself lucky. I was not in the least bit sorry.”
Klaus’ reaction to these events was not typical. He was actively looking for a way out of Germany and was an ardent Zionist. Many German Jews, on the other hand, were deeply connected to their country and their gradual exclusion from the society of their birth brought out mixed emotions. For quite awhile after the Nazis took over, they hoped that the storm would pass and took comfort in those aspects of life that had been less affected. They often put up with anti-Jewish regulations as if they were annoyances that could be endured and eventually overcome. It was only after the dramatic events of Kristallnacht that they had to come to grips with the fact that Jewish life in Germany was coming to an end.
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 this site.
You may learn more about Kristallnacht here.
April 1, 2016
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