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Victor Klemperer

Writer and scholar of Roman languages.

There seems to be no war at all any more. Nothing is happening in the West. In the East, Modlin and Warsaw have surrendered now too, 600,000 prisoners of war already. In Moscow Ribbentrop and Molotov are negotiating with the Balts and Turks. The tremendous victory pushes all internal dissatisfactions into the background; Germany rules the world—what do a few blemishes matter?

But who is playing this game, and who is outplaying the other? Hitler? Stalin?—I am just reading the first few pages of the Tocqueville, which Frau Schaps gave me in 1924. No one, not even the most significant and knowledgeable contemporaries, anticipated the course of the Revolution. Every page of the book surprises me with analogies to the present. (It is my blackout reading. It’s dark at six, and I cannot write downstairs. Though I shall soon have to get over this I cannot.)

I went to the Jewish Community at Zeughausstrasse 3. The house is adjacent to the empty square on which the destroyed synagogue stood. It was no pleasant errand for me: I am Protestant, my sister is Jewish. And it was an errand in vain, as I had foreseen: There is a ban on Jews moving to the city and district of Dresden.

To the extent that there is nothing more of interest to be reported on Poland, the newspaper is drained of content. Polemics against English lies. Confirmation from a newspaper in Manila or somewhere that Germany is invincible, that a continuation of war is pointless.—Meanwhile ration cards, blackout, imprisonment. Impossible to tell when and how it will end.

I had to open the restricted account. Running around, expenses, obstructions. A blessing to be able to stay at home all day yesterday, Sunday. After an interruption of many days able to write a page of the Curriculum again.

From today cards for bread. Chocolate confiscated.

Colonel-General Fritsch, until a few months ago commander-in-chief of the army, fell outside Warsaw on September 22. A few lines of obituary, tiny little picture, details merely in passing and trivialized. Eva and I placed the same question mark independently of one another.

In the newspaper yesterday (naturally therefore in all newspapers) triumphant report about the end of the Polish campaign and a touching article, “At the Soldier’s Grave of Paul Deschanel.” French First Lieutenant, son of the former Prime Minister (I think) of the Republic. Tricolor over the bier—I once had a comrade—the Marseillaise—address by a battalion commander: nothing but compliments to France, with whom we want only peace, of whom we make no demands at all…

Is that a sign of strength on the German side? Is it merely a ploy? Will the French rise to the bait? Vox populi (at Berger, the grocer):…He is in the West.—In the West yet again?—Well, it won’t last very long.—Everyone thinks: England will give way. Perhaps they will turn out to be right about that, as with the German-Russian partition of Poland. But if not, the mood would shift tremendously. For the moment people are still intoxicated by the destruction of Poland and do not know what the losses are.

Our situation grows daily more catastrophic. Order yesterday: restricted access to the bank account, surrender of all ready cash; today police inquiry as to our suppliers; it, therefore, looks as if we are to be more strictly rationed than the general populace. I was in Pirna in the morning.


Politically now quite at a loss. Peace in a couple of weeks and Hitler all-powerful? Or will England-France fight? But how, where and with what chance of success? On the one hand Germany now appeared to have all the trumps, really all of them in its hand. On the other: why the ever greater shortage of foodstuffs? And has England ever admitted defeat without a fight? Ever blindly taken up a lost cause???

Poland was messed around by England. On the other hand: It will last through the winter and even longer, we certainly have more dead than officially stated (four for every 10,000 men, no casualty lists are published, death notices only rarely, so far here in Dresden only a motorized squadron commander and an editor of the Dresdener NN, otherwise no one!). And poor people have to carry the can for all the shit.

Handed in the questionnaire to Feder, Eisenstuckstrasse. The same District Judge whom I met at Richter’s (Grüber). He says, in addition to me, a further 36 families are looked after from here.

He made me fear for our little house: Several owner-occupied houses had been taken away in the last few days. But there is no point in being especially afraid: one has to expect the end at any moment.

This morning we got confirmation from the mailman. The man was dismayed: I was buried alive in 1914, and now I have to serve again as a reservist. Was it necessary, is it human? You should see the gloomy faces on the troop transports—different from ’14. And did we start off with food shortages in ’14? We will be defeated, it can’t last four years again.

The mailman said, Dresden and the whole of Germany was under military dictatorship. If that is the case, then we probably do not need to fear a pogrom.

Yesterday, Sunday, September 3, after a big washing up, went to the Plauen station. I bought a bar of chocolate and asked the elderly assistant about broadcast news. She reported the English-French ultimatum. I asked: Rejected? She smiled, as if I were a bit simple, shrugged her shoulders: But of course. I could ask the two gentlemen there, if I liked, they had heard it themselves. They were two fitters. They confirmed it. I asked: France too?—Reply: Yes, but now Italy will get involved too. At home we were doubtful again.


At the butcher an old dear puts her hand on my shoulder and says in a voice full of tears: He has said that he will put on a soldier’s coat again and be a soldier himself, and if he falls, then Goering…. A young lady brings me my ration card, looks at me with a friendly expression: Do you still remember me? I studied under you, I’ve married into the family here.—An old gentleman, very friendly, brings the blackout order: Terrible, that it’s war again—but yet one is so patriotic, when I saw a battery leaving yesterday, I wanted more than anything to go with them! No one is outraged by the Russian alliance, people think it is brilliant or an excellent joke—Vogel’s optimism (yesterday: We’ve almost finished off the Poles, the others won’t stir themselves!) is to our benefit in coffee, sausage, tea, soap etc.—Is this the general mood in Germany? Is it founded on facts or on hubris? […]


Waiting in peaceful Dölzschen, cut off from the world, is particularly bad. One listens to every sound, watches every face, pays attention to everything. One learns nothing. One waits for the newspaper and can make nothing of it. At the moment I do tend to think that there will be war with the great powers.


Sunday afternoon. This torture of one’s nerves ever more unbearable. On Friday morning blackout ordered until further notice. We sit in the tiny cellar, the terrible damp closeness, the constant sweating, and shivering, the smell of mold, the food shortage, makes everything even more miserable. I try to save butter and meat for Eva and Muschel, to make do myself as far as possible with still unrationed bread and fish.