Even as whole communities of Jews had been completely annihilated in Eastern Europe, a small but significant number managed to cling on in Germany itself. Many had been ‘evacuated to the East’, either to the killing centres such as Treblinka or to concentration camps such Auschwitz, where killing went alongside forced labour. But others had so far escaped the roundups or fell into special groups.
In Dresden in eastern Germany Victor Klemperer lived in daily fear of being arrested for some small infraction of the numerous rules and regulations that governed his existence. His wife was ‘Aryan’ so he fell into a category that the Nazis felt unable to move against, as they had with so many others. After years of being denied employment he was now required to work.
As a professor of linguistics, who had long ago been dismissed from his post because of his race, Klemperer felt compelled to chronicle his experiences under the Nazi regime. The mere fact that he was keeping such a diary would have been fatal to him had the authorities ever discovered it:
July 21st midday
The military situation – I am listening to the radio again now – appears very depressing for Germany, and so the Jew-baiting is on the increase again.
Feder came to work very down. A new poster has been stuck up on Wiener Strasse: A Sturmer charicature of a Jew wearing the star; legend: ”Who is to blame for the war? — He is!” Abuse had been shouted at him twice on his way to Schluters [the factory where they were forced to work].
Reporting the “terror attack on Rome,” the radio said the attack had been ordered by the Jews, it represented the war of Judaism against Christianity! —
Frau Winde was here this moming with excellent gifts of food [ . . . ], literally begged me to keep no manuscript in the house, to put nothing in writing.
During breakfast little Lisel Eisenmann came to the cellar window: “Don’t be scared, Frau Professor! There’s a boy at the Rasches’, he’s ringing the garden gate bell just for fun!” — Everyone expects that the Jews will not be spared.
Signs of shortages: There are no razor blades to be bought; shops will now hone ten blades for 50 pfennigs.
A questionnaire of several pages has to be answered for the register of a new Jewish administration. It came to the factory yesterday, but there were no envelopes to post it in. (We still have a couple at home.) A number of people agreed to send off their forms together in a single envelope.
In the hat shops: will buy old hats; one new hat in exchange for two old ones. Likewise to be recorded under “signs of shortages” is Schluter’s fear of inspection by a committee of the farmers’ organization, which is in store between now and Friday.
We Jews have been informed orally, the Aryan workers by a pinned-up notice, and all literally begged to be models of diligence on the threatened days, not to take off our work clothes before the next shift has arrived, to keep the room clean, etc. Because if objections were made, the factory would be closed. It appears to be the case that the committee is bent on closure to gain hands for farmwork.