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Voyage Through the Twentieth Century

Voyage Through the Twentieth Century: A Historian's Recollections and Reflections

Klemens von Klemperer
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Voyage Through the Twentieth Century
    Book Description:

    The account of the author's life, spent between Europe and America, is at the same time an account of his generation, one that came of age between the two World Wars. Recalling not only circumstances of his own situation but that of his friends, the author shows how this generation faced a reality that seemed fragmented, and in their shared thirst for knowledge and commitment to ideas they searched for cohesiveness among the glittering, holistic ideologies and movements of the twenties and thirties. The author's scholarly work on the German Resistance to Hitler revealed to him those who maintained dignity and courage in times of peril and despair, which became for him a life's pursuit. This work is unique in its thorough inclusion of the postwar decades and its perspective from a historian eager to rescue the "other" Germany-the Germany of the righteous rather than the Holocaust murderers.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-944-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. viii-viii)
    K. v. K.
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    The twentieth century was the century into which I was born—mycentury. Now that it has drawn to a close, I am tempted, especially as a historian, to balance the books on it. To do so, I will have to write about a century shattered by two world wars that gave rise to all-encompassing political systems—fascism, communism, National Socialism—sustained by tyrannical ideologies.

    But this is not a history of the twentieth century, nor an overview by someone now old enough to be above the fray. It is the story of my experience of that twentieth century, which...

  5. Chapter One Beginnings
    (pp. 5-11)

    If ever there was a group of human beings who had reason to assume that they could launch their descendants into a safe and sheltered world of peace and prosperity, it was the European upper bourgeoisie of the nineteenth century. Although born during World War I in November 1916, I was a beneficiary of that sense of confidence and security. The houses of my youth, solidly built if not massive, were intended to stand forever. My parents’ home, a spacious apartment in the very heart of residential Berlin at the corner of Viktoria and Tiergartenstrasse, looked out toward the open...

  6. Chapter Two School Years
    (pp. 12-19)

    The Germany of my youth was Prussia, and the Prussia that I encountered most closely was my school, the Französisches Gymnasium, also called by its French name, Collège Français, where I studied from 1924 until 1934. This Prussia, I hasten to add, was a far cry from the stereotype that is generally associated with the name. Law No. 46 of 25 February 1947, issued by the Allied Control Council after the defeat of Hitler’s armies, decreed the dissolution of the State of Prussia, which it identified “from early days on as a bearer of militarism and reaction in Germany.” This...

  7. Chapter Three “O du mein Österreich ...”
    (pp. 20-35)

    Early in 1983 I was in Oxford to give a lecture in memory of Adam von Trott zu Solz, an outstanding figure in the German Resistance who has had a pivotal place in my work on resistance. The lecture was in Balliol College, where Trott had studied as a Rhodes Scholar from Germany in 1931–1933. One of the dons asked me if I had ever been to Balliol. I answered: “Yes, but I ran away.”

    In 1934, my dear father used all of his connections to get me admitted to Oxford so that I might continue my studies abroad....

  8. Chapter Four America—Coming Down to Earth
    (pp. 36-44)

    The SSManhattanmoved past Fire Island along snow-covered Long Island into New York Harbor on Thanksgiving Day, 1938.¹ By the time I disembarked, I had not a penny left in my pocket; the little cash I was allowed to take with me had been lost on board playing poker. My brothers Franz and Fred were waiting for me on the pier, and they gave me a home during my first months in America. It may not have been purely incidental that during the first days of my stay in Manhattan I came down with a high fever. Traveling from...

  9. Chapter Five Going To and Fro upon the Earth—On Being a Soldier
    (pp. 45-62)

    On 6 June 2001, the fifty-seventh anniversary of D-Day, over the noontime radio I happened to listen to marches by John Philip Sousa, melodies I have always liked. They make me think of the glorious sides of army life as well as the infernal ones, of brass concerts and somber farewells to fallen comrades, of parades and routs, of victories and defeats, and of snappy uniforms. In my youth I had a distinct fascination with uniforms. Now, stimulated by the Sousa marches, I was daydreaming, and my mind turned to episodes in my youth, to myself and uniforms.

    At home...

  10. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  11. Chapter Six “Du bist ein Wanderer ...”
    (pp. 63-91)

    It took eleven days for the returning troop transport, the SSErnie Pyle, to cross the Atlantic. We were uncomfortably crowded but full of anticipation to get back into civilian life. One by one I learned what had happened to family and friends in Europe. I had known all along that Granny was left alone in exile in southern France, and the disappearance of her two daughters left an open wound in us all. In the summer of 1951, I managed to visit Granny in Beaulieu sur Mer. She lived in a pension, one of those friendly houses with elaborate...

  12. Chapter Seven “Mit dem Gesicht nach Deutschland”
    (pp. 92-111)

    In the late summer of 1973, my family and I resumed ourWanderschaft. Much academic research involves wandering from place to place, collecting information in remote repositories or, as in my case, chasing after live witnesses. But to me such traveling had a special significance. Was it another chapter of my story as a refugee? Was my having settled down in New England only an illusion? Would I ever really settle down? The Russian exile poet Joseph Brodsky, observing the unsteady and turbulent climate of our age, remarked that “displacement and misplacement are this century’s commonplace.”¹ As I spent so...

  13. Chapter Eight Living in a “World Come of Age”
    (pp. 112-134)

    In the mid-winter of 1978, I received a letter from our son Jamie, then a junior at Harvard, which made me think. He assured me that he was happy with his friends, sports, and classes, and yet he found his “lack of belief,” as he put it, troubling:

    As a child I had high aspirations—I assumed that, as an adult, I would be able to devote myself to something which had direction, a cause and a purpose. These expectations have become such a part of my outlook that I cannot erase them from my mind. But my mind also...

  14. Afterthoughts
    (pp. 135-139)

    I hope that in these chapters I have lived up to the counsel of Søren Kierkegaard that life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards. Writing my memoirs has brought home to me time and again the wisdom of John Donne’s meditation, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” I see myself as part of a certain cultural tradition and of a changing human environment: both have shaped my thinking and doing. From my family I derived, while not much intellectual inspiration, an ethos that has guided me throughout my life. My paternal grandmother left in...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 140-157)
  16. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 158-163)
  17. Index
    (pp. 164-169)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 170-170)