How Americans saw Hitler’s rise, reveals a new Book

Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany in 1930s is among the most written-about topics in modern history. But how did Americans in Germany during that period see Hitler’s Rise?

A new book by Andrew Nagorski, who for more than three decades was a foreign correspondent and editor for Newsweek magazine, triees to enlighten you on the same: How did Americans living in Germany view Hitler and the Nazis’ rise?

Digging in a trove of diaries, letters, unpublished manuscripts, old news stories and other sources, the new book, provides fascinating, in-the-moment accounts by American journalists, diplomats and expatriates that are both eerie in their prescience and foreboding in their misjudgments.

The book “Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power,” which acknowledges that, even when Diplomats and journalists living in an oppressive regime, interacted with each other regularly; many of these Americans observing society’s flaws and underestimated Hitler’s capabilities. Many of them saw him as an effeminate (girl like man), a master of emotions and theatrical staging; whose dramatical rants, no sane person would take seriously.

Talking to Reuters, the author says that, What really emerges from these American accounts, even those who underestimated Hitler, is that (Hitler) was the key to the Nazis’ success, that without Hitler, if something had happened to him and he had disappeared, the Nazis probably would not have prevailed. There might have been a military dictatorship, but nothing on the scale of the Third Reich and the Holocaust.

When asked by Reuters, as to why diplomats and journalists couldn’t interpret the Rise of Hiteler, the author said, “The best foreign diplomats and journalists are the ones who are able to see certain patterns emerging from the complexity of the society they are observing without over-simplifying.”

And it appears, Americans living in Germany in 1930s, over simplified the patterns.

About the Book:

Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power

by: Andrew Nagorski

publisher: Simon & Schuster, published: 2012-03-13

ASIN: 143919100X

EAN: 9781439191002

sales rank: 750

price: $14.99 (new), $14.99 (used)

Hitler’s rise to power, Germany’s march to the abyss, as seen through the eyes of Americans—diplomats, military, expats, visiting authors, Olympic athletes—who watched horrified and up close. By tapping a rich vein of personal testimonies, Hitlerland offers a gripping narrative full of surprising twists—and a startlingly fresh perspective on this heavily dissected era.

Some of the Americans in Weimar and then Hitler’s Germany were merely casual observers, others deliberately blind; a few were Nazi apologists. But most slowly began to understand the horror of what was unfolding, even when they found it difficult to grasp the breadth of the catastrophe.

Among the journalists, William Shirer, Edgar Mowrer, and Dorothy Thompson were increasingly alarmed. Consul General George Messersmith stood out among the American diplomats because of his passion and courage. Truman Smith, the first American official to meet Hitler, was an astute political observer and a remarkably resourceful military attaché. Historian William Dodd, whom FDR tapped as ambassador in Hitler’s Berlin, left disillusioned; his daughter Martha scandalized the embassy with her procession of lovers from her initial infatuation with Nazis she took up with. She ended as a Soviet spy.

On the scene were George Kennan, who would become famous as the architect of containment; Richard Helms, who rose to the top of the CIA; Howard K. Smith, who would coanchor the ABC Evening News. The list of prominent visitors included writers Sinclair Lewis and Thomas Wolfe, famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, the great athlete Jesse Owens, newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, and black sociologist and historian W.E.B. Dubois.

Observing Hitler and his movement up close, the most perceptive of these Americans helped their reluctant countrymen begin to understand the nature of Nazi Germany as it ruthlessly eliminated political opponents, instilled hatred of Jews and anyone deemed a member of an inferior race, and readied its military and its people for a war for global domination. They helped prepare Americans for the years of struggle ahead.

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