This volume performs the feat of looking at Nazi Germany in a new way. TRAVELS IN THE THE REICH, 1933-1945: FOREIGN AUTHORS REPORT FROM GERMANY is an anthology of the letters, diaries, personal reflections and excerpts from published works by authors such as Virginia Woolf, Thomas Wolfe, William Shirer, Samuel Beckett and others, who visited or lived in Germany between the years 1933 and 1945.
Some of these entries will make you cringe, some are just first-rate writing. But what is surprising is how much these foreigners were aware of the turn Germany had taken when Hitler came to power in 1933. As Christopher Isherwood put it: “I can’t altogether believe that any of this has really happened.”
Speaking for myself, I discovered two authors I had not known before. I loved getting to know Martha Dodd, the daughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Berlin from 1933-1937, as she described various incidents she witnessed, including the Night of Long Knives in June 1934, which occurred on a hot, beautiful day in Berlin. I was in awe of the power of the writing of Thomas Wolfe, whom I had never heard of before. Here he is describing a train journey that he took when he left Berlin for the last time. At the Belgian border, a fellow passenger runs into difficulties:
They marched him right along the platform, white as a sheet, greasy looking, protesting volubly, in a voice that had a kind of anguished lilt. He came fight by us. I made a movement with my arms. The greasy money sweated in my hand and I did not know what to do. I started to speak to him. And at the same time I was praying that he would not speak. I tried to look away from him, but I could not look away. He came toward us, still protesting volubly that everything could be explained, that all of it was an absurd mistake. And just for a moment as he passed us, he stopped talking, glanced at us, white-faced, smiling pitiably, his eyes rested on us for a moment, and then, without a sign of further recognition, he went on by.