Review of ‘Travelers in the Third Reich’, by Julia Boyd

Review of ‘Travelers in the Third Reich’, by Julia Boyd

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The events that took place in interwar Germany were dramatic and terrifying, but was it really possible to know what was going on, grasp the essence of National Socialism, stay out of propaganda, or predict the Holocaust?

While countless books have been written on the hitler's rise, Travelers in the Third Reich is exceptional in that it is based on first-hand accounts of foreigners who traveled to Germany to convey what it was like to visit, study or live in Germany during the 1920s and 1930s.

Its author, Julia Boyd, draws on contemporary letters, diaries and memoranda written by diplomats, politicians, university students, social workers, famous authors or Englishmen married to Germans.

Among his most unexpected witnesses are Charles Lindbergh, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, Christopher Isherwood, Vita Sackville-West, African American historian Web Du Bois, a devotee of Wagner's operas, the Chinese Sanskrit scholar Ji Xianlin or the British Ambassador in Berlin and his wife, lady Rumbold.

Their experiences, along with those of other anonymous travelers, create an extraordinary three-dimensional image of Germany under Hitler, one so palpable that the reader will feel, hear and even breathe the atmosphere in which National Socialism arose.

Accidental eyewitness accounts of history and their disturbing, absurd and moving experiences, ranging from the deeply trivial to the intensely tragic, offer a new perspective on the complexities of the Third Reich, its paradoxes, its rise and, finally, its definitive destruction.

Germany was a sunken country after its defeat in the First World War. Occupied militarily by American and French soldiers and drowned by debts (especially those contracted with its neighboring country, France), for the damages and other damages caused by the war, it seemed an unattractive place for tourists.

However, the Germans were very willing to treat all visitors well, especially the English and the Americans. With a strong push for publicity and propaganda, many foreigners began to look favorably on "poor Germany."

During the Weimar Republic, Germany managed to improve its economic situation and tourists began to visit the country, attracted by the low prices and the atmosphere of progress. Until the late 1930s, Germany was successfully promoted as the ideal place to vacation, full of smiling people eager to please.

Travelers described the capital Berlin as a modern, exciting and sexy. Poets like W. H. Auden or Isherwood flocked to be inspired and enjoyed the sexual freedom that was breathed there, and the new architecture of Ernst May and other architects filled the city with modern and dazzling buildings.

But rural towns and medieval buildings across the country also attracted crowds of tourists.

Most of them returned home convinced that the Führer, or the country's George Washington, as the former British Prime Minister called him, David Lloyd GeorgeHe was not only a man of peace, but practically a saint. He had restored pride and determination to a beaten people and was making Germany the great nation it deserved to be.

Despite this optimistic environment, in 1929 there was the crash of the American Stock Exchange, which was a very hard blow for Germany. In the wake of the economic crisis, Adolf Hitler achieved what he had failed to achieve with his failed coup years before: entering the German Parliament, with 107 seats for the Nazi Party.

Travelers in the Third Reich It draws on hundreds of documents (private correspondence, memoirs, letters, chronicles, diaries) from foreigners who lived in Germany, where the trend was to downplay the anti-Semitic actions and speeches of the Nazis and highlight the benefits of the system.

However, many also wrote to their families denouncing the mistreatment and violence they had seen perpetrated against Jews.

Great musicians and writers like Thomas Wolfe or Samuel Beckett enjoyed the success they had in the country until they realized the atrocities that were committed against Jews and freedom of expression.

The Nazis, to draw attention away from their actions, boasted a pacifist spirit and low unemployment rate, and the Olympics were an operation to dazzle the world with their greatness.

Despite the implementation of the national socialist dictatorship, foreigners continued to enjoy their summer vacations there; young Americans who went camping in Germany wrote to their parents about the number of tents and forms of entertainment there were all over the country. Even African-American and Chinese students came there for training, although they suffered xenophobic attacks from the German people.

Thanks to thousands of letters from tourists, politicians, teachers, soldiers, ambassadors and journalists, we contemplate the resurgence of anti-Semitic laws, the evolution of the Nazis' friendships with the British aristocracy, the destruction of the university intellectual environment and the breakdown of relations with neighboring countries until hatching of World War II, which, with its tragic consequences, meant the definitive destruction of the Third Reich.

Data sheet

Title: Travelers in the Third Reich
Author: Julia Boyd
Editorial: Attic of the Books
Collection: Attic Historia, nº 26
Translator: Claudia casanova
PVP: 23,90 €
Format: 15 x 23 cm, hardcover with dust jacket, 448 pp.
Publication date: 02/10/2019
ISBN: 978-84-17743-22-2

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